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BPS 332: Screenwriting Secrets from Hollywood with Corey Mandell

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Alex Ferrari 1:44
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:49
Thanks for joining us here today. My guest is Corey Mendell Corey is an award winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for SC Ridley Scott Wolfgang Petersen, Harrison Ford of Warner Brothers, universal 20th Century Fox, you name it, he's written it for you. I'm really excited to talk about to talk with Corey today because he is writing at the studio level. And we really even though this is indie film, it's really important to know what it's like writing at that level and how things work. You know, things like getting an agent, the importance of having a manager, things like that. And, you know, it's it's, it's really talking about something that I didn't know a whole lot about, even though, you know, I'm, as many of you I'm also a screenwriter, aspiring screenwriter, so it's good to know even though my aspirations are more towards indie film. Anyway, I learned a lot from from Corey, and I think he's actually a really good teacher as well. He teaches a workshop if you go to Corymandell.net. And that's Mandel with two L's. He's got a workshop there. And I highly, you know, I think he's got some some great things to teach. I think you should definitely check out his classes. And he's had a lot of success stories. So check that out. There we go. Here's my interview with Corey Mandel. Well, I guess the first thing we should start out with for people who are not familiar with you and your site and your work, if you wouldn't mind just giving us a little bit of background in your career as a screenwriter.

Corey Mandell 3:24
Sure, so I went to UCLA Film School, and this is back in the late 90s. And was really fortunate to launch my career by having Ridley Scott hired me to write metropolis. I'm still in some school. It was just amazing to be in a room with Ridley Scott, have him hire me, flew me to London. first time I'd ever flown first class, first time easy, new First Class existed. Living on top ramen noodles on a good day. And so, really committed to making the chocolate and it was the front page of variety. And ultimately, it didn't get made, which is a whole long story. But but he mentioned me and he mentioned the script and very positive way on the front page of it. So if you're looking to launch your career, have you heard this got very nice things about you and your scripts on the front page? Right? He's not that bad.

Jason Buff 4:24
Right, so that's step one.

Corey Mandell 4:25
Now if you have that list and so then I became, you know, the, the super hot writer in town for seven minutes. And, and I started next project was for Wilson Peterson, who just finished Air Force lawn. And I did a project for him. Did a project for working title I basically ended up doing over 11 years. I did 19 For Hire a studio project. And you know, for some of your listeners who may be are a little new to the studio gain. Basically what that means is, I would get hired, I'd have an original idea of pitches to the studios, they buy the idea, they hired me to write it for what was more often the case, they had a project, they had a writer or a couple of writers weren't terribly excited about where it was going to, they would hire me to come in and rewrite it. I would also sometimes get hired to adapt novels, or graphic novels. And then occasionally, I would do production rewrites, where you're actually on that when you're making a movie, you don't get credit. But you got a really nice paycheck and you are rewriting structure or comedy or characters on set. So that's basically, for someone who's going to work in a feature film business under assignment, kind of the range of the kinds of things you did.

Jason Buff 5:57
Now, what was the process before you got that project with Ridley Scott? I mean, how did you even get into that world?

Corey Mandell 6:05
Yeah, that's a great question. So what has happened is I had written a script when I was at UCLA, and one of my teachers was running development for Meg Ryan. And again, this is like 98. And Meg Ryan's a big star. And, and I somehow convinced the games, Kathy Raven to take a look at the script. And she read it. And she really responded to it. And she talked to Meg landed on it, and Meg really responded to it, Meg wanted to do it. So then you get the phone call that everybody wants, which is, you know, Kathy Raven calls me and says, Then Brian, no, very potentially interested in your project. Who was your agent? And of course, I said, I don't have an agent. And then she said, Would you like me to help you get an agent? And I'm like, Let me think about that. I would like that. And, you know, the thing is, the key to get an agent, and it's easier said than done is not for you to be chasing the agent, but for the agents to be chasing you. Now, probably the easiest way to get an agent to chase you is to write something that gets a major piece of channeler. Attached. Again, easier said than done, I understand that. So in that situation, I literally have DEA and William Morris, and I see him like top agent, like clearing their schedule to meet with me. So I did that over the next couple of days. And I I chose to go with ICM with an agent named Dan Karen. She's awesome. And so you know, put it in perspective. And parents at this time. She represents Kelly Corey, when the Academy Award for Thelma and Louise, she represents farmers, you know, and then little mini, so it's a little intimidating. It's really exciting. And then to make a long story, short, or somewhat short. Right, so neg Ryan is attacks now we have directors fighting for the project, we suddenly have studios fighting for the project, like this is going to be a big strip. So I'm gonna make a whole bunch of money, pay off my student loans, get a car license, good. And then a movie comes out. That's in the same genre. And somewhat similar but but really not that similar but somewhat similar. And it takes this takes at the box office and suddenly met Brian, or someone on our team decides maybe I don't want to do this. And then suddenly the women Ryan says that suddenly the directors are like, Oh, maybe I don't want to do this. And then of course, studios are like, well, maybe I know what to do. And I remember exactly. And one thing I'll say for your listeners and I, I'm sure that you have people listen to this, we've gone through this. And you also have people who are kind of new to the game and everyone in between, I'll just say that the experience I just went through. I constantly get calls from students and writers I've worked with, who go through the same thing if you get as close as you can, without it actually happening. And you feel potentially like there's something wrong with you for your curse. And the thing is, is when you start to talk to a lot for riders, you realize it's a pretty typical experience. And so, so at the end of the day, it was not going to sell which was crushing. But, you know, I had a writing sample and had an agent and I think most importantly, I had credibility because the script I wrote had attracted major star and so that gives you credibility. So my agent said, Do you have any ideas or pitch?

Alex Ferrari 9:51
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 10:00
Because now you have this credibility, let's see if we can sell a pitch. And I said, yeah, so this is an idea I've always loved. And so I managed by her, but she said, Yeah, I think that can have traction in the marketplace. And then she pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. She was okay, let's do the fun part. Let's make our dream list. If you could sell this pitch, and work with anyone at all, who would it be? And the very first thing I said, was Ridley Scott. And she said, great to a great choice who else's, we made our list of like major a Lister. And it's sort of like, okay, that's our dream list. Now, let's start making a list of maybe one more classical folk, in case a dreamless. Doesn't happen. And but I got we went, she was let's start with Ridley Scott, since that was your number one choice. I went there and the development executive, they really responded to the pitch, they brought me into producing partner at the time, maybe she responded to this, and literally two weeks later, and it's a little embarrassing, but I get a call, and I set up really late. And I'm like, half asleep, when the phone rings, I think it's 1030. And my agent says, leaves in town, and like to hear your pitch at 1130. And it's going to take me 45 minutes to get going after shower, and shave and all that. So I said, Oh, that's exciting. But can I go in later today, like at three? And there's this long pause or ensure my agency? Why do I find this person and then very, very nicely, she says, Cory release in town. He'd like to hear your pitch at 11 o'clock. And I went, Oh, yes, I will be there. And I don't know. I but it really worked in my favor, Jason, because I wasn't nervous. I was everything just to get there. I'm nearly in a room pitching really before I think I thought I could process that that through this guy, because he was a big hero of mine. And, of course, yeah, any positive number. So in the room, he said, If you don't mind, I'd like to buy this. And I'd like to fly it to lend it and work with you on the structure. Have you raised it? You know, and it's like, Well, originally, let me check my schedule.

Jason Buff 12:16
Our people can talk and we'll figure it out. Yeah. So let me ask you, can I can I just pause on that for one second. And I want to make sure we talk about a lot of different things. But one thing that we're talking about right now is the pitch. So is there any sort of I mean, you're in your car, you're driving up, you're gonna see, you know, a legend. Yeah. I mean, you have to be nervous. What does? What do you do to like, make it all work out? I mean, what's your pitch? And how does it work?

Corey Mandell 12:46
How does one prepare themselves perfect? Or not get nervous? Or maybe actual? How do you? Yeah.

Jason Buff 12:52
I mean, what is? What what do you say? I mean, how do you take your screenplay and put it I mean, what is that, like a five minute six minute pitch, or

Corey Mandell 13:02
So this is not a screenplay. So you know, when people are pitching they haven't written. So generally, if you have an idea, you got two avenues, right? You can spec in, which is to write the script on the back. And then that's the thing that would be shown to people the actual script, or you can pitch it where you haven't written it yet, you have an idea, you're talking to people through the through the idea. And then if they like it, and they believe in you, as a writer, they'll buy the pitch, and then they'll hire you, the writer. Generally speaking, for those listeners who are kind of new to the game, you don't get invited to pitch these days, unless you have credibility. So it's even more so than when I was president. So generally, they're only going to listen to a pitch, and by a pitch from a writer that they are extremely confident can deliver on the actual script. So for newer writers, you're not pitching these days, you're stepping you want to prove not just that you have a great idea, but you can execute on it. So yeah, so what happened is, I went in there, and it was like a 45 minute pitch. And it was basically giving them the characters, and the world and the story and everything that happens and trying to do it in a way that was most engaging as possible. And then he asked me lots of questions. And we had a conversation, and we were really talking through everything. I was there for a couple of hours. And at the end of it, you know, he had a really had a really clear vision of what my vision was and what I was gonna go and write. And he said, Yeah, let's so then he lost the pitch. So I get a certain amount of money for that. And then also they hire me to write it, so I get money for that. So it's basically like you have an idea for scripts. And before you write it, you sort of embed it to make sure there's a market for and if someone's interested enough, they'll buy the idea and they hire you to write the script. And that's quite common in TV and And it happens in features, but generally is only going to happen to a writer who has a certain level of credibility.

Jason Buff 15:09
Okay, and what is the now for writers who are trying to understand what the relationship is with you and your agent, your agent is the one that got you in the room there in the first place, right?

Corey Mandell 15:20
Yeah. So agents are, your Salesforce agents are going to sell your stress. And or they're going to get you in the right rooms with the right people, for pitches or for writing assignments. So that was the other thing is, let's say that you write a script. And it goes out in the marketplace, everybody loves the script, they think you are a fresh, original voice, great characters, great structure, but nobody buys the script. It's just, it's not fitting what they're looking to buy, but everyone's life as a great Express. So at that point, you know, the agent will send you on around a meeting. And those round of meetings could be 20, to 30. And there's kind of three kinds of meetings, they're all going to be happening. So one is called a general relationship where someone's registered. And they're blown away by it. They're not looking to hire a writer for a project, they're not really looking to buy a pitch there. There's no, there's no money that's going to come out of this beauty. But it's a relationship building meeting, they just really love your script and your writing, they want to get to know you to kind of figure out, you know, if you're the kind of person you want to work with, if you're crazy or not, and a lot of crazy writers out there. And they just sort of what are you interested in, and let me tell you the kinds of things we're interested in, because down the road, they truly would like to find a way to work with you. And some writers get disappointment, because they'll take that meeting, and they realize somewhere during meeting, I'm not gonna get hired, there's no money that's going to come out of this. And those writers are the relationships are really important, because they're maybe six months later, that person is looking to hire someone, that that that you had a really good meeting with them, and they really want to work with you. That could lead to a job. So So you write a script. Everybody loves it, it doesn't sell, you go on around in meetings, and one type of meeting is this relationship building meeting. Another meeting could be they really love your scripts. If you have the right idea, they buy a pitch from you, and they will help you develop it. So that's a meeting where you're going in and they're like, hey, what ideas do you have? You're pitching. That's what that's what the kind of meaning that was really Scott, another type of meeting could be they loved your script, couldn't buy it. But we have, we have the rights to the graphic novel, or we have the rights to this article, or we have an idea that we've been kicked around internally, or we have a script that somebody wrote, We want a pretty big rewrite. And we want to make it darker, or we want to make it we want to make the character, this kind of a character or whatever, and you seem like you could be a good person for that. And so then what happens is you're basically being invited to audition. It's like an actor audition. So then, if it's a script, you'll read it and come back in, and you'll say, This is what I would, this is how I would change it, this is my vision for it. And they're talking to other writers do this as well. And then they're gonna pick the writer who they the vision that they liked the most. Or if it's an original idea that they have, or an article thing that you're gonna go home, you're going to come back in, and you're going to pitch what you would do with this idea, or what you would do with this article. And you're generally competing against other writers. So what the agent says is, they're going to try to sell your scripts, often, that means packaging, putting elements you know to make, the more exciting, they can go out. And there's a script for the star strip center director. And concurrent to that, we're gonna send your meetings. And again, these meetings could be relationship building, they could be you pitching original ideas, it could be them looking to hire a writer, and you go through around with those, and maybe somewhere along the way, you'll launch your career, you'll sell a pitch, they'll get hired to write something, your script will actually sell all of that possible. It's also very possible that the end of that none of that happens, you met a lot of people, you got a lot of great relationship, but at the end the day, you didn't get a job out of it. And then what you do is you're gonna have to give your agent another really great script, and you're gonna go through a second cycle. And there's you got a better chance of watching a career the second time around and the first time because he has relationships and also you're no longer one trick pony. You now proven that you are capable of writing more than just one great strip.

Alex Ferrari 19:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 20:02
But it's possible that the second round, you still have a launch sticker. So you have to add another big step and go through a third round. And a lot of agents will say, if you go through three rounds of meeting, and you haven't landed your first job, there's a good chance there's something wrong with you, it's a good chance that you're not everybody plays well with others, you know, and if you were seen as defensive or arrogant, or just someone that people don't want to work with, then you know, no matter how great your writing is, it's probably not going to happen. But assuming you play ball with others, and what I certainly see if my students and clients, you know, by the third round meeting, they're getting their third shot. Now, what you do with that shot, the whole different story.

Jason Buff 20:53
Okay, now, you wrote a very good screenplay relatively early on, and you're coming even before your career to kind of even started what? What were the things that, you know, brought you to that level of writing? I mean, were you just born a good screenwriter? Or what? What happened in school that really made you able to write a good screenplay like that?

Corey Mandell 21:14
A great question. And, you know, there's so much misinformation out there, because I have a lot of friends or managers, and I'm not going to out anyone here. But what happens is, there's this myth that if you're a great writer, once you start writing you'd like to express, and it's just not true. I know, so many writers who I mean, I'm talking to Tony Award winning writers, I'm talking to writers, the creative, his TV shows, I'm talking about writers who make millions of dollars, who it seems like everything they write is just amazing. And there was five or six years where they weren't that good. And they were just getting a little bit better and a little bit better. And they were doing the right kind of training, but they're being mentored. And then what happens is, after five or six years, they finally arriving at a level where they can be taken seriously. They sell. And they will just say or their manager will make up some story. Like that was the first thing they wrote. And they just forget it on all the development. No, and that's really important people to hear that because it's a really abusive message otherwise, because if you don't realize that, and you buy into the fairytales, and if people are doing it strategically, it, it makes you sexier, and it makes you more desirable as a writer, just to be someone who naturally is a great fighter, like everyone, everybody wants to work with natural talent. So it didn't people's interest to pretend they have natural talent, but it's just I don't know, a single successful writer, who didn't start out as someone who had a lot of potential that kind of sucked, and, and was taught and mentored and got better. And so in my case, you know, and as a writer, I wouldn't, I wouldn't talk about this way, but I'm wearing my teacher hat. So I'll be completely completely honest, what happened is, I was in film school, and I never read anything and a friend and I kind of wrote a script together. And it sold as a USB cable movie star in Virginia Madsen. And it was a great concept. And if we were just a little bit better writers probably could have sold it as a feature. But at the time is the very first thing I wrote a co wrote it with a friend. So I kind of thought it was God's gift to writing because no one else in my film, school class sold anything. Okay, it was USA Cable, but it paid pretty good. It was Virginia back then it got made, it was very successful for cable movie. I mean, for your first time out, at least for me, I was thinking that so shabby. So my friend and I had a big, falling out for collaboration and did a whole another long story. But so now I'm solo. And I write the script. And I'm in a writing group. And they're like, professional working writers in this group. And we're all very honest with each other. And I showed it to them. They really liked it. They had some notes, they had a few issues, so did a rewrite. It shows them some notes rewrite, you know, it goes but I eventually got the script to the point where they're like, this is great. This will sell this will launch your career. And I'll show it to my agent if you want. This is so this is one of the best scripts I've ever read. And of course, I'm thinking, Who am I to argue with that assessment, right? And so I showed the film full professor and he reads it and you know, saying the best thing ever read, definitely gonna sell. I'll get it to, you know, help you get an agent yada. So at the time, I was working for this manager, and almost a favor. I said you want to read the script, like I will say I was like entering that wasn't represented by her. And so he read the script, and we met Anna Never forget, he said, it's it's pretty good for like a dirty first draft, you don't want to show anyone in the industry that script, you only get one first impression. The scripts not that good. But it has potential. And I this was a weird disconnect for me because I've not what I've been told by everybody else, and when he said is your professional writers, professors, friends, being honest with you, but they don't know how hard it is to break in the business, they don't know the bar that you have to ship. And by the way, that the late 90s, the bar is a lot higher today. And he said, every time you follow the script to get coverage, and coverage, get database, everyone shares it. So if the scripts not like the scripts good, but it's not amazing. And there's a big difference between good and amazing. And in this industry, nobody cares about good. They basically said, I'll work with you, if you're willing to put the work in to help you help make the script what it needs to be and help you become a better writer. And I was really honestly torn at that time, because I was thinking maybe his opinions just not valid compared to everything else. And so he suggested something that I suggest to all of my students and clients, which is you really think your scripts ready because you only get one first impression. And that's the most cherished asset you have is your first impression. So what he suggested is go hire studio readers, like literally hire people who I hired someone from imagine someone from, like Warner Brothers, like actual working readers pay them under the table, it was like 100 bucks, and have them do the coverage report, they would actually do the scripts, not in tracking, it's not their coverage report goes to you. Nobody else because it's not officially in the system, you're paying them to do the coverage report, they would actually do if the script had come through the system. So I didn't have the money to do it. But I did it. And when the coverage has come back, one of the things they will do is they'll evaluate the writer and they'll say, recommend, consider or pass. And I think that all came back pass on the writer, which was a real kick to the guy. But at the same time, I was so appreciative that I knew that, you know, and I didn't make the classic mistake of listening to everyone telling me how great it was fine. So I took it off the marketplace. And now suddenly, you know, my name for stress path is what everybody has in the record. So I worked with that manager. And you know, it is a year and a half. And in that year and a half, like I learned everything I didn't know. And I learned what my weaknesses were and worked really hard to turn them into strengths. And after a year and a half of brutal work. This manager is not a pleasant person. And he did not. He was smarter. He know how to work with writers very well. So it was a brutal experience. But I learned a lot. And at the end of it. He's like, I think it's now ready. I'll pay for the coverage. And he bought he paid for some people to do the coverage. And the coverage is all combat recommend recommended recommend. And that was the script that I then showed Captivate and all this happened. So no, I as a writer, I would I would have said the following. I went to film school and the producers program. It wasn't the screenwriting program. I didn't think I could be a screenwriter. I took a class where they made us write a screenplay I didn't want to because I was supposed to be a producer and I took this class, I wrote the script. The teacher read it. Next thing, you know, Meg Ryan is attached. Next thing you know, by the way, all of that is true. I just I just took out that year and a half. Right or bootcamp?

Jason Buff 29:07
Well, okay, can you can you explain kind of what happened between the version that you thought was good that your manager didn't think was very good. And the one that he finally thought was good. I mean, what changed?

Corey Mandell 29:18
It was just learning a lot about story structure and character development and conflict and all the things that I work with writers now and I coach them through this process. And the thing is, there's such a big gap between good and amazing. And there are a lot of writers who will read some books, they'll read some scripts, they'll watch a lot of movies and TV shows. They have a bunch of natural abilities. They work hard, they have plans or underwriting and they can get themselves up to good or maybe really good, but they can't set themselves up so amazing and so hard to get. It's different for each person, but

Alex Ferrari 29:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 30:05
You know, everybody has inherent strengths. As a writer, everybody has inherent weaknesses. And everybody has blind spots, and play slots are weaknesses that you don't know that you have. So when I'm working with someone, the first thing is to help them understand what their blind spots are. So at least now they're known weaknesses as opposed to unknown. But then really, the important thing is helping people get dedicated exercises, and dedicated practice, so that they can turn weaknesses into strengths, and absolutely can be done. It takes time, it takes training, and the key is to work with someone who can help coach you through that. Because the thing that sad for a lot of people is a lot of the books and classes, the teaching rules, and their teaching paradigm, and formulas. And a, the industry is moving so far away from that, that most agents and managers won't even look at it, if that's what you're doing. Because that's not something they can work with anymore. But also be you learn a bunch of rules and a paradigm you feel educated, but you haven't become a better writer. It's not that insight out process approach, which is, what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What am I blind spots? And then how do I turn weaknesses into strengths? That that's the road to transformation. And the thing is, managers, especially good managers, yes, but that's what they will do. They'll, you know, they have their client base, they're making money, then they have their beating, they will take some people they think, have potential, and they'll develop those writers in exactly the way I'm talking about. Or you can get mentored by, you know, a successful writer can help coach you through that process. Unfortunately, a lot of classes and the books do the opposite. And that probably sounds really self serving, because sometimes I'll do a commercial for my workshops and, and for fiber trusses. And against that, you know, and so if you want to take all this with with a typical grain of salt, I understand. But the thing is, what I endeavor to do in my workshops is to help people have to get the current training that they would get if I had a manager or a mentor. And and obviously, that's Hello, everyone knows, if you have a choice between my workshop, and an actual manager or writer who can mentor you obviously go with the manager or the writer, because like, that's better than the workshop, the workshop is there for people who aren't able to get that at this point. And so I get a lot of MFA students who have a lot of education in the realm of rules and paradigms, and they're writing. They're not overcoming core weaknesses. So they keep writing scripts that are similarly flawed. And they're writing formulaic, predictable, generic kinds of stress, which is exactly the wrong type of script to workout.

Jason Buff 33:14
Okay, now, so I assume things like save the cat, and all those things are kind of like, you know, you would consider that really going in the wrong direction that people aren't looking for that sort of thing anymore.

Corey Mandell 33:28
Yeah. So again, the thing is not what I say. But even some managers say, right, because otherwise, it's like, I'm somebody that saying, Oh, don't listen to that teacher or writer. Come listen to me and spend your money. Right? Like, okay. It doesn't matter what matters. And that was the agents and managers say, and so the reality is, agents and managers in this marketplace, in feature and in TV, are looking for Pitch Perfect, authentic scripts. And they're looking for scripts that are authentic, which means authentic characters. But an authentic voice is a script we haven't seen before. It's a story we haven't seen before. That is pitch perfect execution very difficult to achieve this as a writer. But putting that aside, the scripts go viral, which means when someone writes a script like this, and shows as its own industry, they talked about it and they, it's all the friends that a script gets passed around, and there's above. And that's what's required to brace the writer out of all of the white noise that everybody's trying to break in the business. So if I'm an agent, and I find you and now I'm getting on the phone, I finally I don't know you might have sold a bunch of stuff out of my a lot of might have a lot of credibility. Let's just say you're a newer writer. Nobody really knows who you are, and you don't really have any credibility. Again, I'm not saying that's true for you, but let's just say that's true. So I'm an agent. I'm now calling everybody saying you gotta read Jason script. And I'm basically putting my credibility on the line. I'm chasing people to read your script. And they'll eventually do it. But they're busy. And they'll get to it eventually, as opposed to, if you write a script that everyone's buzzing about, everybody's talking about that. Have you read that? It's like what used to be the blacklist, the blacklist, everybody's talking about the scripts, everybody's buzzing about those. Now, people were calling me the agent thing, talk to him. I'm not meeting with Jason, I want to meet with Jason. That's a whole different game. And more importantly than that is so let's look at this way, if you're an agent, let's say you have your, your basic, like me, your sort of basic client. And so here's, here's how porting Mandell game work. There be a writing assignment, you would call and say I think Korea is perfect for this. And here's why. And they probably have heard of me. I've got a track record. They say Sure. We'll put Korea's name on the list so I don't get to compete for that job. Other agents are doing the same thing. Bunch of riders are competing for that job. I don't get it. So now you're pulling somewhere else and you're getting me to compete for another job, you're putting energy and eventually I took a job and you get 10% of my money. And I'm I made really good money. So you're making 10% of really good money. Okay, that's not too terrible as an agent. But, you know, my agent also represents Aaron Sorkin. So first of all, when Aaron Sorkin makes a tremendous amount more money than I do number one, so right away, much more valuable player. But number two, how do you get Aaron Sorkin the job? Yeah, answer the phone winner. Right. He's an ageless writer. So a basic working writer is always chasing job and aimless writer. Everyone's chasing him. So someone calls my agent and they go, we've got this novel, we think Aaron are perfect for you know, my I don't know exactly what my agent says. But he probably says this. So there is quote is probably really high. And you agree to it. And then I'll give her in the book with the if Aaron interested. I mean, you would rather have one Aaron Sorkin than 20. Korean Adele. And so as an agent, you're looking for people who have the potential to be at least writers in both TV and feature films, that's where all the money is. And someone who follows save the cat or other such sort of paradigm formula. These scripts do not become a list writers. So when you look at scripts that have launched a list career like Juno, like American Beauty, like Mad Men, we can go on and on, we're not following the Paradise, their authentic scripts are original. And so the feminine agent, and somebody has written to one of these formulas that a lot of summer movies are going to follow. And by the way, just between you and me, I wrote a lot of summer movies. And I also would follow the formula, because if you're working for Warner Brothers, and they're doing X man five, they're not looking for American Beauty. Okay, so someone who can sort of cheat on that hero's journey, paradigm. The thing is, let's say you're an original writer, a new a new writer, and you write one of those scripts. It's not as easy as it looks to really make it interesting. It's not as easy as it looks. It's sort of like I see it as easy as it looks to follow the form. But let's say you can do it, let's say you can do it. And so people, we just get a brand new writer, like hey, this guy can smartly follow a formula. Who cares? Really, who gives us that? You know what, because there's a lot of writers that can do that. And some of those writers are like Corey Mandel, who has worked for really big people, and like Ridley Scott, and will say this, and they've always wanted to work with me again. So like that, that gives me a lot of credibility. I have a track record where I've worked under deadlines. I've been in situations where, before I'm turning a script in the studio call me and they want a completely different direction. And I can pull that off, I proven that I could pull that off. So I have a huge advantage over you. And then of course, the person who wrote Guardians of the Galaxy has an enormous advantage over me, you know, because they've written something that's made a tremendous amount of money. My point being, there's people who can follow there's a lot of people to follow a paradigm. They have a track record, you tell. So why does anybody care? Nobody cared. So agents are are constantly sending me people to my classes. It's like I can't break somebody in the business because they followed a conventional Paradise.

Alex Ferrari 40:02
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Corey Mandell 40:11
Because nobody will read that, like nobody cares. As opposed to you write a script that nobody's seen before. It's really fresh and exciting. And it gets people's attention. It's what's called a head turning script. Now, I worked with someone who spent a year and a half gold to write that script wrote that script didn't sell and they got offered like, Oh, I think it was like three anagram for right panda bear three, or pandas or four. And you like all these? Like, I don't know if I should do it or not, because I've worked so hard to build the right to this level. Now they're asking me a lot of money to do a formulaic, you know, paint by the numbers strap, and what do I do? And my answer was, my job is to help you to get to the point where you have that decision, you make the decision, right? If you think it will go either way, personally, me, I just always took the job. I always took the money. And we think that was smart. But that's what I did. But my point is, the disconnect, that a lot of people make is there's these people that are like code breakers, they go look at all these movies coming out in the summer, I decoded what happens on every page. And then they teach this paradigm. And then writers go, well, I should write a script that you know, is commercial, I want to break in the business. This is what the studios are. Summer, I should write a script like that. And the exact opposite. That's true agents will tell you. Most of the clients I signed, I signed off of scripts that I was really confident I couldn't sell because they were different. Their original, like Eric Singer wrote the script, the scars falling is so violent, so dark, that nobody was going to buy the script like nobody, but everybody had to meet this guy, everyone had meet the guy who wrote this. And people want to find a way to work with it. And so he was booking assignments and making what I think is nice six figure income year in and year out, except writing original material. And eventually, one of those one thing you wrote, got Native American Hustle, and that was a big ADOS writer, probably make in, you know, millions of dollars. But for many, many years, it was a working writer making six figure income off of a script that didn't follow the paradigm didn't follow the form. It was just so original, and so dark and so messed up in a good way that everybody kept that script, right? Everybody said, have you read this guy, so you've got to resist? That's what agents and managers, you know, that's what they want. They want something different, and original. And even if that is a sample that you use to start writing, straight down the middle, save the cat summer strips bought, but you can't, it's really difficult to break in the business wiping stuff like that. Because it's a dime a dozen. It's just nobody cares.

Jason Buff 43:16
Can you talk a little bit about for example, when you're looking for people who are trying to break in as screenwriters, you know, what are the essential things that they need to do if they're, I'm assuming what you're saying is people need to submit just amazing samples. I mean, let's say you don't have a vehicle where somebody like Meg Ryan wants your screenplay. And you're, you're just going the direct way. And saying, I want to find an agent to you know, to support me, what is the what kind of spec screenplay Do you think they that were kind of like work for them?

Corey Mandell 43:52
Well, so what works for people again, is Pitch Perfect, authentic and authentic would be, you know, a strip that only you could have written that's completely original. So, you know, David Tyler wasn't sitting around going, I wonder what to sell in the marketplace. I've got a script about, you know, guy with a stuttering problem. But the King's speech was something that he was really impassioned to write. He had, you know, he's publicly discussed that he'd had a stuttering issue. And there was just a very personally important script for him. And he looked upset. And, you know, he wasn't trying to game the marketplace. He was just trying to script with an amazing character mazing story that was he was really passionate about and you read that spirit. It doesn't read like any other script. It's like we read American Beauty. You don't get another one of these scripts. There's just something original about it and different and it doesn't have to be a quirky character piece. Again, the sky is falling. You know about the animal world and his precepts going around killing people, and it's very dark and it's very violent. It's certainly about judo from a tonal point of view. But there's just something you hadn't seen that before. And there's something unique and powerful. And so you look at a script like Groundhog Day, you know, it is a classic wrong call. But it just doesn't. You don't read that spec script. For you another rom com scripting, the film itself isn't different. There's just something different and original, and exciting and fresh about it. That's the type of script and the thing is, net. When I go and speak at events, you know, I always hear writers complain out so hard to get an agent or to get a manager no one wants to be at work. No one wants to represent me. They only want to represent no and commodity. thing is that's just not true. I was the last couple days, I've been dealing with managers. And they all have the same complaint. We can't find enough new, really great writers, you know, and they're all like, who are your students shouldn't read. They're there, they cannot find enough news. There's so many opportunities for writers now particularly in TV. But more and more features. Missing is it's not looking. It's not looking for new writers. That's that's pretty easy. And it's not looking for new writers who thinks they're really great, because that's a lot of those people. It's new writers who really are amazing. I mean, if you look at the script for Juna, you look at the script for American Beauty, you look at the script for madness. Yeah. Yeah, sorry. My phones are the worst thing ever. I mean, these are. These are amazing scripts. So like, I know, the guys that wrote. They wrote the spec script for the net, the TV show. I mean, that script was really great. And Steven Soderbergh who had retired, we got that script and read it and that learned him back. People still talk about the game of thrones pilot script. It's just an amazing piece of writing. The Americans and then from that pilot went around town, and everybody was about everybody's talking about that scrap. And the thing is, there's a lot of skill and ability that goes into writing at that level at the highest level. And as a new writer can write to that level. managers are looking for that. That scarcity here, I'm sorry, I used to be an economist of some time, this was an old pattern, the scarcity is not. So now this is really important. Because if there is a scarcity was on that front, which is what everybody thinks, which means you've got all of these new writers who can write amazing scripts, and there's just not enough agents and managers to go home. If that was the case, and you were one of those writers, how do you persevere Well, lock, connections, relationships. That's what those baskets require.

That means, if you're a new, amazing talent, as a writer, I'm not saying you're gonna sit at home and look up find you. But I'm just saying, getting the managers actually easy, because they're looking for you. HBO has executives who are out waiting to win at plays, looking. through YouTube, they're looking for fresh, original, new voices. The thing is, there's obviously a lot of people out there that want to be writers to have an original unique voice and take have passion about the Red Book. There's a lot of those people. That percentage of those people who can write Pitch Perfect you can write to a level that people are looking for, you know, is 100th of 1% at best. And so the key is, I think a lot of writers get taken advantage of because there are businesses out there that basically say, what stands between you and a career is access. And don't worry, I can help solve that for you. I'm going to have this pitch fest or I'm going to shop your strip or I'm going to list your scrap grime. Whatever it is, I'm going to help you get access if you're willing to give me some money.

Alex Ferrari 50:00
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Corey Mandell 50:10
So, you know, there was a pitch fest that I used to go and KeyShot. And I'm not doing it anymore, I just don't feel good about doing it. Because there's, you know, five 600 People coming to LA paying hundreds and 1000s, not hundreds of 1000s, hundreds or 1000s of dollars, and they get the pitch in front of people, they get five minutes to pitch. Well, no one's gonna buy their pitch. But what they might do is like your pitch, like your energy, like you, jeez, can you write at all, there won't be that blunt about it. But they'll say, give me a writing sample. And then, if that lighting samples amazing or close to amazing, then we'll bring you in for a meeting and really start to see if something can be there. And I was just talking to all his executives, and a lot of them like, yeah, we're just not going to do this anymore. Because we've gone through three or four years worth of these, we've asked for a couple of 100 writing samples. And so far, not one writing sample was anywhere near good enough for us to bring that person in. So it's just a complete waste of time for everybody in the bubble. So now, obviously, if a listener if they are in a position there that point oh, well, in a one percenter new writer, they don't have a track record, they don't have an agent or manager. And they are writing Pitch Perfect, authentic, they're able to do this. Sure, if there's, someone can help them get some access. Why not. But the reality is, for most people, they're spending so much time and energy and maybe money, trying to solve the access part. As opposed to spending time and energy, figuring out where they are as a writer, and what they need to do to get to become a better writer. So it's sort of like people are spending all this money to get interviews for surgeons job because they really want to be a surgeon, because it's good money, it's good benefits. They never been in medical school. So yeah, you can spend all this money and get an interview in a hospital, but they're never going to hire you. You know, as opposed to spend your time and energy actually getting medical training, so that you're qualified for the job. There's so many people out there who just aren't qualified, and they're not doing the training to get there.

Jason Buff 52:29
Now, do you think that getting a manager is an important step to like, I mean, should you try and do that before you try to go find an agent and, you know, really get you in shape.

Corey Mandell 52:40
Yes for all bunch of reasons, agents, especially these days, they are felt people, they are not there to help you careers are not there to develop you. They're not there to take your script and say it's, it's close, but it needs to get better. They're just a sales force. And the manager is someone that is going to help develop you help understand in your career. So first thing, yeah, I would definitely go for a manager before you get an agent. First of all, a manager will let you know when you're ready for an agent. And they'll protect you. And not and keeps you from ages until you're ready to help develop your third good manager, careful a lot of bad manners, okay, I'm assuming it's a good manager. And then when it gets to the point where you're ready for an agent, they'll know who's good agent for you. Because the thing is, is all agents have a superpower ability sitting in a room and somehow know what it is you want to hear and tell you what you want to hear. Even if it's not true. So a manager is going to know you your personality, your writing, and they're going to be in a place to help figure out what would be a good agent for you.

Jason Buff 53:59
Is there any way to make sure that you're finding the I mean, a good agent? I mean, where where's that kind of? Where do you find them?

Corey Mandell 54:08
So the thing is, is you don't you don't find an agent? Because

Jason Buff 54:12
I mean, sorry, I was talking about a manager who went how, like, how do you go about finding a manager?

Corey Mandell 54:18
Right, so it's actually not that hard. So one thing you want to be careful about as I'm starting to see, more and more as these management companies are just taking advantage of people. So like, you don't want to find the manager that's charging you, you don't want to manage it taking 10% of anything, you know, like lead management companies actually like taking if you're an editor or a web designer, they're gonna take 10% of your income. So there's these scams out there. You gotta be careful of that. But that aside what you're looking for. It's not hard to network, it's not hard to find out who's a good match. Companies are. And so you know, the management companies, you reach out to them and you just reach out to like the lowest person like the, the intern, the, or the creative executive who's reading stuff like the lowest person on the food chain, you have a nice little 32nd lending minute little presentation, you call enough of them, there's a good chance you are in one or two of them. Take a look at your script, which really means well just take a look at the first couple pages to see it. You know how to write and if your script is amazing, you know, there's a really good chance that that you'll hear back from them. But the thing is, I know a lot of those people, a lot of those people are my students. And they'll tell you 99% of the time when they're amazed at is how bad the steps are, you know, it's not amazing. It's not amazing. If there's writers out there that think they're where they are, there's writers that think the script is really great, and it's not, what they find amazing is like, how wide that gap could be. So it's not, it's not hard, at this point to get people in management companies. Especially like the lowest level person to take a look, if you live in LA, like these folks who like the newer people demand for accounting, they're networking, they're always going to network events that go on the rightest, those events are extremes at certain parties, it's so hard to get plugged into that circle if you live in LA. And if you don't live in LA, that's okay. You don't have to move to LA. You know, with the internet, it's not hard to find out who these people are, and reach out people via Twitter and Facebook and email. And it's just, it's, it's not that hard to get people to read scripts. I'm not saying it's easy, but what I'd say is do training yourself to be able to write the kind of script that when somebody reads it, it has a positive outcome for you. That's so much harder than getting someone to read the script. And the mistake, the biggest mistake that writers make is they, you go out to a management company, you get someone to read your script, it's just not that good. It's probably it like, it's probably not gonna read a script, and a database this stuff, so suddenly, maybe you have to just burn your bridges out you got to burn your bridge elsewhere. Your first impression is precious. And you're like some minor leaguer. And when you get pulled up to the majors, you have to hit all run the first time. That's that's not how it works in baseball, right? It's very minor league, your show a lot of potential for the majors, you strike out the first time, they probably don't send you back, it's hard to get the batting coach that worked with you, you strike out enough times we're gonna send you back. It's not like that here. There's so many writers want to break into business, so many people that it's sort of like you get your shot. And if you don't knock it out of the park, you might not get no shock. Here's something that's pretty chilling. And I'm not going to quote the name because I don't have permission. But not that long ago, I was talking to an agent at a at a one of the bigger agencies. And they said something that I think it's really important for listeners to hear. He said, if if you if he said if we read a script from a new writer, and we don't think that script is just Pitch Perfect, authentic, now kind of represent that writer ever. They're blacklisted. And at first I got kind of upset, because I know for a fact that if writers can engage in the right kind of training, they could dramatically improve. And so Okay, so this, right, or maybe isn't where they need to be today. But three years from now, or two years from now, or four years from now, they might be an amazing writer. And so I just got to set you know, the teacher in Munich got really upset and as far as to push back, and he knew exactly where I was going to shut me down and said, No, no, you don't get because we made a strategic decision to not be in the stupid locker business. And that's when I was like, Whoa, now I don't know what you're talking about. Because it's really simple. You know, if you get hired by Wolfgang Petersen, right? You have a deadline, like at some point, you've got to turn that script in, no matter what, and you got to make it as good as you can. But you've got a deadline. If you're trying to break in the business. There's no deadline. So if you're trying to break in the business, and you have moved mountains to get me to read your script, or someone else in my agency, if that script is not Pitch Perfect, authentic, you're an idiot. And we don't want to represent stupid writers because even if their writing improves are so stupid

Alex Ferrari 59:59
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Corey Mandell 1:00:08
And stupid writers, they just take more time and energy, they create more messes. It's just, you don't want to be in a stupid writer. And I would respectfully disagree with this person, because I work with writers. And I know that a lot of writers go out with scripts when they shouldn't. And it's not because of stupid. It's just because they're insecure. It's because they're impatient. It's because their delusion fooled. And it's just, they're listening to their own people, because I know what it's like if you're writing groups, or your teacher is telling you to scrape or even worse, people spend money to go online, and they hire someone to do coverage of the stress and you know, our script consultant. And, and if people have really good, impressive credit, well, the thing is, if you're online marketing yourself as a reader or script consultant, that's probably a big part of your business. And so you want repeat customers, and happy customers are repeat customers. So a lot of these folks that reputation for skewing everything positive, I think that's true of all of them, but a lot of them. And so, no, someone will go online, find someone who used to work at DreamWorks and Warner Brothers and pay this person X amount of money, and this person says, your scripts brilliant, you should go out to the marketplace, I can understand how that provider would feel confident in that doesn't mean they're stupid means they're a little bit a little naive. They're not stupid. So. But the point is, people get blacklisted. Yet your first impression means so much. And every agent or manager that I bring into my UCLA classes or workshops, they always say, single biggest mistake that writers make new writers is going out to the marketplace before they're ready.

Jason Buff 1:02:07
Right! So can we, I want to change gears for just a second and talk about actual, the actual writing process and some of the ways that people can improve. Now, when you talk about not using these paradigms and things like you know, the structures that are kind of pre built, and it's kind of like riding by numbers, or whatever. You know, for a lot of people and a lot of the screenwriters that I've talked to, that are not at the same level you are, but there's writing independent films. They kind of rely on that stuff to you know, when they go into the abyss, and they're trying to put together their story. They use that sometimes to kind of put things together and figure out, you know, how everything's going to look, what what is your advice for, you know, let's say for example, before you're ever writing and sitting down and you know, writing the actual screenplay, what is your process for building that blueprint and that structure of your story before you begin?

Corey Mandell 1:03:03
So that's a great question. I'm gonna have to respectfully say like, it would be an entire podcast in itself. But here's what I'll say. So, you know, I got hired to write metropolis. warbirds. It's kind of a talked about, and I'm in London, like, it's a second night, we're having dinner. And the producer leans over and says, Hey, I know you, you go to UCLA Film School? Because you've learned that 3x structure of this and, and all that stuff? And I'm like, Yes, I have. Because if you tried right, to that, yes, using different words, I will fire you so fast, your head will spin and I'll bring in a real lighter. And I, I thought he was joking. I started laughing. And then he said, I am not joking. And fortunate, though, part of the day, he took me under their wing, and they taught me stories design and organic story structure. Because actually finish the story that I'll backtrack. So you know, when it was on the front page of variety that really Scott was making, it identifies all these big parties around town, I was the guy for like, seven minutes. And I was at a party extra, my agent, the house, and you know, Callie Corys, their uniform and all these writers who like, had careers, I could only dream. And it was shocking. They all just make fun of the writers who follow these paradigms. And so what are things that do make you feel like ah, because a lot of my students have had that paradise hammered into is operating in an agent from an agency and I'll ask them to bring in of all the writers they signed in the last year to bring in the scripts that they signed those writers off. Because, okay, if it's Kelly, Kelly, Corey Feldman, Louise's Cody, as you know, you know, you can your listeners do get access to those scripts, but a lot of times you know, if it's Eric Singer, and it's this guy's fault, that trip didn't get paid. And there's good chances not sitting there on the internet. So a lot of writers when they get signed, you know, I've worked with the writer just recently coached writers, through a TV pilot, it didn't sell. But it got her all these meetings, and she's got a $400,000 overall deal on the studio. But you're not going to find that script online. So agents will bring in the scripts, they sign people off. And then I just have everybody go through the scripts, and you can take any of the paradigms that you want. And just how many of those scripts or whatever? And the answer is usually none, or you know, one or two, but very rarely. That's where I start my classes, because it isn't about, well, Cory says this thing, and this teacher says that thing and if he just said, No, it's just about what the reality is. in the marketplace. I think a big reason that people follow the paradigm is a, it's easier to really understand organic story structure and stories of that it takes, it takes training and skill set, that's a whole nother like a lot of people, they what they want to do is plot people don't understand that interested in plotting in the story. So a plot is this happens. And then this happened. And then this happened. And then this happened. And you're trying to make those things interesting, or funny, or, or scary or, or thrilling, you know, whatever kind of script you're trying to write, and you're very focused on, this happens, and this happens, and this happens, ooh. And then this happens. And this happens. That's the plot. Story is a whole different stuff that makes it interesting. story makes it meaningful, and impactful and memorable. A whole different way of thinking about it. And it's the integration of story and thought. And there's just a lot of training and skill sets that go into it can be taught, it can be learned, this is the kind of work that the top managers do with their right this is, here's a quick little commercial bug, it's what I do in the workshop. And so a lot of people don't have that training, then their only options is follow paradigm or just follow their instincts to sort of follow their impulses instinct, or all the character around. But here's the thing, if you follow your characters around, they'll do a lot of interesting things, it's just not going to turn into a really compelling story check currently. And if you follow your instincts and impulses, you can write a really interesting first draft, but there aren't many people in the world who didn't think that impulses consistently drive to a successful story, there's a lot that goes into Pitch Perfect, authentic. So you know, I think for a lot of people, their choices are, follow a paradigm, or kind of make this stuff up and follow my instincts. And that second options generally does not lead to. So that's why they they all the paradigms will fall apart. And so that has been lied to, you know, they've been told this is what readers look for. You won't be considered by an agent if you don't do this, and it's the opposite. In my current class, I've got like four different readers. And they each one, and I didn't say anything, each one on their own, that for the class, we've been told to throw away the scripts of all these paradigms, because nobody's interested in those kinds of scripts as a writer, especially on the TV. So it takes you know, I do an entire eight week workshop in Saudi society. So it's just not feasible for me to answer that question in the short space, but for the listeners, you know, what I would say is a don't take my word for you don't know me. I'm pretty nice guy, but maybe a yogi. And but don't take your other. Don't take any other guests on this podcast word for it. That's my opinion. Don't take your teachers word for it. Don't take some famous gurus, anyone, word for to get your hands on scripts that have launched careers, that's not that hard to do. If you've networked around, you can reach out to writers and say we're gonna be possible to do a script that launched your career. It's not that hard to get work, you know, agents or managers or you know, someone that works for an agent or manager. It's just not that hard in the electronic PDF roll to get your hands on.

Jason Buff 1:09:34
But that's going to be how far is that going to be from the ones that are like the published ones that you see it like,

Corey Mandell 1:09:40
That is different often. We're looking for the script that launch somebody's career we're looking for that you're an unknown writer, you wrote a script and a manager, you know, read the script and said, I'm gonna work with you or adapt the script that WMV or CA signed you off up

Alex Ferrari 1:10:00
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Corey Mandell 1:10:10
Or so for instance, in my case, you could find Metropolis online. Write the script that launched my career you cannot find online. So the script that got me into a room, or really Scott, the hiring the right way to talk to Ken, that script, you're not gonna find out No, but you know, metropolis is a script that you could find out like, but you really want to go back with script. Anyway, my point is, you look at those scripts, and then take any of the paradigms that you want and ask yourself, now it's different with like, if you start looking at lower budget, genre film, yeah, you know, you are going to see a lot of paradigms, it says, it's a different game, it's a different arena. Although that said, you know, if somebody wants to write a thriller script, like you, I suggest trying to write an elevator rule of stuff that isn't just, you know, paint by the numbers, you know, for instance, plans to land now, doesn't really count because it's adapted from the novel, but let's just say it was adapted from a novel, like, that's a really thrilling script, but it has elevated characters on it. So if you write a script like that, you have a shot. In the majors, you have a shot to launch a career, and if it doesn't happen, you can always go down and well, I guess I'm gonna have it's kind of a it's expensive to make a budget, but, you know, a script like, Ex Machina, you know, very contained one location, what, two, three characters back, that's the kind of stress, it's an elevated stress, you know, like, that's a great stress, and it's not as painful. It's just what you're looking for is, first of all, we're looking for characters that are authentic and compelling. And whenever you have characters that have to do certain things on certain pages, certain events have to happen, then they're not going to feel authentic. Secondly, you know, I used to be a studio reader. And it's like, you meet me at a strip, and it's like, okay, here comes the big surprise. And it's so not surprising, okay, here comes a big, you know, insight into if you see it coming my way, and then you know, right is only working on one scrap, they don't understand the pile of scripts that are moving through readers lives. And so when you just read this, the scripts that are structured pretty much the same way, they all just get forgettable. They all feel generic. And then along comes scripts, I was on a screenwriting panel a little while ago, and the person was on the writers like I'm writing an alarm. And this expert said, Stop stop right now. Because no one's gonna buy a Nordstrom no agents. But here's the thing that that person luckily didn't listen to that person. They broke up skirt, and they just got firing by a team of agents at CAA. I have no idea if that's more scripted itself, probably not. But if that CAA, they're not read by CAA, and they're taking lots of meetings, because here's the thing, I'm a reader, and I'm going through a pile of scripts, and suddenly, there's this large script. Now that has the inciting incident on page 10, it doesn't have that not only the Abyss on a certain page, but this kind of a bit or the fall off low beat on the midpoint, whatever it doesn't, it's not constructed that way. It's not different for the sake of being different. It's different, because it's an authentic story that's unfolding at own pace. And it has a reason for the way it's structured. And I just never seen a script like this. It's like, the next week, I'm driving, oh, I'm thinking about that. I am thinking about everything else. So when my boss, or my friend who works at another production company says, you read anything good lately. That's the script I'm gonna talk about. That's the script that I remember. And that's the script that people start talking about. That's a script that can launch your career. So now, that said, I have a lot of clients who write those kinds of scripts, they don't sell, they take meetings, nothing happens or another script like that. Doesn't Sally take meeting? Maybe then the agent says, Okay, we really took a shot at really launching you big, you know, maybe this next script, we do want to bend it a little bit more towards convention. So take your unique voice that's not right at Foursquare straight down the middle, save the cat scarf, not do that, because that'll just be ignored. But let's case your sensibility and your abilities and let's see if we can bend a little bit towards something a little bit more conventional and see what happens. But that's that's the plan B It's not the plan a write Plan A is write something that blows people away that nobody's seen before that people go, Oh my God, even if I can't buy this script, I want to make this right. I want to work with this writer, I love this writing, I would love to work with this virus, that's your job, get a bunch of relationships, get a bunch of people excited about you. Maybe that turns into a job, maybe it doesn't. But if it doesn't give all these fans who want to work with you, you're right. Another script, a whole nother shot at something happening. Somewhere down the road. Yeah. And I seen this with some of my clients or students, then they'll have that conversation with their agent or manager. And maybe then they will say, all right. Why don't we write to this target that's a little bit more of a commercial target. So we can just get you some money and at least start to get your track record. But while you're doing that, keep writing your original stuff on the side, because when one of those things break, that's how you become an aimless writer, you know, so you think about Aaron Sorkin. You think about Alan Ball, you think about Davis, I like like the script that makes them or Eric Singer, you know, and you look at a script like American Hustle. It's not all in the paradigm. It's not conventionally structured script. It's a uniquely structured script, with unique characters. And now even the illustrator, you know, the guys who wrote the neck, they, they had a really nice career, they're doing comedy, you know, they're all competing for jobs or landing jobs, making good money, they write the script, the NIC pitch, perfect, authentic, you know, if not following the paradigms not following the formula. It's original, it's unique. And now, after the first year, the neck, you know, studio has, they're taking them out to dinner, stars are taking them out, basically, a set of them chasing jobs, or jobs, or chasing them. And that's what happens when you write one of these scripts. And it hit and you have to be lucky for it to hit. But even if it doesn't have it gets you in a room with a really Scott the pitch down. So that's why he did some errors are looking for those. So all I know is that I'm getting more and more people in the industry sending me writers to work with me. Because people will say these writers have a great sense of dialogue. You can really write action that can really be calm, they can really do this, they can really do that. But they don't know. They're just formulized that I get a lot of MFA students who've been taught that cert traditional film school, which really made sense in the 80s made a lot of sense. And then it kind of stopped making sense, seven years ago, and now is the kiss of death.

Jason Buff 1:17:57
Now, what was the difference with your students? Can you tell the ones who are going to have success and the ones are going to probably drop off?

Corey Mandell 1:18:06
No, and I've really tried to stay blind to that. I really think it's important that when I work with everybody, they get the exact same focus and exact same enthusiasm. The other thing though, is I have worked with people who I privately thought were some of the worst writers I've ever liked, just like privately was like, I just don't see their mountain is so high to climb. their weaknesses and blind spots are so abundant. And I've seen them become amazing writers. And, and go on. And I'm not gonna name names, obviously, but have really good careers. Certainly, it's not true of all of them. But it's happened enough that it's gotten me to realize my assessment doesn't. It doesn't matter where you start. It matters where you end. And it matters, how committed you are, how growth mindset you are, how willing you are to put in the work, put in the right amount of work, or the kind of work because that's where dedicated practice comes in. So a lot of people buy into this idea that if you want to be really good, just keep writing and the more you write, the better you'll get. Not true. For most people, the more they write, they certainly start learning from mistakes, they certainly do get somewhat better. But there's core weaknesses and blind spots. They don't know. There's there's just consistent mistakes they make. So the more they write, they just ended up with that larger pile of similarly plot scripts. They have a feeling that can't get

Alex Ferrari 1:19:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 1:20:02
A lot of my students come from that space. And so what they get excited about is, are there actual exercises that can teach skills that can teach tools that can make them actually significantly get better? If you want, because we've been talking that sort of abstractly, and I have to go in a little bit, and it's been a while, but I'll give, if we have time, I can give one example of one of these skill sets. So at least this is all in the abstract.

Jason Buff 1:20:36
Okay, yeah, I mean, that would be good?

Corey Mandell 1:20:39
Okay. So one of the skill sets is what I would call creative integration. And it basically goes down like that. Most writers, when you write, you can work from a conceptual place or an intuitive place. And these are very different muscles, and very different approaches. And most writers are wired to work when they're the other. So conceptual writers and intuitive writers that say, so conceptual writers tend to write outside in. And intuitive writers tend to work inside out. Conceptual writers tend to when they're working, they're very focused on what other people will be thinking. They're very focused on plotting. They're very focused on logic, making sure things make sense things are properly set up pacing, having interesting things happening. Intuitive writers have a very different navigation, they are working from an authentic place. They're working from a place of what's interesting to them. What's true to the character, what would the character really do? It's a very different space. A conceptual writer tends to be somebody who would say, I've got to figure out my story. Before I write it. Were in a tuner writer would say, and you know, write my story, so that I can figure it out very different. And so their scripts get, there's a different experience reading the script. So for instance, let's talk about characters. Conceptual writers, invent their characters, they design their characters. And so the characters never feel real. They feel invented, they, on some level, feel a little bit like puppet, who have been created at least times to serve the plot. And these writers often have great ideas, they concepts, good plotting. But where they're falling short in the marketplace, is the characters aren't strong enough. Intuitive writers, it's a very different experience. Intuitive writers don't invent the characters. They don't design the characters. They discover their characters. And the characters are like real people to them, and real people. And they speak like real characters, or real people. And you can feel that they're like real characters. But the intuitive mind is so focused on what is authentic, what the characters really do. These writers can't construct strong stories. So they have great characters. Always in search of a strong story. We're conceptual actors have all the story worked out. But they don't have strong characters. And it gets worse. With conception. Most conceptual writers when you read their work, there's all this interesting thing happening. All these interesting events are happening, it's just not interesting. Because you don't feel anything when you read it. Because they didn't feel anything when they revenue, a different space that they're working in. And so you've got these writers who get half of the equation, but not the other half. And here's the problem. Everybody always writes in a way to try to get the best possible script. You know, if you've been hired by someone in a studio or network, you obviously want to write the best possible script. And it's obvious. If you have an agent or manager, you want them to love your script, and champion it and take it out and change your life with it. If you don't have an agent or manager, you want to write a really great Express. So you can get an agent or a manager. Or if you're really kind of new in the game, and you're like I'm not ready for an agent or manager, you're probably trying to write the best possible scripts, so that you can feel that you're not wasting your time. And that people you show your script to, yeah, maybe you know, there's going to be issues with it. But at least the kind of feedback you get, leads you to believe you might have a shot. And this isn't just a stupid dream that you're chasing. So we're going to always try to write the best scripts that we can write. And so what we do knowingly, or unknowingly, is we played our strengths and hide our weaknesses, which is what we shouldn't do. You know, if I'm trying to write my best possible trip, I should play to my strengths and heighten it. In this as well, over time, my strengths get stronger and stronger, and my weak muscles get weaker and weaker. It's a big reason why writers can't get there, they can't get to that level they need to get to. So one of the skill sets I teach in my workshops is you're going to write to your weakness and hydroshare. So if you're a conceptual writer, you're going to work from a very intuitive play. So you can develop and strengthen that intuitive side. And so your intuitive side is the strongest your conceptual viceversa if you're an intuitive writer, network, any conceptual side. And so the first step is identifying your weak side, and developing that, focusing on that until it becomes as strong as your strong side. And then the second step is the actual creative integration, which is learning how to integrate these two sides, so that you can now write great characters and great story. Because Pitch Perfect, authentic, authentic means you have to be a rock star on the intuitive skill set as an intuitive writer. And Pitch Perfect means you have to be a rock star on the conceptual side. And most people are not integrated. And their writing practice leads to disintegration. So you know, you talk to conceptual writers and you ask what what are you working on? It's always conceptual writers hanging out in the same space, you know, they do horror film type concepts, horror film that you thrillers, sci fi, Big Idea comedies, action, they plot driven, concept driven material, because they can kind of hide the fact they're not that great of characters and dialogue, to the writers are writing, small, quirky character, emotional type material, where it's all about the characters and the dialogue, and the emotion kind of hiding the fact that they're not really that good at story structure. Well, the thing is, there's a lot of people out there who can write really good emotion, character stuff, they can't do story structure. And nobody really cares. For the most part about those writers, we're looking for writers that can do both. One of my students as directing a film that's coming out in two weeks, or directing the film for Paramount comedies testing, called drunk reading, it's been really hot. And so there's a buzz about this guy. And, you know, he was complaining to me, because he's reading all the scripts looking for his next project. And there's all these scripts that are really funny, great jokes, great structure, great idea. But characters, they just feel like stock characters, and there's no heart to it. And I'm just not going to put my career vague enough to one of these scripts, because, and then I read scripts that like, they're great characters. And there's a sense of like heart to it. But it's just there's no story, there's no state structures all over the place. Because it's so hard to find someone that can do both. And then his complaint years all the time, because I finally find one of those scripts. And of course, it's spoken for, you know, and, and, you know, it's been bought by the major player, you know, some of the big players, they're buying up all this script, because, you know, they want to make it or they want to keep up and coming competition from be able to make those scripts. So you know, if someone's listening to this, and they're so great with character, and emotion, and dialogue, if they can get better at structure and actually tell interesting stories like American duty, you know, have both there's rarefied company and they will be sought after. Vice versa. If you have someone listen to this, they're really good at and they love horror film as high concept horror film or thrillers, low budget or studio level, Comedy Action, what have you, you can get better at the character fire and the end have some genuine emotion in their man who stands out, you stand out, because there's just so few people that can do both. So that's an example one of the things that we've worked on in the workshop and it's called Creative integration. Now, for those of you listening, if you're interested in this, go to my website is Cory Mandel dotnet. I teach something called Professional Screenwriting workshop, which is the foundational workshop. And it teaches conceptual and intuitive skill sets to eight weeks. And Sargeras in commercial, but I'll be quick with it. We do. We do it in the LA in Santa Monica. And if you don't live in LA, or you do live in LA, we do it online using web app. So if you take another online classes, this is like real time so it's like going to a brick and mortar class. You can see in here everybody just get to be at your computer. And Ken we've had writers taken from all over the world.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:54
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Corey Mandell 1:30:04
The the June ones are sold out and kind of about six months out. So we're doing them in September, and those are starting to sell out. But there's still spaces. If you really want to do the June one, you can email my sister. And she put me on the waitlist and sometimes a spot does open. So my websites Cory mandel.net. And my system is Lisa. So she's Lisa at Cory Mandel, dotnet. Or if you want to email me, Cory, Cory Mandel, dotnet. And those emails are on the left side, which is calling dell.net. Their thing I'd suggest is sign up for the newsletter, we will often we do like once a month interview, an agent or interview manager will interview later to solve this threat. So that might be of interest. But and I know that we've been talking a long time, I think, let's see what their thoughts is from your listeners. Maybe people just think of a big blowhard. But if people are interested, people are interested in this stuff. And you want I'm happy to come back and talk about more of the skill sets, I think we talked a lot about sort of the marketplace or agents demand was or thinking and looking for and we talked a lot about mistakes people make and unless you have to accomplish, but we haven't really, I noticed is that your later questions were, but this whole sort of subject of okay, how do you actually do what I do? I can certainly talk more about that if you want to. If there is interest from your listeners, and you want to have me back, I'd be happy to do it.

Jason Buff 1:31:37
Yeah, that would definitely be great. I mean, there's even the stuff that you were just talking about that I would love to go further into detail with but yeah, we would need more time. So but yeah, I really appreciate it and we you know, let's definitely do like a part two sometime where we get more into actual screenwriting and structuring and all the you know, the nuts and bolts of it all love to do. Alright, man. Well, I appreciate it. Thanks a lot for coming on the show. And, you know.

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BPS 330: Inside the PIXAR Story Brain Trust with Rob Edwards

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Alex Ferrari 0:28
Enjoy this episode with guest host Scott McMahon.

Scott Mcmahon 1:58
Okay, today's episode I'm super excited by today. I have screenwriter Rob Edwards on It's bonkers. It's like over two hours long but is just packed with such great information. I wanted to dig deeper into one area that I have a particular interest in is the Pixar brain trust storytelling meetings. So how does Rob fit in? But here's a quick bio of Rob's work. Rob grew up in Detroit moved out to Los Angeles and had an agreement with his dad that he would find work in the industry within the first nine months he was there. Now, here's where Rob's hustle is on full display. Now this was back in the mid 1980s. He would call every production company in town and ask the person on the other line if they wanted to hear a joke or piece of gossip. Most of the time Rob was able to get a laugh from them with his jokes. While those who pick the gossip will share even juiciest stories with Rob of their own. Now all the people at these production companies would ask what Rob wanted. Now Rob didn't ask for anything return. He just said that he would call back and let them know. So when he calls back the people at these production companies, they remembered him and when he asked for work, they were more inclined to hire him because the fact that at least there will be a guy around the office who could tell jokes all day. Robert worked these production gigs during the day and at night write his scripts. Now the hustle paid off because he was eventually hired as a writer for television before he was 21. That's crazy. Since then, here are Rob's credits. He's been a writer on Full House in living color, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which most of the stories are based on his own experience while attending prep school in Detroit. In fact, Rob went to the same school as Aaron Sorkin, who rob works with on studio 60 later on. Now, we didn't get a chance to go into detail about working with Aaron Sorkin. But I do hope to have Rob back again one day. So there's talk about more stories. You know, Rob's work eventually landed him over at Disney where he wrote Treasure Planet and the Princess and the Frog. Rob was there at Disney when the Pixar guys took over story development. And that is where we pick up the story. I've always been fascinated by how Pixar continually knocks it out of the park with their stories. In the book creativity inc by Ed Catmull, who was one of the founders of Pixar explains how the development of this brain trust group has been proven to be invaluable to the storytelling process for Pixar. So I'm thinking how does it work? What happens in those rooms that is different than getting studio notes or working in a writers room. And now here today, we need to find out because Rob worked firsthand in these brain trust meetings for the princess in the frog. What I hope you get from this episode is some real world strategies of how to make your stories better. I mean, after all, it's not every day you get to sit in on a Pixar Storytelling meeting. So sit back and enjoy my conversation with Rob Edwards. With film Trooper The goal was to try to help sort of the Uber independent filmmaker, the one that things have changed so much in the filmmaking landscape, obviously of the studio system you have sort of like the indie Hollywood, like people that have one foot in the studio system, one foot Yeah, but in like the film, International Film Market, and there's probably like 90% of everybody now that has a camera and can edit movies on their laptop. Right now they've entered the scene. But there's, there's a different sort of business economics for them. And, and you know, we're just sort of discovering it. And but at the core of all this is still telling a great story. So, because I also came from the video game world for like 12 years, I worked at Sony PlayStation, and I was a Cinemax supervisor. They're making you know, movies for video games. But our department was considered fluff, because at the heart of all video games, is the gameplay. So if movies and television is if story is king, then in video games, gameplay is king, because you can have amazing graphics on your video game. But if it's sluggish, if it's not fun to play, right, people put it aside. So I wanted to, if you would indulge me just like imagine this setup, where we have these Uber independent filmmakers that they are learning the skill sets as a filmmaker to shoot, edit, you know, direct what what it may be, but we do sees a lot of it fall short, in terms of the storytelling aspect of things. And with your history with your experience, I'm really curious about what you saw on the transition. One working in writers rooms, we're gonna collaboratively But then on top of that, working with Disney, especially on that transition when Pixar, you know, came in, and I would really love to know more about, could you take us through a little journey of like, how the brain trust meetings work? Or oh, sure, is. Because if what I'm trying to do is if there's something there, there's these nuggets there that we can then identify and say, okay, so if you're like an Uber independent filmmaker, and you're writing your story, right now, how can you simulate on your own by we were talking about the accountability group, you know, our mastermind? Can you create something like that? That's very specific to creating your own version of a brain trust group? And if so, what would be those inner workings that that we could apply? That'd be like, oh, like, how do you get in a room where people can be free to be, be have candor without being insulting?

Rob Edwards 7:30
Well, that's the that's the thing. The question is, is kind of the answer. Because it's, that is the, for me at Disney Pixar, I saw the pre John Lasseter, Disney, you know, Treasure Planet, that was all, you know, the old regime, where there were levels, levels after levels of middle management, and, and everybody, and, you know, sometimes a note would come down from on high, you know, whatever. And it would get some something simple, like, somebody would just read something and say, Hey, I wonder if we could do this. And then middle management, which is pound us and say, This has to happen? You know, there is no, there is no other version, and we would look at it and we would say, hey, look, we've tried this, it doesn't work. It makes the movie bad. And they would say, No, we got this note, and you have to do it. And then we would do it. And it would go back to the person, you know, the voice on high and he was like, What is this? This is This is crap. I said, Well, this was your note, this was an, you know, this addresses your nose like No, no, no, that was just a thought. That didn't work, you should have thrown it out. And that's what you know, middle management kind of does to kill you. What's great about the brain trust is that it's it's two things. One is I'll say the impossible part of it, we'll start there. The Impossible part of it is you're never going to find yourself in a room with Brad Bird. And you know, and yeah, yeah. And that these guys are going to say, hey, it's very important that your movie is good. And, and we'll invest in it with with an artist's heart. And, you know, that's very tough. Having said that, you can construct rooms of filmic meet before they were Pixar. They were just a bunch of guys who almost got shut down. You know, for Toy Story. poster was a mess. The first draft of Toy Story, the first version for a set of reels of Toy Story was a mess when he's yelling at everybody. You know, everybody was cowering in fear. It was the most by their admission, the most unlikable film ever. And then what Peyton Bob said was that Pete doctor said that Andrew Stanton kind of went into a room and figured it out.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
We'll be right back after a word from our or sponsor. And now back to the show.

Rob Edwards 10:07
You know, he went into a room with all of the techs, you know, Dr. Ruby, whatever. And Robert McKee has all the notes for everything along with his own thoughts about, you know, movies that he'd like, the note that they had gotten, you know, why wasn't Pixar here? Why wasn't Toy Story working? And how had they arrived at this place where even Steve Jobs was saying, like, Okay, guys, maybe it's maybe this isn't, maybe this isn't the right, the right fit. And he came out and said, I got it. It needs to be this and this. And this. And those are the rules that you always see, you know, and their TED Talks and stuff like that, you know, of what they do, which they frequently break, by the way. Guys, in every movie, they have happy villages, they just don't call them happy villages. There is a you know, there is an eye once on, everybody has to state what it is they want. But those rules, basically what they do is they enforce the rules. And the way that the the Brain Trust works, at least what I saw is that they start off what you don't get that you do get sometimes from your buddies, is a great movie. And that's, that's the worst thing in the world. You know, it's just, it's the, I would say savagery of low expectations. This is very good. Yes. Don't change a word of it. That's awful. What you say is, okay, what is the biggest problem? That's where That's where Andrew Stanton would usually start to okay, what is the biggest problem? Let's start there. And then let's let those things filter down. Because some of the smaller problems that people have may be things that started with the bigger problems.

Scott Mcmahon 11:52
When you say, when you say big problem, is that the actual What's the biggest problem of the story not working? Or what is the biggest problem in the story? Or like what is the protagonist is probably

Rob Edwards 12:02
The biggest problem with the story not working. Okay. And it is, it is your buddy will say, Oh, it works. It just needs this. A Brain Trust says it's not working. You know, the, the, the the default is, it doesn't work. These movies just don't work, you know? And if they are, if they're good, it's still not good enough. You know, they're not great. They're not everybody's favorite movie. You're not gonna you're not gonna turn style, you know, you're not gonna leave the theater, buy a ticket and come right back in. Yeah. Yeah. Especially in the first second draft. A lot of people will stop there. That's a that's a major problem I see a lot is it writers will say, they'll do a draft or two. And they'll say, oh, great, you know, this is good. It all works. And then they'll stop. You can't you have to say, Okay, well, what you had to plus it, you have to say, Okay, what's the next level of this? You know, we have a really great animal has his has a has a great scene, she's auditioning the costumes for the new Incredibles. Okay, that's fine. But what's the next level of it? You know, Oh, great. Let's put her in a chair. And the chair goes back and forth. And we have everything, you know, we show everything as it's happening. Okay, awesome. You know, now it's plus, you know, and then can you plus it even more the reactions to it, all that kind of stuff.

