BPS 353: How to Make an Indie Film Against All Odds with Tzvi Friedman

As filmmakers we all have challenges to make our films. Today’s guest had to deal with obstacles that most of us would never have to. We have on the show filmmaker Tzvi Friedman and he has on heck of a story to tell.

Tzvi is a writer and director based in NYC. He was born and raised in an ultra-religious community where almost all cinema was contraband. Growing up he secretly watched countless movies under his covers and sneaking off to the cinemas. At 18 he started making films, becoming a social outcast, but that didn’t stop him.

He has since directed multiple short films. At 21 he crowdfunded $10,000 dollars and made his first feature Man.

Tortured by his inability to feel emotional or physical pain, a man finds murder to be his only respite – until he meets a lonely woman whose compassion awakens something inside.

After he finished shooting the film, by some miracle, veteran producer Cary Woods (Swingers, Scream, Godzilla, and Rudy) discovered his film and jumped on as an executive producer to help Tzvi finish the film.

Enjoy my inspirational conversation with Tzvi Friedman.

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show. It's the Tzvi Friedman, how're you doing?

Tzvi Friedman 0:15
I'm doing good. I'm doing good. How are you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 0:17
I'm doing good brother. I'm doing good, man. Thank you for coming on the show, like we were talking about earlier, before we got on the air is I get, I get hit up almost 20 30 times a day now. Without question by filmmakers wanting to be on the show. And I try to make I try to make as much room as I can. But at a certain point, we can't hear the same story again and again and again. You know, like, you know, I've made my movie for 5000 bucks. That's great. And if it was 1991, I'd probably have you on the show much faster. But your story actually kind of has a very unique, it has a few unique elements to it. So we're going to get into that as well. But can you tell the audience a little bit? Because you were talking earlier. You've you found me. You've been listening to me for a little while. So how did you find me? And and how have I been able to even help you? On your on your path?

Tzvi Friedman 1:04
Yeah, sure. So basically, you know, when I decided to get into filmmaking, I knew right away, I wasn't going to do the college route, the film school route, for various reasons. So you know, YouTube, to me was sort of the, you know, wealth of information. Everything is on YouTube nowadays. And you can also listen to various channels, and one of them was Indie Film Hustle. I mean, I have a lot of friends who listened to you and all your channel, you know, pretty popular among us some, uh, we call the underground filmmakers. So, yeah, so we just listened to it. And I also saw your evolution, which is pretty wild. You know, like, I remember, you were talking to, you know, sort of like mid level producers and directors and now you're talking to Oliver Stone. And you know, it's pretty, pretty crazy. And congratulations to that.

Alex Ferrari 1:53
Thank you know, I've been I've been very, I've been very humbled and blessed to be be speaking to the people I've been speaking to lately. And it's been, it's, it's been humbling to say the least, man. And it's, I'm glad and a lot of my audience have heard just told me that they're like, man, I've seen you when I was there at the beginning, when you were just talking to like, you know, you know, just young filmmakers. And now you're, you're talking to, you know, legends and things. And it's been very, I look, man, if I can get any information out of those guys, and gals, and bring it to the underground filmmaker, to an independent filmmaker who didn't have the opportunity to sit down for an hour to talk to I would I want to, I want to be able to do that. So, but thanks, man, I'm glad. I'm glad I've been of service to you on your journey. And I always find it fascinating how you how people find me, and like and how it you know, because I don't get to talk to people often. You know, listeners I generally, and you see them at a film festival every once in a while. So how did you get started in the business? Man, what made you want to jump into this ridiculous business?

Tzvi Friedman 2:55
Was a good question. I don't know if I made the right choice no I'm kidding. Um, it wasn't really like that. It wasn't really so much of a business. And like most of us, you know, it was, um, you know, I was obsessed with movies from a very young age, I didn't really know that somebody made movies, you know, you don't realize that there's like, somebody orchestrating the, you know, the story. I'm actually I think I wanted to be an actor to tell the truth on way back like that. Like, I think that I wanted to be in the movies. That's all I wanted. From a pretty young age. And then I'm not sure exactly when I realized that there was a director, I think it might have been a mini doc about the making of Lord of the Rings. And I remember seeing Peter Jackson, it was like two in the morning or something. It might have been the hobbit I'm not sure. Anyways, and he's driving to like, pick up the DP or something. And just like the whole vibe, and the whole, you know, they're all joking around. And I think that might have been, you know, when I started to realize that there was this one guy, you know, there's puppeteer, basically. Um, and then I just became obsessed with the concept of the director, you know, and, yeah, yeah. So

Alex Ferrari 4:03
I remember I remember in The Lord of the Rings, Docs, this is when the First Lord of the Rings came out, that he released that same DVD set that just had like seven hours or 10 hours of like, how they made it on each movie. And the one thing I always never forgot is that he had his, he had his crew carry around a lazy boy. And that was his director's chair. Like a recliner, like a full not like a director's chair. He like how to full recliner and they would just carried around from set to set, and he would sit there and he do everything and then he get up. I was like, why hasn't that become a thing? I have no idea.

Tzvi Friedman 4:41
Well that's Peter Jackson though, you know,

Alex Ferrari 4:43
If you're Peter Jackson, and you've already released the first Lord of the Rings, I think you can get away with this stuff. By the way, everyone listening. If you're an independent filmmaker, do not I repeat, do not bring a recliner on set and say it's your director's chair. People will hate you

Tzvi Friedman 5:00
Yeah. Yeah, sorry. No, no, no, just about the director's chair. I remember, you know, my first few short films, I never sat down, you know, just sure the whole time adrenaline rush. I remember seeing Roger Corman, you know, very some interview of his not too long ago, he must have been pretty sure he's still alive, right?

Alex Ferrari 5:21
Yes, he is still alive.

Tzvi Friedman 5:24
And he was saying how, you know, asking, like directors advice, and you think he's gonna talk about lenses and whatever, or whatever it might be. And he says, just make sure to have a chair to sit down. And you know, that was his. That was his advice.

Alex Ferrari 5:38
I spoke to a steady cam, I think that the inventor of the steady cam, and he goes, What's the best piece of advice for anybody who wants to learn a steady game, and he's like, good shoes. Comfortable shoes is the biggest piece of advice. Now, tell me a little bit about your background, before you jumped into filmmaking? Because from what you told me in your email, you know, filmmaking is not really looked nice, very positively by your family. So how did what would that? Because that what are the struggles you had to deal with with that?

Tzvi Friedman 6:12
Yeah, so you know, I'll speak vaguely a little bit, because I don't want to get into much rattled, but I'm sure but basically, I come from a religious community or ultra orthodox community, Jewish community. And I think like a lot of very far right, religious communities. That's a far right, I don't mean politically far out, I mean, religiously, very conservative. They have a weird relationship with movies in general, and with Hollywood business, just the concept of Hollywood, Hollywood is sort of the Boogeyman. For a lot of people, in my community, and on Yeah, it's a, I think, um, a lot of it has to do with, you know, Hollywood sort of was the, the front runner of the, you know, counterculture revolution. And I think a lot of it started there, you know, a lot of, you know, just the way, Hollywood, you know, the sexuality in Hollywood, you know, 60s and on, you know, Rebel Without a Cause all these movies, you know, were seen as a threat to, to religious communities and to my community. So that's part of the part of it is like, so Hollywood's this big, scary thing. And there's a lot of immorality there and things like that. Um, and then, yeah, I think that's, that's really what it is. So in my family really was the same thing. You know, modern movies, I wasn't able to see Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean and stuff that's, you know, pretty much tailored for kids even that, you know, because there's a fear that it has traces of, you know, either ideologies that disagree with the religion, you know, postmodern idea, and things like that, or, you know, explicit scenes and, you know, stuff like that. So, um, so that's basically where I come from.

Alex Ferrari 8:03
So alright, so then you you see a little film called Star Wars. What happens after you see Star Wars? By the way, you're not the only one who saw Star Wars and like, James Cameron did that too. So that you're in good company that Star Wars changed your life.

Tzvi Friedman 8:19
Yeah, I hope that was unique, but I guess, not so much. Yeah, no. So So I had a neighbor who was, you know, also religious, but more modern than me. His parents were more chilled, so they let him see a lot of stuff. And he would just rant and rave about Star Wars. And I didn't know anything about it. But I just, I just knew I had to see this thing. He had the toy lightsaber, he had like, video games. So I just, um, yes, I just looked it up one day on my dad's computer. And I saw a new hope in like, parts, I'm pretty sure at one time, if not the whole thing, or part of it was just on YouTube. This is, you know, I don't know, 15 years ago, whatever it is. Um, so I saw the first the first Star Wars and, and, you know, I think I always had my mom would read us, like science fiction and books. So it's not that I you know, I, I knew about these worlds, but only in my head. Sure. And then when I saw Star Wars, the first time I actually saw it on a screen that that in movies, people are able to do this, they're able to, you know, create these crazy fantasies and these worlds and it was as simple as that. It just, you know, it was it was like the Big Bang for me, you know, it was Yeah, and I just became obsessed with Star Wars and playing Star Wars with my brothers and having lightsaber fights and stuff and right so I think the Star Wars obsession really was like the story of the bug that bit me you know,

Alex Ferrari 9:45
Yeah, the as I as I like to call it the beautiful disease, or the beautiful infection that is filmmaking, one because once you get it, you can't get rid of it. No matter how hard no matter how hard you try, or no matter what obstacles are up and to be in your way. It's something you just have to do. Just have to do. So which brings me to your first movie, man. How did you you know living in the in the environment that you were living in not getting much support I'm assuming from your family or community? How did you generate the not only the energy to make it but to find the money for it and all that whole thing? So how did that whole process come along?

Tzvi Friedman 10:24
I didn't know I didn't dumb and think as you can see.

Alex Ferrari 10:28
You look, you look as you look as old as I am. And I'm joking!

Tzvi Friedman 10:35
Oh, yeah, it's so basically trying to get the timeline. Right. So basically, I went to Israel, actually, I went to study in Israel, you know, on the hopes of becoming like a big rabbi or whatever. And it was a very intense thing. It was a good experience. But it just didn't work out for me. A lot of good friends who went there to study. But I was a movie addict, the movie junkie, like, that's how I got through high school. Like, you know, there was a time where I was dorming. And in a very serious religious school where, you know, if they would catch you with watching a movie, you were thrown out. And we just watched movies under our covers, literally, I remember seeing Schindler's List in my dorm room on a tiny phone, you know, for the first time,

Alex Ferrari 11:17
I'm sure, Stephen, I'm sure Stephen exactly how he wants you to watch it.

Tzvi Friedman 11:20
So, so basically, so basically, when I came back, I got a job as an assistant teacher in a school. But it was just a soul crushing job. And, and I just had this, you know, like, buzzing my ear, like this little whisper in my ear. And then eventually, um, and then I had a friend who passed away, sadly, and, and right before he passed away, I was talking to him about I want to be a director, you know, and he came from the similar we grew up together, went to school together. But he, but at the time, he became more open minded and everything. And we both we saw a Goodfellas we saw, like all the classics together, I saw Goodfellows in his grandmother's basement, you know? So, you know, he was very positive about it. And he said, You know, I think you should do this, and then he, and then he literally died a week later. So, yeah, he was, he was an incredible guy would do dinero impressions and all this. So. So that really compelled me, I think, like, I remember being at his funeral and his burial. And I just felt really angry. And I just decided, like, I'm just gonna try to do this, you know. So I basically, um, you know, I had this idea for a short film. Turns out the short film was gonna cost like, $100,000 to make, you know, that's how it goes. And you first start, you write a script, it was like a mixture of Blade Runner and all these different things. And, and I remember, like, I went online, I was looking for a producer, and I found some girl on Upwork I don't remember one of these things. I wanted the, you know, the film sites. And she said, Yeah, well, I'll produce it, you know, so I meet with her, she said, Oh, first we have to make a trailer, you know, like a sizzle reel, or whatever, to raise money through Indiegogo. So basically, we ended up getting $2,000 from this. Basically, I used to work with special needs children. So there was a kid I was taking care of, and his dad was like a big fan of this movie obsession of mine. So he gave me like $2,000 cash on the spot for the trailer. Amazing. So we made this trailer. And it was an utter disaster. I mean, it just didn't work out and we raised like $100 is like my older brother who gave them money you know, like on Indiegogo was pretty embarrassing. So then, you know, it was like back to square one again. I'm like, How in the world is this gonna happen? It just is, you know, the trailer was pretty good, I think but it just didn't fly. It just didn't work out. And then I remember I was watching Vice News did a thing on Christopher Nolan's following they interviewed him about zero budget and I was watching his advice and he basically said just take a camera you know the the thing that they say but to me the thing about him certain filmmakers you could see like you could tell they sort of come from the underground world but here's the guy who made inception and all these things. And then I saw a following and it's this real you know guy yeah, like glued together you know with popsicle sticks or whatever it's a brilliant film brilliant but um, but it just it's It's unbelievable to see that he went from there to there. So I basically he did it advice I took a camera I shot a short film you know, I only money was to the camera and stuff into the makeup artist. And I felt it was okay you know like I put it out there some people liked it. Some people didn't. But um, but that's that's basically how it starts just kept making short films. Then I produced a short film for this thing called the indie film collective. I was an interesting experience. And then we made another short film. And then just over time making all these short films, I picked up a very small following on the internet. I mean, when I say small film, I like maybe 10 15 People, whatever it is, but it was enough that at a certain point, I just decided it's time to make a feature film. And, you know, and I kept trying to make feature films or like trying to get or get it off the ground, but it just never worked, you know, and my older brother, he's a pretty well to do successful business guys completely self made. And he just said, you have to you don't be embarrassed, just have to ask people, you know, and again, you know, where I'm from. People don't really know what that like, there's no such thing as somebody's going to make movies. It's, it's bizarre, you know,

Alex Ferrari 15:32
I know the feeling. I know the feeling.

Tzvi Friedman 15:34
Yeah. It's what the other people do, you know, like, it doesn't it's not a real profession that could ever happen. So I think I was at my friend's engagement party, or, you know, ultra orthodox engagement party, and I just summed up the cards, and I just started asking people upfront, I said, you know, could I have money for my movie? And they're like, You're movie what? You know, and I think I quickly explained why I was like, trembling. Yeah, making a movie, you know, and then Christopher and all I can just try to explain to them, and a lot of the guys there that just very kind people very generous and said, whatever, let the kid go do his high school play or whatever they were doing, you know, we I raised like, $800 to $1,000, literally that day, just from asking people, you know, just basically bullying people to giving me money. And then with that seed money, we I joined forces with a friend of mine, and we basically started raising money online crowdfunding on Indiegogo. And we raised like, $8,000 that way, and I put in another 1000 of my own, and we basically managed to get the budget together. Um, but yeah, but there was no, it wasn't easy. Let's put it that way.

Alex Ferrari 16:38
So so then when you get the movie done, then you're now and you basically got it in the can. But from what you told me, you basically, were kind of kicked out of your house, and you were like, sleeping on the floor on a couch with your sister. You know, we all have struggles as filmmakers, man like there's no question this is you're trying to get your feature. May we all got a bag, we get a bag and you know, sometimes steel. Do whatever you got to do to get the movie done. Yeah, exactly. And, and that's the insanity of being a filmmaker, but, but you have the extra stress of also not having a place to live in at this point. And all that stuff. How did you break through that man? How did you break? Because I've never experienced that. I always was curious.

Tzvi Friedman 17:21
Yeah, yeah. So. So also, throughout the shooting, we shot once a week. So I was shooting once a week. And when I'm shooting, I feel like you know, you feel you, you're on top of the world when you're shooting.

Alex Ferrari 17:30
Oh, yeah, it's a drug, it's a drug. Absolutely.

Tzvi Friedman 17:33
It's a drug your high, you know, and then I would come home and not, you know, my siblings are amazing, you know, my brothers, they're very supportive and stuff, you know, but I don't blame nobody, you know, like, how are they supposed to know what the hell I'm doing? I you know, and it's not just, it's not just a religious thing. A lot of parents aren't, you know, regardless, any, anything in the arts is insane. So I would come home, I come back here, and they'd be like, you know, there was, you know, you're kind of like a rock star when you're directing. And then you come home and it's like, you know, you it's like, coming back to the slums. You know, you're, you're, it's like a descent. So it was really pressing, in a way it was like, swinging between these different worlds. And, yeah, and then. So the shooting itself was, there was a lot of a lot of stress in not just the production, but just the, like this dichotomy or duality that I was dealing with, going from basically sinning, you know, doing the grave sin of right, you know, making movies, which is this again, like, sort of, like, taboo satanic thing, and then and then coming home and you know, whatever, participating in the Sabbath and all this stuff, and then yeah, then we finished we wrapped shooting, it wasn't the most satisfying production, you know, again, it's, it's the first feature film, sure it for a penny. And then I come home and, you know, I'm again, I don't want to tell tell you too much about I'm sure. Basically, it's a combination of, you know, I wasn't I didn't have a proper income. You know, I didn't really I wasn't making money didn't have a real you know, my parents were very worried about me, you know, I didn't have a career path. And then again, it's the movies it's all these things coupled together. And I basically just pissed off enough people and they were like, you know, it sparks flew and I basically was told nicely to leave and I went to my older sister, you know, who was living in Queens and I just I was just sleeping in her husband study on a mattress on the floor. And it wasn't that bad though. They were pretty good to me and all and um, but I was really desperate to get a job you know, it was kind of like the Wake Up Calls like alright, this movie dream probably is not going to work you know, I made this movie wasn't edited at all. We didn't caught it just a bunch of hard drives at this point. It was just hard drive just sitting there my editor Christian who works for complex media who I met a whole different story but he edited all my shorts basically. He put together a trailer for me and a reel because I you know I call I'm like frantically saying I'm doomed. And he was, he's always been like, he's my right hand, man, you know, like, it's not for him, I wouldn't be anywhere. So he was really supportive. He's like, I'll make you a real don't worry about it, he made me reel made me a trailer. And I put it into a resume and I just started applying to film jobs, because I didn't want to go back to being an assistant teacher, whatever it might be. Um, and, and I went to Mandy, my older brother, I was so broke, I didn't have like, $1, you know, filmmaker. So my older brother, he paid for my Mandy subscription, you know, for like, a month. And I'm just applying to like everything in the world, you know, Pa D, should I remove old picture, low budget horror movie and all this stuff. And I applied to maybe 3040 things or whatever it might have been. And then I applied to a director gig like a horror movie director gig. And of course, you know, that would, that would have been great, you know. And then like, a week later, I got a call from some guy, the producer of this horror movie. And he's like, is this three Friedman? I'm like, yeah. And he says, um, you know, I saw your resume or whatever, why don't you come down and let's, let's have a chat, whatever, let's get lunch, whatever it was. And I was like, oh, yeah, I'm gonna get the job. You know, I'm so desperate now, at this time at this point. And I remember it's snowing, freezing cold, I go out there. And like, a second I meet the guy, he's like, you know, I don't think you're the right fit for the job. And I'm like, Oh, great. Another one of these, you know? Yeah, meeting time. Um, and then he says, but um, I saw the trailer for your feature, I saw some of your shorts, and I really like it. And I sent your work to my friend Cary Woods. I have no idea what that is. But again, this guy, this guy, you know, he thinks he assumes I know, you know, like, he doesn't realize like, you know, where I'm coming from, you know, that I've no, you know, connection with the business whatsoever. And he's like, he wants to he really wants to meet you. So when I leave the meeting, I call up my editor, Christian, and I say, Oh, my God, this guy. He said, Cary Woods his whole thing was I looked up, I Googled Cary Woods right after, and I saw his credits. Um,

Alex Ferrari 21:52
He's a legend. He's a legend. Yeah.

Tzvi Friedman 21:54
Yeah. And Christian, my editor. Again, I love him. This is to disparage him, but he just was like, come on. And you know, you because you know, people, he's been in the business much longer than me. And he's in a much more professional, severe. And he's had horror stories. So he was like, you know, I wouldn't just don't get don't get your hopes up.

Alex Ferrari 22:13
Right. I would say the exact same thing if you were talking to me.

Tzvi Friedman 22:16
Yeah. And like, I waited for like, a week, I was like, should I call back this guy and ask him and like, I was waiting with my phone. They're like, you know, and then I get a call from this producer again. And he said, Why don't you come over Friday evening, for dinner with carry, he'll be there, you know? So I go, there I go, I go to this, like penthouse again, like, you know, I didn't grow up poor or anything, but you know, just regular middle class. Sure. Family, five siblings, a, you know, everybody that lives very simply where I come from, and all of a sudden, I'm in this, you know, crazy apartment. And there's Carrie, and he looks like right out of his Wikipedia page. You know, it's a little weird. I was like, I kind of thought, you know, but, um, and, you know, like, we didn't really talk March, you know, I didn't, I didn't try to sell myself or anything. But it was it was weird to be in a place where like, everybody was filmmakers. on a on a slightly high end on a slightly in a much higher level than me all in the business. And who appreciated my work, which is really surreal. For that's a cool experience Yeah, it was, it was also like another type of high, you know, like, I was used to always feeling guilty about my work. And, you know, at one time, I would show it to my work to my parents, but they just didn't understand it. They thought it was bizarre. You know, and, you know, my dad would watch very, my dad has a good taste in movies, but it was more very conventional, very formulaic classics. And here, I'm trying to make like a button. Well, weird, experimental, right? Yeah. And he's like, you know, what's with the hands, or whatever, you know, so getting that or even my religious friends who love movies, but like thing, like, they want to watch like Michael Mann's heat or something. They're not, you know, sure. Are all French movies. Um, so basically, yeah, so that was a really great feeling. And then a few days later, Cary texted me said, Hey, let's get let's get coffee or something. And we got coffee. And you know, we just talked movies, and he has all kinds of crazy Hollywood stories. You know, your hero complex is Robert De Niro. So in Marvel, here's my favorite actor. So we spoke about that he worked with Warner Hertzog on Playboy, just endless stories. And he also was an agent before he was a producer, you know, so he's all kinds of stories about that. And then what I don't remember exactly the timeline, I don't want to distort the facts. But but more or less, he basically called me up one day and he said, Hey, I'll help you. I'm going to try to help you finish your feature film. I'll see if I can get some investors and whatever. Um, and, and yeah, that like my, you know, you can imagine I was like in seventh heaven. Um, and then we got investors. He got me a lawyer. And then he actually connected with this unbelievable film producer Jonathan Gray, who's an indie film producer. or also did a bunch of pretty flannel pajamas and blue capris, and you name it, he did a lot of very critically acclaimed films Dark Knight, not the Dark Knight Dark Knight, which went to Sundance couple years ago. And he basically became a producing partner with carry on this film. And he gave us an office at his studio, gigantic Studios, which was insane. Just like Monster just squatting there. And me and Chris Christian and I, my editor. We just were coming there and I was able to pay Christian finally, and I never paid him in my life. Am a few dollars, you know, that was nice. And yeah, that's a sort of the story in a nutshell. I don't know. I'm just wow, man.

Alex Ferrari 25:40
That's that's that's a pretty remarkable story. Because that was the twist that that also added another layer to this onion, that is your stories, because like, you know, trying to get your movie made all this kind of stuff. But then all of a sudden getting a major producer like Carrie woods on board, who's a legend. He's an indie film Legend. I mean, from swingers to kids, and so many other movies he's made over the years, you know, to get him on board with essentially a first time filmmaker, I was fascinated by how the hell did this happen. I always love these little stories of how people connect and how things fall apart, fall into place. And it's just luck being at the right place, right time. Like, in what I don't want people listening to understand this is that there is no path that you can copy. You know, I wasted a good decade trying to figure out how to copy Kevin Smith pass or Robert Rodriguez's path, or Ed burns path like these, these guys, you can't can't copy their path because their paths are unique to them. So the time frame when that happens, so you place an ad, go for an interview, they happen to watch your short a I have a friend of like there's so many things that were magical,

Tzvi Friedman 26:54
It insane, insane.

Alex Ferrari 26:57
It's luck. It's luck. But if you didn't have all those shorts, if you didn't have a trailer, if you hadn't had a movie, ready in the can, nobody would have it, this wouldn't have happened. So it's it is truly when luck meets preparation. And that's exactly your story. It's It's pretty. It's a pretty magical story. So now, where are you with the movie? You're still finishing it up in post, so you're getting ready to put it out to the festivals.

Tzvi Friedman 27:22
Yeah, so we are we already submitted to a bunch of festivals, but it's still a quote unquote working progress. We're doing the music now. That's where we're at now. So we're picture locked, we're doing the music, literally, like we just started yesterday. And also the color which we're basically finished. Um, and yeah, we're just we're just trying you know, you know, nowadays you have you know, it's not like it used to be now you have literally 10s of 1000s of films, you know, everybody with their $100,000 movie. There's just a lot of competition it's very easy to get lost in the pile. Um, and yeah, it's it's really it's sort of playing a lottery you know that a day.

Alex Ferrari 28:05
Yeah, it's it's pretty in you know, if you've listened to the show, and you've seen the show, you know, I've talked about distribution and how to get your movie up there and stuff. It is very difficult to get an independent film with no you have no stars if I'm a mistake you have no faces are stars in the movie.

Tzvi Friedman 28:20
We have some future stars I'm on my right to say that to be nice. We, particularly the main actor in our movie. On time, he was on the Broadway show, cabaret. Sam Mendez is a production but he's a brilliant actor. Brilliant. His name's John Peterson. A shout out to John Baba he he's really remarkable you know, these series that we've been showing the movie to now like we you know, we're showing it to all sides forever they're all like wow you know so the thing is if Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 28:52
Yeah so but but as far as distribution is concerned, yeah. Yeah, if I walk into distributors room and like, Hey, I got a lot of future starts it's gonna be like, get the hell out of here. But no, but not not lack of talent, but lack of star power means recognizable faces. Right? So without that it is difficult to do it unless you can a kid into a film festival that could be you know, that likes it and gets some awards and maybe get some attention. But you know, it just as a non it's an you haven't asked me for this advice, but this is what I would do. I would use Kerry Woods his name as much as he allows you to use it to open doors for you because that name does carry a lot of weight in the indie film space. And that they're like, wait a minute, if Kerry's executive producing this guy's film, I should maybe watch it because of his track record. So you've got an ace in the hole without question. It's not gonna help you it might help you a little bit in distribution but it will definitely help you in the film festival circuit without Question

Tzvi Friedman 29:55
Yeah, there you know, I got like, I don't know how what I'm allowed to say but like you

Alex Ferrari 29:59
Don't Don't say I don't want to get in trouble don't get in trouble.

Tzvi Friedman 30:02
Exactly. I don't either want to get in trouble but no definitely carry but not again, not just Cary we have, we have a lot of the Cary sort of built an army around the

Alex Ferrari 30:10
Right. So um, it's amazing that he, it's amazing that a producer of his magnitude who's done so many films over the years, still is hunting for that, you know that diamond in the rough. It just trying to grab something and trying to help a filmmaker along and that's another part of the story that I love is that someone like him is not too high up in the mountain. We're all the gods, the filmmaking gods live, like mountain Olympus, you know, where Spielberg and Lucas and all those guys live? That they're able that he's still willing to to do because it doesn't have to mean he's completely doesn't have to do anything. But he wants to because he loved the process so much and wants to help young voices come out. So that's a really, that's a really pretty awesome part of the story. So I'll gotta get Carrie on the show. One day, I want to talk to Carrie.

Tzvi Friedman 31:04
Thank you. I think you do it. Yeah. Yeah, he's, he's just a really, I mean, you know, I don't know why he decided to do this. You'll have to ask him.

Alex Ferrari 31:14
You're like, Man, I don't know why I'm here. I don't know how this happened.

Tzvi Friedman 31:19
Kind of like, you know, the movie being there. Which is actually when it carries favorite movies. Oh, yeah. Oh, I love the colors. Yeah, just like he's just like this, you know, um, I think he's supposed to be on the spectrum, if I'm not mistaken. And he's just, just like, stumbling into you know, power, you know, the powerful people and and all these rooms, and you're just like, whoa, what am I doing here? And I get that all the time. You know, like, I'll be at an like, again, like, once you meet these people, all of a sudden, you're at these events. And also, you're meeting these people who somebody people inspired you to, like, do this thing now. And you're just, it's bizarre, and you're not sure and they ask you like, who are you? And you're like, I'm not sure who I am. But um, you know, security? Yeah. But um, but Buckcherry is a really righteous guy. I think he's a really, he's just a really good person, you know, above all else. He's he really, he's, like, a real cinephile. He really loves, you know, even though he might have produced some really big commercial movies, too. But he, he just loves cinema. And, and I think he just really wants to try, you know, he sees himself sort of maybe again, I shouldn't, you know, you have to ask him, but my read is that he really feels like a guardian of cinema. And, yeah, and that's why I got lucky, you know, I bumped into him, but um, you know, but yeah, that's why he again, he didn't he hasn't just done this for me. I'm not the only but pretty much. Many of the directors he's worked with were all first time directors, you know. And

Alex Ferrari 32:51
Doug Liman Yeah. Doug Liman with swingers and John Favre, and that whole crew, I mean, helping them along, and the list goes on and on. I mean, he's helped so many filmmakers

Tzvi Friedman 33:02
M.Night Shyamalan.

Alex Ferrari 33:04
A couple guys, a couple guys,

Tzvi Friedman 33:05
A second, like legit movie, like, I might did like a low budget, indie that went to a bunch of festivals, but his, his second, you know, like, more studio film or whatever, Carryade that happen. And, yeah, the list goes on forever. But um, you know, yeah, so it's really cool. And also, another cool thing is that Cary's producing a film called Maggie Moore's, which is a Jon Hamm movie right now, you know, in New Mexico. So it's just funny how we're making our little $10,000 movie and stuff and Carrie sending us notes. And then he's, you know, busy with these guys. It's really weird.

Alex Ferrari 33:38
It's and I just, I also, I also wanted to have you on the show, because I want filmmakers out there listening to see that this has happened Still, these kind of little, this lottery ticket moment, there are these are kind of lottery ticket moments. I mean, look, look, you're not making the next Marvel movie yet, or anything like that. But you are definitely on a path that will hopefully build a career for yourself and having a champion help you and we all everyone needs a champion Spielberg to look, you know, every one of the gods, the filmmaking gods that we look up to had a champion. If it wasn't for Steven Soderbergh, Nolan wouldn't have gotten insomnia. And without insomnia, he wouldn't have gotten Batman and the rest of that goes on and on if there's always a champion. So I'm just glad that that, that we could put this kind of story out there for filmmakers to hopefully hold on to and go look, there's a hope you got to just got it. The thing is that you just have to do the work without expectation because that's exactly what you did. You did the you didn't have any expectation of anything happening to you. Other than hopefully this is going to get made and hopefully I'll be able to do another one, let alone teaming up with carriers and becoming Oh. Let me ask you, I want to ask you about what is when you were on set, I always like to ask the question when you were on set, shooting one day a week, which is fascinating, which is awesome. Yeah, it was awesome. What was the toughest day on set, like that day that you felt everything was gonna come crashing down around you? And how did you overcome it?

Tzvi Friedman 35:16
That's almost every day, but many days. I'm like, we just have crazy, crazy stories. I mean, again, not. Not anything new but but fun. You know? So we were operating with like, it was a tiny who, first of all, like, some of our crew pulled out, you know, last shock. Last, Shocking. Shocking. Exactly. So we have to do the scramble, Facebook, all that all that jazz. Went to makeup artists like I don't you ever saw manbites manbites dog,

Alex Ferrari 35:43
Of course. It's amazing, amazing film, everybody listening, watch man bites dog. It's on criterion,

Tzvi Friedman 35:50
They keep killing the sound mixer. The reservoir. So that's basically what it was like, we were going through makeup artists like a revolving door, you know? Because again, we didn't really have money. So that's how it goes. Right? Nobody first you know, very people want to get and it was in the middle of the winter. But the second day, the second the second day, which is the second week, it was going to be one of these 18 hour days, and we're shooting in multiple locations. And we were at the beach, we decided to make it into the film and None None of this footage. And all of a sudden, again, I don't want to I love my crew and everything. But somebody said, Oh, we don't have we didn't have anything, we could have dumped the footage and we didn't have enough memory cards, let's just put it that way. It happens, bro. It happens. You're like one memory card, you know, and so that that was like one of the that was you know, I just started I had a full on panic attack. Um, and whenever we ended up having to drive over again, and laptop and good memory card was crazy. I mean, something as simple as that, that we didn't prepare for obviously, it was a little ridiculous. But still, we had like, I don't know what it was like a 64 gigabyte, you know, like, the whoever was supposed to bring that stuff didn't bring that stuff. That was one of them. And then we had another shoot. Well, also, we were shooting in a lot of places that were given to us as a favor and paying for it. Sure. So one of the places we were shooting at, I just remember being terrified of like things breaking, you know, and of course, we ended up breaking something. And then it was the whole thing was like who's gonna talk to the owner who's gonna make the call. And we'll just read tickets just together with the whole supervisors, just like fear because like, everybody was just like, let the kids do their thing. Let them play a little bit, you know. And then the craziest thing was, we were doing a reshoot of scene, a murder scene. And this is like, this is after the 10 weeks. This is like, this is like a few weeks later, we finally managed to get everybody available. And we're shooting a scene. And it turns out, we didn't realize that when we shot there a few weeks before dislocation was were a homeless man would sleep it was his territory. And he remembered us from the first time and he came he started like cursing us out. And my lawn producers span is from Colombia. So he speaks Spanish. So he understood what the guy was saying. But he didn't want to like tell us what the guy was saying because you don't want to scare us and we wanted to get finally conservative. He's like, I think the guy my break the camera, and I saw one and I turned around there pulls out a knife and he puts it to my AC'S neck. And he's like basically saying, you know, I'm gonna kill you if you don't leave. You know, so the first thing I did was grabbed the camera and Ron, you know, and and the whole crew followed afterwards. I was like,

Alex Ferrari 38:32
What happened to the AC what happened to the AC.

Tzvi Friedman 38:35
He was fine. But he said we you know, we just like walked away slowly like we did you know? And the guy just chased us out of there. He chased us out of the location. We couldn't go back we couldn't get any more coverage. And that was it. That's all we had. I'm afraid to go to that train. Stop now because it's near a train station.

Alex Ferrari 38:52
Wow. Yeah. It's crazy stuff and never ceases to amaze me the stories you hear about productions especially indie. No budget productions. It's there. Man, I've been there. I understand it. I I've been there's too many times to today. I haven't had anyone pull a knife on us. So that's a new one. I haven't had that. But there has been other stories to say the least. Now, I want to ask a few questions. I asked all my guests, man, what do you what advice would you give to that underground filmmaker listening like you've been listening to me? And what advice would you give them to get there, you know, to get into the business to do what they love to do?

Tzvi Friedman 39:32
Yeah, so like you said, like, there's no roadmap. Anybody who tells you there's a roadmap and end of the day I think it's bullshit. I remember I got a PA gig actually like on a big set called the good fight. CBS show. My friend Sergio was my line producer on my film. He got me in there. And I was like, I was trying. That was at one point. That was my thing. Like I just kind of get on a big set and I have no idea how right you don't go on indeed and get on a because it doesn't work that way. So it turns out these have to meet someone who knows Mondo can get you

Alex Ferrari 40:00
Networking, networking networking. Yeah,

Tzvi Friedman 40:02
Yeah. Which to me is kind of it's that's really frustrating to me about the about how the business it's like this very elitist, high barrier entry type thing. So I finally get on I'm gonna stand in PA, I'm given a radio and stuff, you know, and my job is to stand outside of door. I'm like, just like 1000 PhDs and I'm gonna stand outside the door and just tell people to be quiet, right? My job basically is to do nothing, but I got it was good money, but like, I did nothing the whole day. And by the by, by breakfast, I'm just trying to talk, you know, network speak to people find out like, how do you get into this mysterious place? And I remember I met the production designer of the show, and he was covered in paint, like his pants and everything. And I said, Hey, like, how did you get here? How do you and he looks at me with a big smile. He's like, you're here. I was like, Oh, thanks. Wow, great advice. But, but the point is, that there really isn't. And I remember I asked them, you know, how the actors have PA is also, you know, like the treated like royalty that can't touch the ground. So I asked them, the PA to one of the actresses like, you know, about the director, I'm like, How do you know how she got here? And she's like, you just have to do it. You know. So the point is that even when you're in the US the, you know, the inner chamber, the machine, yeah. Yeah. Like, nobody really knows. It's like, I remember seeing an interview with David Lynch. When he was doing Twin Peaks Season Three in like a cafe some woman was interviewing him. And she asked David Lynch, you know, what do you what's your advice to filmmaker, you know, asked to make a living or whatever. And he's like, I don't want to talk to such a filmmaker. You know, he was trying to say that if that's your goal, then, you know, he, you know, it was he's a very he's a purist. You know, he's

Alex Ferrari 41:44
He's an artist. He's a pure artist. Yeah,

Tzvi Friedman 41:46
Yeah, it's pure artist. But But I think it's true. Even if you do want to make a living off filmmaking, you know, you're gonna be in for a lot of heartbreak, probably, again, I'm, I'm in the very beginnings of this, I can't really, you know, give like real sagely advice. But I just think from the little that I've little path that I've traveled is that just make just, you know, make films tried to believe in yourself and on. And, but again, like some people want to I again, I don't want to impose my my thing, because I had my I put it this way, I just did my thing. I wanted to make my kind of film. I made the film, I wanted to make some I got lucky. Some people recognized it, and they appreciated it. And that was that but but who knows, you know, Ridley Scott made his made his first his first feature at 40 years old again, again, he was a big commercial director. You could you could point to that. But there plenty I mean, David Lynch was like, 33 I think what he did a raise your head? And so who knows? You know, there is no, there's no path. Ad. Yeah, there is no path. That's basically the advice that there is not no advice.

Alex Ferrari 42:52
Yeah, it is. Yeah, I get asked all the time. What that is, is like, just do what you love to do. And try it just don't don't bet the house on it. Because this is a very difficult path, digital question. And I've talked to everybody from the biggest guys to, to, like, you know, people just starting out like yourself, and it's always about, you know, how do I get in? And what do I do? I'm like, you just got to do it. And, yeah, you'll meet someone, you'll connect with somebody, maybe someone you met not now, in six years, they'll open a door for you that you didn't know about. It happens, it's happened to me, it happens all the time. It's just it. That's the thing that's so frustrating about being a filmmaker. It's unlike being a doctor or lawyer they have those are direct paths to making a career. You know, an engineer like these are direct paths. Filmmaking is just like, it's like, it's like a musician or like, arts in general, there is no, there are some paths you can take, but like to be a filmmaker to be a director to tell stories like that. It's tough, man. It's tough. But Is it doable? I talk to people every day on the show that it worked out. You know, I was able to make a career out of it as well and, and still love to do what I love to do. It's just about doing it, man. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Tzvi Friedman 44:20
Hmm, I think, um, just as a director, what I found again, like there's no universal because the honest, that's the thing, the arts are so subjective, which is why there's such a diversity of artists in so many different paths in the art world, because it's not a science. It's not a doctor. So, you know, it's not like look for a surgeon. Yeah, like, he'll tell you, you know, don't move the knife left because you'll kill the person. But um, but for an artist is very different. But for me, personally, what I found is that I used to think I remember I used to be a big Ridley Scott guy.

Alex Ferrari 44:53
Oh, I mean, Blade Runner. I mean, Jesus Christ.

Tzvi Friedman 44:56
Yeah, Blade Runner is one of those, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:59
Top 5 yeah, no, no, no question.

Tzvi Friedman 45:02
No other masterpiece. But anyways, I remember him saying like, you know how, you know, I storyboard everything. And you know, like, really? He's a tough guy. And premeditated, you know, and I remember being terrified, watching his interviews, he said, you know, if you're ninny, then this is not for you, like all the you know, and, and as I used to go into during the short, that's the, he says that it I remember seeing him say that, I remember, I would storyboard everything and just like, try to be like, very calculated, you know, and, and like, basically not let my actors breathe and, you know, be this tyrant on set, I'm going to be like Cameron and Scotland, you know, and again, it obviously it works for some for, for some people, but what I found, at least for the low budget world, is that oddly, ironically, it helps to sort of, like, let things go, like, for me, that's what I found, like, I was the biggest that I went from this feature, but this feature I came in with all these plans, and oh, boy, did I have to throw them away pretty quick, you know? Yeah. I found that, like, the magic for me happens when, when it you know, I'm avoiding the cliche of collaboration, but that's kind of what it is, like, you know, I got lucky my DP and I, we did two short films after the feature, I got like a really good relationship with Him in a really good relation with my editor, and my composer and the main actor, in my film, have a very, almost like a telepathic connection with him, you know, and we're able to sort of vibe with each other. It's kind of like a dance. And we just, you know, you have to leave, I think, for me, it's leaving room to just allow people to breathe, and let's try to let the movie sort of let it take its own form, let it come alive. It's like this organism that, you know, you only could control to a certain extent, and then you just let it live. And in fact, it ends up making the film better. I think, for me, when I allow the chaos, let the chaos take over. The chaos is good. It's not bad. You know? That's, for me. Probably the biggest creative lesson that I learned, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:56
Fair enough. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Tzvi Friedman 47:01
And the there are none, but I could come up with three like very important films to me. Sure. Um, the 400 blows, I think would be one of my favorite films of all time Francois Truffaut. I would say I'd have to say, Christopher Nolan's Inception

Alex Ferrari 47:24
Mind blowing

Tzvi Friedman 47:25
Yeah, I have to say that one. Um, and I would say Fellini's eight and a half. Again, this is the mood now you know, your top three change, you know,

Alex Ferrari 47:37
Oh, no, that's just the three right now. Yeah, like a band plays on by Fellini,

Tzvi Friedman 47:41
I asked me when I was 10 years old, it would have been Star Wars, Star Wars and Star Wars, you know, so it just changes but right now, as a as like a filmmaker, when you're studying the craft, those are the films that really, to me, are like the most important films to me at inception to me, at least of the modern era of movies that's like to me like the Citizen Kane, my city might what I consider the citizen game for me of modern cinema.

Alex Ferrari 48:04
Well, my friend, I appreciate you coming on and being raw and honest about your story. And I wish you nothing but the best I hope man does very well and in the scene out in the festival circuit. And I hope to have you back when you're doing the next big Marvel movie or something.

Tzvi Friedman 48:23
Yeah, it's been pretty thanks for having me on the show. And it's it I still can't get over it. I'm talking to you is pretty odd listening to this voice, you know, Indie Film Hustle Podcast Talking to you, it's just it's, it's cool. And it's an honor. And it's also like, is this real? But um, okay.

Alex Ferrari 48:43
I appreciate you, brother.

Tzvi Friedman 48:45
Likewise. Yeah. Great to meet you Alex.

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BPS 348: First-Time Filmmaking, Oscars & Netflix With Scott Copper

Scott Copper (Director, Screenwriter, Producer) made his feature film directorial debut in 2009 with Fox Searchlight’s Oscar-winning CRAZY HEART, which he also wrote and produced. The film, which starred Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall, earned three Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Actor (Bridges) and Best Original Song (T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham). Cooper won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and earned WGA, USC Scripter and Independent Spirit Award nominations, for his screenplay.

Cooper’s follow-up was the Leonardo DiCaprio/Ridley Scott-produced OUT OF THE FURNACE, starring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Zoë Saldana, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard. For his work as writer, director and producer, Cooper won the Best Debut and Second Film Award at the 2013 Rome Film Festival, where he was also nominated for a Golden Marc’Aurelio Award. Next was Cooper’s 2015 Warner Bros. gangster film BLACK MASS, which Cooper both directed and produced and which made its worldwide debut at the Venice International Film Festival.

The box-office hit garnered wins from critics associations across the country, and earned lead actor Johnny Depp the Desert Palm Achievement Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, as well as a Best Actor nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. In 2017, Cooper’s western epic HOSTILES debuted at both the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festivals, earning widespread critical acclaim. The film reunited Cooper with his OUT OF THE FURNACE star Christian Bale and featured performances from Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane and Ben Foster. Cooper followed this up with ANTLERS, an exploration of yet another genre in the Guillermo Del Toro-produced horror film. Searchlight released the film to acclaim in October 2021.

Most recently, Cooper re-teamed for the third time with Bale on THE PALE BLUE EYE, an adaptation of Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a series of murders at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1830 and a cadet the world would later come to know as Edgar Allan Poe. Robert Duvall, Gillian Anderson, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones and Harry Melling round out the cast. The Netflix film will debut in Fall of 2022. Born in Virginia, Cooper now resides in Los Angeles.

Please enjoy my conversation with Scott Copper.

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Scott Copper 0:00
I mean, even when you work with trusted collaborators, there will be moments on set where there is Sturm and Drang as the director, and as the writer and as the producer, you have to be able to solve those issues.

Alex Ferrari 0:12
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, Scott Copper man, how you doing, Scott?

Scott Copper 0:26
Great. Thank you, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 0:28
Thanks for coming on the show. Man. I'm a fan man. I've been a fan for a while. Man. You you're doing some really good work, brother seriously, man.