Scott Mcmahon 13:21
Because, yeah, I'm sorry, that's definitely like a flaw within, like, this world of the Uber independent, like, they, they kind of work a script a little bit, but they just get it to good enough. They're like, I think I can make this

Rob Edwards 13:34
You know, and you can make a really, you can make anything and then sometimes that's the best thing a professional can do for you is to say, Okay, this, you can make this this is fine. You know, you can roll the cameras, it'll all it'll all shoot well, but you're gonna get creamed by the, by the critics. You know, you're it's good enough for 44 or 40%, ripe tomato. But you're not gonna get that 99 Unless you super super PUSH IT. And especially with independent films, there are fantastic independent films. And then there are some that you just say like, oh, you know, I can Yeah, I get when they when your friends send you the links. Yeah, everybody knows. You're watching it takes you four four times to get all the way through it because you're just kind of like okay, well this is this is okay. But nothing is really gripping, you know, getting the grip to the screen. On the other hand, you'll see like, you know, the Marvel films the new you know, the the new Marvel films, the obviously the Pixar films, films that are well told, they drive you, you know, you instantly have a character that you understand that you really want them to achieve their goals. And then the the opposition is just monumental. And then you're just watching them be clever and cool and wonderful and, and make their way through the story. Yeah, well, then that is that is a school of storytelling. And the way that you get to that is that thing where you know, somebody's at the table. Hopefully everyone at the table says, look, let's start with protagonists. What is the protagonist want? And how much do they want it? Straight up? You know, first question, I'll see dozens of script stacks and stacks of scripts. And I'll ask them, but I will say I'm 20 pages into this, I can't tell who you know, what the protagonist was, I if I can tell who the protagonist is, I can't tell what they want. And that just sucks. You know, that means that you have terrible friends. Read your script, you know, with any honesty and told you, you know, look, it is a chore to turn the pages of the script.

Scott Mcmahon 15:43
Can I ask you what the I know, that was, you know, obviously, Pixar. Disney is and it is animation. And in the pitch process, like when the brain trust group comes together? Is it just is the initial meeting just a script phrase? Or do they come like, here's the script phase with some storyboards? Or, you know, they put up a board and somebody acts it out? Or like, how does the how does the other members acquire the story? Or the is it presented to them? Or do they actually read a script come into the meeting? And I guess the second part of the question, is there like a moderator? is, you know, all right, or is it more of a loose like, Alright, everybody, this is a story we're making, you know, Rob's new story. He's the director on it. We read the script, or we've seen the pitch already for their pitch, or like, how does that how does the room work? Then? I was just curious, because if I'm going to do something like Uber enter, independent level, yeah. Should I come to the table with some storyboards and present it as much as possible? I'm, I'm just trying to figure out how I can the best I can to simulate what they're doing in the brain.

Rob Edwards 16:44
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Well, Andrew Stanton has this thing. He says A B, be wrong as early as possible. Yeah. You're gonna be wrong, you know it. And again, that's always the assumption it is broken. It is broken until the last possible second. And even Ron Clemens or John Musker princess in the frog and your planet, and Treasure Planet and you know, little thing called Little Mermaid. A little thing. Those guys, what Don Hall the head of story, he would say they like to leave the paint wet. That meaning that you're always developing, you're always you're always coming up with ideas. You're leaving that door open for that new wonderful idea to come in. Even when I was working with Aaron Sorkin on Studio 60. He would, we would talk about you know, it was kind of a paperless office. You don't write it down. Don't lock any idea down. It's just you're just talking out stuff. So when you start off with with with with John Lasseter, and I was working on a project called King of the Hill, it's based on a Philip K. Dick short story. Okay. And what you do is you start talking about who the main character is going to be, you know, and in this case, it was kind of like, I wanted to just for me, as a writer, I wanted to address some of what I was going through with my I have two sons. And and just this idea of what is it? What are you looking for a son to do? When do you know that a son has is ready to go off to college is ready to you know, has become a man. As a father, you're always searching around for stuff you're trying to figure out fatherhood as you go. And so what is it? You know, what does that look that you want to see in your son's eyes that says, I'm ready? And how do you get there? And can we do that in the in the, in the course of this story, which is essentially about these, which is essentially about these elves and this guy who essentially inherits inherits this elf world. So yeah, so so so you start there. Okay. Well, these are, this is the emotional palette. This is what I think is going to be fun. Let me kill that thing. Sure. Sure. Go ahead. Sorry about that. Oh, you want to clean? When did I start?

Scott Mcmahon 19:04
When you're talking about you're you're wearing a story about you have two boys? When do you get that moment? How do you how do you capture that moment when it's in their eyes that they're ready for manhood are ready to leave the nest or whatnot? Yeah,

Rob Edwards 19:16
Exactly. Yeah. And so yeah, so for me, that's what I was. That's just what I'm exploring in life. And I thought, Okay, this is a great way to, to, to write it and kind of, you know, share it with people. I'll have a lot of insights on it. It'll, it'll be informative to me, it'll be a movie that I would want to watch. We start. And then I was talking to John about it. And John said, Oh, man, my son is 16, too. And there's this look they give you and then everything. We just started sharing stories about, you know, just how do you get through to them and what do you give them and you know, just how do you raise a boy? And we're sharing stories, sharing stories, sharing stories here and I said, Okay, excellent. I know, I know what I'm going to do.

Alex Ferrari 19:59
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Rob Edwards 20:08
So I go off from that basic conversation, because I know Okay, good. He's an audience. I'm an audience member. And that's another one of the Andrew Stanton. Yeah, that I claim to, which is be a film goer, first a filmmaker second. So I go, I set out to look at the story, which is very light, and say, Okay, what can I do? Basically, how can I get a rise out of John, I'm gonna story, what I do is going to get a rise out of John, what are going to be those real great honest moments that we can do. So I go through what real story team, we we kind of plot and there's it's fantastical, and it's all kinds of stuff. But at its core, it's got this really great emotional emotion to it. Just like Princess in the frog or any votes. Yeah. Yeah. And, and then, and then you are pitching kind of a wall of drawings. You know, first act is on one wall, actually, second act is on two walls. And then the third act is on the is on the next wall. You know, because for a second act is always in two parts of two. Yeah, with a midpoint. And then, you know, and it's funny, because John will, and I use this method all the time, John walks in, and he goes, third act, he walks right up to it. And he's okay. Where's that moment? Say, Well, you know, it's, it's there. And what he's looking for is, what's the epiphany? What's that little thing? You know, where the, the where you know, where he is going to turn into a star? Or when you know, both Tiana and Naveen are going to decide, you know, to that they're to trade their journey for their relationship, all the things they want. What is that? What is that moment? Like in in, in every, you know, when Luke I was eight, when when Luke chooses the, you know, the force over the over the right, right? You know, what is that and what is the and then you go back and you say, okay, great, well, what are the elements? I need to tell that that story? And so he's looking at that point at the mechanics, and then you go through it, you pitch it. Once he once he has bought off on that that moment working? Great. Oh, yeah, I can see that. I can see crying at that moment. Then you go back and he says, okay, you know, he sits down in his chair and you say, okay, Act One, scene one. A flaming ball of fire comes in from space, or whatever. And you're trying to give it as good a look as you can. Yeah. You know, it, it doesn't help you to soft sell a pitch. You know, even if it is rough, even if you just have little heads with smiley faces on it. Yeah. You pitch it. You know, it's your favorite movie. So you're, you're you're going with it, going with it going with it. You sell out and go and then he says, Okay, great. I see. It got slow here. It gets low here, whatever I bought off on the ending, but and then you start doing your story map, right? If you're gonna if you're gonna have Luke, use the Force to set you know, to to shoot down the Death Star, there should be a scene in the middle of the movie where he realizes that the force is stronger than you know, than than just any mechanical concerns. What if we put a helmet on him or something? Right? Oculus happened and that'll be that. And then how do we get him there? Well, okay, cool. He should be a kid who wants to auto he wants adventure. And how many of these movies start with you know, I want I want to live more than the provincial life or I wanted to you know, whatever. Yeah, but looking out of the window. Harry Potter wanting something you know, something better than living under the stairs. Exactly. And you know, we're PO is looking at his shelf full of things going oh, man, it would be so awesome to be a kung fu master Neo looking you know, seeing the rabbit you know that that that there's that call? And then you say no. Because yeah, just whatever jump on the thing. You have to say no to that call and then you go through like I say the story math. What's going to get him into the second act? How is he locked in? Well, for Luke, you're going to burn down his family. His family's anything keeping him in this world is Uncle it says no, you're gonna stay here. You know, Greenville can be a good boy. And and so you burn that down because Luke's first intention is just to is just to get the old man to the bar and be done with Yeah, look, I'll get to that far but I you know, you're all this other stuff is crazy talk. And, and by the time he gets to the bar, he's kind of in it. And and then off they go on the adventure or whatever, you know, and the first part of the adventure is, is impossible because the planet has been destroyed and then You're just going, getting him deeper and deeper into it. All you're doing is looking at that endpoint like when is he completely bought it? When is he going to sacrifice his life take on this as role as you know, Jedi Master and whatever, and embrace the ways of the force of that, yeah, force. That that's the whole thing. And you're gonna make it difficult for him all along the way, you're going to build up the opposition as much as you can. So going back to the brain trust, those are the elements, you're looking at it and you're saying, Okay, you're telling this type of story. And a lot of times, it's straight up film theory. I don't know if you're a film student or whatever. Right? All you do. And film school that is wonderful, is you watch a ton of movies. Yeah, watch, you know, musicals, you're watching whatever, you know, for me, when I start a movie, I'll go, you know, I'm gonna watch every spaghetti western that ever wants, boom, you know, and I'll just, I'll just go through my Netflix queue is just flooded with stuff. I'm gonna watch every kung fu movie, every crazy kung fu movie that I can find. And I'll just go through every single everything single weird one, I'll do all of my research, I'll just kind of become a bit, you know, just completely embedded in this stuff, let it seep into my DNA, and then I real and then I'll see the matrix, I'll see. Okay, this is how these types of stories are told. If I can stay on this path, I think I'll be fine. And I think also, I'll be satisfying the audience that that enjoys this type of movie. So yeah, and then off I go, then I know, like, I'm working on a project right now. There's air for for the studio, I'll say Oh, studio. Yeah. But it's, you know, completely mainstream, but it's one of the things I said was, was, the audience has seen a ton of movies like this. And the, it's in the category of the, of like Maze Runner and insurgent and those kinds of things. And the audience of that, of that genre is often like, they're really super skeptical. You know, if you if you show them like, what is it, there's a ton of these kinds of Percy things, you know, they're, they're a bunch of these movies that come out and the audience is never absorbed, you know, just never takes them in, and then you're done. And so there are things that you need to do, there are tropes that they want to see, but they don't want to see the same tropes that they've seen in the other movies. So you have to mess with them. And mess with them in a very clever way. So that it says are very early signal that okay, this is cool, you know, forget your popcorn, lean in and enjoy the movie. Yeah, that's the plussing. That's the extra, extra extra. And hopefully, like a bad room would be a room full of people who don't all like making the same kind of movies. You know, they're gonna pull you in every direction. Good. I say, you know, you go into Marvel, and all those guys have read every single comic book. If you throw off a reference, they will all go Oh, yeah. And this and this, and then you could do this. And then the room just explodes with everything. You know, all the minutia. Everybody will go, you know, what's great about that issue was this and this, and this happened? No, here's what I think. I think this is what made it great. But this, you know, this episode is issue, this issue, this issue didn't do well, because of this, and everybody will have their theory and great if you can move towards this and away from that, you'll be fine. And that's generally what happens in the brain trust meetings is it's a yes. And kind of table.

Scott Mcmahon 28:58
That is That is literally the same principles of improv. Yes, exactly. The whole teaching is an actor will give you something and the other actor has to say yes. And yeah, that's literally that's what it is. I had act up here in Portland, so you know, just my acting friends and stuff like that. So it's one of those things. It's funny that you brought that up. Yeah.

Rob Edwards 29:24
Do more of that because it becomes for me, yeah, I did a lot of Providence College and I did some instinctive as well. And improv Yeah, after. And even in my standup, I would leave. I'd always I consider it in quarters, right. I would do my introductions and kind of get everybody into like, This is who I am. This is where my comedy is gonna come from guys. So

Alex Ferrari 29:53
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Rob Edwards 30:02
You set up and that, yeah, exactly 10 jokes in this area. And then I would kind of like, okay, now that we're friends now that we know each other, here we go, you know, we're gonna go into this and then third quarter, I would just kind of kick back and I'd say, hey, let's talk about something. And I would just riff and, and, you know, I just would ask the audience a question, or else, you know, or whatever, and I would just go on whatever I was given. Just lean into it and fly. And then I'd Of course, wrap it up with some, you know, some stuff that was money. Night and you know, whatever, dropped the mic and take off. But that, that, and frankly, it's also the same kind of thing that happens in a TV room, like you had mentioned before, you know, in sitcom rooms. That's exactly what happens. Because literally, you cannot afford in a sitcom room for somebody to go, yeah, no, no, no. So when I was running tables, I would always say buy it or beat it, you know, being okay, there's an idea on the table, that I believe to be very good. If you think of a better idea, pitch it now. Otherwise, we're gonna build up with the idea we have, but we're not going to spend an hour and a half, just kind of shooting, you know, just telling everybody why it's a bad idea. So. So it winds up being really, really great. So that's exactly what you find in in Pixar. Somebody will say, Well, what if you know, that's the first thing? What if? And anytime anybody says, whatever? Whatever, the room gets really quiet. Even if you have even if you have your own? What if you're like, Okay, great. I'm just gonna get in line. Yeah. What if we turn the whole thing upside down? And this happens, and then this happens? And instead of everybody going, Oh, shut up. Yeah, yeah. Okay, if that happens, then this would also happen. And this, and this, and then this would happen. And this and this, all the energy winds up around that, that idea, boom, boom, boom, and you're just building a mountain off this idea. And hey, you know, what's a great sequence with that, you can do this and this and this. And then somebody else will say, hey, and that will fix this scene, because you can do this instead. And they'll start pitching the dialogue, and I'm really cracking up jokes and all that. And then sometimes you get to the top of the of that mountain and you go, I don't know, this whole thing, and you say, it's good, but it's not necessarily better than what we had before. Or it's good, but it's a whole other movie, or whatever. And then it gets quiet, and everybody digest what we had. And then the next person says, what about this, boom, and then you start, you build again, same energy and everything, everybody gets into everything. There is no there is some negative and like, some people will say, Oh, ag you know, we try that and blah, blah, blah, but if you're going to make it work, here's what you would do. I say, so everybody is looking at it in terms of their making the movie, and that you get to which is you know, which I think is wonderful because Brad Bird is going to have a different idea in his head. And Pete Doctor Yeah, and Pete doctor is going to have different ones and then to mark off you know, then then even even John, you know, and John's gonna have any, you know, whatever and everybody's gonna it's an orchestra right? So John is John's got a big heart at chodzi or whatever. And he's he's a big kids who he's going to love the you know, a big blockchain Andrew is looking to make sure it's, you know, you're checking the boxes. Pete's got, you know, Pete's got his take, you know, Brad's a cowboy. He's, he's, he's doing his thing. And and in that symphony, you have like, okay, great. This is wonderful set of ideas. Even what is it Michael aren't you know, who wrote horses? You know, Little Miss Sunshine. Key comes in and he I love the way he thinks because he thinks a lot like me, I'm a I'm a structure guy. You know, when when I started doing sitcoms, there were two rooms were three rooms there was there was the room of guys who would think about the stories there was the story guys, you know, who would who would as you were breaking the story, they would sit down and say well, it should be this and then this and then this, you know, just plot out the plot out the story, knowing where the jokes were going to come. And then we would invite a larger group in and then those would be the joke guys would come in and say, oh, yeah, and then this this, you know, they would have great dialogue. And I saw very early you know, they were like, well, which room do you want to be and I was like, I want to be in the room with the exec producer. And that's a story room but those guys seem to be those guys are working all the time. And those guys anytime stuff was wrong. They would kick the joy joke guys out of the room. And a very small group of story guys would work would work through it. Fascinating story, guys were the guys who would hold the pencil, meaning they would make the last decision, they would write down, whatever the choice was. And, and so I like that a lot. And even now, as I'm working in features and stuff, it's always the story guys who are kind of called in when things are really wrong. They'll say, Okay, please help us. What's wrong with it? And you go in with your toolbox, unmotivated character, the third act moment doesn't work. Let's build back from that. What are the values that we're doing here? And go through.

Scott Mcmahon 35:41
Before I go to the, I just want to kind of recap sort of like, make sure I'm grabbing the essence of everything you're talking about. There's a sounds like, there's a little bit of a, I think your cable might be hitting,

Rob Edwards 35:53
I think it's hitting my short.

Scott Mcmahon 35:56
You get you get loose, or just just you and I Yeah, there you go.

Rob Edwards 35:59
Okay, good. Is it going clean, clean, clean?

Scott Mcmahon 36:01
Yeah, that's it not too bad. It's but I just use such great information you have, and there's just you and I on the video, so it's all good. Looks like a prison shirt. That's perfect. So the what we can, what I can gather from here is I like this concept of one, make sure that the room that you create the the group that you create, if you're going to create your own brain trust group. You know, if you're writing a horror genre, you know, make sure you have people that like it.

Rob Edwards 36:36
That helps have studied up on it. Yeah, exactly.

Scott Mcmahon 36:39
That know that know, the genre, the know the tropes, that have a passion for it, that that can gel with you, as well, as I liked this idea that you start from the end, what is what is that one thing? Or just have that conversation? Like? What is the one thing you want out of this film the story? Is it the moment what is that magic moment, that third act moment that makes it the payoff all worth it, and then reverse engineer go back from the beginning and work towards that I like all that I love this little note you gave about the second act, the midpoint of like, if the payoff and the third act, then that magic moving moment is that it works, you have to give us a little taste of in the midpoint, which is great, you know, and it totally makes sense. But then obviously, the people that you put together, have to know, you know, their story structure or you know, that they're just, they're film geeks or other filmmakers themselves that are that have an opportunity to contribute to the storytelling process where, you know, we all seem to do it anyway, after watching a movie, and we're like, Why did it not work? You know, like, I think my wife, my wife, and I just rewatched the remake of poltergeists last night, Zach, and we are huge fans of the first one. I mean, watch that many times over and seeing what happened, you know, our own analysis of taking away and it's interesting, the conversation you have just saying, What Why didn't it work? Because you're trying to figure out like, what's gut wise, what's what's right, but something's off Biden isn't working for us. And I think it was, I think it was like, it took an hour, like originally a two hour movie into an hour and a half. And it was like, go time from the beginning. Like, there, there is no one it was just like, bang, bang, bang, there was no time to catch your breath. And it felt it definitely felt rushed than all the wonderful, cinematic, you know, visual visions of the stuff, but it was, there was some soul aspect missing.

Rob Edwards 38:29
I think, see, that's the thing, because that and because I was gonna ask you okay, what, what did you think was was was missing? So in? What part of the movie do you think it was missing from? I think if you if your conclusion was that it was soulless? Yeah. And we're, and we're in the brain trust meeting right now. So yeah, this conclusion was it poltergeists was sold was were how do you fix that? What, what? What had they taken out? Because you have, in this case, it's empirical. Right? You have a movie that works and a movie does not that does not work. Yeah, that are the exact that are supposed to be the exact same movie, right? So you can kind of look at them side by side, you know, and I'm notorious for this. I'll get iTunes, and I'll just, I will watch five minutes of one movie five minutes of another person next five minutes. In that next, and I'll just completely go go through because a lot of movies will have if you watch Point Break and Fast and Furious, they're the exact same movie, right? Yeah, they will tell you they're the exact same movie and every, you know, in every way, you know, and, and so the question is, okay, great. Well, those two work. Now this one. Okay, great. So we're back to its soulless. That's our problem. Where did that come from?

Alex Ferrari 39:48
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Scott Mcmahon 39:57
Definitely, I think from watching The remake in Bing fan, like you said, being so well versed in the first one and seeing how many times over, you know, all the nuances, you know all the scenes, but mostly from the from it was, there's a sense of wonderment and awe and sort of respect for this. This deeper conversation about the paranormal was existed in the first one, again, we're talking about somebody remaking Spielberg.

Rob Edwards 40:29
Yeah, but Spielberg has got a bag of tricks. That is very interesting. And when I look at Spielberg, I always look at, man, I just had this conversation with

Scott Mcmahon 40:41
Spielberg himself.

Rob Edwards 40:44
His daughter went to school with my son, so no, we got and as, and his other son took karate class with my older son, so Oh, wow. Okay, so there's always crossover. But, but we never like, Hey, tell me about jaws. But I did get a chance to meet the writer of jaws. I had dinner with him a couple nights ago. And, and we were talking just about those things about OSHA, all of that stuff. And then when I look at Spielberg, I always look at when I'm analyzing a filmmaker, the first couple of films, the first two films, I may have mentioned this earlier, but that, that I always look at them when they're in their infancy when they're trying to put together their bag of tricks. And then I try to find what is their worst film? Yeah. And for Spielberg, it's 1941 right? There. And in 1941, he is doing he's showing his bag of tricks, but he's doing everything wrong. And you can tell like, Oh, this is what he, what He does great. Everything that he does great in those first couple of movies, he does really poorly here. And everything that he did great like an E T. And this gets to the answer of what I was digging at, with the two poltergeists is that it's the first it's a first act problem, that that you when you buy into something emotionally, it's if you don't feel it emotionally, it's because when we met those people, we didn't care about them. Exactly. You know, if it's a roller coaster ride, if they're thinking, well, the best thing about what we told you guys, is the little girl gets sucked into the TV. And whenever there's a closet and all that stuff, like that is not the best thing. It's about this family. It's about this guy who is who is, you know, he's moved his family into this into this new environment. He's worried that there was something wrong with the area. There's this drumbeat of weird things that have been happening around the area, and you're filling in the character. It's like, it's like Jaws, it's like a tea. It's everything. The conversation that they have at the, at breakfast, in a tea before et shows up is the most important conversation you have. Yeah, I remember in princess in the frog, there was this whole thing of, we were just, we're trying to get them into the bayou as quickly as possible. And the note, we kept getting back in the brain trust, because that's the other part of the brain trust, right. As you screen the movie, you're showing the movie to a lot of people. And they're giving you notes back everybody in the building everybody at Disney, everybody, Pixar, you get reams of notes. I didn't think you know, this is a problem. This is a problem. This is a problem. And then they put the notes into sections. So someone's about, you know, the main characters about, you know, the story itself. And then we were getting all these notes. I you know, the story seems funny. I just don't care. I don't care about the journey. Yeah. And I said, Well, that's the first act problem, same thing. And you didn't care because she wanted to have a restaurant. But she didn't care why she wanted to have a restaurant. So I said, Well, hey, I saw this drawing of a dad. I love this story.

Scott Mcmahon 44:01
Yeah, the Yeah, this keep going on. This is a great one.

Rob Edwards 44:05
There was a dad portrait drawing of a dad. And basically they were trying to figure out what the mom looked like. So they had drawn a dad just to figure out, you know, what were the features that that Tiana had gotten from both of her parents, and then that would be the mom. And there was just a drawing. And I asked the character designer, what you know, what is this? Like? Oh, he explained it and I said, Well, this is can I borrow this? I took it back into the room. I said, this guy is the most important person in the movie. Because daughter is that relationship between daughters and fathers. And we've been looking driving so hard to have a person to have an emotional reason why she wants to have this restaurant. Why not? Why can't it be the daughter the dream of a daughter and her father and and the legacy of that once the father passes away. She wants to continue that dream and you then there is no way the thing can have a motion. It's a woman holding, you know, it's what they did in up, right, the house at a certain point becomes, you know, that call is trying to continue the dream that he had with his with his wife. That's, that's the inaccurate mention probably 50 other movies that are fueled with that kind of emotion. There is a reason why we tell stories in that way. And so once that happened, it was a tiny adjustment was about three pages. And in the beginning of the movie, and everybody said, Wow, what did you do? Did you rewrite the entire movie? No, we just gave every time you know, she says the word restaurant, you know what it means? And I had to hit it. I think in the middle at the midpoint when they're drunk right before they dance. And then at the end when they're on the riverboat, and they're looking looking out at the restaurant itself. And it's what gets Naveen to back off, he wants to propose to her. And it has such huge emotional weight that like Okay, great. My job here. My job here is done. The mechanics, the rest of the mechanics of the storytelling were I want I don't want to say inconsequential, but they were less consequential because we had launched the story correctly. You watch a movie like man on fire? We spent a ton of time I don't think anybody dies until the midpoint of that movie. Yeah, the whole movie is about this broken guy's love for this little girl. And how this girl redeems has his soul and makes him stops him from committing suicide. Yeah, the bullet doesn't go off there is something you know, the God of the story has a larger plan for this guy. And it's about this it's about this relationship with this little girl. And you know, he starts coaching her about don't be afraid of the gun and and all that and they have this wonderful wonderful relationship. So at the point when she's kidnapped you're like, oh no. Yeah, go down. Because now this guy has license you know is he is fired and if you look at I'm sorry when I say one last example but you look at taken taken follows the exact same model. That girl doesn't get kidnapped so deep into that movie Yeah. Heartbreak heartbreak the pony versus the you know, karaoke machine all of those scenes if you're looking at it from an executive standpoint, you'll think oh god you know, the movie is really about it's a shoot 'em up. And why is it taking 60 minutes before the guy fires the first shot you know? Yeah, well like we can't we just condensed this and and you have to as a writer, as an artists say no people don't watch buildings burn. They watch people saving the people they love that are in the building that is on fire. That's drama.

Scott Mcmahon 48:00
Yeah, it's interesting. You brought that up. I got me excited because you were saying like, how important to set up how poor in the first act is. And if you look at some movies back in the in the 70s. Like even Exorcist, literally, I think the first hour like nothing major paranormal, like happens. I mean, the priests doesn't show up until after the hour mark, like, like, all the stuff that we remember about the exorcist doesn't happen until like, almost after the midpoint. You know, it's like yeah, and because the even like, Rosemary's Baby, same thing, yeah. Very, very shiny, Mike.

Rob Edwards 48:35
Yeah, exactly. Shining. You're just watching girls and bikes and yeah. Yeah, it's just and they're a little creepy things that happen. There's always got, you know, a cat jumped out a box. I was watching alien. Like, same thing. It's just the day to day workings of, of space. Space Teamsters. Yeah. And then midpoint, the thing leaps out of the guy's chest and your is off, off and running. Exactly what we've been setting up before that is nobody listens to Ripley. You know, these guys are in it for a paycheck. You froze up.

Scott Mcmahon 49:20
Do you see me? Yeah. Okay. Sorry.

Rob Edwards 49:23
Yeah, that nobody listens to her that that, you know, these guys are in it for a paycheck. And that something is wrong with the science officer. Yeah. And there's all these kind of you're you're just setting up the dynamics. And it's getting your heart is kind of in your chest, you know that something's got to happen. Yeah. And then when it does, it's just like, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And then your left. The best thing about looking at the third act versus it, it's the thing, it's the thing that you are, you know, the lights go up, you walk to your car and you go Oh, man, that was awesome.

Alex Ferrari 50:04
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Rob Edwards 50:14
And that's the thing, you know if that through that moment works, then it's all worth it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't matter what you did up until that point. Nobody's going to end the audience coming out of the seven o'clock show. I talked about this. Because it's what it's what makes movies great. It was what makes the business of making a movie, even if it's an independent film. It's the audience coming out of the seven o'clock show their reaction as you're in line for the nine o'clock show. Everybody knows that thing of like, people are going Oh, snap. Yeah. And they're like crying or they're like, high fiving or stuff. And they're nodding at you. Because they know like, Oh, this is gonna be, you know, you are in for a treat. This is gonna be magnificent. Right. And, and it's that thing. That's what makes movies Great. That's what makes movie going great. You know? And every, you know, yeah, go ahead.

Scott Mcmahon 51:16
No, we're gonna say it's fascinating, because we were talking about the long setup. And then we have gave some examples, but you did mention even like the movie Up, and I think it's one of the greatest examples of the shortest, most heartbreaking setups ever, you know, it's within your in tears within the first whatever, five minutes of that story of Carl, you know, sort of

Rob Edwards 51:35
Suitable and they're just, it's just building up. You know, remember, they're building up for the moment when he ditches the house to save the boy, you know, and, and so, and that's the whole you know, that John was, you know, walked into the room. Okay, what happens? He trashes the house, he throws all the stuff out, you know, to give it ballast, he's run out of balloons. And you know, and he goes and saves the boy. And that's, that's his Luke Skywalker moment. Right? Right. And so so in the beginning, you want to say, what if the house doesn't mean anything? Right? Again, story math. If the house doesn't mean anything, that moments not going to mean anything. Everybody's gonna go so what? It's a house. Yeah, get another house? Like, no, no, this house is very special, because it is the embodiment of, you know, his relationship with his with his wife, Ellie, I think yeah, yeah, exactly. And, and I believe, at various times, he calls the house Ellie. And it's the he's working towards the picture of the house on the on the mountain. Yeah. And so you're gonna give him that, and then you're going to take it away. You know, it's, he's gonna get all the way there realize it's, it's not worth what he thought it would be worth. And then he's gonna go save the boy. Great. So you need and I forget who there is a, one of the co director of inside out, Ronnie del Carmen, I want to say, okay, he that I believe that was his sequence. And that put them on the map as a star, or, as he'd been on the map as a story anyway, because he's, he's fantastic artists. But he was the guy who walked through that sequence and said, it's stripped it of its dialogue. He had temporary music that was That was wonderful for it, this this kind of very valid kind of thing. And it was amazing, you know, just the process of how that sequence came, came to be. Because, you know, obviously, the first 20 drafts of that sequence, were not that sequence. You really had to kind of work on it, work on it, work on it, and so it just wasn't it it would make you cry, and I believe it's five minutes and 30 seconds long. It is not very long and impure movie movie terms. But by the end of it, when you know, just that pan across a doctor's office, oh my god, you know, it just every one of those moments is completely iconic. It's just it's truly wonderful. And then it gives him license to do everything that he does, which is he won't sell the house smashes the guy on the head when he you know when he's when he's threatened. And now he's going to you know, go live this dream and go to you know, this this waterfall.

Scott Mcmahon 54:39
Great its amazing. The I'm just curious you with your extensive history of like writing on your own working in in rooms, you know, and television and now working like, obviously last few years and animation is the advent of visuals like, because I don't know if you have an opportunity with Princess in the frog. Have to go down in New Orleans to Are you part of the crew? Because, you know, you were mentioning like how Lasseter was such a huge proponent of research, like just getting absorbed into your DNA like that you probably already done prior. But I was curious. You know, we have the TV room. And we're seeing like this explosion of golden age of television. Just amazing shows left and right. And I can only account like, because the power the writers, they're, like, in writers together, pushing each other to make it great. And then you have animation, which allows you to I mean, my past working with Sony PlayStation, we're convinced effects we've always had to learn was visuals. We always had something to draw from to try to make, you know, better. And I'm wondering like, because now you have visual cues, like you mentioned, them purchase the frog. Here's a drawing a sketch drawing about the Father as like, that is huge for me. And yeah, I was wondering, have you seen? I guess, like how could like an independent, you know, borrow from this concept of like, should they just inundate themselves with so many look frames, or drawings or initial sketches, anything like that to like, integrate themselves and what their world would look like? So if they brought in their own makeshift brain trust group, so everybody could connect to like, Oh, what's that? What's this? Or, you know, how's this fit the story? I don't know, from your any like stories you could share of like, just like you said, you're walking around, you're seeing artists or somebody, pretty much the film made in like, visual format before it even like even one written word is put on an actual traditional script, I guess? I don't know. Right?

Rob Edwards 56:39
Well, that's the that's the fun of the new, the new tools, we'll call it is. It's, I know that Robert Rodriguez, his his process is very similar to the Pixar process, which is interesting, he kind of pre shoots his movies. And he will just with a handheld camera, or I don't know, a cell phone or whatever, he'll get his actors in a room and he films his rehearsals. And he takes him back in I don't know, if he's using, you know, whatever, you know, whatever it is, but you know, as easy it is, as it is to edit something, he just edits it at home. And then he goes in the next day, if they're shooting the next day, and he'll show it to everybody like this is, this is what this is. And here's what I think is wrong with it. Here's what I did to rewrite it. And and here we go, you know, so the second thing you see will be that Woody Allen shoots an entire movie, edits it. And edits it shows it, you know, takes a look at it. And then I don't know if he gets outside feedback or anything I assume he does. And then reshoots, the entire movie, it's always in his budget that he will shoot it twice. So you do it. And obviously, the you know, the first version is not just everybody kind of slogging through not wearing their costumes and stuff. It's an actual movie. And then he shoots it again. So I think that that that is a great way to go. If you can a Ridley Scott storyboards his own movies, top to bottom, and I believe shoots have storyboards and show, you know, shows shows those? Yeah, so that the the first draft, the way I look at it is, you know, from a Disney perspective, is that when guys are drawing, right, they take a blue pencil with very light, you can barely see it. Yeah, and they just start drawing and whatever. And they're just, and the lines are everywhere. It's a complete mess, and they're drawing over themselves, and they're doing whatever, and then they start to see it and then they'll, they'll they'll take out a black pencil and they'll start tacking it down. And they'll say, okay, great. Here are the eyes. Here's where the eyes go, here's whatever, because you're kind of trying to see it on the page. And only a handful of people can just start drawing with a black pencil and go, you're sketching, sketching, sketching until you see it. If you if you listen to a band, right, the band will go, you know, it'll sound terrible, the first and then they'll kind of gradually, you know, come down to whatever they're doing sculptors the same way. It's a blob of an amorphous blob for so long, and then they start to take down little sections. And writers are the only ones who don't do that. Writers. I'll see them go oh, I have an idea. You know, faded. Colin, you know. And like, who does that? Nobody does that. You don't think that way you say I want to make a movie. I think it should be kinda like this movie that I loved when I was a kid. Or it should be I want to make the best, you know? Badass six year old, do whatever magical power movie that I can

Alex Ferrari 59:59
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Rob Edwards 1:00:08
Here is a precedent of other, you know, badass six year olds. Here's where some have gone right and others have gone wrong. And, and this is what moves me about this kind of movie. This is why these kinds of movies are my favorite movies. And this is where others have fallen afield. I think my movie is somewhere in here. And, and then you get out, like, I'm old school. So I have like, yeah, I have, you know, just a clipboard and a fountain pen. And I will sit down and I'll just start writing. And it's rarely dialogue. It's just what do I love about these kinds of movies. I love this. I love this. I love it. Hey, my favorite scene, in one of these things was bla bla bla bla bla. And, and my least favorite scene is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, excellent. I like to eat my dessert first. So if I'm writing, I will say, well, here are scenes that should be in my movie. These are great scenes. And if I can just string a clothesline between the scenes, I think I'll be okay. Because these are the classic scenes, there should be the mentor scene, and so and so. And the equipment, you know, the badass piece of machinery, you know, or the, you know, the great gun, or whatever it is, you know, a cool monster a, you know, fantastic spaceship a you know, always I'll put those in, and then I'll say, Okay, well, great. Now I'm gonna make try to make myself crying the third act? And yeah, and that's it. Yeah. But it's always starting from like a amorphous, a amorphous, you know, the, the, the, you know, the paint is wet, the there is no paper, I'm just freestyling until I find like, it should be this. And then I'll start to give it shape and tack it down. And then only last the last. Like, it's, I often will write the entire thing by hand, and then, after I've gone through the whole thing, then I type it into software.

Scott Mcmahon 1:02:17
Interesting. Do you know is there a difference for you between like, plot and character? Or is it the same like because I can see, like doing an outline, constructing like the logic of the world of where you want this moment to go for the protagonist. And maybe the protests, like you, you see, like a major change is going to have to happen for this character. But once you kind of maybe have like, the simple idea laid out attendees, do you go in and start like thinking like, okay, the dad character a lot right now, my early drafts are serving exposition. But then how do I make that character more interesting? Because there was this whole? I think you were talking about, like, in Jason buffs, podcast about how, like in Finding Nemo, there was all these wonderful characters, all the supporting characters, even no matter how small the character is, like, each fish has some interesting story. One scar one, like was nervous or I don't know, it was it was Yeah. Just rich with content because or context because it was so each character was so unique that way, as opposed to just being serving exposition. Do you see that within those group meetings? You have? Or, or sometimes somebody goes, I have, this is the character. I don't know what story was going to happen with them. But I don't know how, like, do you see it go both ways.

Rob Edwards 1:03:39
Right. All right. Now that, that it's the interesting thing is and it's it's it's fantastic question, because it is, I think at the crux of most, I'd say a good 90% of filmmakers don't understand this one specific thing, which is that there should be no difference between character and story. But there is a huge difference between character and plot. Ah, okay. The plot is just, I was in this. It was a masterclass in in France, in Marseille, and this there was a guy who had done this with these webcasts and stuff like that it was really charismatic guy really energetic, we great storyteller in quotes. And I done this thing, and I'll, I'll talk about a little later because they remind me to tell you this thing, because I think it helps all writers, everybody that I've done it with, with writers, it makes them a lot better. But, but this guy is telling the story. And he's going on he's pitching me this this movie. And he says, oh, and then an alien comes in and buys pitching, pitching more and more Italian guy, right? He was like, yeah, and then this happens. It's And then they fall into an abyss. And then a guy has a gun and whatever. And he shoots his grandma and whatever. And he's just going through going through and going through. And I'm watching the audience and I stopped him for a second. I say, watch the audience, as you're, as you're doing this, keep going. And he's thought, what if this happens, it was a big explosion, and whatever. And I said, I said, What do you think I saw? And he says, after about two minutes, everybody started talking to each other. Tuned him out, there were a couple of his friends in the back that were kind of smiling. Really, towards the end, everybody was just everybody was just hiding from the thing. Because he was because it was. It was mostly sorry, me do something to screenshare I have, I have a flux. And I didn't realize it. It's been it's been kind of making the image. More sleepy as we. But yeah, so I look at the audience and the audience is completely tuned him out. I said, why? As well, it couldn't figure it out. So well, because you lost your character. First, you didn't make me care about your character. And second, as it's going on, you were just it just getting more and more, you were using plot to try to save you from character. And I said, okay, and I pitched his own his story the same way. And I pitched it all character, you know, this guy comes in and more than anything else in the world. He wants this. And oh, you know, this guy also wants it and blah, blah, blah, and he wants it even more. So in the very beginning, the guy boom, whatever, he takes it from him. And now he's sitting there going, Oh, no, what am I gonna do now? Aliens Attack and blah, blah, blah, whatever. And everybody's leaning in as I'm, as I'm telling the story, because you care, you know, you give a crap about the story. Before he was doing plot, what I was doing was character. And, you know, if it's if it's Finding Nemo, every character that that Marlon passes should develop him as a character, you're going from the journey of a guy who is overly cautious to a guy who's going to let his kid do the same thing. In in The Incredibles, everything that passes Bob Pars, you know, we set him up as a guy who will save everybody at any time, you know, whatever, you're doing the whole thing. Everybody that he passes, every experience that he has, is, is basically kind of, to show that his addiction has gotten out of control. And until he even finds an enabler in the innate, oh, great, excellent. I'm gonna go up and do this thing. And I'm just gonna completely ignore my family, right? Because those are the two values that are at stake. It's Do you are you going to reclaim your your glory, at the expense of the thing that you that you know, your future? You know, your family? You were once this guy now you're this guy. You need to be more than Mr. Incredible. She says yeah, pointedly, automatically, in order to do it. So every single scene is going to be him desperately clinging to his former life. He's in the meeting with his boss, and he's looking outside, and he can't can you know, and he's just seeing a guy getting his pocket picked. And he can't give it up. You know, he's, he's there with the old lady, my old lady is worried that she's gonna lose her thing. And he can't you know, that is new life, he just won't do it. Everything, everything he's doing is kind of these things, buttresses buttressing against each other. That's the Norio nature of storytelling, that is character, you're developing that character to the point where the character has to make this decision of like, you know, I can either go and try to save the you know, save the city by myself, which I know I cannot do or I can trust my family to help me I can do this as a family and off you go. Yeah, you know that that's that that in that way as you're telling the story? It's very clear what's muscle and what's bone, you know that what's wheat and what's chaff right that that any scene that doesn't have him moving towards either on the upside where he's he is completely like yes, regaining your former glory is the most awesome thing in the world you can do Yeah, that's the bill to the midpoint. He's and then at the midpoint, haha, I've killed all these people and now I'm gonna kill you and he can't get out or whatever. I can't get out of the room and he's, you know, those those little nerves are gone. Yeah, whatever. Whatever, whatever. And now Oh, no, this is where it's gotten you to the, you know, to the terrible, terrible midpoint

Alex Ferrari 1:10:01
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Rob Edwards 1:10:10
And then it's the family is gonna go rescue. Right. So now you're on the downslope. And so everything that happened from that point on is, look how cool this family is when the family is unrestrained. Yeah, until you get to this point where it's, he's bemoaning the fact that you know, it's almost a false act to write the the rocket is headed towards the city. And, and Bob is sitting there saying, Oh, I can't believe what I've done. You know, you guys, this is really terrible. And his daughter says, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah, whatever. And she saved them all very easily. Because he's not thinking about family. He's thinking about himself. Right? We're driving, driving and driving for that moment. And that's all character. You know, every scene in that is a scene that you absolutely need. And none of it is, but none of it should feel like plot. Yeah, it is all to drive the guy towards making that decision.

Scott Mcmahon 1:11:10
It's really interesting, because we started our conversation about talking about mastermind groups, or accountability groups, and like how it's so much easier to look at somebody else's problem or look at what they stand for. Because we can see from an outside perspective, what's in front of them. But we as individuals are so wrapped up in our own stuff, we can't, like you mentioned, we can't see your own path or get out of our own way. It's, and we were talking about, there's so much things that we have to unlearn to be able to be and then we're here we are talking, you know, character, and story. And all these characters are in the especially with the Pixar stories we were talking about. And in, you know, the stories we were mentioning, there's there's this aspect of baggage, or there's these known beliefs that they hold on to for so long. But that third act moment that John Lasseter moment he's talking about, has to be this let go of all that, in order to have that transformation at the end. But it's funny because we were talking, we started talking about it in real life. And we're seeing it happen in stories. It's like, oh, wow, that's fascinating.

Rob Edwards 1:12:19
And really, that's why I think that is why like, I like to look at, well, screenwriting, everybody, you know, it's the technology of screenwriting. But really, we're storytellers, right guys in rocking chairs, you know, saying, Hey, here's what's this is what's important. And that's why it's because we always when we make the same mistakes, all the time, as human animals and machines, whatever that we are, we, we make the same mistakes all the time. And so we tell ourselves, these stories, like let go of that and embrace the new. One of the things I'll say like in masterclasses all the time is, you can learn how to speak French without learning without forgetting how to speak English. You can accept a new philosophy, a new way of thinking, just try it out. And then if you want, you can go back to what it is, is you do but a lot of people will say like, well wait a minute, I don't like you know, I'm not such a big fan of Disney movies. And you guys are you know, you guys, it's all a factory and blah, blah, blah, and I'm not gonna make movies like that. I'm like, Okay, well, let me see what what it is you've done. Yeah, it's amorphous, horrendous kind of way, like, what are you doing? You haven't, you've so resisted all of the kind of rules and not just necessarily like, the Disney rules or the Pixar rules, but just the rules of general storytelling. Like, Oh, that 50 characters 50 main characters is not a good way to go. Yeah, you know, that, that a film without conflict is not is probably not going to work. All that well write a film that is about something that nobody in the world cares about. Is is not going to be is not going to be enjoyable. There are but a film a terribly constructed film about something I really care about. And a PERT you know a person who is who is wonderful, who I want to see more of. And you know, that that film was gonna go through the roof. It's gonna be I'm going to enjoy it. I'm gonna, people are gonna say like, what was that that you were? You kept talking about? You know, I'm gonna go on social media and say, oh, okay, look, I'm gonna go out on a limb and just say this movie was the best movie I've ever seen. And, and that's, especially for me any side. That's what you really want to you know, that's what we want to start with. Is Yeah, I'm not. I'm gonna make my favorite movie. I'm gonna make a movie. That is that is the favorite of all my friends and And, and here's, here's how I'm going to sit down and do it.

Scott Mcmahon 1:15:04
Because you mentioned to about, you get a lot of screeners, like the crazy question of like, hey, what software we use? You know, like, that's like Yeah, the last the last question you need to know because it's you need to know story or just tell story and write story. And that's the same plague that's technology is having right now, I guess on the independent side, which is every he's got a camera and editing tools. And they're just so it's like, what are you shooting on? What are you shooting on? As opposed to who? Who cares what you're writing? What software used to write? Who cares what camera uses? Shoot? Because the bottom? The, the essence, the core is everything we talked about here is really, I love this whole thing, like, how do you level up? How do you push beyond and building a system of the right kind of people around you? And having that kind of system in place to you know, push, push the story? Like take yourself out of it and push the story further.

Rob Edwards 1:15:56
I often say like animation is not a genre, you know, it's just it's just like a different camera. It's just like black and white is not a genre. Yeah, it's it's just a way you know, you still have to tell great stories, they still have to connect with people. Just animation is a way that you're that you're that you're doing it. The rules are always the same.

Scott Mcmahon 1:16:16
Yeah, definitely. This I want to keep you I know, we're a little over an hour, but

Rob Edwards 1:16:20
I did have one other Yes, there's one other thing and this is just like, it's been my soapbox for a couple weeks, because I keep I'm sure your listeners will get what should get some value out of it? I was I've been because I'll do these, these, these master classes. And a lot of times the format of the master class, when I can do on money, I do maybe one a year just to kind of like get gone, right but but a lot of times what I'll do the My Favorite versions of them and I just revised it is the writer will come in, they'll sit next to me and they'll pitch their movie to the to the rest of the group. And then we'll go through it and we'll say okay, what's right about it? What's wrong about it, we'll kind of do a Pixar row with it. And what I keep discovering is that sometimes the the writers ability to pitch can severely impair the experience. And so what I started doing is I said, Okay, let's let's the first day like, let's not even think about don't think about your movie. I'm gonna give you two movies to work on. Because if you're and I see you're into guitars, I love guitars. Now, the first thing you do if you're learning piano or guitar is you learn like Mary Had a Little Lamb, you know, you just Yeah, flunk out the easiest song in the world. And then you go to, okay, great. Now I can learn C and A G and an F. And I can out of that I can play a bunch of bunch of different songs, I can play a bunch of other people's songs. Until I get really good at it. I can play most of you know Simon Garfunkel. But I can offer the Alpha three or four chords I can I can make my way around a bunch of different songs. I am not composing at that point. I'm just learning how to play guitar. And I'm learning the dumbest songs. I can first the simplest, the two chord song, moving into threes, and then I'm and then eventually I'm gonna start. Oh, okay, good. Here's a little riff and stuff like that, and until the point, but it's gonna take me a little while before somebody says, Wow, you really did a good job. So the same is true of, say, a painter, they'll go to a museum, they will set up their easel. And they'll just look at you know, you'll see these these painters, repainting the painters of other painters. they'll go and they'll go stroke for stroke that walk up to him and go, Oh, that's what he was doing. That's the brushstrokes in this little section. That's how he made the sunset look particularly bright. Excellent. And I'm not sure if I've mixed my colors, right? The same way that that guy did. That's it. Oh, that's what he's doing. The composition of this thing. Oh, great. I see four or five paintings that have the same kind of composition. These guys must have all studied each other. That's awesome. Now I have a greater understanding. I'm still not painting my own stuff. You know, I'm just learning about what what people do. So what I say is, okay, tell me one of two stories. I'll say the three little pigs or the or Goldilocks and three bears. Yeah. And you know, always my first question is what who's, who's the protagonist of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Scott Mcmahon 1:19:30
I know this only because I've heard you before if I go ahead,

Rob Edwards 1:19:36
Oh, excellent. Oh, I didn't know if I did it.

Scott Mcmahon 1:19:38
But this is good, but people please go ahead. Because this is such such. This is such a great aspect of your masterclass do I know but go ahead.

Rob Edwards 1:19:49
Yeah, right. And most people will guess Goldilocks, because the stories don't go like No, no, it is a it is a crime. Detective Story

Alex Ferrari 1:20:00
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Rob Edwards 1:20:09
Yeah, Billy logs goes in, breaks into a house, eats porridge sits in a chair. It eats all porridge, sits in a chair breaks it, and then sleeps in a person's bed. Yeah, so it is an active crime going on. And then three people return, three characters return. And, and one is eating well, one is eating one discovers something is wrong. Once it's down once it's down, one is oh my god or whatever. And then they they go pursue it. So the Baby bear is the is the protagonist of the story. Now go tell the story. But tell the story in, you know, what are you going to do with the story? Now, you know, now you have your own edge to it? Are you going to tell a story about a boy who really wants to go to sleep? Are you going to tell a story about a kid who's really hungry? Are you gonna tell a story about a kid with anger issues? Who is trying to hold it down? Whatever that angle is, you know, you have you now have the formula, you know the format. And you can go and tell tell that and then get good at that get good at telling that story of doing your cover of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Then once you're feeling that, now go start pitching your own stuff, you know, get that. And the way I look at it is you've just seen you just saw Star Wars you just saw, you know the JJ Abrams Star Wars. And as you were leaving the building, it burned down there was an oil fire the whole thing burned down. You know, all everything. And now everybody turns to you and said Oh, what was it? You know what happened? Yeah, a lot of people when they pitch they'll go, Okay, well, there's a ship, bigger ship. This kid comes in and he's taking out garbage. And then his kind of hipsters really mean soccer ball that, you know, does die, whatever. And it's like, no. How do you tell that story? You are the last lifeline of this of the greatest movie ever made? Yeah. How do you tell it and and have that behind you. But with a story that you already know, get comfortable with that if it's your tape, recorder, whatever, and then go, then you have that set of skills, and you're not pitching garbage. And you also are learning from those reps. This pitch is well, this does not pitch well. You know, this is the essence of storytelling. Most of the time, and I mentioned it before, most of the time, like right now I'm doing a little superhero thing. And I watched everything. It's everything. And I rewatched everything from the point of view of me making this new movie, and I'm taking notes on it like oh, great, you know, they spent a good Ironman spends a good long time, in the middle of the movie just becoming Iron Man. Yeah. Oh, yeah, man spends a good long time in the middle of that movie. In both, you know, first versions, you know, when, when Uncle Ben dies, spends a lot of time on the suit and the web and the thing, you know, the mechanics of becoming Spider Man, that's a big part of our enjoyment. They don't just put on the suit. Oh, here I go. It's, it's a big part of the journey. So great, I have to have that in mind. You know, and just kind of going through it, understanding it. And then when I pitch it, I'm pitching it like it's Star Wars. I just had this meetings a day or two ago. And I'll get up I'll run around the room. You know, I'm shooting stuff down or whatever, you know, I have this, this this total enjoyment, because I love these movies. You know, I want first I want them to make my movie. Bigger. But second, I can't wait to see my belief. You know, I can't wait to be in line, you know, for the nine o'clock show when the seven o'clock comes in. comes out. So I love that. That's my little soapbox. i i I'm glad I said it. And hopefully, like I say I hope it's valuable to your

Scott Mcmahon 1:24:25
It actually is extremely valuable because I have you know, with my podcast, I have just people will email me you know, occasionally and just this is asking advice or opinions. And I made a point to a young filmmaker. I said, if you kind of want to test yourself as a filmmaker, that whether or not you're a good director or not make a short film based off of some very famous short story that's in public domain. Something that has proven like that exists like an Edgar Allan Poe story. That's something that's like, Okay, this exists. This is a Historically, well known story, that it has all the elements in there that make it successful. So if you can, one write it, the Adapt adaptation of it. And then to if you're a director, you can test your directing chops that way, because it's all the elements are there, you know, the story's solid, you know, it's, uh, you know, short enough that you can make it within your means. And then if it falls flat, then you can go back and figure out why it fell flat because it then it puts you because you can't blame anything. Like, I can't blame this the story didn't work, or the screenwriter didn't write it right, or something like that. It's I mean, there's all these elements there of like you really, really want to test yourself as a director.

Rob Edwards 1:25:42
That's a good bet. And look at the look at the success out of Sundance right there. The birth of nations sold for 1474. Right. And that's, that was a take on the already established movie. You know, it's his riff. Yes. On this movie.

Scott Mcmahon 1:25:58
Can't wait to see it, because it's definitely a long overdue take on that movie.

Rob Edwards 1:26:02
Yeah, exactly exactly. Yeah. And it should, it should be fun. And that enhances the viewing of the movie. And I think too, yeah, with a lot of short films that I see, I'll always say like, what short films did you watch to inspire you to do this? Because most of the short films I've seen, especially the, you know, the, the good one, you know, the Pixar ones, and also the really good live action ones are very, very simple. One, one person or two, you know, in a relationship, and then that slowly evolves over time. There was a, you're talking about riffs on there was this YouTube thing that happened that I thought was great. Was the Power Rangers thing with a mafia? You saw that at the fan film? Or which one? Yeah, a fan film the Power Rangers fan film. I guess they had to take it down. Yeah, but it was fantastic. Oh, it was like, I'd never you know, this guy's take on Power Rangers. You know, the wink is of course, its power. Right? But it's a series Yeah. Vanderbeek and seven, like, Oh, this is, this is seriously enjoyable. This guy can, I can't wait to watch this guy make a movie, you know, the Deadpool trailer, you know, the little sizzle off of that, you know, that's a first time director. And now of course, the biggest the highest grossing, I take my first time director, it was, you know, it is something that we've seen before, you know, it's a thing. And the way he did it was just fantastic. And obviously like it because the other thing that I would put to that is the short story that you adapt should be one that you absolutely love. And the way that you do it should be you should be showing everything that you do great. You know, if you are a great cinematographer, it should be a beautiful movie. If you are great with character, it should be whatever if you're funny, you know, don't try to like funny if you're not funny, in a way, by all means, because one bad joke will kill you, you know, as far as the enjoyment of it. But yeah, if you can work if your best friend is a fantastic actor. Yeah, go? Do you know, get on him. Oh, call it every favor. You know, I give the speech at your wedding. Show up for do for an hour and a half and help me help me in my movie. Robert Rodriguez, we'll talk about that. Like don't do anything that you know, I have a friend that has a bar, I have another friend who owns a bus. Great, there's going to be a bus Chase, and part of this is going to take place in my friend's bar. Oh, awesome, then you know, production value goes through the roof. And you're on the map as a as a serious filmmaker?

Scott Mcmahon 1:28:53
No, yeah. And definitely like all those processes helps. The idea is to kind of keep yourself in check to keep humbled. So that, like you said, if you're to put yourself out there as a writer, as a filmmaker, as a storyteller, to utilize a brain trust kind of concept. Yep. You have to be willing to accept like to let go of what you've created, and know that it's not yours anymore. I think last year talked about that. He said that when they created Buzz and Woody, there was a point where they realized is no longer theirs. It's now they they have a responsibility to serve those characters. Honestly, and, and truthfully to the audience. You know, we're

Alex Ferrari 1:29:37
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Scott Mcmahon 1:29:47
And I think that's a concept very,

Rob Edwards 1:29:50
Very important because you have to, you have to listen, that people don't just give notes just for the sake of giving notes. Yeah, they're addressing their Pressing a problem, sometimes a problem took place pages before what they're addressing, you know, sometimes the wheels were off the wagon way before that was seen that drove everybody nuts. You know, it was a setup, it was the amp up to it. And, and you have to be open to that. I was giving notes to a writer who sent me something and said, Oh, I just want to hear your input. Okay, I'm gonna be tough. Oh, yeah, it's okay. And I gave him the notes. And it was, and you know, me, like, I like to talk. But it was, it was, I would say, four fifths him defending the thing that he had done. And only 1/5 of me giving the note. And I was like, Look, we're not gonna get anywhere with this. Because I'm not just giving you notes, because I want you to talk me out of it. You know, I know, your intent is on the piece of paper. If it is not clear, yeah, you work with it. You know, it's not just, you know, I will give this note but probably, you know, everyone that you give it to, will probably give them the same notes. And if they don't, they're not doing you any favors. But that but part of the process, when you're a when you're an artist, it hurts to get notes, it physically hurts you, you know, it's like somebody is roughing up your baby. And, and you just have to, I think was David, the guy who created family ties. He said, You just write down the note. That's all you need to do. Understand it, write it down. Then, you know, conclude the conversation, punch the pillows or whatever, you know, cry in the shower. And then and then go and look at the notes and say, Okay, what did i this will ultimately make it better. Some you'll just cross off and say, I don't care. I'll get this note nine times out of 10. Most of the time, it's like you don't want I didn't sell it. I just there was something you know, I My intention was to do this. I didn't. That's what threw him off. And in this spot, of course, you have to start off with the intention. Right? You have to start off with a strong motivated character. It has to be very clear what it is this the story that you're telling people get bored with plot they are excited with story with, you know, with the drive and the conflict. You know, even Aristotle talked about, you know, intention obstacle. Anyway, I was I was watching Downton Abbey, right? Because the last episode was on it. Oh, just into your committee do black kid from Detroit main demo. But it made me go back to the first episode. And watch that. So I'm watching that in the first three episodes on iTunes. And, and it's all there, you know, and Julian Fellowes in an interview, he says, Well, I was watching Westway. And I saw that how Aaron Sorkin crafted the characters in the pilot of West Wing. And I took that as my template. And then that's what I did in Downton Abbey. Interesting. Now, you would think those two shows are completely completely different. But as much realist as a writer who knows craft and love crafts, it's the same thing. So the flirtation between the you know, Carson, you know, this is, that's, that's there and, and the the little dynamics and just the sisters, all of that their, you know, progress is coming. I mean that the opening event is the Titanic, you know, goes down and kills dozens who would were set to inherit the estate and now it's, you know, this this other guy, so, like tears, right, this person is coming in. But he's lost the the waitress, this new person comes in, you know, it's it clocks along, but it's all still you know, it's all story. You're you're driving towards this thing that the world is changing. And the you know, the maid the head Butler in the in the Lord of the state are saying, Oh my God, I don't know what's, you know, what are we going to do? Yeah, and that's the tension in every episode. That's great. This is great storyteller. Right. And, and those are the tools that has nothing to do with the software. Yeah, exactly. Has nothing, you know, I don't care what method what if he's a movie magic that Julian Fellowes is writing? was writing it with a quill, you know, it is? It is it is great storytelling and, and that's what's going to, that's when it's gonna save you. You can film that thing, you know, with a cardboard box and it will be compelling television.

Scott Mcmahon 1:34:55
Yeah. Yeah. You know, you mentioned some things like clear is It is, you know, when you're giving notes or feedback or accepting that I don't remember where I heard this before, but I wanted to implement because somebody had asked me, like, just advice like me to give advice, like, when you're giving, like, when somebody read your script, I said, Well, one thing you can do to get constructive feedback. I don't I really don't know where I heard this before, but I thought was great was simply was simply, when you read the script, can you read my story? Can you tell me one? Is it clear? To if it is clear? Is it interesting? Maybe you did that way. That way? You're not there's no, there's no, like, you can't be defensive about it. It's just like, well, I read it. I wasn't sure about what happened here, or why the character did this. He goes where it is clear, but it felt like stuff I've seen before, you know, that way, it's not a personal attack on you like, okay, so that I can work on that note,

Rob Edwards 1:35:57
And that you can kind of police yourself on right? Yeah, that you I was working with Dan Fogelman, who had who had written cars, and love. And we were working on a dress up for Disney, live action animation hybrid. And one of the things that he said to me, which was great, he says, on every page, assume that the person reading it might be on a treadmill. And and that that person, you know, you have to make the intention, very clear, the obstacle, very clear, tell the story that you're going to tell clarity, clarity, clarity, because you don't want the note, that's one note that you can easily take off the table. It wasn't clear like one of the things that I I love to do, I'm there who likes to study writing, I like I'll listen to anybody who's talking about how they're how they you know, every everybody's lectures, everybody's series, I love that stuff. And one thing was this guy, the guy who wrote for weddings in a funeral, whose name is escaping. It also written Love Actually. And before that, he wrote this great series called Black Adder. And he was Rowan Atkinson's like kind of main guy. And, and one thing that he said is, you know, don't be afraid of riding on the nose. And he says one of the most famous lines and I think it's Love Actually, he says, he says he's sitting there, he's riding around it around and around it. He says, I'm just going to say what it is. It's habit. And he wrote the line. I'm just a woman talking to a man. Talking to a boy.

Scott Mcmahon 1:37:48
No, that's, I think average. Notting Hill, right with Julie Ross. Exactly. Yes. Oh, guys, you're right. Don't be afraid to write on the nose. It's such a great like simple advice. Like,

Rob Edwards 1:37:58
Yeah, then if it's, then if people don't like it, then fine, then that's a that's a whole separate conversation. But they won't go what what's going on? Age. I was like, they're kind of talking around something really good, whatever. And then it just lost me. Like, no, you know, that what is it? Like, you know, Darth Vader states his intention is pretty bad, you know? Yeah. Lions. Yeah, he's like, you know, I will probably, you know, he states his intentions. That's why that's one of those things that you know, you can dance around but you really have to hit at some point or another is, you know, what Pixar would call the I one song, you know, that nobody does. Everybody. sings and I want song in some way or another. Go.

Scott Mcmahon 1:38:45
I like that. Singing I one song. You know, I can't I talk to you for there's so much. I would love to. I would love to have another opportunity to have you come back on tubes. We could talk more. You know, the you're working with Aaron Sorkin and just other writing. You have your master's classes coming up? I mean, definitely make sure you have everybody has the links, and promote you know, Rob edwards.net. I know you're you're starting. That's the community.

Rob Edwards 1:39:11
And you can find me at I am Rob Edwards on Twitter.

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:17
Okay, great. Yeah. Let's do Oh, that's brand new. Perfect.

Rob Edwards 1:39:20
I was terrified of what I would do on Twitter. And finally, I said, okay, just put it away at 3am Yeah, don't don't I try not to Twitter too much. But But I most anything that happens it's of interest will be on there. Oh, fantastic. Okay. Yeah, all the blog posts, all that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:39:44
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:39:53
Well, you know, as we wrap up, wrap all this stuff up. I can't thank you enough for Take your time, your generosity to share with me your knowledge, your experience and this aspect of the brain trust the or you have any sort of communal like writing group that has affected this, like that was really important to me because I'm trying to show to my audience like, I want to apply this stuff. So like, literally, I think the next episode I'll be doing for my podcast is a video hangout with some people I bring together to illustrate like, here it is, you know, a brain trust the my own version of a brain trust group put together on this trip that then working on?

Rob Edwards 1:40:40
I don't know. Yeah, exactly. With those improv, you know, yeah, the rules established the rules are clearly you know, yeah, hit the bigger problems first. It's a yes. And you know, what, if and, yes, and, yeah. And piling on and, you know, best idea, you know, no bad ideas. Just build, build, build, right? Um, yeah, that's, that's awesome.

Scott Mcmahon 1:41:04
I think just something so the people who see it, like, Oh, I see how that's working. And maybe they can stop before they settle on their story. Like, they can push themselves and it's really just, it's a call, it's a cry out a call to the rest of the independent filmmakers out there. Like, just because you can make it just don't make it just yet. You know,

Rob Edwards 1:41:25
Use the right tool, you know, don't always say what to say you're using the wrong tools, you know, just stay stay stay with you know, three about you know, index cards and post it notes and, and stuff and work the story. Don't lock it down sore and so early. It's like you don't shellac, a painting after the first stroke. Yeah. And use use other people. It's a told, we tell stories. A big part of apprentice in the front. We were pitching that thing all the time. Yeah, I love to pitch I will pitch people say, Hey, what are you working on? I will, you know, I'll just take over the party.

Scott Mcmahon 1:42:08
And well, let me tell you this.

Rob Edwards 1:42:10
Once upon a time, because I want to see if people are going to appeals eyes are gonna glaze over. Yeah, if people's eyes are gonna glaze over, I want to see him glaze over. If people are if people are leaning in. If people laugh at something, then the next time I tell that thing, I'm going to tell it's going to be twice as long to a Coliseum. And I'm going to avoid you know, just like the plague the part where people's eyes glazed over. And I can probably tell why their eyes his eyes glazed over. Yeah, it's that second question. It's, yeah, it was clear but not interesting.

Scott Mcmahon 1:42:50
Into okay. Yeah. It's, this is amazing. That's something.

Rob Edwards 1:42:55
Yeah. So, so awesome. So yeah, no, no, yeah, let please let me know when that happens. I can't wait to

Scott Mcmahon 1:43:00
Yeah, I'm putting together actually, it's funny because I wrote a book as an experiment, I was telling my audience in the podcast like, Hey, if you know, filmmakers are just we're making digital products. And a lot of authors for the longest time I've been writing digital products for Amazon. You know, you're just selling a digital product. So what are the mechanisms of like writing or creating something digitally? And then selling it? What are the marketing mechanisms of selling? So I said, I'll write a book and put myself as a guinea pig. So I did that last year, and put it on Amazon. And I've been selling it and seeing what works and what doesn't work. But part part of that process of writing the book, I also recorded an audio recording version of an audio book of it. And I was like, wait a minute, this is, I've seen this happen, because I know the blacklist has a podcast. And so I did an early version of my script, by recording it as an audio basically play by who's reading like, it's like an audio table read, but it's, you know, the listen to it. So the next I'm rewriting during the rewrites, and I'm going to read, I'll record it. And that's sort of my way of like, inviting my guests on who will be part of this makeshift mass. Sorry, brain trust group is like, you can either read the script, or you can listen to it, all the bells and whistles with the actors I've put in place and the audio cues and the music so you can have like an audio experience of it. And then that way, it's easier for them. Like you said, they're on a treadmill, they're in traffic, and they can listen to the story. And then that way, when they come to the table, they can tell me like, what worked what or what wasn't clear, or what was it and then we can take the brain trust meeting to the next level because hopefully, I have to do something to create that visual experience or an emotional experience. That's just not just the written word. That's my intentions.

Rob Edwards 1:44:49
Right. Exactly. And starting Yeah, starting with yourself. What I love about that is that you started with yourself as an audience. You know, what is the book I most want to read? And then you know, yeah, and then You started there. So so you know what it what it needs to be. You also did that, you know, kind of what I love the Tim Ferriss thing of like I'm a I'm a guinea pig. Yes, yes, I'm just gonna throw myself into this and see what happens. Which I think is a good life experience, like get used to getting bruised. Say it all the time to embrace the suck. All sucks, you're always going to hear somebody going like, oh, that's stupid. And, and you have to just say, No, it's stupid now but you know, in a couple of months, it won't be Yeah. If you tell if I if I get the right you know if I get the right stuff. So So yeah, so So put yourself you know, putting yourself in the in the mouth of the lion is a great idea. Yeah, that's gonna be a lot of fun. And you will, you will probably learn volumes from it because you'll have that that delicious legacies flops. Yeah, that's like, oh, no, this is embarrassing. And then you know, you always pull yourself out of the ashes. Everybody does.

Scott Mcmahon 1:46:00
Very, very cool. Hey Rob Thank you. Thank you so much. I can't thank you enough really.

Rob Edwards 1:46:06
Thank you for having me.

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BPS 328: How to Make a Kick-Ass Low-Budget Zombie Film with Eric England

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Alex Ferrari 1:54
Enjoy today's episode with guest host, Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:59
With Eric England from the movie contracted, he is the writer and director. And he takes us through his journey as a filmmaker, how he started out making low budget films and slowly built up from there. And I think it's really important for you know, first time, second time, whatever filmmakers to understand that there is a you know, not for everybody, but the majority of people out there who are making films start out small, they make a you know, a movie for a couple 1000 bucks or possibly even less, and then slowly gradually move up after proving themselves with a small feature, then they move up to a slightly larger one, your first feature shouldn't be, you know, you shouldn't be looking for a movie star and trying to spend, you know a bunch of money and everything. It really should be just like a test. And if for whatever reason, it loses money or it becomes a disaster, you can just learn from that and you haven't burned all those bridges, you haven't, you know, wasted a bunch of people's money because that's a lot of money. That's a house right there. You know what I'm saying? Let's move on to our interview. I'm really excited that Eric came on the show. He's a young filmmaker and is really out there doing what a lot of us want to be doing. So he has a lot of great advice about how you can become a successful filmmaker. Here we go. Okay. Well, I mean, I guess the first thing that I want I usually start out with is just really talking about your background. Where are you from? How did you get into filmmaking and all that. So could you give us just kind of a little bit of background about you?