Scott Copper 0:35
Thank you. Thanks. So upper and tougher.

Alex Ferrari 0:38
It's man, I I was just talking, I was just talking to somebody a few minutes ago about how the movie business is changing so dramatically, even from when you made Crazy Heart to now getting somebody to the movie theater. If avatar is having a problem. I mean, is a problem? You know,

Scott Copper 1:01
I suspect people go out for that though.

Alex Ferrari 1:04
I did. And I saw it. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life. Like what Jim Jim did was, ya know, it's remarkable, but it's doing well. But people are like, Oh, I should be doing better. And there's a lot of pressure on a movie like that. But other than avatar in Top Gun last year. It's tough to get people out.

Scott Copper 1:24
Man. Yeah, well, in fact, maybe that was happening also a little bit before COVID Certainly accelerated during COVID. Look, it's expensive to consider dinner and parking and then price of a movie, maybe for the kind of movies that I make. And some of my favorite filmmakers, perhaps the ticket prices should be lower. And then right will be more likely to come out because there really is nothing like experiencing. And in fact, that film will not have the same effect on you, regardless of what it is if you're watching it anywhere. But in this.

Alex Ferrari 2:05
There's no There's no question my friend. But But you've lived a very interesting life in the film industry. You've you've you came up as an actor. So my first question, how did you and why did you want to get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Scott Copper 2:19
Well, look, it's you don't choose your obsessions, your obsession, you choose you right very much. I also spent, I was born and spent a lot of my formative years in this kind of artistic crown jewel of Virginia called Abingdon, Virginia, where the State Theatre is also a lot of great music comes out of that, that region, the mountain empire, as well as a lot of arts and crafts. So the arts were always a part of my life. My father would take me to see films at a young age at a local college. And then you know, when you're young, and you're transfixed by that, and you also had spent time as an actor, Christian Bale and I had discussed this, that people who get into the film business aren't meant to have office jobs. And I think I realized that at a young age, I also realized at a young age that there were actors who were a whole lot better at this vocation than I, especially when you're on the other side of the camera and your first film is your you're recording Jeff Bridges for posterity and Robert Duvall and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Colin Farrell, that quickly makes you realize that there are people who do it a whole lot better than you. And then my second film was Christian Bale and Casey Affleck and Woody, Willem Defoe and Sam Shepard and, and Forrest Whitaker and Zoey Sadat. And then I'm like, Okay, well, I'm definitely not gonna be an actor again. So, but quite honestly, Alex, this is I mean, I couldn't imagine a better job than being a film writer, a film director. I mean, I suppose being Mick Jagger, or Bano, Eddie Federer, someone who's a rock star, right and sings to at 100,000 people, certain events. But I love being able to express myself as a filmmaker. I love the people that I've met over the course of my career. I mean, look, I've been for an actor with an unremarkable career, I have been incredibly fortunate as a filmmaker, I'll just say that.

Alex Ferrari 4:31
You know, it's interesting, because a lot of people like, you know, everyone could play basketball. You know, generally everyone could take a ball and try to make a shot, but we're not all Michael Jordan or LeBron James. And, and that's, I think that's where you were at?

Scott Copper 4:44
Well, sure. I mean, even Robert Duvall, who was my mentor and expressed to me and still does how much he liked me as an actor Jeff Bridges the same thing but but I just have much more fun doing this and and I never even really had A chance to grow as an actor, I wasn't getting the kind of challenging parts that, that I now write for actors and I adore actors. And performance is critical to me and, and, and working with actors that I've always admired. And, you know, also being able to work with actors that teach me something, as Jeff certainly has, or Robert ball or Christian. Or even Johnny Depp. So I'm blessed man i But that's, that's just the truth.

Alex Ferrari 5:36
So at what point? Because I'm assuming as you were going down the path as an actor, there might have been some rejection not much, I'm sure but some rejection all

Scott Copper 5:45
The actor who isn't? Who isn't rejected a lot. Right. So I'll look at started 12 I mean, so yeah,

Alex Ferrari 5:53
He had he had a good start. That's Little Spielberg independent film thing. He did. Yeah. But so when you're going so when you're going through the the acting process, at what point did you say, you know, what, I'm not going to hit the all star team as an actor, I want to jump to the other side of the like, what was the point where you just said, I'm

Scott Copper 6:14
I was just auditioning a lot, and you know, kind of becoming a bridesmaid coming in second. And, and, and not getting the parts that made me want to become an actor in the first place. I think everybody who's you know, a young actor coming up in the 90s, one, you know, a career or at least I did, like Sean Penn or dinero, or PacMan or Pacino. So, when you're not getting those parts, and you're going up for leading men, and you're not really loving them, but you have to support yourself. It just, ultimately, the rejection, that's a lot. And I mean, look, we all get rejected, certainly in the arts, sure, when you make things that, that take big risks, for sure. But it was really just the continual process of of auditioning and films that I would have liked to have been in not getting parts in them. Whether it would be thin red line or Saving Private Ryan. And then I was doing a Western with Duvall being directed by the great Walter Hill, who's also a mentor of mine. And, and and you've all said, you know, you should really write something. And of course, I ended up at the time I had spending a lot of time considering writing the film about Merle Haggard. He had too many ex wives getting the rights were difficult. So I ended up writing precis Hart and Duvall was the first person to read it. And, and you know, Alex, the truth is when Jeff Bridges says yes to your film, it changes your life. And that's exactly what happened to me.

Alex Ferrari 7:52
So is that how you got? Because I was gonna ask like, you're basically a first time filmmaker at this point. Yeah, you've been on set for a long time. But you're a first time writer.

Scott Copper 8:00
That's right. never directed a film. I've never directed a commercial. I've never directed a high school play. But I know this world. And I know that by surrounding myself with great collaborators, production designers, customers, cameraman, women, that sort of thing that I knew that I can tell the story. And Jeff, I remember it is is though it were yesterday, Jeff said, so this is your first time. Yeah. So it is. He said, Well, I've had a lot of success with first time directors, Fabulous Baker Boys being one of them. That I'm in. And you know, Alex, at that point in my life was never the same.

Alex Ferrari 8:40
And so I have to ask you, first day on set, you're sitting, you're the big man on your big man on campus first day? How do you deal with not only the pressure of the first day and making sure that you make that first day, but you're looking through the lens? And you see Jeff Bridges? They're like, and you're directing a legend? Multiple legends, by the way in that film? How do you deal with that as a director?

Scott Copper 9:07
Well, you deal with it by forgetting to call cut. And my ad cabinet shows looking at me as the scene had finished. And I'm transcendent, this is the truth and I'm transfixed and, and she looked at me, she said, and I said, Cut. And literally, it was like, my god, I remember that night that Jeff Bridges is taking dialogue that I have written in taking it to places that I never expected. And that's especially because I've written specifically for him. That's the sign of a great actor. And now, five films later it's happened in, in every film, thankfully.

Alex Ferrari 9:46
So the one thing that's so impressive about your work not only the writing and the directing, but the cast that you're able to attract is honestly unheard of. I mean, your second film, that list of actors, any one of them could have been the star. But a lot of them took secondary roles because they wanted to work on the project. How do you attract all of these? I mean, it's film after film after film after film. As I'm going through filmography, I'm just like, how the hell is this guy grabbing, I know it's the material. But like, even good material doesn't attract a lot of times because of politics and schedules. And this or that.

Scott Copper 10:23
And often that is that is the case, it's difficult to get all the actors that you're referring to everybody else wants, and trying to fit them into a schedule is often one of the most difficult things to do about making a film. But I think, look, certainly the success of of of Crazy Heart has helped when when you're filming, your first film is nominated for three Oscars of wins a couple. That certainly changes the calculus for everybody else, when they see how wonderful Jeff is Maggie and Colin and Duvall, and on and on and on, right. So that probably doesn't happen if that film doesn't have the success, but it did. And then out of the furnace had kind of like a murderer's row of actors that all of whom are, you know, considered to be favorites of mine. So I think once those two films were made, I think actors felt like you know what he, I can feel safe with Scott, because that's the key is to really make an actor feel very safe, safe to take big risks, knows that I'm going to protect them not only on the day when we're shooting, but also in the cutting room. I think the actors that we're talking about know that I'm more interested in films that push me into an uncomfortable space, I've spoken to all of them about the great danger is really doing safe work, where all of the edges are sanded off, so that a lot of people will like your film, The Academy or people who are voting bodies, right. And I think they realize that those don't, those concerns don't really concern me. So it's all about telling a very honest story, a very authentic story. And a story that's not afraid to not let the audience off the hook. I think striving for consensus is not something that I tend to do. I don't make films out of fear, and certain actors respond to that.

Alex Ferrari 12:32
And so another thing about working with all of these amazing actors is I know that all of them have very different processes. So as a director, I mean, as a director, how do you handle like when you have, you know, four or five different of these actors in, in a scene? You can't just yell out direction, you got to kind of go,

Scott Copper 12:52
I've never do that I own two actors that nobody hears, but the actor, I'm actually exactly mixer has turned off all mics and nobody on set will hear the direction that I give Sam Shepard, right? Where Robert Duvall, Christian whomever it is, I think, why don't think I know you have to be very specific, with actors. Don't talk in the abstract. It's really about who is your character? What does the character want the scene? What's the subtext? And again, make them feel safe, safe and free to take big risks. And every actor comes at a scene differently. Casey Affleck and Willem Defoe couldn't be more dissimilar in terms of styles. You have to on the day balance those styles to make sure that all ideas are welcome. But that we're all trying to serve the theme of the film. And what's the subtext of a theme. And then when you cast people, Willem Defoe has made that around probably 100 films or Christian who's made 50 Evolve is made 100 I mean, it's like, and I've said this before, it's almost as though you're like a jockey at the route. Imagine wanting to be at the Kentucky Derby, you're on the best. And it's a little bit of guidance here, a little bit of guidance, they're showing the whip, you know, and then let them run rest of the work. I mean, that's the key is like not getting in their way. And helping an ice ball would always say to me, the key to being a successful director of performances, which is what I hope I am, is knowing how to help an actor when he or she is in trouble.

Alex Ferrari 14:29
Now with crazy heart you I mean, again, you very rare example of your first film being nominated for three Oscars. It doesn't happen quite very often. How did you

Scott Copper 14:42
I gotta be honest

Alex Ferrari 14:43
Yeah, I that was my question. How did you handle the print not only the pressure, the accolades the year, the greatest the ego trips, being in the center of that hurricane and then after winning, you know, the film winning a few a couple Oscars, and how the town entreated you because Hollywood's a dangerous place. And, and but you already been in town a bit as an actor. So you've seen a few things that I'm Oh yeah. So how did you deal with it man?

Scott Copper 15:13
Well, by making a film that was the complete polar opposite, which was out of the furnace, which, you know, I hope to make as an L.A giant crime film. Right, that would remind me of smaller version of The Deer Hunter, right? And you feel like, okay, well, you're definitely not going to sand off the edges. You're not going to strive for consensus, you're gonna make a film that is as hard hitting as the people experience who actually live there. Right. And fortunately, that's where Christian and I met in Braddock, Pennsylvania Mayor John Fetterman, who's now the senator from Pennsylvania. Right. And I know how tough it was to live in a place like that probably still is in Braddock. So if you're being authentic to tell him the story, that's really the key. And you don't worry about what others will say. You know, worried about what category voters will say you don't worry about what critics say because if you look at most of Stanley Kubrick's films, they were not well received when they first came out.

Alex Ferrari 16:18
All of them almost I think all of them unanimously were not well received.

Scott Copper 16:21
And time is what settles the score. Right? So often, you see movies that go on to win Oscars and receive a claim and you watch them 234 years later, if not sooner, you've and you realize that they don't really hold up right so if you're if you're playing and these actors that I work with know that you're playing for the long game. And really what what means something to me is that when I hear from people who are also filmmakers who have responded to me whether it's Bogdanovich with crazy horror, whether it was Michael Cimino calling me or William freaking after seeing out of the furnace, you know, Michael Mann, who was has been very kind to me, Mike Nichols, like all of these people that I admired, really reached out to you after seeing your films and, and continued to applaud you and continue to push.

Alex Ferrari 17:14
How do you as I mean, as a filmmaker, there's so many traps with that, because you know, when you're getting you're, you're basically the people you admire calling you telling you that you're great. And to keep going. The ego has to fall into how do you keep that in place? Because that's a problem when you have so much

Scott Copper 17:33
Yeah, of course, yes. And you have to, of course, my wife would disagree with saying that I feel like I have no ego she

Alex Ferrari 17:42
Wives do that.

Scott Copper 17:43
Yes. But ultimately, it's really about serving the story about telling the stories that that you want to tell. And you and Alex, what you try to do is, is try to keep ego out of any decisions that you make. Which is often very difficult for artists to do, whether you're a painter or whether you're physician, whether you're a filmmaker, Jeff Bridges, said to me, I don't care what happens to a movie when it comes out in terms of winning awards that the reward is, is in the journey for him. And it's the experience and the more movies that I make. That's the truth. It's when you and a group of gifted collaborators are, are all striving for the same goal. And I think that's really important. I think, also, I have tended to try to figure out how the how to tell the truth about how tragic and unfair life is without losing hope. You know, most narratives lie to the audience about how life works out. And shocking. Yes, and

Alex Ferrari 18:53
Hollywood does that. No, you're kidding me?

Scott Copper 18:57
Yes. So that's our bread and butter. It is yeah. So for me really, it's it's about, you know, working through the difficulties in my life by dressing them through art.

Alex Ferrari 19:09
Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, the one thing that's not spoken a lot about in, in the filmmaking space, especially in the film, schools, and for young filmmakers coming up, is the politics of the set. As a first time director, you know, you have collaborators who you might have chosen wrong, you know, incorrectly that you didn't align with what you want it or or try to enforce their vision on top of the director. Have you dealt with any of that? And if you have, how did you overcome it?

Scott Copper 19:37
No, frankly, I haven't. Because I didn't think so having gone to film school, actually, all six of my films have been incredibly harmonious. Now I work with the same crew largely over and over because we have a shorthand, and you know, my films are not inexpensive and every moment counts. And every minute is, you know, you can just hear the dollar sign I think it was Kubrick again who, who said that actually, prepping is much easier editing, you're much more relaxed. But when you're shooting, it's like you're in this cauldron of fire because you have to make so many decisions every day. And you're dealing with production designers, actors, cameramen, and women sound. Everything is coming together at once. So the key is, how do you hire people that see the world as you do, who will make push you to become a better filmmaker, because I didn't go to film school and all of my film school is reading as much as I can about film directors, watching their movies over and over and over with the sound off, how do they move the camera. Most importantly, when they don't move it, how they use composition and missile scene and lighting, staging, to help tell the story. And which is more and more difficult because we're living in the most impatient of ages. Because of this, right? And because we're getting instant, in social media, we're getting instant gratification constantly, and that we were no longer patient. We have to you have to really resist that when you're making a film. Because if you were to put an audience today in front of 2001 I knew what that was. Barry Lyndon The Godfather even and it never heard of these actors have seen it, people would find it painfully slow, boring. And if they were watching home, they would turn it off. Not everybody but a lot of people. And you have to resist that. You have to say okay, well, this is the story I'm telling you, you might find it to be a slow burn. But I said this before making you know, experiencing a film in a cinema is not like getting an enema. You don't want to have wanted to get over as fast as possible. luxuriate in Stanley Kubrick's world, or in Jane Campion's world, or countless other filmmakers that have inspired me for years. Right? That's the key. So. So it's really about trying to assure an ego, hire people that see the world as you do know their work incredibly well. Take meetings with them. And then you will just learn to push one another. I mean, even when you work with trusted collaborators, there will be moments on set where there is Sturm and Drang as the director, and as the writer and as the producer, you have to be able to solve those issues, you also have to be open, and realize that all ideas are welcome. And that is the key, you can't only just say it's my way, you have to very strong vision. But it's clear that there are people that you hire, who will bring ideas to make you not only a better filmmaker, that makes the film better.

Alex Ferrari 22:46
Now, how do you approach the writing process? Because your your, your, your work is so character driven? How do you how do you just deal with the writing process?

Scott Copper 22:57
Quite quite frankly, and and I work very long stretches from early in the morning, through lunch, take a break, and then get back at it because I do kind of what Coppola did, which is like this vomit draft, where you don't go back and edit. You literally write the story from page one to page 120 or however long it is without going back to edit and reading it it very often will be terrible to see if if this is a story that you would want to race out to see on Friday night. That's my litmus test. And before I became a writer, I would study Robert towns work I would study free King's work I would study the network perish is the whoever. And I would I would try to understand these are all people who write characters. How is it that they're telling the story largely through subtext. And they're telling it visually, they're telling it with spare dialogue? All these sorts of things that you just keep writing, writing is rewriting and and eventually you come to a place where we feel like you can share a screenplay with Robert Duvall, who's the first one to to read crazy art or now, the person who reads all my scripts, whether he's in them or not, is Christian Bale. Right. Christian has been making films since he's 12. He'll tell you if a story of a character is working quickly. And it's great to have and I'm very fortunate to have those kinds of trusted collaborators who read my things, and help guide me because so often, and even in the editorial process, you get very Snowblind it's snowballing and you can't quite see think things are great. But then there are other people who will come in and say this didn't quite land for me. This isn't working. This is overstated. This is understated. So all of those sorts of things. I'm just getting a text from my pal Casey Affleck right now speaking. So Alex, that's really hitman. It's about how do you use other people's ideas? Look at I mean, I can't say enough to young filmmakers read great screenplays. see not only what a writer is trying to express, but what they aren't. So much is left to the unspoken, that will make a real connection with the audience. And I tell people all the time, first time filmmakers tell the truth. write stories that are close to you that you know, and personalize everything. Because then if you do, your theme will become universal. And it will speak to most everybody because we're all suffering, right? And we all if you if you deign to make the kind of films that I do, you want to move people, or you want to challenge people, a great filmmaker who shall remain unnamed, once said to me, and this guy's one of the greats. He said, Scott, if everybody likes you film, it's likely not very good.

Alex Ferrari 25:57
Very true. Now do you outline at all

Scott Copper 26:02
If I'm adapting something, if I'm writing an original, it's funny because I use Kubrick again, because I've read everything he's ever said, Oh, me to my friend to me to all of his interviews. And he would never direct an original screenplay always has to be based on existing material, because he says you can sit down in one city and tell this is a story that I want to tell. This is what I want to spend the next five years of my life. Outlining can be really quite helpful. If there's existing, the pale blue i Very sprawling novel, more characters that I could, that I could or should explore on a two hour timeframe different if you're making a limited series. Something that's longer, more sprawling, you should certainly outline but original screenplay. It helps it helps to give you guideposts as you're writing for sure. But certainly, if you're adapting something, and it's really all about finding the essence of the novel, or nonfiction pieces, or magazine, or whatever it is you're adapting podcast. And then it helps to outline that for sure. But there's also something very freeing about not knowing where narrative is going. You have a kernel of an idea, like out of the furnace and off I went in and just wrote, and I was doing press for crazy hard. I was in Pittsburgh, drove over to Braddock, Pennsylvania, wrote very specifically for all of these locations, took images. Out of that came the narrative. So I do both. I've just just adapted something that I hope to make certainly my next film or a film after that. And I didn't outline, I'd read the novel four or five times William Goldman, but certainly once he realized he was going to read something and read it two or three times, did I like it the second time as much as the first, what are the themes? Who are the characters that I'm going to exercise, who the characters I'm going to focus on. That's, that's the piece that I just that I've just adapted with that. When you have someone who's given you a great piece of source material, like for instance, those by art in the pale blue eye, you can take that. And if the author knows and understands that a film is very different than a book, you could just use a sea and off you go. So it really is is project continue whether I outline or not. I don't do always.

Alex Ferrari 28:42
Now, as directors, there's always that day on set where we feel like the entire world's coming crashing down around you the sun's every day there is that but there's that one day that's like, oh, I don't think we're going to make it that day that you like holy cow. What was that day on any of your projects? And how did you overcome it?

Scott Copper 29:00
Well, you never have enough time. Honestly, even though you've got and I've got 55 days to shoot this Jesus, I had 24 for crazy heart. Every day by the time you're finished up, you know, there are no easy days on a film set. One of them of course is is if you have to vacate a location because it's a restaurant that you've rented or someone's house and they're ready to move back in. Or it can be because you have monsoon rains coming and that would have been in hostiles where I was shooting the sequence towards the end of the film where Rory Cocker this character before he before he meets his maker and it's pouring rain and it's I think it's probably 38 degrees. It's going to be snowing later. Rory is dressed only in a very thin shirt, but we hadn't quite gotten the scene but I could tell that he was. He was very affected by the weather and was starting to become hypothermic. I'm not a doctor, I'm supposing I can see how it was affecting him. In these monsoon rains up in the Continental Divide, you just can't control but it was giving me everything that I wanted in the scene. So you're trying to balance somebody's help with also trying to know that you have to vacate a location, vacate a location and trying to balance the scene but and I would go to Rory and say, Listen, I think we have this. But I'm also very concerned that you are experiencing something now that you shouldn't be. No, Scott, I haven't quite gotten it is what Rory would say, we're going to keep pushing. And then you're sitting behind the monitor next to the lens and you're thinking okay, man, I've got to stop him because he'll keep going until it until he falls down. Because he's that kind of actor he's so great, Rory, great actors I've worked with. So seems like that really pressure you or when the monsoon rains and rattlesnakes have come out of the ground, they're everywhere, but you're still shooting, you know, those sorts of things. So it's all about really balancing. And you know, if you're 810 1000 feet above sea level, and oxygen very difficult for people, it's always trying to balance those sort of things, or shooting the pale blue eye and and it's eight below zero. And those are long days. And you want to make certain that the crew are well taken care of. But if you're the writer, director, producer, and you're in a location, and you're focused on that, and then but you're also concerned about the crews. Well being you know, those are things that you really have to juggle as a filmmaker they certainly don't teach you in film school having gone to film school, I don't know for sure, but I suspect they don't rattlesnake. Elevation,

Alex Ferrari 31:57
I missed the rattlesnake. Bears bronze class. When I went at least it wasn't there. It wasn't in the curriculum. I went I went.

Scott Copper 32:08
Right. Maybe there should be a class on.

Alex Ferrari 32:10
I mean, if someone's listening at USC USC film school should have that exactly. Now, I've talked to so many writers that when they are when they're writing, and it happens, it's happened to me, it happens to every writer, I think, is when you're writing you, you're almost channeling, you're almost like it's something flowing through you to what point to the point where after you're done, you look at and you go, Holy crap, who wrote this, this is good,

Scott Copper 32:41
Almost every time. And quite frankly, it comes from a very deep, subconscious place. I mean, you're very conscious as you're writing it. But you're not questioning that my wife asked me that all the time when she when she reads something. She's like Jesus, where'd this come from, and you can't quite really understand it. And, and quite frankly, the more films you make, and the more experienced you become known as a film director, but as a film writer, the more difficult it gets about saying less, and not over imparting to the audience, and trying to give them enough information to keep them satisfied, but not too much information. And that's where you become more conscious about it. But generally, if you're writing, if you're in that flow, and that stream of consciousness, and it's coming from a place, don't question it, and don't stop

Alex Ferrari 33:30
So it seems like it's, you know, we could call it the other side, the ether, wherever ideas come from ethics, Spielberg talked about it. And I think Prince and Michael Jackson talked about it as well, like where ideas come from. And I think Spielberg said it in an interview where he's like, if an idea comes to me, I know that if I don't act on it, in a week or two, I'll hear that Marty got it, or someone else got it, because the idea needs to be birthed into the world. And they chose you first. But if you don't move, they'll move on to the next one.

Scott Copper 34:02
Look at those are three geniuses that you just mentioned. So I wouldn't question any of that, but I think he's probably right. And I try not to I try not to question anything, honestly, in terms of where it comes from, because when you make the kind of films that that I make you you have to understand that no two people see the same film. Right. And which is why I think it's so frankly, absurd to rank art as we do in America. What's the best, you know? Who do you Who do you think's a better painter Cy Twombly or Jackson Pollock? You're gonna have very responses, right from a number of people when you present them with that. Are those better Meyer miles or Coltrane? Right? Those were things in the fact that we that we rank are something that are a whole nother discussion. Keep out. But you can't really be concerned with any of that when you are making a film, or when you're. So these come from don't know, how are people going to receive this?

Alex Ferrari 35:13
Oh, God, no, you can't think that. No, you have to just let it come out. And, and that's where I think a lot of writers

Scott Copper 35:20
Will be generic and easily forgotten.

Alex Ferrari 35:24
One thing I've noticed with your work is, it seems that there hasn't been a drop off. Meaning that the level that you were able to set the bar, you were able to sit with Crazy Heart, you've been able to keep that film after film, on the level of the writing and the directing, because to be honest, and I know you know this as well, there are directors who pop, but then they overthink or they and then you could start seeing it in their work, their work starts to drop off, unfortunately. Do you think when you wrote crazy heart where you were basically, there was no pressure to recreate the heart? Oh, no, no, that nobody? No, no. So it was such a freeing experience that you let go? Yes. Do you? Are you able to continuously do that with your work? Or do you start to get in your own way and stop that flow sometimes from happening?

Scott Copper 36:13
Well, both only because my work explores the darker corners of the human psyche. And since crazy heart have gotten progressively darker, although pale blue eyes, certainly it's not that I mean, that's much more accessible. So you try to guard against that, only because you know that your films affect people in ways and I've been to countless screenings over the last six movies, where people have come out of my films as though they were just, you know, festivals, screenings, because they were just hit by a two by four. And you can tell that they were deeply moved or deeply angered, or upset. Whatever it is. So you're sometimes mindful of that, like, you know, and I never tried to make the same film twice, you make it music film, you make a gangster movie, a Western for our family, hard trauma with antlers. And now this. So I never tried to repeat myself, but I also never let the audience off the hook. And that is something that you sometimes have to be reminded, because look we want I mean, movies are an expensive endeavor, and their investment want their movies at least to break even. But they want to make money. You know, it's cliche as it is it is show business and not show art. So I've been lucky to make the kind of films that I make. And quite frankly, I think actors and other directors, whether they're my contemporaries, or people that I have long, long admired became a filmmaker, because of them, have embraced my work in ways that the public just isn't aware of. And that really keeps you going. Walter Hill, got an email from Walter today, telling me how much that he loved pale blue eye. And what he thinks is my same reason I bring it up because you just mentioned it, and how he's seen my career ascend. And if you know, I think people are thankful when directors really, really respect the audience, and want to give them something that's challenging and something that's different, and most importantly, something that, and I do believe this will stand the test of time.

Alex Ferrari 38:31
Let me I gotta ask you this question. Because I mean, we you and I are both of the generation that remembers all those great filmmakers. You talked about all those great movies, from the 70s in the 60s in the in the 80s. And I feel like those kinds of filmmakers and to be honest filmmakers, like yourself aren't dangered species right now. Because of what's happening in the in the business. There's, it's, it's just getting crazier and crazier. And if it wasn't for people like Netflix, you know, a pale blue eye, which is your new movie. That's not getting a theatrical release today. That's not being made today. It just wouldn't get made unless it was with a streamer who wants to do that kind of work. Because the studios, honestly, if Scorsese is having a problem getting his films made, and he has to go to netflix. We're all in trouble.

Scott Copper 39:28
So we'll make it his new film.

Alex Ferrari 39:30
Right, exactly. So what do you think about the future of where we're going? Because as a film lover, I'm seeing I'm seeing a problem, the new generation coming up. It's,

Scott Copper 39:41
I mean, Christian and I just spoke about it today. Because the pale blue eyes debut on Netflix, it's been in theaters for the last two weeks. I mean, I'm eternally grateful that Netflix have allowed this film should people want to see it in the big screen experience to debut in the top markets. All over the world, you got two weeks to see it in a theater, if you want to see that. And should you want to wait until it comes to your house, which is what most people will do to your home theater. That's how the majority of people will see my film, then that's how they're gonna see. I am eternally grateful that Netflix, Apple, Amazon are making films that the legacy studios no longer want to make, because those are the films that that the reason I became a filmmaker, and the movies that still excite me, I mean, I've been asked to do major superhero films, or the kind of films that that guarantee an audience have been offered as many times and have as of yet elected not to do them because I want to tell these stories. Stories that make me want to race out to see a film on Friday night. It's getting tougher and tougher. Because if you look at this fall, and some of my pals their films, that debuted in cinemas just no one came to see them. And these are excellent films, and made them with the highest craftsmanship in great performances. And it's a bit terrifying, and we're heading into potentially strike here. we potentially could be facing the facing, you know, economic headwinds. So all of these things make it more difficult for people to get their films made. Certainly more difficult than than it does for Scorsese. Or, or, or your those Landmaster, myself, whoever are making, you know, challenging adult dramas. But still, it's never easy. And I fear that people until we're really beyond COVID, which we certainly are not. I think an older audience won't come back. And I think ticket price is probably going to have to come down to entice people to come back to the cinemas. But I can assure you because you look around the world are such great cinema being made. And those are the films that I most respond to, quite frankly, international filmmakers who've inspired me a great deal over the last 1520 years. They're still getting their films made. Their their home, countries sometimes help subsidize them, which we don't quite have here. It is getting tougher, but then every year movies come out you think okay, great. This is why we love cinema. It's just just getting harder and harder. Alex and James Rockwell any filmmaker, you should make the film you're about to make is though it's your last.

Alex Ferrari 42:58
Yeah, and it's good. You know, a lot of times, well, first of all, I think what you said about foreign films, we're getting access to them so much easier now because of streaming services. They're just coming in, and something like parasite winning the Oscar and things like that, that would have never happened. No, 1020 years ago, we just wouldn't have happened. So that's a good, those are good signs. But the younger generation of filmmakers coming up because I teach these filmmakers I they listen to me all the time. And, and they watch the show. And it's I see them at festivals, and I see them at events and I talk to them and it's just it's so much harder now to get stuff off the ground than it was before and especially to tell the kind of challenging stories that you're telling. And I mean, any of Kubrick's films, any of them tried to release them today. Oh, any Kubrick film today release it. It's not it's not even possible. You can you imagine the Clockwork Orange, I watched the other day, just the first. The first 20 minutes of that. I'm like, you can't release that today. It's just not in today's environment. You can't release a film like that. Or a taxi driver?

Scott Copper 44:10
No. Are you kidding? Are students dispirited from from following their passions? Or do they you know, it's gonna be a tougher road to hoe?

Alex Ferrari 44:21
Well, this is the thing, man, I think that filmmakers, the younger film generation coming up, are still stuck. A lot of times in the glory days, which in many ways for our generation was the 90s, which was the independent film movement, the Sundance movement where and I've spoken to a lot of these filmmakers, you know, the Ed Burns and the Robert Rodriguez and the Tarantino is these guys that there were legendary stories of what happened in the 90s. And they're stuck into that world that like think that that's the path and I keep yelling from the top of the mountain. This is not the way anymore but you can't. I talked to Ed burns about Brothers McMullen. That movie wouldn't make it De Klerk wouldn't make it today. El Mariachi wouldn't make it today. Slacker wouldn't make it today. It's there and they think that that's the path. So then I have to kind of break that illusion a bit. And then they go, Well, what do I do? And I go you that the game is so different now. And it's so much easier to make a film. But it's so much harder to get it seen. Because when we were coming up, it was impossible to make a film cos you needed 35 You need 16 If you were lucky, and then you had to really understand technology, you really need to understand lighting now anyone can make it I had Shaun Baker on a few a couple times on my show it what did he did with tangerine with the iPhone and and cameras are so cheap and things look so good

Scott Copper 45:45
Sean's doing it the right way.

Alex Ferrari 45:47
No, Sean is amazing. And he's, you know, Red Rocket, I love red rocket. I saw I saw that in the theater shot that 16 It was great. But that but that it's I think people are starting to get disheartened a bit. And I think what we're our generation looked into the 90s, let's say for for hope. And and of course, obviously the 70s and the 80s. And the 60s and the great filmmakers and the legends. We were we kind of like if you remember when that when everybody wanted to grow up to be a rock star, right. Then, in the 90s, everybody wanted to grow up to be a director, because Quinton made it so cool. And Robert made it so cool. And it was just like everybody. Yeah, so Soderbergh everybody was so cool to be a director. Now, the younger generation didn't, they want to be content creators. They want to be YouTubers to tell their stories, and they're able to monetize they're much faster than they could with film. And then don't get me started about film distribution, which is a whole other world that I've deep into as far independent film distribution. So it's such a difficult, it's so hard, man, at certain levels. Yeah, you're gonna get the rank Googlers that come out of film school and, and make some great films and your film like crazy are these but these are anomalies. I mean, your story is an anomaly, right? So I don't know, I don't know where this conversation is going. But I just love to hear your thoughts on where you think from your point of view.

Scott Copper 47:09
Well, now you might want to crawl up in the fetal position. Jesus, Alan Toro, who write my film antlers, and yes, it was a great pal of mine said, he said, Look, you know, if COVID remind us of anything, we know that we need food. We need shelter. We need medicines, and we need stories. And we will always need films, we will always always need long form television. Whether it's content, as you mentioned, on YouTube, whether it's short films, people need stories we always have ever since when we go back to caveman, right, the corpse of corpse, in cave art in caves in France and elsewhere. So that I'm not concerned about what I am concerned about are the economic headwinds. The difficulty to entry for the marketplace? The marketplace and distribution. And my hope is that that I don't know that we're on the tail end of COVID. Hopefully, still have it now. And it's as bad as ever as intense as ever. Hopefully, once people come back, the older audience come back to cinemas, perhaps it will get easier. But I don't know that film going is the first choice for 18 to 34 year olds. I have kids, they love going to the cinema. They try to go as often as possible. But it's also because I'm a film director, I love to go to the movies. But they're also on Tik Tok all the time. And they're on Instagram and they're on YouTube. owns YouTube. Yeah. So it's it's there are many things that are challenging our time for movies. Because it's expensive and time consuming to get to the to the cinema. I hope that changes. I hope that that will shake out with COVID and the Lego studios now realize that making films, like the films that I make are more important, but it's really all about economics always has been,

Alex Ferrari 49:25
But you know, it has but I think that the studios are now run by corporations and by boards of directors. Oh, but before they were run by filmmakers, you know, you know, I mean, arguably Iger, Bob Iger is probably the only guy who understands it. Look what he's done with Disney for God's sakes. He got his back and think he's back. He understood he understands storytelling understands filmmaking. But I remember growing up I worked at a video store and we would have movies like What About Bob? You know, and these smaller films in Virginia. Right, exactly. So the smaller films with big stars Nice budgets, you know, 10 million 15 million, that there was a shot that do 10 Of those, and one would pop, and the other ones would do, okay, and then maybe two or three would bomb, but they will all work together. And there was more content, more ideas, more things. And that's why we're going back to those times to mind those ideas, because everyone's terrified of doing that kind of stuff right now, where Netflix, and Amazon and Apple aren't scared to do that, because their business model is different. That's right.

Scott Copper 50:28
And I suspect that there are a lot of different streaming platforms, which are expensive for people to have six or eight of them. I imagine that there will be fewer going forward. And but those will still be providing great content. And that's, of course, Netflix and Apple and Amazon Disney plus who are well capitalized. But then I think you'll probably also see some consolidation. And the less buyers the worse off for all of us.

Alex Ferrari 51:03
Agreed my friend agreed that's without question

Scott Copper 51:06
Companies like Sony Pictures, classics, and my good friends at Fox Searchlight who backs Yeah, a couple of my films, and they and they really are run by filmmakers. Films, year in and year out. They're great supporters of film

Alex Ferrari 51:24
A24 A24.

Scott Copper 51:26
And, and and now and of course, Netflix, Netflix as a whole division that will allow you to make Romo or Bardot or power of the dog or the pale blue eye or on and on and on. And hopefully we can continue to make that because there's so many young filmmakers who are listening to this podcast or your podcast in general, who have stories to tell and should be absolutely, there's no problem. And if you can, if you have that burning desire that says this is the only thing I can do with my life, which is ultimately what I said, then you'll find a way to succeed and tell your story.

Alex Ferrari 52:01
Amen, brother, I think that's that's the key is it's not and maybe you should, maybe you can back me up on this. It's always not about the talent. But perseverance, because there's a lot of people who are around. They're like, man, they're not the best, but they just stuck it out.

Scott Copper 52:18
They just survived. Oh, yeah, we all know examples of that for sure. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 52:24
And that's something they don't teach you in film school. It's like, I don't look, Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan got cut from his high school team talent wasn't enough talent wasn't he had to go and hustle and work and build it up and keep going. And, and that's something that I try to I try to yell at from the top of the mountain here as well.

Scott Copper 52:41
Hey, if you had my pal, Adam Sandler on to talk about hustle,

Alex Ferrari 52:45
Please, I would love to have Adam on the show. Please call them up and let them know because I love the show. He should be on. I don't know why he didn't come on hustle. I love by the way, love that movie, love.

Scott Copper 52:56
He's a great, great man. And he's great in the film. And

Alex Ferrari 52:59
If he's if you want to talk about Adam, and people always ask, like, how come Adam keeps getting all these this deal on Netflix? And I always say like, the reason why is because when you're on Friday night with your wife sitting on Netflix, and you're scanning all those thumbnails and you see Adams face. You go, I know what I'm gonna get. And I'm gonna get some livers, man, and he's going to be super funny. Or when he gets into this drop dramatic stuff, which is so underrated. It's dramatic acting great. He and he just he gets it and he understands his brand. He understands what he's doing. And man, he unlike any other actor, I really, he's he's done such amazing stuff over the years. Whether you like yeah, whatever you like. I don't care if people like his films or not everyone has their opinions on stuff. But you can't deny what the man has done. And continue to do it keeps knocking it out of the park. I love to hustle. I love to hustle. So good. I love the guy. So let's talk about the pale blue I you know with Netflix, I you know, it looks beautiful dude. It's stunning. It is stunningly shot. It almost reminded it almost has a Sleepy Hollow vibe to it as far as it gets. Yeah, that's right, that that has that kind of texture? Well, for sure. It's It's stunning, man. So tell me how that that whole thing came to be and and how you were able I mean, I'm assuming you gave the script to Christian Christian said yes. And then Netflix.

Scott Copper 54:31
Yeah, he read it probably a lot. I don't know 10 or 12 years ago after we get out of the furnace. That he was too young to play Augustus landour The world where he detected with too old to play. Edgar Allan Poe, but we'd always talked about it. I mean, I've written a lot of things that I think he and I will make at some point. It's all about as we discussed early on in the podcast, all about timing availability, what we feel like making but we both We're interested in what drives someone to madness, how much pressure has to build before they explode. And violence is what causes morality and decency to erode and otherwise decent people. Right? real horrors seldom have easy explanations. And that's what we wanted to explore with the story. In terms of the aesthetic. It was a it was a brutal shoot is all my wife thinks I'm a masochist. But like I said, it was incredibly cold was bracing winds coming from the northeast, or just almost revenant style. Yeah, it was it was tough. But that was all in serving kind of this Gothic aesthetic, and, and really trying to serve as a, an Edgar Allan Poe origin story, that the two hours that take place in this film, motivate Poe to become the writer that we know and love, the writer of the McCobb, the man who bequeathed to us detective and horror fiction, the man who writes about tragedy and death and the Satanic and the occult, and where life ends and death begins, all those sorts of things that kind of course, through this narrative. And I thought that again, in trying not to do Safe Work. Christian stood on that ledge with me. And then we both took the took the leap, and we're, yeah, so once I attached Christian, my agency, creative artists took the screenplay out and, and we got a lot of bids from Legacy studios, a lot of bids from streamers. But Netflix made us an offer that we thought was too good to pass up in terms of having both a theatrical experience and streaming my first platform experience. And also, quite frankly, there there have the ranks are filled with great filmmakers who really understood the film and allowed me to make the film that you see. I hoped that people find it, you know, starting today on the on the streamer and, and allow people coming behind me to make films that are similarly difficult to make in this marketplace.

Alex Ferrari 57:21
And you've worked with Christian so many times now. I mean, you guys are you're the Scorsese to his dinero at this point, or to his DiCaprio, at this point. Christian is one of the greatest actors of his generation. There's no no question one of the greatest actors of his generation, and his physical transformations that he's done over the course of his life, which I know it's harmed his health.

Scott Copper 57:43
Oh, it has to harm himself. And

Alex Ferrari 57:46
There's nobody who's ever done anything at that again, and again, and again. And again, from the machine is to Batman. You're like, what, how? Tao? How? It's really remarkable. What is the what is the biggest lesson you've learned working with an actor like him?

Scott Copper 58:05
No detail is too small. And always striving for the truth. always striving for excellence, and realizing that we can always do better. And you need people like that to make you a better filmmaker. spoken about it publicly, Christian is my closest pal, my closest collaborator, is a brother to me. And and I'm thankful that as a director, I've had someone who has served as a muse for, for the stories that I want to tell, and people continue to come out and see our work, it won't be the end of it, our collaboration for sure. But he pushes me to be the best filmmaker I can be. And and quite frankly, I admired him more off the set than I do on music is incredibly devoted father and husband and you'll never see Christian in the public eye. You never see him on talk shows. Because he always thinks the less the public knows about him, the more easily they will believe Him as Batman, or Dick Cheney, or Augustus landour and the pale blue where he pumps his gas who he's partying with, where he went through holiday. Never see it.

Alex Ferrari 59:16
Yeah, it's almost a Daniel Day Lewis vibe to because when Daniel, he just wouldn't you don't? Nothing. You didn't do nothing about it. He just show up. 310 years later, I'll do a part now.

Scott Copper 59:27
And that way, you're able to be transported with the filmmakers to a world never even question. Hold on. Is he dating?

Alex Ferrari 59:36
You're right. You're right. He's brilliant. He's brilliant on multiple levels without question, and I have I continue to write for him. Now I have a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Scott Copper 59:49
Tell personal stories, tell personal stories that you know will connect in a very universal way to people in America. Are people in Iran, people in Afghanistan, people in Ukraine, all people need stories tell make personal films?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:08
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Scott Copper 1:00:14
It's difficult but patience, and to believe in yourself into Believe in your stories and to believe that you will ultimately cultivate your talent in such a way that it will be undeniable that people will want to work with you. But it all takes patience and experience.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Scott Copper 1:00:38
I would say even though I have yet to make a documentary, I love them. I would say Barbara couples, Harlan County, USA. That's a great movie. One thing that really has influenced me the Maysles brothers salesman. It's another I would say John Pierre Melville's, Last Samurai.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:06
Nice. Very nice, very nice list. My friend, Scott brother, I appreciate you coming on the show and and sharing all your knowledge and experience with the audience, man and please continue to make movies man.

Scott Copper 1:01:15
Great questions, man. Keep it up and please people. In all seriousness, don't lose faith. We got to tell stories.

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BPS 347: Oscars®, Zombies, James Bond And Tom Hanks With Marc Forster

Marc Forster is a German-born filmmaker and screenwriter. He is best known for directing the films Monster’s Ball (2001), Finding Neverland (2004), Stay (2005), Stranger than Fiction (2006), The Kite Runner (2007), Quantum of Solace (2008), and World War Z (2013).

His breakthrough film was Monster’s Ball (2001), in which he directed Halle Berry in her Academy Award-winning performance; the film also starred Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, and Peter Boyle. His next film, Finding Neverland (2004), was based on the life of author J.M. Barrie. The film was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Johnny Depp.

Forster also directed the twenty-second James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. In 2013 he directed the film adaptation of the novel World War Z, starring Brad Pitt.

His latest film is the remarkable A Man Called Otto.

Based on the # 1 New York Times bestseller “A Man Called Ove,” A Man Called Otto tells the story of Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), a grump who no longer sees purpose in his life following the loss of his wife. Otto is ready to end it all, but his plans are interrupted when a lively young family moves in next door, and he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol.

She challenges him to see life differently, leading to an unlikely friendship that turns his world around. A heartwarming and funny story about love, loss, and life, A Man Called Otto shows that family can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places.

A Man Called Otto stars Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Cast Away), Mariana Treviño (Club the Cuervos), Rachel Keller (Fargo) and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven).

The screenplay is written by Academy Award® nominee David Magee (Best Adapted Screenplay, Life of Pi, 2012; Best Adapted Screenplay, Finding Neverland, 2004) based upon the best-selling novel “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, and the film A Man Called Ove by Hannes Holm.

The film is being produced by Fredrik Wikström Nicastro, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman.

Enjoy my conversation with Marc Forster.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Marc Forster 0:00
I feel once you connect with an actor to make them feel comfortable and understand the visions you have, that's the key thing.

Alex Ferrari 0:08
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 Marc Forster. How you doing Marc?

Marc Forster 0:22
I'm good thank you and you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 0:24
I'm very good, my friend. So my first question we're going to jump right into it is, how did you get started in the business?

Marc Forster 0:31
You know, I grew up in Switzerland, in the mountains in Davos, and you know, surrounded by just nature and not much the parents in a TV. And I always had to play outside to entertain myself versus being entertained. And, and that's sort of inspired me to become a storyteller. The first time I saw a movie in a theater. So that's what I want to do.