Eric England 3:25
Yeah, totally. I'm originally from Russellville, Arkansas, which is, you know, really small town in between, like Fayetteville and Little Rock in Arkansas, right smack dab in the middle of Bible belt. And, you know, in terms of originally getting into filmmaking, there was no you know, really, there really was no introduction to film other than, you know, my my dad was a big movie night. And a lot of my family members continue to be, you know, big film fans, like I was exposed to a lot of, you know, especially genre movies when I was younger. My grandmother actually, for some reason, my grandparents have a really big thing with Stephen King like Stephen King novels were always my house. Stephen King movies were really big in my house and that that just kind of, you know, opened the door. It's kind of a gateway drug into other horror movies. Like I remember the first really four or five movies. I can remember seeing when I was a kid were like, Stephen King's It the original night of living dead. Fright Night Lost Boys like a lot of vampire movies near dark. I think my dad was a big vampire film fan. But my dad was 21 when he had me and my mom was 18 So they were kind of kids raising a kid. And so yeah, that kind of kind of allowed me to be exposed to to things I probably shouldn't have been at that age but kind of you know, created this love for the darker side of storytelling that just kind of stuck with me all through, you know, my adolescence and growing up and I became like an avid movie watcher my my dad and I you know, our quality time was always spent like we had movie night every week. So, you know, that kind of really started it. And then when I, when I got ready to graduate high school and get ready to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I was like, you know, I knew I couldn't, I was a horrible student in school, I wanna say horrible, but I was just one of those students where if I if I didn't feel challenged, I just didn't pay attention, you know. And so essentially, I knew, like, if I didn't do something that I wasn't, you know, diehard passionate about, I wasn't gonna have very happy life. So I decided to kind of, you know, take the leap of faith, and I moved to LA when I was 19.

Jason Buff 5:31
Wow. Okay. So what, what was that, like, when you arrived? Was it kind of, you know, what, what was? What it was versus what your expectation was? I was very young to just pick up and move. I mean, 19

Eric England 5:43
Yeah, I mean, I'd never set foot on an airplane, like it was, it was a big culture shock at first. And it took a while to kind of get acclimated. I mean, I, I definitely went through, you know, a couple years of missing home and, and for not necessarily missing home, but just, you know, not feeling like I didn't fit in, especially, which is weird, because LA is kind of a melting pot of cultures and personalities and things like that. So, you know, I think that was really just my own insecurities. Because every everyone kind of fits in out here, you know, everyone's different. So, but essentially, you know, it just took a while, like, it was exciting, because every day when I woke up, I could feel like, okay, opportunity was within grasp, you know, like, when you first moved to LA, you kind of feel like, okay, there's so much happening around you, how do I get involved? And I think that was kind of the daunting part was, how do I get involved? You know, it's like, I knew it was happening. I knew there, you know, it's like, I could go to restaurants and see people that I admired. And I could go grab drinks with filmmakers that I loved. And, you know, sometimes I saw actors and stuff that I wanted to work with. But, you know, I was like, how do I find legitimacy and approach these people? Because, you know, the worst part was, I moved out here to go to school. So, you know, you're almost worse off being a film student than just a filmmaker, you know, so. So it was like I was, I was below a filmmaker as a film student at the time. So, you know, but but at the same time, you kind of can use that to your advantage. You know, it's like, being a film student shows that, you know, you're pursuing it in some some regard. So some people, you know, will lend you a helping hand, so to speak. So, yeah, I just started trying to network and, you know, really pound the pavement as hard as I could and get get, you know, find my way and as much as possible. Yeah, every day, it was just waking up and figuring out how to how to climb the wall, so to speak, and get inside.

Jason Buff 7:29
There was so when you first got there, you said your were you going to school? Or were you just trying to get a job doing like a PA or doing whatever.

Eric England 7:36
When I first moved here, I was going to school. So So yeah, I moved here in like June of 2007. And I started school in July. So yeah, it was it was a really quick transition. I think I was here for maybe three weeks just to kind of get acclimated and just kind of learn, you know, the routes and how to drive and all that stuff. So, you know, I had a little time to kind of pound the pavement. You know, I wasn't looking for a job immediately because I was getting ready to go to school full time. But yeah, it was it was mainly for education first,

Jason Buff 8:08
Where did you go to school?

Eric England 8:10
I went to the LA Film Store in Hollywood.

Jason Buff 8:12
Okay, okay, cool. Yeah. So talk about that a little bit going to what what were some of the key things that you learned in film school that have helped out and maybe some of the things that you learned in film school that didn't really have anything to do with actually working in the film industry?

Eric England 8:28
You know, I'd say it's more of the latter, to be honest with you, I feel I'm not a very big advocate of film school. And that's not to knock Film School at all. I just think, you know, the film business, especially when I was going to school, it was changing so rapidly. I mean, I went to film school in 2007 2008. And we were still learning on film. And we were probably one of the last, you know, classes to really focus on film. And when we weren't shooting on film, we were shooting on mini DV. So like, we weren't even really being, you know, HD was something that was reserved for, like higher level classes and things like that, you know, so it was kind of a weird space, because it's like HD was this holy grail of new technology. Yet, we were still shooting on film, you know, and it's like, it was it was bizarre. So the teachers were still trying to learn things. You know, some of my teachers were film students that have graduated a few years before us who needed jobs. So they came back to work at school, you know, my directing teachers, you know, had agents and they were trying to get jobs, so they would have to step out of class and take phone calls. And, you know, it was just a really more than anything, I would say the best thing about film school was it exposed me to Hollywood, and I tend to have a very objective personality. I never really take things for how they're presented to me. I kind of analyze them. And so I think because of that, I didn't buy everything that I was told right away, and I think that was a good thing because

Alex Ferrari 9:57
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Eric England 10:06
You know, essentially, I learned really quickly that a lot of my films, teachers, you know, were teaching us ways they would do things. And I think that's the worst way to teach film like film, or art in general, it's like, if you're a teacher, you should be nurturing the instinctive creativity that your student has, and not telling them how they should do something, but guiding them to find their own voice. And so I remember shooting, you know, film projects in film school. And almost every single thing, like we had to use the same sets, we had to use the same cameras and all that jazz. And so many of those short films ended up looking almost identical. And it was because like, the teacher was like, oh, you should do this shot, or you should do this, or you should use a dolly or, you know, and it's like, they were just influencing the students in the ways that they would themselves. So, you know, I immediately kind of tried to buck the system a little bit and do things a little differently. And, and, you know, it kind of pushed me to be my own unique voice. And I mean, especially in film school, you know, everyone becomes a, you know, a genius film critic, or, you know, they every film student gets snobby. So, it was nice for me, because I learned to get criticism very early, just because I wanted to stand out. So I think that that prepared me a little bit for when I got out of school and started making movies,

Jason Buff 11:19
You're at film school now that then you graduate, what's your kind of next step after that?

Eric England 11:26
Um, my next step was freaking out. I basically, when I got out of film school, I was like, shit, what do I do next? You know, the cameras that I had, you know, at my disposal were taken away. The equipment I had at my disposal was taken away, the collaboration I had with the other film students was taken away. You know, and, and I didn't have, I didn't have, you know, the money from like, school loans and crap like that, that I had. So it's kind of like, okay, how, you know, I now I have to find a job. But I, you know, I made a very strict promise to myself, and I'm kind of stubborn this way. But I was, like, you know, I didn't want to go work at Starbucks, I didn't want to go work at Blockbuster, or something like that. So, you know, I was, like, if I'm gonna live in LA, like, I need to be focused on making movies. So what I did was, I went back to my hometown, and for a few months, and worked at the nuclear power plant there, which is kind of a dangerous job. So it pays you a lot of money really fast. And so I, I use that money to come back out to LA and kind of live on for a while, while I was trying to make my first movie. You know, so it was nice, it's like, I was able to kind of make a lot of money really quickly, and then, you know, move, move back out to LA, and essentially pay all my rent and stuff in advance. So I didn't, I didn't really have to worry about a job. And I could focus on writing and applying to direct things and stuff like that. The the worst part about that was, you know, I was getting rejected day, you know, day in and day out from people because I didn't really have a great, you know, resume, I only had film students shorts on my, on my reel. And, you know, so I realized, like, Okay, I need to, I need to generate my own material. So I wrote tons of scripts, I wrote probably like five screenplays in a year. And, and just started, you know, hustling and trying to meet people. And eventually, that led me to, you know, meeting some producers and trying to get a movie financed, and it fell through and, and that was probably the best thing that ever happened to me was kind of that, that that ticking clock mentality that I had, which was like, Okay, I have enough money to last me X amount of months or a year or whatever. And so, it's like, I need to do something in this time. And by you know, I graduated in 2008. And by November of 2009, I had written and directed and produced and self financed and did basically everything on my first feature film, which was called the hostile encounter. And I use that as kind of like, just kind of like a, you know, a calling card, like, hey, look, I you know, I'm going to invest in myself and, and kind of show people that I can, I can, you know, make a film and ironically, we never finished that movie. You know, I kind of put it off to the side because it was my own money. It was my own investment. So I didn't have to repay anyone. But we put it off to the side because I ultimately ended up getting an offer, you know, or proposition to direct my my first real feature film Madison County, which actually got released and did pretty well. But um, but yeah, it was it was all because of hostile encounter, because I had invested in myself and and proven that I could make a make a movie and, you know, one of my buddies was like, hey, you know, if I could get some, some more money, like, would you want to make something that we could, you know, potentially try to, you know, make something on a bigger scale and that turned into Madison County.

Jason Buff 14:49
So your friend was more of a producer who was looking for a writer and director in that case,

Eric England 14:54
Actually, he was my my director of photography on hostile encounters name was Daniel Dunn and we had I met in film school. And at the time, when I directed hostile encounter, I was 21 years old. And when I made Madison County I was 22. So, um, so essentially on on hostile encounter, he graduated film school the same time I did, and he bought a bunch of equipment to kind of, you know, start renting out and shooting music videos and things like that. And I told him, I said, Look, I'll be your first client, I'll, you know, rent your equipment from you, I want to shoot my first movie, and I was like, you can come shoot it for me. So he said, great. So we have like a five person crew. I, you know, we road trip down to Arkansas, and we started shooting the movie in Arkansas and worked our way back to California. And we shot the opening of the film in California. So we shot the movie in like five different states, it was kind of a roadtrip movie. And yeah, you know, it was it was just a fun experience. And I think it kind of, you know, got the juices flowing for everyone to say, hey, what else can we do? And that excitement is, you know, infectious, like, once you get that bug, you know, it's kind of hard to shake. So Daniel immediately, it was like, you know, he watched the cut that I edited together with my editor. And he was like, really astounded by what, what, you know, what the film had become? Because I mean, you know, he was on set every day, we only shot for like, five days. But you know, he was like, wow, that little road trip that we did in five days with my camera. He's like, you turned into like a pretty competent little movie. And he's like, and we had nothing. So he was like, you know, if you if I could get like some money, would you want to try and make something a little bigger? I was like, Absolutely, if you can do it, I'll start right away. And so he knew that I had the screenplay for Madison County, because I had been talking about it and trying to get it financed and everything. So he was like, what about that movie? And I was like, absolutely. So we, we instantly started working on that and kind of put hostile encounters aside.

Jason Buff 16:44
So talk to me a little as much as you can about putting together okay, first of all hospital encounter, what are we talking about in terms of just budget? And who was your crew? And how did? How did you put all that together? I mean, even though you're saying it was kind of, you know, just like you got in the car, and you were driving, but there does have to be a certain amount of organizing to that.

Eric England 17:05
Yeah. 100% I mean, it was honestly, this the simplest organization possible, because at the time, I knew it was going to be an experiment. And that's how I wanted to treat it was an experiment. So the budget total, I gave myself $5,000. So I said, I'm going to spend $5,000 on this movie. And we only ended up spending 3500. So the budget was 3500. And, you know, most of that went to paying Daniel for his equipment and his services, and then gas money to drive down to Arkansas and back. And then, you know, whatever, whatever meals, I had to feed everyone and things like that. So, you know,

Jason Buff 17:41
Who was who was your crew? Was it just the were you he was shooting it, right?

Eric England 17:46
He was shooting it? Well, actually, it's a found footage movie kind of so. So the main character, the main character was actually filming himself for a lot of movie. And so, you know, I wrote it around a certain actor who was ace Moraira, who ended up starring and producing Madison County with us. So, so my crew was myself, Daniel, Nick Bell, and Jared, who was a good friend of mine, who helped us produce a kind of a Swiss Army Knife pa named just Jordan Mears, who helped out and then and then we had a wardrobe girl who was my girlfriend at the time and, and her family helped out my family helped out because we shot in my hometown. So it like the crew was literally like five people. But you know, we I strategically shot it in my hometown, knowing that I could get vehicles for free and houses for free and, you know, whatever resources that I needed, so we didn't spend any money on props, we didn't spend any money, like we went into, you know, locations and shot for free, while people were actually, you know, eating in the restaurants and things like that. So it, you know, stretch $1

Jason Buff 18:50
Was there any thought about you know, what you were going to do with it? Or was it just purely like, Oh, we're just going to do this for fun, we're not gonna we're just gonna do exactly what we want to and not worry about the commercial side of stuff. I mean, it was the idea. I mean,

Eric England 19:03
I think at the time, you know, we had never sold a movie. So we didn't know what the commercial side was, you know, like, we shot this kind of hoping it was going to be, you know, The Blair Witch Project are paranoid, right? This is actually before paranormal activity even came out? I think so. So we were shooting a found footage movie, which was really, really ahead of the curve at the time. So, you know, we kind of just wanted to do, just just experiment and say, Okay, let's make a movie. You know, we knew Blair which was popular, we knew Paranal activity was kind of on the rise, but it hadn't come out yet. And so, so we were like, Okay, let's go make you know, our own movie and we'll try and sell it and it was kind of just like, we knew we needed to make something that was competent. And then once we knew we had something competent, then we could figure out the what we did right and what we did wrong. So you know, it was a great learning process because I actually ended up once we got to finish cut. You know, I never went into sound design or anything like that. So we never finished the sound on the movie.

Alex Ferrari 20:00
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Eric England 20:09
But I sent the rough cut around to some companies. And, you know, it was funny because looking back on it, like I cringe because, you know, I sent it to some reputable people, and I'm sure some of them I've even interacted with now. But you know, at the time, I was just so excited to say, hey, look, I made a movie that I wanted anyone and everyone to see it, even if they hated it, I just wanted to learn. So it was kind of like, just, you know, throwing mud at the wall, seeing what's stuck. And so, so yeah, you know, we weren't, I mean, the goal was to sell it. But, you know, thankfully, I knew that I had made the investment. So you know, what, whatever financial responsibility there was, it was all on me.

Jason Buff 20:48
Right! Yeah. And that's a big thing that we we always stress, you know, or, you know, when it comes to making a film, it's good to just get out, and especially with all the cameras that are available now. I mean, it's ridiculous, that people just get out and just start shooting, you know, don't look for making, you know, a big movie, first, just get out and shoot as much as you possibly can, and don't, you know, just make all the mistakes before, you know, have everything on the line and have a whole full, you know, film crew around you and, you know, make a bunch of mistakes, then do all the mistakes, you know, cheaply. First, you know,

Eric England 21:24
Yeah, absolutely. It's funny, I, you know, I came from the school of like, you know, I like Eli Roth was a big inspiration, you know, for when I first started out, and I knew Cabin Fever was made for like, a million dollars, and I knew Reservoir Dogs was made for like, a million dollars. So like, and saw was coming out around, you know, a little before, then, and so, you know, I kept saying, like, alright, I wanted to make my first movie for like, a million dollars and do it legitimately and make it the right way. But then there was the other side of me that was like, you know, I'd read Rebel Without a crew and Robert Rodriguez. And so it was like, there was part of me that really wanted to kind of wait for that magic experience of like, oh, I wrote a great script. And it attracted some investors. And, you know, next thing, you know, I'm on the set of legitimate feature film when I'm directing. But I also knew that, you know, no one was going to give me that opportunity. And I didn't know if my writing was good. And I just, I just didn't know. So it was like, the only thing I knew how to do was do it on my own. So it was like, I kind of had no other choice. And I was very stubborn in that regard. And that stubbornness is thankfully carried me along way.

Jason Buff 22:25
Yeah, and things have changed a lot, you know, with the technology. I mean, it used to be back and, you know, I'm kind of in a different generation. So, you know, I was making, you know, independent films back in the 90s, with, like, these people who were shooting on 16 millimeter and 35 millimeter, and it was like, I mean, you couldn't do anything for, you know, I mean, you couldn't even think about making a film for, you know, less than $100,000 easily just like buying the film stock, you know, yeah, so, you know, and nowadays, it's just so easy to pop a lens, you know, even get a DSLR or something and just get out and shoot, you know, totally, yeah. Um, let me let's move on to Madison County now what what was the can you talk about how that came together and give people just a little bit of an idea of, you know, what kind of budget range you moved up to how things were different from working on the hostile encounter, and just a little bit of insight into the filmmaking process for that,

Eric England 23:24
Totally, I had written the script, based on some ideas I'd had for a while, I had actually written it before hostile encounter, I think hostile encounter was actually like my sixth or seventh screenplay that I'd written. And Madison County was actually a second in the grand scheme of things. So I had had Madison County kind of sitting around. And then when Daniel approached me about it, I actually didn't want to do Madison County, because I actually wanted a bigger budget, I wanted around $150,000 to make it and, and we ended up making the film for around like, 70,000, I think so I had to tailor the script down a little bit, I went through several several rewrites, we, you know, different investors came in at different times before Daniel, so the script had gone through several several versions, and, you know, things have changed and things had come up and gone away. So, you know, it was a great experience, because I almost went through my own, you know, kind of vacuum development process because like, I, you know, I was from the school or the train of thought of like, okay, I write a script, I don't make a movie, you know, and I wasn't really concerned about like, development or anything like that. So, you know, when I wrote the script, I was like, great, this is my movie, and you know, and I was ready to shoot it. And, you know, I had some investors approached me, and they read the script, and they knew nothing about filmmaking, but they, you know, they obviously watched movies, so they were like, I think you should change this or that and, you know, so I kind of, you know, I'm actually really thankful for that process. Because, like, you know, you can actually learn a lot from people who watch a lot of movies and aren't necessarily filmmakers because they're going to tell you what bumps you know, not ever No one knows how to read a screenplay. Not everyone knows how to visualize something in their head. But I think each and every person that read the script that potentially was bringing money to the table kind of brought something to the film that it leads me to better than my initial draft, you know, I'm still not, you know, super happy with what I wrote on the on the page. But, you know, I was young, so but it was much better than the first draft. I mean, I'd probably cry if I read the first draft now. So but, so So Daniel, Daniel said he could get like, honestly, like, 50 70,000. And, you know, but but the idea was, you know, he was like, we can't lose this money. This is my my parents money. So his parents were car dealers, and I think they've like taken out a loan for us or something like that. And so, so essentially, what happened was, we went and took the first scene of the movie, Ace murder, or the star producer, the film. Or one of the producers, he suggested, I basically, I wanted to go shoot a scene, I wanted to shoot something just for fun, just to kind of, you know, sharpen my tools, because the last thing I shot since then was hostile encounter, which was a found footage movie. So I wanted to kind of prepare myself to shoot a traditional narrative and get acclimated again, with kind of the camera and stuff like that. So in that format of storytelling, so ace actually suggested that we shoot a scene from the movie to kind of use as a promotional tool for the film. And so we went about an hour outside of LA and shot a little scene from the movie that was essentially the opening of the film kind of tailored for that environment. And, and we released it online, a couple months later, and all of the new sites and blogs picked it up. And we actually had foreign distributors contact us based off of the trailer. And they reached out to us and they said, Hey, we really like this, we'd like to make you an offer. And so basically, people were offering us money for this, you know, for this film that they hadn't even seen yet, that actually didn't even exist at this point, because this was just a fake trailer that we shot or a fake scene that we shot, you know, for, like, less than $100, I think was like, 50 bucks we spent on it, or something like that, like $95. So, um, so, you know, we use that money as almost like a verbal commitment to say, okay, great. We can, you know, we know, we can at least make this much money. Like, if these people were the only people to ever buy the movie, then we know, we can at least make that much money back. And then, you know, we were just thinking in terms of like, you know, punk rock garage band style, we're like, if we have to, we'll, we'll go door to door selling DVDs as movie ourselves to make no money back. So we kind of just, you know, reverse engineered and said, Okay, great. This is, you know, as safe as we can make this investment and, you know, started casting the movie in a way we went.

Jason Buff 27:48
Now, the people that were you said foreign distributors were interested or Yeah. Okay. Now what, what sort of things? I mean, first of all, where were they just like, overall global foreign distributors? Or were they like specific to they will say your

Eric England 28:05
It was like, it was like Germany. And I want to say a couple others actually reached out, but I mean, it was It wasn't exclusive to foreign, like, I think a couple sales agents, and maybe a couple of us distributors reached out. But yeah, essentially, we just had interest in sales, Germany, I think Germany and maybe one other country, were the only ones to actually offer up like a legitimate number and say, hey, we'll pay you this much. Before ever even seeing the film. But, um, but yeah, so we had interest in specific people who are actually willing to cut a check. And then people, you know, who were interested in representing the movie, and, you know, and essentially, you know, we got to a point where people were like, hey, we want to see the whole film and we were like, Okay, great. Well, well, we'll get back to you in a few months, you know? Yeah, that's

Jason Buff 28:46
Yeah, that's gonna be a good feeling. You know? Yeah. Yeah, it was it was exciting. Now, is that fake trailers still available somewhere?

Eric England 28:55
Yeah, absolutely.

Jason Buff 28:57
I'll ask you for a link. I'll put that in the show notes because I'd really be interested to just take a look at that. Yeah. So talk to me about the process like the difference between making Madison County versus hostile encounter and you know what, like, yeah, just details like what kind of camera you guys were using how you work with actors what the different I mean, I assume you're working with like a full on, you know, grip grip crew and you know, it was more of a professional like film set right.

Eric England 29:30
I mean, you'd want to think that you know, we we essentially had, you know, we had like soccer dads is our grip team and stuff like that, you know, we shot we shot on the we shot on the red, which was a you know, a major upgrade from what we shot hostile encounter on.

Alex Ferrari 29:51
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Eric England 30:00
So, you know, I was working with a new camera system I was not familiar with which, you know, since I was directing wasn't as big of a deal. But, you know, I was working with a professional director of photography who had done other things before. You know, so I was the youngest person on set, essentially, you know, and I was probably the most inexperienced, and, you know, and I went from managing a crew of like, five people to managing a crew of like, 25 people and, and, and a cast of like, five to seven or eight people a day, you know, so it was kind of a kind of a headfirst, you know, jump into the pool, so to speak, because, you know, I, you know, I had never done anything of that size. Like, I remember seeing the grip trucks pull up on the first day of filming, or, you know, first first day of pre production or whatever. And I was like, Whoa, you know, like, this. Is this legit, like, the biggest movie set I had been on? Like, if

Jason Buff 30:54
Somebody's making a movie around.

Eric England 30:55
Yeah, exactly. Like, this was the biggest set I'd ever been on. And the movie started shooting it. So, you know, it was it was very much an eye opening experience. And, you know, but I looking back on it, I wouldn't have traded it for anything, because it really prepared me for the do's and don'ts and, you know, kind of forced me to get get my shit together. Because, you know, I was totally, you know, I was really prepared. Like, I took my job very seriously. And I stress day in day out, I think, I think by the time we actually start rolling cameras, like I had lost like, 70 pounds, but but like, you know, it was, um, it was, you know, a really serious commitment. I took it really seriously. I was, you know, we were extremely underprepared. And you can't What? No, I'm sorry. My girlfriend's walking through. And she was like, he can't see me again. But, um, so. So, you know, it was a really big undertaking. And, you know, I was totally unprepared or I was prepared. But I think we as a crew and producers, and I think we were really underprepared in terms of like, what we do what we thought we were getting ourselves into, like, we had tons of locations, tons of actors, tons of moving parts. So it was just a really big undertaking that I think, you know, we we underestimated, but we're, you know, thankfully, we had that willingness to take on a challenge. And I think that's a lot of what filmmaking, is it just the ignorance to not be told, No, you know,

Jason Buff 32:23
What, now looking back, what are some of the things, you know, mistakes that maybe you made early on that you, you know, corrected? Or, you know, learned in your next features?

Eric England 32:32
I just sent you that promotional trailer, by the way. Okay, perfect. What was that question? Sorry?

Jason Buff 32:37
Well, I mean, what are you said, it was a bit overwhelming, you know, you were prepared. But it was still like, you know, there was somewhat of a learning curve, can you talk about, like, for people who might be going into their first big budget or, you know, higher budget than just like a little, you know, you know, backyard kind of film going up a step from that what, what sort of things they need to do to be prepared for that? What did you do as a director mentally to be able to do that? And what, what sort of things were you doing every day? And looking back kind of what what mistakes, what would you have done differently?

Eric England 33:13
Well, I mean, you know, to be honest, Madison County was still very much a backyard film. It was,

Jason Buff 33:19
You know what I mean? Yeah, for sure. Compared to the other one.

Eric England 33:22
Yeah, totally. Um, well, I mean, what I did mentally was I watched a lot of films. And I think that was ultimately, my downfall was, I got locked into a specific vision based on movies that I knew had worked, I became really paranoid about how people would perceive my film. So I didn't want to mess it up. And I think that was, you know, like I said, my biggest downfall. So I watched a lot of movies that had a similar aesthetic, that have used similar ideas and things like that. So you know, I almost tried to carve and copy those, but do it my own way. And I looking back, I wish I would have just done what I wanted. Because, you know, I was imitating them in the hopes that I would have success like them, essentially. And I think that was a, you know, the wrong choice. But because of that, I was really prepared. Like I, you know, I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot it. I knew, you know, I knew how to execute it. I just think the sights I had set my execution at were lower than what they should have been, I guess, the best way to put it. So it's like, I achieved what I set out to do. I just didn't, I didn't set my achievement bar, the right level. And so you know, but to a degree, it's like, there was a victory in that because it proved to me that I could do what I set out to do, and then I could I could pull off what I said I could pull off, you know, and so, you know, tons of research, tons of rehearsal, tons of, you know, getting to know my cast and crew and just, you know, learning to be a leader kind of, by default, you know, it's like like I said, I'd never been in control that many people so I naturally just kind of had to learn how to take the reins. We didn't have it. True first ad so I was running the set, you know, and I was scheduling the film and, you know, everything, essentially, the responsibilities fell heavily on me being a director, but not only a director, I was also one of the producers. So, you know, we were some young producers that had never made a movie of this sighs before. So we were all learning as we were filming. So, you know, it's really hard to say what we did right and what we did wrong, because we were basically just surviving. I felt like the whole time we were kind of like, drowning, but keeping our head above water.

Jason Buff 35:32
Yeah, that sounds you know, familiar. I mean, so many other directors that I've talked to have really, you know, even at, you know, much higher levels. It's always kind of chaotic, you know? Yeah, absolutely. So talk about from what what ended up in Did you ended up ended up like having the distribution and things that you were looking for at the end of that, did you make the deals? I mean, talk about what happened to the film after you made it?

Eric England 35:59
Yeah. So after we made it, we like I said, we reached out to a lot of those same people who had reached out to us and we started cutting a trailer immediately, we got very fortunate, and were able to get one of the best trailer editors in Hollywood to kind of cut a trailer for us, you know, as a huge favor to one of the people on our film. So we had a great trailer, and we started shopping it around. And, you know, we made a lot of first time mistake, we show people the movie way before it was ready. We submitted to festivals that were way out of our league. But ultimately, we got the film into screamfest, which is, you know, where paranormal activity was discovered. And, you know, we had distributors contact us from there. And, you know, I was able to get a manager, which, which was helpful in terms of getting the film out about, but yeah, we kind of did took a similar approach to what we did with a hostile encounter. And we just kind of showed it to anyone that was willing to watch it, and, you know, try to learn from it. But the best thing that ever happened was, you know, we didn't, we didn't use a domestic sales rep, to sell the movie, because we really wanted to kind of go through that experience on our own, and, and kind of learn to look over our own contracts and see what would happen and see where we would succeed and fail and things like that. So once again, we took a very, you know, dive in headfirst type of approach to the whole process.

Jason Buff 37:24
Was there any kind of idea about building social media that still kind of before social media or social, you know, building a social, like having Facebook pages and stuff like that? That was kind of before that, right?

Eric England 37:40
I'm not really I mean, it was 2011. So I mean, okay, yeah, yeah. So it was around that time, but um, you know, the best thing that I think we had to our to our, you know, availability was ace Marrero, who, you know, was an actor, so he was used to promoting himself. And you know, as a young actor in Hollywood, like, you kind of have to be your biggest PR person and biggest cheerleader and champion. So Eastwood really taught us to do that, for the film. So, you know, we, we had a huge, huge fan base. For the movie before the movie was even finished. Like we had people buying T shirts from us, we had people buying posters. So we almost tried to turn it into an event, you know, just hey, come be part of this experience with us, like we're learning, like, we took a very like people's filmmaker mentality, because you know, and that's something that I try to continue now is like, I, I like, for my experiences to be kind of an open book and let people know, like, Hey, this is reality of it. And we kind of did that with Madison County, because because we shot in my home state of Arkansas, it was very much a, you know, a family type of environment. And, you know, we tried to we were on the local news, and we tried to keep everyone involved and make it just a fun experience for everyone. And that kind of translated into the distribution and people talking about it and sharing things. So social media was probably one of the biggest advocates we had in our corner.

Jason Buff 39:05
Okay, yeah, I mean, because that's one of the things we always, you know, talk about is how to, you know, this idea that you're going to make your film and go to a film festival, and all of a sudden, everybody will know about your film, it's like, you know, is, you're going to run into problems with that, because it's, it's much easier to start building up a following as you're making your film and even showing kind of behind the scenes and what's going on, so that once your film is done, you've already kind of built up that anticipation.

Eric England 39:34
Yeah. 100% I'm actually not a massive, massive fan, especially in the genre world of North American film festivals, because it's at least on the like the top tier side in like South by Southwest and things like that, because it's such a incestuous and fraternal type mentality, you know, they bring back a lot of filmmakers, films, who've had movies there in the past and things like that.

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Eric England 40:09
So, you know, like contracted, for instance, you know, contract, it was one of the most successful films of that year. And we didn't play one major festival here in America, you know, it was, it was because like, people didn't know who or who or, you know, who I was, they didn't know who our stars were, and things like that. And it's like, festivals used to be about finding and discovering new talent, but now it's really about attracting big stars and bringing back people that they enjoy drinking with at the festival, you know, previous years. So it's not really as much about how good your movie is, as much as it is about how well the the jury or the, you know, the programmers like your movie. So you know it, they become kind of a gatekeeper in a way and I don't like that mentality. So I'm actually a big fan of, you know, using the internet using the audience like I don't, I no longer worry about what festivals will think about my films, or what critics will think about my films, like I make movies for audiences now. Because it's like the ultimately those are the people who have to pay to see your movie. And those are the people who are going to keep you in business and keep food on your table. But also, those are the people who are going to be with you through through the thick and thin of it, like if you support them, they're going to support you. And it's like, I want to give them good material. Because ultimately, no offense, you know, there are tons of critics that I love, but it's like critics ultimately see my movies for free. So they're just judging it based on the artistic merit. And that's to happen, and that's fine. But, you know, at the end of the day, I have to make movies and continue making movies if I want to live. So you know, my job is to please the people who are ultimately supporting me, you know?

Jason Buff 41:39
So, I mean, what is your main way of, you know, connecting with an audience on social media? Do you have kind of a plan? I mean, are you just like, getting on Twitter and Facebook? Or what? What does that? What does that look like? Yeah,

Eric England 41:53
I mean, it's a lot of it's through Twitter, and Facebook, and things like that, like I, I'm a big fan of interacting with my audience, like when contract came out, you know, the reviews were extremely polarizing people either love the film, or they hated it. And it's funny, because people who hated the movie still talked about it. And, and because of that, the word of mouth was great. And, you know, so So I would go on Twitter, and I would just talk to people who were talking about the movie, and some of the biggest supporters I have now, or people who ultimately were talking shit about my movie when it first came out, you know. And, and, and, you know, and it's fine, because like, you know, living in Hollywood, like I have tons of filmmaker friends that I don't necessarily love all their movies, but I don't judge them based on what their movies are, like, I judge them based on who they are as people, you know. And for me, like, that's ultimately what I like. And I think I've been kind of in tune with that since the very beginning. Because even even as a young filmmaker, before I ever even touch the camera, for the first time, I was watching behind the scenes on DVDs and things like that, because I wanted to know who these filmmakers were. And sometimes I wouldn't really like a movie, and but I would watch the behind the scenes, or I would listen to the commentary. And I would fall in love with the filmmaker because of their passion and their enthusiasm. And it would make me respect the movie that much more. So it's like, I am a firm believer in you know, you can judge the art based on its own merit. And that's totally fine. Like, that's what art is about. But I do believe that art, in general is a bigger medium. And it's not just about what it is. It's about the stories behind it. It's about the people who make it and everything that goes into it. It's not just this one, you know, nebulous thing.

Jason Buff 43:28
Right! You guys film like behind the scenes footage and stuff like that to be released.

Eric England 43:34
Totally. Yeah, I tried to do that on every film. Some movies, we've had more footage and others like on get the girl I think we had a guy there my latest, don't get the girl, I think we had a guy there like, you know, almost every day and then uncontracted We didn't have the money to do it. So we basically just had, you know, my producer, Matt Mercer was doing it whenever he could. And it's funny because Matt Mercer actually, you know, he was an actor and Madison County, and he filmed some little behind the scenes stuff that I think is on YouTube now. But, you know, he did his own little behind the scenes documentary, just as an actor from his perspective. So it's always cool, especially now with cell phones and cameras, so accessible, it's like, actors can kind of make their own little documentaries and things like that about their experiences on set. And, you know, the more I make movies, the more I'm going to try and do my own kind of director perspective. And, you know, hopefully, one day it'll get as detailed as, you know, maybe someone following me around with the camera, because, you know, that's the type of stuff that I really enjoyed as a young filmmaker. And, you know, I wanted to see as much as possible is like, how, how the life is of a working filmmaker from day to day, and that's, you know, that's a fascinating lifestyle, because it's so up and down. And there's so many challenges and I think as a young filmmaker, the best thing you can do is be prepared for it.

Jason Buff 44:48
Alright, I'm gonna put you on the spot here for a second. Yeah, what what would you say? Is because I'm totally in agreement with you about like commentaries and stuff like that. What is What are you like your favorite DVD? commentaries that you've ever heard.

Eric England 45:03
I don't know if I have too many, like commentaries,

Jason Buff 45:06
Or behind the scenes or whatever.

Eric England 45:08
Yeah, behind the scenes. I have a ton. I actually really really like the four hour documentary on Rob, Zombie's Halloween Have you ever seen that?

Jason Buff 45:17
No, I had that's one of the few

Eric England 45:19
Yeah, it's It's incredible because and this isn't necessarily based on like, I don't know, I don't absolutely love that movie. But I love how in depth the documentary is like it literally starts from him in pre production like it shows him doing camera tests and shows him doing acting, you know, auditions, it shows him like, it shows the wardrobe person bringing him different options, and him doing sketches and location scouts, all the way up until like the last day of filming. And it's literally for like four and a half hours long. And, and it's like just one of the most immersive you know, detailed raw experiences I've ever seen, captured, you know, in a behind the scenes, and I'm trying to think of some other good ones. There's a few that stand out really heavily. That's always kind of one of my big go twos, just because of how thorough it is. I really enjoyed you know, Eli ROS hostile he did a pretty detailed one on hostile and cabin fever. I'm trying to think, Gosh, I'd have to go through and like look at my DVD collection. But you know, whenever someone asks me about it, usually Rob Zombie's Halloween Oh, Devil's rejects is one for Devil's rejects was really good to have you seen that one?

Jason Buff 46:34
No, I've seen the movie. I haven't seen the behind the scenes.

Eric England 46:37
Yeah, it's like a two two hour documentary on the making of Devil's rejects. And, you know, it's once again, it's everything from like table reads to you know, I think even all the way into editing. So, you know, for me, it's like, as much as you can get, you know, in the in the nitty gritty process of it all. That's, that's the stuff that excites me. Right.

Jason Buff 47:01
Have you seen lost in La Mancha?

Eric England 47:03
Yes, I love it.

Jason Buff 47:06
I did an interview the other day with a producer. And he was like, you know, I don't get that documentary. Because, you know, you see all the stuff that goes wrong on that set that goes wrong on every set. Like that's every film, you know, yeah. Yeah. It's like, just get used to everything going wrong. And you know, he's like, I don't know why the film never got made, because that that wouldn't have kept anybody from, you know, stopping anyway. Moving along. So after Madison County, what happened from there? Let's follow the story.

Eric England 47:36
After Madison County within, within you, we shot the movie in October 2010 or September to October 2010. By March 2011. We had our trailer released and we had our trailer cut probably before the end of the year 2010. So we started showing early cuts of the trailer almost immediately. And so we had people asking us what are you doing next? Are you doing a sequel to Madison County and this was before the movie was even finished. So people were already considering it a success. Which was nice and very presumptuous. But, but very premature, but um, you know, people were like, hey, what do you want to do next. And I knew immediately I didn't want to do another like straightforward horror movie, kind of like Madison County. So I started writing this screenplay called roadside, and we actually started shooting, we, you know, we finished Madison County shooting wise, October 2010. And March 2011, we were flying to Virginia to shoot roadside. So, you know, we found private investors again, you know, who wanted to get into the movie business. And, you know, we convinced them to give us a financing based on, you know, all the news articles and all the press and success that we had had with Madison County, we showed him we said look like we already had people offering to buy the movie. And, you know, it's like, we're pretty confident that we're going to at least make our money back if not see a decent profit on Madison County. So we kind of parlayed that into roadside and roadside was probably the messiest production in my life. Because, you know, we were just so on cloud nine for Madison County that I think we really underestimated the process of roadside because it was essentially, you know, a very contained Hitchcockian thriller, and, you know, we shot the movie entirely at nighttime, where Madison County was entirely a day like we just wanted to do something really, really different. And, you know, we kind of didn't realize that we were still learning and we kind of had this mentality of like, Oh, we've done this before, so we weren't prepared for the new challenges that lay in front of us and that was the first time you know, it clicked to me. I'm like, just going out to make a movie. It's it's brand new every time you do it, you know so, so that production was a nightmare we were under scheduled under understaffed under Finance. So

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Eric England 50:10
It was just a big, big hurdle. It was the worst shoot in my life. I still, you know, I probably lost hair on that shoot. But, you know, it was just the biggest pain in the ass. And I remember flying home, just relieved that it was over and nervous as hell that we didn't make a good movie. And, and, you know, thankfully, when we got into the editing room, like, you know, we had most of the pieces that we needed, like I didn't, I didn't get to direct the movie the way I wanted to. And I regret that immensely. But, but I think it was one of those things where it's like, there's really not much I can do once again, even more. So like this was another one just struggling to keep our head above water. But it was it was worse because we were just underprepared. You know, like we kind of were like, Okay, we did really well, in Madison County, we had, you know, 20 locations, we had 30 characters. And with roadside, we're going to have three locations and five characters, we this is going to be a walk in the park and it absolutely wasn't, you know, so it was just kind of, you know, we were defeated before we went in, but thankfully, we still pull out a very, very competent film.

Jason Buff 51:15
Now, you had said something about doing that with I mean, getting starting to shoot that before Madison County it even really gone into distribution, right?

Eric England 51:25
Yeah, Madison County actually hadn't even finished post production. So our editor was actually still working on editing Madison County while we're filming roadside.

Jason Buff 51:34
So did it end up having the success that you thought it was gonna have?

Eric England 51:38
Did Madison County? Yeah, I don't think I don't think it had, I think it had a better success than than what it should have. And I think I don't think it reached our expectations. But our expectations were extremely high. But I mean, we, you know, we, you know, my first movie right out of the gate premiered at the Chinese Theatre, at one of the biggest genre festivals in North America, actually the biggest genre festival in North America. And, and, you know, and I was in there with, like, you know, Ty West had a movie there that year. And, you know, it was just a huge, huge turnout, we were the only movie to sell out. They gave us an encore screening, we got distribution, the movie came out in May of 2012. And it was, it was decently received. Like, it didn't it didn't, you know, critics didn't, you know, you know, praise it, and they didn't hate it, it was just very middle of the road. But um, you know, but I think the movie ended up having a success of its own, which was, you know, good enough for us like it was our first foot in the door.

Jason Buff 52:40
Right! The distribution. So I get a lot into the nuts and bolts. So yeah. The distribution deal that you made was that what what kind of a contract was that? Or mean? Just what was that for? Like, for World distribution? Was it for DVDs? How did that all come together? Was there any sort of like, talk of video on demand, or, you know, things like iTunes and Vudu and stuff like that? Or just to give us a little bit of a inside look into that part?

Eric England 53:13
Yeah, for sure. It was, it was a pretty straightforward contract, like we had people approached us about doing a limited theatrical run. But their minimum guarantees, which are the money they're going to pay for the movie upfront, weren't as high. So we ended up going with a company that had a little bit of a bigger reputation than some of the others and you know, had movies that we had seen on shelves and Walmart and things like that. So we took that deal. It was a it was a straight to DVD contract. So the movie went into red box and things like that. The company wasn't really a VOD focused company, they this was still like, the last year that physical media was still pretty relevant. But, but, you know, so the movie, went to Walmart and got released on DVD and actually made most of its money on DVD, if I remember correctly, but, um, but yeah, so I mean, the contract is pretty straightforward. Nothing, nothing fancy in terms of promotion, or release or anything like that. It was it was very standard, and we got the movie on shelves, and we got a really solid amount of exposure into the marketplace. So, you know, we were happy with that. We were happy that people could go to stores and buy our movie and that, you know, that that kind of gave us a pretty good chunk of legitimacy.

Jason Buff 54:29
So who owns the movie, though? That's the question. I always have. Like, if you the distribution company has the right to distribute it for for how long? I want to say it's like 15 years. Okay. And then after that you retain the owner, like the producers retain the ownership.

Eric England 54:45
Yeah, the producer retains the ownership. I actually own the property so I can do sequels and stuff. No one else can do sequels, or remake or anything like that. But that one movie is owned by the producer and the distributor owns the rights to You exploited for Yeah, I believe up to like 15 years.

Jason Buff 55:03
So you get to retain the rights because you have the copyright from the script, or how's that? How do you,

Eric England 55:09
I basically put it into my deal like because it was such a low budget film, and I literally took no money like not not just like, oh, a couple pennies here and there, like I literally took nothing. So I basically was like, Look, you know, if we're going to make this movie, I want to own the quote unquote, franchise potential of it. So like, if someone wants to make a sequel, I'll get paid for that one. You know, so, so that that was kind of the idea was like, if someone ever wants to come along and remake it, or do a sequel or something like that, like, I will, I will own that because I created the first one. But the producer actually owns that that particular film. So, you know, he, if he wants to rerelease it after 15 years, or if he wants to license it to someone else, or, you know, someone comes along and they're like, we want to, you know, do a retro screening or something like that, like they have to go to him.

Jason Buff 55:59
Okay. So you can can you do action figures? Yeah. Okay. That's the big one. You know, just learn from George Lucas. Always, always keep the action figure rights. Yeah, totally. So Okay, moving on from there, from roadside when the next film was contracted? Or was there something between there? I was contracted? Yeah. Okay. So that's, I want to focus on that for a bit. Can you talk about how that came about? And, you know, where the screenplay came from? How producers got involved, just how it all kind of comes together?

Eric England 56:35
Totally. Yeah, it was, you know, I was kind of frustrated with the whole business side of everything, because like, with Madison County, the movie was exploited. It's kind of like a slasher movie. And, you know, the, the idea of the film wasn't really to do it as a slasher movie, like, I tried to do something that was a little different. And so you know, but they kept focusing on the serial killer in the movie, because it was kind of this iconic imagery that they were able to mass exploit and just grab people's attention, which I you know, I knew nothing about how they marketed films in that way. So it was a very eye opening and learning experience. And then when we went to do roadside roadsides, this very tense, story driven character movie, and there was no, you know, iconic imagery in the film, they could really sell the movie, no serial killer, no, you know, nothing for them to exploit essentially no famous actors. So we were having trouble selling roadside, because everyone was like, Look, we like your movie, but we don't know how to sell it. And so I'm fed up with that. I was like, okay, you know, what I really, I really want to do a movie that is just totally hits the point for the market, maybe this will get into a festival because like, up until that point, you know, we got rejected from almost every festival with the first two movies. And so I was like, you know, I'm going to really aim high for festivals and markets and just try to do something really, really different again, but something that felt more in line with the stuff that I saw having success in the genre. And, and, and so and also, something is really important to point out is like with Madison county of roadside, I was making movies because I could, you know, like people were saying, Hey, we have money, what do you what do you want to make that works in this world. And I wasn't telling stories that I necessarily felt needed to be told. So like, we you know, we shot at my grandpa's farm for Madison County, because I had an idea that based around his farm, and then with roadside, you know, I had an idea because I knew we could shoot the movie because we could get a car and we could do this. So it was like, kind of like what can we make with what we have, you know, I'm saying and so with, with contract it, it was the first time I'd ever written a story not thinking about, like, Okay, I know, this is the one element that I can exploit. And I'll write a story around it, you know, so I wrote I wrote the movie just based on you know, the, the initial idea which was, you know, a girl has a one night stand and can tracks what she thinks is an STD. And so, you know, I was like, that's a really cool idea. I should write that story. So I, I kind of, you know, plotted out the story, and I initially wanted to shoot it overseas, because I wanted it to happen in a country where, you know, where she the girl didn't speak the language and didn't, you know, just had trouble realizing everything that was happening to her. So, what happened was the producers came to me and said, hey, you know, we want to make a movie. This was their first film. And they were like, we have financing. We can Greenlight it immediately, but we just need to find someone who can make a movie and make something good and they had heard of Madison County they had seen it I think they even went to the premiere I'm not sure but you know, I showed them roadside and they loved it. They were like wow, this is really really good. So they they saw that I had versatility and they they greenlit the movie right there just on a handshake. Like I had no script, no anything. I was just like, Look, you guys are gonna write a check. And it was my smallest movie to date. It was, you know, they had $50,000 And I think we ended up spending like 45 to Make the entire film. So

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Eric England 1:00:12
So, you know, it was kind of like I used it as almost a once again kind of experiment to kind of go back to my my grass roots style of filmmaking, but I was going to change one crucial thing. And that was I wasn't going to write a story just because I had elements in place already. I was just going to write the story based on what I thought the story should be. And then, and then figure out how to execute it based on the elements I had. So it was it was a completely new style of filmmaking for me. And, you know, thankfully, it worked out.

Jason Buff 1:00:43
It was mostly handheld, right?

Eric England 1:00:46
Yeah, the whole movies handheld except for like, maybe two or three shots.

Jason Buff 1:00:49
Okay, does that change? How you approach it? I mean, since you're not thinking in terms of, you know, a camera's like, slowly doing a pan or, you know, do you just film it more kind of? Guerilla style documentary style?

Eric England 1:01:05
A little bit. Yeah, I mean, Madison County was very handheld but with contracted I think it was the first time I approached I'd approach the movie with kind of the aesthetic in mind for the character with with Madison County. I approached it like okay, these other movies did handheld I should do handheld. Or the these other movies did a dolly here, I'll do a dolly here, you know. So, with contracted it was the first time I was like, you know, I wanted the movie to feel intimate because the character's story was so intimate. So I was it was really one of the first times I was thinking like, Okay, what should I do? As a director like, in a lot of ways I consider contracted my first real movie, because it was the first time I started thinking, like a filmmaker and thought story first, instead of okay, what what do I need to do to make sure I don't mess this up? You know, so I, you know, my first two movies, I was thinking very heavily as a producer. And so, so we've contracted Yeah, I approached everything from from an emotional or, and, or a narrative standpoint. So, you know, and the, the handheld aesthetic was based on the story, and both of those were based on the budget. So I kind of reverse engineered it knowing that, you know, I didn't need any big crane shots, or dolly shots or anything like that, because I was going to tell a very intimate story that didn't need a lot of fancy, you know, fancy bells and whistles.

Jason Buff 1:02:20
Right. Can you talk a little bit about your process for screenwriting?

Eric England 1:02:27
Yeah. I mean, my I, you know, I don't consider myself that great of a writer. So I always hate talking about it. But

Jason Buff 1:02:34
Actually, a lot of the people that I talked to say the, you know, filmmakers who have made really good movies that, you know, will always tell you, Oh, but I'm not a writer, you know, but it's like, well, you know, you might not be comfortable with it, but screenwriting is a lot more about, you know, telling a visual story than it is about being necessarily the greatest writer in the world. But if you can tell your story, visually, you know, it goes a lot further.

Eric England 1:03:00
Totally. And I mean, you know, it's, it's weird for me to talk about writing because like, I never, like I said, I don't consider myself much of a writer. I write by necessity, like I write because I need things to direct. Um, so, you know, when I write a screenplay, I know that I'm not writing it for like, you know, a studio head or something like that. Like I've never I've never entered into a competition or anything like that. So I read my screenplays, you know, my screenplay, my screenplays read like any other screenplay, like I my formula and my, my structure and everything like that is, you know, very traditional, but But it's like my screenplays are, you know, essentially what, what they're supposed to be their blueprints for, for my movie, you know, so it's like, I don't necessarily write in shots. Like I have some friends who are very just director driven, you know, and they write like a director. I don't necessarily write like a director, but you know, I definitely, I write very simply, like, I'm a very efficient writer. So I, what I do my my process, for lack of better terms is like I let the story kind of marinate in my head for you know, a few days or a week or however long it takes. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes a year. It really just depends on how well I grasp that story and that concept. And then eventually, it kind of reaches a boiling point where you know, I don't write down you know, I'll write down like the initial idea, so I don't forget it. And then I'll just kind of let it stew like I don't really write much after that, like I'll just kind of keep this little notepad or journal, and I'll keep that logline or that idea or the chicken scratch, you know, I wrote down to begin with, and then eventually, the, all the ideas I have just kind of boil over and I start writing them down in like almost bullet point form, and they're not always necessarily in in chronological order. So it's just kind of the thoughts that generate my head. Sometimes they're seeing ideas, sometimes they are dialogue, sometimes they're characters, sometimes they're, you know, whatever. And then I kind of just do that for you know, however long it takes usually it's like a few days or a week. And then eventually I feel like I have a good enough grasp on the story. And I'll start writing. So like, you know, I wrote contracted in like three weeks the first draft. So, you know, it's like I, I knew the story really well, I kind of marinated on it really quickly. And you know, I get really excited when I know like, I don't I don't have a lot of, you know, spec screenplays that I've written laying around. If I if I have any spec screenplays laying around, it's because I wrote a script for a movie that just ultimately, the financing fell through, you know, because like, I've never written a screenplay and said, Hey, here's, you know, except for Madison County, really, you know, that was the first time I ever said, Hey, I have this script. But every other time roadside contract it even even my, my newest film, get the girl, it's like, I have the producers commit to the movie. And so yeah, we're gonna, you know, they almost pay me to write the script, because I know we're going to make the movie, like, I want to know what this movie is getting made. Or else, there's no point in me writing a script, in my opinion, especially had a low budget level, because things change so much. So, you know, if I write a script, you know, for one producer and a certain budget level, and let's say the movie doesn't get financed, and then that script is just sitting there and another producer comes along, it's like, the circumstances may have changed. And then I have to go back and rewrite, restructure and do all that stuff. So it's like, I'd rather just wait until the movies ready to be made, you know, so that's just my, my personal mentality. But, um, up until recently, like, just just this year, actually, I wrote my first, you know, I got hired to write a screenplay, you know, that I'm ultimately going to direct but it was the first time that, you know, it was going to bigger producers and studios and, you know, things like that. So that was kind of a new process for me. But you know, I treated the process the exact same way as I did with all my other ones, like the producers came to me, I pitched them an idea, they liked it. And they said, Yeah, we're gonna pay you to write it. And I wrote it, and, you know, and marinated on it, and it took me like, I want to say, maybe, maybe a month, month and a half to finish the entire screenplay. And, you know, we went through, I want to say, maybe five drafts or something like that, and, you know, send it off for feedback, and the feedback is coming back. Great. So, you know, I'm getting a little more confident my writing, but yeah, it's like, my, my process is very much, you know, just what works for me, because I don't know how to do it any other way, you know?

Jason Buff 1:07:23
Alright, are there any? Where did you learn screenwriting? Is there any resource that you can point people to?

Eric England 1:07:31
Um, I don't know how I learned I actually.

Jason Buff 1:07:34
I mean, that's what I'm saying is it's kind of holding my head one day and I was

Eric England 1:07:37
Yeah, it's kind of a Learn, learn trial by error kind of thing. Like as

Jason Buff 1:07:41
Did you read a lot of screenplays when you were in film school?

Eric England 1:07:43
I did. That's actually what I was about to say is I've I've actually read a lot of screenplays. And I actually had a screenwriting teacher who's written some books on you know, screenwriting, and she, you know, she she's had some success in coaching screenwriters and things like that. And she actually gave me the biggest, biggest piece of advice I've ever gotten. And it still resonates with me to this day. But we were in class one day, and pitching ideas and learning learning to take notes and learning to get criticism and learning to develop ideas. And I would always throw out the most bizarre ideas in her classroom. And she would tell me, she would say, You're a brilliant screenwriter, but you don't know why. And I didn't, I didn't know. I didn't know what that meant. But now I now that I've kind of come to terms and kind of come into my own as a filmmaker, I finally get what she means. And she meant that I have a very unique voice, I have a very unique perspective on the world. And I tell you know, pretty unique stories, especially now now if you're contracted, but you know, I tell unique stories, but for the longest time, I didn't know why I told them and I didn't know why I wanted to tell them I just I wanted I wanted to get them out. And finally I've kind of learned the discipline that I lacked when she first told me that I think it's really been, you know, a very helpful thing to me. But you know, those words really stuck with me because it at least validated me to know that I had something inherently you know, positive about my work and I had a natural ability or talent or whatever you want to call it, but I just needed to learn how to harness it. I think I finally reached that point. So thank you to her.

Jason Buff 1:09:16
You don't remember her name?

Eric England 1:09:21
Yeah, no, I do. I just didn't know.

Jason Buff 1:09:24
Okay, no, I'm sure that that praise would be something she would you know, absolutely, ironically. I mean, if you're if you want to talk you know, smack about a teacher they're probably not gonna want yeah,

Eric England 1:09:36
No, no. No, she she was great. She you know, it's funny because like I said, I didn't really fancy myself a screenwriter, but I love my screenwriting teachers in film school, and she was one of my favorites. And ironically, it kind of came full circle while I was filming, get the girl. We were shooting at the parking garage in my old film school because I needed a parking garage and she actually came and visited me on set.

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Eric England 1:10:08
You know, she was like I heard, she was like, I heard someone was shooting a movie here. And she was like, and then someone told me it was you. And I just had to come by and say hello. So it was really kind of cool for, you know, my old screenwriting teacher to come see me on the set of my latest movie. It was really, really cool. Yeah.

Jason Buff 1:10:25
Okay, so walk us through the process making contracted, if you can give us a little bit of, you know, a behind the scenes of how that was working with your actors. And, and, you know, one thing that's interesting to me is knowing kind of in a 24 hour period, what is that? Like? Okay, you wake up, you have maybe some coffee? You know, you go to the set, what are you doing while you're filming? I mean, are you just like constantly 24 hours a day focused on? I mean, are you generating new ideas, thinking about how you're going to shoot the scene the next day? What is the mindset that you're in while you're shooting? And how long did that? How long was the shoot, by the way?

Eric England 1:11:05
Contracted was shot in 15 days, so three, five day weeks, the process actually contract, it was probably the smoothest shoot I've ever had. And I think it was simply because we didn't have a lot. And we knew we didn't have a lot. So there was really nothing to stress about, you know, it's like we plan very efficiently. It was my third feature film. So I was really, really well prepared for what the challenges were going to be we shot in Los Angeles, we use a lot of people's locations that we knew we could get for free. So people's apartments, people's houses, things like that, um, you know, a lot of my friends are in the movie. So contracted once again, was kind of going back to like, my backyard roots, like it felt very much like a home movie. But just with a bigger, bigger story, you know, like, where's Madison County and roadside were backyard movies, you know, filmed in the backyard with like, very humble roots, and kind of like, you know, we treated those movies with baby hands. Because like, we didn't really know what we were doing. And we were making movies because like, Oh, my parents can get a car. My grandpa is a farm. Like, we just were making movies around the elements we had with contract it, we treated it like a real movie. It's like, okay, let's, let's go for broke here, you know, like, let's really go for it. And so, um, you know, I think that mentality changed everything, and made us really strive to make something unique, original and different, exciting. And, you know, every day was kind of, kind of a challenge, because, you know, my lead actress was in makeup almost every day, we didn't have a lot of time to shoot, we didn't have, you know, uh, you know, our actors were extremely great. The casting process was phenomenal. So we had great actors. So it just felt like a family, like my lead actress, and I really clicked, you know, my other co stars, and I really clicked a lot of them were my friends. And a lot of the crew, you know, I thankfully, I was able to kind of cherry pick the great crew members from Madison County and roadside to come along with me to film contracted. And that shorthand really helps a lot like my, you know, my sound guy knows where I'm going to shoot the shot. So he knows where, you know, where he should put the microphones, and, you know, just it really, really helps. So it was a great, great shoot really smooth. And, you know, every day was just kind of like, you know, I show up to set with with my shot ideas, my shot list. And then I see, you know, the scariest thing about shooting low budget films is sometimes you show up on set, and you're seeing location for the first time. So like, you know, I had ideas of shots that I wanted to do, but I didn't know if they were if they were possible. So you know, especially when you're shooting handheld, you can really adapt to your scene, you can really adapt to what your actors are going to do, you can adapt to your environment. So it made it really flexible, which I think really helped the film. And we kind of approach the entire movie, like we had a great plan, but we were very adaptable.

Jason Buff 1:13:46
So you hadn't seen some of the locations before. You didn't do like a location scout for each place that you shot or

Eric England 1:13:53
We did for the key locations like the the actual the house party at the very beginning of the film, and the end like Alice's house was that actress his house analysts like so I wrote. I mean, I'm not joking when I say it was a backyard movie. You know, I wrote the role for her. I knew she had a house. I knew she'd let us use it. And, you know, I had been to our house a million times. And then, you know, the the cafe and the bars that we shot at were places that my girlfriend worked at, you know, or the lead actor worked at and I had been to a million times and you know, so he was just riding around things we knew we could get that also worked for the store and we weren't forcing them into the movie, you know? And then But places like you know, the doctor's office I'd never seen before the the morgue, you know was shot on a soundstage. I'd never been to that place before. I'm trying to think if there any others. I think that was actually it, but But yeah, a lot of those places I had never seen before.

Jason Buff 1:14:53
Now the makeup for the movie was incredible. Did you get to did you I assume you didn't shoot everything kind of in the correct order. I mean, would you shoot one location? And do you know the makeup how she was normal than the gradual change? Every time you would shoot that location? Or did you try to shoot relatively in order

Eric England 1:15:15
We try, we that was kind of the nightmare, the shoot was the makeup because like we shot based on location, so like, we spent the first week of shooting at the house location for her and her mother. So like, you know, at the beginning of the movie, she's fine. And then towards the end of the film, she's like rotting away. So like, we would have to shoot certain, you know, makeup scenes in progression, and then go back. So like, the very last scene, the movie with a car crash actually takes place in front of the location where she goes to buy drugs, like midway through the movie, so we actually just shoot the ending of the film at the beginning of the day, and then take off the makeup and then reapply it to shoot a scene in the middle of the movie. So like that was kind of we shot but based on location, so that kind of, you know, forced our hand in which makeup scenarios were which but you know, and that that was kind of a pain in the ass just because it took so long. And we had a very, you know, minimal makeup crew, because we just didn't have a lot of money. So, you know, we were really kind of tied down to the makeup schedule, unfortunately. But we were able to kind of shoot around it or make it work. And, you know, my makeup artists and I was really involved with the makeup like I was very detailed in the screenplay. And we broke it down into three phases. We said, Okay, this is phase one, this is phase two, this is phase three. So we were able to kind of have a little bit of a shorthand, knowing where she needed to be with her makeup and kind of, you know, okay, this came after that we kept really good continuity photos, so we kind of knew what she looked like and things like that. So. So yeah, it was pretty regimented.

Jason Buff 1:16:47
Yeah, the thing with the eyes, I think, was the thing that really kind of was just like, shocking to me, you know, because like, she would walk around with their glasses on and then people would want to see her eyes. And that just kind of, you know, just having the red eye. It's just Yeah, freaky to me, you know?

Eric England 1:17:04
Yeah, it was once again, one of those simple, simple tricks and becomes really effective.

Jason Buff 1:17:09
Yeah. Well, you know, we, we've been talking a lot with other filmmakers about kind of body horror, and the concept of having a story that kind of got one foot in reality and one foot in, you know, fiction, which is that there is something very real about what she's going through, you know, it's like you identify with, okay, it's like, she's deteriorating, and there's some, like, kind of horrific science fiction side of that, but at the same time, it's told within the context of this is a real, you know, this kind of connects with something that people deal with in real life, you know? Yeah, totally. I mean, yeah. Okay. Like, I mean, I was talking to Adam Roboto, the other day, and he did The Taking of Deborah Logan. Yeah, I know, Adam, great guy. Yeah. And so it was like, the, the thing that I think connects and they connect in similar ways, you know, which is that you connect with the, the lead character immediately, because it it's based, you know, on something that's real, but it's also, you know, horror, you know, it's also like the science science fiction side of it.

Eric England 1:18:17
Yeah, totally. I like to call it like relatable, relatable horror, you know, and it's, like, it's so fascinating to me, because, like, you know, you can take like, you know, it's something as simple as like Halloween, you know, it's so relatable, because who hasn't, you know, had a babysitter or known a babysitter or been a babysitter, you know, it's like, that's, that's something that really resonates to a lot of people. And then you know, you see something like the strangers, it's like, who hasn't been home alone at night, and someone knocks on the door, you don't know who they are, or you haven't heard a creaky noise outside, you know, it's like that. Those are all relatable feelings and scenarios. And then, you know, but something like, you know, you watch something like the theme or the fly, which are both body horror films. You know, it's like, not many people have been trapped inside of a, you know, a machine that turns you into something or tries to teleport you or, you know, not many people have been stuck in, like, you know, an Antarctic environment with a creature, you know, but it's like, they find ways to get inside your fears and things like that. And it's like, for me, I think we're just kind of taking a more relatable approach, instead of like, trying to take a narrative that's not familiar and make people identify with it. We're taking something that's very familiar to them, and kind of using that as a shorthand to get our point across that much quicker. Because I think, you know, today's audiences check out really quickly if they don't relate to the characters right away.

Jason Buff 1:19:39
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that impressed me the most is just the restraint. You know, you let it build and it does happen very gradually, you know, so that you really get to know this character, but it's like slowly things start, you know, is there some way that you kind of like paste that out or like could feel what was the right moment for things to happen? And

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Jason Buff 1:20:10
I mean, do you? Do you go through your structure and say, Okay, I mean something like save the cat or the hero's journey, stuff like that you go through your story and say, Okay, this is going to be when this happens, and then we need to have this happen by this moment and stuff like that.

Eric England 1:20:26
Yeah, totally. That's a big part of my process. But I don't know, if I follow like, traditional structure, like save the cat, like, I've read the book. But it's like, I haven't touched in years, I really, it's more of a gut thing. You know, it's like I, I kind of think, like, what is the audience want at this point? What am I trying to tell them? Where's my character's journey at this point, it's like, really, it's just a matter of, in my opinion, I'm a big fan of ambiguity. And I'm a big fan of, you know, doling out enough information to keep the audience invested, but not enough to where they know everything, and they can figure it out. So it's like, for me, I want to keep them kind of on the hook. And if I have them on the hook, I can, I can pull them up and down whenever I want. And that's kind of the idea was, like, you know, I think some of the biggest, biggest moments in contracted like, at least in terms of like, effectiveness are really in the middle of the movie, because I'm, I'm not a big fan of following the structure of like, everything needs to build, build, build to the climax, and then you know, it explodes. Like, that's kind of the, that's kind of like the tentpole mentality of Hollywood nowadays is like, okay, you know, first we kidnap the girl, and then you know, then there's a chase scene in the middle. And then by the end of the movie, they're on top of a building and someone's gonna die, you know, and it's like, or, or, you know, like, the world's going to explode by the end of the movie, you know, and it's like, for me, I like the idea of, like, there being in a lot of movies are kind of taking this approach, like, if you look at, I don't know why, but this, this one always comes to mind for me, but like, you look at like Skyfall Skyfall, most of the action in that movie takes place in like, the middle of the film. And then the ending in the movie is contained into one house, you know, and it's like, it's almost like an anti climax. You know, it's, it's a narratively and emotionally satisfying climax. But in terms of the action, that's not really where it's at. So, for me, I tried to apply that to contract it a little bit where it's like, emotionally, the movies building and narratively the movies building, but like the action, so to speak in the film, like the grosser moments and stuff like that are kind of saved for the middle of the movie, like, yeah, there's gross moments towards the end, but I think I think they're a little more spread out than they are in the middle. So it's like, yeah, I, I definitely kind of plot and pick and choose where I want my moments to come for sure. Right?

Jason Buff 1:22:38
Do you feel like it's better to kind of, like, if you have a mystery that's going on in your story, it's like, better to keep that going as long as possible. Because inevitably, once the mystery is solved, it's like, okay, it's like, you know, it's not such a big deal, but like keeping people on the hook that the whole time, you know, that you're trying to figure it out? I mean, that seems like most, most stories nowadays have that like, some element and that you're kind of putting things together, you know, yeah, once you figure it out, it's like, whatever.

Eric England 1:23:08
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I'm a huge fan of mystery, like, mystery is one of my favorite genres. So it's like, I try to infuse a little mystery into everything I do, if at all possible. So I that that to me is part of the fun. It's like my favorite movie of all time is scream and, and it's like the who done it, the Scooby Doo, pull the mask off the end of the movie, like that element of it is my favorite thing. Like I will forever be a fan of the whodunit sub genre. Because if you can have a movie with cool characters, and horrible things are happening to them. And then by the end of the movie, you have to figure out who's doing it and why. Like, that's, that's a, that's a formula that never gets old for me. So I'm a big fan of of incorporating that. And, you know, keep keeping the audience on the hook, as you say, but it's funny, because, you know, with contract, it's like, to be honest with you, I didn't expect for there to be much mystery, like, you know, when I was writing the movie, I was kind of, you know, I was like, okay, like, people are gonna get what this is like, what she's turning into. And it's funny because the mood kind of took on a life of its own when people didn't realize like, what she was turning into until the very end. And it's so funny, because, like, at the end of the film, after the car crash, and she wakes up at like, the, you know, I watched the movie in theaters in Mexico and Spain, all over the world and all over the country. And it's like, the gasps at like, certain moments in the movie. I'm like, Really, you guys didn't see that coming? So, you know, it was it was really kind of eye opening for me to see, you know, how far you can take audiences and what audiences picked up on and what they didn't so, you know, it was it was kind of fun for me that that people you know, found that element of it to be really exciting.

Jason Buff 1:24:42
Well, you know, I think people are used to being told what, you know what it is and what how they're supposed to feel and you left that open, you know, yeah, exactly. So, just fast forwarding a little bit. I know you've talked a lot and you know, your blog, I highly recommend your blog for anybody who is a You know, out there wanting to know about filmmaking, and I was reading through it, and I got, you know, it was really nice to get, like a perspective on, you know, not like a politically correct written, you know, blog, but a blog that's actually talking about what you actually feel like and what happened. Can you talk about what happened with contracted after, you know, after you finished it? And, you know, of course what what has happened with the sequel?

Eric England 1:25:28
Yeah, I mean, you know, the short version is the movie, the movie was, you know, it's sad, it was finished. And then, you know, we started trying to sell it and showing it to people, and everyone thought it was so weird or to do gross or something, you know, there was always one excuse or another, we got really close to getting into South by Southwest, we got really close into getting into Tribeca, but at the last minute, it just didn't happen. So, you know, people I was trying to get work, I couldn't get hired for anything. And so I kind of thought I was a failure. My producers didn't think they were going to sell the movie for very much money. And then, um, you know, something crazy happened, people, you know, our poster got leaked, which ironically, the poster initially was something I made with a guy named Zack Palmisano. Um, you know, he and I just kind of cut it together really quickly after I sent him a couple ideas. And we were told it wasn't going to go public. And our sales agent accidentally posted it on their website when they weren't supposed to. And, and a new site found it and let it slip. So, you know, so

Jason Buff 1:26:30
Was that the one the one that everybody seen? Or was that something else?

Eric England 1:26:34
It's the one it's the one where only half her face is exposed. Oh, and I think it's like, actually the DVD cover now. But, um, but yeah, that was just something that, you know, I had cut together with Zach on our own, like, just, you know, they were like, Hey, we need something to represent the movie. And I was like, Look, I don't want to show her entire face yet. So I'll send them this half cut poster. And, you know, we'll just call that, like, the teaser image for right now. But I told the company, I was like, Look, don't let this go public. Like, we don't want anyone seeing this yet. And within four hours, it was all over the news sites. And I was like, freaking out, because I'm not a poster artist. You know, it's like I didn't, I thought we just ruined our film. But it caught on and everyone was like, I started getting text messages and all kinds of stuff. And people were like, wow, this is incredible. Like, we love this poster. And, and then you know, and then you know, IFC bought the movie, and, and, you know, the producers weren't happy with the sale initially. So, you know, they were like, alright, we're never gonna make any money off of this. So let's just start focusing on what's next. And, you know, at the time, they had no interest in working with me again, they were like, alright, you know, you, you, you made a movie, it's not gonna make a lot of money. But you know, congratulations, you might get another job off. We're not ever gonna see a dime. And I was like, I was like, I was like, Guys, I'm not getting hired for anything. Like, no, no one will hire me. Like, they think this movie is weird. And, you know, it's like, I don't know what's happening. And then, you know, the craziest thing happened, the trailer came out, and everyone started talking about it. And then the movie came out. And every even more people started talking about it. And Howard Stern was talking about it. And it's like, you know, it was over the course of just a couple of weeks, like, every everyone's perspective change. It's funny, I started getting emails from companies that had passed on me for things or said, No, we don't like your movie, who were suddenly like, hey, we watched your movie, did you change something? And I was like, No, I didn't change anything. The movies, just the movies just popular now. So you want to talk to me, you know, so it was, it was really eye opening for me. And it's funny, because I signed with my agent, like, the day after the movie came out in theaters. And, you know, my agent hates when I when I, you know, this this period of our exchange, but you know, I told my agent, I was like, Look, I don't want to take meetings with people who passed on my movie initially, or they only want to work. Because, because they thought, you know, contracted, you know, did really well or, you know, they think I can make them a lot of money. It's like, Yeah, this is a business and I get that, but it's like, I want to work with people who like what I do, not people who just like me, because I made someone else a lot of money, you know, so and my agent was like, no, no, this is Hollywood. Like, you have to be okay with that. So, so, you know, it's fine. Now. It's like, I've kind of come around to it, but it's like, I still stand by that to a degree. It's like, I like working with people who like Eric England films, not Eric England films that make money, you know, so that's kind of that's kind of my mentality when I approach it, but you know, it was very eye opening, because, like I said, a lot of people who initially wouldn't talk to me or, you know, didn't think I was good enough or whatever, suddenly, you know, open their arms were like, Hey, let's have a meeting. Let's talk what projects do you have? We have some projects, you know, so it was, it was just a very, very bizarre kind of chain change of pace, but you know, I wouldn't I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Jason Buff 1:29:45
Okay, so walk us through a little bit of what ended up happening with the sequel.

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Jason Buff 1:30:02
That, you know, I'll note that you're you weren't involved with other than doing the screenplays. Right? We're working on a screenplay for it.

Eric England 1:30:12
Um, yeah. So I, so basically what happened was, you know, I started writing a screenplay for them. And, you know, it was just decided that we weren't going to, you know, make the movie with the the budget, I was told that we were initially going to get so I said, Look, I'll still be involved, I'll, you know, I'll continue writing the screenplay, I'll produce the film. And, you know, we'll keep in the family, I'll kind of mentor the new director, who I hired, you know, Matt Mercer to do who was a producer and star the first one. And, you know, ultimately, what happened was they they decided that, you know, I was a better director than I am a writer, which I can't necessarily. And they didn't want to, they didn't want to pay for me to write the screenplay, or produced the film, because they thought I was gonna cost more money than I was worth, which actually wasn't, wasn't a lot of money. I was I was kind of, you know, given them the friend price at this point. So, you know, it was just a, you know, a little bit of, you know, Hollywood, Hollywood disagreement, you know, but bottom lines are important. And some people think, you know, $5 over what they're willing to spend is too much.

Jason Buff 1:31:20
So, do you still have people coming up to you and talking about how much they liked contracts?

Eric England 1:31:25
Um, sometimes, I mean, I have people, I had people, you know, come up to me and say, Hey, I'm about to watch the sequel. And I'm like, Look, I you know, I didn't make that one. And then I have people who reach out to me, and they're like, Hey, I can't wait to see contracted to and I'm like, you know, I didn't make that. Or I had people say, Hey, why didn't you make contract it too? So, I mean, yeah, you know, that. That's the whole reason I've kind of been vocal about my lack of involvement with the film is because, you know, when people think contracted, they they think of two people they think of Nishihara who played the lead actress and myself. And so I want people to understand that, you know, just because I made the first movie doesn't mean I had anything to do with the sequel. And it's like, I, if I liked the sequel, it would be a different story. Because then I would say, Yeah, I don't mind people associating me with that, but the sequel was it one, it's not a good film, but two, I even if it was a good movie, and I still had no involvement with it, it's like, I would let them know like, Hey, I liked the movie. But I didn't make it, you know? And but it's like, I don't like the movie. I don't think it's very good. So it's like, I don't want I don't want to be represented, or I don't want to be associated with that anyway, regardless. Right?

Jason Buff 1:32:31
Do you have any of that, like copyright and stuff that you had with the the other ones that you were talking about?

Eric England 1:32:37
I have no control over

Jason Buff 1:32:39
That's not part

Eric England 1:32:40
No I don't I don't own contracted. I do own part of the franchise. So like, I will make money off of the sequel, but, you know, it's it's Yeah, I don't control what happens with it.

Jason Buff 1:32:52
Right! Is the lead girl I haven't seen the second one out of respect. I don't know if that's good or bad, but haven't seen it yet. But, um, is the same Lead Actress in it, or is it completely?

Eric England 1:33:06
It's completely different people. She's she's in it for like, literally two shots.

Jason Buff 1:33:11
That kind of sucks. All right. Yeah. Um, so. Okay, so your your latest film? What can you tell us about that? I unfortunately, haven't seen it. So I don't really know. have specific questions, but have you? Is that Is it like, in the same? Can you can you talk a little bit about it?

Eric England 1:33:30
Yeah. I mean, I can't say much because the movie is not out yet. It'll be out. Okay. Oh, but um, but yeah, I mean, it's once again, completely different movie. It's more of like a dark comedy thriller shows a lot of humor. You know, I wanted to do something a little different tonally and, you know, it's, it's a crowd pleaser, I wanted to do something that I felt like I would like to watch as an audience member and something that I thought, you know, fans in this world haven't necessarily seen before. It's definitely a unique, dark and fun movie.

Jason Buff 1:34:02
When is, what what's the plan with that? Is it gonna go to festivals? And then

Eric England 1:34:06
I don't know, I mean, I like I said, I'm not a big, you know, I love festivals, but I think their mentality is a little different than mine. So, we may play some festivals, if we find the right ones that I think you know, kind of fit within the world of what we want to do with the film. But, you know, the goal is to release it next year, just kind of get it out to the audience.

Jason Buff 1:34:25
Okay, do you do you ever go to AFM or any of that stuff?

Eric England 1:34:28
I don't personally, I mean, my sales reps and everything like that do it's not really a filmmaker friendly place. Okay. It's kind of like going to a cattle auction and you being a cow.

Jason Buff 1:34:40
Okay. So, you know, I'll just kind of wrap it up with this. If you could just maybe give a little bit of advice or what you let's try this. If you could give advice to yourself, let's say, you know, you're relatively young director, one of the things that kind of impressed me when I was looking through your information was, you know, You're born in 1988? Like, it kind of, I'll be honest, I mean, it, it annoyed me a little bit, you know? Sorry. It's okay. No, it's good, you know. But if you could go back in time to when you were younger, when you were like, say, 19? What? What advice would you give to yourself about filmmaking?

Eric England 1:35:22
Um, you know, the, I give the same advice to everyone. And I think it's the same advice I would give to myself, which is be as original as possible. You know, the craziest thing for me in my career is I started making movies when the world perspective of filmmaking and also the marketplace itself was drastically changing. I mean, you have movies now with two of the biggest stars, like, you know, like Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Lawrence and that are going straight to VOD now, you know, so it's, it's a completely different world. And so the best thing you can do is just make the movie you want to make but also know that you're making it for an audience. You know, don't the world of just making movies for yourself is dead, like, you can't be a filmmaker. Like that's, that's now a hobby. You know, like, if you want to be in a tour, and make films that only you like, then then you know, make it as a hobby. Filmmaking is too expensive to try and do that on a on a mass level. But I think if you truly want to be a working filmmaker and you want to be in the movie business, then be original, but know that your originality needs to be commercial to someone so that they can sell your product and continue getting you work. And I think that's the best thing you can do. Be aggressive, be original, and, you know, keep a good head on your shoulder be objective.

Jason Buff 1:36:36
Eric, man, I appreciate it. Thanks for coming on the show.

Eric England 1:36:38
No problem. Thanks for having me,

Jason Buff 1:36:40
Talk to you later.

Eric England 1:36:42
All right.

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BPS 324: Screenwriting the 80’s Classic Cocoon with Tom Benedek

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BPS 321: Inside the Golden Age of Hollywood with George Stevens Jr.

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George Stevens Jr. 0:00
You may find along the way that you thought, oh, I want to be an actor. And you find out later, you know, I, I'd like to be a costume designer, I've seen that. And, or, or director, whatever. And you know, so have some flexibility. Don't kind of set you're saying, Oh, I'm going to be a director, because you may find that may not be your strongest suit.

Alex Ferrari 0:27
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show, George Stevens Jr. How you doing George?

George Stevens Jr. 0:42
I'm doing well. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:43
Thank you so much for coming on the show. Sir. I'm, I'm excited to talk to you. You've lived a very interesting life, sir, to say the least.

George Stevens Jr. 0:50
Well, I'm working on it.

Alex Ferrari 0:53
You have, you have definitely gone through some journeys in your life and in the film industry and in politics in so many different areas. So my first my first question to you is, how did you get started in the film industry, and I know your father was a little well known, directed, the little guy started out a few years ago. But how did you get your interest? How did you get your foot in the door, if you will?

George Stevens Jr. 1:14
Well, as you suggest, my father was a director of I did just for full disclosure, my great grandmother was born in San Francisco after the Civil War and became an actress and a fine actress on the stage. And she was known as the youngest Ophelia to the great Edwin booths Hamlet. He was the greatest Shakespearean actor really, I think, in American history. Certainly, his Hamlet is renowned. And she started five generations of Stevens is in showbusiness, her daughter, Georgie Cooper, was my father's mother. And she married an actor called landers, Stevens, and it kind of went on from there. And yes, having been born to a father, who was the director. At the time I was born, he was photographing Laurel and Hardy comedies was a cameraman. And in 1935, he directed Alice Adams, with Katharine Hepburn and Frederick Berry, at age 30. And from then on, he really just made great films, one after the other, had a three year experience in World War Two overseas in that chronology. And when he came back from the war, I was buying a couple of years after that I was graduating from high school, and I didn't have a summer job. And he said, Well, you can help me. And he gave me two jobs. One, did this at home, and was to break down Theodore Dreiser's an American tragedy, the great novel of a, of a murder in, in the eastern United States, because he was about to write the screenplay for what became called a place in the sun with welcome Marie Clift, and Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters, which was there his first Oscar winning picture as a director. And I broke that down and gave him all the information and two notebooks. And then also I was to read the stories, they sent from Paramount Pictures where his company was, they'd send books, screenplays, all sorts of stuff. And it was pretty. It actually was kind of boring, because most of these were kind of treat Glee love novels, you know, for a 17 year old or hot summer afternoons. But one afternoon, a smaller book came, and I picked it up, and I read it in the afternoon, and I went to see him that night with the book in my hand, and I walked in, he was in bed reading and I said, Dad, I said, this is really a good story. I think you want to read it? And he said, Why don't you tell me the story? So I started and my brain started working and I started reconstructing this book that I'd read and I walked around his bed, telling him the story of Shane. It was Jackson novel. And you know, I could get more interested in that a little boy with this gun gunslinger he had. And then the next summer, I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with my first job on a movie set. I was what was called company clerk, which meant I kept track of stuff, but I was right near that camera. And I did not know it was going to be a class. like film, Shane is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. So it was 71 years ago that I was in Jackson Hole. And watching Alan Ladd and Ben Heflin and Jean Arthur. And this little boy from New York who'd never been west of New Jersey. And he, Jack Palance, who came was his first major role. And so I was there. I've seen it all. And, and I did kind of fall in love with it.

Alex Ferrari 5:37
You got so I mean, you were born into the business. I know a lot of people who've been born in the business don't get bitten by the bug. But it seems like you were not only bitten, you were not you were mauled by the bug.

George Stevens Jr. 5:50
Some, some people get bitten badly by it. To take particularly, I mean, I'm very fortunate that I had a wonderful father and mother. But sons of famous fathers, they're, you know, at the time that most of them were having difficulty with it. And I think largely by the nature of my father. It worked out beautifully for him. And for me, we became partners into things together later.

Alex Ferrari 6:21
Now, you. You've also worked on he worked as a PA on a bunch of your father's movies. One specific one specifically was a little film called giant. What was it like? Being on set, watching Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, and what's the biggest lesson you pulled from being on the set of, of such a classic film like that?

George Stevens Jr. 6:44
Gotcha. There are so many Alex. But it was a great experience. Because I gotten out of the Air Force. I gotten out of college, Occidental College, and the Korean War ended. And, and they postponed my commission for a year. And I had nothing to do. And at that very moment, or just a couple of months before dad had acquired the novel giant, and made a deal with Warner Brothers to make it. So I spent nine months with him and two writers, in his living room, working on the script of giant is obviously as a junior partner observer, for the most part, but it he started to learn about film structure. And then one night, then I went in the Air Force. And when he started shooting, just before I was in Los Angeles, and he said, when it goes to show you a movie, so my mother and dad and I went to so Frank's on Hollywood Boulevard, and then across the street to the Egyptian Theatre. And so ealier Kazakhstan's East of Eden and the reason he wanted me to see it was that this young actor never seen before, comes on the screen and had this way of kind of walking in his hooded eyes. And it was James Steen. And dad was considering casting him in the role of jet Reek, who in the book was described at this sort of burly, big fellow. But Jimmy Dean was shooting Rebel Without a Cause at Warner Brothers. And he kept hanging around dad's office because he knew about giant and he wanted to be in giant. And though he was very different than jet, Rick had been imagined. Dad thought he was a kind of a once in a lifetime talent and gave him that role. And when you think about it, the three stars Rock Hudson was 28 These actors all going on to play in their 50s You know, with gray hair. Elizabeth was 23. And Jimmy Dean was 23 and was worth I was 23. And, you know, but to watch this work go on. Being in the Air Force. I I flew to Virginia to see the film shot in Virginia, where the film begins, where Elizabeth Taylor is the daughter of this man with a great stallion war winds. And Rock Hudson comes from Texas, by war winds and they fall in love very quickly, et cetera, et cetera. So I was there, and then I would fly into Marfa, Texas, and then I would be on this set. And, and there were lots of experiences. Sad experience. I was on the set very late in the picture. Jimmy Dean had finished all of his shooting. And he had he had agreed not to draw he had a little racecar and he agreed not to drive it while the film was going on. Because of he broke his leg. Everybody would be out of work. He understood that that he had finished shooting. So he bought a sport a Porsche spider. I think a poor spider 500 It was called and I was On the set one day and Jimmy walked in with his kind of tinted glasses, and told me about the car. And he said, you want a ride? So I walked outside the big soundstage at Warner Brothers with all those, you know, narrow roads. You've seen pictures if you haven't been there, and this little gray roadster sitting on the ground seem so tiny. And we got into it. And he revved it up and we drove through the studio. Lots of thank God, a prop truck wasn't coming or studio policeman, and, and back art. And he said, What do you think? And I said, Well, it's pretty good, pretty good. But now of course, the sad part of the story is that to two weeks later, Jimmy had told my father, he was going to ship the car up to Salinas, from Los Angeles, where he was going to be racing, and bid on the morning of the day, he decided not to ship it, and he and his mechanic, got in the car, and Jimmy drove it up. And they had that accident on the Pacific Coast Highway. And Jimmy was really a it's a complicated guy, but he was talented and, and fun. And I think he had plans to become a director. And, you know, but it was such a tragic loss. And it is strange. How, you know, this is 65 years ago, giant. How his memory lives today.

Alex Ferrari 11:39
Oh, without question. He's, I mean, I've been I've been at the observatory. I've seen the clock there and that statute, James Dean. Yeah, I mean, he's, I mean, rebel with those those movies giant rebel and East of Eden. I mean, they just, it is one of the tragic stories of Hollywood history. Without question well could have, what else could have been? What else could he have done? If given the opportunity, it was it was pretty

George Stevens Jr. 12:03
good. Just by then 24 had a whole life ahead of him. You asked about lesson on giant and one might be interested, two years, filmmaker. listeners. Were editing the film, I was now out of the Air Force. And it's three hour and 20 minute film giant. We, we premiered it at the Turner Classic Movies Festival last year, Steven Spielberg, and I introduced a restoration of it. And that film plays to see it with an audience in all those years later, and they are just with it every minute on the big giant IMAX screen. It's all about an independent women woman. They weren't making films about independent women in 1956. And it's a film about the Hispanic problem, or that that existed back then. And it's a issue we are still working with in our country. So the film is so far ahead of its time, and it's in its kind of values, and concerns. But we were editing. And we've been I've been working with him for a year in the editing room, again, hot summers. And I've got a golf game to worry about. And we've had two previews. And I said to him, just the two of us there. And, you know, we're running the picture. And I said, Dad, I said this picture, we've had two previews, audiences love it. I think just don't you want to just get it out there. And he looked at me and he said, Well, you think how many man hours I think today said man and woman hours are going to be spent over the years, watching this picture people sitting and watching it, how much time will be spent? Don't you think it's worth a little more of our time, right now to make it as good as we can. And it's a lesson that I took with me and everything that I've done in that idea that and that it's just, I just finished a book called My Place in the Sun, life in the golden age of Hollywood in Washington. And I was finishing it during COVID, which gave me time and I worked on it like giant to I just would go back to the quote real one as well. He would do chapter one, and go through it and just polish it and make it as good for the audience as you can. So the lesson is respect for the audience. And I think that should be in the head of every filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 14:50
Absolutely. Without question. Now. You were when you were on the set of giant you had a young Elizabeth Taylor, which was your age at the time. She's obviously The legend and what she was able to do. I've got to imagine God a guy, you must have had a crush on her. I mean, every man on that set probably had a

George Stevens Jr. 15:10
rage. I met her a few years before when dad was placed in the sun. And I came on the set, and a Saturday, and Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, we're shooting a scene. And I'm watching dad direct the scene, and a quick story, because people who make films and and he said, Monty, want to go over there by the pool table. And Elizabeth, why don't you just start at the door? And then we'll just try to. And so they went, and they did the scene with a clip, clips, clip script girl, a person giving her, you know, corrections if they missed the dialogue. And that's it. All right, he said, Let's do it one more time, and suddenly went back. And they did it again. Yeah. And it sounds good. Let's do it one more time. It's got to go. They do it again. And then after that money comes over and comes up close to him and starts asking questions, and Elizabeth comes over anyway. And then anyway, they barely get the scene all set, and it was time for lunch. And I said it and I said, Why don't you have them do it three times before you gave him any instruction. And he said, sometimes it's helpful for the actors to know that they may need some help.

Alex Ferrari 16:35
That's really, that's actually pretty brilliant. It's a brilliant way of,

George Stevens Jr. 16:39
you know, his his job was to make the actors comfortable. But in order to give them advice, the advice has to be welcomed. If he goes over there says no, no, why don't you go here, and you go there and do that. Anyway, it's just a little lesson in indirect thing, but on that day, he introduced me to Elizabeth, on the SAT. And she was without question, in my mind, the most beautiful person on the planet, you know? And then as we're getting ready for lunch, Lisbeth walks over, said, Would you like to go to lunch, too, I found myself walking down the streets of the Paramount Studio. We were both 17 and right. And we go to the commissary, and she kind of walks in, and I follow in her wake as the woman takes her to a corner table, and all and then we had an end. She said, What would you like? And I was kind of fumbling around with the menu. I'm going to have a hamburger and a chocolate milkshake. And I said, that works. Let's do. And so I had lunch with Elizabeth Taylor, which was and, and throughout many episodes in my book, because Elizabeth kept coming in and out of my life and right up to the very end of hers. And she's a she was a wonderful talent, and great fun.

Alex Ferrari 18:14
That must have been this amazing. Well listen with all of the, I mean, you grew up in the golden age of Hollywood, and you were in the midst of it. You were in the thick of it. Were there any actors or actresses that had a major impression on you in your life? You will

George Stevens Jr. 18:31
obviously many from on the screen. And lucky some of the older ones, Jimmy Stewart, and Henry Fonda. Bette Davis, and I when I started the American Film Institute, that's another story share we use we I started the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. And, you know, the first was John Ford, and the second was James Cagney and Orson Welles and Jimmy Stewart and Capra and Fred a

Alex Ferrari 19:04
few other names. Yes, yeah.

George Stevens Jr. 19:07
And so I knew all of those greats, but I think the two who because I had I worked with him and personal situations were Sidney Poitier and Jack Lemmon. They were a few years older than I am, but more of my generation. And I knew I knew them in all aspects of their lives, not me became great friends, but I did, produced and directed and wrote separate that equal. The story of Brown versus Board of Education, a miniseries that won the Emmy for Outstanding miniseries and I did another only I've only done two mini series and both one the me one with Jack and one was Sydney and, and Jack was this this extraordinary gift If did Othello who could do drama and comedy, and, and was such fun. And Sydney had of all the great human qualities, in addition to being such a pioneer in the matter of and separate that equal was about equal justice, he played Thurgood Marshall arguing, developing and arguing the case against segregated schools in the Supreme Court that led to the outline of segregated schools. So

Alex Ferrari 20:34
those two those are two pretty, pretty impressive wants to say the least. Both legends in their own right, because we're in the golden age so much, is there any misconceptions that people have of that time in Hollywood at that time in filmmaking in general, any misconceptions that you think that? That you can think that kind of suit to your mind,

George Stevens Jr. 20:55
I guess what, I don't think, I guess there are all kinds of conception, Alex. But one is, it looks like a lot of fun. It was really hard work, and make and making the great films, particularly though, you know, accepting those challenges, and then films are filled with adversity, if something's gonna go wrong, you know, and if you're talking from the director standpoint, how do you deal with adversity? How do you deal with personalities. But when you tie a ribbon around it, you know, Turner Classic Movies. It's just amazing how so often you turn on and there's something that's just delightful. And it's, there's another phrase that's kind of part of the Stephens family that it involves another little story, but dad and I went to Academy Awards in 1952. And then I sat next to him and Joseph L. Mankiewicz came on the stage, who had won the Oscar the year before for All About Eve. And he read the nominees for Best Director. And he said that John Houston, The African Queen, William Wyler, Detective Story. Vincent Minelli, An American in Paris elior, Kazakhstan, A Streetcar Named Desire, and George Stevens of place in the sun.

Alex Ferrari 22:46
It's a pretty good year to say the competition was stiff that year, let's just say.

George Stevens Jr. 22:51
And I wouldn't be telling you this story. If John Houston had one for African Queen. My father won his first Oscar for our son. And we were riding on that night. And the Oscar was in the seat between us. He was driving the car, little old school air. And the Oscar was on the seat between us. And for some reason, he looked at me. And he said, you know, he said, we'll have a better idea what kind of a film this is in about 25 years. Now this is when movies came and went, there were no cinema texts. There were no DVD, there was no street in. But he having grown up in the theater, and we read the great plays, understood that the important thing about a film was what it stand the test of time. And he did not know that the 17 year old sitting next to him would one day be the founder of the American Film Institute, which is based on the idea of movies that last and the test of time, or the Kennedy Center Honors, which is about artists whose work stands the test of time, but it is also like respecting the audience. This idea of the test of time is kind of how I frame my appreciation for my own work for you know, the work that that I value and treasure now how

Alex Ferrari 24:25
did you says he since you brought up the AFI which is obviously a legendary institution, a film institution, one of the greatest film schools ever to be created as well as the honors that you create the Lifetime Achievement Award, which I watched every year when they came out. I started in the 80s when it started to come out and you know I remember Clinton Marty and Steven and you know Jack and these guys, there was just so much fun. Especially if when Robin Williams showed up.

George Stevens Jr. 24:56
Or John Stewart

Alex Ferrari 24:58
or Rickles or Rickles I mean, destroying Scorsese, which was in a way only rape was good. Yeah. So what how did you begin and what caused you to begin to create the AFI, which is pretty, pretty, you know, audacious goal to start with?

George Stevens Jr. 25:16
Well, I was I after giant, I worked with my father, I started directing, I directed Peter Gunn, Alfred Hitchcock Presents those kind of shows. And then I went to work with my father on the Diary of Anne Frank. And we completed that I was associate producer. And then he got behind schedule, and I directed all of the location work in Amsterdam. It always done his own location work. So it was a big step up for me. But I, I did kind of joke to my friends that I said, I think I'm spending I'm going to devote my entire life to becoming the second best film director in my family. And then Edward R. Murrow, the great broadcaster came into my life, President Kennedy had been elected, had asked me to run the United States Information Agency, which made the Voice of America telling America's story abroad. And they had a film division. They made 300 documentaries a year. And Ed wasn't satisfied with the documentaries. And he asked me to come run the motion picture division of USAA. And it took me into the new frontier and President Kennedy. And it's just a whole exhilarating new world. And I was making films, I mean, we've had was able to add wanted, total rejuvenation of what was being done under the More staid Eisenhower administration. And I've brought lots of young filmmakers who went on to have great careers, and we made wonderful films. And I love one thing about President Kennedy, he was so eloquent. And he was off, I had wonderful quotes in his speeches. And one that I remember, I'd written down, he, he read the ancient ancient Greek poetry, you know, and he loved to quote, and then he spoke of the Greek definition of happiness, which the ancient Greeks said, is the fullest use of one's powers along lines of excellence. And I realized that Ed Murrow and President Kennedy had put me in the saddle of Greek happiness. I was making films loving what I was doing, along lines of excellence and for public purpose. So it was a wonderful Moreau and Kennedy were great influences on me at age 3029 and 30, when I came to that job, and 1967, but I had, you know, in the Kennedy government, because there's not much about film going on. And I, you know, had earned some prominence because people were conscious of the films we were making, and working with Murrow. And so people would come to me when it was an issue of film, and the National Endowment for the Arts was created to support the arts, the first legislation, funding for the arts, and they knew how to they could give grants to ballet companies or symphony orchestras. But what do they do about film? You can't give a grant to MGM, you know? So, we came to me and I suggested an American Film Institute, because I had been working with young filmmakers and knew that we needed a better opportunity and training. I was conscious of the disappearing of our film heritage that all the film was made on nitrate stock from the beginning of the 1940s. were disappearing. Nope, good catching on fire. In great archive fires are. So we started this film rescue program at AFI. And I was asked to run it and actually, Gregory Peck was the first chairman and Sidney Poitier to bring his name up again, was vice chairman of AFI when we started it.

Alex Ferrari 29:25
Now, at that time, and correct me if I'm wrong, there weren't that many film schools or programs in the country at all right. And the six were

George Stevens Jr. 29:33
several there, you know, UCLA and USC had programs, Columbia, and NYU, maybe a few others, but they were part of four year courses. We have a theory I had a theory that what we needed was a bridge, from education to the profession. And so we called our students fellows and they came for two years. To gain that added knowledge, you weren't required to have been a film student. You know, I was as interested in what they were going to bring to the screen as to what whether they knew how to run a movie Ola, you know, among our first outstanding students, one was Terrence Malick. And Terry had made one little 30 minute film, I think, in the back of it taxi cab. But he had, he was a Rhodes scholar. He was teaching philosophy at MIT men, a journalist, he was going to bring something to the screen. And another was art student in Philadelphia. And we gave a grant to make a little film called The grandmother, which is picture a perfect little film about a grandmother. It was quite weird. And then he came to AFI, and his name was David Lynch. I knew where you were going with that. Ahead of me,

Alex Ferrari 31:05
I was ahead of you on that one. Second, you said weird, and I already felt that was David coming in. I mean, yeah, who are some heat for the audience? Can you kind of talk a little bit about who the alumni are because you have really, you know, the AFI is popped out some of cinemas, Best Tours and best filming.

George Stevens Jr. 31:24
Honest Kaminsky, the cinematographer who's worse there's all of Steven Spielberg's films at Darren Aronofsky, Caleb Deschanel, who's with one of the first fellows and is still a top cinematographer. Oh gosh, somebody, the woman who directed coda? Oh, yeah, yes, she's there. And just outstanding. I wish I had the list in front of me. But those are a few memory. But the district you many, many wonderful filmmakers are from a Ed's wick. And Mark.

Alex Ferrari 32:10
I've had it on the show. It is such a wonderful, such a beautiful soul. Oh, he's such a want to say talking I when I had him on the show, it's like talking to the church of cinema. So just the reverence like yourself, the reverence for cinema is remarkable. You mentioned that you worked on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as a director. Am I Am I fair to say that you met Mr. Hitchcock and spoke to him and

George Stevens Jr. 32:33
worked with him? And what? Indeed, yes. Oh, please.

Alex Ferrari 32:37
He's happy to tell me some stories about Alfred please.

George Stevens Jr. 32:43
Actually, only to say only almost to say hello, when I was directing Alfred Hitchcock, because he would busy making psycho or something. But he had a wonderful woman, Joan Harrison, in this woman who ran it and I really worked through Joan. But then when I started the AFI, Hitchcock would come and do wonderful seminars at AFI. He was just so so precise about moviemaking, and wanted to simplify it. And I remember him saying, Well, how important the screenplay is. And it he said, once the screenplay is right, he says, It's automatic. And then somebody to work with Why don't you let somebody else then go direct it. He said, they may screw it up.

Alex Ferrari 33:44
And that drove away oh, that's

George Stevens Jr. 33:50
what we honored him with the AFI Life Achievement award show. I saw that um, and, you know, he, he was very much at the end of his career. He died the next year. But he is what you see is what you get with hitch. That's that manner and attitude is who he is.

Alex Ferrari 34:21
As a director, we all go through times that the we feel like the world is going to come crashing down around us on set during a production. What was that? Out of all the projects you've been on or been on your father set or your set? What was the biggest calamity or thing that you obstacle that came across? And how did you overcome it in the day?

George Stevens Jr. 34:42
Gosh, I'm trying to think of my father's films they were so frequent, the betta if this is not right in the line, but I'll tell you a story of his story of mine. The day we were going to shoot the scene where Jack Palance gunned down guns down. Stonewall Tory in front of Grafton saloon. And Shane, which is has to be one of the three. I don't know what the other two are most famous gunshots in films that your dad had this idea of, of. He wanted the muddy Street and then we you know, and he was looking for clouds up there in the Tetons. And he got there. And it was a Saturday. And they hadn't gotten that they've watered the street, but it was not. And he did not. And he was willing to send the whole crew home for Saturday. Bring them back on Sunday. And he said, get water from the river. I want this street flooded. And if you remember, Stonewall Tory, the little Southerner when he gets off his horse and start walking toward the saloon where Jack Palance is standing on the boardwalk in front of it. He's sliding through this mud. His foot footsteps are so unsteady. But for Dad, that was a disaster. You know, he knew how important that scene was to him. He decided to send the crew home at whatever cost and bring them back the next day, because that scene had to be perfect. When I was working with Sidney Poitier and this is a more personal I had been doing a lot of stuff since Peter Gunn, I'd founded the AFI Kennedy Center Honors this and that, and and actually, two separate but equal was the first time I had been directing. I produced and written the murder of Mary Fagan, which act lemon which won the Emmy. Now I'm doing this, and I hadn't. But Cindy believed in me, he loved the script. Both Jack and Sidney refused to do television that based on scripts I handed them they agreed to do television in these instances. And we were filming the scene. Cindy has been down in the south and seeing that trouble there. And and has gotten people in Clarendon County, African Americans to agree to file a suit that would become part of the Brown versus Board of Education legal case. He comes back up to New York, where the NAACP Legal Defense Fund law offices are. He comes in late, several of the lawyers are playing poker and Rio and and Sidney comes in, puts his stuff down, comes and sits down with him and plays and a poker before telling him where the story is in South Carolina. I unseen the comedies that Cindy had made with Cosby, you know, we're really great stuff. And Cindy started doing some kind of comic stuff. That wasn't what I was expecting. And I, I kind of Ted Cotton said Bassam to change the light and make an excuse, and kind of walked around, the only place we could find was that store room with lights and junk and everything. And I walk in with Sydney, and this is the two of us. And I said Sydney, I said, I'm not quite sure what what we're doing in this scene. And I don't think I phrased it very well. And that wonderful face looked at me with those eyes. And you said, Well, what is it that you want done in the scene? And I saw this whole thing falling apart. It's at the first kind of direction I give him, you know, and, and I just stood there and we looked at one another. And I don't know where it came from. But I said, I see Thurgood Marshall, as a man with secrets, said he says when that is what to want. Say that word. We went back to work. And we never had a false moment the rest of the way. But it's, it's you know, I've I look back on it. Thankfully, you know, if I faltered there, it could have been uncomfortable going forward.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Right? You know, it's really interesting. That's such a great thing because each actor is his or her own world. And they work in a very specific way. And it's really interesting, because if you have two or three or four actors in the scene, and they all are working in different styles in different ways, as a director, it's difficult to you can't just do a broad direction you got to do this to that one. That one's being method that one's not being method and, and this time and get into the personalities and egos of the situation. It's a very interesting job.

George Stevens Jr. 40:00
To record. And a very good rule of thumb is, if you have something difficult, I mean, if it's everything fine, but if there's something and you want to address something with one app, if you know things are difficult, you want to address something with one actor, how to break it up, and then quietly take the actor aside and talk to them one on one. You don't want to embarrass an actor, or, you know, in front of the other actors, or right, then they might feel they have to dig in or justify themselves. So it private attention to individual actors is very important.

Alex Ferrari 40:44
Now, with all the professional accomplishments you've had in your life, which is the one that you are the most proud of.

George Stevens Jr. 40:51
Gosh. I'll pick one for you. It's a film called a film called George Stevens, a filmmakers journey. I've made it shortly after my father's death. And it's a film biography of my father. And I'm pleased to say that some friends and colleagues and some strangers say that it's the best documentary about a filmmaker ever. And it was so important to me. And I am so happy that it you know, I applied those rules that I learned from him, just work on it until you get it right. And to respect the audience, let the audience bring something to the film. And that film is going to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. And it was on turning movies a few nights ago. And in I think your audience, people who are interested in filmmaking to go George Stevens, a filmmakers journey. So on the criteria Terry to channel I think it's on HBO, Max, are there ways to see it? And it you know, I was able to interview I mean, Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn and Warren Beatty and directors, Houston and moody and and Capra, it's for a film lover, or even a

Alex Ferrari 42:26
smorgasbord. Yeah, it's a smorgasbord without question. If you could go back in time, and give your 17 year old self, who's just finished having lunch with Elizabeth Taylor, some advice? What advice would that be?

George Stevens Jr. 42:44
About? Gosh, it's pretty plain, but find something to do that you love. You know, that's the end, if it's making movies, be prepared for a tough road. And you and your show are often exploring with people, how do you get somebody to look at my movie pay for my movie, read my script, you know, and there's there, there's no short answer for that. It's whatever the circumstances, you have to work with those circumstances. But, but to stick with it, and, and you may find along the way, that you thought, oh, I want to be an actor. And you find out later, you know, I I'd like to be a costume designer, I've seen that. And, or, or direct or whatever. And, you know, so have some flexibility. Don't kind of set your say, Oh, I'm going to be a director. Because you may find that that may not be your strongest suit. So kind of determination and flexibility. And, and always to be reminded once you get some control and gaining control over your work, if you're a director is very important, and very hard to achieve. But once you have it, respect the audience, I remember my father saying and it's from another era, but he you read us a wonderful pictures of the early 40s Woman of the Year The first Spencer Tracy, picture, Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur. And the more the merrier. Cary Grant and Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman. There's just so many pictures. But he talked about they would open in the RKO City musical, which has 5000 seats, have a picture of him in front of it when Penny Serenade was opening a picture showed at that Turner Classic Film Festival last week with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. But he said there's something when 5000 minds come together, he said, they close the circuit, they bring their intelligence, they bring their curiosity. And the link is closed between the filmmaker and the audience. And just to have that idea that the audience he said about shame, which, you know, classic Western at all, somebody was trying to make it a little fancy. And he said, You know, I think I made Shane for the truck driver in Arkansas, says he spends a day alone driving his truck, and he may not be able to articulate his thoughts. But he's thinking, and he's curious about things, and he has ideas, and I want to leave a little something for him to do when it comes to the movie, let him bring something to it. That was beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 45:59
Really, really beautiful. You know, since you've, you know, been raised in Hollywood, and you've seen the change from the Golden Age, to where we are today. Where do you think the future of the industry, with all this new technology, this new generation that's coming up that is not as in love with movies as maybe my generation or your generation was? Because so many other options for entertainment are out there? What do you think the future is for Hollywood moving forward?

George Stevens Jr. 46:31
Well, it's very much up in the air. And I tell you what, I hope it's I hope that the movie going experience revives itself, that there's something more than Marvel Comics and the big, you know, pictures that people love, for good reason. But that, that, right now, it's almost only those that are flourishing in today's theatrical, you know, and I want people to see pictures on the big screen, that idea of my father with 5000 people, if it's 500, or 1000, you have seen it with other people. So I'm hoping that that will renourish itself. And of course, there are values to streaming people, our sets are getting bigger at home. And it's a better experience than it used to be. But it's it's, and more good directors and writers are now working for streaming and television. Yeah. Because they can tell stories that they want to. And that's in my, my plans for the immediate future, because it is a way to tell ambitious stories. So and now we have this writer's strike, which is, I think, very serious, because I think the writers are really feeling genuine. And I'm, of course, a member of the Writers Guild of displacement, that there are just there are less jobs and people are finding way and they kind of fear that AI, they're going to start asking AI to write a script or Polish a script or whatever. And so I'm very much interested in the writers reestablishing a place. But it has changed so much that it it's going to be difficult, but very important that the studios and the writers and the other guilds come together in a way that's fair. I mean, there are people in making $50 million a year off of the work that these writers are doing, and asked to be some way to find a fair situation that allows this fabulous medium that is so rich and provide so much for it to flourish.

Alex Ferrari 49:10
It isn't always the way though, that the machine will always take advantage of the artists if let left alone to its own devices. Right and that's why the unions are important. And that's why you know, collective and all that stuff with what's going on. I agree. And it's more I've spoken. I've spoken to so many writers on the show, who are just saying it's just becoming more and more difficult to make a living, not even become rich just make a living in the business directors as well because it's becoming more gig orientated like here. Here's a flat fee. Thank you very much out the door. You go in that there was a job every week maybe. But yeah, but there isn't a direct

George Stevens Jr. 49:57
people used to direct television kind of Like I did long ago, there were three networks or four networks with a whole season, what 2030 episodes, you know, that's kind of diluted. Now. Someone told me that prominent agent speaking to two days ago, that I think the last strike was 2008, seven or eight. And that year, the network's shot 55 pilots, right this year, there were 15 pilots. So it's all changing. And I hope there's some smart enough people sitting at the top and working for the unions that can find a balance that's going to, as I say, nourish this medium that we all love so much. I agree

Alex Ferrari 50:56
with you, 100%, I don't want to I grew up in the I grew up in the the the video store days, I worked in a video store. And that's what I fell in love with release. And yeah, that's where I mean, I was in high school, and I rented movies. And that's where I discovered giant, and that because I could see them all. And I just started and that's where I fell in love with movies and became decided to become a director. But I worked at a movie theater and believe me, and I remember my first movie in the theater and things, but my children don't like I've taken to the theaters, but they're just like, it's nice, but it's not as important.

George Stevens Jr. 51:28
So did not grow up with now going to have the first adult generation that did not go grow up going to the movies, and are at and it's something that's going to have to be managed. And you know, in the ID you can look at a movie on your phone with all due respect.

Alex Ferrari 51:47
No matter how clean and crisp the phone is. I mean, it's a travesty to watch taxi driver on your iPhone. I mean, seriously, I mean, are giant, for God's sakes, it's the movie itself is called giant, you should not be watching it on a small screen

George Stevens Jr. 52:01
it to watch taxi driver in a taxi?

Alex Ferrari 52:06
Essentially, that's it? Well, that's a different experience, depending on what street you're driving down and who's driving. George, what do you hope to leave behind is a legacy in film, with the work that you've done over the course of your your life and career,

George Stevens Jr. 52:23
will I encourage people to read my place in the sun, or listen to it just come out on the audiobook. It's hard for me to recite, but I've I've, from my standpoint, I love I've loved being involved in it. And, and kind of aspiring all the way I really did kind of set for myself as standard of excellence, and perhaps made a few mistakes along the line. But every time I did it, it was aiming high. And I'm pleased that so much of it people are, you know, I feel good that this film I made about my father 40 years ago, and it was still you know that it's still there and looking great. We've restored it. And so that test of time. I'm a I'm a respect the audience, test of time guy.

Alex Ferrari 53:22
It's such a beautiful place to be my friend. I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

George Stevens Jr. 53:31
Well, I spoke about it before but you I would say don't have it. Figure out where you're going believe in yourself and keep your eyes open. And you're not choosing the easy path. So you have to be prepared for doors to slam and but make good friends, work with friends and set your sights high.

Alex Ferrari 54:01
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,

George Stevens Jr. 54:05
I think to listen. Listening is very important. And I think when you're young or even when you're old

Alex Ferrari 54:17
depending on if you're struggling or not

George Stevens Jr. 54:23
that that being a good listener. I remember Jimmy Cagney saying in some context for me, he said, Well, I'm a listening actor, you know, and I think in in any field in politics, and journalism, so we entered and purchased as a human being listen to the other person.

Alex Ferrari 54:53
And three of your favorite films of all time.

George Stevens Jr. 54:56
Oh gosh.

Alex Ferrari 54:59
Today Today Today,

George Stevens Jr. 55:02
today you have you know, I like Christopher Nolan's work. I loved Sarah Polly's women talking to beautiful film. And you know, there's just so many we have so a third I think I'll just say because it's its 70th anniversary, Shane. Right answer

Alex Ferrari 55:27
my friend. And where can people find out about your new book and what can they purchase it? At

George Stevens Jr. 55:32
official je s i think is my Twitter handle. I'm not a huge Twitter person. But I did put on Twitter yesterday, I came upon a letter I wrote to my father on Gunga Din, when I was five, five years old. And picture of him on the set that George Stevens jr.com is my website. all lowercase letters, GE o RG E Ste and s. jr.com.

Alex Ferrari 56:11
And then Amazon, you could buy the book or audible to listen. Yes, exactly. George, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor speaking to you, my friend, thank you so much for not only sharing your journey and your knowledge with all of us, but also for everything you've done for the film industry and for the arts throughout your life. So my friend, I appreciate you so so much and thank you again and for many more things to come in your future my friend. Thank you. Well, Alex,

George Stevens Jr. 56:38
I enjoyed talking to you. i i I felt I found many shared values with you. And that's always a nice conversation. A pleasure.

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BPS 320: No-Budget, $600 Camera, 3 Lights & Still Sold Worldwide with Elliot and Zander Weaver

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Alex Ferrari 0:02
Now today on the show, guys, we have really inspiring and unique filmmaking story. Today's guests are Zander and Elliot Weaver, the mastermind independent filmmakers behind the feature film cosmos. Now on a daily basis, I get pitched just tons and tons of filmmakers wanting to get on the show. And as much as I want to help everybody out, I gotta, you know, I got to make sure that the stories that I put on the show are really good and really inspiring to the tribe. And I heard about Zander and Elliott's film Cosmos just by running around the internet. And what made their films so unique is that they shot their feature film, just like I did on a Blackmagic Pocket camera 1080 P. and that alone is not enough for it to really grab people's attention. Because like I've said before, no one cares about what you shoot it on, as long as it's a good story. And these guys were able to shoot a sci fi adventure film, Allah Spielberg's a mecca style about three amateur astronomers who intercept a faint signal from an alien race, and stumble upon something potentially world changing. Now they shot this entire film for about 7000 bucks. And I was so blown away with how good it looks.

And what's even more impressive is they got distribution, and they're selling their movie around the world, and making apparently good money with it. So the film was shot with three people in a friend's garage on a $600 camera, three LED lights and a decade old software post production software package, they shot with two lenses, one old and one cheap. One was a Tamron 18 to a 200 zoom, which they bought for about 100 bucks, and some vintage glass from the 60s from a brand I'd never even heard of. This is the kind of story we as filmmakers need to hear. We don't hear these stories very often. But I want to highlight these guys so much and I can't wait for you to hear their inspirational story. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Zander and Elliot Weaver.

I like to welcome Elliot and Zander Weaver, man How you guys doing? Very well. Thank you, Alex, thank you very much for having us on the show. Oh man. Thank you for being on the show man. You know, it's, I get I get I get bombarded with requests to be on the show all the time. And they're like, Hey, I made this really low budget movie and, and I, you know, and that was cool, like five years ago, like I made a movie for five grand like, that's, that's cool, but I get 30 of those a week. So it's not I need something a little extra. And I actually you guys came up on my radar with your film Cosmos a little while ago, we've been trying to do this for a while now. So everyone listening, the reason why it's taking so long as schedules, technology, all sorts of things to finally get to where we're at. But I saw what you're doing. And I was pretty blown away by not just the efficiency and the cost and all that stuff that you did, you did a movie for about 7000 bucks, as you told me, but the camera you used and we'll talk about that, and five years. And I say that with like, oh, God help you. You know, all that stuff. I feel it, brother, I feel it's, but I just love what you're doing and the quality and everything looks so great. So we're gonna get deep into Cosmos today. But before we do that, how did you get into this ridiculous business?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 6:14
Well, we ever since I think this is a story of many people who make movies and love movies, we've been doing it since we were kids. You know, since we were the first film we actually made, Elliott was five years old. And I was three. And we got the home video camera. And we made a film called when the toys came, came to life when the toys come live. And I've toys in our bedroom came to life. And after that we were just we were hooked and all through high school, we were making shorts with our with our mates and making music videos for them and stuff. And we decided to just go straight from high school and jump in, you know, we didn't go to a film school, we didn't go to a university. There aren't really the same kind of level of establishment like there are over in the US for film school options. So we were just we just thought we'd jump straight in get some experience and start trying to you know, find our feet in the industry really. But yeah, passionate since since very small, very, you know.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
So the question is, did you sue Pixar for stealing Toy Story from you guys is the question. Oh, yeah.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:18
But you know, we're working on it.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Because obviously, I mean, I broke the story here that Pixar stole they saw your short stole your idea and has made billions of dollars

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:31
that were like seven or six and we were fuming in the cinema. We were like ready to walk out. This is our first taste of you know, the sippy cups flying everywhere. It was just it was just rough back then I'm saying filming out of his birthday party.

Alex Ferrari 7:51
Can you imagineit to be fair, I'll give them that? They did was the production a little bit better than yours just slightly.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 7:59
Slightly. Alright, so

Alex Ferrari 8:01
let's um, let's talk about cosmos. How did Cosmos come to be?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 8:08
Cosmos came about because we were actually trying to set up another project. As Anna said, when we left school we tried to set Well, when we left school, we both tried to jump into it and sour hearts on directing a feature film, you know, finally getting around to this thing that we wait to get out of high school to do. And we set this project up, we started writing a script. And we we kind of faced that challenge that all indie filmmakers face, which is do we write a script we know we can achieve? Or do we write the script we'd love to see and look to me, I love to make but and we'll cross that bridge later. And of course being like 19 and 21 years old, we wrote the script we wanted to see, obviously, you know, we'll cross that bridge. And then we had to cross that bridge. So we were talking to finance and we were talking to investors and we got a crew together. And it was all looking really good. But understandably we were we were young guys, and we were asking for something like 5 million quid for a budget or something because they all snowboard for the people. We got involved, it was going really well. And all the investment people kept going. This is fine. Your story sounds great, fantastic. Crew look good. But you know, you haven't done this before. And you're young, and it's a lot of money.

I mean, a reasonable.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
I'm just I'm just saying it's like the equivalent of saying, hey, I need 5 million to build a house. I've never built a house before. I've seen it. I've seen it on TV, it seems fairly easy. So and by the way, by the way, at the end of a $5 million house, you have a house at the end of a $5 million movie. Maybe you make money, maybe you won't.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 9:41
So we were like, okay, you know, reasonable reasonable concerns. They kept saying go away and make a film and prove that you can make a movie and we were frustrated because we were like this is what we're trying to do. Anyway. We put that initial film on the shelf which was called encounter, went back to the drawing board and went okay, let's, let's probably do what we should have always done. Look at what we've got available. You know, we've got lots of computer screens, we've got a station wagon, you know, that's kind of Volvo car. We love astronomy and all this sort of thing. What can we do? Robert Rodriguez filmmaking? What can we make a movie out of that we've already got. And that's how Cosmos was born. And our initial concept was to make it in about 12 to 18 months, and then go back to those investors and go, Hey, there you go. Like there's a blu ray told you, we could do it. Let's get back to business. But because we wanted to do it the way we wanted to do it, where we could prove we had, or hopefully prove that we knew what we were talking about, and we can take a script and deliver it, we wanted to basically do as much of it as we could ourselves. And that meant it took a lot longer. But we fell in love with the project. And we just ran with it. And it took five years in the end. But we're thrilled with with the journey.

Alex Ferrari 10:49
So you so you, I mean, I'm assuming you made this on the weekends, and whenever you had spare time and stuff like that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 10:57
Yeah, well, initially, we did. So the first, basically the first year and a half of work on the film, the casting, finding locations, costume, making the props and everything. And yeah, the first year and a half of the movie was was done in our spare time while we were freelancing, and we run a production company as well independent production company that makes TV documentaries, then from the end of 2015 onwards, we were like, if we're going to make this happen, we've got to commit to it. So we went full time on it. And we, it sounds a bit rock and roll. It's not rock and roll. But we we lived off the royalties from our documentary production, which is something that we talk about, to filmmakers a lot. We say, you know, if you're looking for that liberation, to be able to spend the time making your feature, film, your narrative feature, consider making some TV documentaries and getting them out on the market and letting them do some work for you. So those documentaries gave us that freedom. And for the next three years, or two and a half years, we work full time on the movie.

Alex Ferrari 12:01
Now what was the crew situation like?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 12:06
The situation was limited, right? So we had on the production crew, there was three of us. And that was our set myself, Zander and our mom. And we did. Right, we did everything. So we we rigged all the gear, we lit the sets, we rigged the mics we shot we did all the props, we did a lot basically we directed as well,

Alex Ferrari 12:32
there's that there's that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 12:35
And with a shoot the shoot was 55 days spread over a year. Basically, we shot in blocks. And that was dictated because the actors, you know, were busy, and they had other commitments, and we tried to work around their commitments. And then in post production, it was just, it was predominantly the two of us, Sandra and I. And then we worked with a composer over about three months to do the soundtrack. So again, it was just xandra night for, like 28 months of just post production just staring at computer screens and just chugging away through, it seems like a really, it's a it's a mad way to make a film. But again, from the very beginning, our objective was we want something that we can show people, and that they can look at, basically, they can't take anything away from us. They can't sit there and go, Well, you know, it was well edited. But that was because you hired a professional editor wasn't it, or it's well graded. But that's because you hired a professional calibrator we wanted to for better or worse, whether it ended up being a good film or a bad film, we wanted to have something that we could show these investors and they could go. So apart from acting in it, and writing the soundtrack, everything else is you and we can go Yeah, now, on our next movie, we don't want to do that we want to work with people who have honed their craft and their masters of their skill and they can bring so much to it, but at least hopefully demonstrates that, you know, we have an understanding of visual effects. And we have an understanding of editing and we have an understanding of Foley and all this sort of stuff. We don't want to do it professionally. But at least we can be part of those conversations as directors. That was the end anyways. So

Alex Ferrari 14:16
I mean, cuz I mean, I've heard of these stories of projects going on for five years, and it generally never ends. Well. It generally doesn't end well when you hear like yeah, been making this movie for five years and like oh, okay, and if it's something I've worked I've worked on features that took that long to make and it just never got released just they paid it they did it and they just couldn't get it sold because it was either too bad or for whatever reason, so that you guys actually got it to the finish line. And and it looks as good as it did and it made as much noise as it did. Is is a feat in itself. Man. It really really I mean you are guy you guys are definitely the indie film hustle. personification? There's no no question about it, because to stay on a project for five years, man, you got to be committed. And that also says a lot about you as filmmakers. You know, if I'm an investor, I'm like, these guys are serious, man, they stuck on this thing for five years better or worse. And there's a reason why it took them this long. It's not because they were crazy, because it didn't have any money. And if they would have had a decent budget, this could have been done within a year all in. Yeah. So now you chose the Blackmagic Pocket camera, which has just a dear place in my heart because I shot my last film on the black bag. It's a pocket camera as well. I've been saying this for a while. It's a stunning image. It's gorgeous. It's tennety p i don't care. It's gorgeous.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 15:44
I yeah, we totally agree. We think it's this unsung hero of the film world and it's completely it's quite overlooked actually. Yeah, we saw when when we shot the film in 2015 we started shooting the film in 2015 and the pocket camera the original pocket camera I think was it did it come out in 2013

Unknown Speaker 16:05
something like that. Yeah, something like that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 16:07
Yeah. And we we we saw the footage coming through online or people doing camera tests and we were just absolutely blown away by it. We just thought it just has such this filmic quality to it just looks absolutely lovely. So as soon as we could we could we were freelance cameraman at the time and we we bought a camera to use for work and then we were like this is it we've got to use this for Cosmos so it served us incredibly well there are there are you know bumps in the road with the camera battery life for example is no good the screens a bit iffy and all that kind of stuff but once you've got those things in place Yeah, what you've effectively when you buy the camera is this beautiful sensor really and we were we were very happy with the results of the film so much so actually afterwards we approached after the film was released we approached Blackmagic sure they gave it to give away to the filmmaking community which was wonderful like to have that association and that affiliation with them was a real moment of pride.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
Yeah, what I love about what I love about the camera yes the battery power I use the juice box so I just like used to have that. I just I put it in with the juice box at last I we shoot we shoot six hours.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 17:16
Oh yeah, it

Alex Ferrari 17:16
keeps going. It just goes and goes and goes with the juice box. It was solid that part and then I got the was it did you guys get the speed booster?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 17:26
We did we did get a speed boost. Yeah, meta bones. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 17:28
the meta bone speed booster just automatic gives you another step and a half. It's wonderful. And yes, the monitor in the back can have issues can have issues but you could plug it in if you're if you're so inclined, a little little monitor, pop it out or something like that if you want to. But the speed that you the the speed, you can move the size of it. I mean, and now that I mean now they have the 4k pocket camera or actually the six k pocket 4k is old school now that the six k pocket cameras well, so they have these other versions are a little bit more beefy. But this has this super 16 dial it's a super 16 image. It's a sensor it's a super 16 sensor. So for me like with my film, I wanted that like 1990s Sundance indie vibe with a little bit of green I actually added it was too clean I added grain to the image and post but it's such a beautiful camera now what lenses did you use?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 18:24
We shot most of the movie actually on a single stills lens that we had a 28 mil 1960 stills lens that we just talked. Yeah, and it just like you said it, I don't know what it is about that sensor. But the way sort of the light blooms it does have like a grainy, although it's obviously digital noise it does have a grainy look to it. It looks like film grain.

Alex Ferrari 18:50
Yeah. But it's what it is. But it's pretty clean. But it's pretty easy. If you shoot it right, it's clean. And but the aesthetic of the image has that super 16 clean look. And you and if you just add just a little bit of digital grain to it which a little film grain onto it on top of it, it could just take it to that

Elliot and Zander Weaver 19:12
that other beautiful it worked it was perfect for our needs. You know, cosmos is a film set predominantly in in this car you know in the station wagon so we had to get a camera and all the you know a slider and stuff inside this car and shoot in the confines of the vehicle and to have this small camera was just absolutely you wouldn't have been able to do it otherwise,

Alex Ferrari 19:36
you would have to like cut the car in half and fly you know fly in and out and all this kind of stuff. Like I actually Yeah, like I own the Blackmagic 4.6 K camera, but I chose to shoot with a little camera because of the ease. Even if you would have had a red or an Alexa you couldn't have shot this film.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 19:56
We couldn't we say that to people sometimes and they kind of look at us and they go What do you mean and you Go. Well, I mean, it's tough to get a camera in a car. Like it's not it's actually our car. It's not a set. Car chop the roof off, we've got to drive home. So, yeah. And also up and again, some filmmakers look at you like, you know, you've landed from Mars, because Yes, he does. But he doesn't he doesn't matter to me and it doesn't matter in general. But be there is something beautiful about like film is high resolution but it's soft. It's a delicate image. It's not pin sharp, crystal clear high fidelity. And I think the 1080 p Blackmagic. It has the same texture The film has it's a bit a pinch sharp image if you want it and it's clean, like you said, but

Alex Ferrari 20:48
it's soft, it's it just softens the edges in a way that film does. I mean, they I've talked to Blackmagic a lot about this when I work with them. And I've told them that camera is just like an all of their actually all of their images, they always have this, this kind of like beautiful like it's like red is frickin just scalpel esque. In their image. It's so crystal clear. It's a bit it's a bit much where Alexa is also a soft image, but the Alexa costs 80 to 100,000 as opposed to the black magic and and all of that Now, one thing I found interesting about your story is that you guys, you had a soundstage obviously they don't tell you don't tell don't say this publicly, but you had a soundstage It was your garage, you actually built a garage soundstage where you shot a lot of the filming. Can you explain that processor? service?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 21:44
Yeah, yeah, well, we did the Garrett's actually a friend of ours. So we have one of the challenges that we faced is that the actual set of the movie is the is this car. The vehicle that we would use to get from the garage every single day. So you know, at the end of filming, we would end beginning of the day, we'd get there and we get all the gear out and we set the props up in the vehicle we shoot. And then by the end of the day, we had to direct everything, put it all back in the car and drive up, we could leave it all set up. That would have been but but the film takes place across one night effectively. And instead of having the car out in the middle of a field and shooting actually in the middle of the night. For the interiors. We just drove it into this garish, we put up a black psych and we shot during the day and faked it as if it was at nighttime and it worked superbly well. But we all we did all start going a bit early by the end of it because we weren't seeing any daylight it was middle of the winter here in the UK and we drive it in the dark shoot in the dark all day and drive out in the dark. So yeah, we craved the lunchtime daylight that we got every day.

Alex Ferrari 22:53
Now, I want to go back real quick. The whole 1080 p aspect Did you shooting untended p affect your D your distribution deal? Your sales? digit they go oh, no, we can't take your film because we need four k? Can I just want because this is a myth. People think you have to master in 4k, you have to shoot in six or now 12 K or something like that. I want you to I want you please tell the people please tell the people the truth didn't matter.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 23:24
No, it doesn't matter. Well, it didn't matter to us. We spoke to a handful of distributors, we spoke to a handful of sales agents. We even got two distributors bidding against each other for the film. And even when we settled on one and assigning all the deals up, not once in the sort of six months that we were doing distribution. And since have we been asked about what resolution The film was shot on not once did they ask us during the negotiation process? What what resolution is that? You know, what did you shoot on? It didn't matter. And in fact, when we got the deliverable, the tech specs in the tech specs for our distributor it actually said if you have shot your film in 4k, can you please let us know because we will have to set up a special pipeline for you. Basically, not many people do that. You know, in other words, not many people do that. And we'll have to go a special route for you. So yeah, not once were we asked Is it into k four k six K, they just they watched the screener. And that's all they really want it to talk about. So we often get asked to we get emailed by people going oh, you shot on the six k i read you shot on the Blackmagic six K and we're like no, no, we shot on the television. And they're like no, no, the

Alex Ferrari 24:44
same thing

Elliot and Zander Weaver 24:47
will happen right now get in touch and they'll say we watched the movie you know really impressed with what you achieved with the limited resources and UI Oh, that's amazing. Thank you. And they say well what do you what what camera Did you see on you tell them and like Elliott said They assume success. Okay, 4k, you know, it's the 10 ACP one and they go really I'm shocked and say, well, you you watched it. So like, do you like did it work for you? Did it distracts from the story for you? Or did you just watch it and enjoy it and not really worry? So yeah, I think it's very easy to get lost in the kind of K war with all the modern technology. But ultimately, I think as storytellers I focus should be more on the script and the acting and the soundtrack. Stop it on how many cakes stop

Alex Ferrari 25:29
it stop it, sir. You're talking crazy talk, sir. Crazy Talk. It's all about the cameras. It's all about the gear. If you've got a 12 K camera. If you have an Alexa with $100,000 lens on it. That's all you need. You don't need a story or acting that said that automatically makes your movie good isn't that that's what I've been sold. That's what I've been doing. Am I wrong?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 25:55
asked you know what codec we shot? We shot people go shot raw then right. And we we asked we shot pro res Lt.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Well, that's not that's not honestly. Okay. Now I'm gonna have to say that is kind of crazy talk. Why didn't you shoot it? Come on, guys. You could have shot raw, well, wait a minute, but you edited and Final Cut, which we'll get to in a minute. So raw would have been a big pain in the butt for you.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 26:15
It would have been it would have been I mean, we just we did our own little camera tests. We put our nose to the screen and we were like

Alex Ferrari 26:20
LTE, you should have LTE not even pro res just to tell the difference. Lt. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 26:26
we did HQ pro res and not an Lt. He tests and we were like, looking at our monitor, you know, our Mac monitor going up? Which one is this? I can't tell.

So we also like wanted to just like we wanted to, we're big fans of like committing on basically what it looks like and how it is lit and the color and you know, and so because that's those are the directions that we look up to from our childhood. You know, they didn't have that kind of flexibility that is now available to filmmakers. And I think it can hone your abilities in your craft. So to some degree, we wanted to test ourselves and go look, we're gonna bake this and we're gonna just shoot, and what we get is what we get, and we're gonna live with it. And that's, that, to us is part of the thrill and excitement of filmmaking. It's crazy man.

Alex Ferrari 27:13
Crazy talking guys crazy talk. And but you also have a limited theatrical right? We didn't Yeah, how could you How could you do that with a 1080? p? That's not possible, sir. How could you do that?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 27:25
Wow, great question. Yeah. held up beautifully on screen. We did actually do an upper as two cameras. Yeah, for the DCP using DaVinci. resolves upscale, which is nuts. In fact, I've heard that many people are selling the Blackmagic, six Ks and four KS, going back to the originals and just raising them because they prefer the image, how it looks on the original. But yeah, we had a limited theatrical release, the movie was in nine cities across the states, which was just mad for us, right? We are not anticipating that like two kids from Birmingham, UK, making a movie of its gonna be shown in cinemas in America. That was that was a dream come true. And we've seen it, we saw it twice on the big screen. We had a premiere here in the UK premiere out in Los Angeles as well. And it just really holds up incredibly well considering and I just, I just wish that filmmakers could, you know, stop worrying so much about it because of the kit that we've got available at our fingertips now. It's just so incredibly powerful. And there is just no excuse, I think

Alex Ferrari 28:34
no one and that's why that's another reason why I wanted you guys on the show because you shot with this camera because I shot with the camera as well. And everyone says what, all the same things you would get I've gotten with my film. And and I did the same thing like cuz on my monitor here where I calibrated it looked great, but when I was I premiered at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood with my father and I was like, this is amazing and but to understand I was terrified I just upwards I did a dp a DCP up to two k I'm like, Is it gonna work? And it's I don't know what it's gonna look like I'd like it's gonna be super grainy and like, Okay, well, it's supposed to be kind of grainy because I wanted it. And when I saw projected in the Chinese and I just sat there before the audience came out that we did a little Tex Tex scout on it. I was like, oh, Mike, it looks amazing. It's gorgeous. It was so and we did the DCP to the to the Vinci and I was just blown away. It's honestly I've shot with all the cameras known to man 3560 and I've tried everything. It's probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever shot that film. It's such a great camera and that's why I wanted I want people listening to understand. You can buy that little camera right now on eBay for six to $800 maybe less, maybe less. You can find you can buy the full like a full kit for like 1000 1200 bucks and that comes with like, a lot. I mean I bought my I bought mine off of ebay I bought it like it for I think 1000 bucks, but it was like a full kit case, batteries, all of that stuff and then to rig it out. It doesn't cost that much like you. Yeah, if you need if you need a matte box, I got my matte box for like 150 bucks. Yeah, it's it's you can really you can pimp it out, man, you can pimp it out. Really? Really?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 30:25
We made our camera rig. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 30:28
yeah, I heard about that. Yeah, yes. So please tell it tell us about your your rig sir. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 30:47
we actually put up a video on our Facebook page a few months back just to show people because they kept we've spoken about the fact that I've made this rig. And I don't think some people believe that it was actually true. But yeah, it's one of those very kind of Heath Robinson held together with gaffa tape kind of affairs, really. But just you know, when I was looking online, we didn't have a budget for this movie. I was looking online, and there's some wonderful rigs out there. But I think there's like two kinds, right? There's, there's these lovely machine milled beautiful things, right, that are quite expensive. 1000 bucks. Yeah, but cheap, plastic ones, and you think they're gonna snap when I first use them. So I just thought, because we had some very specific requirements with Cosmos getting in the car and being able to adjust the rig setup and what we wanted to do with it. I was like, why don't I just make a custom one. So went to the hardware store, got some word, got some copper pipe, got some nails, and just put it all together early. And you can see the behind the scenes. It's not pretty, right? It's not but

it's as part of the fun of this film. You know, we are very proud and very like, humbled by how well it's done. But we're also really excited because we've done it in sort of the most kitbashed ad hoc way, you know, we've got a cardboard matte box, and we've got ankle weights on the back of our rig. And we're using a wheelchair for a dolly and it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to us. And it was film about it wasn't about standing behind a camera with a cap on and posing and looking cool. It was about making a film no matter what. And it wasn't about being cool and being seen with a red epic or Alex Yeah, we'd love love to work with that, you know, it would be a dream, but we fought we fought went that. That's sort of the image of feeling good about ourselves in exchange for actually being able to get a film made.

Alex Ferrari 32:44
Yeah, no, it's in that when I saw when I saw the behind the scenes and I saw you guys in a wheelchair. I was like, oh, Robert, Mr. Rodriguez has helped us out so much. Because he's, I mean, I'm a bit older than you guys. So I came up around the same time Robert did I speak of him? Like I'm my friend. I'm not but but Robert. Bobby, Bobby. Bobby, no. Robert, he did the wheelchair thing with his with El Mariachi and I did a wheelchair thing every everybody of my generation did the wheelchair like we and to be honest with you this is what how I got because wheelchairs are expensive. They're not cheap. So what we did this is back in 1994 I think we went to the mall where you could rent a wheelchair for the day for $1 25

Elliot and Zander Weaver 33:32
Oh wow.

Alex Ferrari 33:34
But we just took it home

Elliot and Zander Weaver 33:37
Wow. morally questionable.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
No, wait, wait, wait used it, returned it afterwards got my dollar I got a quarterback because I returned it. So the essential rental would be it was just a because no one does that like and there's also the 90s and they didn't you know and it's a different world way less less cameras let's cameras in the you know, security cameras less security. It was it was the Wild Wild West. But yes, that's that was what I do.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 34:08
Right. That's the indie film hustle.

Alex Ferrari 34:09
No, man. I since I've been I've been I've been living the brand since 92. Sir. What is the biggest mistake you made making this film? I'm sure there's a list. But what's the one that you like? Oh, um,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 34:27
I think I think the biggest well, so this is this is an interesting question. The thing that we often say we would do differently is we would just get some help, right? We would raise a bit of money, right? very obvious, like two people, three people. But the challenge that the reason it's not that simple, actually for us is because part of part of the marketing for Cosmos has been leveraging this kind of indie film spirit. It's been Connecting with the filmmaking community by saying, look, we're just doing this with nothing follow us along, be part of it. And, and so if we'd have done it, how most of the people do it, when they put a band together and they kickstart and they raise $1,000, then you're just the same as everybody else, right? So to some degree, this nuts stupid way of doing a movie was took ages, but it paid off because it's allowed us to open up conversation, we're talking to you now because of it, we wouldn't be otherwise. So I would say if I wanted to get it done quicker, with less stress, just collaborate with more people get it done sooner. But you know, I'm very proud of like, the way we've done it and and the experience that we've obtained from it, it's just like, God, it's a measurable way to just have a bit of a glimpse in and understanding about all these elements and aspects or it's like the ultimate film school. So it I, you know, it's a really interesting question.

Alex Ferrari 35:59
What did what did mom do, she was a third crewman who woman

Elliot and Zander Weaver 36:05
was essential so our mom professionally Not anymore. But before we were born, and while we were kids, she was a professional TV makeup artist. So we the one of the main disciplines that she had on the film where she was hair and makeup, and that obviously, you know, sort of rolled over into continuity so she was keeping track of all the beard length and the hair length and the colors and all that sort of thing. And then we did also just like rope in and pull it a good use doing the clapperboard every now and then sometimes holding the boom and sometimes running the smoke machine man. She was sort of almost like the third director really we were we were all in it together but she was also we often say she was the onset mom and every set needs a mom you know and all the older guys they kind of she mother them and they adopted her so we all we had this sort of family family unit on the film. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 37:05
Now what did you guys use for smoke machine? Did you actually like buy one of those like party smoke machines? or?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 37:10
Yeah, we had we already had like a Mr. Like a disco smoke machine type thing. But we tested outside we're like, this is just not not gonna happen. Like in the windy British winters like okay, it's

just lit a cigarette. That's not gonna work.

So actually, the single biggest expense on the movie, we bought a gas powered our temp smoke machine. Yeah. The propane ones. Yeah, the proper drums, you know, and, and, but for us, we, we could justify it in our heads because we were just like, this is gonna give us a production value. We're going to be out in a forest and it's going to give us the depth and allow us to kind of make it look like we have more likes than we do. And we're big fans of like having that smoke medium to light in and all that stuff. So for us

it was it was about it was over 10% of the budget. Yeah, on this moment.