Alex Ferrari 0:52
Now, how did you get involved with Monster's Ball because that was a such an impactful and crazy movie.

Marc Forster 1:00
You know, I made a movie called everything put together. And that premiered at Sundance. And the writers saw that movie and time producer, so they all saw it. And they said I would be right for it. And they were trying to get the movie made for like eight years. And the first first couldn't get made. And it was you know, originally Sean Penn directing was Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and Marlon Brando. And it was too expensive. And the first thing they asked me, look, we've been waiting to get this chance for all this time, we would make the movie with you. But can I make it for $3 million. And I made the Sundance movie for 50,000. I said $3 million. I couldn't do that. So that's how I started.

Alex Ferrari 1:40
So when you're when you were directing Haley and Billy Bob in that film, like, Did you just see what was going on with Haley's performance at that point, like, because she was amazing.

Marc Forster 1:51
You know, I didn't predict that she would win an Oscar at the time of shooting, but I definitely saw it when I saw performances, she was extremely powerful, extremely raw and vulnerable. And, and that's what we discussed, and we wanted to go for and that it felt real. And, you know, because how they, you know, is such a, you know, glamorous and beautiful human to really make it believable, the part I felt she worked extra hard.

Alex Ferrari 2:18
How did what advice do you have for directors who want to pull those kinds of raw and, you know, to those kinds of emotions out of an actor, what did you do to make her feel comfortable enough to be that vulnerable on screen.

Marc Forster 2:32
And, you know, ultimately, you you, you know, you discuss the part in depth in your vision and depths, and you communicate your vision. And I feel once you connect with an actor to make them feel comfortable and understand the visions you have, that's the key thing. I mean, for the most vulnerable scene between the intimate scene between Billy Bob and her, you know, there was a closed set, of course, and, and closed everything that they felt totally protected and safe.

Alex Ferrari 3:01
No, now you you made the jump from indie to slightly larger budgets, just slightly, from, from Monsters Ball to the James Bond, how did you handle psychologically the jump from 50,000 to 3 million to a couple 100 million?

Marc Forster 3:17
I mean, that there were a couple of movies between Yes, there was. So so, you know, I had like, I think finance they like for four or five movies in between. So I did the budgets increasingly much bigger. And you know, the one Catona was the one before the Bond movie, but still, it was only like the $25 million range. And it's, it's like, same thing if you have like a, you know, a small sort of boutique shop, or a boutique, you know, custom made shoe to store and then suddenly become CEO of Macy's or something. And, and it's a different thing, you suddenly have so many more people so many more questions. You're shooting seven, seven countries, seven countries all over the world, you know, this $20 million budget and, and history of a franchise that one of the most or the most successful franchise in history, and you suddenly it's suddenly when you start reflecting our thinking, I hope I am not gonna, you know, this is not an awkward guy that that ship is not gonna sink because otherwise my career is over.

Alex Ferrari 4:25
Right, exactly. So what does that feel like being on the set for the first day of shooting Quantum of Solace, and you just sit there like, okay, there's a million people running around trying to get this thing going, how did that feel being on the set on a Bond film such a legendary franchise?

Marc Forster 4:41
You know, to begin with, we started on purpose, the movie very intimate, was not some of the big big action sequences and big sets, so that it felt very familiar to me. I knew the territory. I knew how to do those, those scenes and and from that we started growing, but you know it what feels Like before, you're always under the radar, nobody really cares. And then suddenly a Bond movie and suddenly you have the world press attention on you. And that that is actually the biggest pressure and that I didn't know. So you don't you don't study don't think about that, that suddenly, everyone, and everyone will write about you. And before that nobody will hear.

Alex Ferrari 5:23
How did you deal with that psychologically? And how did that affect if it affected at all your creativity, or your process?

Marc Forster 5:28
I mean, the the process of movie was a tricky one, because there was a writer strike going on, at that time in 2008. So we had a sort of unfinished script, and then the strike was October to February. So it was very tricky. It was often just me, Craig and me in the trade are trying to figure out what we're going to do next. So so that was the even more pressure, I think, if it would have been a completed script that everybody said, this is fantastic. Let's just go and shoot it, it definitely deflates some of the pressure. But if you have something that's not completed, and you're suddenly stuck in that position, and you have a release date, in place, only five weeks to cut the movie. It's, it's kind of intense.

Alex Ferrari 6:09
Now in I mean, obviously, you also worked on World War Z, which is another small, independent budget. How did you deal with the stress of heading up such big productions? I mean, as a director, there's just so many people in so many departments, and you still trying to be creative and still be intimate with your actors? How do you handle that stress?

Marc Forster 6:29
Um, you know, I'm like, it's interesting. I like it was the it's for the mob Israel sequence when the zombies came over the wall. Yeah. Remember that sequence? Of course. So when I drove in the morning, I had a driver drive me to set in multiway, shelter and alter, and we came to set and we pulled up. And he looked at 2000 extras and helicopters in the air and buses and vans going on Friday night, but a driver literally had an anxiety attack, just looking at it.

Alex Ferrari 7:01
Not helpful.

Marc Forster 7:03
And I was like, whoa, what, what are you doing today? So you just go out and you just have to focus and you can't, you have to plan out all the chatter. Yeah. And I think that's one of the key things for directing in general. You know, you have so many voices always in general, from the financier, studio, actors, producers, whatever they do, we stick to your vision, you when you hear chatter, it takes some some stuff you like, but ultimately, you have to stick to your vision. And I think it's part of the art in that to be able to stay calm and blend it out.

Alex Ferrari 7:35
Now, as directors, you know, there's always that day that you feel like the entire world's coming crashing down around you. I'm assuming you have that every day. But um, there's more than there's that one day on any production, that you don't know how you're gonna get through. So what was that day on any of your productions? And how did you overcome it?

Marc Forster 7:51
I think, you know, I would say when we're shooting in western China, the Katonah our line producer forgot two hours before digital it was still wishes to do film. And Atlantis forgot to order film. So so we sort and left you know, short ends. So basically, where we're shooting these scenes, there was a six minute dialogue scene and only have like two minutes of film. So I couldn't tell the actor you can only piecemeal this and she was doing as a piece of so the actors like actors are playing six minutes of roles and acting the harder but only two minutes of filming it. So at the end, I knew there was no film and then I peed I basically next time I'd just shoot the middle and then the end. But sometimes the actress didn't ascend Why do you do so many takes and the second we got it then it was so great. And and but they weren't aware that was super stressful is thinking of these great performances, but you don't have to go on film. And just telling them oh, you know, we don't have a film in the camera right now. Which is like out wasn't, wasn't the right thing to do.

Alex Ferrari 8:56
Now on your new film, a man called Otto which by the way I saw and absolutely loved this such a beautiful film. And Tom Hanks is this newcomer Tom Hanks is fantastic. By the way,

Marc Forster 9:07
A real discovery.

Alex Ferrari 9:09
A real discovery without question. How did you get involved with this project? And also like, it seems like you're going back to your roots a little bit. It's a very intimate film, very small in scope comparatively to the other big things you've done over the over your career.

Marc Forster 9:24
Yeah, you know, I wrote the book, and I was so touched and moved. And I laughed, and I cried, and then I saw that was a Swedish version of the film, which I saw was good, too. So this movie, we have to become a very conversion out of this because it's so you know, it's so funny, but it's also so touching and dark. And it's like both but ultimately, it's a life affirming film. And what I loved about it brings the neighborhood back together. I think we are also divided these days. And I think that still at the end this is you know this I always feel like it's one country where we all need to work together. And even though we have different point of views, and there are so many different characters on that street, which is so sweet, and I like the new neighbor, the Mexican family that moves in across the street, who she comes over and tries to use English food. And I think food is one of those great things that we can literally all share, which, which definitely wants was someone's heart, but she's so persistent, that neighbor that her name is Mariana Trevino, marriage plays Mosel that autos character, who Tom Hanks plays, just that ultimately can't keep us opens up. He can't, he can't take it anymore.

Alex Ferrari 10:40
Do you? Do you still get nervous when you're directing people like Tom Hanks, like, on the first day on set? You're like, Tom Hanks is here.

Marc Forster 10:49
I mean, no key is I love that. And I think he's one of the greatest stars ever. He's definitely, you know, greatest town that we work with. I mean, it's so extraordinary. You know, after 40 years, he still loves what he does, and, and is a big movie star. And he comes in the morning and he sits on set and he never leaves. He's like, in like a meditation. And, you know, usually stars of that caliber, you take to take that out to trainer, he never he stays there all day long as a crew, he just sits there with the crew, and then you realize, change, life doesn't leave. And it's just this concentration and this sort of just being there. It's pretty, pretty special.

Alex Ferrari 11:29
How do you approach the different? How do you approach different acting styles? And you're directing? Because, you know, Tom Hanks is very different than a Halle Berry. That is different than a Brad Pitt? Like how do you adjust multiple characters in the same scene?

Marc Forster 11:43
Yeah, it's basically you, you have to, like find a way to get to connect and see what what the actor needs or not, and how open they are, and how willing you know, some of you know how, how willing they are to collaborate. And I was pretty lucky throughout my career that I always worked with actors who were very open. And we had, I never had, like, you know, the sort of nightmare situation, and that they were very focused and prepared and, and on time, so I never dealt with, with with the, with the Divas of the show business, which I'm, I'm very, very blessed. But at the same time, you just see what what they need, and really try to feel them out. Because sometimes it's better to say nothing than too much said, because sometimes the actor needs that space, and they find it and you as a director, maybe just have to say maybe we can just try a different prop, you know, try this or that it's less than giving you a demo direction is let's try something a different direction. So so that's, you know, how it how it really from person to person difference?

Alex Ferrari 12:47
And how did you balance the darkness of the story with the humor, because you did it so masterfully because you? I mean, you definitely touch upon very, very dark themes in this in this movie, but yet you're laughing and crying and dealing with those things. It's a very fine balancing act you did.

Marc Forster 13:05
Yeah, it's it's a lot of it is in editing because you know, we obviously shot a little bit more here and there. But it's it's finding this balance also, between the flashbacks and present day that you go, you don't stay too much in the flashbacks to come back that emotion. So stay connected with Tom and in the present day. And also in the, in the flashbacks. Ultimately, they just give enough information that creates sort of a mystery and enough for you to wanting to keep watching. And it's juxtaposing sometimes the dark was the humor strangely direct, you know, when places the hinge breaks, and he's on the floor, and he lands right next to the paper wisdom was the you know, yes to $5. And then he says, Let me get that takes you right back into the human.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
Right. It's just like, like, what is he's just did that. And he's like, no, like, it's a good, good. So the deal I gotta keep so beautiful. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions, ask all my guests Marc, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Marc Forster 14:08
I mean, ultimately, I think that, you know, today, you know, you can make your film on your phone. Basically, what it really comes down to is a great story. And I think also, when you find your story, the more personal connection you have with that, the better. It's either, you know, if you don't have the funds, I would recommend to do a short and then have the feature script ready. So you shoot the short and then say, look, there's my short and this feature is going to be and that's how you know how to raise money and, and figure it out and get actors and people that would love the short that's that's take our bet on this guy, or to make a feature for if you can raise the money. But no matter what it all comes down to the script, that the script is really strong and be free. I think it's important to keep it to other people to read the script to have them have a look, get feedback and just keep working. on that, but I think the stronger the script is better. And another thing is, once you make a movie, and you have a movie that works, let's say at Sundance or any of the festivals and someone buys it, that you have a second script ready, because you don't want to too much time say, Oh, I have nothing, I have to write another script or find something for next year or two, to get that going. But at that time, we live in such a fast society that that might have been too late. So I think to have a second project ready is important as well.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Marc Forster 15:37
I think, you know, patience is definitely something you always have to learn, like, even sitting in traffic and staying home. You know, it's like impatience with these people was, you know, as your kids was everything it's like, just to be patient. I think it's really a hard one.

Alex Ferrari 15:56
Um, what did you learn from one of your greatest failures?

Marc Forster 16:01
Yeah, you know, they always say Silicon Valley is built on failures. And seeing failures are truly key for an artist for anyone, because you learn from them. For instance, after Finding Neverland, I made a film called stay. That wasn't Ryan, Ryan Gosling only walks great task where you McGregor great cars. And, and it the critics didn't love it, the artisan love it as part of a little bit of a following throughout the years. But when ultimately, when I made that movie, I think, why doesn't this print that movie work? And then I and out of that movie came straight from fiction, which also is sort of absurd and comedic. But then we worked and I was able to make that sort of absurdness that movie emotional. And it wasn't able to do that in state, even though visually is cool and compelling. But it ultimately didn't connect with people emotionally. And, and strain. Friction that so.

Alex Ferrari 17:05
So then, in the hardest question of all three of your favorite films of all time?

Marc Forster 17:10
Three of my favorite films. Well, I mean, it's a tricky one. You know, like, I love a lot of the dead directors. You know, I love I think in my Birdman, Swedish director, I would say like wild strawberries of his own, we really enjoy it. I, you know, I mean, there's three. There's a tough one,

Alex Ferrari 17:33
Three today. I know it changes tomorrow. So it will be on your tombstone. Don't worry.

Marc Forster 17:38
That, you know, I like you know, I always loved the Marx Brothers duck soup.

Alex Ferrari 17:46
It's so good. It's still, it still holds today.

Marc Forster 17:50
Yes. And I think Howard harps bringing a baby. It's one of my favorites. Because I just love how fast that dialogue goes, and how she performs that. And that's also one of my favorite films.

Alex Ferrari 18:04
And where can people watch A Man Called Otto.

Marc Forster 18:08
Hopefully, they all will watch it in the theaters. Because it's a movie that really, you should experience in a theater. And it's one of those movies, you know, people seem to come and come out for it. And it's something you want to expense together. You laugh and you cry. And you don't want that alone alone at home for TV. So right now, it's still theaters for next couple of weeks. So please go and support it.

Alex Ferrari 18:29
And very last question. I'd love to hear your opinion on this. Yeah, as a filmmaker, we grew up as filmmakers, we grew up loving movies at the theater. But that seems to be it becoming more and more of an endangered species unless there's certain kinds of films. What do you what are your What are your hopes for the future, my friend because it's tougher and tougher to get people at the theater nowadays.

Marc Forster 18:51
You know, Man Called Otto was the kind of movie Hollywood used to make. Yeah. And they don't make very much anymore. And I ran into a few people answered, really, they said, we have hope again, because the main hook auto seems like people came out to see it. And we didn't think those kinds of movies would stop in a theater. And I'm so glad they came and supported the movie. And I hope you know that people keep coming out for movies like that, because that will keep those movies alive because the financier is obviously in the studio's will not pay for a movie when no one shows up. And they very quickly have the algorithms you know that so many people don't. The decisions today are not being made anymore by the gods by like the old studio heads or people it's mostly made by algorithms and marketing. So can I market a movie with who is more can we sell it? They run these numbers and that's that's how it gets done mostly.

Alex Ferrari 19:45
Marc it's a pleasure talking to you my friend. Please keep up the fight the good fight, my friend, keep making the films you're making. I really appreciate it.

Marc Forster 19:52
Thank you so much, Alex. Have a good day! Take care!

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BPS 346: Directing The #1 Christmas Film On Netflix With Janeen And Michael Damian

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Janeen Damian 0:00
I think that it starts with the fact that we have very similar artistic tastes and tendencies. And so our vision tends to be a cohesive idea. And we don't really argue a lot about stuff because we, we tend to like the same things. And we, we tend to want and a lot, and especially because we write, you know, most of us have at least rewrite and polish everything we do. We're so close to it, we've already worked through it. So

Michael Damian 0:32
We finished a lot of thoughts in writing, like, we'll be writing and she'll start a sentence. And then I'll just say it just comes out and finishing and that she's perfect. And then I ended and then she does the other character. And then we start to have a dialogue and we start acting out the scenes right there in the office. And so it's

Janeen Damian 0:48
Between the script and then pre production, we're mostly we'd like to we're really specific about everything that we want to put on screen. So by the time that we finally get there, I think that we have a pretty good a pretty good idea and we don't really have a lot to fight about except for fight for something together.

Alex Ferrari 1:08
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 the show to Janeen and Michael Damian, How're you guys doing?

Janeen Damian 1:23

Michael Damian 1:25
Alex hi!

Janeen Damian 1:25
So nice to be here. Thank you for having us.

Alex Ferrari 1:28
Oh, thank you for coming on the show. This is like a Christmas special episode because I haven't had a like a Christmas heavy filmmaking, you know, partnership on before. I mean, looking at your filmography. You guys are fairly obsessed.

Michael Damian 1:44
She has some decorations here. I just realized we don't have any decorations.

Janeen Damian 1:50
Heavy weights before that. Yeah,

Michael Damian 1:51
Yeah, we're honored we'll take it.

Alex Ferrari 1:55
Before we get started, I have to ask you one question. What was it like working on the set of Captain EO?

Janeen Damian 2:02
Oh, that was a career highlight, I have to say,

Alex Ferrari 2:06
For everybody for everybody listening. Captain EO was a short film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola produced by George Lucas starring Michael Jackson in 1983, something like that he 45. In that world, when Michael Jackson was basically at the they just made a they made an amusement park ride around Michael Jackson at that point. That's how big he was. And it was, I remember seeing it at Epcot. And many times and I've watched it online ever since. But I've never spoke with anybody was on set. What was that like?

Janeen Damian 2:40
It was it was phenomenal. You know, the production design was by the production designer who did Blade Runner so. So there was all that steam and all this crazy smoking. And it was really loud, actually. And Michael had to speak with me to everybody with his with a microphone on there. And when we first we actually hadn't rehearsed with Michael, we rehearse without him. And then he came out on set. And the very first take, you know, you got Francis Ford Coppola yelling action. You've got George Lucas, who's created this 3d camera for this movie and bleachers, for guests like Elizabeth Taylor, Nick Cage. And you know, it was just this celebrity bleacher over there. And I was in the bleach and Michael was in the waiter, I got to invite Michael because Michael is a celebrity too. So that was there watching it. And they and so when he yelled action, Michael Jackson goes. And it was rainbows flew out of him. And it blew all our hair back. And we all messed up the choreography, the first take, and they had to redo it. But it was really amazing. It was an amazing experience. So that's one of those special ones.

Alex Ferrari 3:49
I mean, I think it's such an in the George Lucas Coppola and Michael Jackson all of like, with a short film with an insane budget that never would have had happened any other way other than if it was an amusement park ride. Like,

Janeen Damian 4:06
I mean, Angelica Houston was was the was the Wicked Witch as well.

Alex Ferrari 4:10
I forgot. She just did such a great job. I can't recognize her. But she was there.

Janeen Damian 4:15
She was terrifying and fabulous.

Michael Damian 4:17
I told him about the music wasn't loud enough when they first started. And Michael Jackson couldn't feel the music, the rhythm and so he quietly

Janeen Damian 4:28
So he gets it gets on the microphone and he says, you know, I'm sorry. I can't feel I'm not gonna try to him. Anyway, he says, I'm sorry, I can't feel the rhythm of the music and until I can, I can't work so thank you very much. And then he and Macaulay Culkin whom you keep brought with him left. And we all stood there said okay, what's happening? And so that's when we're going to take a break. And while we're waiting, they bring in these ginormous stacks. Have martial speakers that go from all the way to the to the ceiling. I go to the soundstage. And that and then the music was so loud that, you know, we came back in and Michael was happy. Everybody's happy. We're shooting and then we get a visit from next door and they were shooting Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy in WarGames, WarGames is that? Yeah, I'm working. And they said, Well, we hear you were over here, so we can't work now. And so we had to stagger our shooting between work and

Michael Damian 5:32
It was either war games, or I think it was more games or

Alex Ferrari 5:35
No it was war games with John John Batum directed that one. Yeah.

Janeen Damian 5:38
Yeah. So that so that was kind of that was, I don't even know how they work that out. But they worked it out to where we actually rotated, who was going to shoot when awesome. So that's insane. It's a great story, though. And it was really, it was intense and amazing. And we had a phenomenal photographer. So

Alex Ferrari 5:59
How long did you guys shoot for, by the way,

Janeen Damian 6:03
Month that we were I mean, it was also it was we had rehearsals as well, and then they shut up shot a bunch of stuff without us without the dancer. So that was that was a big printer. We were on that show for I was on it for a month, but I don't actually know

Alex Ferrari 6:19
What I had. When I saw that on your filmography. I had to ask you, so thank you for indulging me. I appreciate that. Yeah, how did that how did you guys meet and start collaborating working together as a direct producers?

Michael Damian 6:32
Oh, how did we meet? Well, we met on an airplane. And I thought that Jane's dad was her boyfriend because I didn't know at the time and I later found out it was her dad and it was awesome. And I was like, Oh great, because it was one of my favorite actors James best Roscoe from the Dukes of Hazzard. So I got himself a young girlfriend. But I want to make her mind. Jessie's Girl Roscoe is the girl now. And we met at Utah going to the Osmonds, Children's Miracle Network. telefone. And that's where we first met. And then we started writing together. Janine was dancing. You know, she was on the show solid gold she was dancing with, as you know, Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael, Elton John. Dinah Ross, Lionel Richie, the list goes on and on. And on a mile long. It said I was doing young and the restless and my music career. Rob, you know, tours and Broadway and all that. And we just started. We started writing together. We started with a script as short stories in New York. Yeah, started there. And

Janeen Damian 7:40
Well, Michael started he wanted to, he wanted to try the other side of camera. So he actually was the impetus to us trying to write together actually he was writing and he said, Well, we can write I said, Well, we can't write. We're not writers.

Michael Damian 7:54
Well, Janine really helped me a lot. You are you're a

Janeen Damian 7:58
Guy that he doesn't take No, he doesn't put limits on himself. And so it was really amazing the way we've made that career pivot together, but it started small and then just kept going. And we

Alex Ferrari 8:13
Mike, if I may. Correct. Rosco P Coltrane. If you if you just go be

Michael Damian 8:17
Coltrane. Yeah, you got to put the gold

Alex Ferrari 8:23
Trade back in the day. Oh my god, solid gold. I remember watching that growing up, Mike. That's it. I'm going back for Michael Jackson.

Michael Damian 8:30
Roscoe was Quentin Tarantino who was engineerings dad's acting school. And he was one of the students.

Alex Ferrari 8:36
Also, he's he was the one that was teaching Quinton, How to Act back in the day when he was trying to be an actor,

Michael Damian 8:42
Urging them to write their scripts. And he brought scripts in from Reservoir Dogs and Janine would rehearse the scenes with him. Because, you know, she was just an actor. Yeah. And she was always she was very kind to everyone. And she was rehearsing dialogue. And the scenes are like, it's kind of weird that all these characters with bizarre names and Mr. What

Janeen Damian 9:00
Were the listeners think Mr. Blonde? Yeah, Mr. Payne? Yeah,

Michael Damian 9:04
She was just kind of wild, you know, but he's really, you know, passionate about, you know, quit acting.

Alex Ferrari 9:10
I've never heard this guy. Did he ever do anything ever come out of him? Did he ever do anything else? Yeah. Never heard

Michael Damian 9:21
About the Oscars all the time.

Alex Ferrari 9:23
Anytime you write something, you just see him at the Oscars.

Michael Damian 9:26
Oh, he's amazing. I love Quinton. So those are all really fun. These are all the movie experiences, you know that we grew up in our background. You know what you mean when I say dance? It's really important because she worked with Barry Levinson. She worked with a lot of well there so the list goes on and on. Some great people and I got a chance to work with Gary Marshall and a lot of faculty directors and so you know, this was our background we were take we were like sponges, not really knowing, not realizing effort. time, this will be transferred to the other side of the camera. We were just taking it all in, as performers, and, and you know, great experiences and always listening. And you know, I had a great opportunity working with Angela Webber for two years when I did Joseph on Broadway. And that was an amazing experience. So we got, we got all these, you know, these amazing mentors. And that's really kind of that's why it started.

Alex Ferrari 10:23
So I mean, you it was pretty much osmosis at this point. You're just kind of absorbing it all just being on set. Yeah. For Masters. I mean, you're talking about legends. Yeah, yes,

Janeen Damian 10:33
Exactly. It's really inspiring and a little intimidating, but at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 10:39
I mean, I can only imagine being on set and just watching these these masters work, and then just not knowing that this will ever do anything else for you, other than like, oh, you know, it's nice that I worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber and, and parva joven

Michael Damian 10:54
Fans, and really, it was great. And it's really great to you know, we ran into Paul a couple times. And it was their home and, and it was really wonderful to see how we reacted when he saw you Jeanine, it was it was what do you say?

Janeen Damian 11:09
He was really nice to me. Yeah. So that was a that was a really fun experience working with him because he's kind of a little bit of a different personality than what I had worked with before.

Michael Damian 11:19
They worked on Basic, Basic Instinct.

Alex Ferrari 11:21
And I saw that too. I was asked about you worked on basic is, you know, so funny. I have a funny Paul story. Paul Verhoeven story. I reached out to his people a year or a year or two ago. I'm like, Hey, would you like to come to? I'm a huge fan, Paul, you know, would you like to come on the show? And he goes, Paul, is going to respectfully decline, actually, I'm putting the respectfully and because he thinks podcasts are absolute shite. And that is perfect. Because that's Paul Verhoeven. He's,

Janeen Damian 11:54
He doesn't, that's for sure. You know, he's just honest.

Alex Ferrari 11:57
Oh, he's so honest. But he'd made some of the greatest movies. I mean, just whatever Mr. Verhoeven, whatever you like, but I just thought that was such a wonderful way, if I make so much sense coming from him, it just like, because I've known, like, I've heard stories about him, and just seeing his interviews, he's just a, he's an intense dude. But that's how he made his movies back, back in the day, so they're great. Now, all those years that you guys have been in the business, kind of believe that it wasn't all happy go lucky puppy dog tails and unicorns, the entire ride, right? I'm assuming as,

Janeen Damian 12:31
As actors and performer as

Alex Ferrari 12:34
Well as acting performers, on one side of the camera is one thing, and you guys get just the nose, the amount of rejection that you get, as an actor, I'm assuming that prepped you for the moment, you said, hey, I want to be a filmmaker. And people are like, yeah, that's nice. Pretty much, right?

Janeen Damian 12:55
That's the biggest level you get, actually, because I think that I think that today, they're much more open to people crossing over. And but at that time, you didn't you I mean, you get a film, or you did TV, or you or you did Broadway. And, and Michael, is he's just, he, he, the other day was saying to me, he's like, I'm just better at denial than you are. You know,

Michael Damian 13:24
I cross the streams, like, it goes both ways. It's like, you know, when when I was doing the music, that, well, you can't act and do music. And I just didn't understand why I couldn't do that. And then it was about, well, you can't do this and then do Broadway. That's just not how it works. And so all these kinds of things, you know,

Janeen Damian 13:42
You started actors weren't really directing so much. And now I have to say that we've really evolved and as, as in the entertainment community, and, and I think the streaming services have helped also to sort of to make it an easier flow to move from one, you know, one side of the cameras or the other. But you're right, that was a really big no, as a matter of fact, we actually had to go to France before somebody would let Michael direct something because he was the most popular in France than anywhere else in the world at the time. And we thought what was my accent? Can we go where you have the most heat? And that was France? Yeah.

Michael Damian 14:19
And we developed a pilot. With TF one. It took quite a while because everything had to be written in English, translate translated back into French, and then back into English again. And we had to do to two languages. And she looked into languages. And it was a it was an adventure, but it was a great experience. And that really got the ball rolling. Yeah, that was actually there. It was off and running.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
Well, Mike, I mean, I completely understand because I can't walk the streets in Japan. I mean, I'm just saying I'm joking. I was gonna say I've seen you before. And I saw you everywhere is funny is funny. I was doing The the the alcohol ads, the whiskey ads just like just like Bill Murray.

Janeen Damian 15:07
John Travolta Can't you hide?

Alex Ferrari 15:09
Did you did you do you must have in the same amount of stories I mean things you could say on air and things you could say off air.

Michael Damian 15:17
He was riding horses in commercials. Nice knife wheeling.

Janeen Damian 15:22
I mean, no, but the country high commercial was was back when celebrities were doing Japanese commercials when you didn't do television commercials in America back then. Yeah, back then.

Alex Ferrari 15:33
You know now for me it was and there was no YouTube or there was no internet. So it stayed in Japan.

Janeen Damian 15:38
Exactly. Nobody knew that they were doing them. Yeah.

Michael Damian 15:41
Except you're giving away John Travolta secrets now.

Alex Ferrari 15:45
Trust me this. He's fine. He's done. All right. I think I think the cats out of the bag on that one. That's all right. I remember when doing some like commercials over because in Japan, he was huge after all, you know, Pulp Fiction, all that stuff. And he would do commercials over there too. And I've seen some of them. It's just like, the weird is to have weird commercials. I read just When was your was,

Janeen Damian 16:13
It was weird. It was at the Hilton estate in the pool. And we had, um, for some reason, they put bunny tails on us, and 50 swimsuits and beach balls. And John was doing well, we were riding rockets. And this was on a soundstage. We did a couple with him and they put these crazy wigs and they could only bottom fake eyelashes. Honestly, it was really you know, and they were like fashion.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
Bats. That's a very polite way of saying it's weird.

Michael Damian 16:44
To the director, they said, put this on and you said

Alex Ferrari 16:47
So so once you got once you got that first production off in France, which is faster, because I've heard that from so many actors that they go overseas, because they can't, they won't get a shot here. But overseas, they're much more open. Even back then to actors are like, oh, yeah, he's a big star here because we weren't watching him and you know, all that kind of stuff. After you got done with that. Did that open the door here for some projects?

Janeen Damian 17:11
Well, no, because then we're back in America, and then the nose kept coming. But you just have to keep pushing, you know,

Alex Ferrari 17:16
Just so so let me ask you this, then how did you guys keep moving? I always love asking that question. How do you guys keep moving forward, when you keep constantly getting nose and nose and nose? And I remember that time I remember, you know, I was I was young coming up in the 90s as a director, and I remember everyone was you have to be in a box. You couldn't move back and forth between things. You know, like I was I came up in the commercial world and like if I happen to do a Spanish language, commercial, my agent would tell me, you're done. You have to then you can't do general market. I'm like, What? What? Like, oh, we can't you didn't get the job. Why? Because you never had you never shot anything with any dialogue in it. I'm like, a camera just speak. I could I don't it didn't. It didn't make any sense to me. Like you have to like, everyone's so boxy and everything. So how did you during that time?

Janeen Damian 18:04
Well, actually, in the movie, well,

Michael Damian 18:06
Actually, let's back up just a little bit. If you don't mind. We, we did a short film. And this was really great. We put together a short film, yes, I'm going to show and Janine produced it. And and I directed and we wrote it but what was great about it was that Janine did all the producing and the line producing so she literally had to learn on the fly hire everybody ensure the film every single grip trucks this I mean, she she really it was like a super Master's quick class on on, you know how to produce and, you know, run a budget. And and I was, you know, doing the same thing, and we were working together. And we picked a lot of people's brains. I was over burns and Sawyer seeing them there every day after young in the restless. Yeah, we leave to go to the rest of the time, do my shoot my scenes. That was his, that was his school, and I go over there and I would, I would just harass them. They were so nice to me. And I just I said can you can I see the inside of the 35 millimeter. Okay, now what now? What is this now? How do we load this and these guys were, they were showing me everything. And I just sat and learn how to load, learn how to shoot bought my own cameras and started shooting. And we and we were we started making stuff you know.

Janeen Damian 19:23
So then what then I guess are the first project that we did in America was we but then we came back and we raised money.

Michael Damian 19:30
Well Michael raise money, and we shot an indie film was like what no one's going to go in. And then we sold it after. Yeah, we did a product and we were off and running. Yeah, we did a modest, you know, indie film, met fabulous producer named Brad Krivoy. Who makes a lot of movies. You know, Brad, Dumb and Dumber. He's the guy that made that film happen. And he bought the movie. Yeah. And so he bought that short film and sold it worldwide. And then we we've been

Janeen Damian 19:56
Working together. We worked with him on falling for Chris I say yeah, we it's he's actually Brad was the one who was the big turning point in

Michael Damian 20:05
Our career. Brad introduced us to 20th Century Fox Fox hired us for the flickers the prequel to Marlene, the. And so we just sort of, again, networking through people and working with people and building up, you know, you just have to, you've got to, it's great where we started. And we were able to, to, you know, inch up the budgets and get higher and higher with the budgets and take on bigger responsibilities. And it's been it's still understand the value and understand the dollar. Because when you raise your own money, and you're working on that, it really teaches you a lesson on Oh, yeah. And really how to and putting your own personal money into into it. And we've learned a lot

Alex Ferrari 20:43
You wish you don't do. Don't do that. Don't

Janeen Damian 20:44
No, no, no, we don't

Michael Damian 20:48
But we used to, but it really helps you respect, of course, every dollar you put into a film, and that's why, you know, we're always asking a lot of questions about stuffing, can we get this? And do we have to, you know, what's that going to cost? And is there any other options? Because we'd love it, but it's too expensive.

Alex Ferrari 21:05
Right! Exactly. Yeah, it's, well, it's nice that Brad was like the 800 pound gorilla in the room that kind of opened the door. And you know, you need everyone needs a champion. Everyone needs a champion. I mean, and it's many times I've interviewed so many filmmakers on the show, Oscar winners and everyone in between. They, they always have a champion, they always have either someone who's crazy, like the producer of Oliver Stone, who's like go make go make this into the Vietnam movie here 6 million that nobody would give it to him for 20 years. And they in the heat goes off and makes platoon and then the rest of it. So you have to have a crazy 800 pound gorilla or, or an 800 pound gorilla is very skilled. Or

Janeen Damian 21:46
See something in you, you know.

Michael Damian 21:50
And Brad was like, I really would love a Christmas script. Can you write a Christmas script?

Alex Ferrari 21:55
So that's the next question. What is this this obsession with Christmas guys? Seriously, you're out of control? Like, no, I just know. You filmography I'm like Christmas, Christmas Christmas. But like, I think I think I see a pattern here. So this is what I mean. It's great. And it's fun. And I see that I mean, obviously the Marlene me and the flickers and death thing. But then recently, it's just been Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. And another new movie coming out with balloons. These next ones the Irish bride the bride movie.

Michael Damian 22:25
Spooky. Yeah, so we go ahead. Yeah, no, no, it's like, well, well, we

Janeen Damian 22:35
Well, we love doing Christmas movies. So I mean, you know, the first one was because we actually love Christmas. And we're big fans of Christmas. So we thought, well, let's make one and see if everybody watch ours every year.

Michael Damian 22:47
Yeah, let's do a castle and let's go to Europe and shoot it at this beautiful castle. Let's find someplace to go off. I'm going to send you I found he sent this to Romania. Castles a castle in Romania. And here's you go and make the movie. And it was he got us. You know, Roger Moore got us. Roger Bowie, Sam. It was awesome. Yeah, Sam, Sam. Nobody knew who Sam was. And we were telling back to the stage. Like, we have this. This guy is amazing. And he's gonna be a megastar. And like, Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. And Sam is obviously he has, you know, exploded and, but as Janine said, Roger Moore. I mean, Brad is like, I know, Roger Moore. Do you want James Bond in the movie? Like, yes. How do we get him in this movie?

Janeen Damian 23:31
And, and so it was a it was an awesome movie. And it went number one. So then we then we were sort of, you know, we were proven in Christmas films.

Michael Damian 23:40
And I had a lot of requests a lot of Christmas. Yeah.

Janeen Damian 23:43
And so I'm going to work is, and they're beautiful. And they're inspiring and hopeful. And so why not, you know,

Alex Ferrari 23:51
You go where the work is, hey, you know, people like what, you know, it's that's the that's one of the big mistakes. I've heard from a lot of people on the show that talked about the like, they get a big hit in something and they're like, Christmas now I, I want to do horror. Now. I don't want to do Christmas, but I just want to go into horror films, because that's where my passion is, like, no, just stick to Christmas a little bit longer, and then go off and make something else up. But you have to establish yourself on a path of success before you can start, you know, you know, playing bass. In other words, Michael Jackson can Amanda Michael J. Michael Jordan can jump from basketball to baseball because he was Michael Jordan. He shouldn't have we all agree. But because he had established himself.

Michael Damian 24:30
Yep, he shot Yeah, yeah, you're right. Yeah, right guy. I forgot about that.

Alex Ferrari 24:37
But imagine after his rookie year, he's like, You know what, I know. I'm like the greatest but I really needed a little time. So that's the lesson that people should take. If you're lucky enough to have a lot of success in one arena. Stay one stick with it. And you gotta love it too. It seems like you guys do love it though. You do love the Christmas would

Janeen Damian 24:51
We love it. I mean, if it was if it was something that we were really unhappy doing, then I'm sure that we would, you know, look, another way to kind of transition out but we really do. We really do like we love rom coms in general and also what's happened is is that rom com sort sort of had you know, they sort of kind of fell out of fashion and they're now coming back again but they but Christmas is always rom com so so for us we thought well that's great well we can stick with rom com you know, if we stay in Christmas, then we can still do our rom com. And now it's starting to have a resurgence again. So, so Irish wish is not Christmas, and it's still a rom com.

Alex Ferrari 25:29
Right! Exactly. And the days of When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, where the studios were making these big rom coms they don't like or my best friend's wedding. Those don't exist anymore in the studio system. Not really. Now it's all Netflix. Hallmark. These many studios, right? Yeah, the

Michael Damian 25:47
Ones Yeah, they're the ones making the rom coms. The bigger studios are more on the franchise, franchise action. You know,

Janeen Damian 25:55
I mean, I think Amy Schumer is doing stuff and you know, Rebel Wilson a little bit. I mean, I think they're starting to kind of come back in a more offbeat way. But you know, not quite the classic rom com like they were back then. But Irish wishes is I think more what, what people are thinking of when they think of like, following Yeah, that's exactly what fanbase is looking for.

Michael Damian 26:16
Because it's not the Christmas genre. It really is more of a classic rom com.

Alex Ferrari 26:20
Yeah. So let's talk about your latest film fall, falling for Christmas, which I saw on Netflix before I even knew that you because my wife and I were looking and like, oh, this would be a great family film that we got the girls their moods are watching it. And it's just a fun, you know, Saturday night, you know, everyone around around the campfire kind of watching movie and was so it was so beautiful. It looks gorgeous. And I was I was asking you before we got on, I'm like, is that a real place? That you build the sets like, and I'm like, analyzing I'm like it think it's because my wife was like, I don't know, it looks. I think it's real. I'm like, Yeah, I think it's real, too. So I like that there's some sets there. They built some stuff there. But it's not like a completely. It's not the Grinch that stole Christmas, dumped the entire world scenario.

Michael Damian 27:02
What it was, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 27:03
But it was beautiful. So how did that how did did did Netflix get involved first? Or did you make it and they get Netflix? How does that work?

Janeen Damian 27:10
No, this was our first movie with Netflix. And we were really excited when they they approached us with the script and Lindsey attached. So yeah, so we with

Michael Damian 27:20
Brad, our wonderful, Brad. Yes. And we all came together. Yeah. And we Yeah, and

Janeen Damian 27:28
They wanted to and what was great was that Lindsey schedule worked out so that we could shoot it actually in December. So we shot it in the snow in Utah, Deer Valley Park City midway, so we were able to actually shoot it in the snow. So that made it just that much more authentic and

Michael Damian 27:44
The locations that you're talking about are extraordinary because what we found was a gem it's the Goldener Hirsch in Deer Valley is they have the Austrian side and then they just built this spectacular modern side and there's a pasture rail between them and not to give away all the secrets and the magic of it but we had some stuff at our that was real physical right there that we had at our disposal that we could really dress and work with those structures

Janeen Damian 28:14
And they were and they were so close in proximity that we didn't have to move our base camp so we were able to shoot so we saw our dates we were able to use our our days actually shooting as opposed to moving around and then we found

Michael Damian 28:25
A beautiful North Star extender is this charming in in Midway Utah called blue bar end and we that's the one you know the the North Star exterior you saw that's the BlueBoard en and it's and we did build like the we built a little stable for

Janeen Damian 28:41
The horse and the work shed and they're still there they kept a basket

Michael Damian 28:45
Keep them sure it's a term down we didn't talk about apart now we just don't know and so fun because we go visit

Janeen Damian 28:55
The blue bar and you go you simply have brunch and then there's boundless our there's our settings so stable right there. private dining area so

Alex Ferrari 29:05
And this in this film, if I'm not mistaken he went to number one right on Netflix.

Janeen Damian 29:09
Yeah, it went number one on Netflix and in the world. And then I think of all streamers of all streaming of almost all streaming service. That's insane.

Alex Ferrari 29:20
How did you guys feel after you? I mean, that's, that's a pretty decent accomplishment. Yeah, it was.

Janeen Damian 29:24
I was huge. We were really excited.

Michael Damian 29:28
We pop some champagne for sure.

Alex Ferrari 29:30
I mean, so you know Lindsey is such a wonderful actress. I mean, I've been a fan of her since since she was a kid and I've spoken to some of the directors who worked with her on like Freaky Friday and, and Parent Trap and those kinds of things. But she's such a fantastic actress. And in this project she was she was she was great. And she has his fan base that just love her obviously. Because I saw it I was like, Oh yeah, Lindsey Yes. She's one of those people that we all recognize. We all were Remember, and we all genuinely have fond memories of the work that she did you know, when she was coming up? And I think that's one of the reasons why everyone just gravitated to this film and made it number one around the world no less.

Janeen Damian 30:12
Yes, you know, it's multigenerational her her fan base and then the young people are embracing Mean Girls again. And so everybody's kids and grandkids so her her fans when when we were in Ireland, her fans were you haven't split. There's all these little school girls and they're little.

Michael Damian 30:31
They're like, 1315 years old aside, you

Janeen Damian 30:33
Know, her hundreds of, you know, streets.

Michael Damian 30:36
Yeah, we're Wow, where are these? How do they know her? And like you

Janeen Damian 30:40
Said, so she just crosses over and, and well deserved because she really is an amazing talent. And we're so excited that she's decided to come back.

Alex Ferrari 30:50
Right, exactly. And then yeah, now you have the new movie coming out, which I'm excited to let them I love romcoms it's like one of my dirty, deep secrets. I just love walking. Dirty, stupid. I just love walking. It's like killing

Michael Damian 31:02
Cars, but it's a dirty secret. It's

Alex Ferrari 31:04
A dirty secret. That and, and boy bands like I like listening to boy band. What am I gonna do what I mean? Come on. I don't care. Leave the comments if you want guys. I don't care. I wear it with pride now.

Michael Damian 31:16
Yes. When's the best one? Right? I swear.

Alex Ferrari 31:19
Oh, no, stop it. Don't get me started. I'm not You're not gonna get me to sing it on there. Because they will become a meme. And I'm not gonna let that happen. It's already in my head. I can't. I won't be there. But. But so I always like asking directors, this producers this. What was the worst day on set? Meaning like we all have that day that the entire world's coming crashing down around us? Because that's production. So what was that day for you? And how did you overcome that challenge? I know the day.

Janeen Damian 31:52
Well, what happened was is that we had no snow and it was December. And we all did a snow dance. Oh, yeah. And it snowed so much that we couldn't get anybody through the

Michael Damian 32:03
Mountain. Everybody was stuck down at the bottom of the mountain. We and Janine and I stayed at the top of the mountain. So we

Janeen Damian 32:09
Lost a half a day. And also none of our background talent made it out. Yes. So we had to figure out how to Yeah, we had all the crew had to step in and be in the background. I got my Yeah, it was. But it was we really I mean, it's really hard to maneuver in a lot of snow. Yeah. And

Michael Damian 32:30
So however, the market the Christmas markets, of course, that was coming out. It was 10 below zero.

Alex Ferrari 32:36
I was gonna say, You know what? I literally said, my wife, my wife look at it, because we're, she's she's become a visual effects expert, all of a sudden, over the years after being with us, is that it's just like, is that real? And I go, they didn't have the budget. This is no way they had the budget to do that digitally. That's not that's real. So it's really that polar. Like, I promise you, it's probably that gold. And it was,

Janeen Damian 32:58
It was It wasn't all that snow and we were in a watershed so we weren't allowed to make any snow. So that's why we all had to do the snow dance.

Michael Damian 33:05
The snow on the trees, we couldn't put it on a synthetics. We couldn't do any synthetic anything.

Janeen Damian 33:10
Nothing or the soap bubbles. We couldn't do anything. So we're so here we are with a Christmas market, no snow, and then all of a sudden, it just dumped it snowed three feet. And then we couldn't get anybody up there. We all know and then we couldn't get anybody up there or any of the equipment. But anyway, so that was the most challenging day. But so we had to shoot really fast because we lost a half a day.

Alex Ferrari 33:31
And that's it. So in other words, you showed up with 150 shots on your shot list and you shot 10

Michael Damian 33:39
Exactly. Okay, wide

Alex Ferrari 33:41
Shot here. Move the camera there and we're out boys. Let's

Michael Damian 33:44
Go. Okay, move on. Next. Move on. The 500 extras we have 50 Okay, so let's put them all over here. Now. In other jackets are moving over here.