Alex Ferrari 38:03
But I want to get it I want to ask you something because I've shot with a ton of haze machines and smoke machines in my career. And you guys didn't shoot RAW. So I know from shooting with smoke machines that smoke doesn't take direction quite well. How? How Tony Scott shot every scene of every movie that he ever did with a smoke machine or a haze machine and it looked perfect every time how he did it? I don't know. I could only imagine I've had struggle with full crews. How the hell did you wrangle smoke or haze in a shot? And how did it not how did you match it in post? And how did you deal with it in color? Because sometimes if it's one shots hazy and then the coverage is not hazy. How do you like how did you do it?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 38:54
Well, it's difficult

Alex Ferrari 38:56
it was hard to sell Alex I have to tell you it was ridiculously hard.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 39:00
It was impossible. We almost Set everything on fire and third degree burns and the whole lot really no yes so we did get quite good at like timing the smoke machine so you can we could sort of like leave it off on its own and it would just trickle out and it's very against the rules of owning a propane gas. smoke machine is never leave it unattended but you know, we were all grown ups we were only a few feet away.

We all think we do like a blast right? We do. We'd like one of us would run around with a smoke machine blast into the grass and all that kind of stuff. And then you sit back and it should be this enormous fog cloud right here behind the camera ready actors are we ready? wait for it Wait for the moment wait

for the video. And then just when it was right we went for it.

Alex Ferrari 39:50
I have to I just have to point something out that you were judging me morally about my my wheelchair scam, sir, you left row pain machine unattended, sir Which actually could have killed people. My little scam did not kill anybody. And it was returned sir. So I both of you, I just I just wanted to point that out.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 40:10
I take everything back I'm sorry.

Alex Ferrari 40:13
So yeah, so that even even in post though, like, matching, matching that haze

Elliot and Zander Weaver 40:21
did it for the most part we it was okay. For one reason or another, we didn't have too much problems, but we did this there is always that you know, there's always that balance isn't there when you come to your color grade and you

think you did a bit of smoke stuff in it. Yeah. pasting backgrounds and paste that can you just take the smoke from behind this guy's head in this shot? Yeah. And put it in this guy and he would just be like,

Alex Ferrari 40:47
okay, yeah. I mean, it's, it's, I just want people that hearing this understand shooting with a smoke machine or haze machine is not easy, and it's time consuming. It is. You shoot it up. Settle. Wait, wait, shoot. Oh, cut. Do it again. And then like, Oh, you I've only done an insight. I've never done it outside. So I can only imagine shooting it outside where you guys had

Unknown Speaker 41:16
action as well. Like you'll be for 10 minutes. And then suddenly, you put the smoke machine over there. You know, it's it's you chasing your tail all night long.

Alex Ferrari 41:27
Now, can you talk everybody because you guys did purchase a very high expensive wind machine. So can you tell people what that wood machine was?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 41:36
Yes, yes, absolutely. Well, you know, in the, in the spirit of all high end special effects that you see in all the blockbusters. We we went into our garden shed and we were digging around and we were aware that you know once upon a time we were the proud owners of a leaf blower. So we got that Dyson leaf blower out gave it a bit of a blast and thought okay, well we can't record any dialogue while using this but we can have winds so yeah, that was one of one of our jobs. In fact, my job on the end of the shoot I was directing and blowing hot dusty air into the faces of the actors so you were just directing right yeah.

Alex Ferrari 42:16
Smith and it was Yeah. You want him to cry so you just show just slammed dirt into their eyes basically at high speed.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 42:29
Yeah, teary, glassy eyed look. That's great. Oh, sorry. No, you've just got your face amazing.

Alex Ferrari 42:38
Now what I want to talk about post because what I read what you guys didn't post again made my heart just just warmed my heart because you were using two pieces of software that I use on I look I'm a recent convert from Final Cut seven when I say recent was probably like four or five years like four four years ago maybe I think four or four years ago I think I switched over to editing four or five years ago I switched to editing to in resolve strictly but I had seven solid and with 10 ATP when you guys were shooting a pro res so I actually I mean with my first film I had to actually go to resolve because I was shooting RAW on the sim the old Cinema Camera the original the original 2.5 k Cinema Camera so I had to go rock because I'm like I finally have to leave poor Final Cut seven so you edit it in Final Cut seven and then you colored in color to Apple color if I'm not mistaken right

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:41
sound design in Final Cut seven as well.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
oh yeah oh yeah

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:45

Alex Ferrari 43:45
so you guys are doing and what year was this?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 43:49
This was yeah started a

Alex Ferrari 43:53
truly truly no excuse so as I'm saying cuz I I did all this in like 2006 so there is there's no excuse no base you have what you had and that's again that's another great lesson here. You have it you own it use what you got

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:09
that's it that's what it's all about and for us we we we produce all of our documentaries using Final Cut seven this system and again our philosophy is just like look there's been Oscar Oscar winning movies that have been edited on Final Cut seven we have no requirement to push to a new piece of software we're not shooting in 4k or 8k or something crazy. Shooting 10 Hp if it's good enough,

or parasite when the best time Yeah, john. Seven.

Alex Ferrari 44:38
Yeah, no parasite was edited.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:43
Yeah, it was so

Alex Ferrari 44:46
easy. I didn't know that.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 44:48
Yeah, it's still strong is a

small band of FCP seven users and

Alex Ferrari 44:53
like come on, keep it alive.

Software is a great piece of software, though. I do like music. Have a little bit better than color, I have to say,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:03
yeah, we're in the process of kind of switching over to resolve for all things, all things generally really, you know, cutting and grading as well. So, I mean, just black magic all the way.

Alex Ferrari 45:15
And that's another thing that people want people to understand is like, if you if you stay within the Blackmagic ecosystem, man, it works beautifully, like you, you shoot RAW, bring it into resolve, and you can do everything in resolve and then you don't have to actually even go out to online anywhere. it all stays in visual effects are connected sound is connected. It's it's a pretty amazing piece of software.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:39
You're talking some kind of unknown future world to us, Alex, we're still dealing, Final Cut seven and kind of

get a floppy disk. Floppy? No, no,

Alex Ferrari 45:51
get the zip, get the zip disks or get the zip disk. The zip disk in the jazz? Do you know even know what a jazz drive is?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 45:58

Alex Ferrari 45:59
Do you know what a zipped is? Do you know what a zip disk is? You guys are so young. You're so young.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:07
Copy this right?

Alex Ferrari 46:08
No floppy disk was a 1.2 meg, if I'm not mistaken, disk that are held like 1.2 make the zip disk held 100 Meg's plastic disk. And then the jazz was the big brother of the zip. It was all by iomega it was a company this now I'm just I'm dating myself. And only like 5% of my audience is going. Oh, I remember that. No, I'm much, apparently much older than you guys extremely much, much older than you go. We

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:39
used floppies at school putting our coursework on floppy disk. The USB flash drive thing was like, wow.

Alex Ferrari 46:48
Science Fiction, isn't it?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 46:50
Yeah. Now it's like, oh, he's

on USB stick. We were talking to someone not long ago. And they were talking about mp3 players when they listen and what was it and they said, Oh, you say they were saying something like, Oh, yeah. parently there was a time when mp3 players couldn't do this. And we were just like, oh my god. Like, there wasn't a time when mp3 plays existed. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:12
yeah. Yeah, there was this thing called tapes. CDs, records, eight track. I yeah, a track vaguely in a car in a car. When I was a kid. I remember. Ah, anyway, I'm so I'm so I'm so effing old. I appreciate you. You reminded me. Thank you.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 47:31
I said so children have a tape. Recording you you mixtapes on?

Alex Ferrari 47:36
radio and waiting? Yeah, waiting for the radio, just like I hoping the DJ does not say a damn word over the song.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 47:45
The song in your life? This isn't right. Where's that?

Alex Ferrari 47:50
Because you hear that said 1000 times and you're like, Hey, welcome back. Like he's just waiting for that.

Oh my god, I used to do that all the time. So weird, because you guys, you guys were the DPS in this as well. And it looks By the way, fantastic. It looks gorgeous. So that's extremely impressive. You got what I love about the film is that you you really made it used so much production value, but yet in a very condensed very small space. Really, it was a small group of characters. And a lot of people think that you have to make a very contained movie like yours, which is contained but it wasn't contained. There's like big outside scenes, and there's excitement and things like that. But it doesn't have to be in a room. I mean, you you can think outside the box a little bit. And it's still you did a car. But it was a car with outside and you know the sky and there was a lot of production value and all this stuff that you did with it. But we did look at the film is really great. When you got into color, though. How much did you do? it? Was it like you guys were close to where you want it to be. And that's scary, man. I'm like, I'm just I'm letting you know, I've been a colorist for 1012 years. I have to shoot RAW because I need that. The freedom to like save me. For me. thing to do. Yeah,

it is the correct sensible thing to do is what you're saying?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 49:18
I mean, why not? Is the real answer to that question. Why would you not use those tools that are available? But ya know, we shot as we previously mentioned, we lit with the colors. We wanted it. You know how we wanted it to be lit with big fans of splashing color in their sky? Yeah, Tony. I mean,

you know, and we're not likening ourselves to No,

Alex Ferrari 49:41
no, no, no, it's just like Tony Scott. This is what I do. No, no, we understand. Yeah, we understand Tony. Rest in peace, Tony. But I mean, Tony and Ridley both. Yes, yes.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 49:54
So yeah, we our goal was to just capture that as much as possible on location and then When we got to, to the color grade, for the most part, it was a few kind of vignette power windows here and there. We pushed we did a thing. We did some tests early on, when we were comparing the Blackmagic footage to film footage. And we noticed that film had like a kind of slight greeny yellowy tint in the highlights, that's something we just saw. And so we just pushed a bit of that in the saturation of the contrast ever so slightly, it was a very time consuming process, because it always isn't it with the with the color matching and everything. But in terms of how, how much we push the image, we didn't do a huge amount to it. We were quite delicate with it.

Alex Ferrari 50:42
And how about visual effects? Because there's a couple of visual effects in the movie. There is

Elliot and Zander Weaver 50:46
70 visual effects of the film, how many? 170? Yeah, nice. Most of them are not visible there. We call them invis effects, because they're just not even supposed to be noticed. They're like set extensions, and skylines, and stars in the sky, and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, I handled the visual effects. While Elliot was doing all the sound design and the Foley for the film. I did the visual effects on blender, which is fantastic open source. VFX software is just getting stronger and stronger. And man, it's exciting to see what they're doing with it. pioneering stuff. And, yeah, and After Effects as well. But for the most part, like I said, it was some stuff extensions and skylines. But there were more involved things. For example, the front of the telescope, we replaced the front end of the telescope in the movie, because it looked pretty awful. Actually, it was a it was a visually a tripod carry tube. And we created a prop for the front to make it look like a telescope. And then we got into the Edit. And we were like dad just does not sell

rubbish, rubbish,

rubbish, absolute trash. And so he turned to me and he said, Can we do something about that? So I had to figure that out. It was very much a learning process as we went. But yeah, I always say that like, when it came to the visual effects, it was something I was doing for fun before Cosmos was even a consideration. So if you ever get that kind of tinge of excitement about anything, just just explore it a bit because filmmaking is such a diverse discipline there's so many different elements to it, chances are it'll come back and help you at some point

Alex Ferrari 52:27
and you get so you can't then after effects you become a competent After Effects visual effects. 3d in Blender 3d, Final Cut, edit, and color and then you also mastered sound and final couple, which I know is ridiculous. Because I've done it myself. It's not really built not built as audio. Not at all. Not even a little bit, not even a little bit. And then you guys also did Foley as well.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 52:52
We did a lot yeah, we did the Foley and I did that. So it was it was doing the visual effects like I was stomping around and rustling and breathing into microphones and all that sort of thing and

Alex Ferrari 53:03
amazing 66,000

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:03
sound effects were put in onto 100 audio tracks.

Alex Ferrari 53:08
So what what machine were you running because I know Final Cut seven fairly well that's going to tax the that's going to tax the software, sir. Yeah,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:19
I don't I just an iMac and iMac.

Alex Ferrari 53:23
That's an iMac with a with an operating system that still runs Final Cut seven because now officially, it's dead. Yeah, you can't upgrade. Yeah.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 53:33
We have to IMAX right. This one today and the one we made Cosmos on which we cannot change.

Also, the Mac is like dead now you turn it on and you just try and open up chrome or something. You just think we kill this computer trying to make that film? Yeah. It just wants to retire. It wants to graze.

Alex Ferrari 53:55
Is it something about Baxter? Or is it something to say I still have three towers of old max that I just I can't get rid of them. I just there's there's just something like I can't there's no I can't get rid of my Mac I don't like just just in case you need that CD ROM for some reason. You know,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 54:17

See the floppy disk drive on it. So you gotta keep gotta keep the options open.

Alex Ferrari 54:26
Just in case, everything goes to goes to hell. You got Final Cut seven. Let's rock and roll. Now, and so you finish this whole movie, you're ready. It's been five years. And you're like, Okay, let's get this out to the world. Tell me your adventures in distribution. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:01
Okay, yes, so we finished the film. And we then set about putting together the marketing materials that we thought we would need in order to get a distributor. So we did our own poster, and we cut our own trailer. And we put a screener together and all that sort of thing. And then we decided to, in the spirit of the film, continue to do everything ourselves. So,

Alex Ferrari 55:25
of course, why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:28
Why wouldn't we have learned our lesson after five years? So we started, we actually tried to submit or we did submit the film to probably a dozen film festivals in sort of the tear of film festival that you hope your film might

Alex Ferrari 55:44
sell Sundance, Sundance, Sundance, or South by Southwest, you don't you donate it to Robert Redford's retirement, understand, as

Elliot and Zander Weaver 55:51
I'm sure he appreciated that, we obviously got flat out rejected from from every festival we submitted to. And then we decided to just sort of, we were going well, we're gonna go to we try to get into festivals, so we can connect with distributors. But I wonder if we can just connect with those distributors directly. And we spoke to a few filmmakers, that we knew we've done that route. And that's what we pursued. So with our marketing material, and a screener of our film, we set about reaching out directly, and sent out some introductory email, sent out some screeners and just started talking to people really, and we spoke to sales agents as well and try to suss out whether that was the right route for us. And in the end, we, we we got we actually got two distributors competing in a bidding for the film and push that up the or, you know, yeah, push the bid up and make it more favorable for us. And then ended up going with one that we felt offered something that was worth, you know, the deal worth signing up to. And, and that's what we did, that process took about six months from, from the day of finishing the fill to, but that's

Alex Ferrari 57:01
nothing. But that's nothing for guys like you you've already taken. He's taking you four and a half, five years to make a movie six months of distribution. That's nothing.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 57:09
I sense of time. It's like, we were like six months. Yeah, it was an interesting process for sure. But we used IMDb pros free trial to create a list of distributors that you know, in the in the kind of realm that we were looking for, and we just, we just went down that list. And ultimately, it worked out and we found a home for Cosmos that is done for the most part what we wanted it to do, although no distribution stories, plain sailing, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 57:44
Yeah, I haven't heard of one of those. yet. That ever it's like, yes, it was fantastic. They only gave me money. I actually didn't know what to do with all the money and attention I was getting was generally not not not something you hear. But but generally speaking, though, you're happy with where you went with the distribution company and how things have been how it's been put out into the world and everything like that, because I look, I've seen it everywhere. And I've seen it pop up a bunch of different places. So I'm assuming that you guys as far as marketing is concerned,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 58:14
yeah. It is. It is for sure. Yeah, we will. We will. We we've got us ventures. And I think their model is very much given to the producers, they know their movie, they can market it, you know, we'll put it on the platforms. And so as far as we're aware, most of the marketing of the movie is our work really, you know, we put the post in the trailer together, we did an ad spend on some social media to try and get it out there. And we're just trying to engage with the filmmaking community and share the process read as much as we possibly can. But you know, we are, we're certainly happy with the reach of the movie. It's available on you know, many platforms. In the US. It's on like Hulu, TV, it's on prime streaming and Vimeo. It's a all the all the all the S VOD, and VOD options that you could hope for, to be quite honest. But there's also certainly a strong argument for that kind of independent distribution route where you handle yourself if you do all the marketing anyway, right? Like, why not? Why not made that final step for us. We our goal was very much to be able to finish the movie, give it to somebody else have control over the marketing, because we didn't want it to be in someone else's hands were worried that it could be marketed incorrectly. But but to not, to not have all that time spent on getting that movie out there. So it made sense to hand it to somebody else because we wanted to start writing a new project to start moving forwards and not get kind of like bogged down in the in the personal distribution of the main thing

Alex Ferrari 59:50
now but the other thing is to you guys have a very different endgame for this film. And that's something that's really important for filmmakers to understand listening is that your goals with the film We're not to make a million dollars, or you know, or be, you know, rich or anything like that off the film, money's nice. We would like to have money if we can't keep going without it. But because I'm assuming you don't want to do another five years like this, I'm assuming this is it, you're not doing any more. No more of these movies, you have to promise me no more. But um, but you but your goal was to get it out there and and get your name out there for people to see you to have conversations about other projects to talk to other investors. That was the end game for this film, correct?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:00:38
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, the film has, the film has been out six months now. And we are starting to move into a phase where the film is making us money, which is great. Because that's a real uptick. But you You're right, our goal was, we have the philosophy that like, we couldn't buy our way into the movie industry, even if we had loads of money. So we've got to find something of value, beyond the finances that would allow us to progress as film directors. So if we could trade, the financial reward for the exposure, and hopefully people are liking the movie and the word getting around, and maybe people in industry hearing about it and going Oh, yeah, I've heard about this film, actually, that was more valuable to us as filmmakers. And and we do try and stress that to people we talk to and, you know, on things like this, that we're not at all sort of suggesting, but this is a business model for

Alex Ferrari 1:01:37
the $77,000 five year model than No, not so much.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:01:42
We were you know, we run a production company. Aside from this, we got other projects and other fingers and other pies. The reason we wanted to make this movie initially was as a bargaining chip to get that initial film off the ground. In the end, it was just supposed to be something that we could barter with. But now you know, it ended up becoming something bigger. And it's actually acting in a way as like a crowbar. So open industry doors, and since the film has been released, we've had people from, you know, Hollywood, email us and you know, we've been talking to managers and we're potentially talking to people and it has, it has given us that sort of springboard. So yeah, we we traded the finances for potential, you know, to be able to help a career move further on.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:31
But the other thing is that you also didn't make a $200,000 movie and had that goal, then you made a $7,000 movie. Yes. You know, very, very Robert Rodriguez esque. A nice round seventh house.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:02:46

Alex Ferrari 1:02:49
Exactly. No, that's, that's amazing, guys, you guys are definitely an inspiration, an indie film inspiration. And in, you know, it's, it's an you did it in today's world, but get a little bit in the past, because it took me five years to do. But but all the things that you did travel to this point right now. And the, the basic spirit of what you do is, is getting out there and doing it. And not everyone needs five years. Some my son might need seven. But um, but you did it and you did it on your own terms. And you told the story you wanted to tell, and it's doing exactly what you want for it. And you can't really ask for. I mean, you could ask for a bunch more. But generally speaking, you got what you aim for.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:03:34
Yeah, we absolutely, we actually got a lot more than we aim for. I mean, we've walked away with a movie that people are watching, and they're enjoying it. And we have people contacting us every single day to say, you know, I checked out your movie. We're in lockdown. And it's brought me hope and it's brought, you know, and it sounds corny, right. But like, ultimately, as filmmakers, our goal is to, like tell a story that people connect with and to hear that people are enjoying the film, and wanting to kind of connect with the community and be part of it. It's just, it's an absolute dream. And on top of that, the actors that are in the movie, they're like family to us, you know, like, we've been to weddings, and we've moved houses and we you know, we're all part of it together now. And it's been a testing experience, but it's just an incredible one as well. Very, very lucky.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:24
Now, I'm gonna ask you a couple questions as my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:04:32
Blimey. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:37
Take five years, take five years and

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:04:39
go to take me nuts. I would say be be passionate. Because I think there are a lot of people, you know that and I talk to a lot of people we've crossed paths with filmmakers. And I think you can and also young crew, you can sort of sniff out the ones You kind of want to be in it because they think it's cool. And I'd love to walk the red carpet. And I'd love to be it's a glitzy glamour industry. And then you can also immediately tell the people that don't care about that at all. They're just, they have to do this because they love it so much. And I think, I think that people who are in positions of power can tell why, why you're sitting in front of them. And if you're passionate, and you love it so much, I think that that you're gonna win them over. So I'd say be passionate about what you do,

I say, really identify what it is about making movies that it's gonna make you happy, though, why do you want to do it, because if you're doing it for the end goal, if you're doing it, because it's going to get you somewhere, someday, that's just not really going to get you through those challenging nights where you're, you know, you can finally get seventh crashed on you for the 100th time and you're in the middle of a render, and you just lost your head. You know, it's to me, a big thing that I've learned through the making of Cosmos has been about just enjoying the process. Don't forget that it's filmmaking that you love. Not the next movie, not the movie you're making 10 years, not where you'll be or what you could be doing some day. It's right now. And if you're on set with a camera, and you're making a movie with actors, you're doing it, you're just doing it. So just enjoy that and try to hold on to that through the whole process.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:25
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:06:31
things take time? Yeah, I'm gonna say exactly that. Patience. Yeah. God. Yeah.

Patience, persistence. things take time, things take longer than you ever thought they could just accept it. And don't face it. You know, you're doing the best you can.

I remember hearing, there's a phrase that I we our dad used to tell us, he heard and he told us, and he said that people overestimate what they can achieve in a year. But underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. Yeah. And it's like, that's, that's great. I remember leaving school 18 and be like, this is it. You know, by the time we're 22 should be

Alex Ferrari 1:07:08
any time now Oscars, should I should I get the tux now? What should I do? Now? I'm

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:13
32. It's been 14 years since I left school. And I've just, you know, it's been six months, we've released our first film, it took a lot longer than we thought it would, but we didn't give up and we all now hear. So patience. Don't give up. Keep working hard. love what you do. And it will come

Alex Ferrari 1:07:30
and three of your favorite films of all time.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:34
Definitely et

Alex Ferrari 1:07:35
Yeah, I figured, man, I don't know. I feel when I saw cosmos. I'm like, Oh boy. These guys love that Spielberg boy, they just love it.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:07:47
Steven Spielberg. Yeah, I mean, it's good. It could easily be three Spielberg films be top three. But I tell you what, we watched the other day again. The first time in a while Meet Joe black.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:59
Of course. Yes. Cool. Yeah, love. I love your black

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:08:02
love me. 201 movie. Wow, incredible. Um, but yeah, you go and pick some pick one.

It's hard to pick a favorite man. I tell you what, not picking a favorite movie. But another good Martin breast movie Scent of a Woman. Oh, yeah. And seen anything Spielberg jaws close encounters are classified as so good, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:30
I mean, you can watch jaws right now. And it is perfection. It's just the shark. I don't care. It's just perfect. It's exactly what it needs to be. I don't want to see g shark. I want I want I want that shark. It's It's so so perfect. And did you know I'll give you a little bit just trivia. The scene in the boat where they're drunk. It's the night before the big thing and what's his name? Oh, the old Robert. Robert Shaw is doing that whole, like, long diatribe about like the dialogue. He's like talking about that. That was actually written by john Milius. Ray Spielberg called them like the night before and said, Hey, john, man, we got to shoot the scene tomorrow and we need a scene and john is not sure and he wrote the scene out for him.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:09:23
Just tie this up for it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah. What's like it's like you calling one of your mates and going Hey, dude, can you can you help me out with this shot but that's who they were they like the yes young filmmakers

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:09:33

That's amazing. I mean, it's funny because we will have this we'll talk to the film, you know, Trump's gonna make yourself and you'll have this phrase like, what's a perfect film and people say jaws and suddenly everyone goes up jaws jaws.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:46
Mommy jaws is a perfect is it? Yeah, there's, I mean, Spielberg has a few perfect films. I mean, there's he's, he's got a couple in his you know, and, I mean, I could go into the Kubrick I can go into Fincher and I can go into Nolan. I can go tomorrow I can go into Marty. I mean, Coppola, I mean godfather obviously.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:09
We love Gladiator as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:10
Like Blade Runner. Blade Runner. Alien aliens if you want to go down.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:19
overlooked isn't a camera camera.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:21
So this is the funny thing of okay. And now there's just two. This is from geek stalker guy, so just bear with us. Cameron, I went Titanic came out. I people were like, you know, I don't know how old you guys when Titanic came out?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:10:36
Yeah, okay. Have you seen it?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:39
Yeah. So, so Okay, so nine, so I was a bit older than you 97. But when when to everyone, it was a big hoopla $200 million is gonna bomb who's gonna want to watch Titanic? I mean, we all know how it ends. Like, why would you do that? And I just kept saying to everybody who was saying that anyone I talk to him, like in Cameron I trust.

Yeah, I love it. Cameron I trust because he has yet to make a bad movie. And if you look at his filmography, from the abyss, aliens Terminator, Terminator two True Lies. Amazing. He just always delivered it just always. So then, when fast forward a decade, and then avatars they're saying the same thing about avatar. I'm like, Hey, can I trust Cameron? Cameron, we trust. He's one of the most underrated filmmakers. I think in history, he's the most one of the most successful filmmakers in history. And the funny thing is that and I always tell people this like, do you understand that nobody else can make avatar? Like there is no Spielberg Spielberg is not getting half a million half a billion dollars to go develop a new IP new technology about blue people with arguably no major bankable stars like major stars involved no other like you said born with nothing that could support a half a billion dollars that today Yeah, today stars, you know, yeah, so nobody, not Peter Jackson. Definitely not Fincher, definitely not Nolan. like nobody else to do it. Other than someone like James Cameron, and there is nobody else. And when you when you realize, and I've heard these interviews, like when you're the only person on the planet that could do something like there's no there's not an argument here. Could Spielberg make a movie like avatar? Yes. But not by himself. He doesn't have the skill set. camera isn't like a whole other level, like with the technology and and you know, and Nolan and all that, you know, there's just nobody else that could do that film. No one else would write and get a check for half a billion dollars.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:12:52
Now you're right, actually, that's something you quite easily overlook because you just go

Alex Ferrari 1:12:57
Yeah. You take it for granted. You just take it like Oh yes, James Cameron, but there's nobody else.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:13:04
I love watching behind the scenes footage of especially on an interview series in the water camera on his shoulders. His waders just did you did you?

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
Did you guys listen to my interview with Russell carpenter, the DP from Titanic. So you have to have to listen to about to quit Cameron's story. And every one again we are now you guys can leave. It's now just between us. We're just we're just talking now because we're geeks. Russell Carpenter gets called in to his Malibu house. And it's like, we're gonna do True Lies. It was about True Lies, because he didn't realize that he did Titanic and now he's doing all the avatars. And he calls them up and James Cameron just brings them into his mansion in Malibu, and they're walking around and he's just talking to Russell like, he got the job. Like, there's no offer. There's no nothing. He's just talking to him. Like he's been hired. So we get out he leaves. He's like, I think I was hired. And and. and Cameron during that time, even during the Titanic time, his his reputation is he's rough. Let's just call his rough. He's a little bit of a taskmaster. Let's call it Cameron's legendary for being that dude on set. And so then his students realize and everyone's like, how's it working with James Cameron? He's like, it's great. I have no problem. I don't understand what everyone's having such an issue with James like, we've been shooting for a couple days. It's been peaches. It's been great. So they're in his Malibu house again, his screening room in Malibu, and there's in there seeing dailies and he's shot comes up from Arnold and then I'm gonna guys everyone Prepare yourselves I'm gonna curse I don't care. So I'm just quoting Mr. Cameron at this point. And he goes, What the fuck is that? And Russell's a he starts like big and the production designers. They And the first ad is there and a couple of their keys are there. And he goes, Hey, Russell, I just spent $20 million in the biggest movie star on Earth. It'd be nice if I could see his fucking face. Oh, wow. And then all of a sudden the next shot comes up and he just goes to town at every single shot and Russell's just like, okay, okay, so he leaves. He's out in the parking in the parking area. And he's like, he's calling his wife's like, I've been fired. I've been fired. I've been fired. I've just been fired. There's no way I can go back. I mean, obviously, James Cameron wants to get rid of me. Then the production design in the first day they come out and it goes, Russell Russell, he does that to everybody. Because none of us he didn't call all the other DPS has worked with he does it to everybody. He calls up the DP from the from like the Abyss and he goes, does he goes, did he try the whole? I want to see the face guy. Yeah, he does. He does it to everybody. It's not you. You're fine. Just keep going. And that is James Cameron.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:16:00
We saw recently, we saw the some of the behind the scenes from the Abyss as

Alex Ferrari 1:16:05
I was about to say that. Did you see that documentary? Did you see the set up? Or did you see the documentary? Did you see? Yeah, you've seen the whole documentary, right? The whole like,

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:16:15
why am I looking? I mean, all the way from the beginning, right, Cameron? You go Oh, yeah, the guy that made avatar you go No, no, no, no, no See? This? Like, Oh, yes, a nuclear silo? Let's fill it with water and build a set. Why are you talking about

Alex Ferrari 1:16:28
he's been, and I'll give you one more camera story. And then we will end this interview. Because we could just keep talking for an hour. Can I read it? I read one of Cameron's biographies on the Abyss if you saw the behind the scenes of this, and by the way, anyone listening here should go watch the Abyss if you haven't seen it, and get the DVD and or Blu Ray, and watch. arguably one of the best filmmaking documentaries I've ever seen up there with hearts of darkness for Apocalypse Now. It is amazing to watch. You just sit there with your mouth on the floor the entire time they're doing it. And the suits at 20th Century Fox, it was way over budget, it was like a 50 million at that time was like 50 million bucks $60 million to make the movie. And it was just going up and up. And like, you know, the tarp broke and the filtration system broke. So people, and they had to buy these really expensive, like design these really expensive suits so people can not only see, and we can see their faces. So he has like he's so on the line item. It's wardrobe. It's wardrobe, but it costs like $10,000. And everyone like no one knows what's going on at the studio in the studio and like they're somewhere in North Carolina. And so a suit flies in. And if you saw that the behind the scenes cameras, you know, you're underwater for 10 hours. So you have to decompress for two or three hours underwater, so you can come up without getting the bends. And Cameron was doing this all day every day. He was he was in the water more than anybody else. So he was a taskmaster. But he was proving he's walking the walk. So this he he's just getting out of this decompose the composition and he takes off that that that you know that that element that he that they built right. And this guy comes up who's obviously a suit an executive, he comes up and goes, Hey, James, I'm here from the end before he could finish the sentence, James took the helmet and slammed it on the guy's head. So now the guy can't breathe. Because it's without oxygen. That thing is airtight. So now he can't breathe. He grabs him by the by his tie, and Dre and lifts them over like he's dangling from the edge. And if he falls into water, the dude is gonna die. If he falls into water, unless someone gets to him, he's gonna die. And he dangles them there while the guy's like barely breathing for like 10 seconds. Then he pulls them back in, rips the thing off he goes, if I ever see you on my fucking sin again, I'll kill you. And

now you see, this is the 90s. Guys, this is early 90s. This is a whole other world. I don't suggest you do something like this. But these are the legendary stories of James Cameron. This is one of a billion of them. But I have heard or read about over the years. And I know a lot of people who've worked with him. And every single time I I meet with somebody like I had another guy. Okay, one more story. And that'll be the last James Cameron story. A buddy of mine. He was at the DGA. And he's a DJ director, and he's, you know, he's a good director in his own right and has a couple films under his belt and he's big and music videos at the time. And I think it was Spielberg and Cameron. I think in Jackson or something like that, where they're giving a talk to the other day. And they're like, yeah, you need to do this and we're doing this is the new way and do this. And my buddy comes up he stands up he goes, Hey James, that's really nice because you're James Cameron. I don't have access to that kind of stuff. Like in front of everybody called out James Cameron in front of all these other directors. James goes, Well, what are you doing tomorrow? Do you want to come set? That? No, this is this is avatar before anybody knew what the hell avatar was. Before anyone knew what the technology all you heard was rumors about what the technology was that was being built. And I even heard I was here at that time I was here in LA. So I heard like through the grapevine, like James Cameron's doing something like this now. So he shows up, shows up onto set, which is the what is that the volume, the volume, right? And he's the volume. And there's this and they're basically developing technology. This is all brand new technology they're developing. So behind them in the soundstage is like three rows up with just computers, it must have been 40 people with wires and computer gears and just servers and shit just because you know, and you see James Cameron with this monitor in front of them. And in the monitor wherever he moves the camera. You see, avatar, you see, whatever that I forgot the name of the planet, Pandora, you see Pandora, right? So you see Pandora in real time. In real time, you're seeing everything in real time. So he sees everything, but it's all virtual. So then, my buddy standing behind him because he's shadowing them. He stands behind and he's watching. And he goes all right action. And it's the scene where they like they arrived the first time the helicopter and they jump out that thing, right? So he does and he goes in the take action and they he jumps off like a stool. He jumps off the camera, and he runs and he runs into a digital tree. Like he runs into a digital tree. And it goes, Hey, Jimmy, can you move this thing? About 20 feet that way? And he goes, sure, James. And all of a sudden, like from God, a mouse from God comes into the screen, clicks on this tree in real time, lifts it up roots and all moves it over 30 feet and plants it over there. Let's go again. These like and then they do it. So then my buddy comes up to him after like a few hours of this and they're like prepping something and he goes James man, this is. This is pretty cool technology man. And this is where you understand where James Cameron is in a completely different playing field than any of us are. He goes, you know, it'd be really fucking cool. If I didn't have a cable to this damn thing. This cable has been driving me nuts. I wish we could figure out a way to do this without a cable. It's the most cutting edge technology in film history at the moment. And he's like, but the cable is buggy.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:22:32
not perfect yet. And that's

Alex Ferrari 1:22:36
and that is and that is James Cameron. I'm sorry, everyone for listening if you're still with us, and we turned this into a James Cameron love fest. I apologize for that. But, guys, guys, where can people find you? What you doing your film all that good stuff?

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:22:52
Well, we have a website Cosmos movie official.com, where you can find out where you can check out the film and follow us on social media and even buy some merchandise. If you fancy

Alex Ferrari 1:23:01
works. Are you selling

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:23:02
merch? We're selling caps, and they're they're flying off the shelf. But yeah, we're on all social media and we make we make it our personal quest to reply to every single piece of correspondence we get. So if you have any questions about the process, or about your own movie, and how distribution might work, or this or the other, just get in touch, we're always happy to talk genuinely,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:26
thank you guys for being an inspiration to the to the film tribe and to filmmakers everywhere. We need stories like this, to keep us going. Because it is a fairly depressing time that we're in currently. And, and before before, you know the situation that we're all in. It was still depressing. 29 eight it was still fairly depressing for filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers and making money and making your movies and all this kind of stuff. So these are the kind of stories I like to promote and and really give people inspiration to go out there and make their movies. And you guys are the personification of indie film hustle. So thank you guys so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it.

Elliot and Zander Weaver 1:24:07
Well, thank you very much for having us. It's honestly it's awesome to be on the show. Thank you.

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BPS 316: What They Don’t Tell Filmmakers about Making an Indie Film with Jeremy Gardener

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Alex Ferrari 0:06
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 1:36
On this episode, I'm talking with Jeremy Gardener and Christian Stella about their films, the battery and text Montana will survive. We'll talk about all the stuff that went into making the battery the difficulties of making a really, really low budget independent film the cold hard reality of being an indie filmmaker today, as well as the new way they've approached distribution for their newest feature. So get comfortable, you might want a nice cold beverage or some tea, you know, maybe some aroma in the room, maybe some lavender some some Jakar and lar and enjoy this episode, because I had a good time talking with these guys to record the show. Yeah, just a few episodes.

Jeremy Gardner 2:17
Yeah, I've been subscribed for a while. But then I went on a tangent and subscribe to every podcast ever. And now I can't remember what I'm supposed to listen to.

Jason Buff 2:25
I used to like my favorite way to learn filmmaking, aside from DVD commentaries was listening to podcasts, you know, because you can sit there for a good hour and a half listening to a filmmaker and you'd never get that access on just like interviews and stuff.

Jeremy Gardner 2:40
That's literally how Yeah, that was one of my big tools. When I was deciding I wanted to make the battery was podcasts. Oh, really? Oh, yeah, absolutely. I started back with creative screenwriting, Jeff Goldsmith's podcast. Yeah. And I listen to a ton of those. And then I just went, what else is there and downloading everything?

Jason Buff 2:59
What are the ones did you listen to my my big one, because I was trying to make a film in 2012. That didn't end up happening. But I would listen to one called film method all the time. And it was to two women that were like, they had already made their own film. And they were just interviewing people that had worked on it and talked about it, but they stopped recording it in 2012. So it was like, all of a sudden just came to an end, but it's the void now, well, that's kind of what I based mine off of was just the idea that I want to learn stuff and people want to you know, they want to hear what actually goes into filmmaking, you know, instead of like these kind of generic conversations, you know, I like to go into, you know, the nuts and bolts, money issues, technical, you know, the cameras that were used and stuff like that. So

Jeremy Gardner 3:41
No, absolutely. I mean, it's that's the important stuff. And that's, that's why I listen to watch every behind the scenes extra on every DVD I had for years. And I listened to director's notes for a long time. I don't know if you know that podcast that was Yeah. Gosh, there was another one.

Kristian Stella 3:57
I'm a I'm like a big YouTube and Vimeo guy. Like, I've watched a lot of a lot of the camera geeks on there, you know, and all those camera reviews and tests. Like I love Philip Bloom. Uh huh. Yeah. Whom is like my hero.

Jason Buff 4:11
Yeah, he's, there's a lot I think most of this stuff, because I also do. I'm an amateur cinematographer, you know, so I just sit there and watch everything about lighting tutorials, and everything about lenses and whatever, you know, I don't think it's like you don't even need to go to school anymore. If you've got an internet connection. Oh, absolutely. Get on it. You know,

Kristian Stella 4:30
I mean, that's I mean, everything that we everything that I did technically for the battery, and now takes Montana has been through tutorials is insane. Like, I mean, I was just telling Jeremy the other day, I was like, Well, I'm trying to fix a couple shots and text Montana color wise. So I'm like, I have time to watch another 20 hour DaVinci Resolve tutorial.

Jeremy Gardner 4:52
Yeah, I spend most of my time listening to screenwriter interviews and stuff too, because back when I didn't think I could actually make a movie. I just wanted to be able to Write a script. And just just to hear different processes is amazing, because no one does it the same way. And so you'll start to think that your, your writing routine is weird. And then you'll listen to 20 Different people say that there's 20 different variations on some same thing. So it doesn't matter. It's just getting, it's just putting the work in.

Jason Buff 5:19
I mean, that's one of the things that I just recently put up a blog post about the creative process. And there's a bunch of videos, about screenwriters only talking about the creative end, you know, and how they schedule out their day and how they actually write, you know, and it's it. It was nice to hear almost all of them say, Well, I spend most of the morning procrastinating. And then when I start hating myself, kind of sit down, and I'll start writing, you know, so you realize that everybody that has this drive to write screenplays, or to write anything, they're all kind of fighting with themselves, you know?

Jeremy Gardner 5:52
Yeah, I mean, that's, it's a daily grind. And but you know, the thing that I've unfortunately, the thing I've taken away from every single interview I've, I've heard is that the, you know, the successful writers are the ones who treat it like a day job. They know that they have going to put in a certain amount of hours every day in the seat, but in seat and just writing and, boy, just getting your butt in the seat is the hardest part for me, because I will find everything else to do

Jason Buff 6:16
when you started screenwriting, what were the resources that you found were the most helpful,

Jeremy Gardner 6:23
you know, it's funny, I started probably very similar to a lot of people I found a Syd field, you know, screenplay book from God knows when it was all yellowed and old, for like 25 cents in a used bookstore. And, you know, people kind of laugh off those those manuals, but that really helped me understand the structure, and the formatting. And then once you get that down, it's just about reading other screens. I just read as many screenplays as I could and you start to see how you go, Okay, well, this is the structure but I can tweak it to make it you read a certain way that I want to read and I like to write mine with absolutely zero camera interaction at all I really like almost write like a prose story where it just flows.

Kristian Stella 7:08
Yeah, they say Jeremy Jeremy screenplays sometimes read like novels. It's kind of,

Jeremy Gardner 7:12
But he's gorgeous, but sparse novel, they're not like dense. Like I have a rule, I refuse to have any action beat go over four sentences, I will not do it. Because I know people skim. So I have little rules for myself. And I don't like to, I don't like to break up sequences with like interiors, and exteriors, I kind of like to try to let them flow into each other and just just drop maybe while he walks into. And then the next line the bathroom, there's no like, interior the bathroom. Because you want to just keep a pace and the kind of momentum going I'm really about readability. Because when it's so hard for me to read some screenplays, they're just so dense, and just so much stuff on the page.

Jason Buff 7:50
Yeah, I think that a lot of people think that you have to follow very strict codes, you know, and what I've learned from talking to other screenwriters is that, you know, as long as you're telling the story, and as long as you're bringing people into the movie that you can kind of do whatever you want to, you know, you have to have a certain amount of structure. But there's a lot of leeway with that.

Jeremy Gardner 8:07
No, there really is, there's no like I said, That's what I like about John August and Craig Mason, you know, they'll they'll talk to you about the nuts and bolts on their podcasts all the time. But for the most part, every rule that someone tells you that you can't break, they will just say no, that's not true. If that were the case, we wouldn't have this movie or that movie, or this movie or whatever. So you can break whatever rule you want. If you're writing a good story,

Jason Buff 8:26
So what what would your typical day be? You know, talking about screenwriting? Like do you have to set like a date that you're going to finish by? Or do you just sit like sit down? Do you do you do a bunch of writing out notes and blueprints what what kind of is the

Jeremy Gardner 8:39
I'm so weird when it comes to writing it's well, you know, unfortunately, I have not had to write on a deadline yet, I have not, you know, taken a job where it needs to be in by this time. So it's very hard for me to manufacture my own my own deadlines. So typically, I will just start writing, I will just start writing and then I'll write I'll do what's like a beat sheet, where I will write down just slug lines of the scenes that I know are going to happen up until a point where I don't know anymore. And then I'll go and I'll start writing that. And then the net, I was telling someone the other day, I think I was telling your wife, Christian, that I if you look through my notebooks, you will see the same beat sheet written over and over and over again. And I don't know why I do it. I will go back after writing like 10 or 15 pages. And I will write again, the same beat sheet of the scenes. And I'll maybe add a little bit in between or I'll reorganize them. But for the most part, I think it's just me re familiarizing myself with where I'm at. And then hopefully something will spring up and I'll add another beat to the end of that thing. And then I'll go back and start writing again. And I'll take walks and lots of showers and just i i ruminate on it a lot. I think I think you get a lot more writing done when you're not writing than you actually think. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 9:54
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Kristian Stella 10:03
Lots of Starbucks trips, oh, yeah,

Jeremy Gardner 10:06
I have a weird thing about being able to write in the place I live. There's something about being there as often as I am there. It's just like I can't, I can't disconnect myself from just the routine of living in the home. So I need to try to get out of it as much as possible.

Jason Buff 10:22
Yeah, I think that's, that's a lot of people have told me. I mean, I'm the same way too. I cannot. I'm here in my office right now. I've tried to write here. And it just doesn't happen. You know. So I'll go off to Starbucks. And I'll sit there. And when you don't have all the distraction, that's when you say, okay, I can sit here and actually do the hard part, which is, you know, the word focusing on it. Yeah,

Jeremy Gardner 10:42
Yeah, there's something about the chatter of being in a public place. I like that kind of white noise of people talking and just the mumbling in the in the ruckus of just people moving around, that helps to other than silence. Another problem I have with writing, which people should not do is, I wake up every day when I sit down to write and I go back and tinker with everything I've already written. So I will kill an hour or two hours just perfecting what's already written. So you know, in a good way, when the script is finally done, it's been it's been polished in a way that it's like it's a second or third draft, but it takes so long to get to that final draft because I just go back and move commas and moving commas is not writing.

Jason Buff 11:24
Do you do one like, you know, as they say, vomit draft? Do you try to get like one first draft down? And then go back?

Jeremy Gardner 11:30
No, no, that's what I wish I could do. I really wish I could just move just barrel ahead and not worry about what happened before. But I cannot I keep going back, and tinkering and tweaking. And then And then hopefully, by the time like when if I wake up and I tinker with the pages I wrote the day before. Hopefully, by the time I get to the end of those, I've kind of pushed myself into the process a little bit.

Jason Buff 11:53
So how did you guys meet? You guys have been friends for a while. Right? And where are you from?

Kristian Stella 11:57
We're both we're both from Central Florida. You know, we're like, right outside Disney World. But we met when we were kids, basically. I mean, I was definitely a kid. I was like 13 or something. And we started making movies back then. And that was kind of our film school, which was it was also a regular school because we dropped out of school.

Jeremy Gardner 12:15
We started education system.

Kristian Stella 12:17
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, that's like staying in school in Florida. But yeah, we just started making movies back then like with like a $500 Sony Handycam and what year are we talking here?

Jason Buff 12:27
Just so I know.

Jeremy Gardner 12:29
Let me think about this. We shot the bags in 2000.

Kristian Stella 12:32
Okay, okay. So this is pre HD. Yes, definitely. It was like almost pre computer editing. Like, I still remember buying a hard drive for like $500 for like a like a 40 gigabyte hard drive.

Jeremy Gardner 12:46
I mean, we were cutting out when we cut in our shorts before we did the bags on like, like VHS to VHS like,

Kristian Stella 12:51
Oh, you're on a VCR. We were we were editing VCR to VCR when like in 1996 or seven or something. But yeah, so we just did that we we made some features with my sister, and got gotten into some film festivals. And then we became adults and we had to get jobs. That was Yeah, so that was like a just like an entire decade where we just, you know, waited tables and so on.

Jeremy Gardner 13:20
Yeah, we didn't do much for 10 years, and then we kind of moved apart and then I was trying to Well, I'm gonna go pound the pavement as an actor. And then that got really demoralizing really quickly and I had spent a lot of time like we were talking about watching those DVD extras and reading those interviews and listening to those podcasts and thinking you know what, I think it's about time to get the band back together the technology had finally caught up and I started to believe that there was a way to make a movie that could stand you know, against real quote unquote real movies now so I felt like we should jump back in it because that was the thing about our early movies even though they were fun and you know, we played festival I remember the director that Sarasota Film Festival telling us you know, I'm going to put your movie in this festival but because it's clear that you guys made a real movie but it's also very clear that you have absolutely no money because you it's just the quality was so

Kristian Stella 14:08
He said it was the first movie they had ever played that wasn't shot on film. So okay, it was crazy.

Jeremy Gardner 14:14
I mean, he was even talking about like maybe having a micro budget Features section in following festivals because we he just didn't know what to do with us. So that by the time the the technology caught up was like okay, well we can make something that you could literally play in a theater and people wouldn't be like oh, well was it shot on my face?

Jason Buff 14:37
Yeah, I mean that I definitely know that feeling because I mean, I think I'm a little older than you guys but you know, when I was in film school, it was like that was the only option we could only we could shoot on 16 millimeter and like spend everything we had you know, and like spend 30 It was easy to spend like 30,000 bucks on a little crappy 16 millimeter film because you had to send it off to to the lab, or the other option was to shoot on VHS. So there's a lot of people, you know, now that are coming back to it after it's like, everybody realized, Okay, now the technology is caught up all these people that couldn't make films when they were, you know, college age are coming back to it, you know?

Jeremy Gardner 15:16
Yeah, absolutely. It's such a it's such a democratic process. Now. It's it was like the art that no one was allowed to get in unless you had permission or money. And now that's not the case.

Jason Buff 15:26
Right! Okay, so you went to where did you go? You went to New York area, or where were you at?

Jeremy Gardner 15:32
Yeah, actually, Christian's dad got a show on the Food Network, and moved up to New England, Connecticut area to shoot the show. And he was like, you know, he's like a second father to me. So he's like, Hey, I know, you want to be an actor. We're gonna go live, like 40 minutes away from New York City, if you want to come live with us. So I, like hugged my family, goodbye and moved. Moved up there for 12 years

Kristian Stella 15:56
He moved up there with me. And then within like, six months of me living up there, I was like, I want to move back to Florida, and then left him with my parents.

Jeremy Gardner 16:04
And then their entire family ended up moving back to Florida and I stayed I was there just until this last until this last October, but I can't I gotta get out of Florida. I can't, I can't take it.

Jason Buff 16:19
So you were like, what on the couch or something for up in there? And

Jeremy Gardner 16:22
Oh, no, there. No, I had a, they had a room for me. They had I mean, it was like I was their second their third child. So it was a great living situation. And then I ended up you know, I got a job and I got my own place. And I moved in with a girl. And you know, I settled in up there when they all left, I need seasons, I was just talking about how I can't, I can't deal with this warm winter down here. It's creeping me out. I'm a very seasonally, you know, creative person, if if it's nice out all the time, all I want to do is do fun stuff. I kind of need those dark, cold winter months to get a little, you know, to turn my thoughts inward and helps to create and read and

Jason Buff 17:04
focus maybe snow every once in a while.

Jeremy Gardner 17:07
It's so nice. I just,

Kristian Stella 17:08
I just want to be able to drive to the store without like driving my car off a sheet of ice. That just flipped me out. I stopped driving for like four years when I lived up there. Because I mean, I only lived up there for two years, but I just refuse to drive on the snow. And then I got scared of driving in general, because I was like I haven't driven it for months.

Jason Buff 17:27
Alright, so let's let's focus on filmmaking wind. When was the I mean, what was the kind of seed that got you guys started with the battery? What Where did that kind of begin? Well, there was this

Jeremy Gardner 17:37
online, kind of they were going to, there was a site called massify, that was going to make a movie completely through the community. So they were taking pitches for scripts, and then they were taking director videos. And then they were casting all through this website. So I sent in I was I made an audition video. And I wanted to make it kind of like a short film. So it stood out. So I made this little two minute short about a guy and his friend who kind of document their day to day life in a zombie apocalypse world, this little two minute nothing video, and nothing ever came of that site or that movie, I believe it became Perkins 14, one of the eight films to die for in that series, or whatever it was. But um, but I couldn't shake the idea of this, like just two guys wandering around in the woods, in a post apocalyptic situation. And so then I started thinking about, well, the way you if you're going to make a no budget movie, it's the way you should do it is you should, you should tailor it to what you have. And in my mind, that is right. But after a word from story, you could write a creative story around any situation. So now back to the shop, no money. What's the what's the way to do that? Well, okay, we'll just shoot it in the woods, right? And then if there are zombie, there are people trying to avoid zombies? Well, if they're smart, they're going to avoid cities. So there'll be in the woods and that way we could get around all that stuff. And it just kind of came became a way for me to take the zombie genre and turn it inward and focus on how two different minds would would be affected by that rather than do this big, grand, you know, macro scale, the whole world is dying. Yeah. And

Kristian Stella 19:11
at the same time that like he's thinking about getting back into film. I had I had become a food photographer, and the best food photography camera was the five d. So I had a five d mark, too. So I already had the camera that was like changing the the indie filmmaking world. I just so happened to have to have that for my job. So it was like the kind of perfect storm is as he was thinking about this movie. I had the equipment to make a movie, sort of when I had the camera waste.

Alex Ferrari 19:50
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show

Jeremy Gardner 19:59
you So that's basically where it started just just just tailoring a story to what I knew would be cheap. And you know, there was a long time where I could not convince anybody that you could make a movie for the kind of money I was talking about. I just couldn't I remember I was introduced to some, like rich guy at a bar. And he started talking to me like a big wig. And as soon as I mentioned $6,000, he just laughed and walked away.

Jason Buff 20:27
So that was, yeah, that happens a lot.

Jeremy Gardner 20:29
Well, it doesn't happen as much anymore. You know, it's people are coming around to the fact that movies can be made for nothing.

Jason Buff 20:35
Well, you know, the funny thing that I run into is, so many people think that they need, you know, 100,000 or $200,000, to make, you know, a little indie movie. And it's ridiculous,

Jeremy Gardner 20:45
it frustrates me to no end, I've seen so many people just waste money, they just waste money. And I don't understand, like, the whole my whole concept going into this was, look, I believe we can do this. But if we can't, if it doesn't work, and I get the money, I got the money from like, 10 different people. So it'd be like little chunks of $600. So nobody was going to be broke. No one's gonna lose their house. And no one's gonna hate me. That was it's just like, just, you know, hedge your bets, right? Something that you believe in that you could do for an incredibly small amount, and then don't don't break anybody don't lose any friends over it. Had you been acting before? Yeah, I've always been like more of a writer and an actor I did. I did a bunch of plays when I went up there up to the north. And, you know, I was always the actor in our movies, when we were making them younger. I was in all the plays in high school. So I wanted to be an actor, or a writer. And it wasn't until I got the confidence from listening to all these interviews with other filmmakers and watching movies and starting to understand them more that I was like, Well, you know, I can I can, I'm just going to direct this thing. I'm just going to do this thing straight through, it's gonna be my little, my little creature. But it was really it took a long time for me to say, I'm directing this because I had never been in those shoes before.

Jason Buff 21:54
Sorry, Christian, you were gonna say something? Oh, I

Kristian Stella 21:56
was just gonna say the other thing about budgets is that I think it's hard thing for people to wrap their head around that equipment can be rented, you know. And like, in fact, it always is rented in large budgets even. So like, that was one of the things that people come up and they're like, you know, you guys couldn't have made that movie for $6,000. It's like, it cost more for the equipment. I'm like, I mean, I used a Zeiss lens, but it was $150 to rent it for the whole shoot. So there's always so the only thing I owned was the camera. And even that would have been $250 to rent. Right? So you know, I think that even that seems to be a barrier of entry for people. But it shouldn't be. It's not.

Jason Buff 22:34
Yeah, it's funny because I you know, I've shot a couple of shorts down here, my cameras, I've only got a 60 D. And I've got a couple of friends who I've got one friend who has a five d Mart three, and has never used it. Like it was a gift from her husband. Oh, and so I'm just like, hey, do you mind if we borrow your camera for this shoot, and you know, whatever. And she's like, Yeah, sure, whatever, I don't care. I've never even I don't even know how to turn it on. So it's just like the equipment now has there's no barrier, you know?

Kristian Stella 23:03
I mean, I'm shooting on a Canon C 100. Now, and I let my friend borrow it all the time. And he's another filmmaker. Yet. Meanwhile, he went and shot a feature on an iPhone. And I was like, why don't you just borrow my camera? And he's like, I was afraid to ask. So now he borrows it all the time.

Jason Buff 23:21
Yeah, I know that he knows. Yeah, I

Jeremy Gardner 23:23
think that just I think people also, I mean, one of the hardest things for me to do is ask for favors. I'm really bad at asking for favors, but you'd be amazed the amount of things that you can get just asking. I mean, even just you know, you know, a couple of weeks ago, we were shooting something new for to add into tax Montana. And we we'd like put a budget aside for okay, if these people want money, here's what we're willing to spend. And then we go there and then we introduce ourselves, we tell them what we're doing. And then they just let us do it for free. And it's just it's amazing. Like how how often you can find, you know, the things that you need, just from through people's generosity, everyone just balloons up in their, in their mind what these budgets have to be and they just they really don't have to be that big, especially for your first one.

Jason Buff 24:11
Now, can you guys talk a little bit about the filmmaking process. I know you've talked a lot about the making of the battery. But can you just talk you know for indie filmmakers, can you talk about the process that you went through to create that the production maybe a little bit of pre production and the production process?

Kristian Stella 24:29
Well, yeah, we allowed to curse. Yeah, go ahead. I was a bit of a shit show.

Jeremy Gardner 24:36
But it was a lot of shit. Yeah, well, that okay. Well, that's the one thing that should be should be very much noted is that we, you know, for the longest time because Christian was down in Florida and I was up in up in Connecticut, kind of on my own trying to get this thing going. And I'm not a producer. Like I said, I'm very bad at asking for people for things from people. And I finally had to set an arbitrary date I said, you know all Just first we're doing this thing. That's it. August 1 is the date. And, you know, I got location squared away. But you know, between casting zombies and getting all the props together and trying to work out a schedule, which I'd never worked out a movie schedule before, these things were just like, beyond my grasp a little bit. And so that really, really hurt us in the actual production was that we just, we had about three full days of pre production. Once Christian got up there, we had three days to buy all the props, get all the zombies, like in order, get the crew, you know, our small crew shot list shot lists up to where we were shooting. So if there's anything to be learned is plan as much as you can before you get to set because everything will go wrong when you get to set. And if you if you plan for the things that you can, that you can fix, then when everything else goes to shit, you'll be ahead of the game. Meanwhile,

Kristian Stella 25:57
meanwhile, I only ever shot like two silent four minute short films. Before I got up there. I was still reading how to how to use the camera when I got up there because I was like, I mean, I know how to do photography, but I did not know cinematography at all, I

Jason Buff 26:12
saw the clip of I haven't seen the full documentary behind the scenes. But I saw the you're looking at that book Master master shot master shot. And I thought that was kind of a joke. But was that were you like actually not

Kristian Stella 26:23
a genre. And those books are awesome to master shots. Yeah, great.

Jeremy Gardner 26:28
But that's the thing too, is like, you have to just there has to be kind of a blind, youthful confidence when you go into something like this. Because if you think about all the ways in which you can fail, you just won't do it. You know, and it's like, I know, Christian is talented in a way that I'm not I know he's, he's going to solve any technical problem that we run into. And I I have faith in my acting and my writing and understanding of what I want the story to look like. And it's like, at some point, you're gonna run into stuff you don't really know. But as long as you keep it to a manageable budget, like I said, if you screw up, whatever, you know what, no one's no one's gonna die. So you just have to have this kind of blind confidence and just go in and do it, I think is learn as much as you can from all the free information that's out there. And then just do it. Because, man, if you really think about all the ways you could screw it up, just you might as well just wait tables.

Kristian Stella 27:20
Yeah, and I mean, no one's no one's come back, and like called me on the shots that are out of focus, or the shots, they're overexposed, and all this other stuff that I can see in that like paying me, nobody calls you on that as long as the movie is a good story, and is competent, most of the time, you know, like, as long as you're telling the story, and it's, it looks competent, um, you can get away with a little bit of that, at least at first. I mean, at least specially if you're making it yourself. And I think

Jeremy Gardner 27:50
I think passionately told to is a big thing too. It's like, you can tell when you're watching something, if it's if it's somebody just trying to cash in trying to grab a quick book, somebody just just doing an homage to some splatter thing that they've seen, or if someone just really genuinely is putting themselves out there. And I will give anything a pass if I can see the

Jason Buff 28:11
passion in it, that it was there a lot of ad lib on the set. You know, it's

Jeremy Gardner 28:15
funny, I get that a lot and the script is so we cast we cast Adam Adam was the theatrically trained actor, so it was a little bit harder to get him to come out of his shell. So basically, what you see in every scene is almost completely as scripted. But then I as the director being in the scene would let the let the scenes run longer. And I would start trying to throw him off at the end. So most of the ad libs will come from tags at the end of the scenes as written. Because once we would get once I would know in my mind that we were reaching the end of the scripted portion that Adam knew I would kind of throw in a curveball and see if he would follow me. So there are definitely definitely some ad libs in there and some goofy kind of asides, but for the most part that is a that is a written as a written movie. I'm just so naturally you can even tell ya know, it's mind blowing you know all the little weird things like fuck you sir. Fuck you to death at the end. You know, the see that that's a tag. There's a scene where we're, we're playing catch, and I just do a weird dancing like, boop, boop, boop. That was a whole dialogue scene about like, we'll start our own like place and we'll we'll let people in there and we'll decide who gets to. And it just was coming off really stilted because we were playing catch up. And so I just, I just said, Screw it. I'm just gonna do a weird song and dance. And then that was what we used instead. One of

Jason Buff 29:37
the things that I think syncs films and one of the things that you guys do really well is everything's very, it feels very natural. And one of the problems that I have with a lot of the things that are coming out now is the acting just you know, that's like the first thing you notice is just people reading lines. You don't really feel like a scene as is actually taking place. Well, I

Jeremy Gardner 29:54
mean, it obviously all starts with casting. I mean, you gotta get somebody who can do it. Right off the bat you got to know They can do it.

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Jeremy Gardner 30:11
But it's also about letting the actors you know, feel out there feel their way through the scene, you know, I didn't get to do that much of it on this because it was our first time and, and, you know, and I was in the scenes, but there's a part about it, that's if you put an actor in a box, and you tell them that they can't go here, here or here. And it has to be like this, this or that, then they're going to you're going to stifle they're their instrument, their one thing that they have, which is trying to feel confident enough to fail, not be embarrassed to try something crazy. And you know, there's something about kind of going through the scene before you shoot and letting the the actor go where they naturally would want to be. And then framing your shot around that is an easier way to get them to feel comfortable doing something that they would naturally do.

Kristian Stella 31:01
Yeah, I would say that like, the the wide shots in the battery, were extremely helpful to the fact that like they, they had a ton of room to move around. And then on top of that, like there's just something for me personally, um, when you when you look at like the digital video, because even like the five d it's great, but it's still video superduper close ups of people just feel soap opera ish. So like, even just just shooting wider like that makes it feel more cinematic, which in turn actually helps your performance. Like there's just something about, like those, those ultra macro close ups where you can see every pore on their face, that makes it feel more like you're watching a movie and that like like you can see the acting because it's your right up in the face.

Jeremy Gardner 31:53
I mean, those are necessary for a certain if you're going for a certain style. But I would also say that even though I said the script is you know, this movie's pretty scripted, I made very clear from the get go that it I'm not precious about my words. That's another way to that that's that's a surefire way to get a stilted performance is if an actor doesn't, can't feel the line, the way it feels natural coming out of their mouth. And yet they feel like they're, they're tied to that, that verbatim. So just whatever we feel, I mean, I was literally reading a script last night for a role I'm going to do and as I was reading it, I was changing words in the moment, and then writing those words down on the script. Because the way it's written didn't sound natural, I couldn't quite make it flow in a natural way. But if I just tweaked this word, change that word, then suddenly it starts to come out more naturally, you know, in the way that I've analyzed that chair. So

Kristian Stella 32:43
weren't, you weren't like precious about actions at all, either. So it's like that, that'd be the other thing. Like, we didn't really we weren't precious about locations or actions, we'd be like, hey, you know what this location is not working out, let's, let's move over to this location. And let's, hey, maybe they're playing catch in this scene where they weren't playing catch. Or maybe they're doing this in this scene? Yeah, it certainly

Jeremy Gardner 33:05
works for a certain kind of movie, the more I think, just the more freedom you can give an actor to feel like they can move about find the character, find the characters gate and rhythm, and and feel their way through the set. Then you're just gonna get it's just gonna get better, the more the more they feel natural and lived in in the moment, the more natural performance you're gonna get.

Jason Buff 33:26
You know, it reminded me a lot of gym Jeremy rush. I don't know if you guys have ever Absolutely. Well, thank you

Jeremy Gardner 33:32
very much. That's, that's a good compliment. Yeah, I just just lived in is what I always go for. I mean, I always say that, I will tweak the dialogue until it until I can read it, where it doesn't feel like it's being read anymore. And then I'll say throw it all out. If it doesn't work for you just just get, you know, the point of the scene, right? You know, the, the intent of the scene, and then just get there any way that feels right. And if you have actors who are quick on their feet, if one actor goes a certain way to try to get to the same point in a different way, then the other actor will follow and let them follow. And then

Kristian Stella 34:06
if that doesn't work in the editing room, throw it out. Because we did a lot of that too. Right?

Jason Buff 34:12
Were you working with a lot of non actors? I mean, I assume most of the zombies were just friends, right?

Jeremy Gardner 34:17
Yeah, all the zombies were non actors. Unfortunately, that's, you know, they're not only were they non actors, but they were young. We get that a lot that well, all the zombies in this movie are the same age as the Yeah, I get it. Yeah, we should have cast a more diverse set of extra money. But like I said, we didn't do good enough pre production. So that goes back to that.

Jason Buff 34:38
Well, talking about for a second about the technical aspects. I want to talk to Christian for a second about you know, in terms of the way you approach this, I assume most of its natural light. Can you talk about kind of the what you were using? I know you're with the five d mark two and you said a Carl Zeiss lens. Can you talk a little bit about how you approach that?

Kristian Stella 34:58
The craziest thing about But the movie was that we knew that the last third of it takes place in the back of a station wagon. So we needed a super wide lens. So I ended up renting a Zeiss 21 millimeter that on the full frame five d m, that ended up kind of creating the whole look for the movie because it was such a better lens than any that I had, that I tried to use it as often as possible. So then, you know, we already knew we wanted to shoot super wide, but then shooting with the 21 millimeter, just really, really opened it up even further. So much. So in fact that we, we actually we didn't shoot with the intention of having the movie be to 35 one we actually cropped it in post as an afterthought, like it was just that we realized, wow, these The shots are so wide and they looked much better cropped. And it once again, like helped with the film look that we were trying to achieve. So ya know, as far as lighting, I just had, like a $50 LED light that was battery operated because we were in the woods, we had no power. It was only using a couple scenes. And then the I mean obviously the most important thing I had was one of those variable ND filters because so much of it was shot outside in sunlight. And that's the one thing that I noticed whenever I get sent something now someone's like, Hey, can you review this Can you review this, their shutter speed is all like It's first time filmmaker, the shutter speed is all over the place. And if you get that Saving Private Ryan look from shooting at a high shutter speed. So other than that, we I didn't really have much equipment. I didn't even have a fluid video head on on the battery. I mean, it was crazy. I had an $80 shoulder rig from optika Oh yeah, that was that was that was it I had a plastic tripod that I bought at BestBuy. So, ya know, I was unprepared. But, you know, we wanted most of the shots to be static. So, you know, I didn't think I needed a fluid video head and all those other things. And we didn't quite have the budget. So

Jason Buff 37:20
yeah. So what what were the major things that if you could go back in time, you think would have made things a lot easier for you

Kristian Stella 37:29
a steadicam? Because we had discussed it, everything's going to be stationary. But then you know, you start making the movie and it's like, oh, well just, you know, follow along. We're gonna walk down this hill over these rocks and, you know, just walk behind us and that kind of stuff. I mean, my I might ask was saved in post by premieres warp stabiliser. And that's, this is just not something you want to rely on. Especially like, you know, it has artifacts and so on that I can see. But we had to do it because we didn't have a steadicam. Although like on the last day of the shoot, one of the producers was like, I got a Steadicam in my trunk. I wanted to stab him. I absolutely wanted to stab him.

Jeremy Gardner 38:15
And I would say just, you know, there are certain things about the fact that we didn't get to, we didn't really know how to plan, a shoot schedule. So there are some, there were some days where we were just overloaded with things we had to get. I mean, when we had the only other two actors in the movie, Alana O'Brien and Niels Bala, they we had them scheduled on the same day, because they're both coming from New York. And that's 14 pages of dialogue, you know, and then it's raining. And then it's, you know, the night is approaching. And it's just one of those things where you start to feel, you don't want to feel like you're losing control, you're set when you have actors there. And once the elements get involved, it's just like, we should never have scheduled both of those actors on the same day that many pages in one day, but we just had no idea how to schedule the film. And we had such a little amount of time to do it. So

Kristian Stella 39:03
a backup audio recorder would have helped on that day, because our audio recorder fried. And we had no other option to record audio. And we waited two hours to get one and then finally gave up and recorded using the mono mic on the SLR. So yeah, that would have I mean, we would have not just saved the audio quality of that scene. But we would have saved the two hours while we were waiting for someone with a video camera to come that had XLR inputs.

Jason Buff 39:33
Right. But it's another thing that you guys did that, you know, a lot of indie filmmakers forget about is you hired a guy to be your 100% sound guy, you know, and that makes a big difference.

Jeremy Gardner 39:45
Absolutely. Absolutely. That was you know, that's the, you know, I think throughout our little weird troupe of filmmakers since you know since we've been kids.

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Jeremy Gardner 40:06
We've all kind of had our own specialty, but none of us have ever been sound guys, do you know that that is a very specialized area to go into. So when I was the one thing I did do, right in pre production was, I put an ad out and I for a sound guy, and I said, Look, I got a little bit scratched to give you and I can give you a little back end in the movie. But you've got to stay with us the entire time. You can't go home, I can't be wondering where you are, you know, every day when when it's time for call. You just got to be a part of the crew, and you're going to be there. And this guy responded. He was like, that sounds cool. So I met this guy for a couple pints. And we ended up arguing over the merits of baseball and hockey for about two and a half hours. And you know, he's a sound guy now. But he used to be like a roadie. So he's used to like living in a van with musicians and stuff. So he just, I mean, day one, he was there. He was sleeping on the couch in the cabins with us, you know, beers at night, he was, you know, doing everything that a grip would do that a PA would do. He was doing sound. So he was invaluable. So if you can get yourself, you know, and especially in a small crew of people are gonna have to wear many hats. So get a guy who can do sound and blackout windows if he needs to.

Jason Buff 41:19
So what would you say was the hardest assignment? Well, let me ask you about the scheduling. What if you could go back? And possibly what you did for techs? We'll talk about that in a second. But what when you're scheduling and everything, what are the is there a specific tool that you're using now that you didn't have then or something that you're doing now to schedule things out?