Alex Ferrari 33:56
I did that all the time. That's the best. I mean, you don't need 500 I mean, unless you're Ridley Scott. I mean, you don't need them and you need good 20 or 30 Yeah, fill the screen just fill the frame. That's all you need.

Janeen Damian 34:10
That when you watch it that you can't tell. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 34:13
I couldn't tell at all. No, that was a beautiful little Christmas Town.

Michael Damian 34:16
And we did get we finally they came up and what was great is that they actually made it but it was now 11 o'clock at night. And and then then

Janeen Damian 34:26
We weren't allowed to sing. They said we can't play music after 11 So we had the whole singing and the fireworks when everybody's singing and they're all there to sing and then we couldn't sing because we couldn't play music. So we just kind of you know, it's one of those

Michael Damian 34:38
We just said just ask forgiveness. Let's just crank up the music once. We'll probably get one take at this. Let's just turn around, put it on 11 Go to 11 Sing everybody until they just say stop you know the till they pull the power plug on

Janeen Damian 34:54
Us eat us but you know it was Christmas and it was a Christmas song and everybody loved it. Yeah, nobody complained

Michael Damian 34:59
Actually. Thank you We're so worried about the people in the condos complaining but nobody was complaining

Alex Ferrari 35:04
About like, hard. It's not like thrash metal, you guys.

Janeen Damian 35:09
World, the world of your shop and not to

Michael Damian 35:14
Shut us down on Joy to the world.

Alex Ferrari 35:15
I mean, what kind of, you're gonna go straight to hell, you're gonna straight to hell at that point. I mean, what's the point? Now, another question of asking, you know, especially couples who work together, how do you balance? I mean, because it's insane to be in the film industry? How do you balance the work relationship with a personal relationship, especially onset, because onset is a stressful place, production is a stressful place, feelings get hurt, egos get crushed? You know, how do you especially working so closely together as a producing directing team? How do you balance that for other other teams out there might be listening?

Janeen Damian 35:54
What you know, go ahead, you say so, oh, I think that it starts with the fact that we have very similar artistic tastes and tendencies. And so our vision tends to be a cohesive idea. And we don't really argue a lot about stuff because we, we tend to like the same things. And we, we tend to want a lot. And especially because we write, you know, most of us ever at least rewrite and polish everything we do. We're so close to it, we've already worked through it. So

Michael Damian 36:30
We finished a lot of thoughts in writing, like, we'll be writing, and she'll start a sentence, and then I'll just, it just comes out and finishing and then she's perfect. And then I ended and then she does the other character. And then we start to have a dialogue. And we start acting out the scenes right there in the office. And so it's

Janeen Damian 36:46
Between the script and then pre production, we're ammonius. Mostly, we'd like to we're really specific about everything that we want to put on screen. So about time that we finally get there. I think that we have a pretty good a pretty good idea. And we don't really have a lot to fight about except for fight for something together. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 37:07
It's done. That makes sense that makes perfect sense. Let me ask you, if there was something that you guys could say, each of you, if you can go back in time and tell your younger self one thing about this business, a warning, if you will, just a little piece of advice at the beginning of the career, what would that be?

Michael Damian 37:28
Well, I would say I would say, if you really believe in yourself, and you really believe in something, and know it to be true. You've i You're gonna hear a lot of stuff down the road. And I'll give you my quick, probably my quick story on that, which is my record, when you say that's probably the best,

Janeen Damian 37:51
I'm always saying you're gonna tell yourself something, something different.

Alex Ferrari 37:54
Something that something like you know, guys, it's gonna be

Michael Damian 37:58
Other people, others wanting other people something that happened to me,

Alex Ferrari 38:02
No, no, no warning set, like you personally can go back in time with Marty McFly, you talk to your 16 year old self and you're thinking about getting into this business. And you go Listen, guys, you're gonna have a hell of a ride, I can't tell you anything else. But the one thing you should worry or be wary about is it's going to take a long time, you're gonna have to write, don't eat carbs, I don't know.

Janeen Damian 38:23
The sooner that you can figure out what what it is, what your passion is, and what it is that you want to do. Go for it. And it may it may not present itself right away, but really pay attention to what is meaningful to you. In, in whatever industry, you know, within the industry, I wish that I would have paid more attention. And I wish that I would have transitioned out of dancing sooner. Or at least while I was while I was on camera, I would have paid more attention to what was going on. But I didn't know that that's where I was gonna go. So I went to like Michael Jackson.

Michael Damian 38:56
And he went to bed with Coppola and Lucas and all those great people.

Janeen Damian 39:00
So don't really waste your youth. Don't waste your seize the moment. Really. I mean, if you want to go into the entertainment industry, the sooner you know that you can get in and get work experience and actually dive in there and not and not wait for stuff to come to you. I don't know. That's what I would say.

Alex Ferrari 39:21
That makes perfect sense. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Janeen Damian 39:29
Be tenacious and creative. Because, you know, if one door doesn't open find another door because there's a lot of doors available now.

Michael Damian 39:38
I would say get on a movie set as fast as you can. Yeah. I don't care. Where are you going to be because Janine and I have elevated people on our sets that came in and had no experience and we just said you know what? This young person should be over with the production design team. They're there. They're getting us coffee and this person needs to be over there learning. Because we saw what we saw what was happening here. I mean, and so

Janeen Damian 40:09
70 and be really good troubleshooter and elevate quickly.

Michael Damian 40:14
Yep, exactly. And be open and listen. And anybody, just any department engaged with them? You know, don't harass them. But you know, like I did with burns and Sawyer but the camera. Yeah. How did was that sprocket doing? No, but you know, you know, there's a point where you're annoying but but just really be there and be present. And listen, and pay attention is so important and have positive energy on set. When you don't you don't yawn? Yawn. That's a really big one.

Janeen Damian 40:45
Yeah, don't ever yawn to really try not to yarn.

Michael Damian 40:48
Yeah, go outside, go away, go go in the outhouse or something and move on, but just don't let anybody see of yawning on a set.

Alex Ferrari 40:55
Now, what is the lessons that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Janeen Damian 41:00
Good question. i Okay. Why is the opposite of my goals is to, to be confident in myself

Alex Ferrari 41:09
Believe in myself more,

Janeen Damian 41:10
Believe in myself. And that I am, I am prepared. And I am. I am worth it. So, it took me a long time to have a lot of confidence in my stuff. Michael is the most confident person I've ever met.

Michael Damian 41:30
I was just naive. I just thought you know, I My parents just instilled that it's just sad. If you're going to do it, go all the way. Do not ever quit anything. I don't care. What is the only thing I did quit, I want to tell you is that I had a paper route. And I had to quit because the dogs attacked me. Every time I went down the road. My pants were shredded. Sorry. I just I've never told anybody in any interview that so anyway, I quit. Question, What was the question?

Janeen Damian 42:05
It's a basic question. Alex, remind me that.

Alex Ferrari 42:09
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether the film industry or in life?

Michael Damian 42:15
The longest to learn? I would say probably not to echo you. But I think I think a lot of it was learned, really just learning and paying attention. And really picking up all the all the nuances on the set, I could have learned a lot more. I did learn but I think if I would have I guess I didn't know I was going to be on the other side of the camera, I would have been, I would be paying a little more attention to certain things. But gosh, did He mean Good answer?

Alex Ferrari 42:48
Good answer. That's a good answer. And also never underestimate the power of naivete. It is it is

Michael Damian 42:56
It's denial

Alex Ferrari 43:00
It is a gift. It is a gift. But also the the thing I always tell people is like there is an there's an insanity to what we do. It's insane. It's insane. It's insane to get a whole bunch of people together to tell a story in up a hill with snow. And there's just it's an insanity to even believe that we could do this in the first place. So you need that to even just get on the field to play. But then when you're you have denial, and you have night, like you're completely clueless along the way, but it's very powerful, but extremely dangerous.

Janeen Damian 43:36
I came along. Got me for no, you're just that you've got such a good team. Why are we such a good team? This is why you balance?

Michael Damian 43:46
Yeah, you got to you got to know your stuff. And we're have we'd like to have a lot of fun. But we're really detail oriented, we have a plan every single minute. And you know, and of course the plan is gonna go right out the window, the minute you get on the set. And we now find out that we can't shoot this way because now all the wind is blowing the blue screen into the set. And now we have to shoot another thing. And you got to learn how to adapt quickly. The most important thing is keep the train moving. Don't panic. Find a way to adapt and always keep rolling camera. It's really when I see people just stop and everything just grinds to a halt. It's painful. Sometimes it's necessary but

Janeen Damian 44:30
Try to keep shooting, find solutions, find something to

Michael Damian 44:33
Shoot, find solutions and find something to shoot. Because the clock it's in the taxi with the meter running and you've got at the end of the day time is the enemy obviously you know the enemy but constantly, you know, have a plan, but be prepared for the unexpected. And I think that's what happens almost every day on the set to be honest with you.

Alex Ferrari 44:52
And three of your favorite films of all time. Days of Heaven, Star Wars The natural Field of Dreams. Where's your baseball movie coming out? I'd love to I'd love all three of those movies. But what?

Janeen Damian 45:15
Romeo and Juliet. And he's having

Michael Damian 45:18
Romeo and Juliet as

Janeen Damian 45:20
Well, because these jerseys are sort of life forming experiences for me. So and then Also A Star is Born the Barbra Streisand one.

Alex Ferrari 45:28
Okay. All right. That's a good that's that's a good that's a good set.

Janeen Damian 45:33
Those were the ones that made me want to get into the film.

Michael Damian 45:37
Can I throw a fourth in there? Sure. Nice. Oh, that was the one that when I sat in that theater, it just,

Alex Ferrari 45:45
I mean, you want to talk about suspense of disbelief, though. You were 45 year olds playing teenagers? I mean, seriously. I mean, seriously, I mean, what was it was it candidate was that what's what's her name? Stockard Channing. She was like, 33.

Michael Damian 46:04
I didn't know we listened. I didn't know.

Alex Ferrari 46:08
I love that movie. But like, like, we go back and like, they're, they're like, 50 What is going on? Why are they flying away at the end into the sky that was never established, like what's going on?

Janeen Damian 46:24
All those questions just said, you know, I liked Greece. But I did want to know what was with the aja. She said you

Michael Damian 46:29
she was asking me all these. I was like, I don't really care. I just love them.

Alex Ferrari 46:35
Michael, I'm like you I completely suspend disbelief. My wife on the other hand, like that's not the way it would happen. And I'm like, can you just enjoy Can you suspend a little disbelief?

Michael Damian 46:48
Together Alex, you and I need to watch you because

Alex Ferrari 46:50
I just like to name my mighty cruise. But she's like, she just watches it and she like ruin stuff. And I'm like, I'm like, it's like, oh, that's not the way a doctor's office would be because I don't care. I don't care. I just let me enjoy. Like, she's ruined many a movie for me. And I'm very careful now. Like, this is okay. So I forced her to watch Star Wars. Okay, Michael, I forced all six of them. It this is years ago, years ago when we first started dating. And at the end, she goes like, she's like, you know, Darth Vader's kind of a punk. And I'm like, What do you mean? She's like, he you know, he's basically the the Emperor's like, you know, you know, like lapdog and he goes around intimidating people with his deep breathing and choking people out with his imagination. I didn't understand it. And I was like, Oh, my God, that is really amazing description. is deep breathing and chokes people out with his imagination. I was just like, You know what? I think so. You want to talk about balance? There's the balance. There's you always need. I love Star Wars too, though. Thank you. I like to

Michael Damian 48:06
Sneak I love. I sneak up and all of a sudden I hear God like, are you watching Star Wars again? It's either that or Indiana Jones and Oh, I love it. I really? That is my fourth my fifth film. Indiana. Yeah, Raiders. The Lost Ark.

Alex Ferrari 48:24
Oh, I did see the new trailer. I just came out. It just came out like two hours ago. I looks really nice. It looks good. I enjoy it looks good. I'm a James Mangold is the director. So awesome. I have high hopes I have high hopes that he's not going to be blown up by a nuclear bomb in a refrigerator this time. So buddy, we could keep geeking out about movies forever. Guys, I appreciate you coming on the show was such a pleasure talking to you guys. Continued success. I can't wait to see Lindsay's new movie and your new movie when it comes out coming out by the way. I wish wish

Janeen Damian 49:00
Oh, we don't have a release date. Well, we're just editing it now. So I think they'll it'll be forthcoming your release date but we're not sure yeah. 2023 2023

Michael Damian 49:11
Yeah, we're we'll be done. Probably around April May when you know when we've picked your lock and color and sound music all that should be around May, April May. So alright.

Alex Ferrari 49:21
Well guys, continuous access, and it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you guys. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Janeen Damian 49:27
Thank you so much for having us.

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BPS 343: Can You Make Money with Short Films? (Vidiverse) with Alex Proyas

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Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Alex price. How you doing Alex?

Alex Proyas 0:15
Hey Alex, good, how you doing?

Alex Ferrari 0:18
I'm good, my friend. I'm good. Thank you so much for coming back on the show, I was excited to have you back. Because of the cool stuff that you've been working on. I've been following you on social media and seeing your shorts and seeing all the, you know, the cool stuff that you're doing. And it just, it just tickles my my heart to see an artist creating and not waiting for someone to give them permission to create an AI, you are a champion of that. So at first, before we even get started, thank you for being that inspiration to so many people out there.

Alex Proyas 0:48
Well, you're very, very welcome and ditto to you.

Alex Ferrari 0:51
Thank you, my friend. Thank you. So so we're gonna be talking about your new streaming platform video verse. It, which is sounds amazing. And I really wanted to promote what you're doing, because I know it's coming from a really great place. But before we jump into that I wanted wanted to kind of go out a little bit, in your opinion, what are the major issues filmmakers have with getting their work seen? And then also getting paid to get that work seen?

Alex Proyas 1:20
Yeah, well, I think it's, it's kind of pretty impossible, and, you know, YouTube scene for a while to be a kind of a way through, you know, the fact that we could put our content on, we didn't have to ask anyone's permission. It didn't matter what, how good, bad or indifferent. And when money we'd spent how much money we hadn't spent, whether our friends or family were in the cast, you know, it didn't matter. We could get our films out there and get people to see it. But unfortunately, you know, YouTube seems to have kind of developed a stricter and stricter policy about who derives any income from such content, you know, and look, you know, that, you know, there's always a success stories of people who managed to stream their content and get millions of views. But, you know, most people's situations, and there's some good films out there, I know, because I've been looking, they get very few views, they just don't know how to get their, their films through the sort of, you know, YouTube algorithm, you know. So it's really hard for those people who, you know, to keep building their, their films through that platform. And you know, there's obviously platforms like Vimeo, which can be much more specifically targeted, and you can you know, that your films look better on Vimeo, etc. But, you know, there's really nothing between those two ends of the spectrum where, you know, you can, your films can get seen by people, and maybe you can derive what little small amounts of income your film might generate, you know, YouTube seems to soak it all up through advertising, you know, they, they, they make their billion dollars, but the filmmakers very rarely see any of that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 3:12
I think that's a general statement. I think that's I mean, going back to when the United when the United Artists opened up and Chaplin and Pickford and inflammed got pissed off from the studios that paying them that they opened up their own studio. I think that is, it's isn't that kind of the way it works with with, with Hollywood and generally just in the big business, I think big business in general, when business and art get together in any art form. The artist always seems to get the short end of the stick, no matter what medium it is, is that fair to say?

Alex Proyas 3:47
Yeah, always, I mean, you know, the entertainment industry and not just film music and everything else, you know, work on the fact that it's, there's endless streams of exploitable young people coming through who want to be exploited, you know, I want it to be exploited when I was when I was a young pup, you know, I was like, Yeah, come on, exploit me, let me do this stuff. You pay me some sort of, you know, pittance of money, just so that I can do my thing, you know, and that's kind of always been the way and and the industry you know, the, the corporations have always kind of, you know, succeed based on that. Cannon Fodder, I call them you know, and it's still this the same to this very day. I mean, you know, the Hollywood would rather work with some young pup right now then some schmuck like me who's cynical and who gets how the whole business model works and wants to change it, you know, because it's just easier for them, you know, and they'll make all their money and so YouTube, you know, is is sort of a, you know, an offshoot of that it just works on the same Sort of exploitable principles, you know? Yeah, give us your free content, give it to us for nothing. We'll Shut it. You know, that's what you get out of the equation, and we'll make billions of dollars out of it. I mean, what is it about that business model that works for the filmmakers, you know,

Alex Ferrari 5:17
right. And, you know, it's fascinating because even in the 80s 90s, even the early 2000s, a studio would have never given a young pup $200 million, or $150 million to make a temple film. But that seems to happen much more now. Because of what you're saying, like spirit of specifically Marvel. And a lot of they have a machine basically. And I've talked to people who've worked within the Marvel machine, and they just kind of just, they just, it's like, almost the insert director here. Yes, they're guiding the process. And certain directors have more say than others. But generally speaking, they're giving like I remember I read an article with Ridley Scott Ridley Scott's like, I don't even understand how this is like, why would you give a $25 million and not give Ridley Scott or yourself $100 million to do it and you're right is because you guys know how the game is playing. They don't want to deal with you.

Alex Proyas 6:10
Yeah. And it's also because you know, those films not not to spend another session ragging on Marvel. No, no, I do. We do enjoy it. Right?

Alex Ferrari 6:20

Alex Proyas 6:21
certainly enjoy them as well, those those movies kind of make themselves you know, and it's arguable how important the director is, it's kind of like a long running TV series. Everyone knows what they're doing, you know, and certainly the producers of those movies know what they're doing. They've made many countless successes. So they'll just you know, it just kind of rolls along and the director comes in and talks to the actors and you know, hangs out with the actors I guess is what the role is you know, so I'm not my not my idea of filmmaking really. But you know, look good on him I just I just feel like you know, we we need to be thinking of other other ways forward you know,

Alex Ferrari 7:05
yes, but yeah, especially for for Natalie, young filmmakers, for artists in general filmmakers in general that aim to get not only the work seen, but paid for, but I have to ask you, do you have any stories of your misadventures in Hollyweird with with falling prey to Hollywood accounting or something that you know you were like what I what point did you um so I'm assuming somewhere in your journey you got you got a check and you said I'm sorry what?

Alex Proyas 7:33
Yeah, no, it happens to me on a weekly monthly basis still to this day for movies that you've done I I received a you know there were these things called residuals you know that we used to get which were actually really great they kept us alive between movies you know, because the fact is as filmmakers you know, even if you're very successful as a filmmaker you know, you get your payday once every few years and you get paid you know, I was paid very handsomely but then that money is going to stretch out over many many years and it starts to become significant you know, so I was reliant on residuals to keep me alive as were many filmmakers many filmmakers that I knew that I know very well and unfortunately the residuals you know, Netflix in the stream is don't pay residuals so suddenly they've dropped in the last few years to very small amounts of money to the point where you know, I'll get a check for I got a check for dark city a few months ago which was which was you know, of note enough to post on my Instagram account for $7.36 you know, which which is you know, that's a quote that represents a quarter of the all the total residuals that are received for dark city now that's just kind of insulting I personally I'd rather just not get the check. I'd rather they just held on to it. I keep meaning to call the authorities that deal with the residual and say, just hang on to them in your bank account, maybe they can earn a little bit of interest until they amount to something over at least over 50 or $100 you know, because quite frankly, it actually costs me more to cash that check because it's us US dollar Yeah, it cost me $25 to cash it so I actually I actually lose by doing that you

Alex Ferrari 9:22
know oh Mike it's like that Seinfeld it's like that old Seinfeld episode where he got like, you know, 100 or 501 set residual checks he had to sign all of them Yeah.

Alex Proyas 9:33
What are we doing exactly right so that's where that's where we're at you know and and, you know, cut to a few years ago and you know, we could survive between movies on what we were getting from residuals every every year you know, it would pan out to have to keep you you know, pay your mortgage and feed your family you know, so, so that was great. So you can work on your scripts and work on your projects and not be beholden to, to the, you know, the bank manager, the wolves up Door, you know? So yeah, it's it's not a it's not a good situation we're being pushed into creative people are being pushed into these more and more untenable scenarios, you know, at the moment that's been going on for some time.

Alex Ferrari 10:14
Yeah, I mean, if I always tell filmmakers, if you want to see what's gonna, what's happening is going to happen. Let's just look at the music industry. I mean, music is turned into, it's where it has no worth. It's like literally pennies, pennies, wave fractions, fractions of pennies.

Alex Proyas 10:30
Yeah, it's all about, you know, data rates. And we basically follow where music goes, film follows, you know, which is exactly what's, what's going on. You know, the streaming, the music streaming services are doing very well, as are the film streaming services, you know,

Alex Ferrari 10:47
and the labels.

Alex Proyas 10:48
And the and the labels. Yeah, of course. Yeah. As it's always been, you know. And so, of course, you know, we're looking at all this and it's only been exacerbated as we, as we said, it's only been exacerbated by the, by the pandemic, it's become more and more extreme, you know, I went from dreaming of owning a theater one day, like I wanted to, you know, I've always wanted to own like, my own cinema, you know, like a painting, sure, you know, movie house. And I've gone from that to dreaming of owning a streaming service, because I've just got to face the writing on the wall. It's like, it's just not, you know, we're just not there at the moment. You know, we're not when you know, whether whether or not we'll get through this, some, this pandemic, and another some God help us something else will happen. And we'll be locked down again, who the hell knows who can predict the future? Now? You know, it seems like the only certainty right now is on the internet.

Alex Ferrari 11:40
Yeah, and I think that's where everyone's going to eventually I think hopefully, cinemas won't go away like that, the way of the dodo. But I think it will become much more specific, very much like Broadway is, you know, ticket tickets will be better it will be we will still want to have those events, but going to see an independent film in a mass way, other than if it's an art house is not going to happen. It's just too much content.

Alex Proyas 12:04
I agree. And I think that's really the most pertinent point that you've put so so well is it's more, you know, the cinemas will survive sure, but I think they'll be servicing the Marvel's and the and the end streamers. You know, I think though, there certainly is that demand for that big screen experience that will probably never go away as a few recent, you know, releases have shown us but what about everyone else? You know, I think we have to, sadly, embrace the well not sadly, you know, optimistically and hopefully embrace the the, the internet medium and try and make that our own at least, you know, right.

Alex Ferrari 12:48
And there are and

Alex Proyas 12:49
I remember hearing about Radiohead, you know, when, when the music streaming first started hitting hard A few years ago, I remember hearing about Radiohead releasing an album in that way only available over the internet and I'm like, gee, that's kind of a weird thing to do. But now of course I go Well, that was prophetic. You know, they were really trying to wrestle control back into their, into their camp as individual artists, you know, and I think that's, that seems to be the sort of place where filmmakers are out at the moment,

Alex Ferrari 13:22
but I think but the thing is that it's because like you said earlier in the conversation, every filmmaker could put their movie out, and on YouTube, it's tomorrow and anything could go out. But unfortunately, just like the musicians, they have to not only be artists, but they have to be business people, marketers, web designer, sometimes, they have to have so many other things other than being just the artist to be able to survive as as just to be able to survive. And if you're not lucky enough to be a Radiohead that built their entire view their fan base on the backs on the dime of the label that got them to be that big you know like it same thing with same thing with filmmakers. I mean, I've said this many times like yeah, you know, Kevin Smith, a spike lee, you know, Martin Scorsese, we know these names, because they've been working within the studio system for so long. And that was got their name up there. But like the indie guy who has one indie and didn't have, like, you know, studios pushing it, it's hard to get that name going unless you build your own thing up, you know, by yourself.

Alex Proyas 14:26
Yeah, exactly. Right. That's exactly right. It's, you know, and it's arguable, you know, whether, through the current system, will it get any more of those names coming out of the woodwork, you know, it's very, very, it's becoming increasingly increasingly rare. And, and I feel like that's why it's time for something too, for a new a new way forward. You know, you know, the the the the auditor has been kind of watered down over the years, you know, we've been made to the Commercial concerns have tried to diminish the importance of the otter You know, I've actually read so many articles about why the otter theories is wrong. And you know, I grew up with the otter theory that's what I get the sort of filmmakers that I followed as a kid and that's the sort of filmmaker I wanted to become, you know, and, you know, it's been, you know, a pretty difficult road to get to that point through the commercial system. You know, so I think it's, it's, it's, it's, it's very important that we hang on to that original creator kind of approach to things and it seems to me that the indie world is where those filmmakers appear these days, you know, the one that already the, the mainstream otters that are already there have, I think, have done their dash you know, and don't know that we're going to get that many new ones appearing through that system. And I think the indie world is where they're going going to be coming from in the future.

Alex Ferrari 16:03
I mean, I think the only way that happens is an indie person gets a shot of a big studio movie. That big studio movie makes a lot of noise and then they can go back and start doing their own indie stuff like again, although Toro was a good example of that, but that's still we're still going back 1015 years but to Hickey the guy who did Thor and Thor Randall rock to Hickey I can't add new components and New Zealander

Alex Proyas 16:27

Alex Ferrari 16:28
wonderful wonderful that's a new name that kind of popped up he was an indie guy got Thor and then and then now he's he's but even then we're still talking about handful. We're talking about maybe 234 but it's the 90s when there was like, you know, Robert Rodriguez Spike Lee you know all these names just started popping up every month it was insane.

Alex Proyas 16:49
Those days are gone. Guillermo is not Guillermo has been around as long as I have I mean he's not he's not a fresh

Alex Ferrari 16:56
No he's not he's not you know, he's not a fresh puppy at all. But yeah, he started off in the indie world, but he wished he came up in the 90s. And he didn't really pop until in the 2000s. But he's been around for a long time as well. So it's, it's it's it's it's disheartening for and I think a lot of creators listening now, who didn't grow up in the 80s 90s in the early 2000s don't understand what that world was like. You know, to have someone like yourself, do the Crow and then do the dark city and to do iRobot in these kind of films. It's just you know, I don't know it's just it's sad. It's just sad. I

Alex Proyas 17:37
think we may have talked about this on the last podcast we did but the you know, in those days, you know, I was like, Hey, I'm gonna do a film based on an original underground comic book you know that no one's heard of and it's like yeah, great. Sounds like a great idea you know, here have money to make a movie you know you know, it was like there was no question about it wasn't people you know, the industry was still interested in original stuff, you know, with dark city in particular you know, hey, I'm gonna make a film based on nothing based on something that came out of my head you know, in this weird world that doesn't exist you know? Yeah, sounds like a great idea let's go let's do it you know, I mean, this stuff just doesn't occur now. Not it's that sort of budget range at least you know, so so it's um, yeah, it is definitely a new new whole new world

Alex Ferrari 18:31
right now. And I think the only one really doing the only one out there who could who could be the tour and also work within the studio system system is Christopher Nolan and he's the only filmmaker I know that has the juice that he's got right now. I mean, I don't know if you saw the details of his deal but I was like Jesus he's got he wants everything I think this is fantastic. Give that man whatever he wants

Alex Proyas 18:52
yeah that's pretty funny know it's like you know he's he's a very rare exception yeah to anyone is in that situation but look, you know, I mean, we're you're only as good as your last movie. Really?

Alex Ferrari 19:06

Alex Proyas 19:07
you no matter who you are, I'm sure he's worn his deal probably even better than than the one that's been publicized publicize? I think he's probably taken a little bit of a step backwards based on the box office of Denver last film, you know, so, you know, it's it's

Alex Ferrari 19:24
no one no one's bullet rarity. No one's bulletproof. There was a moment in time when I heard people saying, Oh, it's over for Spielberg. He's done because he did a couple of bombs back to back and then of course, he came out with Jurassic Park and Schindler's List in the same year and said and shut everybody up. He's like, Oh, really, let me do this for you guys. But that's just the way the game is played. That's the way Hollywood is. But I wanted to ask you, you know, we talked about YouTube a little bit. Is there a because obviously there's a lot people making money on youtube and you can make money a living is another question, but you can't make money on YouTube. With a massive amount of content in our very specific niche, but I haven't seen filmmakers make money on, you know, like, I haven't seen short films The

Alex Proyas 20:09
real Yeah, yeah, that's, you know, like what you do is perfect for YouTube and and, you know, doing commentary doing reviews, etc, etc It seems to be an information based success story YouTube, you know, and I know from the sort of stuff that I watch on YouTube, I very rarely, rarely go, hey, let's check out someone's short films. I'm only doing it now because of what I'm proposing, you know, but it's not the place to go for short films, you know, having said that, some filmmakers that I know have had, you know, one off huge successes, suddenly their short film takes off, you know, often that's, you know, that's supercharged by, you know, groups like dust, or these these, these companies sort of ideas that basically promote, you know, genre based content, you know, you know, but it's, it's not, it's not a perfect model. And it's, and it's partly because, and nor is nor is Vimeo, a great model, because you never know what you're going to get, you know, you never know as a viewer, what you're going to get when you you know, buy a subscription to, to, to Netflix. You know, it's it's a little less of a crapshoot, I mean, it's that's a bit of a crapshoot. Still, people don't consider it as much because there's so much more available, but you know, there's a certain quality control that goes into what you're going to be able to tune into. And a lot of it's very heavily promoted an advertiser, you kind of know what you're getting, you're getting, you know, when you subscribe, you know, YouTube could never be that because it is a completely scatto random scattershot kind of approach to, to content, you know, so you know, it's always gonna be that little thumbnail, that grabs your attention, someone being angry about something, usually, is what grabs your attention. and off you go, and you're gonna watch the first 30 seconds before you realize, you know, you don't want to watch this thing and go to the next thing, you know, that's a YouTube thing for you, not conducive to watching a story being told, you know. So, you know, look, that's, I think that's really the key. And that's why it doesn't seem to work for people. Other than, you know, some, as we say that some of these stories can be, you know, a guy watch playing, you know, playing computer games, you know, and it's like, well, you know, I don't know I don't being, you know, someone who wants to watch a story being told, it's not really my cup of tea, but it's obviously the cup of tea of many, many millions of people, you know.

Alex Ferrari 22:41
Now, you know, you've you've had the privilege of working on indie projects, as well as giant studio projects, or feature films. But you tend to keep going back to shorts, I wanted to ask you your opinion on shorts as a medium in general, do you think it's something that is valuable, not only for artists to express themselves, but valuable for filmmakers to either grow their careers or experiment? What's your feeling on shorts as a general statement?

Alex Proyas 23:10
I think absolutely everything you've said, I do think they're very valid. I mean, I equate them to being like, you know, as a writer, you write novels, and you write short stories. I mean, people don't turn away from the short story form, once they've written a novel, it's just as valid a form of, you know, create creativity. And I've always liked short films, I like watching them, I've been the many juries to judge short films, I've been to, you know, in festivals all over the world to judge short films and features. But I think they're just as valid in an art form. And the only reason they haven't been considered by the mainstream is developed, or that is, you can't make any money out of them as a as a, as a producer, or as a as a studio. You know. So that's, that's really the reason it's, I believe the art form has ever really taken off. But as an art form, it's completely valid. As a filmmaker, you learn, you know, there's a real art to telling us six things, three, grabbing someone and grabbing an audience and holding an audience for that short period of time is a huge art form. And it's one that you know, I discovered making TV commercials and music videos way back when you know, and one that I continue to explore and experiment with in, you know, narrative, short story short, short filmmaking, you know, and I encourage everyone to continue doing. It's actually interesting. I've noticed a few filmmakers a few feature filmmakers recently, because I've had, I've had a short pop up in a few festivals around the world, and I've noticed others there's some other feature filmmakers out there like me, who also have been, you know, sending their short films out to festivals to, to because it's one of the few sort of outlets for short filmmakers you know, so It's kind of interesting I think a few a few other people are probably think feeling the way I do about them right about the the medium right now, you know?

Alex Ferrari 25:07
Yeah, it's always it's, you know, monetizing shorts has always been the problem, I've been able to do it a couple times. But many times I failed, being able to recoup my money or actually make a hefty profit. It's rare to be able to do if you have something that's focused on a niche audience may be things like that, but it's tough. It's tough. And I've seen so many people try to figure it out, you know, which brings me to video verse. And what you're doing with video verse. First of all, what is very verse And when did this idea come up to you, when you it wasn't when you when the idea came to you? Was it when you decided I can't buy a movie theater anymore? This is ridiculous. I need a streaming service. When did this come up? And what is it all? Look

Alex Proyas 25:49
it's been, it's been on my mind for many, many years. And in fact, I actually tried to create a filmmakers website 20 years ago, called mystery clock, which was, you know, with, with the view to eventually do what we are now embarking on with, with video verse, it's taken all that time for the technology to get to the point where you're not watching postage stamp size.

Alex Ferrari 26:20
Oh, god, oh, so bad. It was so bad.

Alex Proyas 26:23
Yeah. You know, I built a future proofing my my mark world, my filmmaking world going, this is where it's going to go eventually, back then I had that sort of prophetic vision. And I knew that it would take some time, I just didn't realize how long it would take, you know, so that site, sadly failed eventually. But here we are now in in 2021. And this stuff is doable. And I think, you know, for me, the the the idea came from the fact that, you know, we can't you know, it was it was a multi prong thing, what you know, one is very verse wants to eventually be streaming features and everything, you know, but we're starting with short, too, because shorts, to me seemed the real weak point for independent filmmakers, you know, and I and as I say, because I've been judging so many short film festivals recently, a lot of isolation type style film festivals because of the pandemic. I mean, I've been blown away by the quality of the work. It's really outstanding, you know, and I just did one a few months ago here called flicker Fest, that's a big, a big deal in Sydney. We managed to sneak in between the lockdowns and it was a live event, they did it in a sort of open air area in on the beach, near the beach in Sydney. So we could all you know, occasionally pull our masks down and drink our beers as we were watching the shorts, and it was an awesome, it just reminded me again, of not just this power of theatrical presentation, but moreso the power of the short film medium, you know, the audience had a great time watching, you know, a two hour program of short films from all over the world, different genres, different, different ideas, different narratives. But the one thing they had in common was there was a quality to the mall, they were all really high quality. And it was actually really, really hard. I watched, maybe I was judging the international program. And over over about a couple of weeks, I think I've watched maybe 70 movies, short films. And it was really hard to pick winners because there was so many great ones, you know, we actually ended up creating awards prizes for specific films that were the prizes didn't exist, because we liked the quality of the film so much, you know, I think that process I started thinking you know, it's it's just criminal that these films are not seen by a wider audience beyond the sort of the the, the, you know, the film festival circuit. And I started thinking more and more specifically, at that point about creating a streaming service that could program a bit like the way Film Festival works program, a series of short films that were maybe even more had more common threads to them, maybe genre or stylistic threads, that could bring a program of 678 short films together. And then whether there was some way to monetize that for the filmmakers. And also, of course, for the for the platform to exist to create a market and an A for the for this content, you know, but basically saying, Okay, well, we are me and as I said, at the beginning of this call was, you know, at the moment I'm looking at all the films myself, because to me, the curated aspect of this is really important that you know, I initially and her and her Hopefully, eventually others at vt verse can maintain a standard of curated quality so that, that we do have that guarantee to an audience who are coming into it, and paying money to watch these films that may or may not be available in other parts of the internet, that we're saying, if you come to us, we guarantee that you're going to get a package of great content, great film, filmmaking, you know, and that's really the whole sort of, you know, origin of this of this idea, you know, so

Alex Ferrari 30:32
so very verse at the moment, we'll accept you're accepting short films, you're looking at short films, is there eventually going to be a financial, you know, arrangement with for the filmmakers, as far as you know, profit sharing things like that, or right now, is it just purely an exhibition platform,

Alex Proyas 30:51
we wanted to, to have a, you know, a licensing scenario, and we're not, we don't want to exclusively license because, for me, it's all about, I don't want to limit filmmakers, ways of making money. If they, if they're making money from their films in other ways, I don't want to get in the way of that, you know, and some of the films that we're dealing with yet, they are already on other platforms, you know, so we're not about exclusively licensing, but we are about packaging, short film content with other like minded short film content, to kind of supercharge their potential to make money, you know, you know, we'll be cutting trailers that are not just one person's film, but a series of short films that are all part of the program. And that way, as I say, a subscriber or a or a user of this platform, can at least get a you know, if you like, one, you'll probably like the others kind of approach. And, and watch a program that's not just 10 minutes long, that is feature length long, you know, or maybe even longer of short films, but they're buying into the program as such, and any funds that are generated because, you know, the reality is, this is all highly speculative, whether or not much funds are generated or not, of course, now it remains to be proven. But all those whatever funds are generated will be split between video verse and the film makes involved with each with each package, you know, so is this the least So, at least that's what we're embarking upon. And then if we get when we get into features, and we get into, you know, we want to get into, like, if we like specific filmmakers, we want to get into programs of specific filmmakers work, you know, many of these film makers have created more than one short film so if we like one, we'll probably like more. So we're investigating that with a few filmmakers at the moment to to basically monetize their brand and make their brand something in this quest for the otter, the new otter to create a kind of brand identity within video verse, or individual specific filmmakers.

Alex Ferrari 33:07
Now is this going to be is this T VOD s VOD, a VOD, I want to say that it's transactional is a subscription or is it advertising based

Alex Proyas 33:16
what it's probably going to be a combination of things. And we're still were developing it so it's still trying to knock through the the logistics, let's say. And you know, and we're also trying or specifically but it is a process we're going through right now and part of the reason we're still kind of you know, working that stuff out is because we're not certain right now how big a platform we want to launch You know, this study aleksis started off from me going I just want to get my own stuff out there on a on all my shorts, I'm going to take it off YouTube and get it onto a platform let's just launch that and I've got this project called mascot evil apparition which is doing very well on the first level at the moment. use that as a way let's just try it and see right so when from that and like all my other mad projects, it starts off at a very crude fundamental level and then evolves into this monster and so we're in mid transformation into the monster right now with more and more and I was saying I'm a bit fearful about talking to you and you getting the word out because I'm fearful of how many more short films I'll actually have to watch and how much less of a weekend I'll have with my family. So we're trying to balance all those factors before we go yet his subscription model and, and we don't want people to coming be disappointed by how little content there is, you know, I'm saying it's like it's a balancing act, you know, so in May launch, I wouldn't, you know, personally and there are other people involved other other partners involved with this venture who have their word as well, but personally, I want to say See this launch as soon as possible, my, my feeling is to launch it with whatever we have, you know, and make it like a sampler and maybe give people give subscribers a kind of early adopter discount if you decide to subscribe with the small amount of content that we have, knowing that it's going to grow into something much bigger. So we'll probably end up being something along those lines, you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:25
fair, fair enough. And I you know, this seems First of all, he's been fantastic. I love the idea of what you're doing. I love that you're doing it and your taste and your curation is doing this, which is what I love. Because there's been a lot of other streaming services that pop up, I get contacted by streaming services, new streaming services on a weekly basis, hey, we got this new streaming service, hey, we're for the independent filmmaker, and I look at their sites and it just like, I can't even you know, I've been offered like, would you buy our streaming service? Like no? Like, no, I don't want to buy your streaming service. But the but when I saw you doing it, I was like, Okay, this is something more interesting. It just takes everything up to a different level when you're involved. Because I'm such a fan of your taste and of your filmmaking I think what you're bringing in I think your, your, I guess your, your lens, everything's being funneled through your lens and that's what's exciting and like, Okay, he's going out and bringing in this amazing content. I think that's a big selling point for what you're, you're doing but I'd love to ask what do you what do you what's the what's the goal five years from now 10 years from now do you you know, how big do you want to get what do you want this to eventually be for filmmakers?

Alex Proyas 36:43
I hope this can be a real thing. I really think I you know, I hope that we can make it a viable industry that people can actually create their content, put it on this website and earn enough from their content. And that is, you know, that makes it viable for them to keep making content you know, I mean, we're trying to across the board with everything we're doing right now is reevaluate the economic structure of filmmaking, you know, from producing, to making to, to develop from developing to producing to distributing right and very verse for me is the sort of final prong of the of that triangle triangle of creation which allows filmmakers to get their stuff seen by people because as we've always said, if it's one thing that make you film we all this wonderful technology that makes it affordable and easy to do. If no one sees it then it's like the tree falling in the forest you know, so that this distribution part of this is absolutely essential so I hope that this is the final part of that you know, that can make make it a viral ball a new viable way to make films and to survive and to earn a living making films You know, that's a lofty goal and I certainly think that's a few years off because I'm not guaranteeing that any individual filmmaker who's you know submitting their work to V verse at the moment you know, if I if I managed to get them a check for a few bucks every quarter I'll be like yeah, that's a success story you know, but I hope we can build on that I hope as more as we get more subscribers more people interested we can keep building this as an idea you know,

Alex Ferrari 38:38
now but will the residual check be bigger than your dark city residual check is the question well, you can't guarantee but the hope is that you can

Alex Proyas 38:47
make it on those terms right?

Alex Ferrari 38:50
Isn't that scary?

Alex Proyas 38:51
When you when you look at it in those terms you know i i can I've just made this film called mascot evil apparition which is going to be one of our first launched videos so called reverse originals, right we're going to launch it and say you can buy this short film by this this schmuck prayers for you know, 299 or whatever, whatever, you know, 50 cents or whatever we're going to put on a we don't know, you know, or subscribing you get it for free, or whatever we're going to say, you know, and honestly, I would be amazed if I know, there have been so many people reaching out to me from my own followers going, how can we see this film? Yes, we'll pay for it. Yes, let us know. And we'll we're there. And there's maybe a few 100 people and maybe there's more people out there. You know, maybe some of those people are lying. Maybe they won't pay for it when they see the trailer. But it's gonna be more than 795 you know, I mean, I'm gonna get a little bit more I know. So there you go the model already. I believe

Alex Ferrari 39:53
it's already worth the bar. The bar is low at 795 The bar is fairly low that you've got to break for this to be a success yeah you should frame that you should frame that check in the offices video verse like everyday guys every day that's what we're gonna break that 795 yeah now when So when is this when are you releasing this to the world

Alex Proyas 40:19
well that I can't do this with about either we're hoping before the end of the year or early in the new year and again it's about really reaching that critical mass where we go yeah this is great and you know we're we're building the site again we have no there's no financing behind this it's all me waking up one day and going yeah, I'll put some dollars into that I did that stupid idea and I've got my heretic foundation colleagues who helping me create this this thing so it's a it's a somewhat unplanned there's an app it's an unplanned business plan right now so you know that's why it's a little has to remain a little flex

Alex Ferrari 41:03
Of course of course you're still trying to figure this all out but I think the intentions are good of what you're trying to do and the the idea is solid and I can't wait to see what the what you guys come up with every year and I'm so I'm so and cannot

Alex Proyas 41:17
Can I Oh yes, I'll just be clear though, that the the SOP is always open for submissions you know, we are actually accepting submissions from anyone in whoever whoever wherever they are. We were getting submissions from all over the world right now. And language is not an issue for us as long as there's English subtitles on the project. We're getting really cool stuff out of Europe and and Mexico and all sorts of great great filmmaking centers. And so you know, we're open for business in that respect at least to create what that library is going to be before we launch

Alex Ferrari 41:56
that that's awesome. I am I'm excited to see what you come up with i mean i'm so I'm so happy that you know, filmmakers like you are still going up to the plate and taking the big swings where many many don't many just stick to their own work and their own art but you're actually trying to help other filmmakers and try to give other filmmakers voices in the next generation a way to keep doing this in the way that you know you and I were able to do it while we were you know coming up it's like you no way to sustain ourselves as artists so I'm so I'm so happy that you're still taking those swings my friend

Alex Proyas 42:31
Why thank you very much. I mean, I think we have to it's it's a it's a cognitive existential crisis that we're all in you know, we're all together in our respect. So I feel like it's it's it's got to be done, you know, and you know, I I think what, you know, what you mentioned earlier on is important that, you know, my, my, you know, you are seeing stuff through my lens. I've always said over the years, people always ask me what what I think about people's other other filmmakers work and I guide up, I never want to be a critic or a reviewer of other filmmakers work because I don't, it doesn't matter what I think about the work every film is hard to make, it doesn't matter whether it's good, bad, or indifferent, you know, they should be, you know, they should be encouraged because they've made a film, you know, and it's the same with, with every, with every level of filmmaking, I believe, you know, and it's kind of this is kind of my opportunity to encourage films that I really like, you know, it's, it's, for me a really specific way of doing it. I'm not criticizing other films, all I'm saying is that these films are ones that I think are worth looking at. And, you know, they're the, the, the quality varies the the, the budgets vary wildly, the resources are going into it, the acting quality, whatever, it is just stuff that I think is cool, you know, that's really the, at the end of the day. You know, what, what, what comes through all this, this, this stuff, and I hope that we can carry that through. As we move forward, you know, stuff that's cool, and into something that holds you that engages you to make you want to watch the news, because it's doing something really something you've never seen before something it's weird, it's interesting, that's unusual, or just, it's a very, it could be a very, you know, small, you know, real world story that's being told in you know, without any genre kind of influence or whatever. I mean, it really doesn't matter. It's all about just something that is, as I say, cool, you know, the cool

Alex Ferrari 44:43
factor, the cool factor. Now, I really love you to talk a little bit about what you're doing at the heritage foundation and what and your virtual production studio that you're building in Australia and everything because I'm, I'm a huge fan of the technology but you you really kind of spearheaded this technology, so can you talk bit about that. Yeah,

Alex Proyas 45:02
we built this studio. It's close to a year and a half, two years ago now. Which was, it's a virtual production facility basically, it's a way to create Well, it's, it's actually a bigger idea than that it's a way to bring all the aspects of filmmaking under the one umbrella, you know, I say ironically, now, because we've actually just moved into our own VFX facility, which is a kind of a sister company to heretic, it's still heretic Foundation, but it's like, where all the VFX get done, you know, because we're growing, you know, but it's so it's a way to use virtual production to streamline how films are made to still be able to bring enormous great production value, but at a at a lower budget range, you know, when you don't have to move around when you don't have to go to multiple locations, when you don't have to build big sets, etc, etc. You can, you can work faster and more expediently you can bring the the the cost of the production down. Or, more importantly, you can elevate the production value of low budget indie films, which is kind of the real key for me, you know, now that we've actually we've just completed a we're completing our first feature, not my not my film, one for another director, guy called john Curran. It's a film called mercy road, which is, it's basically it's a movie at night, it's set in real time, a guy in a in a truck, it's a thriller, it's a bit like jewel, but it's more Gothic and sort of dark and spooky, you know, and we've created the entire world for this film, we've made the the orders, you know, he's in the truck, a lot of the time that he gets out, and he goes to various different locations, the whole world is basically being created by, by heretic in, in, in virtual space, and we've shot it with a combination of LED screens and green screen in numerous situations, as well, and it's looking fantastic. It's really quite wonderful what the material that I'm seeing at the moment. So that, to me, is a great example of elevating a fairly low budget, thriller, indie thriller, to a level where the visuals are ones you would associate with a very expensive, you know, studio movie, you know. And that, to me is an exciting success story already of heretic Foundation, and one we hope to keep building on we have numerous other projects, lining up that one is a World War Two, film set on a on a battleship, which again, you know, they wouldn't even consider doing it on the budget that they have. And in fact, they've tried to raise a larger budget and be now unable to, and it's the technology that were able to bring to it, that's a making the film actually achievable. You know, and that's really exciting world to be in.