Jeremy Gardner 41:41
Do we still have not scheduled a movie tradition? Or

Jason Buff 41:44
you would like to in the future? Yeah, well, I

Jeremy Gardner 41:47
would love to just get a good line producer and do it, they can do it themselves. No, it's just one of those areas that I just had, we haven't had to I mean, text, as you will see was not very well planned in itself, either. So we didn't learn a lot from our first effort. But uh, no, but there's little things that are obvious. Like when you look back, like, Okay, you can't have 40 or 50 extras standing outside for 12 hours a day, two days back to back, you got to feed them, you've got to keep them occupied. And there's a way to break that up. But then you realize that you can only have the certain location where those extras can be for one or two days, then you start running into issues that we just didn't really concern ourselves with. I mean, there's a moment in the movie where we're Mickey puts blankets all over the windows in the car, because he doesn't want to see the zombies faces anymore. And luckily, you know, story wise, you can, you can justify that because Mickey just can't deal with the situation. But in reality, we realized after that first day of shooting with all those extras that if we have these extra staring in the windows for the entire 35 minute third act that these these characters are in the car, you're going to start to see them get bored, you're going to start to see the zombies looking at the camera, you're going to you're going to you're going to you're going to invite the audience to start looking at the zombies rather than focusing on the characters. But it was in fact, just because we couldn't we couldn't afford to have them out there all that time. So we went back after the first day, brainstorm, just came up with that blanket idea and then move the car into a garage into a controlled setting, put a sunlamp out the window and had one person shake it and then just added the zombie sounds at the end. And that worked fine. That's one of those creative decisions I'm really proud of. But it was one that we might not have had to run into if we had, you know, knew how to schedule a movie.

Jason Buff 43:44
What was the hardest day on the set?

Kristian Stella 43:48
Yeah, it was. It was the day where the sound broke. I mean, that was the day I quit the movie before the sound broke.

Jason Buff 43:55
Okay, well, I didn't know about that.

Kristian Stella 43:58
I quit on text to I think I quit the movie. Yeah.

Jason Buff 44:02
It's kind of a tradition at this. You're not doing it

Jeremy Gardner 44:05
right. If someone doesn't quit. Yeah, that means it's not hard. That means you're not struggling.

Kristian Stella 44:09
We were trying to make a squib and it was failing. And it was an it was a design.

Jeremy Gardner 44:14
That was the day that we had the two actors come in from out of town. There's this get shot in the legs. We were trying to make a squib out of nothing and a blood and a condom and like a firecracker. It was raining. You're running out of time. You know, tensions were high, the sound broke, we ran out a light, it was just the most everything that could go wrong. went wrong. I mean, if you watch the documentary, you'll see it's just once that day is mentioned it everyone sighs It was a rough day.

Jason Buff 44:46
But I think it's helpful for other filmmakers to realize, you know that it is such a difficult process because I mean, you know, I think everybody who makes an indie film that doesn't have much of a budget has probably gone through the same thing and a lot of people quit. You know, a lot of people never make their film.

Jeremy Gardner 45:02
Ya know, that's unfortunate too, because it's the most rewarding and most fun I've ever had. And it's also, you know, the most stressful and crazy, but those two things go hand in hand. And there's nothing like, you know, sitting down with other filmmakers and chewing the fat and listening to them talk about their nightmare moments on set because you then you can relate Oh, yeah, gosh, that's just like, when the wasp nest was stuck in the car door, and the lawn mowing. People came on the same day on the first day of shooting, I was just like, what is happening here? It's but it's but that's kind of one of those badges of honor You were after you made a you know, an indie movie on your own.

Jason Buff 45:40
In terms of the music, can we talk for a second about that and how you were able to get such a great soundtrack?

Jeremy Gardner 45:48
Absolutely. And thank you. Um, no, you know, it started as I'm a huge fan of rock Plaza Central, this band rock Plaza Central, I've loved them for years, I used to be a big fan, I would go to all their shows. And when we cut together a location scouting video, before we'd ever, ever made the movie, we used one of their songs, and we kind of put it up on Twitter for people to see what we were going to do. And the lead singer of the band contacted us and said, Hey, that looks cool. You guys gonna use our music in the movie as well, which had never even occurred to us that that would be a possibility. And then he was really kind and put us in touch with his label. And they were super mean, they gave us the rights of the songs for literally nothing like I think it was like 500 bucks forever, worldwide. That is great. And even better than that. It's like he put us in touch with the band, the parlor who has a couple songs in the movie, and they just gave us free rein of all their songs for nothing. And the same thing happened with you know, wise blood he does the electronica in the movie electronic songs in the movie, he Adam kind of knew him from college. So he gave us his music, son hotel, and El Canadore were some Florida bands that Christian knew from the local scene down here. He talked to them, and they let us use their music. You know, here, a lot of people I mean, one of the most amazing things is no matter where I've gone with this movie all over the world, whatever language people always, always ask about the music. And that's so rewarding, because there's something that's to be said about, you know, artists helping other artists out and it was such a beautiful thing for them to do to let us use their music. And what's been lovely is how often those bands have contacted us and said, hey, you know, once the movie came out, we saw a huge uptick in downloads and sales on our music and stuff. So it's just, uh, it's one of those things where, you know, look, we can't give you much up front. But you know, if our movie does well, you'll do well, it's, you know, it's a symbiotic relationship. And that was amazing. And now we're like, great friends with Chris Eaton from Rob Platt presses Plaza Central. And that's it's such a weird thing to go from being a fan of somebody and like, I shook his hand one time at a show to now he'll like, call me up and say, Hey, I got this idea for a novel like, what do you think about this and just talk to him about it, you're like, is so crazy? You know, it's so crazy to go from fan to peer and collaborator,

Jason Buff 48:04
but you haven't told him that you are like that. And he's not like, oh, I want to shake my hand again.

Jeremy Gardner 48:08
I told him, I mean, there was literally a show where I was so into it, I was having such a good time that they like, handed the microphone to me in the crowd to like, hold up to the trombone player, because I just wouldn't stop and then another show, they were like, Hey, man, we saw you out there, like dancing up a storm, like a crazy person, like just thanks. So it's cool that you're like getting into the musical. And I was just like, they talked to me. Now it's like, go to their house. And like, you know, having barbecue with their kids and stuff. It's so wild.

Jason Buff 48:39
As far as the DVDs and stuff like that, and reproduction of their songs do you guys have to have like contracts and things like that, that were worked out? Just can you give me an idea of how that all kind of worked out. So

Kristian Stella 48:49
most of the bands, most of the bands is we're off label and they gave they gave us like the rights to do anything with their music in the movie. Including I mean, rock Plaza central gave us those rights. And then but then they were like, Oh, we forgot we're in Canada. No, we have a label in the US. So we did have to get in contact with their label. But their label basically gave us the rights to use the songs.

Jeremy Gardner 49:18
Yeah, you definitely have to get you know releases signed, you have to get all the bands to sign up. But once you do once you get into deliverables if you if you have a distribution deal. You've got to get all the the contracts squared away with those artists. But I mean, I can remember I think one of the bands from Florida was planning to be playing in New York City. And Adam, you know, who plays Mickey, our producer, one of our producers, he was like, what they're in the city right now. And he just like hooked it down to where they were playing a show and like confronted them to say, Hey, can you sign this release for that song? It's in our movie, it's just like, you just gotta you gotta get it all squared away. Deliverables is a is an annoying, annoying part of what should be one of the most amazing parts of the process, which is, hey, we're gonna distribute your movie.

Alex Ferrari 49:59
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Jeremy Gardner 50:09
Cool. What do we need to give you? Oh, everything that's ever been made in the world? We have to God no.

Kristian Stella 50:16
But I mean, yeah, in general, I mean, I mean, we didn't really have to pay for the songs. I mean, we, I think even the record label differed the payment until after the battery was like bringing in money from the distribution. So it was it was pretty, pretty awesome, actually.

Jason Buff 50:34
Now, can you talk a little bit about your post production process, I just want to give people a full view of the whole thing and kind of how you went from taking all, you know, even the minutiae of taking the card out of the camera? And did you do backups? Did you you know, how did post production work? Can you talk about that

Kristian Stella 50:54
I could talk about on the battery. We had, I'll tell you, we had two hard drives on set, they, I would take the cards out every day, when we got back to we have these little cabins that we were staying in, I would take the card out, put it off onto the to hard drives, then I would move one of the hard drives into one the other cabin just in case one of the cabins got broken into because we had all this film, camera equipment coming in and out. So or it burned down. Who knows, you know, so I, we had, we had two separate hard drives every day. Um, and then after that, post production kind of took like two whole years. I mean, it was often off. I mean, it was we never

Jeremy Gardner 51:39
just like jumped into it all at once. Because we didn't have time because we had day jobs.

Kristian Stella 51:44
By day. I mean, me, my sister, and Michael Katzman, edited the movie. And then after that, our friend Ryan Winford did the score. But everything else then after that was done by me. Um, so like, I did the sound design and the score mixing and the color grading and then, you know, like the final kind of tweaking to the Edit, and all that stuff, the deliverables. And that that just was like, it's just never done, we would play a film festival and I'd come back and be like, I gotta fix that color. In that scene, I gotta fix the sound in that scene.

Jeremy Gardner 52:24
But like I said, I mean, we are, we are lucky in that you really are lucky if you have people who can wear many hats, because it's, you know, our editors are, you know, they they put together a rough cut for us. And then until I could come down, and we could really sit there and hone the edit. And then but then they also just went off on their own and did like hundreds of Foley Foley sounds for the movie, which we didn't even you know, think of how we're going to get to fully they just went off and did that. Christians, you know, going into his garage and like, recording himself slapping the car like a million different times. So we can create that soundscape for all the zombies like slapping their hands up against the windows. So it's like everybody's doing, you know, jobs. I don't know. I remember. One thing Christian wanted was somebody to do sound design. And I met a guy and Christian flew to New York, he flies to New York to meet this guy. And the guy like who's basically like an intern somewhere. And he thinks he's a hotshot tells us that the movie can't be can't be done in the state. It's him.

Kristian Stella 53:26
He said, he said, we didn't have enough Foley, we had 1000 pieces of Foley in the movie. And he said we needed more full, which means he didn't even notice it was fully which is good. Yeah. And it was I'm like, we're a $6,000 movie. We have 1000 pieces of Foley in here. And he's saying I can't mix it until there's more Foley.

Jeremy Gardner 53:42
And so Christian goes out Christian goes outside for a cigarette. I walk outside and I'm like, Hey, man, what's going on? And he's like, Fuck it I learned to do it myself. And then you went home and just watched online tutorials and and did the sound design himself. So hopefully, from here on out what we're hoping is it Christian doesn't have to wear as many hats because I could see him dying his hairs graying because I'm the writer, director, actor guy who gets to do all the fun stuff. And he's just like, I'm coloring the same scene for a year.

Kristian Stella 54:17
Because we added we added editor like we will, Jeremy and I co edited the new movie. And but I also did the sound recording on the new movie on set. So like, I was just adding jobs like and this

Jason Buff 54:31
one it might be she just saved the things that you didn't do in the credit. Yeah, exactly. This

Kristian Stella 54:35
went I mean, not in tax, Montana. All the tech was done by me the only the only thing that wasn't was the score was done by Ryan again. But I recorded the score with him. So you know, like, it's just nuts.

Jason Buff 54:49
Now, was there any when you were learning how to do that? Were you just going on YouTube or was there any just for people who might want to take on something like that? Yeah, I'd help them.

Kristian Stella 54:59
I mean any thing. Like, because I mean, even my my other job I do photography and design. There's a site called lynda.com l y n. Oh, yeah, definitely. Yeah, that site. I've learned how to do a million things on that site. And it's pretty great because you could just sign up for $20 like crunch for a whole month and then cancel your subscription with it sign up again, when you need a refresher.

Jason Buff 55:26
Yeah, that's sad. Because that's I've done that before. Yeah, like, oh, I want to take this class. But I don't want to, I don't want to get a membership. So you can do a two week free trial too. Yeah. But did you take Deke McClelland class? Ah, I think Deke is kind of the Guru over there because I teach Photoshop, but I'm also a graphic designer. But um, you know, it's, it's funny because I learned Deke was the guy that basically taught me Photoshop back in, like 98 or something like that. But it came the it used to lynda.com used to also be I think, total training, I think they merged or something, ah, and total training used, you would get like 20 VHS cassettes of how to learn Photoshop, but I remember that arriving one day, and I was just like, so excited to get the total training series anyway. Sorry. Off topic, right. It's

Kristian Stella 56:15
totally, you know, like, I'm sure Mike Deke, I would I would probably recognize him or something like, oh, yeah, well, I've seen that guy a million times. Now because I mean, I've watched all every Adobe program I've watched on there because I use pretty much every Adobe program and different jobs.

Jeremy Gardner 56:31
And I would say my advice for all that is to get yourself a Christian. Because because I just want to go right, I don't want to do that shit.

Jason Buff 56:40
We're gonna give Christians email address and home address at the end of this so everybody can get in touch with them.

Jeremy Gardner 56:47
I said, get yourself a Christian, not

Unknown Speaker 56:51
another Jeremy. Everyone needs another Christian, but no one needs another Jeremy. Yeah.

Jason Buff 56:58
Okay, so. And color grading? Can you talk about that for a second? Because I mean, yeah, we're doing that

Jeremy Gardner 57:05
in here and defer to Christian

Kristian Stella 57:08
Yeah, you don't know anything about that. I'm actually this is crazy. Now, on the battery, I, I was using just the built in color corrector stuff in Premiere. I didn't switch to resolve until text Montana. And that's why I'm still learning resolved. Because it's, it's kind of a whole mindfuck for me. But, ya know, the battery was done with, like, the Fast Color Corrector and all these other premier tools. And then I think, towards the end Colorista which, but that was already when I was like, like, after we had premiered the movie, I was going back and fixing some things. But then the the major thing I did on the battery was Besides, I've just I was color grading it to be really low contrast, I was always bringing up the blacks. Because I felt like when you have these crushed blacks and these super, super whites, basically, it's stuff that really you can only do with video. And film didn't really have that because even you know film film in a theater had this light going through it. So to me, I was like, I'm not going to I'm not going to ever have true black in the battery. So it was always kind of raised up to like around, even like 10 ire. Um, but anyway, I know. But the most important thing I did on the battery was I got I bought this film grain loop from a company called guerilla grain. And it was like $50 for a real scan of film grain. And I put it over top of that because of over the battery because not only did it make it look more like film, but it also helped with I had been doing a lot of noise reduction from shooting high ISO at night. So that you know, when you use I was using neat video for noise reduction. And when you do that things start to look plasticky and fake and the film grain really kind of gets rid of that plastic look. But now that I shoot with the C 100 I'm using DaVinci Resolve because there's just so much more color information there. Alright, so shooting progress. Yeah, I'm shooting into the progress ninja animus ninja to recorder. Okay, and it's so it's so much more. I mean, it's like night and day from the battery. So say like Texas, Montana will survive is a found footage movie.

Alex Ferrari 59:55
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Kristian Stella 1:00:05
Yet on a technical level, it's way, way more. It's way better looking than the battery is.

Jason Buff 1:00:13
Okay? I don't want to put Jeremy to sleep over there. So let's talk about are you

Jeremy Gardner 1:00:18
kidding me? I have I have recordings of Christian talking tech, and I just listened to it as my lullaby. Yeah, I've just heard it 1000 times, but people do need to know this

Jason Buff 1:00:27
shit. As you were making the film. Are you thinking about distribution? Were you concerned with trying to build up social awareness of the, you know, what was your idea towards the marketing?

Jeremy Gardner 1:00:40
You know, we didn't really have one. Honestly, I think that a lot of times Speaking of things that could derail your, your your production, putting the cart before the horse is one of the the main issues today. I mean, I don't, I had people, you'll still spend a month making a poster for a movie, they haven't even considered getting out there and actually making so it was really just about one thing at a time, right? Let's let's make a movie. First, let's see if we've got a movie first. And then Okay, one, let's see how we can get people to see it. And then it became, you know, the festival circuit trying to get into festivals. And then, you know, getting a trailer cut together, that's, that's interesting enough to where you might get some people, there's a little bit of buzz about it, get it to some websites, that traffic in those things, and just start to build an awareness. But it really wasn't until the festival, the festival circuit kind of kicked up that we started building an online presence. And then going to those festivals and glad handing and meeting people and talking to them is really the only way you're gonna get get noticed in, you know, because there's so many people making movies. Now the only way you're going to rise to the top is is to get into festivals, get seen, be there, meet as many people as possible, be nice, be humble, have drinks with them. Make yourself available.

Jason Buff 1:01:55
What were some of the more important festivals for the film in terms of like, what you guys connections and things like that, or what were the most fun ones?

Jeremy Gardner 1:02:03
The fun ones, or there's so many fun ones. I mean, the first, the first one we got into was the Telluride horror show, Colorado, which was amazing. And that was our world premiere. And we were super excited about that. And then after that we didn't get into anything for months. I mean, it got really demoralizing you start throwing $50 a pop at these festivals and not hearing anything. And it's like you're chucking money into a hole, and you've no idea what's going on. And then out of the blue, we got an email from imagine in Amsterdam, which is a big genre festival, it's been going on out there for about 25 years. And we got into that. And then because they are a part of kind of a genre, you're like an international genre, like coalition know, most of film festivals, other film festivals that were in that same Union started asking for the movie. So there's this weird thing that happens where at first, you're spending a lot of money to get to submit to festivals and not hearing anything, then you get into one and then suddenly other festivals know that that's happening. And then they start saying they're going to waive their submission fee. And then at some point, not only do they waive the submission fee, they just invite you to screen their period. And then at some point, they start flying you out, and they start paying you screening fees to show your movie. So it's this really weird process where if you're lucky enough to start to catch a little bit of fire on the festival circuit, you can go from spending money to making money and getting to see the world. So imagine definitely was what kick started that. And then from there, we went to we won the Audience Award there which has been won by like Silence of the Lambs. And you know, the raid and Donnie Darko and from dusk till dawn all these like great big genre movies. And we won that award somehow. And I know that's just because we were there. We were there for a week we were having beers with people we were shaking hands, we do lively q&a is and we you know, and it's it's part of the politics of of building an audience and hoping that they'll follow you to your next project is just saying, I know I'm living in a dream right now. And I want to be respectful and humble of the entire process. So it's, that was really fun. And we went to dead by dawn in Scotland and won the Audience Award there. And then we went to Brazil and Mexico City. Fantasia was sold out crowd even though we were already released in the United States, which was kind of a hang up there weren't sure if they could play it. They decided to take a chance on us anyway. And it was completely sold out there was still a line outside when they shut the doors we ended up giving up our own seats. So some more people could squeeze in just just a really amazing process to go all over the world go down to Brazil and and you know, we were the opening night film at macabre Mexico city like 500 people in the theater like red carpet and flashbulbs and but these things really like they help you build traction and and now to see on this Kickstarter campaign, how many of those people from all over the world have kicked in that we don't even know? is incredible. And that's that's just for I'm from not taking your audience for granted. And it's, of course it helps that, you know, the thing I said at the beginning of this whole process was, if we do at least come close to what I'm what I'm trying to do here, which is make this interesting, you know, artsy, character driven zombie movie, the gatekeepers of the indie horror world will respond to it. And then you know, to get people like, Ain't It Cool News and bloody disgusting and Fangoria and dread central all these people to write really positive things about the movie just really helped to help push it along.

Jason Buff 1:05:34
Were you doing anything? Or was it just like, once you got the first festival? What was it? Imagine?

Jeremy Gardner 1:05:38
Imagine? Yeah,

Jason Buff 1:05:39
once you got that all these things just started happening without a whole lot of effort from you guys. Or were you still, like out there, pushing it and promoting it.

Jeremy Gardner 1:05:48
I mean, we were always pushing it in our way, you know, through Twitter, and you send a couple emails here and here and there. But it's amazing how many people find it on their own. You can you can try morning, noon and night to get pressed for something and never hear a word. And then as soon as something happens, it just you can't stop it, it just takes off on its own. It really is crazy. It's like the catch 22 about you know, getting an agent, like, you can't get an agent, unless an agent comes looking for you. And by then you need an agent. It's just one of those weird things where it's just you're not gonna get press until the press hears about you until they can't ignore you anymore.

Jason Buff 1:06:26
Right. Yeah, I mean, that's one of the things we talked about with our marketing the film marketing program is the idea that you need to be, you know, if you go to some, you need to be the person that's already kind of in front of like horror fans, or zombie fans, you know, so if you're getting on Bloody disgusting or Fangoria, or whatever. There's no way you're gonna you could do that on your own. You know, those people already have this that fan base, right?

Jeremy Gardner 1:06:50
Well, there's another Well, there are little things too, right. So even though we want this movie to stand on its own as a film, it definitely helped that we were able to every time we were talking about it at a q&a or whatever to say that we made it for $6,000 because it was the truth. But it's also it's a it's a clear marketing hook. Right. But people are going to write about that. So it was one of those things we actually talked about, like do we really want to talk about the budget for this movie? Or do we want to just let it have let it exist on its own merits. But at some point, it was just like, You know what, it's too it's too good of a marketing hook.

Kristian Stella 1:07:22
And the Walking Dead helped as well. Which the movie? I mean, the movie was conceived before the Walking Dead premiered. But I mean, that was Major.

Jeremy Gardner 1:07:32
Yeah, there's little things like that. And what was I just going to say? I don't know. I'm glad for you. Thanks. Thanks, Chris. Thanks for popping in there and talking to me.

Kristian Stella 1:07:44
Well, I'm saying that zombies zombies don't hurt. But we didn't we were not planning on that at all. In fact, they might have actually like stunted the movie if if zombies were as big as they are now.

Jeremy Gardner 1:07:55
Oh, no. Well, I mean, even even when it came out, I you know, I heard zombie fatigue, zombie fatigue all over the place. And it was like, oh, boy, here we go. I mean, it got to the point where when I told people I made a movie, I would say, oh, yeah, I made this little like, artsy horror movie. I wouldn't say the zombie word unless I was pressed, because it's just you hear so many people just completely shut down when they hear zombie. And that's just annoying. That always annoys me. I always said like, nothing is worn out if someone makes a good one. I mean, you can make 500 vampire movies and be sick of the mob. As soon as someone makes a good one. It's like, oh, with the return of the vampire film, it's no, it's just because someone made a good one again,

Jason Buff 1:08:30
it really is. You know, when you're making a zombie film, it's never about the zombies. It's always about the human. You know, I mean, Walking Dead is not about zombies at all. It's so yeah,

Jeremy Gardner 1:08:41
absolutely. No, and that's the way it should be. Right? I mean, it got to the point where I was even considering very briefly, when it was, you know, was difficult for us to try to get, you know, make up for the movie. I was like, You know what, let's just put all of the zombies in T shirts with a Z on it. And then don't even don't even don't even deal with this zombie makeup. Just to prove that this is more about the characters than the zombies they'll just that'll really piss people off and be weird, but it was a little maybe a little too esoteric.

Jason Buff 1:09:08
So okay, let's talk about distribution. No, that's the distribution aspect of the battery

Unknown Speaker 1:09:18

Jeremy Gardner 1:09:22
okay, no no, it's well so you know after we got to that first festival tell you right or we were approached by a film buff about the digital rights

Jason Buff 1:09:34
the world relation the worldwide digital rights

Jeremy Gardner 1:09:37
and and you know, like I said between Telluride and imagine we didn't have a lot going on and didn't see they felt like okay, that was it. That was our we're winding down now. So let's let's do this. Let's let's get on this train. And you know, of course, then the movie takes off.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:58
We'll be right back after a word from Mr. sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jeremy Gardner 1:10:07
And you start to wonder, Oh boy. And we got approached by a lot of people saying, well, you've already given away your, your worldwide digital rights are you crazy. And you know, that's a lesson you got to learn is that you gotta, I mean, it's a hard lesson to learn, if you've never done it, the business side is so difficult to navigate. If you're just coming into it, I think far more difficult to navigate than actually making a movie. Because every time you do something, someone tells you, you made the wrong decision. But through having that, at some point, we were able to get our international rights back from them. Because we we realized that they weren't really interested in selling the international rights, they were really more focused on getting the movie out in America. And excuse me, we met a woman named Anik mannered who saw the film at at a festival in France. And she has been just an incredible champion of this movie. From the moment she saw it, she actually flew to Germany while we were there, and had brunch with us. And it's just been working tirelessly to get us into festivals. And she works with Raven banner in Canada, there's an international sales agent, and got them to take the movie on and they were able to go out and sell it to territories across the world. And then speaking of getting a champion, you know, AJ Bowen, the actor, he, when he saw the movie, he didn't stop talking about it at all. And he would go on podcasts and mention it. And you had mentioned it to the point where the host of those podcasts started are like, alright, we got to watch this movie, this guy won't shut up about the battery. And then they watched it, and then they wouldn't stop talking about it. And it just so happened that they had frequent guests on who run Scream Factory shout factory. And because they talked about so much finally, Scream Factory was like, Alright, let's see what this movie that these guys won't shut up about is, and then we were able to get a DVD and Blu Ray Deal from Scream Factory, which is just, I mean, that was I think we grew two feet tall our heads can fit through the doors. I mean, it's just amazing because you're told right off the bat that you're not gonna be able to get a physical, a physical distribution deal if you've given away your digital rights. But you know, what those guys are make just makes it beautiful, physical, you know, things in a digital world now that luckily, they were able to just take a flyer on us. And we got to put this amazing blu ray out with this documentary, which covers all the ground you're making us cover right now. I'm kidding. But it isn't a fantastic documentary, you should really I encourage everybody to, to check it out if they can, because we basically made that exactly what we were talking about earlier, which is my film school was watching DVD extras and listening to podcasts. And so we made a 90 minute feature length documentary that goes from those stupid short films we were making in high school all the way to the festival circuit on the battery. And it goes through every step of the process. So we really wanted it to be where somebody sees this. And they're like, on the cusp of thinking, Can I make a movie or not, then this would push them over and say just go do it. Because it's going to be hard, but it's going to be amazing.

Jason Buff 1:13:10
Now, the documentary is only available with the DVD and the blu ray. Is that right? Or is it

Kristian Stella 1:13:15
Yeah, for now, for now it is it's only on the North American blu ray DVD released by Scream Factory. But we're looking into whether or not we can put it up online for free. Because I think it's promotion for the DVD and blu ray. And it's like, like we're saying it's a really really wonderful kind of thing for filmmakers.

Jeremy Gardner 1:13:42
But I'm almost more proud of it than I am the battery just because if I you know, it seems something so thorough, and you know, so so naked about the, you know, the ups and downs of the process, I would have been like, that's it, we're doing this thing and that's that's what we were hoping and oh god

Kristian Stella 1:13:57
I worked on that documentary for like six months.

Jeremy Gardner 1:14:02
But it's like 1010 bucks for the DVD or something on Amazon, you and you get that that and the end the movie and the commentaries and the outtakes and stuff like that. So there's a and we really tried to pack it with as much if you want to make a movie, watch this stuff as you can. I don't even know where we started with that question. What was the distribution? Distribution?

Kristian Stella 1:14:22
But yeah, I think that I think what he was getting it was just that you know, first time movie, or our first movie, um, there's just there's a lot of like legal stuff and lawyers and expenses and so on that happen in distribution. So you know, and on the battery we had like 10 investors. So not a lot of that money trickles down to us in the end. But like just due to the system like the whole the whole system in general. It's not like it's not like screen factory didn't pay well they paid great

Jeremy Gardner 1:15:01
It's just one of those things where you have to do it's I wish there were, I wish I could create a like a list of things you need to do once you start to enter the distribution process of making a movie, but it is literally so dense, and there are so many possibilities. You, I almost feel like, you just kind of have to read as much as you can and then weighed in and then make a decision. Because the amount of of options that we had that we didn't know we were going to have when we made one decision that suddenly another avenue opened up later, if we hadn't done this, we could have done that. It's just, there's just no way to navigate it. And we try as hard as we can. We've had you know, filmmakers, email us and contact us and ask us about particular, you know, distribution companies or deals and it's just like, man, if it feels right, do it, there's just no, you'll you're gonna learn from the process is the only way to only way to really go about it. I mean, I'm sure someone out there who can elucidate much more, you know, with much better clarity than I can on this part of the process. But it was easily the most difficult part of the entire process for us to navigate was the business side. And the distribution side, I think you just kind of got to learn as you go.

Jason Buff 1:16:16
The thing that's interesting, you know, listening to that is when you say it's a $6,000 movie, I've heard people that work in independent film, talk about just the deliverables costing more than that.

Kristian Stella 1:16:28
Well, I mean, when it comes to distribution, a lot of the deliverable stuff was just like, written off of our payment. So you know, that's, like, I think, like, maybe the entire first year of the release, I mean, like, it just everything went to expenses. So we yeah, we didn't have to pay for a lot of things up front. But, um, yeah, we had. But I always say that the $6,000 is the production budget. That's what it costs us to get to the premiere and tell you right horror show. And then we did have some business related expenses after that, but we already had deals on the table that we were ready to sign. So, you know, I know, one for a fact was what's called errors and omissions insurance, you know, yeah. And that was like, that was like $4,000 that we had to pay. And I think Adam got a personal loan from his father or something, and he and you know, and then he got paid back eventually. But we, you know, we had deals on the table at that time, we would have never paid for that. If we didn't.

Jeremy Gardner 1:17:40
I mean, there are certain things you can do to make it make it easier to navigate, like, just make sure you've got all your, your performance releases, signed by your actors, make sure that you've got a chain of title, you know, in order, there are things that you're going to just look up a list of the typical deliverables. And then there are certain, you know, there's certain ones that you can check off before you even make the movie or while you're in pre production that we just didn't even think about until we were done. But I'm pretty sure

Kristian Stella 1:18:05
that as far as like the business expenses of the battery, maybe had I think that plus creating an LLC for like $2,000, I think those might have been the only ones that we paid upfront. And then the rest were deducted later on through distribution companies and so on. And not to say that that wasn't a lot. It was a lot. It was just, we didn't have to pay it up front.

Jeremy Gardner 1:18:31
Yeah, when you get your first report of your residuals and you see that gigantic chunk that goes to expenses, you just go. That was like three months rent. or more.

Jason Buff 1:18:42
So yeah, I just wanted I kind of wanted to go into the things that Jeremy discussed in his article on Movie Maker. Because I, you know, I it really is something that I think a lot of filmmakers don't talk about, and people don't want to, you know, first of all people don't ever want to talk about pirating, you know, and what a big deal it is now, and how easy it is for people just to download anything they want for free. And how much that affects you guys in on the distribution side? And, you know, and can we talk about how that's affected the way that you you know, your your newest project?

Kristian Stella 1:19:21
Yeah, I mean, I'll say because there's something I don't think he put in the article was that when the day our movie was released, the piracy was, I mean, within three hours of the iTunes release, the piracy was just insane. But even like a year later, there was a day where some piracy group released a version of our movie and it was like the 30th torrent of our movie. And there was 100,000 downloads of that torrent in 24 hours. In that same 24 hours, we were selling the movie DRM free on our website for $5.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:59
Well, be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Kristian Stella 1:20:09
That saved 24 hours, we sold two copies, we made $10. And all of our other digital sales had kind of just slowed to a halt at that point. So was like, there were 100,000 stolen in one day a year after release, we make $10. That day. It's, it's it's the ratio, that's insane. You know, like piracy is kind of a way of life at this point, I get it. But the ratio should be far, far less like I would say there's got to be anywhere from 20 to 80 Illegal downloads per every one real rental. That's just way too high.

Jeremy Gardner 1:20:50
Yeah, and those those those, those are never going to translate one to one, you know, for everybody who pirated it, bought it and said, Well, that's never gonna happen. That's just not the way it works. I think it I did touch on in the article that it is easy to vilify the piracy community, because, yes, they're they're causing a lot of issues in the movie business. I mean, where a $5 million dollar budget five years ago, you know, you could you could wrangle with, you know, companies who fund those movies now are really, really hemming and hawing over a quarter million dollar budget, because they know that the second that movie is released on demand, it's going to be pirated. And so all the risks go go way higher. And so the budgets are driven way down, less movies are made, which means less crew jobs, there's so many things that it affects that people don't know. And I think you're never I think people tiptoe around the the piracy issue, because you're never going to get the pirates. The people who torrent on your side are the ones who believe that everything should be free, and information is free, and screw you and I don't care, you're never going to get those guys. But there is an interesting contingent of the piracy population, who number one would download it, if they could, if it were available in their territory. And there is something to be said about the fact that, you know, the way that movies are distributed nowadays is not taking into account the fact that the world is completely connected, everybody knows what's going on, in the movie world, everywhere in the world. And so, you know, I can remember even myself, you know, years ago, hearing all about the loved ones was an Australian horror movie, right? And it's just like, you hear so many great things about it. And you never know, when is this coming out here, and you just need you keep hearing people talk about and you're like, Am I ever gonna get to see it. And I actually ended up getting dumped in the US like four years later. But it's one of those things where it just seems crazy not not to hit on, you know, hit on the audience when they're ready for it when they want it. So that's one part of the of the piracy thing that needs to be taken care of another one is that I just genuinely feel that there is a certain amount of people out there, especially a certain age group, who absolutely have no idea, the devastation it causes throughout the industry, they just, movies are not what they used to be when I was a kid, you know, I would, you know, I begged to be taken down to the video store. And I would stay in there for two hours, they were things that I knew were made, they were big, and then you had to go and get them and you had to pay for them. And sometimes you didn't like them. And that's part of the process. You gamble a little bit with your money. And maybe you see the greatest thing you've ever seen. And maybe you see a turn, but that's part of the process. Now there's a generation that just simply thinks of them as little tiny thumbnail posters that you click on. And then they play and that's it. And there's, there's no heft to the the process and the amount of people and time that goes into making these movies anymore. And I think that is that's just a reeducation that needs to happen. Or it might not, might not even be able to happen. I just don't know if you can convince a generation that gets it for free. Why they shouldn't get it for free anymore. It's a real, sticky, prickly issue to bring up.

Jason Buff 1:24:04
I think that another huge thing is just the fact that people aren't going to theaters anymore, too. And it's like, everything's become just digital files now. And we've gotten so far from the days when you had to go to a theater and watch a film. And then many, many months later, you would be able to rent a copy at your local video club. And sometimes they would be they wouldn't have it. You know, that whole culture is disappeared. Oh, it's completely

Jeremy Gardner 1:24:28
gone. And I love I miss it. And yeah, I mean, even you know, the movie that changed my life that made me like super aware of that movies were made was Jurassic Park. That sounds might sound crazy, but that was the first time I started thinking about dressing. Well, it's one of I remember someone telling me hey, the dinosaurs are made with computers in my brain. My like little 12 year old brain just went like what? Like, that's not possible. What do you mean they're made with computers? And suddenly I started thinking about the behind the scenes process of me Making a movie. And I cut my first lawn, much to my father's chagrin because he'd been trying to get me to mow the lawn for years I mowed my first lawn to get money to go see Jurassic Park because I saw it seven times in theater. And then we didn't come out on VHS for over a year after I was in the theater, you know, it's just like waiting for this thing to come out. You can have it and and those that's just gone now, you know, the movie comes out, people go see it, opening night opening weekend kind of fizzles out, and then 90 days later or less, you can download it or steal it or rent it online. You know,

Jason Buff 1:25:34
a lot of times, you know, here, it's like you'll see the movie will come out in like a torrent or something, even before it comes to a theater. It's ridiculous. You know, and I've been trying to I've been making an effort to try and see everything in the theater now. And it's so different, you know, the concentration that you have in the way that you're affected by the movies. I mean, even watching it on a great big HDTV. It's just not the same.

Jeremy Gardner 1:25:57
No, it's not. It's a whole different experience. And what's crazy is you're right, it's this communal thing that I love it and more people should engage with. I was actually my mother, you know, she's not a huge, like, cinema person. But I'm down in Florida. And I get to see her for the first time in a while. And she'll always tell me, she tried to watch this movie. And she couldn't get into it. Because I know she's just sitting there distracted. She's got her phone, she's got Facebook, she's and I took her to the movies for the first time in like 20 years. We saw a couple of movies in the last couple weeks, and to watch her sit there and fully focus on the movie and like, follow it and be engaged with it. Because she knows she can't pick her phone up or leave is just like, oh, yeah, that's why you go to the theater. You go to the theater to commit to the experience of letting a story wash over you. Not not with your phone and not with going to the bathroom and getting up and going to the kitchen. It's just you're there you're in it.

Jason Buff 1:26:46
Well, it depends on where you got it to. Because I see I mean, it drives me nuts, but people that just bring up their cell phone in the middle of the movie. I mean, I had to like yell at a guy the other day because you're just sitting there checking his Facebook in the middle of something I don't remember what our Star Wars

Jeremy Gardner 1:27:01
it's just it's It boggles my mind that that with the amount of it I mean, it's it's clear at this point that it is a serious social faux pas and people still do it.

Jason Buff 1:27:11
Yeah. You know, it's funny because I was listening to your interview on the the critics what was called the the review podcast is facing the criticism, the critics and your comments about well, let me put it this way. One of the greatest experiences I've ever had in a theater was watching Dances with Wolves. And I really loved the fact that you were saying that how good that movie was and how people have kind of forgotten about it, because I watched it recently. And I didn't realize I was watching the the director's cut just like 12 hours long. Because I was supposed to go to a friend's house later. And I was like, Yeah, I'm sitting here watching Dances with Wolves, but it's not it's not ending here. been on for the last four hours, and we're still not to the midpoint. But it's such an amazing movie, and I don't ever see you having that kind of experience. Again. I don't know, movies just aren't made like that anymore.

Jeremy Gardner 1:28:05
No, they're not. And you know, that's the thing. That's another thing that people don't understand about what piracy has done. Right? You want to know where those movies I mean, dances will didn't cost that much money, but you will know where those middle those mid range budget movies have gotten those adult movies, those grown up movies. I mean, when I was in, you know, in high school, I saw every single movie that came out. I can remember going and seeing Return to Paradise. Did you ever see that movie? That's, that's a drama. Yeah. Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn and haitch it's a movie that time has completely forgotten. And yeah, it was a movie that came out on a Friday and I went and saw it. You know, I loved it. And it could it could never be released. No one would ever make that like $30 million. You know, drama, about like, should they go back and take a guy out of a Malaysian prison. And it

Jason Buff 1:28:53
was such a downer was really rough. But it's like, what's the budget of

Kristian Stella 1:28:57
bone tomahawk? Like? 1.2? Or one point? Exactly. That movie like, just like 15 years ago would have been like a 15 $25 million movie. Yeah. And in theaters like everywhere.

Jeremy Gardner 1:29:09
Yeah, it is strange. But you know, but that's the thing is like so now because of that, because they need to milk every single dollar out of that opening weekend. That's why you get in so many giant superhero movies. That's why you're getting sequels. That's why you get because they have to curb every possible risk. They can't take a risk on some of these small moves. I mean, luckily, there's, you know, people like Megan Ellison and Annapurna pictures, like putting movie putting money into these like art tours, movies, but for the most part, the movies that filled the bulk of the year, you know, 10 years ago, they just aren't being made anymore, because you got to get that four quadrant picture out. So you're either talking about movies being made under a million or over 100 million, and it's just a weird, weird thing. That little giant

Kristian Stella 1:29:49
like giant movies like with Jerry Maguire be made today.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:54
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Jeremy Gardner 1:30:04
Like it was a huge hit and like would somebody Greenlight Jerry Maguire probably not

Jason Buff 1:30:09
gonna get a movie, just I mean, like, look at David O Russell and guys like that, you know, Wes Anderson and PT Anderson and those guys, I mean, they can get stuff made, but it's because they have the brand name, you know, they know there's going to be an audience for that. But even

Jeremy Gardner 1:30:22
even that, I mean, you're talking about again, that's Megan, Megan Ellison. You know, she's a billionaires daughter who's decided to take her money and give it to directors who aren't getting the master you know, she's done. She's She's funded a ton of those movies at the David David O. Russell movies, too. She decided to put her money behind artists, where the studios are afraid to sometimes I mean, even look at like Spielberg was saying he was having trouble getting money for Lincoln, it was gonna be a TV movie, because he couldn't get the money to make it as a theatrical movie. There's it's just crazy. How afraid Hollywood is have taken chances anymore. And a lot of that is because those movies are swallowed up by by torrents,

Jason Buff 1:31:02
well, I want to make sure we have enough time to talk about tax Montana will survive. Can we do a segue into that and talk about how you've approached that, and especially this kind of unique way that you guys are using Kickstarter to fund it, or it's not being funded. But it's a way to control the distribution process.

Kristian Stella 1:31:18
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, textbooks handle survivors movie, we shot it two years ago, but then our day jobs took hold again. But we're trying to use Kickstarter to basically buy them, like we want the internet to buy the movie off of us the way that someone would go to Sundance and buy a movie, for a million dollars off of filmmakers, we want the internet to do that we want to it's a finished film. And we want if we hit our goal, we're just going to give the movie to the internet via Creative Commons. So that way, torrenting will be completely allowed and encouraged, will have DVDs that you can burn with artwork that you could print and and we'll have it on YouTube and Vimeo. So this was kind of our reaction to piracy, which is that like, rather than vilify the torrents, like let's use them as a distribution method. So yeah, I mean, hopefully it works.

Jeremy Gardner 1:32:16
Yeah, the days are ticking down. But what you know, it's a way to to try and get a hold of those people who did torrent the movie who would have paid for it as well, you know, these are their, you know, we got, we put up a comment on some of our Torrance on some of these torrent sites. You're a couple years ago, just saying, Look, we're not passing judgment. But we're, you know, we're dayjob filmmakers, you know, we're barely getting by, we made this movie for six grand if you like, what you see, you considered kicking in, and we had, a lot of people donate money through that. And so those are the kinds of people who use torrents that we're hoping that we can get ahead of time, rather than slowly letting the movie rollout traditionally, like the battery did. And having people in Australia go well, I don't know when it's going to be in Australia. So I'm just going to download it now. So if we can just get it all upfront, then maybe we'll have the cushion to take time off work and make a movie and then everybody everywhere in the world can see it at the same time if they want to.

Jason Buff 1:33:16
So does that mean that you don't have a mean? When you do creative commons, does that mean that you no longer have ownership of it? Or how does that work?

Kristian Stella 1:33:26
That particular creative, there's a there's a couple of Creative Commons licenses, but the one we're going to be using basically means that you have to give us credit for the movie. And that you can you can't profit off of the movie itself. Um, as in the audience can't profit off the movie, but the audience will be allowed to like, remix it or so on. Like, if they they wanted to take audio from it and use it in something that they make they they can make profit off of that. So you're kind of allowed to mess with the movie. Um, but other than that, you're totally allowed to share it and do everything else. So the only thing is that we we still have to get credit and

Jeremy Gardner 1:34:08
basically, you can't just put it in your own box and sell it as is in a store but you can use it to remake art, right? It's artists saying, you know, here here's a piece of art if you want to make a different piece of art from our art, by all means do it. Yeah.

Kristian Stella 1:34:24
If you want to sample it and put it into a dance mix, you can and you can make money off that dance mix. We're not you know, like that's that's the kind of license that it is.

Jason Buff 1:34:32
I think the bare bone Bongo scene would be great as a rave

Kristian Stella 1:34:36
art my friend already did this though the composer already did that.

Jeremy Gardner 1:34:41
I'm sure someone else could do it out there too that I would love to be in like Prague and you're like baby bourbon but that would be amazing.

Kristian Stella 1:34:49
You watch it becomes like this huge hit the guys like like a millionaire like oh, just sighs number

Jeremy Gardner 1:34:54
one dance number one dance song in the world is Baby bear bones by like script And we're over here going, why did we do this?

Jason Buff 1:35:04
So, go ahead. Sorry.

Jeremy Gardner 1:35:06
No, I was well, I was just gonna Yeah, go ahead. No, you go ahead.

Jason Buff 1:35:09
Okay, thank you. So I mean, I think one of the things that I liked about your article too, was just your kind of honesty about how difficult it is to make a living as an indie filmmaker. And since we're all about indie filmmaking, you know, Can you can you talk a little bit about that, that the idea of being able to make a living as a filmmaker and what you guys do, which is more like you have day jobs, and you make indie films? I mean, is there a goal to move everything to being like 100% filmmakers? What is your view on that kind of thing?

Jeremy Gardner 1:35:44
Yeah, I mean, that's my goal. That's, that's 100% My goal is I just want to make movies for a living. And I'm not talking about you know, making movies, it'd be like a multi multi millionaire, even though that would be nice. I would just love to make a comfortable living and make movies as a job, you know, and it doesn't seem like it should be that difficult. I mean, when you see the money that you that can that can come in from a small budget movie. I mean, this is sustainable. If if you could start getting enough, you know, time to make movies and put more movies out in the world, it kind of snowballs. I mean, I know, Joe Swanberg famously said that too, you know, he's like, you know, once you get three or four movies out in the world, every time you make another one, then everyone, you get another press push, everyone talks about your other movies, you get a kick up on the rentals are the sales of those previous movies, and it just kind of snowballs every time. And so he's made a career out of just making like a million movies and just kind of kind of living that way. But I do believe there's a way to build an audience slowly, and get and get enough of a return. So that you can keep equity in your own movie The next time you make it, and then make a little bit more money the next time you release another movie, and suddenly, you're sustaining yourself by telling stories and making art I do. I do believe it's possible. I don't know. I'm getting old. I'm gonna die. So probably not, it's gonna happen sooner, I'm definitely going to be managing a bar somewhere.

Jason Buff 1:37:09
Yeah, I mean, I've talked to a couple of filmmakers who are full time not necessarily making their own projects, but their directors for hire whatever those are. And they say that sorry, I say those are

Kristian Stella 1:37:19
all unicorns,

Jeremy Gardner 1:37:20
unicorns, are the people making films for a living? But no, he's saying directors for hire not making their own thing.

Jason Buff 1:37:26
Well, I mean, the thing that they've said is that they it's not like before, where you'd like make a film every three years, it's like, these people are making two, three films a year, you know, and there's just this mass production.

Jeremy Gardner 1:37:37
Yeah, it's crazy. I mean, that's what we've been saying forever, we need to generate content to me is you look at the people making a ton of money on YouTube, because they're putting up content every week, everyone wants more stuff, you know, if we could get to the point where we were shooting a movie, you know, in finishing, or finishing all post production within you know, 910 months and then starting work on another movie at the end of the same year, then you know, that's, that's the goal is to be able to, like, maybe start working on two movies a year, one of the ones everything, Jeremy always talks about that, and like, what I'm doing all the post production, but that's the whole point to is to make enough money to where he doesn't have to do that anymore. And luckily, and that's another thing that you'll realize, you know, once you start doing this is it, you build a network. And you know, now we've met people who, who will do those jobs for us so we can hire who we trust to do those jobs. And it could fit within the budget that we're talking about. So the Christian doesn't have to do everything. I mean, eventually, you'll meet people who who can help you in this process. I mean, the network of filmmakers that we've met, since we toured the battery is has been invaluable,

Kristian Stella 1:38:34
but it's always hard. It's always hard to to even think about, like scaling up like that and being like, Can you can you keep the quality up two times a year? You know, that's scary. I mean, like, just in three years, you have six movies, and it's like, Man, I can't even imagine three years from now having six movies out there. Right. And having them all be quality. So that's that's scary, too. Yeah, that's

Jeremy Gardner 1:38:57
another thing. I mean, well, especially with the way I write it'll never happen. I can't Yeah. That's another that's another thing too, is like I have been I've thought about a lot that I wish I could just pull my standards down a little bit. You know, it's like, maybe my standards don't seem high to everybody else. But I have serious quality standards with what I write and what I feel like it's worth making the same way Christian as ridiculous standards about what you know, you know, when he does technically with the camera and color and sound, everything like that, like he will, he will futz with something for weeks. And I'll just be like, I'll let it go. But I'll be the same way with the scene. I'll tweak a scene while I'm writing it forever. And it's just one of those things where you're never gonna get enough done, you know, to create this kind of content generator, like we're talking about if we, if we have such high standards, but I don't know there's got to be a middle ground somewhere. It seems

Jason Buff 1:39:50
like you know, with the following that you guys have been building.

Alex Ferrari 1:39:54
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Jason Buff 1:40:03
Have you ever considered approaching a production company? I mean, going in, you know, putting together a script and saying, okay, and go going for more of a traditional not so Ultra independent, but going, and have you been able to keep that following? I mean, do you have like some way to be in touch with your fans? I mean, is it primarily Twitter and Facebook and stuff like that?

Jeremy Gardner 1:40:22
Oh, yeah. Well, we didn't even touch on this. Yeah, one of the main reasons. One of the main other reasons we may text Montana is because I wrote a script that I love that, you know, I started getting a lot of a lot of attention after the battery made the rounds, I started doing the water bottle tour, I've talked to the companies, I've talked to agents, and I've gotten very close, we've gone down the whole casting route path. And we've gotten for far along the route to the traditional funding of making my new script. And then it always just kind of fizzles out in one way or another. You know, you hear that, Oh, we love your unique voice. And it's so it's so interesting. And so you, and then, you know, once you get up to like to turn $53,000, they start trying to kind of, you know, buff a little bit of that personality out of it. Well, can't we explain where the monster comes from? And can't we cast this person even though they're way too young. And it's, it just becomes like, oh, man, the the concessions you have to make for such a small amount of money is demoralizing. And after about a year and a half of that. That's why we'd say you know, let's just go out in the woods and make text Montana because we wanted to not have to get permission to make a movie again. It's so frustrating to feel like you got your foot in the door and a business that you love. And then it's just the wheels turn so slow that you just like at some point, we just like we got to go do this again. Because we're going to it's going to tear our souls apart. If we keep waiting for somebody to say, Okay, here's the money, go make your movie. So that even though and honestly, it's still happening right now, like we that script is still out there, I'm on the cusp of another, going down another avenue to get that movie made. And it's you know, I feel really good about this one. But I felt really good about some before. So I've gotten a little bit cynical about that process. And so there's a, there's a part of me that says, You know what, that's fine. Let that script do what it's going to do through the system. And let's still remind ourselves that we gotta go make our own movies, if no one ever gives us the permission. Plus, there's,

Kristian Stella 1:42:18
there's something that like, nobody ever talks about. But it's it's crazy. With all of these budgets getting smaller and smaller and smaller. If a production company comes to you, and hires you on his director for a quarter million dollar movie, your pay as director is probably around $5,000. And then you're expected to work on the movie for pretty much a solid year and then promotion and so on. And it's like, how do you how do you even make a quarter million dollar movie and live off of $5,000 for a year and a half to two years while you make and promote the movie? It's kind of insane.

Jeremy Gardner 1:42:57
And no one has been able to explain that to me. No, literally no one. I've talked to filmmakers I know, like what you've seen very successful, and no one's been able to explain, okay, you get a fee, you know, you get your your rate for actually filming the movie, but what about when it's time to go into post and it's time to you know, edit and then do sound and then Mark promote? And then like, what, how are you making a living, then no one can explain it. I still don't know, five years, in five years after making the battery. We've made another movie. You know, I've talked to people I've gotten meetings, I've talked to managers, I've talked to heads of studios, I've no idea, no idea how you're supposed to live,

Kristian Stella 1:43:35
I mean, that $5,000 would be gone before you come out of pre production, you know, you just two or three months of of rent and food and so on, you know, if you want to if you if you're making a quarter million dollar movie, you got to make a really good movie. So you really got to, like be in there, you know, doing months of pre production and months of post production and months of promotion. It's just, it seems crazy. To me. I do feel

Jeremy Gardner 1:43:56
like that's one of the pitfalls of the fact that everybody can make a movie now is that it's almost expected that just like well, that's deal with it. Like, you know, it's I remember that. I don't know why this popped into my head. But the there's a scene in A League of Their Own, where they reveal that the girl baseball players are gonna have to wear these little skirts and everyone guffaws and he goes, ladies, there are 64 women getting on a bus back home right now that will play in a bikini for if I ask them to. And you kind of get that feeling where it's like, if you can't make a movie and live for this fee, then they I got a line of kids who want this job. I got a line of filmmakers who want to be in this position. Sorry, that's just the way it is nowadays. And that's just like

Kristian Stella 1:44:35
this and in from, like, from a production standpoint, it's kind of like, Don't you want your director to not be worrying about how he's paying the rent. You know, like, that's the last thing he needs to be worrying about when he's in charge of your, you know, even half million dollar movie. So that's that's something that we can't crack it. Yeah, I

Jason Buff 1:44:55
think there's a lot of kind of ego going on there and people don't really disclose Sure. Yeah, well, I

Jeremy Gardner 1:45:00
mean, I have a friend you know who who's a filmmaker, pretty successful filmmaker. And, you know, he he decided to go around it and raise the money for his movie on his own and then just paid himself a decent salary. Like out of the budget like, I'm, this is how I'm raising the money to make this movie on this budget, there's so much I'm paying myself to do it, I wrote it, I'm going to direct it. And that's that. And I was like, well, that's, you know, that's pretty good. Pretty good way to do it if you can get around all the gatekeepers and just be your own production company. So I don't know this sounds like a demoralizing way to go out.

Jason Buff 1:45:32
So what what advice do you have in default to indie filmmakers that are out there that want to make their first film and want to kind of follow in your footsteps,

Jeremy Gardner 1:45:40
you got to have friends, you got to have friends who will help you out people who are going to be in the trenches with you in the mud splashing around in the dirt willing to do anything they can to get it done, that's you're not going to get anywhere, if you don't have, if you don't have loyal people on your side, you got to you got to plan as much as you can ahead of time, you got to write, you know your story, a good story around what you can get what you know, you have, and then you got to not freak out about the things that you think might fail, or you'll never do it.

Kristian Stella 1:46:09
And my advice would be that you got to have at least one skill that you can sell to others, you know, whether it be cinematography or sound design, or any of that, like, you know, that's where I mean, that's where your money is likely to come in the first couple films is from the work in between making your own films, just like we have friends that are editors, and so on, and they go and they get paid to edit other people's movies, and then they edit their movies for free.

Jeremy Gardner 1:46:37
Yeah, and the irony of this whole process is that I, I only wrote the battery originally, because I didn't want to go and audition for roles as an actor. And I'm, I'm about to be in my fifth feature film since the battery came out. And that's simply from meeting filmmakers on the festival circuit becoming fans of their work in them fans of my work, and then them calling me up and going, Hey, I'm about to go and make this movie, I got a great role for you in it. And just suddenly, I'm being cast without auditioning. When, you know, this whole thing was was me railing against the process of auditioning. So you end up you find a little skill and hopefully you can you can tangentially work in film.

Jason Buff 1:47:14
I actually forgot to ask you about that. What was the experience of working on spring like because that's, that's actually one of my favorite movies from the past couple of years. It's what was that marking with Justin and Aaron. It was

Jeremy Gardner 1:47:28
amazing. You know, Justin and Aaron, were actually the first filmmakers. I met on the circuit. We met them very briefly in Amsterdam, I thought they were full of themselves. Then we met them again for much longer in Brazil. And they told us that they thought we were full of ourselves when they saw us in Amsterdam, and then we became great friends, and I love them to death. We had a wonderful time. And just being on their sets. Amazing because those two guys, I mean, Justin's a really, really, really clever and creative screenwriter and director and Aaron is just, you know, he's like Justin's Christian. He's, uh, you know, he's an incredibly talented guy. And he's really technical. So to watch them kind of confer you know, with each other on set about a scene and then and then break up and then go and do their individual things is amazing to watch that set work like clockwork really helped me. You know, cache things away for the next time I'm on directing To some it's really great.

Jason Buff 1:48:24
Was there a lot of it seemed like the scenes were very loose and kind of,

Jeremy Gardner 1:48:27
yeah, well, it's funny because they, they definitely let me improv. I think that the part of that was me learning on the fly, what it's like to be on a real set, you know, because you know, things got to move, you got to make lunch, you got to make your days you got to make your time as he's walking around talking. You start to worry that if you if you goof off or follow, you know, follow a thread down some weird improv line that you're going to, you're going to throw off the entire schedule of the day. So I kind of boxed myself in a little bit. And I didn't really go as far as I'd have wanted to, but they were certainly open to my improv lines. What's interesting is you throw out an improv and then they'll either say nothing, or say, oh my god, that was really funny. Do that again, or actually, this time, don't do that thing. But I was really boxed myself in and then I get down to the set on San Diego where we're shooting in the bar, Vinny Quran, who was one of the leads in their first movie resolution, and apparently he don't give a crap about no days or schedules because he was just riffing left and right and all I could think was man, man, I should have done good Vinny did venido care Vinnie just B's Vinnie. Vinnie. Don't give a shit and he don't give a shit. So but ya know, it's such a such a blast, man. I can't wait to work with those guys. Again. They're really really good friends.

Alex Ferrari 1:49:46
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jason Buff 1:49:55
So I want to make sure that you guys what what is the website to go to? For tax Montana, how can people get in touch with you guys? What's the best way to find out more, and all that great stuff,

Jeremy Gardner 1:50:06
you can go to Tex montana.com, that'll take you right to our campaign page, we are about nine days away from this thing being over, which means if we succeed, you're only about 15 to 17 days away from actually seeing this thing, because we're just going to release it. It's done. Tax montana.com You can find me on Twitter at Mr. Jeremy Gardner.

Kristian Stella 1:50:28
And I'm at Christian Stella.

Jeremy Gardner 1:50:31
I'm only Mr. Because every other permutation of Jeremy Gardner was taken. So it's not like I'm calling myself and Mr. But there was just no to that. Yeah. And then you can find us on Facebook at text Montana or the battery on Facebook. But text montana.com or Twitter, we're really active on Twitter.

Kristian Stella 1:50:48
Yeah, I mean, people can just like ask me stupid camera questions. I'll answer I didn't matter. I mean, there's no, no question too stupid. I'll just call it stupid on a podcast one day.

Jeremy Gardner 1:50:58
Yeah. Well, that's we've always been, I always used to say, like, you know, whatever you think of Kevin Smith's films, the fact that he makes himself available to so many people and so open about the process was something we wanted to ape. And we tried to do that, you know, we try not to ever let an email about a question about filmmaking go unanswered. So whatever you got thrown at us

Jason Buff 1:51:19
awesome, guys. Well, I really appreciate your time. And you know, I look forward to you know, seeing the film, how, how are you going to release it when it comes out? Are you just going to put it do you? Do you assume that things will just kind of like, explode on their own? Are you going to put it somewhere specific? Like I tend? Yeah, well,

Kristian Stella 1:51:35
basically, if we hit the goal, um, two weeks after the campaign ends, we're going to release it on YouTube and Vimeo. And the Vimeo version will have the download button unlocked. So you'll be able to download it to NADP, from Vimeo. And then there's going to be torrents of in all kinds of shapes and sizes and of DVDs and blu rays with artwork. And then, you know, takes montana.com At that point will just be kind of a repository of all the different ways you can get it. And at that point, then people can post it anywhere else. If there's places that we don't know, the only places we're not going to be doing are places like iTunes, etc. because then we'd have to charge for the movie. And that's the whole point is that after this campaign, we're not going to charge for it ever again. So that's it. I mean, if they'd be if they'd be willing to put it up for free, I put it on iTunes.

Jeremy Gardner 1:52:31
Yeah, and if we don't hit our goal, we're going to take the hard drive with the movie, and we're going to film myself smashing it with a

Jason Buff 1:52:40
Guys. I really appreciate it. Is there anything else? Are we good?

Jeremy Gardner 1:52:42
No, that's it texmontana.com Thank you so much for for the Forum. Thank you guys. It's a really fun chat.

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BPS 312: How to Always Make Money with Independent Film Godfather Roger Corman

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Jason Buff.

Jason Buff 0:04
Thanks for joining us here today. We have a super guest on Today we're talking with one of my heroes, Mr. Roger Corman. Now just between us I was scared as hell to just give Roger Corman a call. I was sitting in my office and I got his very nice secretary told me a time to call in and it's kind of like all of a sudden I was on the phone with one of my heroes Roger Corman really is someone who all indie filmmakers should know about and should definitely understand his contribution to the world of independent film. He's also responsible for giving the first break to a lot of people that my generation considers the filmmakers that really influenced them like Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demi, Joe, Dante and Ron Howard. So what I want to do is listen to some of them talk about how Roger Corman influenced their filmmaking. The first interview I want to go to is with Jonathan Demi, who said this about Roger Corman, in the documentary, Roger Corman, Hollywood's wild angel in 1978. Documentary

Jonathan Demi 3:07
Well, in any film that I've ever worked on with Roger, there are three main elements that he's looking for. One is humor, which he considers tremendously important. Another is action, which he considers very important, and another is sex, which he considers important, but not quite as important as the other two elements, I don't think but it's funny the way these things pop up because for example, in my script for caged he had your script and and what Roger does is sometimes he'll give the notes right on the script and hand it back to you. So you get the script back and you get little little marginal references like breast nudity possible here. Question mark. Which Yes, you realize, yes, it is possible here and you don't want to get too idealistic, because actually don't have negative feelings about nudity anyway. So yes, Roger, indeed it is. And that's the bargain you make with Roger, if you buy his it's never articulated, I don't think but if you buy his concept that pictures that audiences alike contain these three major elements, action, humor, and sex, and you really buy it, and you're kind of commit to getting as much of that stuff as possible in there. And if you also want to make a good picture and tell a good story, then the best of both worlds happens he gets a movie that contains these things and he's confident of releasing it and you get a chance to make a picture very much the way you want to make it

Conan O'Brien 4:15
I know that you've worked with you gave so many people their start so many great talents or start. Francis Ford Coppola worked with you before he really worked with anyone else. Isn't that true?

Roger Corman 4:26
Yes. Right. As a matter of fact, he he was a sound man, the second assistant director and shot second unit all on one picture.

Conan O'Brien 4:35
Really very versatile. Okay. And did you know that this kid's going places

Roger Corman 4:39
Actually, I knew he was good. I had no idea that he was gonna go to the heights he did. Okay.

Conan O'Brien 4:44
Ron Howard. I think also Ron Howard, his first directing jobs.

Roger Corman 4:49
He started with us as an actor, and the picture was called Eat my dust car to a film. It was a big success. And he came into the office and he said, I know you want to do A sequel with a star plays a role in a successful film. He always asked for more money, I will star in the next picture, no more money, and I will do an additional job. And I said, what is that? And he said, I'll direct and I said, Brian, you always look like a director to be.

Conan O'Brien 5:20
You influenced the way film trailers are made. I think many people, especially young people think that film trailers have always been similar. But no, you really changed the way they were made with a certain innovation. What is it? You did?

Roger Corman 5:33
Well, it was Joe Dante who went on to become a very well known successful director who started cutting trailers for us, and he was cutting one trailer, and I looked at and I said, Joe uses a fairly dull trailer. What can you do to jazz it up? He said, Come back this afternoon. I went back this afternoon, and there was in the same dole trailer in the middle was an exploding helicopter. It made the trailer

Conan O'Brien 6:00
Let me ask the question, was there an exploding helicopter in the film?

Roger Corman 6:03
There is no law that says everything in the trailer

Conan O'Brien 6:13
Fantastic. The balls man that was incredible. So I mean, what is in wouldn't this show would be jazzed up by a helicopter crash occasionally. You know, that's the kind of thing that would help a talk show we know they should do it everywhere.

Roger Corman 6:26
We could give you the stock footage.

Conan O'Brien 6:28
Would you charge me for it?

Roger Corman 6:29
Very little.

Conan O'Brien 6:33
You've got great titles, great titles for your films, one of my favorites attack of crab monsters and and there's the of course the title for it. And so many amazing titles over that do come up with a title first and then decide to shoot the film. How does it work sometimes?

Roger Corman 6:49
Appearances Grand Theft Auto, which was Ron Howard's first film as a as a director, the title came first, but if Oh, the film he did before, Eat my dust, I forgotten the title. We were shooting a car chase, somewhere out in the San Fernando Valley and dusk was flying all over the place. And the director who said we had a call is Victor, Eat my dust. I said we will. And he said I'm joking. I said, I'm not joking. That's a great title. So the title came.

Jason Buff 7:19
Now of course, that was Conan O'Brien. And now here's Ron Howard talking about working with Roger Corman

Ron Howard 7:24
conversations that were really significant during the course of making Grand Theft Auto. The first was, he sat me down and said, Ron, I'll come visit you on the first day of filming. And if you're productive, and you're making around 20 setups a day and you're making your days, you won't see much of me. in all candor. If you're not achieving those, those kinds of results, you're going to see one hell of a lot of me. That was his little warning. I had a great moment on the Paramount lot. I was finishing up the season of that season of Happy Days, walking along. And as soon as hiatus came in March, I was gonna go direct Grand Theft Auto. And Jonathan Dami called me from out the window at the second second storey office. He was getting ready to do citizen band I think. And and, of course, I knew him as a Roger Corman veteran. And he came bounding down the stairs. And he said, I heard you're going to direct a picture for Roger, come upstairs. And I went upstairs and he talked to me for about 20 minutes. He gave me these sheets that he would use to sort of plan out the shortlist and, and the day and gave me great advice. Here's this young guy saying make sure you get plenty of sleep, you know, the hipster guy, and I and I and, you know, and and, and he basically said, you know, Roger will let you creatively do whatever you want to do. That's the fantastic thing about working for Roger. And, but, you know, you just have to make sure that you, you're efficient. And here's how you do it. And remember to think ahead and just lots of good fundamentals, but also encouraging me to explore and be creative. And really, you know, take advantage of this, this opportunity that Roger was was was given me, I finally carried my end of a great tradition. And cast Roger in Apollo 13. He had a very nice scene playing a senator with with Tom Hanks. And it was a really wonderful day to reconnect with Roger, having calm had, you know, it was a big day with green screen and, you know, it was we were doing visual effects shots and, and it was, you know, just a plus Hollywood filmmaking and he just marked and said, Well, we can do this for a hell of a lot less. And you know, he could

Jason Buff 9:54
All right and now my interview with Roger Corman.

Alex Ferrari 9:57
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jason Buff 10:07
I was watching the documentary Corman's world recently, the thing that I thought was very interesting to see was that you're still going down and being on the set. Do you find the same excitement being on a set these days?

Roger Corman 10:17
It's always exciting to be on the set, I'd probably not as excited as earlier. But the stimulation is still there after you've done it. I've made around 300 films, there's a certain routine. But there's something always a little bit No

Jason Buff 10:32
How have things changed? I mean, now that you are working in the digital world, and video on demand and the Sci Fi Channel, how has your system changed and the way that you go about distribution,

Roger Corman 10:44
It's changed a little bit when you mentioned distribution, it's changed for the better, and production, and it's chain changed, at least for those of us working in medium budget and lower budget films has changed for the worse, and distribution and production, production is easier. The new digital cameras, a sound equipment, the lighting equipment, everything is lighter, more portable, easier to use, so you can shoot more unnatural locations, and you can shoot faster and more efficiently. So production is better today, the conditions of production. The conditions of distribution, however, are not good for the independence. The major studios today with their $100,000,000.02 100 million dollar budgets in their 3040 $50 million marketing campaigns have dominated theatrical to such an extent that very few medium or low budget independent pictures get a theatrical distribution. Primarily, we're on DVD streaming cable, some broadcast television, and only occasionally in theaters today,

Jason Buff 11:59
Is there a certain period of time that you look back on in your career and kind of reminisce about as being the glory days of filmmaking?

Roger Corman 12:07
Probably for me, the 60s and 70s, the 60s was when I was having most fun, and most success as a director, I started directing and around 58 or something like that first couple of years, you sort of learn what you're doing. And then things started to move for me in the 60s. And in the 70s, I started my own production and distribution company that I moved from directing to producing and distributing and that was a whole new world as well. So for that, about a 20 year period, I was probably having the most fun and the most success. Things still work out. I'm still producing, still distributing, but I make fewer films today. And just that I make fewer films, they get a limited distribution. And I'll continue for a few more years.

Jason Buff 13:01
You started out working as a writing notes on screenplays, right? And you eventually did some notes for the gun, the compiler,

Roger Corman 13:09
Yes. Actually, I started up. I graduated from Stanford with a degree in engineering. And I was a failure of the Stanford Engineering class. I got the worst job of anybody. I got a job as a messenger at Fox $32.50 a week. I rode the bike around the studio delivering messages. And then I'm I worked the fairly hard did put did some extra work and became a reader in the story department. And that was where I first got a little bit minor recognition for my work on the gunfighter. I didn't like various things of going on. So I had some college time left on the GI Bill. So I went to Europe, went to Oxford briefly. And then came back and became a literary agent, and sold my own script under an assumed name and took the money from that and started my production company.

Jason Buff 14:12
How did you did you know how it was all going to work? And were you going to sell the film? Or did you just kind of go into it like the leap of faith?

Roger Corman 14:18
It was a total leap of faith. I I think that and I wonder how I had the nerve to do it.

Jason Buff 14:27
Well, I think that you know, your career has shown that you've taken a lot of leaps of faith like that. And now did you when you first started, did you have the idea that you could keep a career going as long as you were making films at a low enough price that you could always sell them?

Roger Corman 14:44
It wasn't quite that easy. I financed my films with my own money. And since I don't have that much money, I can't make giant films. So the budget level was more or less predetermined, and I don't Really think I've ever thought of it as how long can I keep going? I just felt that everything is going well, I'll continue making films. So there was a little bit of a sort of a long term plan. But to a large extent, it was day to day. I'm going to make this film I'm shooting this film. I'm planning the next film, and so forth.