Alex Ferrari 48:16
Now, when you say vert, and for a lot of people listening virtual reality virtual, it's never true, that virtual production. You know, when I think of virtual production, I think of the Mandalorian. And then the volume and stuff, have you if you created similar volumes, and using green screen, so you have a volume. And then you also do some elements in green screen as well. So it's a hybrid, if you will,

Alex Proyas 48:36
correct. That's right. Yeah, we heretic. We're currently building a LED volume, a large led volume with a, in cooperation with a with another company. And we've been doing mainly green screen, our studio has green screen. I mean, it's quite a small, small stage. I mean, our studio is really designed as an r&d stage. But we're building we've just done this one film in another volume, but we're building a dedicated led volume, it will be led and green screen, because it's the combination of the two that works so well. You know, some there are some things that are like Mandalorian LED screens are not actually that great at doing when you're when your scenes are very dark, there's a lot of blacking frame. There, it's not as not as good, you know, as a green screen can actually work a lot better. But, you know, it's certain things it's, you know, ideally you have both at your disposal, we have our our guys who are running the virtual sets in the middle between a green and an LED volume, and you literally move the cameras backwards and forwards, you know, depending on what shot is serviced by tech tech tech, do you know and that's ultimate. That's the ultimate goal and that yeah, that's what You are you're there for the duration of the production, you don't, right? That's

Alex Ferrari 50:03
your, that's your company move. That's your, you're just moving left or right, that's your company move in, that's how I mean honestly, that's happened for a filmmaker, I mean, anyone who's ever been out and you know, on location, and you're like, Oh, we only could do one company move today because we're in the middle of a desert, you know, but you know, but you could, um, this kind of production, you can do that. And a lot of things also in virtual production. I've had friends of mine who've worked on the Mandalorian. And you know, the press about, you know, you just put the camera and you shoot, to a certain extent that's true, but and I'd love to hear what you think. But there is cleanup work. There is seen you have to see the cleanup seems you got it. So there is it's not like you just shoot in the can you're done? Yes, you get a lot more done than you used to. But there is still a visual effects hand that's going to touch it and clean things up a little bit. Is that true?

Alex Proyas 50:51
Yes, that's very true. And you don't hear that from Mandel. Laurie bit the PR, Amanda Lauria makes it seem like it's, it's, it's a really easy to walk in the park, and let's not forget that they have huge budget. Like, I've put this together again, from my own bank account, at least up until this point, you know, and you know, it's very different to having you know, Disney and ILM behind you. But look, you know, I'm grateful to the Mandalorian team, because they've, they've made this, everyone goes ISO Mandalorian, you know, and they're all you know, it's created a whole sort of mini industry, and it's helped my company enormously, so very grateful to you all there a Mandalorian land. But this is not the, you don't need to do all that stuff to, to make a work as we've just proven on a very low budget movie, and we're continuing to prove its ingenuity a lot of its ingenuity. The but but, yes, to To be clear, there is a lot of cleanup work, but it's but you have to be clever about how you do it. Some shots work perfectly well. And other other shots as we say, you swing around in your on the green, and they will work better on green. And the one thing that you have to remember is that it's a double edged sword, having your having your dailies there done in the can on an LED screen, because if you haven't had the time in pre production to, to get your set your environment fully SPECT out the way you want it, you're stuck with it, you know, in the Mandalorians case, they're not because they can just replace it later on, you know, in our case, it's prohibitive to do that. So we have to make sure that we have it to a level of finish that we're happy to have baked in to the to the to the dailies, otherwise, we'll shoot it on grain. And that's our way of keeping costs down, you know, but you know, look, if you do it, right, if you if you do the right kinds of shots on le G, you shouldn't have to do any cleanup work afterwards, you know, it's it should be done, it is possible to bake it all in and get it all done. For example, in this short film that we've just that we're finishing at the moment, a lot of the stuff out, you know, in all the car stuff with a guy inside the car, outside the window is 100% LSG volume. Because there's so many shots to finish all those two composite all those shots in green are would have been really pro hippy expensive and expensive prospect. So we've only stripped out the shots at an absolutely essential that we do on green screen. There's quite a few of those, but it makes it a much more manageable thing. It's just on the Mandalorian they wouldn't care the Mandalorian they do it they go I didn't work out and we'll do it and you know, we'll do it the other way, you know, because they can afford to

Alex Ferrari 54:05
rotoscoped out the shot and and get up and do whatever and do whatever they want. No, it's it's it's pretty amazing technology. And yeah, I'm always I'm always fascinated by all that. And, you know, the thing that's also really interesting is a lot of people think that you have to do if your virtual production has to be this big sci fi world building thing. But no, you're the story you're talking about the film that you're talking about is not it might be genre and stuff but it's not a sci fi world creating dark city style project, which you know, something like reprojection this is basically just really nice rear projection. with with with being able to move the camera and the camera following the parallax on. But I can only imagine what Stanley Kubrick would do with this technology.

Alex Proyas 54:55
Yeah, well he liked he did it. I mean he did it with that's the funny thing about The Mandalorian claiming to have invented I don't know whether they ever did that other people claim that they claim this projection or direction. Yeah, it's been around since day one, you know, and, and look, the thing about virtual production is that what really is the key is not so much of the screen or whether it's led or green is the marrying a computer generated model. That's that to the to the live camera. And as you move your camera, the model will move accordingly. That is what the two production is. And in fact, I know exactly who invented that. And I can't say that it was me, but it was almost me because the first two films that were done using a very early version of, of video virtual production was was Spielberg's AI and my iRobot right now we're the first films to actually use the the technology we you know, at the time that we did iRobot I didn't know that this stuff actually had already been done that I was like, I had a scene with Will Smith running around 1000 robots and I didn't have anything real I only had wheel Smith and one robot which was used as a standard so I go How do we do this scene? How can I move my camera around and now what I'm seeing through these rows of robots you know that we put 1000 cut bits of cardboard our cardboard net cats or something. And they came up with this thing called encoders called encoder care which was the early rudimentary virtual production thing where we had had the model on on the stage my camera on a techno crane could move around town and I'd see this sort of you know, very rudimentary 3d model move as my camera moved and I was like Wow, this is awesome. This is incredible you know? Yeah. So that really was the origins of virtual production and then now that's been combined with as you say rescreen project a new form of risk group project right?

Alex Ferrari 57:17
Because when I robot was around the LEDs, not so much. Not that affordable. This big, this big was about $10,000 Yeah, it was all plasma back then. I hate this I still got my I still have a plasma TV from like 15 years ago and it still looks fantastic and it's still still rockin at 720 p Now one other thing I wanted to talk to you about a little birdie told me that you might be working on a series for dark city is that true?

Alex Proyas 57:52
I have no idea where you look I mentioned that to one to one person and on a podcast a bit like this and I mean it was great to see so many people picked it up as a story so much so much of the the sort of genre based you know industry picked it up as something to have note which is great it just show me that there's a lot of any kind of new there's a lot of still you know interest still strong there in the in the in the wings for for a dark city a continuation of the dark city story but of course you know, I mentioned way earlier than I should have were still with you know, I should have said and I'm trying to sell a dark city and I'm making a dark as opposed

Alex Ferrari 58:44
to like so so when is the streaming and what is coming out November

Alex Proyas 58:49
is it November people assume it's like it's happening already you've shot it it's been in the Can you just imposed I've had some yeah I've had so many actors applying to screen test and and writers applying to write episodes etc so this is kind of me saying Don't you know let's let's take a deep breath down guys and wait a moment before you know before I say anything too much more about it look the only thing because I like you Alex so much as you know the only thing I can say that I know knowing that's the caveat that where we're just where we're working it out at the moment we're not we don't have we're not we're not greenlit we're far from it. You know, we haven't I haven't even written any of it. Yeah, we're still working on our on our pitch on our onset, you know, but what I will say is, it is very much a continuation of the, the original movie. It's, it's not a re it's not a reboot, as a as a more more of a sequel to the original movie. So that's something that that maybe will, you know, is one bit of information that is make people would want to know about and you know I'm trying to I mean it is it's you know obviously in doing a TV series we have to appeal to a bunch of an audience that maybe don't even know about dark city they've got no idea of this film dark city and there's plenty of those people around but at the same time every year that goes pass more and more people are become dark city fans it you know it this has been going on since the first the original release so many people come have come to come to every year going wow we never knew this movie existed This is a great and become new fans you know so I'm also trying to create a story that that makes those people happy you know and be the bit is faithful to the original fans of the series and and works into what they would want to see you know so i think i think we're there I think we've come up with a with a concept that will work for for both sides of the spectrum and and also as I said bringing in you hopefully bring in new a new audience as well you know

Alex Ferrari 1:01:12
well that's exciting news and I I want you to have that that Canvas to play with him to go visit that world because of such a wonderful and rich world and God I would love to see it so I wish you nothing but the best but everyone listening calm the hell down it's he's he's not in post everybody he's not in post in it already. It's not coming out for Christmas everyone needs to calm the hell down.

Alex Proyas 1:01:37
Sadly that's the case and look you know this also feeds into the technology that we've just been talking about because you know dark city was made at the time and I barely could afford it even then they didn't give me a huge budget but they gave me enough where I built the entire thing we had these massive sets built in is kind of aircraft hangar size space in Sydney we built the entire street that we kept reconfiguring much like the film was to service all our all our different scenes you know and you know obviously the The time has gone you know when you could do that on a film like that but now of course this new technology is is enabling me to make that world in an even better way I believe I don't have quite the fun on the set of hanging out on those in those cool spaces but beyond that, you know the virtual production gives you a world that looks every bit as great and again I'm not having to limit my imagination because even on something like this series which will hopefully be financed by you know a legitimate studio with the money to throw at it that that it necessitates that there's going to be a limit there I'm going to you know they're not going to let me go crazy but in the virtual world I can I can do whatever I want I can visualize it however I want to add and so I think it's the right time for continuing the visual aspect of dark city in a in a new in a new form you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:18
I have to ask you just out of curiosity when when you are going to pitch a show like this I obviously there's going to be a lot of concept art but would you create like a sizzle reel like using your technology going look this is what we can do kind of Robert Rodriguez did that with Sin City and and you're like when there's new like technology like Look guys, I know normally would cost $100 million, but we could do it for five. And this is what we could do and this is how we do it. Look what it looks like are you going are you planning on doing something like a little sizzle reel or something?

Alex Proyas 1:03:48
No wait because the movie is a sizzle reel. Right? So there's no real reason so so if there are any executives who have my fate in their hands I say to go watch it go and watch the movie you know right right. And you know look fortunately I have I'm I'm involved with some people who who are big fans on the original movie so so that's that's really that's really key. But they you know, yes. If it wasn't for that, that movie existing Absolutely. You know, that would be the The first thing to do. I've got a film called sister darkness that we are there we're trying to finance at the moment. That is we're doing just that with you know, we've created we've actually created a little, a little trailer and all that sort of stuff. And it's all virtual production. Just to show people that the kinds of the way it's going to look, you know, so So. Yeah, absolutely. It's nice having a studio at my fingertips for such things.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:55
Yeah. Very helpful. I've been I was in post for most of my Career and I love having the ability to just like oh yeah I got my VFX team I've got my post team I can just you know do whatever I want I never even on the budget that's so funny whenever I do a project but the budget line for for post I just never even because I use I'm like I'm gonna do the post I'm going to edit it I'm going to sorry Of course it's free I'm going to call I'm going to comment rate it I'm going to master it I'm going to output it for deliverables all that stuff so I never even think about even scheduling How much does that cost? Jesus Christ I've got a lot of value I should charge more for this. Now where it can people submit to video verse and submit their films,

Alex Proyas 1:05:37
it's very verse.com

Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
that's Vi Vi di verse vi

Alex Proyas 1:05:43
d i diverse yeah vt verse. I expect you you'll get a run it underneath

Alex Ferrari 1:05:50
me. I'll put it in the show notes. We'll put it in the show notes. As you do this, I will have my I will have my team if the team is listening the my patina as do it one more time to do one more time. So very, very verse city, the SATCOM makes Yeah, I'll make sure I'll make sure they do.

Alex Proyas 1:06:10
And yeah, so it's all self explanatory. I hope on if you go to their website, it explains exactly what what is required of you. And, yeah, please send us your films and, and, and we can do something great together. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:27
Alex, I appreciate you being on the show. Again, coming back. I appreciate everything you're doing with Vinnie verse. I love that you continue to take big swings at the play for everybody. And you also have a fantastic first name as well. So thank you, my friend for doing all that you do. And thanks again for coming on the show my friend.

Alex Proyas 1:06:48
Thank you Alex. It's been a pleasure again and hopefully we'll do at least one more time,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:53
at least a few that when you when the dark city dark city series releases, you'll come back and then we talk about it that Thank you. Thank you, my friend.

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BPS 342: Misadventures in Raising Money & Getting Your Film Made with Alex Lehmann

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Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Alex Lehmann. How you doing, Alex?

Alex Lehmann 1:45
Thanks for having me back.

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Thanks for coming back. Well, I mean, you're one of you one of the OG's here in the film, also you are in the oldest episode. The first time you were on the show you were promoting a film called Blue Jay. I forgive me, I don't remember the episode, but I think it was in the hundreds. We're now closing in on episode 600. That's huge. It's insane. I appreciate that. It's insane. It's definitely a hustle. As you can tell by the branding.

Alex Lehmann 2:13
You have shirts you have Whoa, live whatever that is. You've got it's everywhere.

Alex Ferrari 2:20
It's part of my life, sir. I don't have a tattoo yet. But that's it. That's next, please. But listen, man, I was telling you before we got on, man, I'm so happy for you, man. You've done. You've done so well. I've had so many things. I've had the pleasure of talking to a lot of filmmakers over the years. And you and I've met we've hung out a little bit. And and it's just remarkable how your career has progressed. Because a lot of people who I've talked to they don't they don't progress that way. So your your your success story. And that's why I wanted to have you back on the show to like, let everybody know, like, you know, he's he's done good. He's doing good. He's moving along. He's telling stories. He's building a career for himself. So it's, it's a pleasure just to be able to witness it from that point from when you like kind of were first beginning, getting your feet off the ground with an amazing film, by the way with Mark Duplass. And Paul and samples and

Alex Lehmann 3:17
But I also talk about all the failures in between?

Alex Ferrari 3:20
Well, yeah, of course, after the first one that look, let's let's, let's keep it real alates after the first movie, Hollywood just brought the dump truck full of cash dumped in front of you. And then anything you wanted to do, they just said, Alex, name it and how much all you have is time and money and any star you want. So that's how it's as been. So yeah, I know, I understand. There's been I'm sure, for every one movie that you get made. There's 30 that get don't get made or really close to getting rid of the money drops out of the actor drops out or, Oh, this doesn't happen. That doesn't happen. So of course a struggle.

Alex Lehmann 3:53
Can I say, good? It's a hustle.

Alex Ferrari 3:57
You owe me 15 cents or so. So for people who didn't listen, I had the pleasure of listening to our other episodes. Can you tell everybody a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the business? Sure. Absolutely.

Alex Lehmann 4:10
Yeah, I was a cameraman and a cinematographer for a solid 10 years more than 10 years. And that was just my source of income and my career path was was being a DP and even though I'd gone to film school thinking I was going to direct a kind of, I want to say got sidetracked but I'd found this passion of cinematography and it also paid the bills and and then I did get a little bit antsy at one point I felt like I needed to make my own stuff. So I was writing some pretty bad scripts and and then I made a documentary called Asperger's or us and I connected with with Mark Duplass on that one. And he helped me get that one, you know, into festivals and get it out in the world. And then he and I started, you know, becoming collaborators on a couple of things like, like Blue Jay and, and Paddington. So that's kind of you know, is I kind of In the chutes and ladders of at all, I feel like you know, being completely honest, I feel like I kind of hit that big ladder. Your audience knows what Chutes and Ladders is right?

Alex Ferrari 5:08
That's not that's an obscure, sir, you are old, sir, you are old. It's not, my audience doesn't know about no joke.

Alex Lehmann 5:18
I got the magic star. I don't know, pick whatever you want

Alex Ferrari 5:24
You won, you won the lottery, you want to scratch off lottery ticket,

Alex Lehmann 5:27
The opportunity that I got was was really big. And you know, I mean, the lesson I share with anybody is like, the opportunities will come and you don't know in what form and sometimes it's a huge opportunity, sometimes a small opportunity, you can't really control them, but you have to be ready for them if they show up. And, you know, I kind of feel like I lucked out as far as the timing of hat being ready and having the right stuff at the right time for for when a guy like Mark Duplass said, you know, I'm going to open the door for you.

Alex Ferrari 5:56
It's interesting for people that don't know the full story, because we're kind of glazing over how you were you were you were a camera on a show, forgot the name of the week, exactly. The league and Mark was on it. And as every independent film any movie about an independent film being made, there's generally the DP or the grip or someone with a script in the back of their pocket that hands it to the star, which you didn't do. But he heard that you had made this documentary. Yeah. And the timing of that. It's exactly what it is. It's luck. Right place, right time LED product. If you made that film Three years later, yeah, it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't have that connection. So if those stars aligned, and then Mark said, Hey, let's take your movie out into the world. Oh, and by the way, I love I just liked hanging out with you working with you. Let's collaborate on another project. And then that kind of starts that off. But what is interesting about your story, Alex, and please forgive me for blowing a little bit of smoke up here, but not too much. I'm gonna try to keep it to a minimum, don't worry, we'll bring you back down crashing back down. But the thing that's fascinating is that I know a lot of filmmakers who get those, those kinds of lottery ticket moments with those opportunities with those kind of either big stars or people who open the doors for them. But many of them don't stay in the door. Many of them don't have the chops to stay in the door. Many of them don't have the personalities to stay in the door. Because you can get a shot. You know it you've seen I'm sure you have a lot of friends that get gay possibly out of a lottery ticket situation, get a shot, shot, but they either blow it, their egos get in the way their personalities get in the way something happens. That it's that's the end of that's the peak, but you kept you kept that get that thing going. And people were like, you know, I want to keep working with I want to keep working with Alex, I want to keep doing this. So that's a lesson for everybody listening just because you get if someone opens the door, you're lucky enough for someone to open the door. That's when the work begins. That's not where the work ends. Do you agree with that?

Alex Lehmann 7:52
Yeah, yeah, I would. I would agree with that. And I would say that, for every success, you have you, there'll be some more opportunities that happened. And like, did you get led into the party? To a certain extent? Yes. But I don't know just to mix metaphors. Like I think every party ends and then there's going to be a new party, and then you got to get into that one. And you do have to keep earning your way back. And it's ethics I do. And most of my friends like we find ourselves constantly having to re earn our you know, our worth, so there isn't usually that one thing that changes everything

Alex Ferrari 8:26
Is as the as the incomparable Miss Janet Jackson says, What have you done for me lately? That's basically that's basically the town. It's like, great. You Have you won an Oscar fantastic.

Alex Lehmann 8:39
Not what it should be, though. You know, I, it sucks. Because I'll be honest, that there's, there have been times where I feel like, you know, why, you know, why can't I just get the next thing made? I've just proven that, you know, I'm consistently making movies that are getting good reviews, and that people love and bla bla bla, and yeah, you know, I, I mean, I'd say two things. First of all, the landscape is constantly changing. And I'm sure you've had a bazillion episodes that have talked about, you know, the streaming and the whatever, everything, pandemic, everything has changed. And like what audiences want that's constantly changing. So, a there's that. And so what you might be good at is in for a moment, and then and then it's not, like, you have to reinvent yourself. That's, that's cool. That's fine. And the other thing is, this town is full of such talented people. There's so many there's not enough room for us all to constantly be making all the things and and so the way I look at it is like, you know, I get something made and it's fantastically so you know, it's fantastic for us. The project might not be fantastic, but it is who knows. But But we, we celebrate we feel great and people watch it, and then it's back to square one. You get thrown on this pile of billions of talented filmmakers that's maybe maybe not billions, maybe just Millions I don't know, but so many talented filmmakers and it's back to square one where we're all trying to get something made again. And that's okay. The meritocracy does exist to a certain extent. And, you know, if if we were if we were benefiting from like our past successes too much, that would also be leaving the door closed completely for for that, that filmmaker who's listening right now who hasn't made their first thing. So I like the fact that the door gets to stay open a little bit for them to

Alex Ferrari 10:29
Absolutely, because you need it. I mean, that's, that's the business, the business needs to be refreshed with new blood and, and all that kind of stuff. Now, I want to ask, you know, you've directed a handful of features, what, in your, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge in directing an indie or, you know, non studio or just like, you know, non 100 billion dollar franchise? Kind of film? What are these challenges you the biggest challenge? You think?

Alex Lehmann 10:56
I mean, I think the biggest thing is getting it made, I still think that's harder than then making it. I don't know, if that'll ever change.

Alex Ferrari 11:04
You're right. To a certain extent, I mean, unless you're, unless you're playing a different league, where the movie is gonna get made, regardless if you're on here or not. That's a different conversation. But for most filmmakers, that's not the conversation.

Alex Lehmann 11:18
Well, because I mean, it's pretty messed up. If you think about it, you're trying to convince somebody to make something that doesn't exist that's never existed before exactly in that form. And they're asking you in that room, or on the zoom. So what is this like? And so you're trying to convince them to spend a lot of money to make something that's never existed before, but they don't have the imagination that you have, because they're not you. And so they don't exactly understand what it is you're trying to make. And yet you have to promise them that, you know, it will exist, you don't know exactly what it is, but it's going to be this thing that is just out in the ether right now. It's it's, it's not like building, I can't show you the blueprints of Vegas, I can show you the blueprints. But you know, everybody knows the difference between script to screen. That's why we have reviewers. That's why we don't, you know, we don't finish with reviewing scripts like that, though the work is only getting started. And, and so I think there's a lot of fear and uncertainty. And so trying to convince people that this is the right thing to be made, and it's going to be artistically valid, and probably financially has to be valid as well. Those are those are some pretty serious hurdles.

Alex Ferrari 12:30
Now, since you, you've been around the block a little bit, you've got a little shrapnel in you from the business over the years. Is there something with a limp? You walk? Yeah, we all walk with a limp, or some of us walk with more than just that. But is is there anything you wish? There's that one thing that you wish that someone would have told you at the beginning of this conversation? Have you tried to be a filmmaker to just go hey, man, keep an eye out for this thing.

Alex Lehmann 12:58
I wish somebody had maybe told me that indie financing is fickle, and maybe most people that say they have money don't actually have money. No. I'm naive. I really am. I'm sorry.

Alex Ferrari 13:14
When someone tells you when someone tells you I have I got $100,000 I could put into this. You believe them?

Alex Lehmann 13:19
Yeah, I mean, I'm not gonna go through the details of my latest films because they got made and you know, at the end of the day, I feel very lucky that they did and the rest is is the rest and the more I share the specifics with friends, the more they tell me there's similar stories and I feel like the whole the whole world of indie financing is a very comical place it's a euphemism comical but but but I got lucky because my first couple narrative features were 50 plus right like Mark was instantly market if we're making the movie together he was starring in it he was you know, able to pay for it. And he had a distribution deal with Netflix it was so turnkey and so it wasn't until acid man which I you know specifically set out to make on my own my own it was such a personal story and I felt like I want to produce this myself and you just really just take the full ownership so raising raising finances for that when I wish I'm glad I learned what I learned but I wish somebody maybe had given me a crash course or two before before I headed out into that way it is

Alex Ferrari 14:25
The only two words I can tell you sir verifiable funds. The two magic words and indie finance verifiable funds,

Alex Lehmann 14:34
They wrote it down on a napkin napkin with a crayon and that was good enough for me.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
Yeah, for everybody listening. There are multiple episodes about film financing on the show on the podcast, you can go back into the archives, but two words verifiable funds, but but here's why.

Alex Lehmann 14:56
Maybe that doesn't matter that you have those episodes and why may He doesn't matter that like I wish somebody would have told me is we, we believe so bad or should do, of course you want to believe. And I've got friends in situations where they've come across some shady financing, and then they try to tip off the next person who might get tied into that shady financing say like, don't work with this person, their money's not real. And the response nine times out of 10 is, yeah, but he's our best shot. So we're gonna go with him anyways. It's like, it's like, you're like, don't you know, it's like don't get don't get in the train is heading off a cliff and somebody goes, Oh, I kinda want to go somewhere.

Alex Ferrari 15:38
I you know, and this is this is a deeper conversation because I was having a conversation with this film distributor the other day. And he was asking him straight up, I was like, why are filmmakers always getting taken advantage of and film distribution, and this goes through film financing as well. And he's like, because they want to believe

Alex Lehmann 15:57
Because we're not business majors because we're not even. But not even that, but not even that part.

Alex Ferrari 16:02
Even if you're smart enough, cuz there's a lot of smart people I know in the business school got taken, because they want to believe because either if you're if the beginning of this situation or at the end, so film finances at the beginning, film distribution is at the end, both times there's a lot of pressure on you to make something happen. You want to get your movie made. And then in film distribution, you're so exhausted that you believe anything that anybody tells you like, Oh, someone loves me. Someone loves my work that I've been spending the last two years for sure. There's no mg. I don't need it. I don't need any money upfront. 25 years? Sure. I'll sign that. And okay, great. And oh, 5000 $5 million. Expense cap. Great. That's fantastic. But you want to believe so that's something that it's it's hard. It's even when even if you know this information, when you're in it's kind of like being in a bad relationship? You know, you're just like, I know, she I know she's not good for me. Yeah. But damn, I can't quit her. I could change her. I could change her, I could change it. I can, I can make I can make I can make her better. I could change her. Yeah, that doesn't work out in film financing or in full distribution.

Alex Lehmann 17:07
But don't you think that probably the shady people that are pretending to have money but are really out there to like, you know, whatever, screw us over. Don't you think that they're also saying like, I could change? I could, I could be a better person. I really gotta have that money that I promised the filmmaker?

Alex Ferrari 17:26
Well, I think I think those people are I think there are people who do go out there with malicious intent. I think other people truly believe that they're just they want to play the role of the high roller that I want to be in show business kind of vibe. And they, they might have the intention to get you the money, but they just don't have the capability of doing so. But they just kind of roll the dice and like, Oh, I'm just gonna say I have the money so I can play I can go along this train and have these conversations and pretend that I'm a filmmaker or a producer or finance or so on.

Alex Lehmann 17:59
We're all doing that though. Right? Like, like the very fabric of filmmaking is we're trying to get people to believe in something that's totally made up. And we're taking them on a journey and we're saying this is this is a story worth now gather out everybody this is this is allowed to take two hours of your time and it's gonna be worth it's it's it's there's there's something romantic and that and I do think that I mean, I don't know I think that probably like, like the real scammers are probably another business is because there's there's more money being made Scammon in in

Alex Ferrari 18:32
Medicare. Yeah. scamming Medicare is a lot better, more lucrative and scamming independent filmmakers.

Alex Lehmann 18:40
Yeah, so I think I just I think my heart goes out even to like the the indie film scammers because like at the heart of it, and you touched on this, like they want to be part of making movies and like, it's like I was gonna have to scam somewhere most of all scam here and make movies because as a kid, I always wanted to scan and make movies.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
So just a disclaimer, everybody I do not I do not suggest you scan Medicare or any independent filmmakers. That's not part of what we're saying here. I'm just just using them as an example. Now, I wanted to ask you something else, because you have been a cinematographer for most of your career. And most of the films you've worked on, you've been the DP. Yeah. But this one you did it. So what was it like acid man? What was it like not having the controls of the lighting and the camera? And did you let loose? did you how did that work for you as someone who's done because as for me, I've been editing all my life anytime I've ever worked with an editor. It's an adjustment. It takes a minute.

Alex Lehmann 19:42
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Well, you know how often I also wasn't the cinematographer. So that was the first one but I I'll be honest, I struggled on piloten to let go of those reins and the DP I had. He had he had shot second unit for me on bluejay when I did that myself, so there was you know a little But first there and he also had, he was very patient in, in, in my inability to completely like go on pallets. And I will say that the first day of acid man was still tricky and I was still like kind of gripping onto that hat a little bit. And my cinematographer John Matousek. He, he really got me there, this was a, this was a cool experience for me, because it was the first time that that just and is very early on in the filming process. I just started seeing what he was doing. And I started trusting and you know, I think it became clear to me that we were going to approach things differently, but I loved, you know, the end results, and that I just needed to trust, you know, the process until I would get to see the end result. Because, you know, otherwise, like, instantly just looking at, like, where somebody puts a light and like, well, that's how I put the light. It's totally subjective, but you know, to keep my mouth shut as both a I think a very good collaborator, but also a control freak. And that's, I think you're supposed to have a little bit of both of those to direct. I was really excited to be able to go funny story about John, he literally shot my first short film in college. That's how long I've known him. And we didn't you know, we he went out to Nashville for a while and was shooting commercials and, you know, was raising a family out there. So he didn't come back to LA till just a couple years ago. And we reconnected he was saying, like, I want to get back in the indie feature game, you know, move moving to LA with my family, I really want to make movies again. And that's how I reached out to him for for acid man. And, and, you know, he was fantastic. And and I've you know, I've been using them since. And it's it's so freeing not to have to think like a DP much anymore. We can start the conversations and the shorthand. But yeah,

Alex Ferrari 21:54
I felt the same way as like, when you like, I see a unassembled cut of something I did. I was like, Oh, I didn't have to spend six hours to go to assemble, cut done. Oh, that kind of feels nice. I just would come in and, and tweak, oh, that's feels a little bit better.

Alex Lehmann 22:10
But here's the good thing, whether it's editing or cinematography, photography a little less, because you you only have certain amount of time and resources. Sure. But to say, you know, I've got something in mind. But before I take us down that path, what are you thinking? Let me see where you're thinking. It's like you only have one opportunity to really see how your, your collaborator artists sees things before you. You know, smother them with your vision, and ask them to like, try to understand what it is you want. And there's a curiosity I have when we have the time. It's like, what did you see when you read the script? Or, you know, what are you feeling in this moment, because I know what I'd like to do, but I might be able to learn something from you. And you know, as much time as we have and, you know, as much exploring as we can do, I'd love to do a little discovery before we go down a path. And by the way, I might still say like, that's really interesting. And let's shoot that. But then the shot I really need that's been in my mind's eye. Since the first day I wrote this is the shot over here. And you know, we'll we'll get both of them figured out later. But sometimes I abandoned sometimes I said, That's cool. That's, that's more interesting than what I was going to do. And thank you for challenging me.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
And that takes time to allow yourself to be confident enough in your own skin, comfortable enough in your own skin to allow that the ego starts to pull back a little bit in you and you as you get a little bit older, you've been in around town a little bit longer and doing this, you realize your like, best idea wins man, best.

Alex Lehmann 23:42
You're right. It's all it's all about ego or hopefully lack of ego, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 23:48
Now you've you've had the pleasure of working with some amazing actors, some some some legends, you know, Ray Romano Duplass. Now you've worked with Thomas Haden Church in an acid man. How do you approach working with actors of that those that kind of caliber? Because I can imagine it might be intimidating, working with someone you might have, like with Raman. Or, you know, having him working with him. Ray Romano, not Raymond. But Ray Romano, but like working with someone like that, that you might have been watching him as you grew up, like how do you approach the relationship of a director actor and that's an area

Alex Lehmann 24:29
Where I like to start out, you know, exchanging some really vulnerable information about each other so that we both feel you know, and then I blackmail them.

Alex Ferrari 24:41
For the great technique, guys, great pictures, photos, work, photos, work to get photos.

Alex Lehmann 24:48
You were in their trust, and then you weaponize it against them. No, the first parts true. A, I would say more even more importantly, I mean when you when you ask yourself, especially if it's somebody is a little more legendary who's been doing who's been doing so much, who you know is getting 10 offers a week. You know, Sarah Paulson, Ray Romano, Thomas Haden Church, you have to ask yourself first like, Okay, why? Why are they why did they choose this project? And and I think it's a really fair thing to both ask yourself maybe the reps and ask them, what is it that you're that draws them to the project and really make sure that you're honoring that, like, if there's something that they came here specifically for, as long as it falls within the scope of what you're trying to make with the film, make sure there's there's room for that if, if raise like I always, you know, comedic and I want to make sure that like I have the opportunity to really, you know, show the world my dramatic chops. Don't make them say a bunch of Dick and fart jokes, like let them you know, really build it around those those moments that he wants. And in return, he'll, you know, he'll give you the goods and and as far as Thomas goes, you know, I wanted to understand why he was drawn to this and, and and understand what, you know what, what excites him? Because obviously, the paydays on these smaller films is not what makes these people leave their home when they made all that 90s TV money.

Alex Ferrari 26:12
I mean, listen, listen, Thomas Thomas just got off of Spider Man, the latest Spider Man. So I'm sure he's okay.

Alex Lehmann 26:18
He's okay. But you know, but he the things he did for our film that he you know, he's willing to put up with, you know, the lack of trailers, the limitations that we have, there's obviously something there. And, you know, for him, it's, he was finding the character of acid man really relatable. He was, honestly, you know, he was, he was saying, like, I'm becoming more of an acid man myself all the time, which, you know, for your listeners, I should say, this, this characters, you know, he's a cluesive very intelligent man, but a reclusive guy who lives in the small town and is kind of he just kind of keeps to himself and he tinkerers, you know, he's got some of his own hobbies, and some of his own his own interests and beliefs. And he's maybe not very, he's definitely not understood by by the town or really, by anyone. He's just kind of minding his own business. And, and, you know, Thomas had been, I mean, the pandemic didn't hurt, but Thomas felt like he'd been living in his little ranch house a lot lately, just not not feeling as motivated to connect with people and, and started to like, feel that distance to grow. And he was saying, like, what, what's that about? Why am I comfortable with this? And like, is this going to continue like, like, is this pattern going to continue where like, maybe I stopped returning phone calls completely, at some point, let me explore these feelings with the character of acid man. So you know, making the room for Thomas to explore those those elements, that was really important. And then adapting to his process was really important. And so he loves to find the character, you know, everything that's beneath the page. And so we had so many long phone calls it himself and Diana Aegon, who plays his daughter, the three of us had, like, you know, on the weekly just like maybe two or three phone calls that would last a couple hours each and this went on for months. And we just really dug beneath what was you know, the script and found these characters and that fits my improv process anyways, but it was really about like, this is this is what makes Thomas excited is like building out a character and fleshing him out. I mean, it's, it's easy for me to give that when that's something I want as well. But But yeah, I would say to answer your question in a roundabout way, you figure out what it is they want you make sure that they get to have it. That's why they showed up.

Alex Ferrari 28:41
Now, can you tell me how acidman you knew from SMA came to life?

Alex Lehmann 29:11
Yeah, so that's that script I've had since we were taking blue J on tour promoting blue J. It was, yeah, this is a it's a very personal story. It's something that I started writing, you know, way before Pendleton and I don't really think I was ever going to make it certainly not after paddles. And it just kind of felt like maybe the opportunity had come and gone for for this movie. And the character of acid man, the name acid man, there's actually this guy, you know, in the small town where I grew up his he was probably schizophrenic. But, but you know, like the kids had a nickname for this guy who walked around the town and he lived with his parents. He's probably in his 30s and they would like throw eggs at his house and spray paint stuff and just harass him and call him acid man and mythology was, you know, he gotten a bad acid trip and never came back? And I think a lot of towns have their own acid man, right? Like, I usually like everything, you know, people go like, Oh, yeah, we had Charlie on a lawnmower, we had, you know, our guy dressed up like Abraham Lincoln would walk around. And, and I was always really curious about that, that man when I was young, and about how, what his relationship was with our town, like, you know, we, this is weird to me that like, we could just write somebody off and kind of harassment even the adults call them, the walking man, it's just felt very, I think we fell short of really respecting that person. And and I think probably loneliness and you know, searching for connection or themes that have kind of been throughout all of my films. And and so I was I was always kind of connected to that character. And then the ultimate question of like, what if you're estranged from your parents or your father and you reconnect with your father who used to be this brilliant scientist, really intelligent man does this, you knew him as one person, and then you reconnect with them, and he's become the acid man of his town right there. Good. And so I think some of that's obviously just exploring the aging, you know, our parents and who they become and who will become one day.

Alex Ferrari 31:22
Yeah, that's, that I was telling you earlier, I was, as I was watching it, it was connecting with me on a whole other level. Because, you know, when you're 20, and you watch a film like this, you like, that's kind of and this or that. But when you're, you know, I'm getting close to 50. I'm like, you could say that word, but I have a few years away still. But you know, I'm getting to that age, and you just start thinking about things a lot differently, you start thinking about life differently. Where am I going to be in 20 or 30 years, you definitely have more behind you than you do ahead of you. That's a very strange place to be as a person, I think they do call it a midlife crisis, though. I'm not getting a Corvette anytime soon. But, and I love my wife. But, but it was really interesting, the way I really attached myself to not only the acid man as a character, but the daughter, and seeing her father through his eyes, and I, and I have my parents still so you start looking at them and who they were when they were when you were there, a young man or a young, you know, oh, boy, little boy, a little girl, and who you thought they were and who you who they become later in life. And it's, it's fascinating. And then I started thinking about what my daughters are gonna look at me in 20 or 30 years, like it's crazy podcasting, filmmaking guy who made some movies and hung out with some stars, or did some this and, or did that and like, and then like, and now look at him, just living off all that crazy podcast money. But but it was just very fascinating. It was really, I mean, again, a hit me at the right place. I'm your demographic, sir. So it was it was really touching.

Alex Lehmann 32:59
I appreciate that. Yeah, I think it's interesting to explore those Blurred Lines, because you don't, there's no day that you just say like, alright, you know, I was a child, and you were an adult, you know, to your parents, you know, you don't say there's no day where you say, Okay, you're no longer the parent, and I'm no longer the child because I too, am an adult. You know, and we don't say that to our kids, either. So it just kind of you so at some point, you're a child, and you're a parent. So that's weird, right? Like, how can you be both? But I mean, you are lucky you like you are, you're a dad, but you're, you're a son as well. And, and it's no secret that at some point, we lose a little bit of either either faculty or just, like, some strength in life, you know, as we age, or at least we don't necessarily have the same qualities and strengths that that our society maybe, right, virtue, you know, honor, right, so, so respect as much and so there's this kind of softening of where older people go into and what how do you say that? How do you say, like, at some point, like, well, you're my one point, you know, you said, My, you my parent, I look up to nobody really young, you say like, you're my parent, your got your, there's nothing wrong with you, you could do no wrong. And then there's everything in between. And then we get to a certain age and we're like, Oh, my God, my parent can't, is incapable of anything. And and that's a horrible feeling, you know, to try to somehow tie this same person who is a God to you, as this person who now needs help with everything. And so I think acid man to certain extent is, is an exploration of that and trying not to rush into pity or, you know, write resentment for the things that we don't understand and also just honoring the fact that those connections never never Go like to a certain expense that you'll be your, your parents child, no matter how old you are,

Alex Ferrari 35:06
Oh, my, my kids will always be my kids, I don't care how old they get, I'm gonna feel successful they get, I don't care how big they get, it doesn't matter, I don't care if they have kids themselves, they will always be my little bit like, girls, it's just, you can't look at it differently. Just the same way. My parents say the same thing to me. You know, there's, I'm like, I'm a grown ass man. She's like, you're still a little kid I grew up I raised. And it's you just, you know, until you're a parent, you don't get it. You might intellectually but when you actually see a child, or if you have, you know, children in your life in some way, shape or form, you start to understand that a little bit differently, it's, it was a meditation in, in parenthood, to say the least, this project was really, really cool, brother.

Alex Lehmann 35:49
Thank you. I appreciate that said if there's one other theme that I could share, and I don't think it's a spoiler alert because it happens early in the film that we'll probably have to mention anyways. But but so this character, you know, acid man who is really referred to just as dad in the film, because he's, he's digress, dad, estranged father, his name is Lloyd. And he he has this obsession with UFOs he's got these c's, these blinking lights out in the sky. And, you know, he just really feels connected to them. But he is a believer in this stuff. And you know, I just the other the other thought really in in, in writing this was like, what if you're trying to like reconnect, or just connect with your parents and like, now they're into, you know, Q Anon, or whatever it is that they're into, and you're like, how the hell do I reconcile the differences in beliefs and opinions that I have with this person that I love and respect, but like, I don't know how to talk about that. You know what, I don't want to make a political film and I don't want to like piss anybody off. Like Q Anon, although it kind of feels like it's gone away.

Alex Ferrari 36:53
It's, it's fine. We can we can move on, sir. Okay, um,

Alex Lehmann 36:57
I should have checked with you first. Are we are we good?

Alex Ferrari 36:59
I believe in Q. And any day now? No, I'm joking. Whatever. It is cute. I heard it here first. Listen, whenever people want to believe it's up to them. I can count.

Alex Lehmann 37:12
Yeah. And that, you know, and that's, that's, I guess that's really what what the film is about, to a certain extent is like it whatever you want to believe that doesn't hurt anybody. And that, you know, and that doesn't cause harm, like those those kinds of beliefs. Like, I could just ridicule you. I mean, we have a paint we have opinions of everything and like, you know, extreme opinions of everything. It's all we do. And and so, for me, it's an exercise to show patients with someone who believes in something supernatural that doesn't have any like, you know, evidence.

Alex Ferrari 37:46
Exactly. Well, obviously, but we did see the the congressional hearing so UFOs obviously, large aren't real. They're there. We've seen videos now

Alex Lehmann 37:54
I want them to be real.

Alex Ferrari 37:55
I hope we all do we have seen the filmmaker you out you watch that you want that situation. Listen, regardless of if UFOs I do believe that this is just my personal belief that in this giant universe, there has to be some life somewhere. Have they visited? I don't know. I just don't know. But logic dictates that this billions and billions and billions of planets out there probably something happens something's got to be there. Something's got some some sort of organism somewhere, even if it's something has to be living somewhere else in this universe. But I don't eat cheese

Alex Lehmann 38:31
roasting marshmallows in my backyard tonight. Really, I do.

Alex Ferrari 38:34
Thank you, Steven Spielberg. But it's but it's so true. But it's really fascinating too. Because that concept of not being able to connect and you did it very eloquently, too, because UFOs is just one of those things, you're just like, fine. So it's not a political statement. But being able to connect with someone you love, whose blood who has wildly different views on certain things. And it could be something as Madonna, the Dinah, Madonna can't say the word as a data.

Alex Lehmann 39:07
Yeah, Madonna, Madonna

Alex Ferrari 39:08

Alex Lehmann 39:08
No polarizing these this

Alex Ferrari 39:10
No, no, no. Benign, like, believing in UFOs or not, because that hurts really nobody, generally speaking. But when it's something very deep, either either in the religious world, or in political world, or whatever it is, it's so difficult to connect with someone you love, because you still love them, regardless of their beliefs, and where they work because they weren't there maybe 30 years ago. So I think you you danced that line so eloquently and beautifully in the film, that you said what you needed to say about that idea, without really, really stepping on anyone's toes unless you have our lovers.

Alex Lehmann 39:46
Right. Well, I appreciate I mean, even though you have been, I think at the end of the season, we don't know if that was a US or not. But But or maybe we do I'm not going to tell you exactly. The movies about women that I didn't give anything away. But But I would say that that I think maybe the reason it works in the film is because I wasn't putting it on anybody else. I was really putting it on myself to find more empathy, and compassion and curiosity for the people who have different beliefs than I do. And instead of even just saying, like, well, I don't believe that, but good for you to say like, Well, I mean, what do I know, I'm just another person. And you know, we're all wrong about plenty of things. So let me be a little more curious. And let me respect this. And let me figure out why this is relevant to you. And when you hear someone talk about whether it's their religion, or or, you know, a spiritual belief they have, or ghosts or aliens or anything, you listen to them enough, and they do start talking about something that is like a little bit more grounded and more personal anyways. Like, if you got this great story, when we were when we were scouting for acid, man, we were on this, like, you know, mountain top, overlooking, you know, the Oregon Rogue Valley. And, and this is like, random guy just like walks up on us. And he's like, Oh, you guys making you're the ones making the movie here. It's about UFOs or something, or like I, you know, didn't want to talk too much. But he said, Yeah. And, and he starts telling us about, you know, the UFO sightings that he's had. And, you know, just you could, you could at that point validly say that, Oh, here we go, like, this guy is gonna, you know, be, but but, you know, we just kept listening. And first of all, His stories were really entertaining and made me want to see what he had seen. And the second thing is, I don't know, where he starts talking about the passing of his father who his father had died just a few years ago, and was telling us about how he still talks to his dad every single day, and that he's never really brought that up to anybody. And I'm thinking like, holy shit, he just used UFOs as a conduit to talk about his feelings about his deceased father. And he's the guy who's maybe I don't know him, but he's maybe not as emotionally vulnerable and capable of talking about that stuff all the time. And I don't think UFOs were created in his mind or a substitution for those feelings. But they certainly made it easier to talk about certain things. And so all of a sudden, it was this really generous connection that we had.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
You know, it's interesting that a lot of people get so caught up with everything that's going on right now or in our lives right now, in 100 years, what does it matter? Just be kind to people, and try to help people as best you can. And that's the way I look at things like, at every moment in time, humanity thought they had everything figured out.

Alex Lehmann 42:39
It's not till next week.

Alex Ferrari 42:44
At every moment, there was a moment where the earth was the center of the universe that was flat. Sorry, Flat Earthers. You know, there was there's always everyone's got to figure it out. So yeah, when you understand that, like, yeah, maybe we've got a couple things figured out. Maybe we don't maybe in 100 years, or in 500 years, they're gonna be looking back at us and like, can you believe the barbaric 2000s 20s Oh, my God. Crazy.

Alex Lehmann 43:09
Well, I do think for me get back. I'll just get on the soapbox. For one second, I do think they're probably in 100 years, people are gonna say, the shit that they allowed with homelessness. Oh, it's gonna be the, you know, it's gonna, you know, the, the way we look at at certain things that happened a couple 100 years ago. Today, I think people are gonna look back and say like, wow, they just didn't give a shit about all those people. That's weird. But hey, you know, it was the Dark Ages. It was the it was the early internet ages. Like they didn't know how to be people. They weren't humans. They were.

Alex Ferrari 43:46
They were, they were getting all this information. But it was all bad information. And anyone could write any information they wanted to on the internet.

Alex Lehmann 43:52
Basically, cavemen they were still with podcasts.

Alex Ferrari 43:55
They were cavemen with podcasts, obviously.

Alex Lehmann 43:58
Yeah. But I think, you know, to the, to the point of like, of like, yeah, what does it all matter in 100 years? It? There's obviously there's a lot of fighting going on now. And I mean, it's been going on for a while, but Sure, man, I don't know, I just feels like a lot of people are wanting to feel heard right now. And there's so much noise and I guess we're contributing to it, which, you know, now I'm doing interviews. I'm making more noise. But, um, but I don't know, I just think the practice of listening to people and making them feel heard. We could we could probably all heal each other a little more just by by replacing some of the shouting over with, with listening.

Alex Ferrari 44:43
I agree with you, 100 100%. Now, to get back to the filmmaking side of this, this movie, what they're, you know, I don't know if I've asked you this on any of the other shows, but it's a question I've been asking lately, that we all go through every day. There's always a when we're shooting and we're shooting a movie were on onset. There's always that day that everything goes to hell lost the sun camera breaks, the actor can't make it, something happens where you have to completely compromise. What was the worst day of this? Besides every single day, besides every single day? What was the worst of every single day of that situation? And how did you overcome it?

Alex Lehmann 45:24
Okay, I, there's, of course, there are a couple of moments. And I just got to think about which one I can share the story without publicly, publicly, I will say that the filmmaking experience, and this is either going to piss people off, or they're just not gonna believe me, but it was such a positive experience. And it was just, you know, it was like, May of 21. So people were just starting to get their vaccines and just kind of coming out a little bit, there was such a, everybody was so excited just to be on a set together. And I don't know just the nature of what we're doing, enabled everybody to just be vulnerable and really lean in that. Like, I like to joke that if we had if the shooting schedule had been like a week longer, we probably would have turned into a cult. It was just the vibes were that good on on on that set.

Alex Ferrari 46:14
And that's what happens all the time.

Alex Lehmann 46:16
Have some really positive sets, though. But but this one, you know, really, this one, this one was special. But But sure, there were there were, you know, there was an angry neighbor at one point, because we had to drive through a private road and you know, there's there's Oregon private roads are people move to Oregon to be left alone, usually not. And that's how Portland I'm talking about. Like outskirts that's where we were shooting. It was very apropos for for acid man. And the neighbor was was well known. He was infamous for shooting at cars that drove too fast on the on their private roads. I don't think that anybody got shot at but we we definitely were confronted on a certain day where we're shooting a really emotional scene. And he came, he just came in screaming at at some of us and, you know, you just you just don't know. I mean, and this is honestly, this is scarier than anything else. Because you just don't know like, Does this guy have a gun? Like, is this? Is he mentally stable? Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so like defusing that situation. And then also recognizing the fact that it's going to emotionally shake everybody, when you're asking not just the actors, but especially the actors to be vulnerable. Because that's, you know, that's what we're doing. We're making a film. I mean, if we'd been making an action film maybe would have like, pumped everybody up. But we weren't, we were making a film where people were trying to shed these layers and not take each other down. But but but like, connect and bring each other. And to do that, you have to put the armor down. And so when a guy comes onto your property and screams, and you think he's got a gun, like everybody wants to put that emotional armor up, like, I wish we'd had real body armor, to be honest, it was a little nervous. But um, but yeah, so I think really just recognizing everybody's feelings and just kind of like emotionally making the transition from stuff like that. Which, yeah, we lost that we lost, you know, a half hour and like, yet for you know, for a second, there's some logistical stuff. And you got to keep the day going for sure. But But I think crew morale and just really making everybody feel safe is so important.

Alex Ferrari 48:34
I agree with you. 100% is a good answer, sir. There's always there's always that day, there's always that thing or is always is always that day, there's always that thing. Now, what are you going to try back obviously, because you're in your this is our Tribeca coverage. So, of course, I always like to ask, what was that phone call, like? Because you haven't been in Tribeca before have you?

Alex Lehmann 48:54
I had a dark series here. A couple years ago, the Asperger's, we made a doc series with the Asperger's troupe, and that's on HBO, and we premiered it at Tribeca. But that was you know, those before the pandemic. It was right before the pandemic. It's like, what, 12 years ago now? 15 years ago. Yeah. So it doesn't really catch. But but this is the first narrative film that I've had at Tribeca and I'm super excited. It's you know, it's talking to my DP about this the other day, he said, Isn't it cool? Like there was like, we were essentially the crew of 15 people like living out like, cabins in these woods making this film because it cool that we're out in the middle of nowhere or again, like just 15 of us like doing this, this thing and our primary and like the, you know, one of the biggest cities in the world, you know, like this is huge, you know?

Alex Ferrari 49:46
No, no, a little birdie told me that you have something else coming up. At the end of the year you shot not just one film, but two back to back. Can you tell me about your next project coming out man?

Alex Lehmann 49:57
Yeah, so So acid man I thought was is going to be my movie last year. This is my coming out of the pandemic, pandemic movie. And this other film that I had been attached to for a little while, all of a sudden kind of pulled all the actors and all the money together and so basically shot these back to back, which was crazy. But there's this film, it's called meet cute, and it's starring Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco and super proud of it, and we'll have we'll have more details soon. But I think you know, everybody should be looking forward to seeing it at the end of the year. And it's it's kind of a it presents as a rom com. But it's a really great script by no go no le he was on the blacklist years ago. And it devolves it twists into some other stuff.

Alex Ferrari 50:44
There's UFOs involved obviously there's

Alex Lehmann 50:47
There's close close it gets it gets weird, man, but it's it's funny.

Alex Ferrari 50:53
You're like Michel Gondry weird is like Michel Gondry weird, are we?

Alex Lehmann 50:56
Yeah, it's like Michel Gondry where I saw that one of his films, his most famous film is definitely one that we use as a cop. And I don't know I'm just I'm really excited about what that is. And I think Kaylee does an amazing job and and, and, you know, Pete does an amazing job in it, but I feel like I'm looking at because with acid man, you know, I think Tom Haden Church is an amazing actor. He crushed it, the acid man that, you know, his his us is acting in this film, you know, just everybody keeps telling me. They just they love this side of Thomas that they haven't really gotten to see. And then I think Dianna Agron was fantastic in it. She was a creative collaborator, you know, on it from the very beginning. I mean, I should say that, like, she really helped me put this all together, when, you know, I've been I've been used to, you know, just going to Mark Duplass and say, lucky me, I could just call Mark

Alex Ferrari 51:50
Hey, Mark, I need idea. Let's get this go make this.

Alex Lehmann 51:54
Yeah. And so, you know, basically calling, calling Diane up and saying, like, I've got this movie, and you're perfect for it. And, you know, could you help me? You know, if you signed on, I think we can get a really great actor and some money and you know, I just really need you to be behind this. And she's been behind it from from day one, you know, creatively. And logistically, and you know, someone like that, when they when they give you that confidence, and when they when they stand behind you. They give their stamp of approval. That's a great way to get something that's delivered in every way. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 52:31
Well, I'm looking forward to seeing your new movie at the end of the year. And, and I tell everybody goes the asset man, it's really just really interesting meditation. As I look at this, it was very much as a meditation you sit there and just absorb it cinematography score, just the performances, it just kind of wash over you there. It's beautiful, man. Now, I'm going to ask you a couple questions that I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Alex Lehmann 53:00
Yeah, I would say keep, keep doing keep being yourself, keep doing you. I see a lot of filmmakers trying to be another filmmaker Right? Or, you know, trying to make their version of well you make your version of something but make it your version of something don't don't try to make the carbon copy of whatever movie it is you love. And I think that the sooner they discover themselves and don't try to be anybody else, the the more quickly, audiences will be able to see their authentic filmmaker self.

Alex Ferrari 53:33
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Alex Lehmann 53:38
That I don't know? Because I think I'm still learning that every time kind of a cop out answer, but it's kind of not like like, because you you have to know certain things and then every time certainty creeps in, at least for myself, I have to take a step back and say like, alright, dial it back, you know, it can't can't be too certain of anything, because there's a lot of learning left to do.

Alex Ferrari 54:03
Yeah. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Alex Lehmann 54:07
Three of my favorite films of all time. Okay, I'm gonna start with what is I think a cousin to our film that is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I think we share a lot of the same emotional and thematic DNA, slightly different budget.

Alex Ferrari 54:26
Even even the 70s budget is still slightly different than today.

Alex Lehmann 54:29
Yeah, but you know, there's, there's a, there's a real connection there. And I would say 400 blows is a big one for me. And then, I mean, I could try to like dig deep and be cool, but Jaws I'll just go to jobs because I've never seen anything more than jaws. Like what like, I don't need to impress anybody.

Alex Ferrari 54:50
Just it's it's, I mean, it's a masterpiece and it still holds it still scares the living hell out of you. Even now, like it doesn't mean the shark might look a little janky but even then it doesn't look that janky I mean, just 3d look much worse than just the shark at least

Alex Lehmann 55:10
I'm gonna be you know what I'll be Stan is this I don't know, Stan I think is the I'm gonna be a stand in silver stand and say et as well like it's too many Spielberg movies for a list but like, I don't I don't care at because you say it still holds like that movie. So I if I need to cry watch at

Alex Ferrari 55:29
My, my, my daughters were traumatized when et was found down at the river traumatized, like they watched when they when he was down at the river, and he's like dying. Sorry, guys. Sorry, spoiler alert. If you haven't seen at if you're listening to this MSAT I'm sorry. But when he's down there and they were like five or something, we showed them a five or six traumatized they still talk about that? They love the movie, but they just remember that image of ET because he loved them so much. And like was it was an emotional roller coaster to say the least.

Alex Lehmann 56:01
I I don't know how to explain this because it's gonna sound like I'm pretty dumb. That's okay. Maybe it's right. But but when you said that they found at by the river my mind immediately went to like 80 lives like in a van down by the river now like, that's where his career that's where his career is. Like, we got to start a GoFundMe for Ed. Like I literally went there first. And I'm not stupid. I know. I know. He's fake. I know he's done but I was just like

Alex Ferrari 56:32
No, because I saw I saw that I saw your face when I said it. It took you like like a five or 10 seconds and then I started to click Oh, he means that scene in the movie but I didn't know where you were thinking about thank you for

Alex Lehmann 56:45
My mind went a few places because first it was like oh, maybe maybe you know like there was like a stuffed eat like maybe like the universe or whatever right like that the actual et puppet that they use in the movie somehow got dumped by a river and like kids. Movie Yeah, no, I remember the movie. So my favorite movies. But like my mind, my mind did not choose the path of logic my mind. It chose the path of illogic

Alex Ferrari 57:13
Et lives in a van down by the river. That's amazing. That is, that's

Alex Lehmann 57:21
Smoking cigarettes.

Alex Ferrari 57:23
Times are tough. He spit Spielberg and him had a falling out because it couldn't get the sequel up and running. He's hanging out there with Roger Rabbit because Roger Rabbit couldn't get to sequel either.

Alex Lehmann 57:33
Elliot as an adult one day drives by and he sees him and he like looks away trying not to make eye contact because he's like, I don't even know how to like help him watch this situation. It's feel too guilty to like

Alex Ferrari 57:46
We should we should listen man, can we get a Kickstarter going right now for a sequel? Well, we'll call up we'll call up Henry Thomas. If you'll come out and do it for us.

Alex Lehmann 57:59
I really know how to take the blockbuster out of a blockbuster.

Alex Ferrari 58:02
Turn it into meditation on stardom.

Alex Lehmann 58:07
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 58:10
It's a pleasure first of all, you have the best first game ever. But other than that, sir it's a pleasure talking to you. But I always love catching up with you. You're welcome back anytime I look forward to seeing your new movie at the end of the year. Please come back and tell us about how that I'm sure you have insane stories about how that got a different story. And you know in hanging out with some I mean two very big star I mean these are monster stars right now and Pete pizza little well known now

Alex Lehmann 58:38
In the news for something and he's living in a van down by the river Alaska.

Alex Ferrari 58:41
I think we should we should do a GoFundMe for Pete because I think he just got he just left Saturn at live it's me. He's he needs help. Poor guy,

Alex Lehmann 58:48
By the way. So one thing I'll just say really, really quickly that I'm proud of that maybe it's worth sharing with your audiences. You know, the budgets on acid man and then the new one meet cute very different and went from like middle nowhere Oregon crew of 15 people to you know, shooting in Manhattan. I you know, same DP St. I brought it over as much of the same crew as I possibly could anybody that was available. That set had you know, held their own on the smaller film, there was no fu I'm gonna go hire the, the bigger version of you like, I'm not gonna go I'm gonna get whoever I can. You know, whoever did Sandler's last movie, whatever. No, I wanted to work with the same people. And I would say that that's good advice. That that stick with the people that you know that you've been succeeding with, you know, have their back you know, they've had yours for long enough. Agreed, agreed on a person really? Yeah, really proud of the team that they made both of those movies with

Alex Ferrari 59:47
Alex a pleasure as always, my friend continued success and you're welcome back anytime, my friend.

Alex Lehmann 59:53
Congrats to you.

Alex Ferrari 59:54
Thank you my friend!

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BPS 341: Creating Comedy’s Hero’s Journey with Steve Kaplan

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Alex Ferrari 1:44
Enjoy today's episode with guest host, Dave Bullis.

Dave Bullis 1:49
This week's guest is one of the most sought after coaches in comedy. His first book, The Hidden Tools of Comedy was one of the one of my favorite books that came out in the past couple of years. And it's been an international bestseller. And his new book, which we're going to talk all about the Comic Hero's Journey is out now everywhere. So without further ado, was Steve Kaplan. So Steve, you've been on twice before, and this is your third time on the podcast? How does it feel?

Steve Kaplan 2:16
It feels good. I'm still waiting for my third time. Jacket, you know, like they do on SNL. But I'll I'll just wait. I'm sure that's in the mail.

Dave Bullis 2:27
It is and if it gets lost? Well, you know what? There's been a lot of cutbacks at the post office, Steve. So

Steve Kaplan 2:33
Oh, boy. Okay, well, I'll continue nevertheless.

Dave Bullis 2:37
By the way, here's a funny story for you, Steve. Really quickly, I used to work at the post office.

Steve Kaplan 2:44
So that explains it there. They

Dave Bullis 2:45
were so desperate, they hired me. Can you believe that?

Steve Kaplan 2:49
So So So did you experience what it meant to go postal?

Dave Bullis 2:53
Well, it was the I have an unfair advantage. And that that part of it because I've always been like, you know, that unhinged guy at work. So I kind of walked in with a chip on my shoulder. So.

Steve Kaplan 3:05
Okay, and what what were you what were your duties at the post office? Were you walking around? Or were you behind the desk or

Dave Bullis 3:11
neither? I actually was the guy who was in like the NL at the warehouse, and we would like sort mail. We'd move like tons of mail from here to there. We would like stock, we would help like the actual postal workers. We'd actually like you know, here's all the mail for your route today. And here's what you got to do. Yeah, it was it was not a very glamorous job. So if you're thinking of telling me

Steve Kaplan 3:33
Tell me one thing that you hoped your supervisors never found out

Dave Bullis 3:42
that I probably took the only thing I could do say is I took longer breaks than I should have. I didn't like steal any mail or hide in woods mail. Nothing like that. I'd never I would never do anything like that. I'm so sorry. I don't have any like crazy stories. Like I didn't I didn't tell the bag a male definitely like a sewer or something. But

Steve Kaplan 4:01
did you ever he did you ever know anybody who did? Oh,

Dave Bullis 4:06
stuff would go like I mean, Steve like they used to, like throw stuff across the the entire floor. So like, you know, they would take a box that says fragile, and they would just boot it all the way across the whole room. Oh, yeah, that happens on the regular.

Steve Kaplan 4:21
Okay, well, this is the basis of a new Sundance comedy. I can I can see it now. Going stone.

Dave Bullis 4:30
I thought you were gonna say like a new lawsuit against the post. I got this guy. Oh, it's

Steve Kaplan 4:35
everything is story. Everything is a is something to generate story.

Dave Bullis 4:40
That's very true. And, you know, I've seen a lot of the interviews you've done, Steve, and not just the ones that you've done here. You know, you've been on twice before. But you know, you've been on film courage. You know, you've done a lot a ton of interviews. And you know, you're you're very good at, you know, sort of putting comedy perspective, which and what I mean by that is putting putting, you know, it has to be a story, there has to be a reason. It's funny, because if it's just a series of events, it really doesn't mean a lot, right?

Steve Kaplan 5:09
Well, it's not that it doesn't mean I've been thinking about that a lot in the new book that I wrote comic hero's journey. I was thinking today that I didn't give enough props to totally silly comedies that that have nothing on their mind other than to be totally silly. And I was thinking about the fact that one of the reasons that I don't have a section on that is because it's so hard to do. Because you're not you have nothing to hang. Hang the narrative on you don't you you you kind of have characters but they're not fully dimensionalized characters. I'm thinking of things like like the jerk that I just recently rescreened. You don't have a story that you really care about, because you know that the characters are just there for laughs. And when it works, it's it's it's amazing. But it's it's very hard to work, I can think of a lot more instances where it doesn't work like scary movie for or or, you know, Naked Gun, this the seven sequel, because while it's possible to do it, it's it's a very hard trick to pull off, because what it means is that you are entertaining the audience in one particular way. For for 95 minutes, or 100 or 105 minutes. And that's extremely difficult to because you don't have a love story to fall back on. You don't have you don't have any real tension to fall back on. There's no suspense. There's no drama, there's no, there's nothing thematic that hooks in. And what I found, what I find is that when I go back and watch these movies, like the jerk, they don't hold up that well. I mean, for me at least, that that, you know, having being familiar with the comedy of it, the jokes of it. I'm not as as I'm not taking for a ride anymore, and I kind of see the shallowness of it. Although at the time I loved it. I was I was a big fan, one movie that's like that, that still works for me, is there a plane? And I think the reason for that is because even though it is as silly as the day is long, you care about that Robert K's character, you care about him. Somehow they make you a, you know, they make you concerned, they they have a knot, it's kind of the reverse of a save the cat in drama, you have to save the cat moment. In comedy, you often have the cat scratches your heroes face, and then the then pees on his leg and then walks away. You you're made to feel sympathetic, you're made to feel bad for the for the character, and that that makes you care. And if you care about the character that no matter how silly the circumstances are, you're you kind of fall into the narrative. You're hooked in the narrative. So that's what I've been thinking about. That's a that's a long answer to a question you didn't even ask.

Dave Bullis 8:27
And those are the best ones, Steve. I trust me. Because because, you know, people tune into you always hear the guests like always say, and it's always good to, you know, with a guest that oh, you know, talks more than I do. And I look good, too, because I didn't have to ask a question. You already gave me an answer. So thank you. Thank you for that, Steve.

Steve Kaplan 8:44
Well, there you go. So,

Dave Bullis 8:45
but you know, I watched the jerk again recently. You know, I still love the movie. I actually think it's hilarious, but I see what you mean. But you know, and when I watched movies, like the jerk, and then you kind of compare it to today. You know, I still think the jerk has more character development, because some movies today maybe, you know, maybe there's not so much character development, or maybe there are too many, you know, there are too many jokes that really don't kind of tie in with it. So you know, and then that kind of ties with one of the questions I want to ask you is, you know, what are some of the recent movies that you've seen where that have that have not only been funny, but you also thought they were good because they actually told a story, you know, that actually focused on a character?

Steve Kaplan 9:28
Oh, well. I would sit you know, I would say Lady Bird. If you're gonna go on the on the spectrum of amusing to hilarious Lady Bird might not be on the hilarious side of that spectrum. But it's moving. It's funny. It's true. It's authentic.

Alex Ferrari 9:50
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Steve Kaplan 10:00
I like I like to the Grand Budapest Hotel again, it's just this perfect little fairy tale that has very exaggerated characters. But ultimately it's it's about it's about honor and integrity in a strange way because it's about this maitre d who you know who screws all the while the elder guests the hotel, but in a strange way, it's it's about a holding on to something that's valuable from the past and mourning the things that are lost. In terms of movies that I think I thought were just funny, I thought spy was very successful in terms of parodying that James Bond formula, and yet finding its own comedy in in what Melissa McCarthy does. So. So I think, let me see, what was there something you know, most of the comedy that I see today on our movie, you know, successful comedies on movies as much as as what you see on television, and especially on this on the streaming channels. brockmeyer is, is a binge worthy favorite of mine. It's because I love baseball. And I love Hank Azaria. And he just takes this dissolute character to its ultimate illogical, logical conclusion. And it makes sense. It's the hem hangers area. Amanda Pete, great stuff very funny. And the marvelous, Mrs. Maisel said, Did I pronounce that right? And I can ever figure that out? I'm just starting to watch season two. So that's very good. I, I think it's hard to it's hard to do a feature comedy, because the, because the marketplace kind of demands them to dumb down their material. So you have something like, have you seen tag? Right,

Dave Bullis 12:18
I've seen tag. So

Steve Kaplan 12:19
I don't know what you thought of tag. But I thought that, that it's kind of an odd, quirky story that I couldn't see the reason why they made it into a movie. Because even though there were some funny things that happened, it kind of eluded me. Maybe you had a different experience. But I find that a lot of what gets into the theaters is something that they're condescending to the audience, they think you Well, this is funny, they'll like it, as opposed to what's the best story we can tell? And what's the most common way we can tell it? Yeah,

Dave Bullis 13:03
I sold tag. And I, it's Yeah, I kind of felt that way, too. It's kind of like, you know, how did this, you know, get made into a movie? It's kind of one of those things where like they made you kind of see the poster and you're like, well, maybe it could be good, you know, and then and then it's kind of like, you know, they made this little movie. I'm sure there was a market for it. I don't know how well did I really I don't have the numbers, but I don't know what I don't think there's gonna be a sequel?

Steve Kaplan 13:32
No, I don't think so. I you know, in a way, sometimes the best comedies nowadays are the animated comedies, because they're, they they're creating, especially the Pixar comedies, they're creating material, that has to be four quadrant that has to appeal towards everybody. So it can't just be silly jokes that the kids like, there has to be something for the parents. They want something for the parents, and those Pixar movies are all driven thematic, like as opposed to driven by plot and gag. So Incredibles two, Coco, is that was that? Was that the one with the day? The dead? I think that's I think I'm getting

Dave Bullis 14:18
that right. Yeah, that was Coco. Yeah.

Steve Kaplan 14:21
I mean, those are those are wonderful, inventive, imaginative, and moving, moving pieces of of comic film. And I guess I guess there's the sense because it's not R rated, that they can just tell a story and they're not beholden to do something outrageous or gross every 10 minutes to keep this imaginary audience of 30 year old boys happy.

Dave Bullis 14:52
So you know, you mentioned brockmeyer I've never seen an episode, but I have a friend who swears by it. Because he just loves was high cause area as well. But you know, speaking of baseball shows, have you ever seen Eastbound and Down? I

Steve Kaplan 15:05
do like Eastbound and Down. And the thing is, is that I like Eastbound and Down I like Danny McBride. And if you put the two of them together, the thing that I like more about brockmeyer is that it expands the the the envelope of what's what could be, what could actually have have happened, and it doesn't break the envelope. Whereas with Eastbound and Down, you often have to just leave your your good send off to one side and just to just enjoy Danny McBride is this outrageous, not too bright ex baseball player. So those are actually two similar projects, which I think one is, is done better. But, but both both have both have amusing things. I mean, you know, for me, you you start with the hardest question for me day, which is what have you seen that you like? Which makes me feel obligated to? Well, what's what did I like, that's good. But the taste is subjective. That's one of the things that I, I, I teach strongly in my workshops in my books is that is that funny is subjective. mean? What I find funny, you might not find funny, it doesn't make me right and you wrong or vice versa. So you so if you're not going to try to create funny, what's going to make me laugh as opposed to what's going to make you laugh, then you then you want to try to create comedy, which is telling the truth about people, what's true about people and telling the truth about that, using you know, a variety of methods that that make it that bring it out of the mundane and the ordinary and and elevate it to two common kind of comic art and comic truth. So so if you if you ask me, what what have I seen that I I really like, I'm, I'm really drawn to two movies that I've seen years ago that I stood that still stay with me, like about a boy, or 500 days of summer movies that are funny, but they have something on their mind. And they they move me. They move me in three ways they move me kinetically I laugh, they move me emotionally, I feel and they move me intellectually, I think. And to me, those are the best movies. And to me, I still I still go to my favorite, which is Groundhog Day. And I guess my second favorite might be 40 Year Old Virgin, which I just spent a day screening for a class in Milan, trying to teach them how it works in terms of the comic hero's journey.

Dave Bullis 18:01
So when you screen them, oh, by the way, those are two very good choices, by the way. So because, you know, Groundhog's Day, I you know, you we could we could dissect that right now. But I, I mean, it's it's such a great movie, because, you know, repeating the same day over and over. And eventually you're right. I think he touched upon this in an interview before maybe you and I talked about this, but where he kind of assumes that he's God. And he kind of assumes these things. That's how people would have really, you know, you that's how if that happened to you or me, you would assume that same thing. Right?

Steve Kaplan 18:34
I mean, and that's that's really the brilliance of the Harold Ramis revision of the originally, the original Danny Rubin script is that in at least in the final shooting version, they he kind of holds very closely to, okay, this impossible thing happened, that he's waking up into the same day over and over again. But having having admitted that having just gone along and said okay, this impossible thing happened, what would happen then, if this were true, what would really happen at that and I think one of the things that makes Groundhog Day work so well is that is that even though incredible, weird, funny things happen. It stays within the reality of the impossible situation that they created. He wakes up the same day, he remembers everything, nobody remembers anything. So he can go to a girl and and try to pick her up. And if he makes if he says something wrong and turns her off, he can come back the next day and and make it better. So she'll say what should we toast to? And he'll he's at a bar and you'll say Let's toast to the groundhog. And she kind of gets turned off by that. So he comes back the very next day.

Alex Ferrari 19:58
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Steve Kaplan 20:07
And she says, What should we toast to? And he turns all solemn. And he says, I'd like to say a word for, you know, a prayer for world peace. And, and, of course, because he figures having gone through trial and error, he knows that that will that will endear himself to her. So I, you know, I like the fact that it takes an impossible or improbable situation, which in my book, I call the WTF moment, the WHAT THE FUCK moment. And, and after that, everything that happens after that evolves organically, and I'm honestly out of character guided by theme.

Dave Bullis 20:54
Yeah, it's, it's kind of like every guy's dream, right, you have a limited chances to actually pick up a girl. Right? So, but, but no, it's, it's, it's like those days, you know, that the harder Groundhog's Day was, you know, is basically, you know, he had to find out what was missing in his life and basically, you know, find out all the mistakes that he was making. And, you know, even when he thought he had the perfect day, he would he would never he woke up again. And he goes, what the hell I thought it you know, I got it. I did all this right. And he, he still didn't wake up. And then finally as it progressed, it was he he had to, I forget the the female character's name in there that he ended up with at the end. We have railroad Right, right. And read a play by Andy McDowell. Right? Well, I remember his name was Phil, because I remember that guy was like, Do you feel like the groundhog? See, it's stuck with me. It's like a mnemonic device. But and then you have for your version, which, you know, I think, you know, again, that's brilliant. Especially, you know, I mean, it's probably even more true today than it was when it was made even a few years ago, because you got a lot of millennials still living at it, you know, they you know what, I mean, they still living at home. A

Steve Kaplan 22:02
That's true. That's true. But I think I for me, the thing, the brilliance of the Apatow film, is the brilliant combination. And, and, and, and the balance between gross out humor and real heart? Where, whereas before, you had lots of films, you know, like, there's Rob Schneider films, which were just basically how can we be grosser than the Farrelly brothers and get away with it and get some laughs. But what Judd Apatow did is he he kind of hit the sweet spot between consider a conservative sentimental story, and, you know, balls to the wall, gross out humor. And, and in fact, in talking about the film, he he often talks about the fact that there were things he cut out, because they lost the audience, they might have gotten some laughs from some from some people. But if he, when he showed it to the audience, for instance, there were there was much more pornography, literal pornography, that that they were looking at, on the screens, because they were in this, you know, the true tech or whatever the name of smart tech was the electronic store. And there was a sequencing which they lock Andy, which was played by Steve Carell in the in the booth where you could test out sound systems, and they locked him in there with a pornographic film to get him out of his. I know virgin dumb. And in the, in one of the original cuts, there was a lot more porno film in it. And in fact, I this is a very, this is a very, I think, odd point. But the actress in the porno film, I think is Stormy Daniels. i i You could check me on that. But I think that that stormy Daniels in there and and what they found it at a test screening was that it was funny, it got a laugh, but it lost the audience. Because you know, maybe they were a little uncomfortable. Or maybe they just thought oh, is this the movie we're going to watch now it's it's going to be as you know, more gross than more gross and more gross grosser and grocer as opposed to dumber and dumber. And so he he edited that out and he trimmed it and he took out the part that that pushed the audience away not offended the audience, but push them out of the narrative push them out of the caring about the character. And and, and so to me, one of the one of the one difficult things about the movie. Is that right? When you think, Oh, now they're going to really make fun of this character, and they're going to mock him. You empathize with him. you sympathize with him. You feel bad for him after he after it's revealed that he's a virgin at the poker game. There's not a sequence where he's like doing something dumb. He's, he's riding his bike home in pain in agony. The first thing you see when he gets to his apartment is a shot of him screaming like this primal scream of pain and humiliation. And the result of that is that you're thinking, Oh, my God, this isn't just a joke. That's supposed to last for 90 minutes. This is a human being who's had who's has this improbable. Like go back to impossible or improbable, this improbable thing. He's 40 years old. He's still a virgin. It's not impossible, but it's improbable. And what would happen? What would he do? And and the guys at the at the at Smart Tech, they don't just make they don't make fun of them. Some of them do some minor characters who we see for a second, but the main three buddies, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Romany Malco. They're out to help him. It's actually a very heartwarming and an inclusive movie about about growing up and trance transformation. So to me, those those are movies, when I go to the movies, and I see something that's not not really a transcendent experience, I often have to go and watch something else that I think I think is and it could be something as, as classic as shop around the corner, or you've got mail, which is the same story but updated, or it's a wonderful life or meet me in St. Louis, these stories that combine comedy with heart and a point of view and an idea in their head.

Dave Bullis 27:21
You know, you mentioned the Farrelly brothers. One of my favorite movies of all time, by the way is Dumb and Dumber. And, you know, as you also mentioned, Dumb and Dumber. I don't know if you met that on purpose. But you know what I mean? And so I just wanted to say what do you what do you think of Dumb and Dumber?

Steve Kaplan 27:36
I think it's one of the things that when I talked about movies that are just kind of designed to make you laugh, and not not a lot else, that's one of the movies that succeeds wonderfully, because they they have this silly premise where these two dumb guys are going to go on this road trip. And they just keep on finding inventive ways to keep it fresh. And one of the ways that they do it is by at any 1.1 of them. One of the dumb guys is slightly more aware and smarter than the others. So it's this wonderful Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy routine all the way throughout. But they but they switch it enough so that it doesn't become repetitive or predictable. So I I love I love Dumb and Dumber. And, and I think it's, it's it's one of the it's one of the few movies that I think tries to be funny from beginning to end, and then succeeds, but it's really, really hard. And if and if you want proof of how hard it is. Take a look at the Farrelly brothers, Three Stooges, which is you know, the Listen, these are the same guys. They're talented guys. Bobby read my book and wrote me a nice note about it, which I love, you know, which I liked. But the Three Stooges it only works sporadically because there's not, you know, because there's really no story other than, hey, we're doing the Three Stooges. And, and it's got some silly plot, but you don't really care about them the way you care about the characters in Dumb and Dumber or, or more. Even more the characters in There's Something About Mary.

Dave Bullis 29:31
Yeah, and you know, that's kind of one of the hardest things to do for writers, right, is to create empathy for a character. So the audience, you know, they they not only they don't sympathize, but you know, sympathy is feeling sorry for somebody, but empathy is putting yourself into their shoes. So you can see things from their point of view. And that's kind of one of the hardest things I that I think for writers to do, because it's what Pixar does so well.

Alex Ferrari 30:00
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Dave Bullis 30:09
which is, you know, right off the bat caring about characters getting involved their story. So you actually give a damn if they see if they succeed or not?

Steve Kaplan 30:16
Well, in a way, it's actually the easiest thing to do, because all you have to do is tell your own story. One of the things that Pixar does so well, is they spend so much time on story, and they're willing to throw out years of work, hundreds and 1000s of dollars worth of work in order to get the story right. In inside out, for instance, at first it was going to be joy, the character of joy and fear going on that journey. And, and then they spent a lot of time trying to make that work, and it didn't work. And ultimately they had to go, they had to realize that what joy needs is her opposite, Joy needs sadness. And the way you get there is not by intellectualizing by going, you know, what I think Joy should be what you what you get, how you get there is by sharing your own feelings, sharing your own sense of, of what's happened to you as a person. I, I can't remember exactly who on the creative team. It was, but somebody had the experience of leaving Minnesota, and going to a new city as a kid, and that became the movie. So it's not a matter of how can you make a character empathetic, tell your own story. Be honest, in the fictional in that fictional world, tell your own story. Somebody once said that all fiction is autobiography. Every piece of fiction is that is actually telling you more about the person who's writing it then about the characters who are in it. And I think that's true. So, in, in, There's Something About Mary, there's this wonderful moment. It's not the first moment in the film, but it's one of the flashback moments. When we see Ben Stiller, as a teenager with really terrible braces. Go to pick Mary up for the prom, and the end, he rings the doorbell. And this, the door opens. And I forget the name of the actor, but the actor is African. A Keith David Right, Keith David opens the door. And you know, Mary's not African American, so he's confused for a second. So he kind of picks up at the door number for a second and then the guy says what are you here for? And he says I'm here to pick up Mary for the prom. And Keith David because Keith David's this practical joke. He says all Mary went to the prom 20 minutes ago with her boyfriend Woogie. And there's this moment where you see Ben Stiller, his face, just just, you know, fall apart. You know, he's any he's trying, you know, he's trying to hold it together and just goes kind of, okay. And he's about to walk away. And yes, then the mom comes in and says, Oh, he's kidding. Come on, in. But in that moment, we confronted all our disappointments from adolescence, everybody who's ever stood up, or didn't have a date or, or had a bad date or was or is or was passed over for being picked for volleyball. You know, we, we all empathize with that moment, and it's not saved the cat. It's basically the cat scratched me. And, and, and, and it's a universal feeling. So what happens? What happens in a comedy is you want to make sure that the more the more exaggerated and ridiculous event that's going to happen later on in the movie. That means that you have to be more honest and real earlier in the movie, to make us care make us care, because eventually later on in that scene, Ben Stiller finds himself in a bathroom and he zips up too quickly and he catches a very important appendage in a zipper. Which is ridiculous. I mean, it's it's just flat out silly. But if we don't care about the character, that's all it is just silly, as opposed to ask us kind of putting ourselves in his shoes and going, man, what else? What else wrong could happen today?

Dave Bullis 34:41
And basically, you know, like you always said, Steve, the like an action movie. The hero has all the tools. But in a bun in a comedy The Hero has no tools whatsoever,

Steve Kaplan 34:53
or Well, that was not not no tools, but the hero lacks some if not most of the tools so I mean, Woody Allen's very, very witty and very bright, but he's a physical coward. So you can, you can't be a total. Normally it can't be a total loser but but somebody who lacks some if not, if not all the skills I mean one of the in working on the common hero's journey, which was taking a look at the hero's journey. From a comedy point of view, one of the things that we that we came to in the beginning was the fact that in a, in a, in a drama in an action film, the the hero has all the skills necessary sometimes they are hidden within they have greatness hidden within only they don't know it, perhaps like Luke Skywalker, but in a comedy, your character starts the movie off with with there's no greatness within there. It's far from greatness within us as humanly possible. And basically, the story of a comedy is a story of a character who is comfortable, used to has, has resigned themselves to being this imperfect person. In fact, most of the times they don't even know that they're imperfect. And something some impossible or improbable thing happens to push them out of their comfort zone. And they're forced to transform. And they do transform, because they because like in big worry, he wakes up he's 30 years old and Groundhog Day he's waking up, it's the same day over and over again. There's no choice but to transform, because their circumstances have changed. So that they're our characters in a comedy become somebody who is is a more actualized human being it has more skills, but they start off as big zeros, what we call, you know, take, you know, taking your zero and making him into a hero.

Dave Bullis 36:55
Right And to go along with what you just said, you know, you're right. I misspoke when I said lack of lack of skills rise no or sorry, has zero skills. Because you have to have at least one trait for the audience. We like maybe this guy has a shot at something. Yeah. Yeah. So you see, that's where my head's at. Steve, I'm always like, look, just so let's just give them nothing and go from Let's go. Oh, no, no, something.

Steve Kaplan 37:21
I mean, in bridesmaids, Christian way get it is is totally messed up. But at least she has a good best friend in Maya Rudolph. Even though she doesn't have a job and she doesn't have a boyfriend and Jon Hamm is terrible to her. So so so our our heroes, our comic heroes start off with something. But most of the time that they're there, they're not aware of how of how bad their predicament is, or how, what what their, what their minus is their negative is. And most of the times our comic heroes start off with a short sighted goal you know, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day only wants to get a job at a at a bigger station where he can be a newscaster steam Steve Carell and 40 year old virgin only, he just wants to continue what he thinks is a great life. You know, he makes an omelet every morning by himself and he plays with his dolls, and he has all his his merchandise still in the original packaging, and he watches survivor with the elderly couple upstairs. He He's to him, that's okay. I'm not he's not he doesn't complain. And he's not even totally conscious that he's that he's unhappy. But what happens as our characters transform is they get what what we call the discovered goal, that in comedies, our characters discover a goal halfway through midway through that, that then becomes their ultimate goal, their their outer goal in order to accomplish whatever they're trying to accomplish in the movie.

Dave Bullis 39:10
Because like a four year old virgin, you know, if it were to be like, let's just say you know, real life and and, you know, that main character never ever realized how unhappy he was, you know, he was always 40 He was always just going to do the same old thing. Essentially, you could see that he would never change his routine, and he would just kind of, you know, die, so to speak physically, and we're just surrounded by that stuff and he would never there was an issue. Yeah. So and then again, when when he is going back to for your virgin when he when his whole goal was just to get laid at first and then he realizes he he's found somebody he actually loves by the boat. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 39:51
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Steve Kaplan 40:00
He, so the first thing he says is I respect when I totally respect women, I respect them so much I stay the hell away from them. And and then later on, it's like, no, I don't want to go to bed with the girl from the bookstore, I, I love Trish played by Catherine Keener eye and and he he does something which is way outside his comfort zone he races after her on his bike to you know to get the girl of his dreams so. So there there are a lot of there are some similarities between the hero's journey and the common hero's journey. You often at the end of an action film, you have the race to the finish. In a comedy, you're having you're seeing character transform, go from, you know, a zero to a match, and mentions a Yiddish word that means that like a good man, a complete person. And and so in an action film, Bruce Willis is going to kick ass from the minute he shows up on screen screen to the end. But our heroes and in accommodate, they're not going to kick ass in the beginning, they have to learn they have to gain skills, they have to gather allies, and they have to become better, better human beings in the world, more more comfortable, more integrated into the world that they live in.

Dave Bullis 41:38
Where and you know, we've kind of been, you know, talking sort of, in a roundabout way about the comic hero's journey. So let's talk about your new books.

Steve Kaplan 41:45
My new book. Funny, you should mention that that's my new book, The comic hero's journey, serious story structure for fabulously funny films now published by Michael, we see productions now available in your local Amazon?

Dave Bullis 41:59
Well, you know, it's funny, I looked down by my foot, and there was just sitting there, I was like, Hey, wait a minute here, I had at the end of the school year. But yeah, we were talking, you know, in a roundabout way about, you know, creating characters and, and, you know, finding out their their sort of wants and needs and goals. And, you know, so what was sort of the impetus for you to sort of write this book, you know, for the commentators journey? Well,

Steve Kaplan 42:26
I had been, I'd written my previous book, The Hidden tools of comedy, which was, which were specific tools and principles that you could apply towards film or television. And I would be teaching these workshops and people would say, would say, Well, how would this happen at this part in the movie, and it just made me think, okay, there are all these books and about story structure and, and a lot of my friends have written books about story structure, like Michael Haig and John Truby, and Chris Vogler. And I thought, well, well, is that how are the how is that story structure that the three ad format or the six plot point turning format? How does that work for comedy? So I started to explore that. And I realized some of it is similar, but there are important elements that are completely different. And that that are different in a comedy than than in than in a dramatic or action film. And so I started working on it, I started and I pitched it to my publisher, and I, I mentioned it to Chris Vogler who's written the the writers journey, which is based on the Joseph Campbell work, the monomyth in the hero with 1000 faces. And I said, Chris, do you mind? I'm going to steal your title, and your ID, I'm going to use it for comedy. And after a moment, he said, Okay, only only only mentioned me, as you're doing it. So I did. And so I and so this is a template for a writing a comic feature. It's not it's not the only way to write a comic feature. It's not the the end all and be all of of how to structure a story, but it's one way of taking a look at the hero's journey, and seeing how that that Monomyth works for comedy. And and the the I think one of the big differences is understanding that your hero starts off at loss, you know, that we talked about? An understanding that the funny thing that happens to them that that that what we call the comic premise, the impossible or improbable thing is the only time in in the story that you can make shit up that you can lie that after you impose that impossible or improbable event or happenstance, then you have to play honestly develop the cat develop the narrative, honestly, through character. And through theme. We talked about the fact that the characters are transforming, they have a discovered goal. And then we talk about the fact that, and this is, to me, this is almost it goes without saying, but I found out that, that it was a little bit of a revelation to people that I was working with, or talking to in workshops is that in order for the comic Hero's Journey to work, there has to be real pain, and real loss, there has to be, there has to be honest moments where where you where you drop into dry drop into drama. Otherwise, it doesn't, it doesn't mean anything, it doesn't matter. So So that's, that's a part of the of the common hero's journey that's essential for comedies, and I can't think of a good comedy, in which there isn't some moment where we're all where the healer where all is lost, you know, the, the hero seems that they've given up that they're not going to achieve their goals that that the story is not going to end up and happily, and it doesn't mean you have to have a happy ending. But it does mean that you have to allow your character to experience not funny, loss and pain, but real loss and pain.