Jason Buff 15:21
What did you learn from making films that people really wanted to see you obviously tapped into something in the marketplace that was selling tickets and got people coming in and got people excited? Are there any sort of things that are specific to your films that really kind of you developed and learned how to sell a film?

Roger Corman 15:39
Well, early on, I appeal to a teenage audience. I was very much aware that the audience was a young audience, and the major studios were casting their great stars, which meant to a large extent, a 50 year old leading man, making love to a 40 year old leading lady and the abrogation. The audience was 18. So I felt, I totally understood why they did it. Their stars were the equivalent of brands. The stars were famous and could sell tickets. But I felt if I work with young people, I could appeal directly to a young audience. And I worked in genres. i Not always, but generally, I was doing action pictures, horror films, science fiction films, sometimes deliberately straight, teenage films, and so forth.

Jason Buff 16:36
Were there any other movies like genre films, they were fairly non mainstream back in those days? I mean, nowadays, it seems like horror movies are very mainstream, and especially science fiction and everything, especially after Star Wars and all those sorts of movies. But back in those days, was it something that was more of like a drive in movie theater or more like be movies?

Roger Corman 16:56
Yes. The drive ins were very important, they weren't quite as important as people think they were. Our main money still came from what we call the hard to see in close theaters. But drive ins were a major source of income. And the driving audience was even younger than the hard top audience. Although drive ins did attract some families, on the basis that young family with children couldn't afford a babysitter, something could just go to the drive and put the children in the backseat, watch the picture. And the children would maybe just go to sleep. So it was an inexpensive night out for them. It still was primarily a young audience,

Jason Buff 17:42
Do you think we've missed something now that we don't have theatres, and we don't like go out and see movies now that everybody's watching movies, on iPads and on TV?

Roger Corman 17:49
Yes, I think there's something to be said, for seeing a picture, particularly a comedy. With an audience. You pick up the vibes, as it were, unconsciously, from the audience, it becomes a communal or a shared experience.

Jason Buff 18:04
I was watching the 1978 documentary called corpsman Hollywood's wild Angel, you can actually it's actually on YouTube. And it was one of probably one of the most, I've learned so much in two hours of just watching this incredible. And there's a great scene where they're talking with Jonathan Demi, and he's talking about the advice that you gave him as a filmmaker. And I thought it was really interesting. And I just wanted to get your thoughts on that. And he said that the three most important elements in a film were humor, action, and sex and sex was last but it was still important. Do you still feel like

Roger Corman 18:40
I think I think that I would put in a negative storyline. I should have said that. I was probably I was probably understood.

Jason Buff 18:50
What are your some of your favorite movies that you have seen lately? You know, more contemporary people?

Roger Corman 18:55
Yes, as a matter of fact, possibly the most interesting film I saw last year, was a film that for three quarters of the way through, I thought was one of the most brilliant films I'd ever seen. And then it started to fall at the end. And it was never recognized in any way, I think for special effects Interstellar, which I thought was really a brilliant film, particularly as I say my degree was an engineering but I had a minor in physics. And maybe it was unique to me. I tried to stay up with physics. And it was really very accurate. From all the concepts of Physics Today, the last quarter or so it started to get a little questionable. didn't totally hold up, but I think for the reason that as I say, it was so brilliant, so far through and then still was I still think of it as possibly the best picture of the year but So nobody else seems to agree with me or few people agree or agree with me.

Alex Ferrari 20:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jason Buff 20:14
One of the things that I had heard that you mentioned was that after the film, the intruder, you had decided that you didn't want to be as, which is a brilliant film, but I actually just saw it for the first time a couple of days ago that you had decided to try and not you know, have a movie that was commercial, but have a movie within that movie that actually had a message and was a good movie within a movie that was sellable.

Roger Corman 20:37
Yes, I felt that I had become too serious with the intruder. It got a lot of critical acclaim when a couple of minor film festivals, but it was commercially not successful. And I felt I was too serious. I was lecturing the audience. And I felt, what I would do would be to make a film and entertainment with as we say, a method acting a text and the subtext of text is the entertainment of the film. And the subtext would be whatever was important to me, or whatever I wanted to say. But it wouldn't be always be secondary, to the textures of film.

Jason Buff 21:19
Now, were you one of the first people to take the camera off the tripod and go out into the streets and kind of shoot off of sets Was that something that you felt was you know, would bring more realism to your film, say in the 60s?

Roger Corman 21:35
Yes, I was one of the first, I wouldn't say I was the first service that I know. A number of people were doing it before me. But I was one of the first to do it. And I liked that concept very much I'd been doing. My Edgar Allan Poe pictures was Vincent Price. And those were deliberately studio bound, I wanted to have total control of everything within a studio leaving nothing to chance. And I wanted to when I felt I had done enough of those films, I wanted to go completely away from that, go into the streets and shoot the world around me, as as I interpreted during the 60s, which of course was a very volatile decade.

Jason Buff 22:19
You mentioned working with Vincent Price and the poems Can you talk a little bit about horror and you're feeling about horror movies?

Roger Corman 22:27
Well, horror is very complex, it's exceedingly complex, you can get hard very easily by cutting off somebody's arm or something like that. I'm not talking about that kind of horror, I'm talking about horror, as a psychological concept. And I think the roots go so deep into a person's individually experience into the whole experience of humanity, that it is a fascinating genre in which to work that

Jason Buff 22:57
You were distributing a lot of films from foreign filmmakers. I was wondering if you had any favorite filmmakers from that, you know, like Kurosawa, or Bergman, what what your favorite films were from that kind of well of people,

Roger Corman 23:13
I would pick a few, some of the filmmakers, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, a number of others. The first one I had was cries and whispers from Bergman, which was I thought, brilliant film. Can you see our carousel was there's a who's, which is an unusual film for him to which one Academy Award Best Foreign Film Fellini's picture. I forgotten the title of it. But the film from Fellini that also won the Academy we won. I think in a certain number of six or seven years, we've learned more at foreign Academy Awards and everybody else combined.

Jason Buff 24:00
Now, where were you able to meet with those directors? Did you you know, have any relationship with them? And did you learn things from them?

Roger Corman 24:07
Yes, I met I met several of them talk with so much several of them. Fellini said you should get out of distributing and go back to directing. I remember. Why did you ever leave.

Jason Buff 24:20
You've obviously had a great influence on a lot of the people that my generation considers the best filmmakers, you know, the the 70s and the people who really influenced us moving into the 80s. Now when I when I watch a movie by you know Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola, when you watch movies that they make, do you see your influence in what they make, I mean, for example, camera movement, and you know, keeping things going

Roger Corman 24:45
A little bit, but basically, they are their own people. They were good before they even met me they had the talent. I may have taught them a few things, but basically, they're brilliant film. makers, they would have been brilliant filmmakers if they'd never met.

Jason Buff 25:03
What do all these people have in common that the great filmmakers the James Cameron's, and all these guys that you work with? What is there something that you saw in them that just made them? Great?

Roger Corman 25:12
Well, I've been asked that question before, I would say there were three things. One, every one of them was intelligent. I've never met a successful writer, producer or director who's been successful over a long period of time, who wasn't intelligent. The second was the ability to work. Making films on move to a certain extent is glamorous and exciting. But also it is very, very hard work. Those two things, you can kind of figure out. The third is creativity. They are all creative, and that you only learn about a person by working with them.

Jason Buff 25:56
I also watch Death Race 2000. And I was wondering if you when you watch the Hunger Games, reaction to that,

Roger Corman 26:04
I definitely had that reaction both in its follow up picture, deaths, sport deaths, sports, a number of things went wrong, it's not a good picture. But the thoughts and death rays, on the other hand, was pretty good picture. One Sample was the greatest beat picture of all time, I think, without question, some of the thoughts and death races and deaths for it are in The Hunger Games and some other things. On the other hand, as far as I know, death, race and death sport were totally original. But if I say that, there's gonna be somebody who will say you're forgetting the German expression, this film of 1919 had the same concept. So you can never say you were really the first. And it's very possible if I think whoever wrote the Hunger Games had never seen death sport or Death Race. They probably thought they were doing something totally original as well.

Jason Buff 27:05
Well, it also reminded me a lot of Mad Max and actually more like Mad Max, too. You know, did you did you ever see that connection?

Roger Corman 27:13
Yes. Who was the actually the in that case? It's an Australian direct. He told me he had seen it. He had seen death rates. George Miller Yeah. Yes. Joy. Yes. And he said he had seen death rates. And he said he was inspired by him. And but he didn't cartoonish. And he got a general idea of a genre, and did two brilliant original films. The call?

Jason Buff 27:38
Yeah, I mean, well, I mean, the thing that, that you feel when you watch that, it's just the danger. You know, you feel the speed and you feel like I mean, that's one of the things that films I think have lost a lot nowadays is just the actual, you know, you're doing everything in camera, there's not really any visual effects. I mean, there might be there was like a matte painting, I remember. But other than that, I mean, everything is real and not like digital effects. So you can when I watch movies like that, it's a lot realer than watching, you know, some of these movies that are like the superhero movies where you know that they can do it all in a computer?

Roger Corman 28:09
Yes. I think the audience unconsciously knows that they can sense it. To a certain extent, the steps that can be done today are far superior to what we were doing in camera, what you can do with a computer are just lightyears ahead. Yet at the same time, the audience almost senses. They're too good. They know this can't really be now,

Jason Buff 28:35
I wanted to talk for just a second about if you could give a little bit of a lot of people that listen to this are first time filmmakers and people that are trying out they're trying to make you know, their first independent films, can you talk a little bit about what people can do to have success in the film industry and make a film that's like you said, a movie that is good, but also a film that will sell and that can keep them going,

Roger Corman 28:57
Well as William Goldman once said, nobody knows anything. He's partially true. But I would say this. A lot of people have a general idea, you don't know. But you have a general idea. So I could say a few things. And even before I say, I will know that somebody will go up and do something totally opposite from what I say you should do, and have a giant success and do it. So it really depends upon the ability as a filmmaker, but probably not getting into a deep, long discussion. The one thing that I would say is most important is preparation. Particularly if you have a short schedule, or a small budget. You want to do as much of your thinking as you possibly can. Before you ever appear on the set. You want to have your story worked out. You want to have talked with your actors.

Alex Ferrari 29:58
We'll be right back after a word from Our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Roger Corman 30:07
Worked out the basic red line is Stanislavski said if the actor's performance, you want to have your own shots sketched out, knowing however, you will never follow your plan exactly something that will whose happens that causes you to change sometimes as the better sometimes you'll get a better idea. But I put heavy, heavy emphasis on pre production planning.

Jason Buff 30:34
Is that how you were able to do Little Shop of Horrors? In today?

Roger Corman 30:37
Yes, we rehearse three days. So what happened? Studio had these sets, that we just shot on sets that were there. That's the reason I made the fixture. And I knew that as a Screen Actors Guild at that time, I think it's still this way. Hiring an actor for five days for a week is not much more expensive than hiring a matter of fact, it's about as expensive it was to hire an actor for a week, as for three days on a daily rates, so I hired all the actors for a week, we rehearsed three days, and then went and shot for two days, having worked everything out in the first three.

Jason Buff 31:15
I actually I have to ask you this. Now, I know that you you're a fan of Stanley Kubrick, right? Yes. I was wondering how you How did you feel about the Shining when you saw that? And did you talk to Jack Nicholson about that after I did,

Roger Corman 31:27
I thought for sure, I think Kubrick is one of the great, great directors. And I think the shining is one of his best films. And that's his best film, but it's one of his best films. So I have total admiration for Stanley. And for that picture, and Jack was brilliant. I do have one story that Jack told me. When we were working people used to say I printed the first take I sold them did but I print generally the second or third take or something like that. Stanley is famous for shooting and shooting and shooting. He went over 100 takes on one shot with jack and jack is a good guy. He stood there the wet until Stanley printed 112 113 cakes. And when he was finished, he went over to Stanley. Stanley, I'm with you all the way. But you have to know I generally take around the 70 is the radius.

Jason Buff 32:29
Did you ever have the chance to meet Stanley Kubrick

Roger Corman 32:32
I met him was just talked to him briefly early in his career he had done his first film was a crime story built around a racetrack. And it was a medium low budget film. And I remember was after he had done that. And I was just talking to him. And I said this is one of the best if not the best first films I've ever seen. And it was clear from there that he was going to have a brilliant career. Was that the killers?

Jason Buff 33:02
Yes, that's right. That had a brilliant ending to with the the suitcase and the money flying out of it and everything. Yes. I always in my my interviews with two questions. One is, do you have a resource like a book or something that's been very influential to your life or something that you can recommend to filmmakers?

Roger Corman 33:21
Well, I'll give you an answer that doesn't apply exactly the most influential book to me was when I was in college, studying math, and I studied calculus. The whole concept of calculus, which is to a certain extent, could be described as the mathematics of movement. The problems with calculus that we're going to get, won't get in all of that calculus, the problem and the solving of the problem, I thought was so brilliant and such an example of what the creative mind can do that that's probably influenced me more than any other book.

Jason Buff 34:00
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were 20 years old. What advice would you have for yourself,

Roger Corman 34:06
I would probably say at the age of 20, to try to get as broad and varied in education as you possibly can. I think the fact that I majored in engineering cause me to specialize too much in a certain branch of knowledge, where as a liberal education, encompassing literature, our philosophy, economic psychology, all of that is the best preparation for a full life, whether professionally or personally,

Jason Buff 34:43
Did you follow that because you felt like you had to have something to kind of fall back on and to have a career.

Roger Corman 34:49
Well, my father was an engineer, and I simply started off to follow his in his footsteps. And it wasn't until I became the film critic of the Stanford Daly and I started analyzing films that I realized this is what I wanted to do. But I'd spent four years studying engineering.

Jason Buff 35:12
Did you ever use any of that knowledge for filmmaking?

Roger Corman 35:14
Well, as I say, going back to Calculus, I use some of the knowledge. But I also use some of the way in which you think as an engineer, or a physicist or a mathematician, there's a thought process of problem solving, which can be very creative and very satisfying, and very useful at the same time.

Jason Buff 35:35
Well, I really appreciate you taking the time and talking with me.

Roger Corman 35:40
Very good. Thank you.

Jason Buff 35:41
All right. That's gonna do it for today. I want to thank my guests, Mr. Roger Corman for coming on the show. Thanks a lot.

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BPS 310: Licking My Wounds Writing The Mask of Zorro for Hollywood with Randall Jahnson

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Alex Ferrari 0:07
Enjoy this episode with guest host Scott McMahon.

Scott Mcmahon 0:48
We got to finish the interview I had with Randall Jahnson from Randalljahnson.com. Look it up on the website, get the link. But no, we were a part two because we ended because this is how bad I am. This is the never ending conversation by the way. Yeah, I hope it goes on and on. I hope there's like seven parts to it. But the thing is, the thing is I this is how bad I am if I was a real journalist, which I'm not, which, you know, explains a lot. Yes, is I wouldn't I would have, I would have taken the time to do lab and more research because on reading your website and everything because everything you were sharing with me was on your website. And but when you were telling me I was I was it was almost as if I was a new person, though, because I was like, Oh, really, I didn't know you work with all this, you know, you know, Henry Rollins and Stan Ridgway and you know, so that was exciting for me. But it was kind of neat, because being stupid as I was, is like I was hearing for the first time even though I could apply prep myself better by reading thoroughly through your website, as opposed to just glancing a few of the items when I first went to the website.

Randall Jahnson 2:40
Well, you can just peel the layers away like an onion. Yeah. So each week, you'll find a little something new.

Scott Mcmahon 2:48
Well, you can just peel let's go. So what we did was last we left off you were mentioning, you went to UCLA, for screenwriting. Yeah. So and then you had a college, you know, friend, who's working in agency saw you somewhere in the street or something like that. And you bumped into I don't know where the coffee shop. But anyhow, they got your script, because there was a whole breed of new young agents that were looking for some cool stuff. And they really latched on to a slaughter alley. Right? Vice. Correct. And from that, but we got sidetracked a little bit, because you said you were doing a lot of work with the the the exploding punk scene in the late 70s, early 80s. On the west coast, Southern California style. So which is huge leaps. Yeah, so and you know, we're talking about, we were going on about Standridge way and Black Flag, we will talk about Minuteman and the label that you created. So we kind of touched upon that, but I think it's still an interesting story. We can continue there. We were working our way on towards how you got dudes made or how it got picked up like your first scream, right? Like kind of stuff.

Randall Jahnson 3:55
Let's see, gosh, well, backing up a bit. Yeah, I ran into my friend, Howard, Howard Sanders, who I'd gone to film school with, and how he had become an agent to or was aspiring to be an agent at the William Morris Agency. And so when I ran into him, he was literally working in the mailroom at William Morris at the time. And he said, You know what happened to slaughter alley?

Scott Mcmahon 4:20
Oh, yeah, yeah. How bitten that give me perspective. Like how big was William Morris? At that time?

Randall Jahnson 4:25
Oh, Morris was huge. It was one of the established you know, agencies that have been in show business forever. It was so old as a matter of fact that I was there was a lot of talk about William Morris at that time that like, how interested were they really in the entertainment business? Because apparently most of their financial holdings weren't real estate. Really? Yeah. Yeah. So it was it was kind of an interesting thing. But at that time, William Morris ICM, CA were kind of like the big three UTA hadn't really emerged yet.

Scott Mcmahon 5:04
What was it? Where was endeavour at that point?

Randall Jahnson 5:06
They were they were there. I actually no, I take that back I think endeavor started with after a bunch of guys that I had met at Morris and then later ICM split, jumped ship and started an endeavor. Okay. Okay. Okay. And then endeavor became endeavor and ultimately came back and merged with Morris. Right. Okay. I mean, it just goes to show you what goes around comes around, you know that the sharks eventually devour one another.

Scott Mcmahon 5:39
They are they are it's an amazing machine and how much they survive and how they they find their paws and different things. Like it's taking them a while to get involved with the interactive industry as well. So slowly, yeah,

Randall Jahnson 5:52
Yeah, they're a little slow in the pickup. But I mean, UTA is really, I think hot on them interactive in the media, you know, new media, whatever you want to call it. Right now, I think but, yeah, I mean, you know, again, a game world, you know, on this whole internet thing. That that was just, that's like, you know, it was it was dull. It wasn't interesting to the established industry at that time. Right. And, of course, now, you know, everything is migrating into that. And so, that stuff is moving front and center a lot more, where it certainly has a lot more respect than it used to, right. You know, I would have meetings after I wrote gun. Again, I'm jumping ahead here. But after I wrote gun or was writing gun was still you know, I would go around and have meetings with a production company, or, you know, a studio or something. And this is what you've been doing lately. And I said, Well, I've been writing this game, this video game. Oh, no, I guess that's kind of an Yeah. People are doing that. Right. Yeah, it was just, it was it was it was something that didn't have any respect. Yeah. No. business and how you know, hello. It's got, you know, it's I mean, it's devouring the business in one sense.

Scott Mcmahon 7:16
Oh, yeah. It's a total. So sure. It's very different. Yeah. Please drink eat. Like it always pauses. It's ok.

Randall Jahnson 7:24
By the way that for those who might be listening, having a very delicious pumpkin flavored pumpkin chocolate flavored

Scott Mcmahon 7:32

Randall Jahnson 7:33
Is that sort of stout, or was it? A? Yeah, it's a little it's a little lighter. For them stout. It's the that's all right. We'll, we'll figure it out.

Scott Mcmahon 7:44
When they come down. We'll get there. We'll get there. We'll get there. I'm gonna get one out for my style, and it's quite good.

Randall Jahnson 7:50
You know, Happy Halloween everyone.

Scott Mcmahon 7:52
Seriously, today. Today was sort of the first day that got kind of cold.

Randall Jahnson 7:57
Yeah, yeah. I went out. I went out running. Yeah, it was 36 this morning when I got up. I noticed second a while ago. Yeah, up and I went out running today. And it was like a little chilly.

Scott Mcmahon 8:08
Here comes winter.

Randall Jahnson 8:10
Yeah, sounds great. The skies are just in wasn't a cloud in the sky. Now. We've been laser on the changing and on the ground. And it's just it's beautiful, man.

Scott Mcmahon 8:18
It's been Yeah, real nice. And I love it.

Randall Jahnson 8:21
I love it. Cool. I know Mr. Surfer.

Scott Mcmahon 8:28
I actually had a great weekend surfing. No. Did you so I had no complaints there. So it's all good. Oh, so anyway, going back? Yeah, we got your friends.

Randall Jahnson 8:38
Yeah. So So I ran into Howie Sanders. And he was like, literally on the street in Beverly Hills somewhere. And he just said, Dude, what what happened was slaughter alley. And I said, well, the whole project fell through. I had to go back to the mailroom my male realm of at the Academy of Motion Pictures. And I was working there and I said, nothing's happening with the script. He said, well give it to me, because he said, I'm in the mailroom now at Morris and I can get it to some young agents there who are really hungry, and it makes me look good as well. So he said, believe me, he said, given the stuff that I'm reading there in the mailroom, which is what every aspiring agent has to do, he said there's a lot of people far less talented than you that are making a lot of money. So he said, I think you could you could get represented here. So I did, I gave it to him. And sure enough, a couple days later, I got a call from you know, the young agent over there and I invited me over to to basically meet and I signed with him. I met with actually a pair of agents there, Carol young cos and a guy named Rick Jaffa.

Alex Ferrari 9:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 10:05
Rick Jaffa is now a writer himself. And he and his wife Amanda silver, they wrote a wonderful movie called The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Most recently, they wrote the remake of the planet planet of the apes. Oh, wow. Or Rise of the Planet. Okay, yes. The big hit this last summer. But Rick was my agent initially,

Scott Mcmahon 10:29
Don't you consider like, a pocket client,

Randall Jahnson 10:32
I was considered a pocket client by a guy named Shelly Weil, who has since passed away. But at his very established agency, he wouldn't take me on as a regular client, but I was a pocket client based on slot rally. But he wouldn't take me on as he said, because on the on the merits of what he termed is an exploitation. Okay, movie. Okay. So that was a very different I mean, Shelley was very, very old school. So when I gave it to Howard Howard was like, this is an exploitation. This is just a great script. Let's go, let's go. And you know, and then he got it to Rick and Carolyn Morris. And they were, they were just starting out. And they remember Rick telling me, he read it. And he just after he finished the last page, he threw it in the air and just was like, it felt like, Yes, I can sell this, or I can write, you know, this is a, this is a really great writer. It's just one of those moments where that goes, right. It's a template, you know, it's seared into your, your memory. More, it's just like, Wow, great. I'm so happy. Somebody loves it that much. And so they signed me. And then they started sending me out on meetings right away, slaughter ally, was still under options. So they couldn't go out and sell it. But they wanted to sell me it was a great calling card that they could use to sell me as a talent.

Scott Mcmahon 11:53
So whether you're able to, like sell it as, hey, we got his projects in in option or something like that. So you gotta meet with him. He's hot. Right? Okay.

Randall Jahnson 12:01
Correct. Correct. And so Subsequently, I went out on a lot of different meetings with companies. I remember meeting with Johnny Carson's company, he had a development person at that time.

Scott Mcmahon 12:14
It was strange. Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 12:18
You know, it was it was just kind of interesting. You go out in there, basically meet and greets, hey, how you doing? I read your script really? Like it's cool. What else you got? That kind of thing? What did you have at the time? Well, it was interesting. I would didn't really have I had some vague notions. And I went into a meeting at a company called the VISTA Vista films, or Vista organization. And I after this was after a string of meetings with what you might call pod people. Okay, little there, the obligatory meeting where they're, they're just like, hey, like what we have here?


Scott Mcmahon 12:59
We can put on pause real quick.

Randall Jahnson 13:00
Sure. We're back live.

Scott Mcmahon 13:02
Cool. We just got back. Just finish up our dinner delicious. Again. You know, we're at Mars, like Oswego Mars Irish club. Anyway, we were talking

Randall Jahnson 13:13
Yeah. And by the way, that it's a porter, my pumpkin chocolate concoction. Not a stout, it's important. It's a lighter, a little bit lighter. So quite, quite delicious. Cool.

Scott Mcmahon 13:26
I gotta get one after this beer.

Randall Jahnson 13:28
Meal in itself.

Scott Mcmahon 13:33
So the question was, we were talking about, now you got your you're in with agency, and you're going on meetings, you know, and let's talk about that. Because that's one of the things that was exciting to see for a writer or who they do it for actors to like the actors, if you sometimes once you to meet with like the director of one hour program, ring programming for Fox or whatever, you're not necessarily auditioning, they just sort of want to meet you, depending on the agency. And same thing with writers and not sure how it works for directors and stuff. But same maybe same thing,

Randall Jahnson 14:09
You know, I mean, it's a lot easier now for directors because they can they can have a real either on a desk or they have a website and somebody can go right or stuck right away. You know, back in those days, I mean, our director would have to leave a reel and have like a big fat

Scott Mcmahon 14:25
and actual film reel. Yeah, or

Randall Jahnson 14:27
videotape or right. Yeah, big fat, three quarter inch videotape or something. Like ridiculous.

Scott Mcmahon 14:32
So when you went, what was your emotional? How are your emotions? That's one thing I never get like an in interviews is because a lot of interviews, the interviewers just sort of skip over like, oh, yeah, so I got this agent, agencies behind me now they start sending out of meetings, but never stop and say, Okay, can you recall sort of the emotions you had? Were like, I'm doing my first meeting and they tell you, I'm sure they get like a call or they tell you. Alright, you gotta be here at three o'clock. If you're going to meet with so and so at this production company, they want to meet with you and talk to you about this story or whatever. So what goes on on somebody's emotions at that point?

Randall Jahnson 15:10
Well, I used to get really excited or almost anxious about, you know, these meetings, because why do they want to meet with me? You know, I might, what should I have stuff? Ready? What? Right? What are they expecting? Do I have to pitch another story? You know, the agents would always say, no, no, no, just just chill out. They just want to meet you. They read the script, they just want to know if you have any other ideas. You know, it's just a it's just a meeting. Yeah, there's nothing, I used to attach a lot more import to the meeting, than was really there. And I used to get, at least initially very anxious about it. I remember just in particular, that like the meeting of at Johnny Carson's company, Terry, Terry something or other rent was in his head of development. I used to I ended up playing basketball with him at a later really later date. Yeah. But he was cool. And I, but I was very nervous about it at first, because this is like one of my first professional meetings and like, what am I say, What do I wear? What do I do, right? That whole thing, but you start doing enough of these and it's and you get a little more relaxed and just be your learn to be yourself. Right? And, you know, it's it's not, it's always a little bit of a dog and pony show to a degree. But it's, it's not. It you shouldn't suffer from performance anxiety for something like that. They generally, if these people have been doing their job for a while they know that writers aren't necessarily the most

Scott Mcmahon 16:54
polished presenters.

Randall Jahnson 16:57
I think they're not. Yeah, the most gregarious individuals now, you know,

Scott Mcmahon 17:03
Ron Howard's partner, Brian Grazer? Yeah, I saw him in an interview on iconic class on IFC, I think it was or, and that show is basically kind of combining two icons or moguls for different industries. And the they follow them around. And then it's like an hour show, but it was following him. So it was Brian Grazer, and his friendship with redstone at Viacom. Well, you know, yeah. So is there some summer Yes, on there. So, but then we're interviewing grazer. And he was saying that, about writers like he says, he wants he, he has his, the way they dress he goes if they're not, like disheveled, and like, look, like just like right off the street. And they he goes, he wants his writers to be the ones that are, like, socially awkward, that aren't dressed to the tee that are in like, like, they look like that's all they do is right. And that's sort of maybe it's a tongue in cheek sort of perspective. But he was like, he's he said he was suspicious of a writer that was dressed better than he was, you know,

Randall Jahnson 18:07
well, then. You know, then then he just lost out on a meeting with like Aaron Sorkin you know, or somebody. Right, right. Or, you know, come on, if you take a look historically, photographs of writers from let's say, the really, from the 50s 40s 50s, early 60s. You know, the Writers Guild has plenty of them on file. And in the in the guild home headquarters there. You'll see a lot of pipes. But by and large, they're a debonair crowd, right. I mean, Dashiell Hammett, who's one of the founders of the Writers Guild really named me the very debonair gentleman, you know, I mean, dapper these guys, these guys knew how to dress. It's sort of a sad state of affairs, I think what it's come to now, because we are really sort of a T Shirt Nation, but that I think that's more indicative of the population in general than anything. But for a long time, you know, the, the sort of the uniform was a trashy t shirt, and a really worn baseball cap of some sort with some obscure product label on it. You know, and, of course, jeans and, and a pair of, you know, some kind of a, you know, a tennis shoe of some sneakers, you know, of high tops or something like that, you know, or, you know, Frank Darabont was was fond of particular high tops, I think at one point in classics, you know, so it's kind of come to that and in a sense, I understand what grazer is saying, but you know, you can't make a blanket statement. It was just interesting to hear he's, you know, he's a surfer.

Alex Ferrari 19:59
We'll be right back. After a word from our sponsor and now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 20:08
I know it's like a bump in the head. Like you're like, oh, so

Randall Jahnson 20:13
yeah, yeah. You know, but, but there is a certain, you know, it's it's a certain look, it's a certain vibe. And you'll get sometimes, you know, and they're usually clutching a lot of coffee, a coffee mug of some sort, you know, add to that. So they're in line at the espresso bar there. You know, we're in the, you know, you see him in Starbucks everywhere, any kind of coffee house? They're

Scott Mcmahon 20:40
like, it's a given like any coffee shop. You see in Los Angeles, there's a laptop with

Randall Jahnson 20:46
Sure. Screenwriting? Sure, I mean, it used to be in the old days, it used to be nope, notepad, okay, I mean, and I was one of them, I would go out, because, you know, writing is a lonely business part of the right for most of the time, and writers rarely got out, especially if you are under pressure to get a script done, or on a deadline of some sort. You just didn't get out. So the only way to get out really was to double up on function in business and what was like, get to his coffee shop, get some coffee, and you get some work done. And then you might vicariously experience real life process to get out of that, that those four those four enclosing walls, I don't know if it's, you know, yeah, I

Scott Mcmahon 21:33
don't know, if I've, I've done it a few times, just because at a shear, I had to I was like, I had time to kill, I was like, I gotta get some work done. And I noticed that I kind of shut myself off a little bit when there's a lot of noise, because I don't know anybody. It's okay, just put the earplugs in, and you know, your business. But when you take your moment, they take a breath or step away from whatever you're working on writing, it gives me a chance to sort of observe, you know, human nature and you and you never know what triggers that inspiration, like, you just see this, this, somebody ordering, you know, a latte, but the way they order it is bizarre that you're like, oh, that's might be interesting. But I actually found most of my success writing from for me, is I go to the public libraries, you know, it's just they have the Wi Fi but, but I tried to cut off the Wi Fi because it's easy to get distracted. But for some reason for me, the libraries was always a nice little getaway to get outside the homes to homart essence the libraries

Randall Jahnson 22:30
are great. I never, I never ventured to them to actually work, I would always go I would be there to research, right. And I would always be on a sort of a on a mission, you know. And again, these are days before the internet, I remember if I was on, you know, a couple of projects, I became a lifetime member of the UCLA Alumni Association for the sole purpose that I would always have library privileges. Well, that makes sense. And so yeah, I haven't used it now in a number of years. But the point was, is that I used to, and again, the days before the internet, if I was researching something in an historical period or something, I would go to the Graduate Research Library and just disappear. I mean, it would lead I would cross reference and go down this path and that path and that aisle and go to special collections and everything. And I loved it. I mean, it was fantastic. It was a really a was actually a physical investigation, right, you actually had to travel, you had to get in the elevator after you get to the card catalog and go upstairs or this or that or you know, find different things. And it was it was always a little bit of an adventure. And then there would be interesting things you would encounter along the way on the shelves and down the aisles and all that stuff. So I always, always really enjoyed that. Now, you know, I mean, it's all at your fingertips. It's crazy. So you don't do that anymore. But I never worked in a library. I always liked the vibe of it, but I never worked in and I preferred to go where I could observe people coming and going a lot. There's a place in in in LA, called the apple pan. It's it's down on Pico Boulevard, just just east of Westwood Boulevard and block. And it's a little horseshoe counter and an old bungalow that's been there since 1947. And it's family owned, and they have refused to sell out. And so it's completely surrounded now by tall modern. And here's this little 40 style bungalow on the corner. And it's still run exactly the same way. It was way back when in the menu who really hasn't changed the prices have gone up but basically they're making the same kind of stuff on the menu with a hickory burger, a hamburger cheeseburger, tuna fish sandwich ham sandwich. It's been on the on the menu since 1947. But I used to go there because I, I live not too far from it and it stayed open relatively late, it would stay open till midnight on on weeknights, and then one o'clock in the morning on the weekends and I used to take a corner seat and go in there with a note book, order a lot of coffee and I would go in about an hour before closing and get something to eat and drink a lot of coffee, make a lot of notes and then go home and work through the night. But I used to see tons of people coming through there and a lot of celebrities. I mean, everyone from you know, Warren Beatty was with a beautiful woman there. Gene Siskel, I met Gene Siskel, actually, right after the doors came out. Oh, really? Yeah. And he and Roger Ebert had interviewed or reviewed it on the show, and I happen to look up and I think, Oh, my God, they're seen Cisco. How weird is that? So I went over to him and introduced myself. I said, I wrote the doors. I said, Oh, my gosh,

Scott Mcmahon 26:05
well, he's a big music fan, or like, pop icon fan anyway,

Randall Jahnson 26:08
I didn't. I wasn't aware of that. But anyway, he was like, Oh, wow, that's really cool. So you know, so we, but we ended up talking less about the doors and more about the Apple pan, because he always whenever he was in town, and so it was like, What's your favorite thing on the menu? You know, there. Yeah. And I sort of said, well, I liked the hickory burger, and he liked the tuna fish sandwich. You know, it's a tough call on that on that. But it was fun. You know, I mean, some of the Lakers used to be in there, I would say a lot. A lot of movie stars kind of come in. And it would be you know, it's sort of incognito, and very, very low key. But it was fun. It was fun to see. And then just lots of very interesting where people and then of course, the guys that have worked in their old row. They've been there for and for ever, in a couple of the waiters, you know, I mean, just holy cow, you know? So there were lots of stories even about those guys, even

Scott Mcmahon 27:02
now that we're now that you're appear and then are in Portland, do you find yourself going out and observing sort of human behavior appear anything or?

Randall Jahnson 27:13
Well, it's really tempting to and I really should, when I do get the chance, but I don't step out like I used to, to go and work. And that's basically because I got a family now and I want to be at home with him that night. I don't write excuse me, right through the night, like I used to, I used to work after getting all jacked up on Capitol coffee. You know, I would work until I would hear the paper delivered, you know, on my doorstep at about the driveway about, you know, five, six in the morning or so. And then I'd hit the hay and sleep until noon or whatever, you know, get up and kind of start the day, procrastinate, day away until 10 o'clock at night and start writing again. But so I don't get out like I did. And, but when I do go out and I you know, go to the you know, find drinking establishments and like this, and whatever it's like, yeah, brings back a lot of memories in terms of wanting to do that. And if you go to any, you know, coffee house now and at least in Portland, geez, you walk in and everybody's on then hovering over their screen. You know, you never see anyone with a notebook anymore making no right or all hovering over their screens, you know? Yeah. And it's so it's very difficult to tell like, Who's, who's real and who's not I used to do that. I used to go in and see a lot of people making notes or writing or something about like, you know, is he really Is he real? Is he someone? Is he not? Right? Is she really good? A good writer or not? You know, she's cute, but Was she an actress is she knew that kind of thing.

Scott Mcmahon 28:57
There's friends that these girls would tell me in in, in LA, it's like, they would always meet these cute guys whose waiters or whatever they are. And then sure enough, they're all actors, you know? And they're like, and like, as I got older, and they got more professional are like, Oh, geez, you know? Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 29:16
Well, it's funny getting back to these, you know, these rounds of meetings that I was that my new agents were sending me on, you know, as a writer. Well, once I started getting paid as a writer, you just didn't get out that often. You know, I mean, it was you were you were working. And I took it very seriously. So I was, you know, always working in angsting away over my stuff. So to actually go out on a meeting was, was like, hey, wow, I'm actually going out and mixing with society. Yeah. And invariably, you know, you'd go to these production companies or studios and meet with an executive there and they would always have a beautiful young The woman working the front desk. Right,

Scott Mcmahon 30:03
right, right.

Alex Ferrari 30:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 30:15
They all did. So yeah, and because that that was also it's never stated, but it's implied if you have a hot chick, you know, as you're working as your assistant or, you know, receptionist, then you are you too are a sexy individual, you know, your cache, your, your relativity into importance in the business is, you know, your stock goes up, right, so, but invariably, I would always meet these wonderful, and a lot of them are just really, really great. And I would end up like, you know, these were the only women I would meet, so I would be unabashed about like asking them out. I made a fool out of myself a number of times. Interesting. But my roommate at the time, used to kid me, he's like, Oh, you had a meeting today? Did you ask anybody out? As a matter fact, I did. Yes.

Scott Mcmahon 31:15
Any of us who ever coming writers are find themselves in opportunities for meetings, any words of wisdom you can give us be yourself,

Randall Jahnson 31:23
you know, now,

Scott Mcmahon 31:24
I mean, in the dating, oh,

Randall Jahnson 31:27
just be yourself. You know, I mean, it's different, it's different. Now. You don't, you know, that's not your only outlet. You know, I mean, you're on if you're on, on the on the net, you know, you're gonna find people via Facebook, the, you know, dating services, eHarmony, whatever, you know, there's so many different ways now to get hooked up without ever leaving your, your four walls, right. And that's that, to me, this was the lifeline this was the only way out, you know, you had to get out, it's actually have a meeting or go to the Apple pen and have a cup of coffee and hope you sit, a beautiful girl sits next to you. But that rarely, rarely happens.

Scott Mcmahon 32:10
Well, it's funny, I think my actor friends would tell me it was very difficult. They say it's difficult to date in LA, because it's sort of implied or understood that everyone's here for themselves and their career and then self absorbed, going so to find time to, to, you know, to share with somebody else is very, very difficult. And why it's difficult to date there. So, that made sense to me for maybe the acting circles, I don't know, but Well, everybody's

Randall Jahnson 32:38
here. But you know, I think I think it applies across the boards, you know, everybody's there to become famous, you know, let's face it, they're looking to, to, to climb up. And so you're, you're thrown in into this into this sort of, you know, whatever you want to call it a pool of people who are social climbers. They can be shallow, they can be sincere, they can be artists, they truly want to make art, but they don't know how to do it. I mean, there's everything's all kind of thrown together. So it's really hard to read people at first they come across very sincere. But you know, sometimes they're not, you know, in writing, these are just some of the hard lessons of human behavior, you just sort of go through in your 20s when you're when you're trying to make it that just like, Oh, God, can I get your heart broken a couple of times and like, oh, have really lousy experiences. Yeah. But it all becomes great. Yeah. You know, goes into the, the, into the hard drive of your head for fodder for later scripts. And stuff. So you become a student of human behavior, if you will, however. Yeah. I had known what the Northwest holds. You know, for one aspiring writer. Back then, I would have come up here a long time ago. Oh, interesting. I think yeah, yeah. And, I mean, of course, I'm married now. But I've found that the girls out here, you know, just in chatting and stuff. There's so much more friendly and open and sincere than they were in LA. Right. And I think it's just because you know, Portland doesn't have the stigma of Thai people coming there to be famous. Nobody comes to Portland to be famous. I don't I don't think unless maybe you're a musician or something and you want to become one of the Decemberists or something you know but you know it's it's you go to New York or you go to your you go to LA and that's where the real big business centers are. However, that is all changing, but it's very

Scott Mcmahon 34:49
right. But yeah, the ones that need it that certainly that yeah, just constant approval, or so to make it I

Randall Jahnson 34:56
mean, look, I mean, they're always there are insecure, insecure people everywhere. There's always you know, everything is sort of relative that we're talking about a certain archetype in a way but, but by and large, I just found people, actually in the Northwest all in all been very much more open and sincere. And yeah, I agree. I think they're great. Great to hang with.

Scott Mcmahon 35:17
Yeah, there's a definite sense of independent spirit or just pure heart. Or, you know, and their perspective is, ya know, yeah, art for art's sake are just weird for weird. It is, and you're like, Okay, I go with this.

Randall Jahnson 35:33
Oh, gosh. Yeah, I mean, back in those days again. And also, when I was simultaneous with all this, I was in heavily into the music scene, though. So I did have more of an outlet because I was going out a lot late at night to see punk bands play and go to these really shitty little clubs. Inside, you know, I mean, a place called the VAX, I remember. The, the while there was the odd club and Silver Lake, there was Al's bar downtown. I mean, these were, this was downtown. This was way downtown. I mean, this was no man's land, right? And 8182 or whatever. And it was unbelievable. And it was nothing. And it's all changed. Now. You know, I mean, the people that were living there, but but I would invariably see these very interesting art damage women with Moon tans. And I have a really heavy duty Goth look, or sometimes they would be tattooed. It was almost pre tattooed kind of thing. But you know, Ruby, red lipstick and pale white skin, and then just like, you know, have this really bored art vibe about them that I just I I'd love for the long, line and sinker. And that's commonplace up here now. Yeah, except that they're not, as John just in are much more open and friendly. Here. A little more tattooed and pure Steven now than they weren't? Sure. Anyway. Yeah, I digress. Yeah. To observe.

Scott Mcmahon 37:10
I want to I want to, I want to divert to that later, when we get back to. So you're going on these meetings? What was the SIR, the first break that says, We want to hire you? Or, you know, we're doing this with slaughter alley, or, you know, what, what was the first after all these meetings were like, Oh, my God is actually turning into something?

Randall Jahnson 37:31
Well, it's, it's a good question, because it is Oregon related, actually, and I'll tell you about it. Tell you what the connection is. I went to a meeting call at a company called the VISTA organization. And they were, they were independent. They had a bunch of Canadian money, I think is what it was. So they didn't have any ties with the studio or whatever. And there was this guy, Miguel, Tata Flores, was the head of development there. And he wanted to meet me. So I show up. And this is after I've had a number of meetings with pod people, you know, who again, very friendly Oh, yeah, I really like your stuff. But it goes nowhere. Right. Right. Right. You know, and you just and you kind of exit these meetings and go, What was that about? Well, you know, did he really liked my stuff? Or is he just saying so or what? You know, what, what is this? Yeah. So I finally go in. And invariably, these meetings were, you know, in clean offices and really, you know, tasteful, tastefully decorated furniture was surrounded you I had a meeting with a young, aspiring, well, a young producer, he was the son of a studio head of certain studio, and I met at his bungalow. On the west side, it was at Fox actually. And I remember in our meeting there, he had a glass coffee table. Okay, that was had and we were there were these two couches that were perpendicular to each other around this on the corner of this glass coffee table. And on the table was this bowl of peanuts. And so as we were having our sit down and starting to chat, he reached in and like started, grabbed a bunch of peanuts and started cracking the shell peanuts. Yeah, shell peanuts. Yeah. Like they were, you know, like, he was at a ballgame. And just letting the shells just drop on the thick shag carpet beneath I'm not making any effort whatsoever to clean it up or or or not make a mess. He was deliberately just dropping it there. And eating these peanuts as we were talking and I thought that was the strangest thing.

Alex Ferrari 39:50
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 39:58
Um, and I've often thought about that it was an image that I will never forget because it made me think is, is he trying to show me how powerful he is by the fact that he's going to shit? Yeah, he's just gonna let the let the help grab it and pick it up afterwards or was he just clueless, you know, is that the way he was raised? You know? It's very, very odd. So I had all these weird meetings. So then I come to the VISTA organization come to meet Miguel Torres. And I walk into this office, and it's just chaos. It's just packed with scripts and books, and there was shitting. There's toys all over the desk. And, and I remember seeing my first view of him he, he was working. He was at his computer, which was at that time was a big box boxy computer called a K Pro, which was made in San Diego. Yeah, okay. And were manufactured in San Diego, because at this Kaypro computer, and he looked up over the top of it, big, black rimmed glasses and said, Randy Johnson, yes. And he said, Oh, Miguel, tada Flores, you know, I read slaughter rally a fucking love it, what else you got? And we just sit down. And I just felt like, oh my gosh, you know, here's a nut. But he's a sincere nut. And he's all about making movies and telling stories and weird stuff. And it was just fun. We just collect immediately. So he said, What else you got? And I just sort of threw out punk rockers in the middle of Wyoming. And he says, I love it. Come back when you have a story. And I did. And I came back a couple weeks later with a little more story. And he said, I like that keep coming back. Do

Scott Mcmahon 41:49
you have an outline or a treatment or anything? It just

Randall Jahnson 41:51
was, I it was it was just the germ of a notion that ultimately became dudes. But what it was was that I had been going to so many punk rock shows and it struck me as being a very tribal. Oh my god your hair. You know, Randa, nice to meet you. Yeah. You just want to visit guys.

Scott Mcmahon 42:22
What are you doing? Adam with my buddy All right. All right. We're back. Sorry. We got a little. I had no idea Frederick was here. I thought he left already. But it sounds like there's gonna be a big party here Saturday night for him. So he came down to say hi, and introduce me his friend. So there you go. He's going

Randall Jahnson 42:44
to do that. And every subsequent interview, I think we should just he's just going to show up. It's like the court jester. Cards.

Scott Mcmahon 42:53
But you know, he's personally so big and joyous. That's why when he gets here, like everybody knows him. He's like your norm.

Randall Jahnson 43:00
Yeah, totally. I get it.

Scott Mcmahon 43:02
So we're past where we are. Well, I

Randall Jahnson 43:05
was said back. Meanwhile, back at the guy at Vista. Yes, yeah. Miguel Flores. Yeah, what do you got for me? And how did you come up with that? Anyway,

Scott Mcmahon 43:14
we're just at the punk shows we're just something Well, yeah, that's what

Randall Jahnson 43:16
I was saying is that I've been going to all these punk shows you know, in the whole thing It struck me so the Hardcore scene in California at that time and was was very was very tribal. You know, you had your social distortion tribe, you had your your black flag tribe, you had the Dead Kennedys and and in each each sort of faction, each tribe had their there were subtle differences in their in how they looked. Right. You know, the Orange County punks were a little different from the Hollywood punks, the valley of La Valley punks were different from some of those guys, you know, you had a lot of different skinheads or spike heads, and, you know, that whole thing, but it was just a it was a very interesting thing. And then plus you had the bands were almost embracing the kind of a Western kind of quality and especially Standridge when you're well Well, sure. You know, Stan, I mean, when he was he was still with wall of voodoo at the time, and swallow voodoo. Although they were not punk, they were on the edge of that kind of art damaged New Wave experimental sound stuff. And they had a medley of spaghetti western stuff they used I remember seeing them the first time you know, not only did they cover Johnny Cash, his ring of fire, which was their signatures, showpiece. They really deconstructed that, you know, and they had a big booming Mark Moreland, who was their guitarist had just this great 20 guitar sound that evoked the the old old school Will instrumentalists you know, the guys have backed up Johnny Cash and those kinds of guys back then. It was just a Western sound to it, you know, but they incorporated in their show they had a medley of, of spaghetti western songs. So they they remember seeing them first time, and they play to hang them high. And the good, the bad and the ugly and some other thing too. And it was like, wow, this is frickin wild. I love this. It was just it was really great. So they were the Dead Kennedys had covered like Rawhide right from the TV show and the Vandals came out of Long Beach they had a thing called Urban struggle, which was all about the the punkers at the Cuckoo's Nest and in Orange County having like a big battle with punkers from you know, another plant. Yeah, it was all done like a cowboy. Kind of twang.

Scott Mcmahon 45:52
I do. Yeah, I do recall those oh sound quite a bit. Yeah. Because it was it was that the guitar itself that uses sort of big, semi hollow hollow body guitars, the big Right, right, Gretz guitar, you know, the 50 style guitar, then sort of like has that artwork to sort of like you said it was that rock and roll, Hot Rod subculture that kind of bled over where it's Yeah, big Twain, the source of the sound

Randall Jahnson 46:19
you know, I mean, that simultaneous with all this was like the blasters and this whole rockabilly revival right, you know, thing up the alley cats were not the alley cats, the stray cats were the very commercial, sort of tip of that, of that sort of phenomenon. But that was a that was happening all at the same time. And there was some overlap with the punk stuff or the blasters, especially But, and this is, there was a band called The plugs that were really great came out of East LA. And in Los Lobos then and all those all those the NX then in this embraced all those things with the hardcore, and then, you know, X, they're all They're all crackers, you know, they're they're all hillbillies, you know, they love they love all that country 20 stuff from way back when Yeah, social distortion evolved into the absolutely Mike Ness, a huge country fan, because they recognize that, that you know, that those guys, they were the they were the outlaws of their day. And a lot of them as in the context of the time, you know, when they were recording for Sun Records, or whatever they were, they were, they were breaking new ground, right. This was it wasn't like the the, necessarily the the mainstream music. This was, like a whole new sound, you know. So anyway, going back to all of this, I just had seen like this sort of, kind of knew western landscape in the punk scene, and, and so, but at the same time, I mean, Punk was primarily an urban or suburban, you know, phenomenon. So I thought, Well, gee, how funny would it be to take some of these hardcore punkers? You know, we're like, all all full of aggression and piss and vinegar, and throw them out into the realities of the West. Drop them right in the middle of Wyoming or Montana or something like that, and see what would happen. And so that was the germ of the idea. And then I kept coming back and urged on by Miguel kept coming back every couple of weeks or so with a little bit more of a story a little bit more of a story. So you're writing

Scott Mcmahon 48:27
on spec at this time, and completely, he's nothing, no agreement, nothing. He just said he expressed interest. He just

Randall Jahnson 48:33
He said, I like that. And he knew he couldn't option slot rally at the time, because it was under Options. It was somewhere else. He liked my writing a lot. And he liked this idea. And this sort of he thought I was on to something. So he just kept urging me on. And so finally, there was another guy there a guy named Hank Palmieri, who has subsequently passed away a surfer, great surfer group, a Malibu, really bright guy, really brilliant guy and such a good, one of the best people I've ever met in the business. And he was Miguel's partner at the time, too. And so between the two of them, I just thought these guys are fantastic. I totally want to be in business with them. And it they kept urging me back and finally there, there was a writer strike looming. This is 1985 and there was a writer strike looming. And so there was a certain amount of there was a ticking clock and we had to get this get something done, you know, before the strike kicked in. Because God knows who how long the strike was going to last. So finally, what they were you in a guild at the time? No, I wasn't. But that was the thing in order if they made a deal, I was going to have to get into the guild and Okay, well, thanks. So both basically what happened was, I went in there one day and Miguel says, Okay, you got we got enough. Let's make this let's make a deal. Let's make this happen. And so they, they made the deal. It was a rush rush thing, and basically I got some money, and they just said we can't communicate with you now.

Alex Ferrari 50:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 50:11
You know, because because as soon as the strike is going to kick in, but we want you to go ahead and start writing the script, so maybe after week week after the strike is over with, we'll have a script. Right. Got it. So the strike, the strike was actually settled in a couple of weeks. It didn't last long at all, comparative to subsequent strikes. And so, in the meantime, though, I went out on an adventure of myself out into the contemporary West, because I hadn't been out there since I was a kid. So I went out to Arizona, Utah, Nevada, you know, did this kind of long sweeping tour, you know, and just wandering around I went to, I was really into ghost town, so I wanted to visit ghost towns and, and it was out when I remember this very clearly, I was driving on a on a highway heading west towards Ely, Nevada. And suddenly I got the whole very clear picture of what the movie was all about. But it involved jettison a lot of the story I had already worked out. Yeah, but I just like I knew how to do it. I suddenly saw it, I knew how to do it. And so I got on and got in a phone booth somewhere. And I called them and I remember getting Hank on the phone. And I said, Hank, I got it. I got it. I got the story of finally, you know, and I know what it is. And I explained it to him. And he said, Well, yeah, it sounds kind of good. But what about the other stuff? And I said, No, no, forget the other stuff. Forget it, forget it. This is it. I know how to do it. And he was really kind of nervous about it. But he said, Okay, he gave me this approval to go ahead and do it. And so ultimately, I came back from this trip and it was really eye opening for me as well. It was really great. I went to all these different places that it was just evocative in so many ways that I came back, I wrote the first draft, and they loved it. And they had they started sending it around and we got a director attached pretty early on and you know it Penelope Spheeris, had read it and she was coming off of what she had done. Her claim to fame, of course, was the decline of Western civilization. Right. But she had only done the first one at that point. And she had done another several other sort of low budget exploitation films, one for like Roger Corman, and stuff, you know, and so, but she was kind of like the punk rock queen, right? And I remember Miguel telling me, he said, Well, Penelope came in and she impressed the shit out of us, and we're gonna hire her to direct this movie. And she said, he said, she came into the meeting, and said, basically, there are two people that can direct this movie. Me and Alex Cox, who did repo man. Okay, which was the kind of like the other. Yeah, you know, and Alex had been a teacher's aide at UCLA Film school when I was there. I knew we had a couple of people friends in common a little bit, you know, and so I knew knew him a bit, or knew of him, certainly. And anyway, so that was that was out, they started they, they things started rolling very, very quickly from that point on, and then once dudes was in production that led to the doors and other things. Okay, let's,

Scott Mcmahon 53:29
let's roll back here. So, you are what kind of what was the, your agent's perspective of you? When they you told them like, hey, these guys are interested in me developing the story. Do you mean what what is their reaction? Like okay, kaki. Keep going,

Randall Jahnson 53:48
Yeah, sure, of course, you

Scott Mcmahon 53:49
know, they don't want to knowing that you're not on like, any sort of contract, you're just on spec.

Randall Jahnson 53:53
It's not at this. At this point. Yeah. They were just saying, okay, you know, go for it, let them let you know, if they're interested, keep them, keep them on the line, get the story done, you know, get a story out there that you that they're gonna, that they're gonna like, they weren't real mettlesome at that point, they were just sort of taking a back seat. The one agent that I had Carol, I didn't necessarily trust her in terms of, of feedback. Is this a good idea? Or is this a bad idea? You know, so I wouldn't test the waters with her. Rick was a different story. Rick had a better story since I felt they both can sell very well. Okay. So I didn't consult Carol in the sense of like, currently think this is a good idea. Should I do it? Or I mean, should I develop the story? It wasn't like that at all. I was just I knew this was the story that I wanted to tell. And she was going to make the deal for me when this when the time was right. So there's a difference there. You know, a lot of people go to their agents and look at them all. Just as if they are a studio executive or the head of a production company and, and, and think that they might have some artistic taste, I think that's dangerous, that's dangerous to a degree to trust your agent as being someone who really has a taste. Gotcha, their their deal is to sell, you know, making a sale, that's what they're about. And that doesn't necessarily mean they have taste, it means they can take a product, once they see it, once it's done, and they can sell it. But it doesn't necessarily they, that doesn't mean that they can necessarily see it as it is forming, you know, now there are others who can, and have that ability and have that sense of like, that's a very good idea. Go for it. I like where I like how you're thinking, you know, but that's not always the case. So what just let that be a warning sometimes, too. Yeah, you know,

Scott Mcmahon 56:07
if you're Yeah, if you got yourself representation, for sure. Now or what? You were just working so at the mailroom, I was

Randall Jahnson 56:15
I was still I was still in the mailroom. And then finally, when that when they pulled the trigger on on that

Scott Mcmahon 56:21
the first was it the first paycheck that we were, well, that first payment the were you able to take your trip, like take extended leave from the mailroom to do your

Randall Jahnson 56:30
that was it this time it was it was enough, it was substantially more money than I got on the slaughter alley option. And okay, and the stuff that I had, you know, I mean, at the time, it was like, she's I don't know, it was like $25,000 $40,000 Something like, that's pretty good. Yeah. Are you kidding? Cheese man, it was more money than I'd ever seen. So it was definitely enough for me to finally say, Okay, goodbye to the mailroom. I'm gonna go for it. And also, at that stage, I had to become a member of the Writers Guild. So that's the way because VISTA was a guild signatory. And I had to become a member. So you have to drop $1,500 initially to become a member and then get on the health and, and pension plan, and whatever. But then that's it. And then they take 1% of your, your earnings, you know, on top of that. So suddenly, I was in The Guild, and it was, it was a whole new it was a whole new world. You know, I was a professional. I was truly a professional writer at that point. And it was you

Scott Mcmahon 57:37
gotta guild meetings or something just to be Yeah, they had.

Randall Jahnson 57:44
At this time they had, they were having some what they called outreach meetings, because they knew the strike was looming. And so they were having very small gatherings in, like, certain guild members would open up their home to a couple dozen writers turn and they would come in and somebody from The Guild would come there and talk about the latest contract negotiations and what was to be expected and and inform us a bit of what was going on. My roommate, my former roommate. At this time was Gregory Wyden, who wrote Highlander. Oh, and

Scott Mcmahon 58:28
just the first one.

Randall Jahnson 58:29
Well, Greg never has to work a day in his life early because his name's on everything else subsequent to that, so you've Alexa paycheck for it. But he did other things, too. I mean, he wrote Backdraft for Ron Howard. And, and that's kind

Scott Mcmahon 58:47
of how he was dressed when he met grazer. Now it's kidding.

Randall Jahnson 58:52
But Greg got into the guild, just a bit before I did, I think, and off the Highlander deal. And so he and I were were basically sort of rookies of so we were going to a lot of these these outreach meetings together. And I remember this initial one, I was blown away, because there were maybe a dozen people at this at this one meeting. And one of them was like Paul Mazursky, who was well known writer, director, you know, at that time, former actor as well. And Julius Epstein was there and this little this little guy who's you know, about four feet tall and about 80 years old? It's one of the writers of Casablanca.

Scott Mcmahon 59:35
Archie, that's right, it sounds familiar.

Randall Jahnson 59:37
And you just go wow, that's where I was like, suddenly it's like, Oh, my God. I'm and these are, these are like names. You know that. I mean, real pros. I mean, these are this was like an amazing thing.

Alex Ferrari 59:50
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 59:59
Now Backing up real quick, so exciting when you got in. When you first got the offer, like II realized it was happening there, they're like, Okay, let's make this happen, we're gonna give you the initial payment, you're gonna have to get in the guild, like, I'm assuming all this stuff happened very quickly in a few weeks or a month or so

Randall Jahnson 1:00:16
no, it was like the super past. It was within a couple of a week or so.

Scott Mcmahon 1:00:21
So emotions, like did you did you get a chance to like go out with friends or anything or girlfriend and say, let's celebrate, just have like just a little toast or anything that you did that you like any type of little ceremony said, Whoa, this is cool.

Randall Jahnson 1:00:36
There was a group of us that came through the film school or the theatre arts department at UCLA at the same time. And actually, in retrospect, this that whole era, I've been told by other people from the theater side, the drama department that it is generally regarded as being an extraordinary period from the from the theater arts department, the UCLA Theater Arts Department was included film and drama. So they were sort of segregated, if you will, but two different buildings, but basically, we're all under under the roof of theater arts. Right, right. But out of that time, I mean, there was Tim Robbins, Daphne Zuniga, Alex Cox, Greg Wyden. I mean, Dan pine, Neil Jimenez. I mean, there were so many people that we're going, having huge success, like, I mean, very early on and would later go on to, you know, having extraordinary careers. Yeah. But in my particular circle, it was Greg and I had been roommates, we had a guy named Mike pencilled, who was aspiring producer, his girlfriend at the time, ended up becoming, it's hugely important in my career, because she was a development exec at Columbia when they had the doors. So I threw her was able to get in and have a meeting about that, but that's a little bit further down the line. But Greg had grown up in in Laguna Beach, and a good buddy of his Don Knowlton was also in the theater arts in the drama department. So he knew the number of people there anyway, there was a circle of you know, four or five of us that were all writers and in or producers, aspiring producers, that anytime anyone had any sort of success we would go out and celebrate and usually it was it was you know, wasn't anything like you're painting the town red right. But we would always gathers Yeah, we did. Yeah, we would gather there was a place called Cafe Figaro, which was in West Hollywood, it was on Robertson. Right. And right, we're almost dead ends to Santa's Little Santa Monica Boulevard. And it is George San, I remember this very well, because there's I met Demi, Demi Moore, in the bookstore there across the way after one time, but we would always convene at Cafe Figaro, and have drinks and dinner there. And it was like a real to serve a working. Yeah, working man's place. You know, they always had cute waitresses there. And it was just a place where, you know, lonely writers would go and score, you know, so that was that was the kind of thing that we would do. It wasn't you know, I always had a sense that, you know, this stuff was fleeting, you know, and it was never going to be, you know, you just that there was always going to be challenges further ahead, just let it go, like, wow, I've made it and it's, you know, there's no turning back, is it? No, it's not like that. Because even once you've sort of, quote unquote, arrived, there's always stuff going on, that you've you know, you get wracked with self doubt, you can write something that isn't received well, all these things that can sort of trip you up at one time or another. And it you know, Hollywood in general is a place that just one of the fuels that runs it is insecurity and fear of losing one's stature of losing one's job losing losing face, you know, and so that that informs a lot of decision making and a lot of, of, you know, artistic decisions, right? Fortunately, you know, but at that time, though, still, I was on cloud nine, man, I just frickin I couldn't believe it. I was just thrilled. And then later on, it was funny. It wasn't it wasn't that strike because it didn't last long enough. It was Strike and 88 that I started seeing, because I was a strike captain, the guild had asked me to be a guy that would have to call okay, you know, here's the phone numbers of a dozen writers so we're going to pick it 20th Century Fox tomorrow got it, you got to call all these guys and tell them to be there, what time they're going to be there and this and that. And in the 88 strike, you know, you have we have these just these massive pickets, one studio at a time, so there would be hundreds of writers out there today, you know, marching up to the end of the block and then back down, up and down and bagging them act really angry, shake your signs.

And so invariably, you know, you're there these two columns you're going in you're passing guys walking in the opposite direction, you know, when you see their faces so it you don't even see guys that I've always admired a Harlan Ellison, Richard Brooks, you know, great writers and directors and then I see Ray Bradbury. Bradbury had been a real inspiration for me ever since. Oh, God,

Scott Mcmahon 1:06:10
we talked about college, your high school wrote,

Randall Jahnson 1:06:12
this is going back to high school. Right, right. You know, where I was leaving, like I start reading Ray Bradbury short stories when I was about 12 or 13 years old. And he I did my high school, term paper, English term paper on his work. And then he came down and spoke to at a local college where I was out at MiraCosta, where I was, and I went to see him at the time. And I was like, I couldn't believe that was actually a living breathing writer, like one of my idols right there. I was sitting in the front row. And afterwards, I went up and just told him, I did my term paper on you, and I, you know, in English this year, and he said, Oh, great. Here's my card, you know, write me. I did. And I think he asked for a copy of it of the report or whatever. And so I sent it to him. And he sent back like a whole little package of of stuff that he had autographed and personally printed stuff. And I was like, Oh, my God, I couldn't believe it. So cut two years later, I come to LA, and just my very first, you know, month at at UCLA. And I went into, I knew where he lived, he wasn't too far from where we lived. It was one of the first things I wanted to see was like, Where does a real writer live? And I found his address down in, in in certain part of West LA there. But But anyway, he was signing books one time at a bookstore in Westwood. And I went in, this is like, like I said, my first month there. And I went up, and I was just, again, sort of in awe and just sort of freaking out. And I and he said, Yes. And I said, Well, we've met before, and whatever. Yes, yes. So I want to be a writer. And he said, Well, do you write every day? And I said, No. And he said, then you're not a writer. Next. I was like, Oh, I was so angry. And it's like, wow, I felt like I don't know. But yeah, it was really, really made me mad. But it was right, you know, I had to get get my ass in gear to crack and get cracking. And so come the strike and 88 I'm out there on the picket line. And here comes Bradbury walk in opposite way. He's got this giant head. He does. He's got it. And I see him coming. And so I stopped. And I said, Hey, Ray, and I said, you know, you will really remember me, but Bob, like. And he was, oh, it was very friendly. And he said, and I said, Oh, isn't this cool? Here we are on the strike line. We're writers, you know, we're peers. But I said, I still don't write every day.

But that was, you know, that was the kind of thing it was, it was a thrill to just see some of these these people that had grown up and I was, you know, in awe of and and to be now sort of marching with them to be part of that same organization to be in the same arena was thrilling.

Scott Mcmahon 1:09:22
Yeah, yeah. That's cool. That's the stuff like, I'd like to haven't heard a lot of interviews with a different writers. And they sort of just kind of gloss over that as if it's like, just where the interviews go, is. They just sort of Oh, yeah. So I got my agent and I got this deal. And then we moved on, I had to work on this story. But no one ever stopped and, like, wanted to know those holes intricacies of just the personal motion that people have that says, Well, this is trippy, this is really crazy that I'm able to do this or I'm meeting somebody.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:57
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:10:06
And, and then because it it reflects on your own sort of, I guess self worth worth, and you're like, how am I here? You know, that kind of thing. And I think it's cool because it sounds it makes all this experience human.

Randall Jahnson 1:10:19
What? What I just recall now was after the dude's deal happened my other roommate, Mike penciled he said that this I guess I'll set this up for the dudes. He and a very good friend of his and subsequently subsequently become a friend of mine. Got a wonderful guy named John Hart, who had gone to USC film school and was a cameraman. And he John, we had met John because John shot Greg widens project to which was this year 16 millimeter film, okay. And John was just this. He was from upstate New York, he was just completely different from any of us that had grey cotton come from California, you know, and just really, John was just tremendously fun. But he and Mike kidnap me was one night after this happened. And I remember this, they took me, they took me down to we went out, we wait way east, downtown, right over the LA River. I was like, Okay, it's like Fourth Street Bridge or something like that was right, right, needle bridge, whatever. But at this point, this was no man's land. There was no one out there. It was about two or three in the morning. They they pulled out a bottle of champagne, and they popped it and they said, here's to, to me. Man, you know, to say, you know, you're, you know, the beginning of a new career and that that staggered may that was, that was a wonderful my choked up. I had tears running down my cheeks at that point, because it was so cool. You know, it was just, it was just a wonderful gesture. And those guys were, you know, like, you know, what can you say? I mean, I didn't, not much to say but but drains. Yeah. There was a, there was a diner down there a little bastion of light. In the in that No Man's Land of you know, art lofts and stuff at that time is called Gore keys. And it stayed open. I think it might have been 24/7 You know, and they took me we went there afterwards after we did that. And I remember eating that they had like Russian food and stuff. And I remember eating there after that. They always had hot waitresses there too. It is LA. Oh, God, all these aren't damaged. You know. And that was yeah, that was a pretty neat night. That was That was great. So it was it was very it was monumental fan. You know,

Scott Mcmahon 1:13:08
I thank you for sharing. Because you're I mean, that's, it's cool. It's it's cool to hear. I mean, it's cool to know that. Yeah, we're all human. And it's real like that. I'm sure everyone has the those who are working professionally have these little moments where they feel like just like there's a little fleeting moments of Whoa, that's feels good. But then then but you know, next day you got to get on and work but I think it's a perfect place to stop the podcast. We've been talking for a while and I think it's a great segue into the production of dudes and then how you got to how you got how you got to a chance to write the doors and all that stuff. Yeah, but I think this is fantastic because we've covered in the first part sort of where you started how you got into punk rock and and why that music scene was important to you and now we're in the second phase. Yeah, well,

Randall Jahnson 1:13:57
let me just sign off a bit once we sign off I mean, I got into punk rock by accident really? I mean, cuz I was I was writing a script that was a murder mystery. I think I mentioned this before there was a murder mystery set in the punk rock scene of LA and and it wasn't because I was really into punk rock it just that I thought it was a very exotic place that said a murder mystery. Okay, and so I started attending all these shows as research you know, and for you know, for the for this stuff and I had made friends with all these bands because I started contacting them and I would read what you know, the the cool bands, what the cool bands were, and there had been some that were associated with you at UCLA Film School as well. So I started I knew of them and whatever. So that's how I really got in started getting into the music. The the script panned out. I could I finished it I wrote like 25 pages of it or 30 pages of it and then I put it away but I haven't somebody

Scott Mcmahon 1:14:57
got a hold of me because I think actually I saw a T A show that had that premise. Oh was that was like it was like Cagney Lacey or something. Some kind of show back then. Yeah, that it starts off at a punk show, where people were a mosh dancing, and there's a murder. And then the whole scene surrounds the whole punk rock scene and murders anyway. Yeah, it made it to. I know, Murder She Wrote. I've seen that premise. Yeah, I'm assuming that somebody found it.

Randall Jahnson 1:15:23
Yeah, maybe. So maybe, but what, you know, whatever the case was, I mean, that. That's why I began investigating a lot of this, you know, initially, and then the music. But, I mean, after the script panned out, I still had all these contacts with these bands. And I was kind of, I started really digging the music. And yeah, and so that's, that started then leading to the notion of like, Wow, maybe I could direct some music videos for the broken and have any kind of money, or have any kind of money. So as I maybe we can just do cheat and do stuff on the complete fly here and see what happens. And so that's, you know, but that's another story as well, because I was doing all these videos working with Black Flag, Henry Rollins, writing, writing dudes that don't, and then starting the doors thing was, it was all like happening, it was at once from about 84. To to 8086. And even, you know, beyond that was a very high, highly busy time for me.