Dave Bullis 46:59
Right? So there actually has to be some real stakes, some actual losses, so you don't I mean, so it has to feel like you feel real, and feel that there's actually something at stake here rather than just kind of like, oh, you know, it'll, it'll it'll work out. Or

Steve Kaplan 47:13
it's all silly, so don't worry about it. It can't be, it can't be in Bugs Bunny cartoon, where you shoot bugs in the face with a shotgun and, and hey, there's When the smoke clears, he just has, you know, a bad complexion, but everything else is okay. So, so one of the one of the things that I've noticed in examining a lot of movies to write the book is not only are there moments of loss and pain, near three quarters of the way through, but a lot of movies start off with the characters having, having dealt with loss and pain or, or dealing with loss and pain, starting with, Sleepless in Seattle, where it starts off following the death of Tom Hanks wife, and now he's a widow, or spy with Melissa McCarthy, where, in the first 10 minutes, the hero of the movie Her the person, she idolizes Jude Law who's this very James Bond and kind of spy is is killed, spoiler spoiler alert, seemingly killed, right and right in front of her ears, because she's, she's monitoring everything back to back in Langley, Virginia. That, that a lot of the comedy comes out of real loss and pain, as opposed to well, it's a comedy, so nothing serious can really happen.

Dave Bullis 48:45
You know, and there's a, you know, it was a great example was the hangover. Because, you know, you kind of felt as some actual pressure there, and you know what I mean? Because, because, hey, look, there's a group that we have to find, because, you know, and we're the guys that lost them.

Steve Kaplan 48:59
Right? Actually, I liked parts of the hangover, but it wasn't crazy about the hangover. Precisely. Because those though, you know, especially the Bradley Cooper character was so amoral is like this teacher is drinking and let's just go off and do this thing and let's just party and their relation, none of their relationships. I mean, certainly the Who's the guy who lost the tooth at homes, the right the Ed Helms character, his his relationship is horrible. You don't want him to end up with her. So, so So one of the things that I was not crazy about in the hangover was the lack of, of empathetic characters and and thematic thematic development and resolution.

Alex Ferrari 49:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Steve Kaplan 50:02
And but what was brilliant about the hangover was how it melded a frat boy, Las Vegas Movie with a mystery. And to me that was that was what what made it very special is that once you woke up, and there's a baby and a tiger and how the hell did those things get there? Everything else worked, because they had to, they had to go on this, this mystery, you know, had to solve this, this impossible mystery and the way that they did that can't you know lead them into funnier and funnier situations? For me, the funniest moment is when the I think it's Ken Young, the naked Asian guy jumps out of the trunk of the car. That was funny but but the most satisfying moment of the movie was the was the credits where you see the night you know in all those photographs, you see the night that they went through. And because at the heart of the hangover is a dad that's why hangovers two and three while they might have made money, were aesthetically not very satisfying for me at least. Because there's nothing there. I you know, I don't really care about those guys. And the only guy I might want to care about was in hangover was basically on on a roof loss for for most of the movie. So so so I have to be a somebody who is on the don't love hangover side. Well, I still a great guy. Dang, you're still a wonderful guy, nevertheless.

Dave Bullis 51:47
Oh, thank you. Thank you. I'm going to hold you to that. Steve, by the way, okay. It will I agree the the the hangover sequels Ay, ay, ay. And, you know, this too, when whenever there's a hit movie, you know, there's an inclination in Hollywood to say, hey, you know, let's start churning out those sequels. You know, let's hang over 17 Sounds good to me. Right. But then again, you know, if I was in a position where somebody was like, hey, look, Dave, you if you if you make a hit movie, we'll give you a couple million to write the sequel. I'd be like, you know, I'm gonna write to my hand falls off. You know, I

Steve Kaplan 52:18
think I think I'm with you there. But

Dave Bullis 52:21
yeah, I'll be in my grave writing sequels that movie as long as you've written checks. me there's a comedy idea right there, Steve. There's a comedy story somewhere in there. There's

Steve Kaplan 52:33
a comedy story everywhere. That's that's the whole point. Our lives are comedies, and we just have to be brave enough to tell them.

Dave Bullis 52:43
Yeah. And, you know, that's a very good point, Steve. And, you know, you know, and that's why I made sure to pick up your book, your your other book, The Hidden tools of comedy. By the way, just as a quick side note, the other two episodes of the of the podcast where you're on Steve, they do phenomenal numbers still to this day. Wow. Yeah. So so a year and a year and a half respectively, are still doing great numbers like a you know, when I when I pulled like a three month kind of window of the past downloads, you're always in there. Wow,

Steve Kaplan 53:15
that's great. Well, then we should let people know how to get in touch with me. Where can people find us Steve? People can find me at my website, which is www Kaplan with a K Kaplan comedy comedy with the C. Kaplan comedy or one word Kaplan comedy.com. Or they can email me at Steve at Kaplan comedy.com Or they can find me on Facebook at Kaplan comedy, and or or they can follow me on Twitter at SK comedy.

Dave Bullis 53:49
And I'm going to link to all that in the show notes. Everyone, including a link to Amazon to buy Steve's new book, The comic hero's journey. And his other book, by the way, the hidden quote, The Hidden tools of comedy. Did I say the hidden tools of comics,

Steve Kaplan 54:03
the hidden cool of comedy, which I like even better. I was like, Wait, it

Dave Bullis 54:07
didn't sound right. Wait, next printing.

Steve Kaplan 54:10
That's the that's going to be the new title. Wow. I

Dave Bullis 54:13
think I think I just gave you the next your next book, Steve.

Steve Kaplan 54:17
I'm working on that right now.

Dave Bullis 54:20
And I'm gonna link to everything we talked about in the show notes. Everyone at Dave bullas.com. Twitter, it's at dB podcast. Steve Kaplan, as always, man, thank you so much for coming on. Thank you, Dave. And be on the lookout for that Jack in the mail, by the way. Okay.

Steve Kaplan 54:35
Third time jacket. You know, there's there aren't a lot of us here.

Dave Bullis 54:39
There's not it's a rare club, Steve.

Steve Kaplan 54:41
Okay, I feel honored.

Dave Bullis 54:43
I have a good one, buddy. You too. Thanks, Dave!

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BPS 337: How to Pitch Your Screenplay or Film Idea with Stephanie Palmer

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Alex Ferrari 0:51
Today guys, we have Stephanie Palmer on the show. She wrote an amazing book called good in her room, how to sell yourself and your ideas and win over any audience. She is a very, very cool lady. She's has a heck of a bunch of cool stories we talked about being an intern on the set of Titanic, which she was also a drug mule, or a mule, not a drug mule, but a mule of some sort. We'll go into that story later. She's also worked on amazing films like Legally Blonde one of my favorite Armageddon, Con Air and also work for Jerry Bruckheimer pictures where she got a lot of experience as well as being a director of creative affairs at MGM, where she listened to 1000s of pitches over the course of her career where she then decided that this was a space of, of the of the film industry that needed real help, because people really had no idea how to pitch themselves, how to pitch their stories, how to pitch their screenplays, how a director could pitch their their vision for a film, all of those things. So she put it all together in a book, and has now made it her lifelong mission to help people not only filmmakers, but people to help show them how to sell and pitch their ideas. Now one thing that went little bit wrong technically on this episode is I was barely able to get Stephanie on the phone. She's very, very busy. And I was only able to get her over the phone. So the audio quality is going to be a little bit less than you're used to, but still very acceptable. But the information on the show is remarkable. So sit back and enjoy my conversation with Stephanie Palmer.

Stephanie, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got in the business?

Stephanie Palmer 2:36
Sure. I started as an unpaid intern on the movie Titanic when I was a senior in college. And then I moved from that job to being an assistant at Jerry Bruckheimer films. And I worked on movies like Armageddon and enemy of the state and conair. And I worked, I was Assistant to the President. So we were involved in all aspects of development and production. And then I moved to MGM as an assistant, and then got promoted to the story editor where I was in charge of supervising the staff of readers, and making sure that all the scripts that came into the studio were properly handled. And then after that, I got promoted to being the director of creative affairs, where my job was basically to help determine which projects we wanted to purchase, develop and produce. So I read lots and lots of screenplays and heard lots and lots of pitches.

Alex Ferrari 3:29
Okay, now, with now, you just dropped that little bit like you were an intern on Titanic, so I'm not gonna let that go. Please tell me a little bit about that experience.

Stephanie Palmer 3:44
Well, I can tell you that my first job on that was to drive boxes that I was not to open over the Mexican border. Because I look like a nice innocent girl from Iowa, which I am and I think the production staff thought, Well, she's not going to get stopped by Border Patrol. In retrospect, I never should have done that and I would not do that again. But as I was a college student and desperate like wow, I don't know anything. I'm going to be on this giant movie how exciting I'll do whatever they asked me. That was my first job.

Alex Ferrari 4:19
Wow, so you were meal basically?

Stephanie Palmer 4:22
Pretty much Yeah, I don't I truly don't know what was in the boxes. But it was very clear I was there you don't know what the No, I have no idea. Yeah, no.

Alex Ferrari 4:34
And I had a few friends of mine who worked on on Titanic too, and I and I've heard the legendary stories of Mr. Cameron and and you know how he was back then. I'm assuming you can concur.

Stephanie Palmer 4:48
Yes. I mean, the funny thing was is I one of my jobs was also to be in the production office and just be basically like a runner or anything that they needed and so I did my best to just disappear When I'd be there unless there was something that was needed, and it was pretty amazing to get to sponge in that information and see how decisions were made, to see who whose opinion was listened to, and who was ignored, just to be sort of in that pressure cooker of so many decisions happening. I mean, there was so much at stake. At that time. No one thought they were making a huge, financially successful movie, everyone thought that it was going to be the most expensive movie ever made. You know the bombs. Right.

Alex Ferrari 5:31
Right, right. Yeah, I've heard I've heard. I mean, we've all studied and know that story quite well. But yes, it's so interesting to hear. It's so interesting to hear from from somebody who was actually inside the belly of the beast. So Young like you just starting off like you were a seasoned pro in the belly of the beast, you were a innocent little lamb.

Stephanie Palmer 5:50
Yes, I was totally innocent. Don't misunderstand me that anyone was consulting my opinion on certain things? I mean, maybe what kind of cups we should have, you know, in the coffee machine or something. But was I physically there? And did I get to witness you know, get to be on the giant set, where on the water where one side looks like the Titanic. And the other side is a giant construction site with the big, you know, industrial cranes and elevators, and all of the extra speaking Spanish and they're beautiful, you know, Titanic gear, playing cards and drinking soda and whatever.

Alex Ferrari 6:32
So I mean, so you go right from Titanic, then I guess you go to another small company like Jerry Bruckheimer, which is, you become an assistant there. And you tell me what you learned while being at that company, which is obviously in its in its heyday. And he's still very big, obviously today. But there was a moment in time for about 20 years to serve more than Jerry was making some of the biggest movies going out in Hollywood. So how was it? How was it? What did you learn from that experience?

Stephanie Palmer 7:04
It was fascinating. The best part of my job was that I got to listen in on phone calls. And it was my first experience, realizing that it's a common Hollywood practice where executives would have an assistant and the assistant is listening in, you know, on both sides. So there'll be two people having a conversation, but there's actually for people listening in that that's standard practice. But it was fascinating to me that I got to really listen into all the negotiations and all the pitches and any, you know, rolling calls and placing calls for my boss, and just really getting to see how deals happen at that really high level. Because obviously, I mean, at that time, but still is definitely the case. People want to be in business with Jerry because he gets movies and TV shows made at a very high level at a very high level. People want to work with them.

Alex Ferrari 7:55
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I remember the first time I was on a call with an executive. And that happened to me, like the assistant just like, you know, hey, Tom, did you get that and just then I'm like, What the hell just happened was tying

Stephanie Palmer 8:10
in the charade, it's so silly. That's a charade that people pretend that the person isn't listening in but they both know that they are and it's so silly, but

Alex Ferrari 8:20
It is. Now while you were at a Jerry Bruckheimer his company, did you hear any pitches that actually that we that turned into a movie that we might know or have a TV show that might know?

Stephanie Palmer 8:30
I'm sure. Remember the Titans was pitched while I was there. Coyote Ugly was pitched while I was there. Is it called down on under I'm thinking there was a Scott Rosenberg kangaroo project. From my head, whatever that one was,

Alex Ferrari 8:49
that was pitch Jerry was Jerry McDonald was in that right?

Stephanie Palmer 8:53
Yeah, that one. A lot of TV division was basically just starting at that time. So I mean, they just kind of exploded out of the gates. So a lot of TV shows were pitched during that time. And they just have a huge development slate. So there were there were always multiple projects that you know, from deep development, development, pre production, in production and post production basically all happening at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 9:22
So you know, I mean, you have exactly as I say, at an early part in your career, you had access to basically the upper echelon of Hollywood, essentially, whether you being an intern or an assistant, you were you were playing with the boys not maybe at their level yet, but at least you would there you were a fly on the wall, and that must have been invalidly.

Stephanie Palmer 9:41
So it was, it was an incredible experience.

Alex Ferrari 9:46
Now, let me ask you a question, you heard 1000s of pitches, I'm sure 1000s and 1000s of pitches over the years. Why do some pitches connect and others don't? Is there a secret sauce or some sort

Stephanie Palmer 9:59
I think There are some things that people do well when pitching that anyone can implement. And it doesn't matter the kind of project that you have, I mean, some pitches, some projects are naturally more easily pitched. You know, a lot of comedies are generally easier to pitch, or movies that are simpler in plot than character driven pieces or multiple storylines that are, you know, interwoven project like, a lot harder to give a verbal pitch for. But for any project, one of my simple the simplest piece of advice, but that so many people neglect to do is to lead with genre. So if you're going to give a verbal pitch, it's that genre that gives context to the listener. And without that crucial piece of information, it's easy for the person who's hearing the pitch to make incorrect assumptions about their story and get confused. So for example, the writer tells me that he's got a story that involves the CIA, I could assume it's a thriller, like Three Days of the Condor, when it's really a drama, like the Good Shepherd or a comedy, like Meet the Parents. So simply saying My project is a romantic comedy, or my project is an action thriller, is the first, my first tip, it's so simple, it's those it's something that anyone can do. But it's shocking how rare that is.

Alex Ferrari 11:32
Really, people just going into their story, and that tell you the context of their story, because they forget it. So

Stephanie Palmer 11:38
thriller, and spy is a spy, there's a spy, they start talking all about the spy, and then the spy start. So you either think it's a drama or a thriller, or a comedy, but then whatever you think the character starts acting in a really ridiculous way. You're like, What are they talking about? Why are these people dying? I thought it was a comedy, or vice versa. And so just simply describing the genre at the beginning is key.

Alex Ferrari 12:02
Okay, now, are there beats in a pitch? Like, is there a pace that you should follow? Is there some sort of code like, you know, obviously, there's a structure for screenplays? Is there a structure to a pitch?

Stephanie Palmer 12:13
There can be if it's not one size fits all, because obviously, projects are so different. I'm looking for a pitch to be memorable and repeatable. Because it's extremely rare that the first time you pitch a project, someone says, Yes, I want to buy it. The way that projects are purchased is that you pitch it to one person, maybe you pitch it to a producer, and the producer says, Oh, I'm really interested. Okay, now let me take it to a financier. Let me take it to a studio and they re pitch it. And then the studio executive, you know, Junior studio executive says, Okay, let me pitch it to my boss, who's the president of the studio. It's like, you need to have something that's repeatable, and memorable so that if someone's hearing it for the first time, they can say, Okay, I got it, I'm going to go re pitch this to someone else on my team or someone up the chain.

Alex Ferrari 13:00
What you just explained, sounds just torturous. All the bureaucracy that goes on to like, I gotta be this guy than this guy. And this guy, and this, you might have to be pitched this thing 1015 times

Stephanie Palmer 13:12
before if you're 110 50. I mean, 100. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 13:17
yeah, you're right, because you're constantly pitching to the actors you're taking pitching to different. Yeah, I guess you're right. Any actor

Stephanie Palmer 13:22
you know, you should be in it. Here's why other executives financier's, that's a huge process, the marketing department. I mean, all the way and, and at the end, a lot of times, if it's a really good pitch, it's that same pitch that's frequently used in the trailer to pitch the movie to a potential audience.

Alex Ferrari 13:43
So pitching is basically a skill set that most people don't have. And it's probably one of the most crucial in filmmaking in general,

Stephanie Palmer 13:52
I think it's the second most crucial, I think, one you have to be able to write if you're a writer, you have to be able to write without that. There's nothing. But if you have that skill, and that talent, the next most important as far as having a successful career is being able to pitch effectively. People who are good in a room, like if there's two people who have an equal equally, beautifully written script, the person who pitches it more effectively, their movie is going to get made, they're going to get hired.

Alex Ferrari 14:20
It's all about marketing. And this is just another form of marketing, marketing. The idea of is you're basically marketing the idea, exactly. pitches. So how long? How long do you have as a general statement, to grab someone with a pitch? Do you have 30 seconds? Do you have a minute or before they just start tuning out? Like how long do you really have to grab somebody or is it just varies per person, I guess.

Stephanie Palmer 14:48
I know that I don't have a specific number. I feel like it's under 90 seconds. I mean, it's amazing how long 90 seconds can be like for example I'm going to be leading the pitch conference at the American Film market this Saturday, and just this week have been reviewing, so anyone who wants to pitch from the stage submits a video. And to me, and then I review them with this other panel, and we decide who's going to pitch from the stage. And those pitches are limited to two minutes. But it is amazing how long two minutes is. I mean, it is so hard to pay attention for a two minute pitch.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
Yeah, absolutely. That's sad many, many, many film festivals watching the short films sometimes and you just features and use like, Oh, my God, just stop. With this is the longest 20 minutes longest five minutes of my life,

Stephanie Palmer 15:47
right? And you You want it? Yes, you want it to be great, but two minutes can be very, very long. So the goal for an effective pitch is really to pitch it as simply and as short as you can make it. That still conveys the idea clearly.

Alex Ferrari 16:05
Now, what's the what most turns you off about a pitch?

Stephanie Palmer 16:12
I mean, if there's nothing that makes you care about any of the characters or want to find out what's going to happen. I mean, I think the surprising thing about a lot of pitches is just how, when you that the people are so close to their project, they love it, they know it so well, that they have lost perspective on what someone who's hearing it for the first time needs to know to be able to understand. I mean, a lot of pitches are totally incomprehensible. They're all over the place. You really can't say I have no as someone will finish pitching, I'll be like, I have no idea what you're talking about. Who is the main character? What is the setting? What happens in the story? What happens in the beginning, middle and an end? There are a lot of in No idea.

Alex Ferrari 16:58
Because Because writers they just they just know the story so well that they assume certain things that they're pitching, and forget those little details.

Stephanie Palmer 17:08
And it's totally understandable. Yeah, completely, it's totally understandable. Because you're so close to the characters, you're so close into all the details. But you forget, you know the characters so well. But the audience or the person listening is hearing that for the very first time.

Alex Ferrari 17:24
Right, exactly. Now, this is something I know a lot of people don't do. And I'd love for to get some insight from you what they should do. What kind of research should a writer or filmmaker do on a company or an executive before they pitched the story?

Stephanie Palmer 17:40
Great question. This is so key. So key to having a successful pitch. It is figuring out basically, any individual company studio production company is looking to replicate their past success. So if they have had a movie or TV show that has done really well, the more that your project can be, if it's in a similar genre, that's great. If it has a similar main character, or millea, or budget range, even anything that's similar to what they have done in the past that has done well, it's just going to increase the odds that your project will sell. It doesn't mean that they're looking to make the identical movie again, although, frankly, sometimes people are, it's more like, it's more like it's more like, okay, they really figured out how to market this indie thriller, or they really figured out how to market this mainstream High School comedy. And so they know what that audience is looking for. They know the channels to get this out there. They know what it takes. And so they already are looking for Okay, we figured it out what this one now where some worth another project that we can, you know, release next year at the same time for the same audience that's going to deliver the same experience that this previous success did.

Alex Ferrari 19:08
So a lot of times people just go ahead. No, that's a lot of times a lot of people will, you know, some people I'm imagining would have at some point in time have pitched horror movies to Disney.

Stephanie Palmer 19:20
Oh, absolutely. Definitely. Definitely. And that's just lack of research. Yeah. And so it's figuring out what has, what has this company done in the past? What do they currently have in development? Anything that you can find out about the specific people that you're meeting? One of the questions that I like to ask in a meeting is what's something that you're excited about this year, or something, you know, a sort of open ended question that gives the executive or the producer that you're meeting, a chance to brag about something that they're working on, you know, like, Oh, we just made this big deal with this project. I'm really excited about it, but it also gives you an insight into what's working well, for that person.

Alex Ferrari 20:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Stephanie Palmer 20:15
So if there's a way for your project to have similar themes or similar budget or similar timeframe, or any of the aspects, you know, you can tell what's important to the person by asking them to brag about themselves, basically,

Alex Ferrari 20:32
that is a beautiful tip. It's a really, really beautiful tip because that is anytime you can have somebody that you're trying to pitch feel good about themselves and talk about

Stephanie Palmer 20:45
they're just gonna like you, you know, you're getting them like you because you're making them feel good about themselves.

Alex Ferrari 20:52
It's it's, it's communication one on one, but it's something that a lot of people don't do. So can you talk a little bit about the business side of being a writer, a lot of writers just like, I just want to write, I just want to this, you know, I just want to tell my story. I don't want to get into the Hollywood business side of stuff, I'm like, well, then you're never ever going to make it as a as a writer or the filmmaker. So can you talk a little bit from your perspective of writers, because I know you work a lot with writers, what they should do, how to they structure their career, what house should they come out to the town? What kind of projects should it things like that.

Stephanie Palmer 21:30
I'm happy to talk anything business, I'm happy to talk money, any anything you want to talk about. I'm happy to talk about it. For me, for writers, the biggest mistake that I see many writers who want to break in do is that they have a number, they know that they need to have more than one project, or a lot of people know that. So which is the case, you definitely need to have, at minimum two to three really polished projects before you start marketing yourself and really try to break in. It's not a business where you're one, it's going to be a one hit wonder, like people always say to me, oh, I'm willing to be a one hit wonder, I want to be a one hit wonder. But that really isn't possible. It's too competitive, it's too competitive. And people need to know, agents are only interested in working with people who are going to have enough longevity and enough projects to be able to sell multiple projects. Because the first projects rarely sell for very much, the agent makes very little money at the beginning. So they want to know, oh, I'm going to be this with this person and representing them over a period of years and a number of deals to make it financially worth me investing in this person. So there really isn't the way to do it as a one hit wonder, in general. But as I was saying before, the biggest mistake that I see a lot of people make is that they write a bunch of different projects in different genres. And also different mediums like they might have a TV show, they might have a reality show. They also have a indie thriller, and they have a studio comedy. And they believe, or they think, Okay, this is really going to show that I have a lot of range, and I can write a bunch of different things. But unfortunately, how that is perceived is more like the jack of all trades, master of none. And that executive the decision makers who are hiring writers want to hire specialists, like they want to hire the person who knows everything that there is to know about comic book movies for their comic book movie, or they want to hire the person who has watched, every horror movie knows the ins and outs of everything that's coming out in the future has been done in the past, what are the classics and make sure that their horror movie really delivers for that, you know, the horror fanatic audience, they don't want someone who they're not looking to hire someone to write a bunch of different projects, it's really the way to break through is to be a specialist in one area. So I recommend that people develop multiple projects in a similar genre. They don't have to all be identical, but at least closely related so that they can show that they have a specialty. Then when they break in, and they've they've shown that they have the facility and expertise in one area. At that point, it is so much easier to branch out and do something else. But you can't try and break in with a wide variety of genres and mediums like it's it's different. It's a different business. It's a different career path to become a TV writer than it is to become a film screenwriter.

Alex Ferrari 24:37
Oh absolutely. It's two different worlds what TV writers are, guess I would imagine that well TV you work a lot more like you You have a steady paycheck. If you're if you're on a show as opposed to screenwriter. Maybe one year you get paid maybe the other year a

Stephanie Palmer 24:54
different model. Yeah, it's a different model, but also the TV writing is generally done in the US. First, like it is an office job where you go to the office and you work with a team of people, whereas screenwriters generally work by themselves at home or, you know, maybe they have an office space, but they're working solely on their own. And on a project that has a long timeframe, whereas TV is tight deadlines, working on a team in an office, extremely intensely.

Alex Ferrari 25:23
Right, exactly, exactly. Yeah, that's a good point. Because I think a lot of filmmakers and writers in general make that mistake, like I'm going to, as a filmmaker, you're like, I'm going to make a comedy. And I'm going to make a horror movie that I'm going to make an action movie and you send it out, and people are like, well, what are you like you? You can't do that just yet.

Stephanie Palmer 25:40
It's not Yeah, and that agents don't know how to sell people who have a bunch of different projects. So it makes them less interested. And something that a lot of people say to me also is like, well, but I don't want to be pigeonholed. And I found that. But I say, why wouldn't you want to be pigeonholed, that means that you are known for doing something really, really well. And likely you are paid extremely well. Like the people who are known for doing something very specific, like whether it's the Michael Bay or its David Mamet or any Guillermo del Toro anyone, anyone who you can who has an identifiable niche or brands you're like, Yeah, but people keep coming back to that person. They keep offering the movies, they keep offering them more and more money to do movies in that genre. It doesn't mean that you always have to say yes to those things. But wouldn't you so much rather be in that position where you're turning down work because you have this great reputation in a particular area? then having no one want to work with you and not having any jobs? Because you're worried about being pigeonholed?

Alex Ferrari 26:48
Right I'm still looking forward to the Quentin Tarantino comedy slap.

Stephanie Palmer 26:57
I will be doing that as well.

Alex Ferrari 27:00
I think I think people could argue that a lot of his movies are a little bit

Stephanie Palmer 27:05
comedy. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 27:06
He's is he is a he's a wonderful comedic writer. But I want like a Naked Gun naked go. kwinter Geno's, Naked Gun that I would I would you know, Tarantino's airplane, you know, that's what I'm looking for.

Stephanie Palmer 27:23
Someone will make a short of that and put it on YouTube, I'm sure.

Alex Ferrari 27:27
I'm sure I'm gonna be a perfect example. You said Michael Bay, like, I mean, Michael Bay is Michael Bay. And he is he's, he's great. As well at what he does, he makes amazing pretty pictures if you like, and as a filmmaker, you don't like him as a filmmaker. At least he is known for doing that. You can argue that his images are just stunning. Like what he they are on the screen. They're stunning. And there's nobody there. Honestly, there is nobody else in the business who does what he does. Like they call it Bay ham. It's an actual term for it. You know, it's like it. You know, when anytime you get like a Terran Tino is, you know, when you get to that level of specialty. And you know, Woody Allen that it will it will the Allen asked Robert? Yes, yes. You know, then you have arrived at a certain level in your career where like, that's a niche. That's that's the specific thing they do. And now you know, I mean, look at Spielberg for God's sakes, we start off in a horror movie, basically a thriller with Jaws, and I blew him up. He did a couple before that, but, but duel was similar. And then he kind of branched off into other things. But it took him time to get out of that. And then we will talk about 1941. Because he doesn't want to talk about 1940. So let me ask you, what inspired you to create good in a room and give back to writers and filmmakers? Well, I

Stephanie Palmer 28:49
had been an executive for a number of years, and I felt I had gotten to work on all these different projects. And I really liked the production process. And I loved the development process. But the life of being a studio executive is very stressful. And there really are breaks. I mean, it's a it's a job where you have to be on call 24 hours a day, and I just sort of saw my future and thinking, How much longer do I want this to be my day to day existence? And I knew that the end was coming. It wasn't something where I said, Okay, now I want to move up and be, you know, work my way up to being a studio president or CEO, something like that. That was it just came to a point where that wasn't the lifestyle that I wanted to have. And so I was thinking, well, how can I take this experience that I've had, and take the best part of my job, which is working with writers, that's the part that I love and would do all the time anytime? How could I make that what I do on a day to day basis, and so I thought about it for a while and took some business classes and decided that I would start a consulting firm so when I left MGM, I started getting a room It's now been almost 10 years, which is hard to believe. And I

Alex Ferrari 30:05
You're 21, aren't you?

Stephanie Palmer 30:07
Yes, I am absolutely. I I'm aging backwards. I so I started working one on one, just coaching writers who were pitching projects. And out of that I was interviewed on some TV shows and got a book deal. And so I wrote my book, also called good in the room. And that was published by Random House. And then it continued to expand my consulting business and now have created some online courses. Just because I wanted I knew that one, I can't consult with everybody that wants to just because I'm one person and you know, it's not a scalable business to work one on one you can only I can only meet with so many people in a day. And then that I also wanted to make the information that I share in console's in helping people pitch more effectively and sell their scripts that I wanted that to be available to people wherever they were in the US, especially if they didn't live in Los Angeles. And for a lot of people. I know living in Los Angeles isn't possible, but they still want to get their work considered. And so I've created an online course, that is called How to be a professional writer. And it is a series of videos and ebooks that people can work through to really see how projects are sold, what they need to do to get their work considered.

Alex Ferrari 31:28
Very cool. Very cool. Not Can you tell me a little bit about because I saw, I saw online a video of yours that you were talking about your experience pitching good in a room to the publishers talk a little bit about that experience, which is ironic, but yet very entertaining.

Stephanie Palmer 31:46
Well, so I was interviewed on NPR, the business, which is awesome show that's still going on, it's still on the air, or on the radio. And after I was on the business, I got a phone call from an agent, actually one of the biggest book agents in the world, even though I didn't know him. And he said, You know, I think that what you have is worthy of being a book, I think you should write it, why don't you write a book proposal and then come to New York, and I think I can help you sell it. I was like, This never happens. But amazing, great. Okay, I'll do it. And so I ran out and got every book about how to write a book proposal and put together my proposal and went to New York, was all excited and got into the first meeting with publisher and they were asking me, you know, like, sat down on the couch in the meeting. And there's the executives, and they're like, you know, so tell me about your book. And I just totally froze, because I had not ever been in the position of being the writer actually pitching. I was always the person on the other side of the desk, asking him questions of the writer. And so even though I, obviously my book is called good in a room. In that first meeting, I absolutely wasn't, it was mortifying, and then I went back to my hotel room and got my act together and was like, Oh, my gosh, that's horrible. And thankfully, I had other meetings that week where I, you know, focused on, I got my materials together, and I then was able to deliver a good meeting. But it was kind of a shocking role reversal that you would think I would have known ahead of time, but it all happened so fast that I just, I was caught

Alex Ferrari 33:25
off guard. You were caught off guard. And then thank God your books around now to help people like

Stephanie Palmer 33:33
I can go back and read my own book The next time to make sure that I prepared. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 33:41
So I'm at it when you were at MGM, you were basically the gatekeeper, right, the first level of getting movies made, right. Yep. So are there Can you tell me any funny stories of a pitch that you were just like, what is this?

Stephanie Palmer 33:58
Well, there were certainly people who would come in costume. There was one gentleman who came in wearing only a diaper and holding a large samurai sword. That standard out.

Alex Ferrari 34:10
I love that. I love that movie. By the way, that's my favorite for samurai sword movie.

Stephanie Palmer 34:19
There also was a couple brothers sister writing team who were pitching a romantic comedy and they were acting out the main characters until the point that they were leaning in for a kiss. Oh, um, they didn't kiss but it was extremely uncomfortable. There also was someone of this poor gentleman who was so nervous and I think he'd been drinking. But he left he was so nervous and sweaty that he left a writer shaped sweat stain on my couch.

Alex Ferrari 34:57
Brilliant Yeah. room the second edition.

Stephanie Palmer 35:04
It would be called Bad in a room. Yeah, bad in a room? Yes, it's

Alex Ferrari 35:08
a sequel bad in a room. Wow. So I'm assuming that people that come in and costume, that's not a good sign, or is that have you have you guys gotten the job?

Stephanie Palmer 35:18
I mean, it's funny. I generally don't like gimmicks like that. I mean, I think because really you're especially at the studio level, you're going to, if you hire this person, it's going to be for, you know, a minimum of about $100,000, you're going to be working with them over a year, it's not like you just buy their project, and then say, Sayonara never talked to them again, you're going to be developing the project with this person. And so you want them to be a professional. So in general, I'm not a fan of gimmicks. But there are times and there certainly are stories of people who have brought in some sort of Prop or video reel or something that really tells the story in a unique way. So it's not that I'm so I can't say no visual aids ever. But in general, things that are gimmicky don't really, in my opinion, don't really help the the story you want, you want to be able to tell the story in a really compelling way that the executive can see the movie and then say, yes, this is a movie I want to see.

Alex Ferrari 36:20
Now, you brought a good point up when you said video reel, Are there times where people come in and use video as a pitch tool. Like they literally just play a DVD of a story either. How would we send proof of concept? Is it done talking? Is it animatics, what

Stephanie Palmer 36:38
all of the above is visual aids, if they have any sort of animation, or there's some sort of creature or they want to show visual, a sense of, especially if they want to direct certainly that's even more common. But but but people are doing more and more demos to prove the concept that they're pitching. This is also kind of a slippery slope. Because especially at the studio level, people have such high expectations for production value that even though it may be amazing, and it is amazing the things that filmmakers can do you know, from their home computer, it may not live up to what a studio can do, because their budget is just so obscenely high for creating, you know, a trailer or proof of concept reel or something. But there definitely have been people who, who can create something that's really compelling. And they they need to show it in video for a movie to get made. And that does happen with some frequency certainly.

Alex Ferrari 37:39
So I, I don't know if you knew this, but I come from a post production background. And I've been a VFX supervisor and post supervisor and all sorts everything in posts I've done at one point or another. And in any filmmakers many times will, you were saying the high level of production value. They a lot of independent film that tried to do visual effects, they'll do them and they'll try to be so ambitious with it. And I keep telling them like, you know, sometimes I get this conversation of like, Alright, so I have this shot. Did you see that shot in Avengers? I'm like, you need to stop right there. You can't afford craft services or the coffee budget Avengers. Okay? Let it go. You need to do something that's within the realm of doing what you can do very, very well, as a beautiful mind to be so ambitious, you know, I would rather be able to hit a nail on a hammer really, really well and try to build the house by myself beautifully

Stephanie Palmer 38:35
said, totally support that. Yes. Second.

Alex Ferrari 38:40
So, um, are there any final advice you would give on delivering an amazing pitch?

Stephanie Palmer 38:48
Um, let's see. I will say that. Um, well, one thing that is super common, that is also easy for people not to do is don't give a positive opinion of your own work. So for example, this is a great story, and you're gonna love it. I mean, how many times have you heard that right? Or this is gonna be amazing, right? So just like every parent, including me thinks their child is brilliant. And every dog owner thinks that their pet is adorable. It's expected that you are a fan of your own work. But some other things to say. Besides not to say Besides, you're going to love this or like don't say this will be number one at the box office. This is going to win the Oscar for Best Picture. This has great international appeal. It's really really funny. It's commercial, any of that sort of stuff. Instead let the listener form their own opinion.

Alex Ferrari 39:44
That's excellent. Excellent advice. Now when you when you're talking you brought you brought a question to mind. I've always heard that. A lot of times when you pitching, you should. You should try to be like it's Pulp Fiction. kangaroo jack?

Stephanie Palmer 40:02
kangaroo jack by the movie you thought of it? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 40:04
I know. Obviously, like people combined, it's like the matrix meats, you know, you know, unnecessary roughness? I don't know, right? Yeah, those people do that good. Is that that? Is that good or bad?

Stephanie Palmer 40:21
I'm anti. This means that phenomenon, a lot of people promoted. But those are not the people who are buying projects, it is important for you to have an answer. When someone asks you, what project is yours? Most likely? Because that is a very common question. So you do want to have an answer for that. And a lot of times what people are asking is really about tone. Like, how broad is the comedy? Or how severe is the violence? Or the you know, how serious is the sex? Is it just light handed? Are you really seeing, you know, penetration, or whatever it is. They're really asking about tone then. But people often misconstrue this to think that it's about plot or about characters. And so if people lead with this meets that, what often happens is that the person who's listening is going to be going along sort of ticking in their mind. How is this most like Pulp Fiction? How is this like kangaroo jack, where's the kangaroo? Where's the whatever, instead of thinking instead of listening to the story as an original idea, they're just like listening to it as a hack of these two things. And I don't think that's the best way to present a project. And so often the way that people choose this means that I mean, they're totally bizarre and totally off so that you're sitting there listening, you're like, this is like kangaroo jack, or whatever it is. And so that's, that's not so do have an answer for what your project is most like particularly regarding the tone. But don't lead with this means that

Alex Ferrari 41:58
and if you do have that title, or that movie in your in your back pocket, try not to choose a movie that's bombed. Oh, really? It's really like

Stephanie Palmer 42:13
I mean, in my first studio meeting, when I was an executive, and I had found a project that was really like election you remember the Reese Witherspoon? I mean, elections, a great movie. So I was like, This is gonna be the next election and my boss looks across the table at me. And he was like, never say that movie again. Like, okay,

Alex Ferrari 42:34
because they might

Stephanie Palmer 42:34
have like, it was a box office bomb. Yeah, it bombed right. Even though it's a terrific movie, I think. So yeah. only keep your references to things that have been financially successful. If you're, if you're talking to anyone who's a potential buyer or investor financier. That's the they're looking for

Alex Ferrari 42:53
that simple tip. Because I've had people pitch me things, and they're like, it's kinda like Howard the Duck. I'm like, stop. Why are you Why? Why would I want to do that? Right? Yeah. How were the duck is a genius movie. It's very under appreciated. I'm just saying. Okay, so so my last two questions are the most hard hitting and tough so prepare yourself. I'm ready. What are your top What are your top three favorite films of all time? And what is the most one of the most underrated films that you've seen?

Stephanie Palmer 43:27
Oh my gosh, these are hard hitting for me because I really terrible at this kind of question because it's constantly changing. And every time another actor I hang up and I'm like, Oh, I didn't get the right answer. I will say at one of my favorites et at the moment Father of the Bride I know it's no you know, wow we ever made but it's just it's just a classic that's playing around in my house at this moment. And God, I really am totally drawing a blank. I mean, I'll watch Pulp Fiction any day. I mean, there's never enough time to watch that bazillion times and under appreciated let's think I'm trying to think of their election sure. I mean, I think that's totally under appreciated. I love that movie. And I would watch it again right now it's been years since I've seen it. So actually, I wonder if it still holds up but I bet it does.

Alex Ferrari 44:33
Right. And I think we could both agree that Pulp Fiction would have been better with a kangaroo and obviously I'm just saying I'm just say Jerry, Jerry miss out. I'm just saying.

Stephanie Palmer 44:49

Alex Ferrari 44:51
So where where can people find you?

Stephanie Palmer 44:55
I am easily finable on the web. My website is good in a room calm, and I have Lots of free resources available for filmmakers, lots of screenplays, people can read and also articles for people to help who are going to be pitching a project to give them advice about what they should and shouldn't do. So good in the room COMM And I'm also on Twitter at good in the room and have a Facebook page, also called Getting a rim.

Alex Ferrari 45:20
Great brandy,

Stephanie Palmer 45:21
Thank you. It's consistent, if nothing else,

Alex Ferrari 45:26
Exactly. Stephanie Thank you so much for for being on the show. I really do appreciate it.

Stephanie Palmer 45:32
It is my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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BPS 333: Screenwriting for Netflix and Television with Neil Landau

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Alex Ferrari 0:03
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.

Dave Bullis 1:48
My next guest is an award winning screenwriter, producer, author and professor. He actually wrote co wrote the cook the cold comedy Don't tell mom the babysitter's dead, starring Christina Applegate, which I always say is a rite of passage for kids of the 80s and 90s. Because I think we've all been there one way or the other, with a babysitter dies and we gotta hide the body. You know what I'm talking about. But he's also written for Doogie Howser, this secret world of Alex Mack, MTV. He's also produced a ton of different stuff. And he currently runs the MFA and writing television program at UCLA for the, for the theater, film and TV department. And now he's also written this book. He's also written for other books. For instance, like 101, things I learned in film school, the screenwriters roadmap. So his latest book is called TV writing on demand, which is what the contest is about. And it's all just about the medium of TV, how popular TV is becoming all the different programs out there. It's a pretty interesting book, I've actually I actually got an advanced copy of it. It's a really, really interesting read. And what we talked about in this episode is what I keep telling people, when they ask for screenwriting advice, I go, everybody wants to see you have a TV pilot of some kind, because that's where all the money is right now. And that's where all the hits are right now. TV is, is is definitely it. It's the most popular have been golden age. But it's also very diversified. Because there's so many different mediums at this episodic format, as easy as coming to whether it be YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, whatever. So without further ado, Neil Landau,

Neil Landau 3:18
Well, I kind of started off as a reading place. I mean, it actually starts with a lot of what all my books are about character development, about builds from empathy, so and filling emotional voids, you know, so much of what characters go through. And what we see, even in comedies are characters who have voids in their lives and deficits and things in the course of the story, fill those voids. So my father died when I was six years old, of a heart attack. He was playing basketball with some friends. He collapsed on the basketball court, he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, a heart attack. And so from that age forward, I had a very rich fantasy life. I was always reading little scenes and plays and wanting to disappear on showing off just to kind of, you know, use my, my loss of my father. So I was writing plays from fourth grade, I started writing little plays and skits and performance. And I actually thought I wanted to become a playwright. Me probably at the time, just because I shared the name with Neil Simon, who was the most well known playwright at the time, and I loved his work. And so I thought I would write plays and be like Neil Simon, I didn't think well, he already existed and I have to create my own voice. I just thought I'll just copy him and, you know, be the next meal. The next famous Neil playwright, but being raised by a single mom. We always had financial problems. And so I started to think, well, it's very difficult to make a living as a playwright and I knew what it was like to grow up You know, financially disadvantaged. So I started to think about well, and they knew some people who had gone to film school and who had written movies and television. And I didn't know if you can succeed, which, of course, is a big gift that you can actually make not only make a living wage, but you can actually make a lot of money, which would give me security. And so I segwayed from writing plays into I went to UCLA Film School and started writing screenplays. And at the time, one of my best friends growing up, Tara Ison, who was one year behind me, at UCLA, we went to actually elementary school, junior high, which is now a middle school, high school and UCLA together. So we were best friends for a really long time, we decided to partner up and write scripts together. Because I thought she was the smartest, most talented person I knew. And she felt similarly toward me. So we wrote a few screenplays while we were going to school. And one year after I graduated, we kept writing, you know, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, we'd write and Sunday afternoon paint all day. And the first couple of weeks just stuck in a drawer, they weren't very good. The third one became don't among the babies. And we thought we'd be lucky, just, you know, to have anybody ever noticed us. But that script, actually, there was a bidding war at three studios. And it was one of those, you know, big spec scripts sales from the 80s 1987, where our lives just changed dramatically. Because we went, you know, I went from making $18,000 a year to making hundreds of 1000s of dollars a year. And then we were kind of off and running, in that that's kind of how it all started just from, you know, escaping life, fit their rich fantasy life. And then just dabbling and thinking maybe we can actually do this as a career. And that was the first thing. And once you sell an original spec script, or original pilot, that really creates so much heat and buzz that you could actually build a career on that if you can deliver again, you know, after that if it wasn't just a fluke. So that was kind of my inspiration and how it all started. And with, don't tell mom, one of the things Tara and I both had in common is our we both were raised essentially from broken families. And she was she her father didn't die, but she was mainly raised by a single mother. We also both look extremely young for our ages at the time. And people always used to ask if our agent had to give us a ride to the meeting, because they didn't believe we had our driver's licenses yet and things like that. So we'd like to also the idea of playing with age, you know, and in, we wrote one script about a dark, you know, high school who was much older and posing as a high school student. And then with Don't tell mom, we thought of the idea of somebody who actually could look older, who could go into the adult world and pretend to be an adult. So that was also part of the kind of a theme that we were exploring. And that's kind of how it all got, that's how our career really got started.

Dave Bullis 8:17
You know, so when you were writing, you know, don't tell mom the babysitter's dead. You know, since you're basically launched your career when you were writing this, did you actually I mean, were you when you're writing it? Or maybe when you're finished? Did you actually say, You know what, I think this is, you know, a homerun shot. I think this is, you know, your me like I think this is going to be Yeah.