Scott Mcmahon 1:16:28
So crazy. I was skateboarding at that time. And obviously, that the skateboarding culture bled into that, sure. That was the music of the time. Like all the older kids, were, you know, into the punk scene, and especially southern California. And, you know, it was different, cuz we're like, I don't hear this on the radio, like, you see, like, this is such a subculture than what is being out there on TV. And it was sort of like the first opportunity of like, independence and skateboarding was definitely embedded with the punk scene, especially I think, with the Z to Z town boys. And you know, that whole long beach scene and Venice beach scene and all of that, no doubt all of that and the look the way or the attitude. And then, but that's how I, you know, obviously, my upbringing, a lot of other Southern California kids that are in the scene, probably saw it the same way so to know that you were making and interacting with those bands where I was just like a bystander of a kid just picking up whatever records I can at back then Tower Records or yeah, what's it called lagers, pizza? Remember that? Yeah, sure. Anyway, I think a lot of my first albums she's, you know, the best thing in my thing, my dad eventually, some of the stuff that I was going to punk shows and like, I come back with, like, the pamphlets and stuff. Yeah, I'm only like, 1213 at the time. So he's come he's looking at this going. Yeah. He's like, he was really disturbed, like, what is going on with my son?

Randall Jahnson 1:18:01
I remember seeing a picture of the Sex Pistols and some was like Parade Magazine. And they were like, you know, warning about the new horrible trend and you know, rock and roll or whatever and use extra pistols and they look like some it's just like, oh, a freak show. thing. And I was so horrified. Like, oh, no, rock'n'roll isn't coming to this because prior that this is, of course back in like 7778 When I was just, I was 77 was my senior year in high school. And I hadn't come to I wasn't going to go to LA until my junior year I transferred up from community college. So I was still in kind of the fishbowl of Carlsbad, California. But, you know, I was listening to Yes, the blues right Emerson Lake and Palmer and the prog rock arena, and he Well, yeah, the prog rock, you know, yeah. And the arena rock kind of stuff. And then this whole thing of the Sex Pistols. Oh, it just sounded just sounded wrong. And I was so intimidated and threatened by what they look like and everything and then then I get up to LA and it was just it all changed, it changed. And all that stuff just still resonates with me hugely. Because it's it's a it's a represents an approach to creativity. That is so resonant and still today, you know, I mean, really, it's, it's about doing it yourself. Yeah, it's Yeah, DIY man DIY. This was the original DIY stuff. And but that's another story and we'll pick that up.

Scott Mcmahon 1:19:38
I think we'll wrap it up for tonight. I was good. Felt good. Well, welcome. We got a little cameo from your friend Frederick. And yeah, where he takes off. Oh, sure. I think he's like here every night before he takes off.

Randall Jahnson 1:19:53
This is the launch pad. I think that's what it is.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:20:06
You just basically made the deals and had your little, your buddies help you celebrate the sale of the dudes. And I wanted to get into sort of the production of dudes and sort of lead our way into the doors. But what I wanted to tell you is like, about a month ago, I was down in Portland and I came across this like, you know, weird books, sitcom bookstore thing, but they had like, a bunch of array of like, unusual books in there too. And they had a book was like, Punk in the cinema or the American cinema.

Randall Jahnson 1:20:40
Was it floating world where you were out? And it's like in fifth?

Scott Mcmahon 1:20:45
Yeah, it's like, just Yes. It's kind of just fifth and I think it's yeah, it's just right off near is near like Chinatown. Just yeah. So have you ever floated? Yeah,

Randall Jahnson 1:20:56
they have a lot of counterculture stuff. Okay, so that's a great store. And Jason, leave Leviathan Leviathan,

Scott Mcmahon 1:21:06
I think says Yeah, well, that was your last name.

Randall Jahnson 1:21:11
So wonderful guy. Very friendly. And that's his store. And I love that story. That's actually got me really excited a lot about comics and

Scott Mcmahon 1:21:20
Oh, really? Yeah. I kind of stumbled into because it was I was looking for the 24 hour Church of Elvis. Oh, yeah. And I guess it used to be there. But now they've closed whatever it used to be there. Now. It's just this hole in the wall, right? This like weird display that has these buttons you asked you to push? And you can't hear anything. Can't hear anything. It's like the most weird sort of like useless.

Randall Jahnson 1:21:44
Yeah, we're so where is that now?

Scott Mcmahon 1:21:45
I it's just on the other side of Burnside. So what it goes Burnside, there's kuj. It's like yeah, it's fourth fifth. It's right around the edge of

Randall Jahnson 1:21:55
Chinatown. I didn't realize it was it was I thought it was further up north it

Scott Mcmahon 1:21:59
might have been but they changed it and that's where the location so right down the in the corner of that is that come book counter? Culture? Bookstore. Yeah. But I was in there. And I saw this book. It was like punk, history Punk in the cinema, or whatever it was. And there was like, halfway through fools full spread is like dudes had like a full spread of like your, of the cover of the movie and like little synopsis, and it's really kind of cool. Get out of here. Really? Yeah. I thought you might have no, no, I did. Okay, so we had to get that for you for Christmas.

Randall Jahnson 1:22:31
Oh, wow. Just Oh, crap. I didn't know that. That's great. Yeah,

Scott Mcmahon 1:22:35
it was. I mean, it's a pretty thick book. I mean, it goes through like a bunch of stuff of like, about punk reference or anything related in cinema. And this, you know, it wasn't just like little like, picture and blurb. It was a full thing. It was a full page picture. One side and other side was the right up. So anyway, I'll let you know what's out there.

Randall Jahnson 1:22:56
Oh, wow. Thank you. Well, it's very interesting, because, you know, it was dudes was directed by Penelope Spheeris, who, who really got on the map with the decline of Western civilization, which was her her documentary on the LA punk scene, in really circa 78 7980. You know, with x and fear and the germs, you know, she had a lot of a lot of footage of interviews with Darby cry, she would be dead, you know, in a very short amount of time. When and that was one of the compelling aspects of the of the whole movie, but so Penelope had a lot of street cred, you know, in terms of the punk scene, right.

Scott Mcmahon 1:23:44
Was this their first feature after the documentary?

Randall Jahnson 1:23:46
No, no, she had done. She had done actually two or three more films, narrative films, before dudes, but she'd done it from Roger Corman. And one of them was called the boys next door, which starred Charlie Sheen. And a young, a very young Charlie Sheen, and that, you know, at that point, Emilio Estevez, his brother had all the street cred, or at all that was sort of an established star because especially in the punk world, because he had been in remote and Repo Man, where is that? Well, this was repo man. And dudes came out basically the same year, or they were being filmed almost simultaneously. So this was 8580. Was it let's say it at 8686 87 Right? Yeah. Dudes was actually shot mostly during 86 As I recall now, and but it didn't get much of a release until 87. Then it was barely you And what's interesting too, is that d dudes has never come out on DVD. And we're actually in the process of tracking it down right now and see if we can get it released on DVD. But what makes everything so difficult is that there has been a chain of bankruptcies declared by the whatever entity that that acquired the rights to require the the actual funny and finished film, because they dudes was made by the VISTA organization, and they made three or four films, and then they were bought by someone, and then that company folded and then they were bought and gobbled up by another corporate entity, and so on, and so on and so on. And so becomes very difficult to actually follow the the chain of title right before. And you know, and what's fascinating is that this is relatively recent history. I mean, you know, as a 19, you know, this was a film that was released in 1987. Right? And yet, they're, they're serious doubt as to who owns it. And imagine, you know, we're gonna figure that that shows you in one level, how fast these corporations you know, bye, bye. Come and go. And they come and go, and the rights to things or get gets very confused right.

Scott Mcmahon 1:26:27
Now, I think I remember, well, we saw the film on your writing class, because one of your students was able to get a copy or you had a copy of No, I had a copy of it. Okay, so you basically,

Randall Jahnson 1:26:37
yeah, basically, what happened is, I fortunately, I'm glad I did, I purchased a laser disc of it when a disc was this big chrome planter, you know. And when I moved up here, actually, a friend of mine, who was coincidentally the engineer on, on two of the records that I put out on my record label back in the 80s was an AMI record label. Yeah, blue yonder sounds and

Scott Mcmahon 1:27:10
how long did it last year?

Randall Jahnson 1:27:12
Well, it lasted about three years. You know, a couple of years, three years, something like that, you know, I mean, you can. But Steve sharp, who engineered the album by the fifth Fibonacci, which was the first release, and then the second one by a band called slack who were from Portland, Oregon. Well, Steve was originally from Portland, Oregon. And then he moved back to Portland, Oregon, when I moved up here. I went to go see, my friend, Stan Ridgway, who was performing at Mississippi studios. With us, this is like in July, you know, we moved here in June of 2007. And then in July, Stan came through town, and I went to go see him. And while I was waiting in the beer line at Mississippi, I hear, Hey, Randy. And I did not recognize them. But it was Steve sharp. And he now shaves his head, whereas back then he had big poofy, 80s hair. Right. And, and so he, Steve sharp and said, Oh my god, Steve, what are you doing here? And so anyway, long story short, Steve has a media duplication company and a recording studio and everything here in town. Yeah. So. Wow, great. All right here. Okay. It's a beautiful thing. Thank you. But you will see I finish with right on anything else? We're guess? We're pretty good for now. Yes, thank you. Yeah. Don't forget us. So, Steve, I said look, I've got a laser disc. Is there any way of getting something duplicated on you know, and so basically, we got we're able to get a DVD copy of dudes pulled off of the laserdisc the digital copy there, but the quality isn't that great. You know, it's not like still looking at the original thing and it was shot by Bob Richardson who has gone on to become in Martin Scorsese's dp and he was Oliver Stones DP for the for the doors and many other films and he's an Academy Award winner. He shoots beautiful stuff and always has and so you know, I don't think our little you know, rip off DVD was, you know, doing it justice, but Right, right. You know, it worked for my class.

Scott Mcmahon 1:29:47
That was cool. We'll take a little break or eat your back. Let's see here.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:54
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 1:30:04
All right, well, let's talk about your production of dudes. So boom, you realize it's happening, right?

Randall Jahnson 1:30:12
Well, what happened was that I wrote my my first draft, which was really long, it was like 140 pages long or something like that, you know, in generally a screenplay should be coming in at tops, you know, 120 pages, right? And even a little less than is better. But mine came in it was it was this epic, epic punk rock Western.

Scott Mcmahon 1:30:34
I shoot for about 50 pages now. Yeah. Yeah, and I say add action scene here now. Right.

Randall Jahnson 1:30:47
Oh, thank you. But in the case of dudes, then they got a director involved. You know? I guess I got notes from Miguel Tata Floros. And Hank Palmieri, and producer herb Jaffe, at that, at that stage in which I then, you know, we all knew we had to cut it down. So I worked really hard and just really condensing it and getting rid of any anything that was fat. And then Penelope Spheeris, came aboard. And they were talking it was the script was making the rounds at the studios as well. They were trying to get a studio maybe further on board.

Scott Mcmahon 1:31:29
Because so they're already in the midst of producing it, but they want a little bit more back. Yeah, yeah.

Randall Jahnson 1:31:34
You know, what happens sometimes is that an independent company will say, Okay, we've got this, maybe we can get somebody to come on board more. And

Scott Mcmahon 1:31:46
I'll adjust. No, no, I just met, I moved it closer, you

Randall Jahnson 1:31:49
get to throw to throw some more money at us or something. And I was told, you know, it got out to Columbia, Columbia was kind of interested in it. And actually, Ridley Scott, I was told Ridley Scott had read it was very interested, or were somewhat interested in it. That's obviously not enough to go to get behind it and make it but because, you know, ultimately, it was interesting. He goes and makes Thelma and Louise not that much later. But there were you know, there's kind of a little bit of similarities to it. But anyhow, they started taking meetings with potential directors for it. And to quote Miguel Penelope came in and met with them. And he said, she impressed the shit out of us. And Penelope told me later to that she went in there and she said, look, there are only two people on the planet who can direct this me and Alex Cox and Alex Cox was already making repo man at that stage. She said, it's got to be me. So I met her and she gave me some notes. And then I did some refining. But the great thing about Penelope was that she just she really loved the script. I mean, she really didn't want to change much at all. Not not in rare. Yeah, it's pretty rare. It's pretty rare. And in quite, quite frankly, I mean, Penelope was just, you know, she was just really wonderful. She was so welcoming, and encouraged me to be on the set as much as possible. She invited me at every stage of the process to be involved. For example, once she came aboard, and they started having casting sessions, she invited me to a casting session to come in.

Scott Mcmahon 1:33:43
Now, did you have those three sort of main characters? Well, sort of the three guys, three dudes. But did you when you're writing have actors in mind? No writing,

Randall Jahnson 1:33:56
okay, not really. The only guy that I had in mind was the villain. And that was leaving, play by leaving. The villain was his name was Missoula was a nickname. And it was played by leaving but I wrote it with leaving in mind because he was the lead singer of fear. One of the bands that was featured in the decline of Western civilization, but I had seen fear a couple of times, and I thought he was very very menacing. And he was a real kind of there was a redneck cracker kind of quality to the sky that was behind all the, the the intimidate intimidation, there's a real biker kind of going lately was very, you know, really provocative presence. So I hadn't really with him in mind, but the other three guys biscuit and you know, Grant and Milo. I didn't have anyone in particular

Scott Mcmahon 1:34:57
line. So when you saw that when you go to the casting show And then you're

Randall Jahnson 1:35:01
well, I had I mean, I had in mind a character, right, you know what I wanted. And it was interesting because we on that particular day that I was allowed to sit in, or she invited me to sit in. We saw read for the part, we saw Tim Robbins. Kyle McLaughlin, and Kiefer Sutherland and Michael Dunbar who was, you know, sort of 70s glam rocker, you know, in that, who wasn't quite who wasn't right. And all those guys gave interesting readings. But the one I was most impressed with, was a keeper. Right? But Penelope didn't go for him as much because she felt he didn't have a sense of humor. And that was interesting to me, because I never felt that Grant had a sense of humor or should have had a sense of humor. It was the the movies, comedic quality came out of out of situations where you have these punkers you know, a city of, you know, floundering out and the Wild West, you know, the modern West. And that's, that, to me was a funny situation. And if there was any humor in the Express by either of the characters, it was out of biscuit. It was this big slobbery. Yeah, kind of a lovable but, you know, a lummix. Right. And so, but we disagreed on that and she she just didn't feel it was right. But ultimately, you know, we was played by Jon Cryer that cast stone prior because he was coming off of the John Hughes movies pretty pretty. He was pretty big. He was Ducky, ducky. Yeah, yeah, exactly. You know. So,

Scott Mcmahon 1:36:54
and I don't think kefir hadn't made stand by me yet, Hattie. No, he had not. Okay. So no one really kind of

Randall Jahnson 1:37:01
he was he was a known quantity. Yeah. You know, they knew about him because of this, you know, certainly the the, the his father but but they didn't. He hadn't quite proven he had bit parts. I think that, you know, prior to that. And it was shortly after that, that he started, you know, taking off.

Scott Mcmahon 1:37:23
Because he was like, stand by me then. Oh, Lost Boys. Yeah. That's kind of cemented that, sir. Very. Yeah, he was a good heavy.

Randall Jahnson 1:37:31
Yeah. Well, he was good. And you know, he had that he had suitable answer. And he physically he was menacing. You could be menacing. And that's what I wanted with, you know, with with Grant, somebody could go head to head with leaving, you know, in a way. And then you'd have the lummix of biscuit, who was based on a took his name from a lead singer of a band called the big boys who were skate punks from Austin, Texas. And interview Randy biscuit. Turner was there. And he was awesome. That's awesome. I only saw them once. But their records hold up really, really? Well. They were great. And then Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago, I think but the big boys were were rockin and then ultimately then she also cast flee. Right and the chili peppers as Milo the ill. ill fated Milo which was interesting because on one level, because flee had filled in as bass player for temporary basically player for fear. Oh, okay. So in a sense, backing up leaving, and I thought it was always funny that I hear was, you know, the movie contest? The lead singer was killing his bass player.

Scott Mcmahon 1:38:48
Now, that was real quick, cuz I don't think we're gonna lose anything here by just giving the premise of the movie. Right? It's like no, no,

Randall Jahnson 1:38:57
basically, in a nutshell, it's about three New York punk rockers who get fed up with all the urban blight living in the city and decide to drive cross country to California. Yeah, because they want to go they want to meet the Go Go's or something. It's they want to get away from Jersey and they want to get away or you know, Queens, whatever. And what happens then is they're traveling across the country. They're camping out in Arizona, and then they get attacked by this group of rednecks who are who are out killing illegal aliens or whatever they put kicks. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:39:39
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 1:39:48
So they find these guys and wrong place wrong time and place wrong time. And so one of them gets killed and the other to the surviving to grant biscuit Without events there, buddy, and go on the trail of these killers, when no one else will write and write. And so it's a it's an epic Western. So they try, they try and track from Arizona and ends up at least on the script, it ends up in the mountains of Montana. Oh, okay. Yeah. So it was a, they were crossing all the way. And so I traveled all around those areas. I wanted to, you know, actually make it really authentic to make sure they're going to real rise and all of that. But they meet characters along the way that come and go. And Catherine, Mary Stewart plays a random a young woman who has a tote drives a tow truck, right, okay. And she comes out to their aid a few times. And then she actually gives them a few tips on surviving and gives him some guns and and I wrote the I wrote the, the role for a much older woman, I wanted to see that it was, you know, it was Grant getting involved with with an older woman. So it would be it would have been like, you know, Kiefer Sutherland and Barbara Hershey. That time, okay. But, you know, Hollywood being what it is. They ended up casting Catherine, Mary Stewart, who was in I think, The Last Starfighter, you know, and who's actually quite lovely, and she ended up being playing the role of Jessie and gonna fill in that role pretty well. Yeah, not she did a good job. Yeah, she broke her arm during the production of it actually went out to the set when they were filming outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. And by the way, another great thing about Penelope, she asked me a lot. She said, Where where should this take place? Or do you have any ideas where this location is and this and that, and I directed her to some of the places that I had found specifically in in Arizona, in and around the Verde Valley, which is, you know, just north of Phoenix about about 100 miles or so it's in between Phoenix and Flagstaff. It's very close to Sedona. So there's some great old ghost towns, interesting places out there. And so, I went out there to the set, she welcomed me to come out. And so I was there for a few days while they were shooting on location and the date the first day I got there and finally got to the set. There was a scene where they were riding horses through this beautiful, beautiful setting, right? Right on the edge of Flagstaff and she fell off a horse I think, and this is like I'd been there like five minutes and she fell off this horse. The horse stopped abruptly and she went like ass over Yeah. Saddle pommel and broke her arm. Arm. Yeah, but she was quite the troopers. She She toughed it out, she got that thing, put in a cast, and then they covered it up with a long sleeve.

Scott Mcmahon 1:43:06
So some of the shoots she was just tightening it. Yeah, she was

Randall Jahnson 1:43:09
hiding it. And she got back on the horse and did some more writing and all sorts of stuff. So she was shooting press me quite a bit crazy. Yeah. You know, movies show must go on, you know.

Scott Mcmahon 1:43:19
So you got to see the whole movie. And, you know, you're like, the first movie. Yeah, like holy cow. And then,

Randall Jahnson 1:43:26
and I wanted to be there every every day. Right, but I couldn't. Because I got the job and the doors. And I had early. Yeah, I had to start.

Scott Mcmahon 1:43:36
Okay. Okay, that's perfect. So not only because I think let me double check here. So you said, so you're doing that. Hold on, sir. I want to just make sure I get this in Chronicle. Chronicle.

Speaker 2 1:43:52
I can't speak chronicled. Yes. The

Scott Mcmahon 1:43:54
chronological order here.

Randall Jahnson 1:43:57
It's the dead guy speaking.

Scott Mcmahon 1:44:00
Or it's just me making fun of my mother for so many years. Okay, let's see here. Come on. There we go. So it says here because this is all true. IMDB.

Randall Jahnson 1:44:19
on IMDb, then it's true.

Scott Mcmahon 1:44:21
Okay, this is good. Okay, so yes, you're working on dudes. So How and where did the doors project come up during the filming in the production dudes?

Randall Jahnson 1:44:30
Well, again, Hollywood is a streaky business. So you know, there it's, it's all about hype. And in the anytime you have something going and heading into production that creates a fair amount of momentum. So suddenly everybody's interested in you know, what you're doing and what your next project is and all of that. So I had some real heat based on that because again, the script had kicked around the studios as well, right. It was The there was some interest there. So the doors project had been languishing for years because they had as I think I explained before they had there were quarreling parties that were involved. Okay, finally, Bill Graham, the rock promoter was able to put all the quarreling parties together in one room and get them all on the same page and get them to agree to make this particular movie. It was a huge bit of politics and

Scott Mcmahon 1:45:28
all this stuff was going on prior to even showing up right. Okay.

Randall Jahnson 1:45:31
So it was finally set and was set up at Columbia Pictures and Columbia was where Ridley Scott had his deal. And so that's how I think dudes got circulated out there. And one thing right, you know, so they had read it, and they were aware of it now, simultaneous with all of this is that my, one of my roommates from film school, Mike penciled was dating. A young executive at at Columbia, a development executive named Jude Schneider. And Jude was the executive who inherited the doors project. So it was her job then to go out and find your appropriate writer for it. So she asked her boyfriend, my old roommate, Mike, doing good for this. And Mike, who was aspiring to be a producer at that point, too, as well is just saying, Well, you know, he knew a lot of writers around but also, you know, he said, you know, Randy, I was Randy them. And so I got the call, and I knew Jude anyway, just through Mike Yeah, slightly, but not, you know, not real close. So, she got me out to come out and talk about it with her and then she said, I want to, I want to put you together then with a producer on it. Okay. And the producer was a guy named Sasha Harare, who was an Israeli computer magnate made a lot of money in in software. Way back when and he had bought his way onto the project. He had never produced anything before but he had bought a strategic piece of the pie. He bought the sync rights to the doors music, which Yeah, no one can make a movie with doors using DOORS music without pain. Right the Piper was Sasha

Scott Mcmahon 1:47:26
well that for once I close that door

Randall Jahnson 1:47:32
close the door and the doors Yeah, that's cold though.

Scott Mcmahon 1:47:47
Yeah, good reason. All right. So so very, which is that? Yeah, to think like the producers who bought the rights. Harry Potter, right. That just opened up.

Randall Jahnson 1:47:58
Yes, it did. It's just like, it was like a ghost. That's pretty funny. No, you can't do that. But, you know.

Scott Mcmahon 1:48:02
Funny. All right. We got a ghost. Yeah. So sorry.

Randall Jahnson 1:48:19
Jim Morrison coming. So Jude facilitated a meeting for me to meet the producer. Sasha he was he was apparently the lead producer at that point. So I met with him. We had lunch, and that he speak English pretty well. No, actually have very thick Israeli accent. Yeah, he tended to mumble a bit. And so it's

Scott Mcmahon 1:48:52
kind of hard to tell if you're getting good response. Oh, he must have been like, I don't know about Oh, I thought I

Randall Jahnson 1:48:57
told you. I thought it was over after 10 or 15 minutes. I mean, you know, yeah, I thought it was just going to be a very long lunch because I felt like I was shooting blanks. Yeah, I was not seeing anything that made any sense to him at all? Well, let

Scott Mcmahon 1:49:09
me let me back up on that. Real quick. So you know, you're going into this meeting, you know, what the project is about is just the doors. So how much preparation do you do before you go into the meeting? In terms of like reading up about the doors? Or do you have something preset in your mind about this is how I would tackle the story or

Randall Jahnson 1:49:27
Well, it's helpful. Yeah. Because they, when you're going through an interview process with producers, so it's essentially it's an audition piece. Now granted, they usually have read something that you have written prior to that. But they're also listening to agents and, and studio executives and and listening to their recommendations on who they should meet and all that. But when it really comes down to it, it's about chemistry. And it's about, it's about your vision.

Alex Ferrari 1:49:57
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Randall Jahnson 1:50:06
You know, so granted at that time, unlike today where there is a, you know, there's a dozen biographies out and Jim Morrison Yeah. Now, at that time there were no biographies, except for no one here gets out alive, which was written by Danny Sugarman and Jerry Hopkins, which I read, but I was not impressed with it for a variety of reasons it but it struck me as being very sensationalized and what wasn't footnoted? That's always if a book isn't footnoted, that's nonfiction. You know, I find it very difficult to believe, right. You know, some of the sources they say that they get the they they get their material from anyhow, I had read that I was a DOORS fan. I wasn't a DOORS fanatic. I had a couple of their albums. I didn't have the complete catalogue. Yeah. And but I had gone to UCLA, film school, which Morrison and Raymond's Eric, the keyboardist had had attended. And we had actually shared a couple of the same instructors. They were they had attended, you know, and I think 6465 Okay, and I was there and started in 79 and 8080, and out in 82. And so what happened, though, is that I caught a couple of these professors at the very end of their tenure, after many years there and that one was Ed Brokaw and the other was loose Doman and they both had had Morrison and, and Raymond's Eric, his students, and he left the door wide open there. And

Scott Mcmahon 1:51:49
he's having now down Yeah,

Randall Jahnson 1:51:51
so that brought a little credibility for me, because I you know, it's always about insider information. And somebody Oh, he must be really in touch. Because he's come up through the so you did all the UCLA Film School mystique. Okay. So

Scott Mcmahon 1:52:08
do you do is prep work before? Like,

Randall Jahnson 1:52:10
not really, because there wasn't a whole lot to do other than listen to their music, read the book.

Scott Mcmahon 1:52:15
How many days did you have to prepare to do like one day like he's gonna meet with him tomorrow? Yeah,

Randall Jahnson 1:52:20
it was pretty quick. It came up, I think, within a couple of days, because they were ready to go, they had to get moving. You know, they were they'd been this project had been festering for years. And so now that they finally had the green light to do it, that people were very, very eager to have moving. So I went and met with Sasha on this, this restaurant up on, on the Sunset Strip there and Hollywood, West Hollywood and sat down and we started chatting, and I just felt right away. This is not working. It's not going anywhere.

Scott Mcmahon 1:52:49
Did you feel like you're doing most of the talking? And he was just kind of looking mumbling Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 1:52:54
Yeah, basically, he was even closer. Sure.

Scott Mcmahon 1:53:13
He's just cooking out there.

Randall Jahnson 1:53:16
On the chef's Yeah, well, he's cooking and out there. We're freezing in here.

Scott Mcmahon 1:53:20
He's like yah no problem close it. Anyway, so you're just great. So yeah, it was the meeting like 20 minutes?

Randall Jahnson 1:53:28
Well, it was about to be I thought it was going to be over real fast. It was the quickest lunch ever because I thought I was boring them and we just couldn't find seem to be finding any any common ground. And granted again, to I at this time had had directed. You know, I've been working with Henry Rollins, Black Flag, men. And so I was kind of very steeped in the punk culture in LA at that time. Just didn't seem to matter to him. So then I said something that was I remember him cocking his head. And I felt that I made some sort of impression. And that was I drew the comparison between Jim Morrison and Lawrence of Arabia. And the movie Lawrence of Arabia, in which I said that both of these guys were very charismatic, very well educated, well read young men who were literally swept up by the events and the wave of history. And they served it as best they could. But what was happening is that there was a discrepancy that arose between their public persona and their private ones. And it got to the point of where that discrepancy pulled them so far apart that something had to snap, and it did, and it broke them out. I got my attention. And that did He cocked his head and then what I thought was going to be a 20 minute conversation ended up being two hours. We Were there for a couple of hours. That was a turning point was the turning piano hook, gone with that hook. And so who would have thunk, but that's the way that's the way it worked. And so he became very curious then about, you know what I thought and because he was Sasha was very intrigued with the notion that Jim was indeed a poet. He was he was an intellectual. Yeah, and arguably, he was. So he wanted to see that aspect really exploited and dramatized as much as possible. And so when I brought that up, I mean that to him, you know, there was there was a corollary between him and Lawrence of Arabia, te Lawrence, who was, you know, was a writer, and basically, you had the poet, the soul of a poet himself. But Lawrence was homosexual. And Lawrence also started believing his own press, at a certain point, at least, that was the take that the movie had. And it became very, very difficult for him to measure up to the sort of the public, or the heroic image that that had been perpetuated them by the media of the day. So it's very true with with Morrison Morrison wasn't a homosexual. He's probably bisexual. Yeah. But he had some secrets and some issues that, you know, caused him to, to snap, you know, to break as well. So, and also then the other thing that, I think scored some points was that I said, and this was one of the reasons why I really wanted to do the project was I had felt there had never been a rock and roll epic. Yeah. You know, up until that point, we'd seen the Buddy Holly story and the Richie Valens story and things like that Coal Miner's Daughter, which was really great, but it was different types of music and different, we hadn't seen a really serious treatment of rock and roll, and rock and roll, epic rock and roll.

Scott Mcmahon 1:57:08
Yeah, at a crucial time, like you said, it's different like the by high pitch the value or is is is different.

Randall Jahnson 1:57:14
And so I felt that the doors really had that potential, you because the, because of the subject matter of what they they sang about and what they their performances and the way they orchestrated things and the way their albums were produced and all of that, and you know, in Morrison's vision and men's Eric's vision and all of that they collectively they they had scope. It was It wasn't bubblegum rock. Yeah, it wasn't Paul Revere and the Raiders are, you know, really was about that was about the big questions, you know, yeah. And so that's what I bought dramatically. cinematically, it had great potential. And that's why I wanted to do it.

Scott Mcmahon 1:57:51
Did you find yourself once you cry, you broke through that like 20 minute mark, and you realize that now you're gelling? having this conversation that? Are the things kind of come in your mind. Like it's just you started just riding the wave yourself?

Randall Jahnson 1:58:04
You started the station started talking about your aspirin? Yeah, you do. You gotta do like, no, yeah, they

Scott Mcmahon 1:58:11
give you like this dolphin No, no, not.

Randall Jahnson 1:58:15
A bit. Yeah, it gets like that. It's, it's pretty funny. And you got to be careful to have like, not not promising more than you can deliver. But you can't help you get excited. And, and they and they feel that, you know, they producers, and executives and stuff, they they want to be swept up with the with your enthusiasm, they want to see your vision as well. Right? And they want to feel it. So it's a it's exciting for them, when you get excited and you sell them on it, you know, and then they're going to get on board because they usually have to turn around and then either have to sell you to their boss or to the studio or tested to some sort of money entity, that they and make them feel confident and good enough that they are making the right decision in hiring you and that you and only you have have the vision to pull this off. Right. So when I went off to this meeting, I remember talking to my my agent at the time, Rick Jaffa who I mentioned in our last session, you know, wrote has written with his wife, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you know, he left Morris to go become a writer. Rick was still my agent at that time. And he called me before I had this lunch before I called him up to tell him that I had this meeting that Jude had set up with Sasha and and he said, Listen, you know, you said I don't mean to dice your hopes, you know, rain on your parade, but, you know, they're talking to some really heavy hitters. It's a very, very slim chance you're gonna get that gig. Okay, I said, I don't care. I'm gonna I gotta go for it. I want to try, right? We try for it. And so he was very pleasantly surprised when when I got the gig But however, I didn't know I really had it.

Alex Ferrari 2:00:04
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Randall Jahnson 2:00:13
See, Sasha was very good poker player and so. So we that 20 minute lunch expanded into to a two hour lunch and we'd left. And then I heard from Jude I believe a later on that said, All right, he wants you to come and meet the doors. Now, the surviving doors. Great. Nothing else. That's already been worth it. Yeah. So we met and I can't remember if it was at Columbia Studios, or if it was at some other location there. But we had a preliminary meeting and where I met them. I can't remember if Jude was present in that meeting or not. But what was interesting was that man's Eric was there and men Zarek was impressed with with the stuff that I had done music video wise, and and also with my record label, and here's the here's where it got. No, no, my record label hadn't hadn't been established yet. But here's here's where it got incestuous though, which was that men's. Eric was producing X at the time. Oh, X was of course right now the punk rock band of LA and LA. Yeah, so man's Eric was producing them. So he was very keyed into what their their, you know, vibe and aesthetic was. Then he was a further impressed by the fact that I had gone through I was through UCLA. And we had had some of the shame Siemens instructors, so We compared notes. Yeah, a lot. And then Ray was also very interested in a band called the Fibonacci series who were he was interested in producing them. And they were the band that ultimately that would be my debut band on my record label. So I got to kind of really, and then then Densmore, the drummer John Densmore to the doors found out that I had written dudes, and he knew about dudes already. That it was I don't know, in the, in the works somewhere. And John was acting a lot at that point. And he immediately said, Do you think you can get a nice part in the movie? Like this? Oh, I just. I said, Well, sure. And then I had also the other thing that brought them in Zurich like was that I had been working with black flag and Henry Rollins. And I had always argued that, you know, the doors were much more punk rock than they were FlowerPower psychedelic, oh, yeah, generation kind of stuff. And that Henry was, you know, sort of the spiritual inheritor of the Morrison legacy, you know, by doing all his spoken word stuff, and I felt Henry had potentially had some acting chops. And there was even some discussion about Henry even possibly being the guy to play Jim, just very briefly. But Henry and I were piling around a lot at that time. And so I actually brought Henry over and to meet men's Eric and Paul Rotschild and Bruce Botnick, who engineered all the doors albums in Roswell, who produced them all. With some recording session was going on that they end so the he thought that was really cool. I scored a lot of points on that day, because Henry was really impressed to meet men's Eric and Rothchild. And men's Eric was really impressed to me, Henry and further just kind of, I think submitted my street cred in terms that I I was the right guy for to do this project. Right, right. So that's how in session and then I got I got Densmore an audition for dudes and Penelope Castile. So he's in dudes. He plays sheriff in a, you know, that's right. A Montana town and leaving blows him away, you know, at the very end there and but it was it was really funny. It was quite a time that was a high watermark in my, my career. And I so yeah, 1986

Scott Mcmahon 2:04:34
God, so you had your duties in production? You basically, at what point did you know was official that you're on doors?

Randall Jahnson 2:04:43
Well, I did. So we have that you had all these meetings. We were having all these meetings. And I kept wondering, Well, where are we you know, and we a lot of talk, a lot of discussion. A check. Well, nobody was saying anything. Yeah. So then we met again at a meeting. We had a meeting at 20th Century Fox and the reason why we were there was because we were in the in the office of a screenwriter named Tom Rickman. Tom Rickman is a wonderful, wonderful guy and a wonderful screenwriter. And he had written Coal Miner's Daughter, Michael Apted directed, they had originally gone to Tom to see if he wanted to write the doors movie of which he declined. He just, he just didn't want to get into that. That rat's nest, I guess, or whatever it was hornet's nest. But he agreed to be a board as to mentor, anyone who did step in to do it. So in other words, Tom was there for backup in case you know, whoever stepped into it failed. So he wanted to meet me then. And so we all convened at his office and 20th Century Fox, and so so it was Tom, were the surviving doors myself, Sasha. And I remember, they had ordered out lunch and everybody was brought in the sandwiches and zoo were all sitting around eating sandwiches, and there was a lot of banter going back and forth and discussion. And they kept asking me certain things about the movie or out, you know, what, how I saw certain things and what was important and what wasn't. And I kept, like, figuring out what, what, and finally I just find out, I just looked at Sasha. And I said, Look, do I have the job? I remember him just kind of grinning up. And he said, Yeah, you have the job.

Scott Mcmahon 2:06:35
That was your job. Like, my age and my man. Oh,

Randall Jahnson 2:06:43
my God. And that's, that's when at that moment, then it was just like, I frickin couldn't believe it, man. Because then it was like, I, I had run the gauntlet. I had beat the odds. I was, you know, having lunch with legends. And I was on a studio lot. And it was the dream. It was the dream. You know, it was just an amazing feeling.

Scott Mcmahon 2:07:08
When you got that moment when he gave you the smile a nod. Internally, were you just how quickly were able to focus back on to the task at hand which is like Well, here's the vision the movie because inside us be like, a holy shit. This is actually happening. Like this has actually happened. Yeah,

Randall Jahnson 2:07:24
I mean, you're you're doing somersaults inside. Yeah. But try to be cool. Cool. Yeah. Okay, yeah. Cool. I'm into it

Scott Mcmahon 2:07:42
well, it goes outside, but that door keeps flying.

Randall Jahnson 2:07:47
No, no. Yeah, this is it. So yeah, it was like, but I remember getting out of there and just like, Oh my God, who do I call first? I mean, it was like so well, who do you call? I think I called my agent I called Rick and Carol young guests and I said, I got the job and they just like, Are you kidding? Are you sure you Sure? And they said they told me they only got the job. And sure enough, it was you know, consummated shortly after that. I called Jude to thank her for really going to bat for me because she she really also it wasn't just all me she had influence with the studio of course and cuz she was still the executive in charge of the project. So she went to bat for me as well. And Jeeves, I think I called I don't know I call my parents and I you know, it's all blur a blur at this point, but it was just, I just

Scott Mcmahon 2:08:41
chose this is still a payphone Oh, yeah.

Randall Jahnson 2:08:46
I waited till I got home. But you know, this was this was at six but this was the drag though is that I got the gig and then dudes was in production was going into production. So like, I want to be there on the set, but I got it. I have to start going to work. Right away. Yeah. Fortunately, they were shooting dudes in LA in LA locations before they went off to Arizona. Okay, so I was able to, to go down the set in LA a couple of times. And I was dating this girl who worked for SST records at the time. Nice. Punk Rock. Yeah, yeah. She was a little skate punk. Nice. And she was tough man, Karen Nicks. And she was a photographer as well, and a really actually very good writer. And anyway, I took her to the set of dudes and we were I remember being then fully started, started trying to pick up on her. I was gonna

Scott Mcmahon 2:09:52
ask you, Ryder down there. I'm assuming that you see you lost her to one of the rockstars punks.

Randall Jahnson 2:09:59
Fleet was You know,

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Randall Jahnson 2:10:11
Chili peppers were just starting to Yeah. They were they were still very underground. They were, you know, they were the opening band for more established bands in LA at that time. But, you know, flea was a known commodity because of his, his playing with a fear. Yeah. You know, for even though it was a short stint, and then, and he was just a well known guy on that whole scene. So, yeah, but Fli was after Cara that. That was pretty funny. But yeah, so then, then Sasha told me, he said, basically, take a couple of weeks to research and then go and write the script.

Scott Mcmahon 2:10:57
Okay, so where do you start?

Randall Jahnson 2:11:01
Well, I started by interviewing, you know, the door, the doors themselves, you know, you go right straight to the horse's mouth in this particular case. And that was a, an array, Robbie, and John and I interviewed them collectively. And then I interviewed them individually, as well, because it's a little bit of corroborative Yeah, kind of witnesses and and that that I found it was sometimes they wouldn't be more frank, if they were if the others weren't around especially Densmore would really open up and the other two weren't around. So it became very apparent to me. Oh, and then Rothschild was also the gem of have an interview. And he was really my, my head. We're, yeah, we're doing really, really well. I guess you can take that empty. Yeah, I'm not gonna suck anymore. No,

Scott Mcmahon 2:12:02
I games. Another one, I think.

Randall Jahnson 2:12:04
Okay. Yeah. I'm just been talking to him tonight. I know. Yeah. , so So ray, t. Densmore, Rothschild. It was, yeah. My first or second session with him. It was like, wow, I felt like I was still being auditioned to a certain degree. Yeah. Because a lot of these guys now now, even though I was on board, and sanctioned, yeah, had the blessing. Now, it's still I sort of had to prove myself. And in, in a sense, I mean, these were the guys who were the guardians of the, the faith, keepers of the faith. And so therefore, I had to further prove myself in a sense, so that's where I started doing a lot more research and really asking the right questions, really thinking ahead of time before I would speak, it wasn't just trying to, you know, talk out on my end, what was Joe really like? Yeah. Blow, can you tell me some good drugs, stories and stuff like that, and, but, but really try to get to the meat of the matter. But it became very apparent to me. After my first round of interviews, that the public persona of Jim Morrison was one thing, the private one was an entirely different, right, so that there was in other words, there was a whole lot of stuff that had never been discussed, never been talked about never been delved into whatsoever. And that it was not, this was not a particular case of where I was going to be able to take a couple of weeks to research and then go and write the movie. Because the deeper the more and more I got into it, the deeper and deeper I felt it was, and it was going to take some real work and some heavy lifting and Rothschild. Rothschild, you know, told me at one point, he said, Look, you're gonna, you know, the, the key to it is, is finding, you know, what, what made Jim so angry, what was the core? What was the, the, the source of his angst?

Scott Mcmahon 2:14:17
And did you ask him, Where do I go to fight?

Randall Jahnson 2:14:20
Well, he offered it up, okay, me. So. And he said that, he said, Jim came to him a couple of times with a problem and asked Paul's advice about what to do about it. And the, it would it was related to a particular function. And, and Paul said, you know, look into this because he said, I think this might provide some, you know, answers to Jim's angst.

Scott Mcmahon 2:14:57
So let's back up real quick. For me. It's like we have Ray the keyboard earnest Yes, we have. Paul is

Randall Jahnson 2:15:05
rape, Raymond's Eric is the keyboardist right Robby Krieger is the guitarist right for John Densmore is the drummer right. And then Paul Rothschild produced thank all of the doors albums except la woman. Okay. Okay. So that's where he he if he was done as really in one sense sort of was Jim. After the soft parade, he couldn't, he didn't. He heard some of the demo tapes for. We're not even they weren't even demo tapes. He attended a couple of band rehearsals for where they had the new material working on and he heard writers on the storm which he said it sounded like cocktail music to him. It was boring. He didn't say he didn't like it. Thank you. So that's what was interesting. There. So but Rothschild, was the elder statesman in a sense of the band. Ron Paul was a few years older than even man's Eric immens. Eric was definitely the elder statesman of the band. You know, Robin, and John were like, 2122. Yeah. And Ray was 2728 years old when the doors really kicked in. Ray was born in 1939. Ray had been in the Army Ray was in graduate school for film school when he was at UCLA. He wasn't an undergrad. I know when

Scott Mcmahon 2:16:34
the film came out. I ever heard read statements, he was just upset like, because he's felt like the movie sort of portrayed him as like kind of a whiner. You know,

Randall Jahnson 2:16:45
it's like, yeah, well, Ray had a lot of issues about V and

Scott Mcmahon 2:16:50
the jump ahead, but yeah, remember? Yeah, that mean as you know, outsider

Randall Jahnson 2:16:54
Yeah, there there were a lot of I re did not get along with Oliver from what I understand. I can't say that okay, you know, but I they did not see eye to eye. And it was interesting too, because Ray was very tight with Danny Sugarman. And Danny Sugarman ended up being very tight with Oliver. So you would think there would have been some sort of synchronicity there, but there wasn't apparently there was a lot of friction between Oliver and Ray. And Ray did not like you know, how the movie handled a lot of the stuff and so and so went on record again, and again, really just say no bad movie bad, bad portrait, etc, etc. all over again. Oliver likes to get sensational with stuff and but he's and he's the man not lacking in opinions. Yeah. And so And nor nor the guts to express them. So he's, you know, he was going to make his own movie one way or another.

Scott Mcmahon 2:17:53
So let's back up real quick. So you, you go on this, this journey, your own journey now that you've entered the portal of Jim Morrison's world who was exactly it was that Yeah, and I don't know if you, you may check out just last week, Jimmy Fallon, that this Jim Morrison person he did. He does this thing where you he takes famous like musicians that he does imitations of like, Paul. I'm sorry. Who's it? Neil Young. Yeah. But he's, he had like Jim Morrison the doors like his makeup make believe ban, but they were he would just sing the songs. But the lyrics are just nonsense, but he was he was basically reading like, the Reading Rainbow. You know, the, you know, good night moon. So it's like, children's songs done. And it is uncanny how much he sounds like Jimbo more. Yeah. And so it's online. It's you can easily find it, like a quick YouTube search. And it's just to see him just going like rooting rainbow. Indian rubber. Yeah. It's like the way he sees it. And like the whole band is like for your show, but just just as a little tongue in cheek. Sure. Pretty funny. But as you go down this journey, yeah. And what you thought was a couple of weeks how big of a fan was Sasha of the music? Or was he just more of a business pragmatic person that's, I'm gonna buy into this and then

Randall Jahnson 2:19:22
that's an interesting question, because Sasha would tell me on more than one occasion, how he got into this whole thing in which was that he had been had been in New York. Sasha was married at the time to one of the Efrain sisters, Amy Ephron, who's a very prolific novelist now, but she's the younger sister of Delia and the other AirFrance. There's a lot of them.

Alex Ferrari 2:19:55
But we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 2:20:06
He had been living in New York at the time. And he said that or prior to all this, he said that he had been out partying all night long or something. And he was coming back from some all night thing and was driving across a particular bridge and the sun was coming up in New York, and I think he said the end came up. Right on right on time. Yeah, right on cue. And he said, that was just like, a salient moment. For him. He had never really heard it, I guess, you know, Sasha had been, I think it was in the Israeli army was in the seven days war and 67, or whatever. So I mean, he was just this was not a, he wasn't, in other words, he wasn't in LA or San Francisco drinking the FlowerPower wine, you know, he was in an entirely different place, much like Oliver Stone was, you know, he was an Oliver was in, in Southeast Asia is in Vietnam. And when the doors were really happening stateside. So anyway, he just said that this was just a huge moment for him. And he just he got from that point on, he became obsessed about the band, and he had made all this money in software. And he just went out and bought, literally just bought his way onto into this, the strategic piece of

the producing puzzle of the producing puzzle. Fascinating. Yeah. So yeah, yeah, it really,

I mean, I was very interested in and I mean, it was effective, because boy, he was he instantly made himself a player. Yeah. Now he had bought it a couple of years before, you know, but he'd laid the money down and then did it. It was it was a smart thing.

Scott Mcmahon 2:21:53
So then, now you've, you're exploring, you're going wow, it almost sounds crazy. But you could have like, written a book biography, because all the legwork that you've done to do the research,

Randall Jahnson 2:22:06
Yeah, I accumulated I think I have about 50 hours of interviews, you know, on on tape, and, you know, I mean, it's, I mean, it's it's everyone, all the doors, you know, Rothchild. Jac, Holzman around Elektra Records. Got it. I mean, I mean, there were characters, you know, babe Hill. I've babe Hill was Jim's trusted drinking buddy in the latter part of his career. Nobody knew where babe Hill was. When I got on board. No, and a lot of people didn't want to know, I wanted to know because I wanted to interview him. Yeah. But everyone was, was afraid of baby because baby was kind of this biker guy. And he was in pretty tight with some, I guess, some real heavy friends. Right? Robbie had did not want to have anything to do with him. He's and I mean, Rothschilds just said, Jesus, you know, the last time I saw a baby at a he had a hunting rifle on was shooting it, you know, off of, you know, my backyard, you know, up in the Hollywood Hills, just like crazy all these crazy stories about baby but nobody knew how to get a hold of them. And, you know, Ray and all those guys didn't, they didn't know. So how did you do it? Well, I I wish I could take total credit for it. But I couldn't. Tom Rickman had a very resourceful secretary at the time named Francesca and Francesca did a little bit of sleuthing, which was we had heard that babe was in the grips union work in the film business and he was a grip. So she called the grip union headquarters. Wherever that number is, yeah.

And then they said, Well, you got to talk to moose. So moose was like, this guy named moose was the head of the grips at MGM. So she called up moose and he said, Oh, yeah, well, babe, you know you can find babe at this bar. I forget the name of it now. She it's only been 26 years. Yeah. That was literally across the street from MGM, the old MGM lot in Culver City. And he said, He's there every day about four o'clock. So you know, just buying some Jack Daniels. Like, okay, so, Francesca relays this information to me, she said, I think I found them or at least Nunnery where you can find them.

Scott Mcmahon 2:24:44
So you kind of go solo on these things. It's not like you have a team that says like, you have your own little team that says like, I'll find this setup this interview for you. It's you going Hello?

Randall Jahnson 2:24:55
Yep, that's exactly what remember there's no internet. No cell phone. That's fine. But, you know, it's an entirely different landscape.

Scott Mcmahon 2:25:04
What an event?

Randall Jahnson 2:25:04
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So she gave me the name of the bar, new dress. And I went down there on a particular day about four o'clock in the afternoon.

Scott Mcmahon 2:25:15
Now set the scene here. You in this bar? Did you fit in? Or were you

Randall Jahnson 2:25:20
totally No, this was a real this was this was a drinking mansbach.

Scott Mcmahon 2:25:28
So what were you wearing? Well,

Randall Jahnson 2:25:32
certainly not going to dress up for the occasion, you know, jeans and a T shirt, and it's probably wearing my black Doc Martin Doc Martens at the time. It was a little horseshoe counter of a bar really small. Gosh, I can't remember the name of it. I probably got it somewhere in my notes. Three or four professionals at the bar drinking, you know, four o'clock on a weekday afternoon. And I think I got there first. I think I was there staking it out, and went in in order to order the beer. And you know, honestly, boy, I haven't really thought about this in a long time. It might have been that moose conveyed a message to bait.

Scott Mcmahon 2:26:24
Like, hey, this guy's like, yeah, yeah.

Randall Jahnson 2:26:27
And and I think the message came back something like Go tell that guy to go fuck himself or something like that. Their usual. Yeah. Or, or it was like, you know, meet me at this bar at that at such and such, you know, just do different responses. Yeah, I know. Honestly, it's been that long, and I can't remember. But let me just say that, you know, for the record, I entered the establishment with a certain amount of trepidation. But sure enough, baby came in. And I took a seat next to him and say, Hey, babe, I'm Randall. And you know, I'm writing this. Yeah, the movie

Scott Mcmahon 2:27:12
now hard horse. How hard was it to say, Hey, babe, I

Randall Jahnson 2:27:19
haven't really thought of it. I guess well, it would have been worse if I'd said, Hey, babe, I'm Randy. If we were in England, that would have been an entirely different subtext. And, you know, he just he didn't really want to talk i At first, I remember him being Sutton's taken somewhat aback. So which leads me to believe now actually, that he was I caught him a little off guard, he wasn't sure that I was going to be there or something. So he, but I remember him saying, kind of, you know, being standoffish at first, but I didn't. Back away. I knew this was like, I have to get this is my job. Yeah. And he finally said, Well buy me some whiskey. And we'll talk. And so we ended up drinking, he drank a lot of whiskey and having a, you know, we talked for probably an hour and a half, two hours there at that bar, initially. And then, again, like I was talking about before, whether it's, it's kind of like these hurdles, or the, you know, this gauntlet, you have to go through, I cleared it with him. So, therefore, then I was able to go the next level, which was okay. We'll meet again, and yeah, we'll get into it. Okay, I see what you're doing. No, no. So it was like, the outer circle, right. And we're, we'll get into the meat of the map. Now,

Scott Mcmahon 2:28:47
let me so when you get hired on the job, again, as a life of a writer, you know, you're paid in a sort of like a freelancer, you're paid in these chunks. There's not like a regular paycheck. It's literally like, here's a bit of money. And here's another bit of your paid

Randall Jahnson 2:29:01
at increments, and usually the way it worked at that time, you get paid, you know, half upfront, and you'll get paid the half the second half upon delivery of your first draft. And there's usually yeah, there's there's a usually some leftover for another pass and possibly a Polish, right, you know, but basically, you get a very large sum upfront, and then you get another large sum after you deliver a first draft and what can happen in in between that, you know, it can be a long time, and it was in my case a long time.

Scott Mcmahon 2:29:36
Yeah, I was gonna think like, because you're on this project or like, okay, he's asking you buy him some whiskey, you're like, Okay, money is like yeah, they're paying me to this. I'll buy this whiskey for you, you now makes the second you enter that circle and and yeah, and the stuff that he was telling you, like, like

Alex Ferrari 2:29:57
we'll be right back after a word from our spot. Sir and now back to the show

Scott Mcmahon 2:30:07
for you personally, it was just more like were you finding moments of like, oh wow. Oh wow like just your head spinning in a sense that you were like, like story points or just just sheer pure human interest

Randall Jahnson 2:30:19
it's more of the latter. I mean I don't recall you really just going holy goobers you know this. This is the most amazing stuff I've ever heard. It wasn't anything quite like that a lot of the a lot of the stories had already been kicked about, you know, that people were aware of them at least as a rumor or something, but I don't I don't remember. You know, having really earth shattering stuff coming out from Babe and I actually I think I might have been a little disappointed in babe, actually and then more subs hoping you had Yeah, okay. But basically Babe. Babe was was just a good guy. Babe was unlike Jim. And a lot of gyms old film school crew. Babe was kind of the anti intellectual. And in a sense, Bade kind of kept it real. I got that for him, you know? And that babe was probably more loyal than almost any and all of those friends. But babe, wasn't Jim's intellectual. On his level, he would listen and he would tolerate it and kind of stuff like that. But basically, he would watch gyms back and he would call bullshit. Yeah, Jim in you know, in gym knew that. Babe was real. He wasn't just sort of somebody who was fawning all over him. And that was pretty much the case too, with with the other guys that were that they were pretty close in that in that little knit, close knit group, which was included Paul Ferrara, who I never interviewed, and Franklin Leandro who I did interview. Those were Jim's old friends from film school. And those guys were really tight knit, you know, for for a period of time. And so they did a lot of partying together a lot of drinking together and alone, you know, that stuff, but But yeah, you know, but what was happening, though, is that I would interview all these different people, and they not none, none of them really got along with one another. And they, you know, headed two different directions, you know. And so what happened is that I just had this it was amassing all this information, though. And none of it jived food, none of it was sort of coalescing. Yeah. Anything. And it was like a classic case of that, you know, the blind men touching the elephant. Yes. Thinking that, oh, I really have the knowledge of what Jim Morrison was all about. But you know, he's got his hand on the Tusk, that somebody else is holding on to the tail, right. And all that and, and they, neither one of them really knew.

Scott Mcmahon 2:33:11
Right, right.

Randall Jahnson 2:33:13
So fast. It was, yeah. And so it was it was scary. Then, because I had to pull it all together.

Scott Mcmahon 2:33:19
Like yeah, like you realize now it's real, like all the honeymoons over now. It's this word right. Now, how many years? Or how long did it take you to get the first draft to them?

Randall Jahnson 2:33:30
I spent all of 1986 working

Scott Mcmahon 2:33:32
on one year. Yeah. When you're free starting writing.

Randall Jahnson 2:33:36
I got I think I got the job in like February, March, something like that. And yeah, and so then I started researching and then writing and holy crap, you know, I just got, and I was funny, too. I was. I was 27 years old. Same age. Jimbo was when he died. drove a Mustang. I had a Mustang. Jim drove a Mustang. I was living in West Hollywood, which is literally around the corner from from where Jim used to crash at Pamela's apart apartment on Norton Avenue. I was on lived on Sweetser and just up from Santa Monica Boulevard. And so I was literally around the corner from his his universe, which was basically the corner of the intersection of Santa Monica and La Cienega. Yeah, because the doors offices were right there. The LTC anago Hotel Motel was there. Elektra was just down the street. There were buttons, Barney's, Beanery, and a few other locales that are now long gone, but that was really kind of the center of his universe. And so it was it was a little interesting, you know, living living there at that time, and you know, and writing about it. This was when I was First on onboard on it, and then and I, it was it was odd. Yeah, it was really kind of a sort of a strange thing. But I couldn't work at home a lot of times because there was noise in the apartment. I had a roommate at the time. And yeah, and it was just, it was a lot of it was distracting. So I moved around a lot. And I actually came down to the, came home to Carlsbad and wrote a lot of it down, there was a stand with my parents. Just to get away, well, just to get away and I got really sick. Also, I got Oh, I got a it sounds worse than it was. But if I had mono hepatitis, which just waylaid me. It's actually a more benign form of hepatitis, then you would, yeah, but it sounds worse than than it really actually was. But it was it. I mean, I was wasted for a long time. And I literally couldn't get out of bed. And here it was, I had the most felt like the the job of a lifetime. And I couldn't, I couldn't, you know, so I wasn't laying there in bed, and too sick to even sit up straight. But I remember just envisioning in my head it was laying there with this fever or these, oh, these aches or whatever. I would just go over it again. And again, in my head, like one scene after the next how I would see the movie. Yeah, you know, and it just formed it from based on all the interviews and stuff and just just envisioned it one thing after another after another after another as far as far as I could. So you're still working. I'm still working but literally not write writing.

Scott Mcmahon 2:36:49
Yeah. Which is fine. It's mean they talk about that. And they said the other podcast I listened to with Jeff Goldsmith, like creative, screenwriting magazine, but now he has his own podcast called the q&a. And a lot of the screenwriters he's talked to they talk about this, this technique that they use, which is they need their naptime. The Coen Brothers talked about that where they just have a nap, which is that that weird state of in between when you're about to fall asleep and in awake, and all sudden, somehow it just cleanses your your thoughts. And like, what you're trying to work on comes clear in that weird moment of bright before sleep or coming out of sleep. So you were lucky enough to be induced with the this sickness that you are, like, constantly like that. every waking hour, but

Randall Jahnson 2:37:39
Well, there's Yeah, I mean, but yeah, it is interesting. There was there's a lot of truth to that. And to that sort of state between waking and waking, conscious. Ness, yeah. Asleep. But it was nevertheless, you know, I was I moved around a lot. I went up to Idlewild up in the mountains above you know, Palm Springs there. And some friends of mine had a known it wasn't friends. Yes, it was friends of friends. And I rented a little a frame cabin for like, three weeks or a month and wrote up there like a real writer. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. And then then I was down on my parents place and then then I got some office space. This is really bizarre to there's just all these really weird things that happen but I have this office space that I rented for a while and a big barn like building in West Hollywood. It was an old old historical building. I think it had been a silent film studio or something like that. But had been all divided up subdivided inside and so there were all these different little cubicles and, and things within it. And somebody I a friend of a friend had office space there and they were going to be gone and so I could go in there and work. So I was there working late one night. You and I had my all my stuff out at doors tapes, I had a little this is again the day of cassettes. I had a little portable cassette player and I had all my doors tapes and I had a briefcase full of stuff. And I had a whole stack of photographs of that I'd taken on the set of dudes that were in this briefcase and everything. And I was really tired at one point. So I went out and I got a bite to eat over around the corner and like at Hugo's or someplace and I and I came back came upstairs into this into this place and it was pretty big and dark, you know and others and and we have this just this little light around my little cubby right? It's working

Alex Ferrari 2:39:59
we'll be right back. back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Randall Jahnson 2:40:08
And I came in and I sat down, and I noticed that some of my stuff did look like the way I had left it. You know, and it was weird as a kid. I don't remember these things. Well, something was off it. There was some papers on the floor or something was something was in disarray. Something was it wasn't quite right. Then I heard something in the back. What the hell is this? So I go back? No, I had been told that there was there's this comedian rich. Paul, hot, rich Hall rich hall itself. Yeah. had also had space there. And he would occasionally come in late at night and work around. So I thought it might have been him. So I was oh, let's go. And I'll go and say hello, maybe. So go on the back. And here's this guy stooped over, and going through a bunch of stuff. And I come in, I say, hey, and he's, and he looks up and he says, Oh, hello. And he has this kind of affected English accent of some sort is very, very odd. And he had this retro, like, 50s suit on and a fedora hat. Literally. Yeah. And I thought, well, this isn't it definitely isn't rich Hall. Yeah. And so I said, Who are you? And I said you work for it was a production company that actually was do you work for such and such? And, and he's, he said something? He said some weird answer. That was like neither yes or no. And I thought, This isn't right. Yeah. So we chatted a little bit more and he was like, really just like, iron me and like, it was very, really, really kind of weird. He stood up, you know, and I was like, there's this is something's really not right. You're inside. Yeah. Yeah. So I said, Look, your spidey senses. Yeah, my spidey sense was up, you know. And so I said, like, Gee, do you know? I don't mean to be out of line here. But I missing I'm missing some stuff that was on my desk. Be here. And he said, Oh, really? What was that? And I said some tape some doors, tapes and stuff. Oh, I liked the doors. He's really kind of creepy. I liked the doors. Oh, boy. This is okay. My spidey senses. Really, ya know, and I was thinking, geez, what do I do? And I kept thinking I can I can take them I can take, but I thought also this guy is just weird enough that he's got like a switchblade or some kind of weird thing in there. So I kind of made my exit segway to back backed away from him. I went over to my cubicle, and I called the cops and, and I said, I got a, you know, as a, there's a burglary, and they said, Okay, you know, blah, blah. And they said, they put me on hold. And then they finally came back. And he said, so when it had happened, I said, it's happening. Now he's in the building. She sees in the building, why don't you tell us? So, I mean, they both and then this guy was he heard me and he bolted. He pulled it out of the place and went running with my pieces of my briefcase. Yeah, ever and, and boy, the cops were there fast. I got down on the street. And then I had to put my hands up because they thought I was the guy and I said, No, I'm the guy who called this is the you know, and so they had a helicopter overhead. This is not LAPD, but this is West Hollywood. So it was Sheriff's Department. And they were there very, very quickly. And then people from the production company called later on and I told him what happened and because there have been other things that have been taken, and so what happened is, you know, I lost this guy absconded with a bunch of my doors, cassettes, not not Unfortunately, nothing that could not be replaced, except that he took my grandfather's briefcase which was something that I was you know, very proudly thought was cool. Yeah, gold satchel looking kind of a briefcase. And there might have been some notes or something but he also all the photographs I'd taken out on the set which the happy ending though I found the negatives too many years later, like after I moved up here actually interesting. And I found them you know, that's one of the advantages of moving is that you find a lot of stuff so I got those reprinted and actually they're on my my website now. So anyway, but that was just, they never found the guy and actually many like said Couple months, like six months later, I got a phone call. And they had found the briefcase and they had found and stuff, but it was just deteriorate. He had stashed it under the steps or some bushes there on the on the compound and had been rained on and deteriorated and all that stuff. But they had found that there was still some stuff in it that, you know, I was able to salvage a little bit of but still the good stuff was gone. And anyhow, that was just kind of, sort of typical of what was going on. I you know, I remember coming home one day after working, you know, interviewing people, and I was just exhausted and my head was swimming. And I, you know, I didn't know if I was making any progress at all. And I and I literally, like lay down to take that nap. And my head hit the pillow and the phone rang. And I picked it up and I said hello. And he said, Randy Johnson. Yes, blah, blah, blah here. I won't say who it was because he's actually a very successful director now. But he was an actor at the time aspiring actor. And he said, I hear your writing the the doors movie. I said, are and he said he announced his name. Like we were all buddies. And I said hi. And good, I think. And he. He said, Well, I understand you're writing the doors movie. And I say, yeah. Well, listen, you know, we got to get together because, you know, I'm a huge doors fan. And I'm, I'm the guy to play Jim. And I said, well, listen, man, you know, thanks. But there's not even a script yet. It's a little premature. I mean, I haven't even written finished the script yet. And, frankly, you know, when it comes down to casting, I'm not gonna I'm gonna be lucky to even if they even asked me, you know, my opinion. And so I knew I somehow I, you know, I got off the Line. He called me up a couple. One other time, in literally, it was the same kind of circumstances. Middle, the afternoon, I was like trying to take a nap. And he was he says, I'm tripping. I'm tripping. Man, I'm tripping. And I said, Well, good for you. And he said, listen, he said, You got to know this. He said, The I had a dream last night. And guess who came to me in my dream? She, I wonder, he said, Jim Morrison. He came to me in the dream. And he said, I'm the guy to play him in the movie. So we have got to get together, man, we've got to get together. Dude, you know, don't call me when you're high. But now he's a successful director. Yeah, it's fine. It's fine. I won't say who it was. But but this was just kind of the nutty, bizarre circumstances that were, you know, just in the midst of all this and where I was trying really hard just to get through my find my way through it all. And yeah, and I could. And so, you know, again, back to your whole thing. Could I have written a book? Yeah. I think in one sense, after I was off the project that I had all this all this, all these interviews, and it was very, I thought, I nobody's nobody's gonna want to read a book about and then subsequently, you know, I mean, for like, every six months, there was a new Jim Morrison biography that was coming out, I'm just sort of kick myself for not doing it.

Scott Mcmahon 2:48:40
There's, you know, the reason I brought that up is because I remember hearing this interview with another, another screenwriter, and they were talking about this other famous, I don't remember her name, but they were asking her like, hey, you know, if you would ever were approached with this particular project again, and would you, you know, write it the same way or write this project? She was she was her response, I remember was something like, like, hell no, because I would write, I would write the book, I read the play, I write the movie, basically, mindset was like, I would figure out a way to milk it. Yeah, it's in all different facets, you know, and like her life lesson as what she learned after being a writer for so many years. Like, so that's what I thought about it, too. It's like, wait a minute, holy cow. You know, I just had to ask you, just because I remember that little, little snippet from

Randall Jahnson 2:49:30
well, some of this stuff. I'm actually I think, going to attempt in the large article about it, you know, at some point, because I think there is enough stuff that in here that's kind of actually worth looking at in terms of a screenwriters approach to a daunting project and that my kind of like my whole trip my whole journey on this was, it was it was something Yeah, it's something I I earned some stripes on this one, I think Yeah, it's cool.

Alex Ferrari 2:50:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Mcmahon 2:50:11
I think we will wrap it up here because I think we can go into the next next. I love it because we can go the next one, we talked about the final release of dudes, we can talk about coming into this as Exactly. This is fantastic. Believe me, I, I'm gonna be honest with you. I, I lost a lot of podcasts. And I said with a lot of screenwriters, and they do like a lot of the interviews they do with screenwriters. Even though I love what Jeff Goldsmith does, they served as he only has like an hour and a half to really kind of gloss over somebody's career. So the advantage that we have here is, I get to ask these questions. I know, I'm just like, fan like anybody else going? Like, how much would that be? Like, if you had that moment, or like, Oh, my God, I'm on the job. You know, it's like, or, like, I can't believe this is so surreal that that I'm working with the doors, the doors, and then like you, but you got to step back or like now it's this work, I got to just figure it out. And just talking about the little things about writing about like, you know, you realize you're, you're you're doing a service, because you're just trying to get the story. But there comes a time sometimes where you I guess you're you have to ask yourself, like, what kind of story do I want to see? Or like, what is it? You know what I mean? That was that little ounce of personal reward out of it? Especially when you're writing all these, you know, sort of pseudo auto autobiographies?

Randall Jahnson 2:51:36
Well, in that auto biographies, I'm sorry, yeah, in bio pics, or whatever. But in this particular case, the more I got into it, and the more information I began to uncover, and collect, the more and more it fueled my, my passion for it, let's say, it became my crusade, I got a degree to, to, in a sense, blow the whistle on the bullshit that had circulated about him for so many years. And and in the very least, try to tell attempt to tell some truth about him. But at the same time, that was my undoing on the project. And so we'll leave it at that there was much conflict to come. Okay, because it was not smooth sailing.

Scott Mcmahon 2:52:33
Okay, well let you know where and I remember when we finally saw the film, I think it was in senior high school. Yeah. It was a big, big deal for my buddies. And I had to go see this movie. So you know, because it was a big like event. So anyway, well, when

Randall Jahnson 2:52:48
I was in the, in the South Pacific earlier, in this year, in March, there was a I met a gentleman who was a politician and serving in the Parliament of the island Kingdom chain of Vanuatu. And he found out that I wrote the tours, and he just, he, he said, I saw it in college. This was in Australia, but he grew up and has returned to Vanuatu, out there in the Deep South Pacific. And he said, Oh, man, he's that I'm so glad to meet you. So you really gotta write. And so it never ceases to amaze me how powerful, you know, film, and pop culture is really, you know, it's so far reaching, you know, there's not a point in the globe anymore, where it just doesn't go

Scott Mcmahon 2:53:38
it is the greatest export that the United States has. Yeah. And it will change. It will change. I mean, it will change worlds, because, you know, doesn't matter how I mean, the culture of these young people and all the all these subtle other countries. I mean, not to say Western eyes it but there is this romance idea of I think what these western movies, so that hits a psyche amongst, you know, the rest of the world. Yeah, and I think that is sort of sometimes becomes the root of, you know, revolution and how we were bombed. I mean, we were attacked 911 Because of the stupid things of like, they're, they're reciting, you know, Britney Spears, like, how could you have your women dress like this? Right. You know, it's like, sure. We were so like, what? That was the reason? Yeah, but they go there anyway. Yeah.

Randall Jahnson 2:54:32
Well, thanks for asking the questions. And thanks for giving me the opportunity actually, to get into this in a certain amount of depth. Yeah, no, I just doesn't, you know, again, if this were any other interview, it would be

Scott Mcmahon 2:54:42
glossed over. Yeah, and then it's like, Okay, you're right. But yeah, soundbites. Now, this is good. I mean, I'm enjoying it. It's like uncovering and, and all this kind of stuff. Now, it gives me those thoughts like when we should write a story about your adventure writing this stuff. I don't Oh, that Yeah,

Randall Jahnson 2:55:01
I think that's in the works here at some point. I'm yeah.

Scott Mcmahon 2:55:04
See, we're like we're scratching the surface here. All right. Yeah. Well, here we are. I'm sure I got some good stuff.

Randall Jahnson 2:55:11
Thanks, Scott. Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

Scott Mcmahon 2:55:12
Thank you guys. Thank you.

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