Neil Landau 8:42
We would jokingly, we would jokingly say that one of the things that is so different between me and Tara is I tend to be very optimistic about everything and pragmatic and Jonathan's be more cynical. And I think she always thought, Well, who knows? We may we may never get anywhere. But I felt the thing about Dustin a moment was different was that we had so much fun writing it, there were so many times that we would just, you know, be laughing hysterically. And we kept we would say, we don't know if this is any good, but we think it's, I think it's funny. We're having a lot of fun writing it. We well actually this is even better part of the story. So at the time. I was always also interested in writing for television. So I did my internship at merit MPM enterprises, which was marriage Elmore, and grant Tinker's company. And this a show that I just loved so much, which really influenced everything in television and in my life with industry blues, and that was the show that I interned on the most and, you know, I was on set and I would watch dailies and I would get to see all the revisions and it was just a great experience just to observe and be around that show you

Alex Ferrari 10:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Neil Landau 10:10
But one of the other things they did in re internship was, he delivered mail around the CBS lot. This was CBS Radford that which is in Studio City, right near where I live now actually. And I we deliver mail and a little bicycle, one of the people I delivered mail to was Beth Ochsner, who at the time was senior vice president of comedy development. And she graciously agreed to read a script. And she ended up leaving MGM and becoming a literary agent. And she joined a big at the time, there was a very big literary agency called Broder Kerlan web affair, which no longer exists, it was I think they were absorbed by either I see them. God, I don't remember, they were definitely bought out. Death ended up leaving. But the point of the story is best tickets on as an agent, and we were hip pocket clients, meaning for those of you don't know, but you know, she didn't sign up. But she said, I have interest in you. You're you guys are young and talented. And I like I like what I'm reading so far. So let me send your stuff. Let me just informally represent you and see if we can get anywhere. She was mainly representing sitcom writers to see at the time, everybody was reading spec episodes of TV shows. That's how you got staff. People weren't really reading original pilots. So Tara, and I wrote a spec for the Golden Girls. And we thought it was great. Got it to bath and she said she was too busy to handle us anymore, was the bad news. But the good news is he had taken on my associate, who would handle us more of a junior agent and that they were going to represent us. So this new younger Junior agent who came in, she said, Well, what else do you have, because she didn't really like Golden Girls. And we had just finished the Don't tell mom scripts, which at the time was called the real world. That was the original title. And so we got her the script. And she hated it. She hated it so much. She said, I think this is the kind of script you should just put away and never show anyone, because it will actually harm your careers. She said you don't want this to be, you know, representative of your work. So what we did, because we're writers and neurotic, and we believed her. So I put the script away. It was printed out scripts. So you know, wasn't even on a computer, you know, back then. We were using early versions of computers, but mostly we were still typing our scripts. I put it under a pair of shoes in my closet. And we stopped missing our writing hours. And we were just very discouraged. And but one of my friends from UCLA is a guy named David cap, who has become a huge, huge Rewriter. You know, he wrote the original Spider Man with Tobey Maguire, and he wrote Jurassic Park one and two and panic war the world, you know, on and on and on. I mean, he he's become probably the most successful screenwriter, certainly financially in terms of Buxa box office, I think ever. He was over at my apartment, and he was asking about that script. And he said, Whatever happened with that script? And I said, Oh, it's terrible. We just put it away. And he said, Well, how do you know it's terrible? And I said, well, because this agent told us it was terrible, and not show it to anybody. So he said, he asked if he could read it. And I said, No, because, you know, don't humiliate me. And he said, just let me read it. I'm your friend, I'm not going to, you know, I'll just give you notes, whatever. Anyway, he read it, and he loved it. And he said, It's not the greatest script in the world, but I think you can sell it. And I think it's really funny. And I think the agents wrong. So based on that, and at this point, David was still nobody. But you know, I thought, well, maybe we should try to listen to somebody else. The timing was such that one of my UCLA professors had met an agent at a party, who was looking for new writers. And my professor said, Well, I you know, I read a script that I think's funny. And I know these young writer and so we got the script to him on a Friday. Normally, it would at that time, it would take anywhere from six weeks to six months for an agent to ever get back to you. Got it. Two days later, he called and said, When can you come home? And we went into a conference room and it was all the agents and partners and they wanted to sign us and then linked up to Scripture. I didn't there was a bidding war. So, moral of the story, don't ever listen to one person's opinion. Very important point. And that script really unlocked everything for us, including segwaying into writing for television, because Steven bochco was producing Doogie Howser MD at the time, and read the script and also really loved it. And that was how we got our first TV job. So, you know, you just, you never know, you know, it's like William Goldman says, and adventures in the screen trade, you know, nobody knows anything. It's always worth getting multiple opinions. And if three people say, this is terrible, I'm just not connecting to anything in the script, then maybe you listen, but one person is never, you know, I don't think is ever, necessarily the be all end all or anything. And so that was also part of that story. And I think we thought it was really good, then we were disappointed. And then all of a sudden, we thought it was good again, because somebody validated this, you know, on. And it's always hard when you're writing a script to know if it's good, because you're too close to it. You know, and I tell my students now at UCLA, where I teach now, you know, the first thing you lose when you start writing is objectivity. And it's really hard to see clearly, really anything, because the characters are starting to kind of lead you around, and you lose the sense of the big picture. And it often takes a fresh set of eyes to really, really determine the quality of anything at that point, unless the writer is able to put the script away for at least a few weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes.

Dave Bullis 16:46
Yeah, very, very true. Because I, you know, I've been there too, Neil, where you know, you're writing a script, and you that inner voice inside of you starts kind of saying, Ah, come on, this is too much like, you know, the godfather or whatever. And then you start writing a little more, and you're like, I don't know, what the hell am I doing? And then by the end, you're like, This is awful. What the hell am I doing with my life? I need to go out and I just start a new hobby.

Neil Landau 17:11
Yes, well, I was mentoring so much more. That voice that little devil or, you know, in your shoulder, that tells you you suck, and, you know, makes you doubt everything. That's never, that's never going anywhere, that's always going to be sitting on one shoulder, the other shoulder that hopefully will have your muse which will counter everything, the negative voices saying it's almost like there's always a battle between the Muse and the Furies. And I think, you know, it's, the negative voice does have value in that. It's ego driven. And it taps into all of your insecurities and doubts and fears, and neuroses. But it is also forcing you to be more critical and to, you know, be really tough on yourself, because it's probably going to say meaner things, and harsher things than anybody in the business possibly could ever say to you. I'd rather hear from my own inner healing from an external one who could potentially destroy, you know, my career or, you know, making a mobile application. The challenge is, it's almost impossible to be the creator and the critic at the same time, you know, so what I try to do, the best of my ability is, say, All right, I know the negative, destructive, or hyper critical voice is going to be coming through one side of my head or sitting on one of my shoulders, it's there, I acknowledge it. I just say, you know, just let me finish. I'm gonna listen, just to the positive news, that's kind of inspiring me, when I'm done, you know, I'll be hypercritical, and I'll shift over to my critical mind. But it's really hard to be the creator and the critic simultaneously. You know, it's, they kind of cancel each other out. And it's What can cause writer's block, you know, writer's block is caused by perfectionism, where you just, you know, don't want to write anything, because you're convinced it's not brilliant. And it's probably because that negative voice is telling you it's not good enough, it's not good enough, and then you stop paying, instead of actually getting pages written. So I always tell people, the, the antidote to writer's block is very simple. Lower your standards. Just write it write a shitty first draft. And then once it's done, go back and make it better. And Endor you know, give it to a few people, trusted advisors to give you fresh perspectives. Hopefully the all agree but they may not and then, you know, go back. It's the you know, the cliche you know, the adage writing is rewriting is absolutely true.

Alex Ferrari 20:00
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Neil Landau 20:09
You don't end the growth between that first shitty first draft, which is almost always steady. And that next draft is often the biggest leap a script takes, you know, from the first one, that's just, you're just just an exploratory draft, and you're just trying to get it down on the page, to that next one, where you're like, Ah, okay, now I kind of see what it is or what it could be. And then hopefully, you know, each draft, you get closer and closer to, you know, realizing what it could be. And sometimes it surprises you, and even better than what you originally thought. And then, once you please yourself, and you please your reps, and you get a general consensus that, oh, this is one of your best pieces of work, or this at least, could sell and, and be commercial. Then, of course, you get notes from the studio, and you get notes from the director and the actors. And, you know, it's more rewriting, and more people to please. And it doesn't really ever end until really the movies locked. You know, even in post production, you can still continue to make changes in ADR, you can add lines, and that's a very fluid, inefficient process. That's very expensive. And, you know, time is money, and everybody's making discoveries throughout the whole process. But of course, it starts with the blank page and nothing and I think that's where the writer can suffer the most.

Dave Bullis 21:42
Yeah, it's kind of like Robert McKee says the nothing moves until the writer actually writes. Meaning that, you know, without a script, you actually can't shoot anything. But but I really liked what you said there, Neal about lowering your standards. It's kind of like dating, you know what I mean? I think everyone wants to date a supermodel. But you know, maybe that's not really what's gonna happen, right?

Neil Landau 22:04
Well, yes, I have for him, you know, single for a long time. And I'll just update, you know, how's your love life, they'll say, there's no one out there. There's just no one. And I'll and I always think, well, there are people out there, you may not, you know, maybe they don't, they're not in the prettiest package, or something that just fits what you think is, you know, your high standard, but there are a lot of wonderful people out there. And if you are a bit more open to it, you'll probably when you're ready, you will meet somebody. But it's true. I mean, sometimes people like my brother even and you knew when he met his wife, he was convinced she was not right. just physically, but the more you got to know her and talking to her, the more beautiful she became, you know, they've been married for a long time. So he wasn't so much raring his standards is maybe just being open to, you know, not everything single thing has to be perfect. You know, the first, in the first moment, you know, there's a discovery process. So even if you bring in, you know, UCLA, sometimes people will bring in pages and say, these are terrible pages, but I just needed to write something that's weak. And sometimes, the pages are really good. And they didn't even realize it. Or other times, maybe the pages don't work, but there's like one jam buried in those pages that unlocks everything that that can make the script great. So you know, you kind of always have to be open to the happy accident, that can happen. And that only really happens if you get your butt in the chair and you're willing to face, you know, face that blank page or just reenact the scene that seems flat or, or the character that's just not speaking to you and, you know, takes a lot of courage to write, and a lot of patience, you know, just to hope for inspiration. And when it's not there, you have to read anyway, that's, you know, if you're on a deadline, you cannot always wait for inspiration to strike. And that's, that's the toughest thing. You know, because we all want to dazzle everybody every time. But it didn't really work that way. A lot of trial and error.

Dave Bullis 24:16
Yeah. And you touched on this too, like previously, like, writing should be fun. You know, like, when you're sitting down, you're writing something, you know, especially good comedy, you know, you know, cuz I've had friends who, and it's happened to me as well, we're, you know, they're trying to write a movie, a horror, comedy, whatever. And they they just kind of agonize and overthink the whole thing, to the point where they're like, you know, no, sort of everything. It's like, I don't know if you've ever read the The Art of War. The War of Art, I'm sorry, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Yes, do your best to it's like that resistance comes in in that form where you overthink everything. You overanalyze everything, and then everything stops becoming fun. And it becomes just this miserable slowdown where everything you know what I mean? Wherever he was, like, Alright, I guess I'll write us a word or whatever I bust sentence, paragraph. But everything just becomes this like arduous process. And you're like, I don't know, if I want to write today, and then tomorrow, and then a week, and then all of a sudden, you know, a year has flown by, and you haven't written anything?

Neil Landau 25:16
Yeah. I mean, that's long. You know, there are people who say, you know, don't go to film school, you can just read scripts and watch movies or, you know, study television by reading pilots and watching shows. And I think those things are true. But the thing that of program does, or two really good writers group does is it makes you accountable. And you actually just have to bring something in every week, you have deadlines. And in some cases, the difference between a free writers group, you know, just with talented writers and friends getting together once a week, like a book club, you know, to really just workshop their pages. What some people have said, those don't work, people end up flaking. I mean, of course, many of them do work, but the ones that don't work, or because people kind of just start dabbling in it does become sort of a hobby that, whereas if you're in a program, and you're paying money, and going into debt is horrible that is because it's pretty horrible to owe money, you graduate in that artistic field with no guarantee of success and debt. But our students, you know, are very aware of that. And so they work their butts off. And they are very aware that, you know, this has an investment in their future. And they do take it very, very, very seriously. And they just don't, you know, they don't have a choice. So it's like, well, at this point, you're running out of time. So just go with the best idea you have and get a draft and you can always rewrite it later. And so I think time and deadlines are just the best gift for any writer because it gives you structure and you know, a deadline is a gift. I always say a writer without a deadline, just clean things, think you know, you'll you'll have the cleanest. You'll find every possible excuse not to write. Having a writing partner really helps with that. It's really helped me and Tara tremendously early in our careers, because we, if one person didn't feel like writing, the other person would, you know, would be the disciplinarian and say, no, no, we have to focus. There were times that both of us didn't want to write and we'd just go to the movies or mechanic or do something else. Where we would challenge ourselves, if we truly looked like writing. And we had a few extra days, we would just do things like go to the mall. But we would give ourselves enough time and like, we have to go to stores and find clothes that our characters would wear. or observe people in the mall to help us find, you know, an interesting look or eavesdrop on a conversation to you know, get inspiration for dialogue. So everything was always like everything we did would still feed the creative process. It's not the substance, it doesn't substitute sitting down and facing the page. But it does kind of guard while we're, we're still kind of working. And maybe while we're out talking or just having lines you're trying to avoid writing. Invariably, we if you have a partner, you'll start talking about the scripts. And suddenly, you're in the story session, and suddenly you're jotting down notes and you push through, you know, something that maybe you would have not been able to do on your own. So it also really helps with comedy. Because if we're laughing at least we think it's funny. Or if one person pitches a joke or a funny situation and the other person laughs That's a good barometer. It's very hard to write in a vacuum, you know. And that's another thing that gets people kind of stuck. I know with Dojo Mom, just, it's just such a vivid memory. We when we decided that we had to get rid of the dead babysitter's body. We, we want you to just wait, I remember this. We were sitting at my mom's house and your kitchen table. And we said what if they put it in the trunk? Like if she came with a trunk of all of our stuff? And what if they drop it off at the mortuary because, you know, they don't want to bury the body. They're not criminals, we thought we'll just do the right thing. We'll drop it off at a mortuary. They'll give her you know, they'll figure out what to do. But then they had to leave a note. And when we wrote the note that they were going to put on the trunk, which that nice old lady inside died of natural causes. We just thought that was the funniest thing in the world. We laughed for like 15 minutes thinking that was hilarious. We didn't know if anybody else would think it was lurking. Like we did it

Alex Ferrari 29:59
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Neil Landau 30:10
And that and the ending of the script, which was we, after the babysitter dies, you know, early on stack, we we wanted to then have the audience forget that the babysitter even existed. Because I think the reason the scripts sold was the ending, which was after this whole ordeal of everything that they've all been through, the mother comes back into town, and it looks like kind of in that risky business way, which was another inspiration for us read a really great team comedy, much better than Don't tell mom the babysitter's dead. But at the end of risky business, it looks like he got away with everything. And we wanted to have that. But then we, when we outline the movie on to index cards, which was how I still outline, we thought, what if the mother comes back looks like she got away with everything. And then the mother says, Oh, one more thing, we get the babysitter. And that that would be the first time the audience you've been heard about the babysitter for like, you know, over an hour, I think that ending really helped to steal the script, because it was surprising in the reader, forget about the babysitter also. And, you know, having a really strong start and a strong finish really helps, you know, sell scripts. And those two things never changed. You know, those were like, locked, and no matter how many drafts we did they stay, you know, those were never Nobody touched those. There was pressure from the studio to have a police investigation, people looking for the babysitter. And and they wanted us to constantly, you know, we mind the audience about the babysitter, and that was something we kept fighting against saying that's gonna ruin the ending. And we struck some kind of a compromise. The weird thing about the movie is, is you kind of mentioned it. When it came out, it did, okay, low budget. So it's made money. It definitely made money. But it's become more and more popular over time. And it's now kind of like a cult movie, which we don't really understand exactly why or how it happened. But even this coming Monday night in LA, there's a tribute screening to it. As part of the UCLA archive, they're screening, a series called working women. And one of the movies the screening is working girl, which was happening around the same time as dumped her mom was first sold, and dumped him on babysitter's dead there, including that in theory. And so, you know, Monday night, there's gonna be hundreds of people watching the movie and q&a. And we just think all things hilarious, because it's been, you know, so many years since the movie came out, but there's still a ton of interest in it. And people still quote, lines of dialogue from it to me, when I go to parties, and I love it. It's usually that it turned into this, but that we never expected.

Dave Bullis 33:02
You know, it's like there's a piece of advice I once heard that for when you're when you're submitting a script, to like a gatekeeper, so to speak, the most important part, the what matters most is the first 10 pages. And then when it's an actual movie, the most important part is the last 10 minutes.

Neil Landau 33:20
Yes, yeah. I mean, if you look at Get out, you know, which was, I think you'd have won the Oscar for Best Picture. I'm glad that one for Best Screenplay, but I just never knew where that movie was gone. And I I know that they, you know, we work the ending several times, but very memorable ending. And yes, I think the reason I think that's true about, you know, the last 10 pages is that you read somehow have an inevitable ending that the audience should have seen coming. But getting in this is just my opinion, and it has to be surprising. You know, I think there's a reason why the Hades romantic comedy has kind of gone out of style. And a lot of that is just so formulaic, that the audience was so far ahead of, you know, the story that the only fun was how they were going to get together, but there was never a question that they would get together at the end, you know, and so we drove really wanted, you know, we really wanted to go, you go against formula and a lot of it wasn't so much conscious, like we're gonna go against formula. We knew we needed something that was unexpected, and even romantic, my favorite romantic comedy of all time is The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn, you know, and Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. And what I love about that movie is there are four potential suitors. Well, three really and then it narrowed down to two, but you really don't know at the end. Which guy she's gonna marry until the until the ceremony is about to start. And I love that, you know, and all the options that are available. I also really like the anti romantic comedy. My best friend's wedding with Julia Roberts because she doesn't end up with the guy. And you're thinking she's going to and then when, you know, it ends in an unexpected way. And I always, always shared that. And I love all Henry endings like Fight Club or the sixth sense and, you know, movies where everything shifts. And you didn't see it coming until that moment, and then you go, Oh, that's great. Why didn't they feed back in so satisfying? Those are always my favorite kind of Ruby experiences.

Dave Bullis 35:43
There was a great 80s teen comedy that was kinda like about you know, guys going after the girl called the last American virgin. Have you ever seen it? Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. That ending? Let me tell you, no, but it nowadays, if you said I wouldn't do that ending, you wouldn't be able to get away with it. Because it'd be it's such a downer ending and it ends a lot like real life. And then if you but if you compare that to like, maybe Money Can't Buy Me Love or neither, or something like that, you know, okay, we know they're gonna get together. But how they got together by the way, I like I like both of those movies. It's just when I saw the last American virgin and the or even movies like with a better off dead. I mean, stuff like that. Just absolutely fantastic. I mean, and the, the just the, the how quirky that one was, but but I'm sorry, I'm kind of jumping around here. But what less American version? Okay. Less American version. I mean, that ending? Do you would you mind if I spoiled if everybody if I just thought of what the ending is now? No. So everybody if you don't want to just jump ahead, like 30 seconds if you don't want me to spoil it for you, but But essentially, this guy, the whole movie is going here to this girl. He finally he she gets pregnant by another guy. She so he this is like the third act, and he sells all his stuff, like his stereo system, everything else to help pay for the abortion. They she could see abortion. And later on that night there or maybe a week later at a house party. And she's with a guy who basically left her. And she's forgotten all about the protagonist. It's all he's done for her. And it just ends with him crying to himself in his car as he just drives into the night and the movie ends. And I remember No, I was floored by that ending because I was like holy.

Neil Landau 37:33
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, I think it's always a good. Often I'll say to students on TV pilot or movie, I'll say pitch the first half of the movie, just the broad strokes of what you're planning, you know, in the early stages, and then just ask them, buddy, what do you think's gonna happen? And if they just go immediately to your ending? And they're like this, because this is the most logical, obvious way that it would add? If they're right, you know, you have to change the ending. Or do you have to change the path to that ending? You know, because you want you know, that's the definition of anticlimactic, right? You know, where it's like, everything happens exactly the way you thought. So even if it'd be like, you know, When Harry Met Sally, which is a great romantic comedy. You know, you kind of know they're gonna get together. But Nora Ephron, you know, she pushes it to the last minutes on New Year's Eve. And then when they do get together, the last lines of the movie or you know, I hate you, Harry, I really hate you. Not I love you, Eric. I really love you, you know, and I also love I also appreciate that where it just seems impossible that it could happen. Like the graduate, you know, he gets there to stop the wedding. And then it's too late. I love I mean, you know, Mike Nichols is one of my favorite directors and I love the graduate one of my favorite movies. But you know, great climax, Benjamin rushed into the church, you know, finally, they're screaming, you know, you lay the lady. And then it's too late. It's over. But it's not over. And then you get that even, you know, that incredibly iconic ending when they on the bus. And this kind of silence plays and, you know, the movie ends with them going, alright, we actually pulled this off. She let she's the Runaway Bride, they are together. And yet now what you know, now what the hell do we do? That was also you know, you people remember these endings, because they're indelible. And they're, they're risky, because they're not just, they lived happily ever after. And I feel like, you know, maybe it's a good segue to talking about television. Part of why I think TV is where the most exciting storytelling is happening now is exactly for that reason, which is, it's not just happily ever after. It's this ongoing, you know, long term relationship with these characters where we align with them by the end of the pilot I

Alex Ferrari 40:01
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Neil Landau 40:10
But then it's the fluid dance, sometimes of allegiance, you know, and sometimes we approve of what they do. And sometimes we don't and, and it doesn't, it's, it doesn't really end until the end of the series, which might be, you know, 567, or, you know, Grey's Anatomy, I think is going in 14. It's just constantly ongoing. And as long as it keeps surprising us and the characters keep facing new, new problems and new challenges, it remains interesting. So it's, again, ever really having to fully end the story. It's, I love how highly serialized television is now and how, you know, great writers and really strong effective writers rooms constantly find ways to surprise us. And to pivot from what we thought was either the end of a story where it has, I write about this in the new book, I call it story tentacle, you know, where you make story choices that lead more story, because it has to keep, it has to continue and evolve. And movies now start to seem very finite to me, you know, like, even really good movies. I don't think that's it, I want to I want to hover, I want to spend more time with these characters. And I think with you know, the domination of and people shifting over to on demand viewership, where they can binge view, and they can watch things when they want you and how they want to and where they want to that we love these ongoing stories that just keep pulling us in different directions and challenge us and the characters. And so I you might have to you have to think about where you want to land at the island at the at the end of the season. But it's an ongoing story. And one of the things I talk about is how, you know, a movie is designed to have a beginning, middle and end. A pilot is designed to have a beginning, middle and an open end. You know, when you want to end on more questions and answers, and you want to leave everything wide open for more stories. And, you know, reading movies, it was always, you know, what's the ending? How does it end? How does it complete? And this is the exact opposite of that.

Dave Bullis 42:26
Yeah, you know, when I was working with Jennifer Dasani, because I actually shot it. Yeah, I actually, yeah, Jen and Jay, I think everyone knows, Jen, I actually shot a TV pilot a couple years ago, I actually produced it wrote it directed it. And, and I it's online right now, by the way, it's called Game over. And it's just it was like I aimed high. I, we had so many opportunities. It was there was a lot of backstage fighting. You don't I mean, there's a lot of behind the stuff that was behind the scenes, as I'm sure you know what I mean, like a lot of, but we have, I eventually got pushed out, I finally decided to upload it last year, because I was just sitting on it. I was like it's doing nobody any good. But he's sitting on this damn thing. So but after working with Jen, I realized, you know, beginning you know, have that pilot and then the pilot has to ignite the series. So then when you go to pitch it, you have sort of like, what's the pilot arc with Season One? And when what's what's going to be the series arc? So, you know, we're eventually, you know, like Walter White Breaking Bad is the best example. You know, Walter White, he goes from this mild mannered man in the middle of New Mexico to a drug kingpin. Well, how does that transformation happen? Well, you know,

Neil Landau 43:40
Mr. Chips into Scarface what Gilligan said.

Dave Bullis 43:44
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And you sort of have, you know, how does that journey occur? And you know, what, what happens during those during those moments? It's, it's so much more of an art than a science. That's why when anyone tries to, like, you know, what I mean? Like I sometimes seeing it when, like, people, when they try to dissect certain things, they almost like go, Well, you know, what, seven, page 17 This beat has to happen on page 30 This thing has to happen. You're kind of like, Oh, come on, let's just move away from me. Like, that's it? That's too sciency completely.

Neil Landau 44:11
Yeah, I mean, I just am so against formula. Now. There. You know, there are certain things that there's, you know, very few absolutes, you know, in screenwriting, you know, and I always tell people, if somebody tells you there's a formula or a template to follow, it's not a bad idea just to look and say, Okay, well, you could break down a lot of movies that follow that formula successfully. And that is valid, you know, but there are so many different structures in which stories and particularly now, if you do have a and you can break form, and the story still works, all the better, you know, because it's a mysterious process. But you know, there are a few absolutes that I think are Ballard pretty much across the board and across genres. One of them, I believe every story is a suspense story, you know, whether it's a comedy or a thriller or a drama. And the reason is that, you know, the two key ingredients to suspense, our anticipation and surprise, well, Every story needs to fill the audience with anticipation of what's going to happen next. And hopefully, when you get there, it's departing. So I'm always going, where's the suspense? You know, there's no dramatic tension. If the scripts not working, you know, why isn't it working? Well, there's no dramatic tension. Why isn't there any dramatic tension? Usually, that goes back to empathy, which is the first thing to talk about? Which is, you know, you get that No, which is the most frustrating note to get from an executive or a wrap, which is, I didn't really connect anybody, or development person who might say, why should I care about any of these people. And suspense only works. When you're worried about what's going to happen, you know, you have to connect to the characters. So, you know, Breaking Bad's a great example. Because, you know, by design, Walter White is an underdog from the very beginning. And we're worried because he's dying. And he has a wife and he has kids, and he's struggling. And so you know, you really aligned with him becoming an antihero, because it seems like the best option based on limited options that he has, you have a thing in the new book, a quote from David Mamet, where he talks about great trauma is choosing not between right and wrong, but between two wrongs. It's because welterweight, neither option is good. You know, if he's, if he doesn't become a drug dealer, he's probably going to die and leave his family and provided for and he's gonna feel like a failure. He sees this as drawing upon his a skill set something that he has, that's really valuable. And when he connects with, you know, his former student with Jesse Pinkman, he sees this as a great opportunity that could solve a problem. But he's caught between two runs, because while it might solve one problem, it could also get him killed or thrown into prison. And so chapter eight in GB, writing on demand, the new book, I have a quote from David Mamet, it says, a moral decision is not the choice between wrong and right, that's easy, but between two rungs, and if you look at some of the best doesn't have a lot of examples, based on that, quote, in the book, whenever you connect with character caught between a rock and a hard place, you're always going to generate more suspense, and probably empathy. Because, you know, you know, late to, not having ideal choices in front of us, you know, and yet, you know, which is the, the lesser of the two devils in human nature is to take the path of least resistance. So if there is a path of least resistance, clearly the easier, better path. And the writer in character doesn't take that path, you're not going to root for them, because you're gonna think, well, why did they not go down the path that was clearly the smarter, easier choice. But if you remove choice, and you trap them in a situation where neither alternative is ideal, I just feel like right away, you have Pynchon that you wouldn't normally have. Another absolute for me about is I believe that every story is a coming of age story, no matter what the ages of the characters are, you know, it's a maturation story, and they somehow need to learn something, or discover something. And I think that all movies or TV shows are about characters who have to grow up and, and or overcome something that lie in an emotional void on deficit that they've never really dealt with. And that's part of the journey of the story. So I always want to look for growth or deletion in a character. B, exception, being multi camera sitcoms are the characters tend not to change by design, I don't really want them to change, because we, like them stuck, had no problems, but movies and one hour drama, half hour drama, these tend to have characters, at least trying to change their circumstances. And every episode, there's the potential to win or lose something. And I think that positive and negative tension generates heat, you know, dramatic intensity and helps with suspense. So, you know, for me, those two things I always go back to. I want there to be a cathartic experience where characters have to face fears and either overcome them, or if it's a tragedy they won't overcome though.

Alex Ferrari 49:59
Well, The right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Neil Landau 50:09
That they had the potential to overcome, you know, all could have turned himself in and ultimately, were changed his ways, you know. But he wants he became Heisenberg. He couldn't, you know, he just came completely hooked on that power. And at that, you know, it's a very lonely ending for him. You know? I don't want to, I'm sure most people nowadays but anyway, you get the idea.

Dave Bullis 50:34
Yeah, I think I pretty much everyone who has probably listened as podcasts has seen the the breaking bed, but it's a fitting in. Yeah, it's a fitting in for him. And it kind of ties in with the pilot episode, which is very important. Not only the whole, obviously, the whole series, but but just a pilot, because what he's talking about in the pilot about chemistry, and how things change, it's a it's transformation, right, which is what the characters do. So, you know, just just, you know, transforming themselves or perceptions. You know, like David, Matt was talking about those two dilemmas, you know, the dilemma of two bad options, you know, and that's something trees into is, you know, that I think the hardest part for a lot of screenwriters, or maybe something they miss is creating that empathy. Because when you when you Yeah, because, you know, it's always that it's always that question, you know, why should I care about these characters? Why am I invested in these characters, they're the, the company that the company probably does is the best is Pixar, with how they create empathy for their characters. And, you know, they, they Wally is a robot, he's made to look very sort of, you know, sheepish and, you know, he's not like really a threat. You have the up, an old man who's lost his wife, I think up is probably the best movie they've ever done, I think up was at a nominal, keep alert.

Neil Landau 51:48
I mean, I was sobbing, after the prologue. You know, it's just such a beautiful prologue, love story. And, yeah, he just says, this gigantic void, that needs that he probably believe that, that at his age will never be filled. And then this, you know, this blank lie. And then you have, you know, magic is one of the greatest ways to fill the void. I, there's a wonderful documentary on HBO about Steven Spielberg's career, it's a retrospective. It's just the whole thing is just filled with so much great, you know, insight, and you get to hear Spielberg tell stories about things that, you know, some of his greatest achievements were accidental, you know, like Jaws, to me, the best thing about Jaws is that you never see the shark, or you almost never see the shark. But the tension of the shark pain there is even greater than seeing the shark. But that was not by design. And that was because they couldn't get the mechanical shark to actually work. And it didn't look good. So they had to hide it. And then they said, Well, how do we create potential of the shark? If we can't show the shark, which they just couldn't do? Just physically, the production wasn't up to, you know, we didn't have the technology to do that in a convincing way back then. So it's like, well, what if there's music that, you know, stands for the shark, when when you hear the music scare, and, you know, again, those are the strongest things in that movie, which was, you know, it was done to solve a problem, and it actually makes the movie more even more brilliant. He has, in terms of the Boyd's, in that documentary is global Plex about how each, he did not begin as a story of a boy who meets an extra stretch terrestrial et was really Spielberg's desire to tell the story of adding a Jaguar child, because his parents divorced when he was a kid. And the void was so enormous when his parents split up. So his question for him was, I want to tell a story about how that enormous void created by divorced impacts a child. And then he started to think, what could possibly fill that void? Because it's so infinite, especially for a kid, you know? And then he came up with the idea, well, what if you discovered an alien from another planet, and we formed a friendship. And both of them have the same goal, which is to go home, but in different ways, you know, the divorce, the child of divorce wants home to be the way it was, and for the parents to get back together. And for Elliot, it's about getting back to his planet. And I just thought that that, to me, just speaks to the emotional core of a movie. It may come from the beginning. And then you have to figure out how to fill it and maybe that gives you your story. Or maybe you have the idea of a boy cat on the next festival. And then you put you still always have to go back and ask what's the emotional core of the story? What's the emotional void? How, you know, just even when you're pitching a TV show, I was just talking about this in class last week. It said, Everybody's pitching you need you know, it's almost Didn't pit find a way to pitch your story in 10 minutes? It's like a comedian, you know, you need to take 10. You know, that's, that's the key to success for stand up comedy, why did you need it, take 10 minutes. And it needs to pretty much be filled with material that's pretty that you just know kills, right, and then you go on the road and you keep doing your type 10 and you build a pitch, a tight 10 minute pitch. But I said, Let's just have a rule that at least three times during those 10 minutes, you have to stop and say to whoever, wherever you're pitching to. Now, let's talk about how the how the character is feeling now, at this point in the story, you know, and I said in use really strong words like, you know, devastated in rage, you know, betrayed, desperate, you know, strong words to convey how they're feeling, you know, because no matter how good the plot is, in no matter how good the idea is, a pitch is only as good as the emotional connection that that reels in the audience, you know, they have to invest in the characters. And I think that's probably, even though most people intellectually know that's important. I think people often underestimate the power of emotion in a story. And it's because it's the toughest thing to write and the toughest thing to convey. A lot of people just try it. Well, they don't try but they'll almost inadvertently stick to the surface and the plot details instead of going deeper into story. You know, Roger Ebert, the late film critic said, we're not in the entertainment business, we're in the empathy business. And, to me, empathy is everything in story. And it's often the thing that's most easily overlooked by the Creator. So if anybody gets anything out of this, at least from my perspective, look at the role of empathy in your story. And if there isn't a clear emotional journey, you've still got a lot of work to do, you know, you're missing a whole layer. And it applies equally to comedy. You know, if you look at a movie like bridesmaids in an emotional journey, it's all about feeling abandoned into friendship, and feeling like you're never going to be worthy of love. And those are universal theme attics, but they're also emotional, and people can relate to them. And that's what makes the movie your movie the things I was nominated for an Oscar, it's what ticket from you know what, either a long SNL schedule a little bit one joke, he did do a movie that had, he'd laugh great characters, but also a lot of cars.

Dave Bullis 57:52
Yeah, it's kind of like what I always feel too is, when you're outlining a story, you get, you get an idea, and you start kind of outlining it, you kind of put the cart before the horse because you started saying, you know, what might happen, these plot twist these turns, blah, blah. And then characters kind of back, you know, thought of afterwards, like, oh, what character can be plugged into this, when it should be reversed should be a character in this? And what kind of character is it? You know, how am I going to create this, this sort of empathy between everything? Yeah, and at a great movie that I always go back to His Blood Simple on that just has great characters, and just the twists and turns of of of what they're doing to try to, it's almost out of love. You know, I think it's the only Coen Brothers movie, by the way, that isn't about money. I know, you mentioned about a lot of movies are about coming of age. And I actually just recently, and I actually just saw this, this video recently about, you know, this in Atlanta analysis of the Coen Brothers movie and how all their movies are about money, and their pursuit of money. And, and I started to watch a little bit more, and I was, well, you know, they've really is true. I don't think blood samples about money. I just, I think it's more of about well, I guess it is about money, and it went away. But But Raising Arizona was the other exception, but that again was was the baby was about money. Because, you know, that whole you know, that whole thing about kidnapping the kid and then it was a bounty hunter came back so but you know, it's and then some of the characters that greed about that reward money. But, um, but yeah, you know, I just think that character, you know, sometimes is, you know, not really thought of, and with TV, it's all about character, you know, it's whether that's the TV show, Ozarks, you know, somebody wants told me and we're in the golden age of TV, which is true, but it's also much more segregated now. Because I, you know, YouTube and Vudu and HBO and Showtime and all these other things where, you know, we have all these great TV shows, and they're all like 100 different channels.

Neil Landau 59:44
Yeah, there are actually going to be over 500 scripted shows across platforms this year. That's, you know, and 10s and 10s of billions developed on acquisition, production.

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

Neil Landau 1:00:08
And some, you know, I'm only doing that a lot of the top streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu and, and premium cable channels like HBO, HBO and Showtime still develop. But Netflix doesn't spend a lot on development. They like people to come to them with projects that are what they would Ted Saran dose, you know, when the Netflix content piece of content, he says they're never going to buy a project that's half baked, you know, they're, they're looking for three. And this is pretty much across the board. Now. And this is a big change from just even a few years ago, which is, it's very rare, anybody's just going to buy a pilot, they're gonna want to be the pilot, they're gonna want to read a series Bible, or even the mini Bible. So they know that it can sustain over at least one season, they would want more detail about season one, and then a suggestion of where it might go in future seasons. There are platforms that want you to map out multiple seasons. A friend of mine does have a great criminally with an underappreciated kind of a sleeper series for Amazon called patriots, I don't know if you've seen it. Very people, very few people have seen it. Steven Conrad, who is best known probably for reading the movie, the pursuit of happiness with Will Smith. But he also wrote the weatherman with Nicolas Cage and the Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller. And he's a really wonderful, but he he created a series for Amazon called patriot. And I think almost nobody thought it's great. It's a very dark comedy. It did get picked up for season two. So they're in production now. And couple, it was a big one was, what was your question? Again? How did they started to get on Patriot as an example?

Dave Bullis 1:02:16
It was, we were just talking about character?

Neil Landau 1:02:19
Oh, yes. Yes, yes. Walking window, at the time, forget who had developed last when he was at ABC as a common executive, he had gone over to Amazon. And because of the last experience where, you know, the series kind of didn't bear a lot of resemblance to what they originally imagined. And some of that was just, the show became so successful that they had stretched the story out over Maliki. But because Morgan Rendell was involved with loss, when Steven currently came into self hatred, and Steven had not done television, they really in order to, for him to have made that deal, they really needed proof of concept. And they wanted him to map out how it could sustain over many seasons, not just over the first season, and even had to prove all that to them. And, you know, now everybody wants that. Everybody wants proof of concept. Maybe a pilot episode and a second episode already written. Another thing that another trend is working in studios are now soft screen lighting shows where they'll first greenlight the writers room. And they'll see how many scripts can come out that are of the same high quality as the pilot, but that excited them. So before they commit to production, they want many scripts, and they want to do that the writers were on has come up with a very strong plan for the season. That's another trend that's happening. And, of course, most of these series Bibles are many Bibles that are part of the selling process or just selling tools. Its students, the writers room assembles. Often everything in the Bible goes out the window, because they come up with better ideas. But, you know, so you need the Bible. You need to have the plan and be able to articulate it to satisfy the person who's investing, you know, millions of dollars ultimately in a production. And then a lot of that, you know, gets thrown out as you make discoveries and find your way and the character is stirred, take a life of their own and casting of the heat. You know, a lot of times on paper, it didn't seem like two characters would need to spend a lot of time together, but then you realize that when they're on screen, the chemistry is so strong. Sometimes shows like homeland decides they're going to accelerate the romance. You know, like between Carrie and Brody and season one. That wasn't supposed to happen till much later. Warren, you know, back to Breaking Bad Jesse Qinglin was supposed to be killed off, you know, halfway through season one. But once they saw the chemistry between her and Paul, oh my god, Bryan Cranston, you know, suddenly that they were like, Oh, this is the central relationship. This is like the strongest part of the show this week. By the way. Let's not kill off Jesse Pinkman. This gives us more story. So a lot of what's happening now is you need a plan and you need a vision, you need to articulate it upfront. To convince buyers that you actually have proof of concept, some kind of a package, maybe even a director or showrunner attach, maybe an actor who's interested. So that, you know, like when Netflix notoriously greenlit two full seasons of House of Cards. Some of it was based on algorithms, but more of it was based on the package of, you know, David Fincher and no Willamina. At the time, Kevin Spacey, which of course, now would be the kiss of death. But you know, they want to, they're betting on a winner on a winning racehorse. And the more that you can convince them upfront that they have a winning horse, the more likely they're going to be to write the sex. And to give you the green light.

Dave Bullis 1:06:26
Yeah, yeah, I think that's what everyone's sort of, you know, again, like with this, tying it back, almost like a TV show, almost tying it back to what we were initially talking about, which was creating that script. In the end, that's your sort of, it's your calling card, and you know, that that's your Yeah, your ability to say, this is what I'm capable of, you know, it's outside the box thinking. And I mean, just to take another side note, I know, I want to also just before we close, I know we're running out of time when I talk about your your your new book, but I just to sort of put a final thought on all this. I have a you know, when I whenever I see these superhero movies that come out, you know, we always talk about the ending has to be closed and you only mean, but like, it's always like, you never you I always go in there and I go, Gee, I wonder what they're gonna set up next. I wonder what series they're going to set up, Matt? Yeah. And I'm always like, so I'm just I already know that, you know, hey, this guy's not going to be beat. He's just they're just going to say, oh, yeah, we invent we invented the, the the Johnson ray that resurrected him and it's like, Come on, guys. I mean, it's just, it's so pedantic. And it's so insulting to the audience. To this, I get it, I honestly get it. But it's that's a point where it's like, no matter what happens, there's always a way someone's resurrected. I'm just like, I don't know. Maybe I'm just too I'm just too burned out with this. I know how comic books work. I know comic books are a lot like novels where they allow all these different, you know, imaginations and things to happen. Because in comics, they have like alternate worlds. Or, or that was, that was a, an alternate universe. Or maybe, hey, you know, that was someone's dream, or hey, this was bla bla bla bla, but Right, right, but but like tropes now. Yeah, exactly. How the comic books, how they were able to just explain something away by saying, Hey, that was a dream. That was a psychotic episode that was or this or that, you know, with movies? Uh, you know, I think it just ends up being like, it's a little like, Okay, I just saw Thor Ragnarok the other day, just came out on Blu ray. And I thought it was I thought it was actually hilarious i, which is what they needed, because a lot of these movies are too brooding for me, where everyone tries, you know, a sort of, you know, what I mean, like, tries to be either cool, or broody. But that movie was just funny. And I know, I had a friend who saw with me who said he didn't like it, because it was too funny. But I said, I think it needs that. And then but even at the end of Thor, there was the stinger where they're setting up where another ship comes upon them, and you're kind of like, Whoa, now who's this? And maybe it's who's that that that villain? Not Darkside? Maybe historics I don't remember. But yeah, it's, it's one of those villains that I don't know, there's 10,000 of them. I saw I saw Justice League. And I said, I think I'm done with DC movies.

Neil Landau 1:09:02
I mean, they weren't the exceptions, though. I mean, Christian, you know, Christopher Nolan, you know, really reinvented the superhero movie with Batman Begins in The Dark Knight and by connecting to their humanity and their flaws. So even though you know, The Dark Knight ends in a way that is very unexpected, you know. And your Batman makes this big sacrifice for the greater good. And, I mean, they do. superheroes do tend to do those kinds of things. But this was where you were actually ending the movie with him, not a euro, but something where everybody's gonna think that he's actually the villain in a way and get cool or Guardians of the Galaxy. You know, having the humor and kind of turning the typical superhero movie on its on its ear.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:54
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Neil Landau 1:10:03
Black Panther it was just great, you know, with really strong female characters who were more badass than any of the male characters. I liked that the formulas are being twisted and reinvented in some cases, I think the studios, the big studios, which that are primarily in the big event, tentpole movie franchise business. In some cases, they can get lazy if they want to, because you have a whole new generation, who isn't aware that things that you and I might think are tropes, or that were burnt out on for them, these are brand new, you know, in their thinking it's exciting. For them, they're still able to squeeze new life out of, you know, what might be an older genre. And but, you know, movies that are designed to be franchises are like our, like TV pilots, because they're not designed to and are designed to be the beginning of a conversation in a relationship with the audience. I love the original, the first Iron Man, that because the formula of all superhero movies is, or almost all of them is that the person has a dual identity and that nobody seems to know. Like, just, you know, it's it's willing suspension of disbelief that nobody's going to realize that Bruce green Wayne is Batman, you know, just because his voice is a little different. And he's not wearing the brass. gears that out. What I loved about Iron Man is at the very end of the first, he says, Well, the truth is, I am Iron Man. And he out himself loved that ending, I thought they just went exactly against what every other superhero movie does. And it was surprising. And it was funny. And then they still were able to set themselves up for multiple franchises, but just in a different way. So I think writers have to work harder to innovate and, and twist, put put a spin on an old formula, because we're never really going to come up with something 100% Fresh at this point. And it's very difficult to come up with something that nobody's ever done. But can you put a fresh spin on it? You know, that's very unique to the voice of the writer. And I think audiences are. That's what's exciting. Most audiences now. And it's certainly the most satisfying experience for me.

Dave Bullis 1:12:30
Yeah, yeah. It's, it's true in Iran. One was was fantastic. And, you know, it just completely changed that sort of that sort of template that they were going by. And I love it. Yeah. Yeah, it was, it was awesome. And I also enjoyed Ironman three, but then again, it was Shane Black. So I kind of I was a little biased, but, but just just, you know, just actually, you know, I know, we're sort of run out of time here, Neil. But just to sort of, you know, finish off, I want to talk about your book really quickly. You know, TV writing, again, is the biggest thing right now. Every I think everybody think you have to have a pilot of some kind in your portfolio if you're going to be a writer. Yeah. And not only in Hollywood, but you know, even in like a YouTube episodic series, you know what I mean? So, you know, what was some of the impetus for you to creating this and creating the book, TV writing on demand?

Neil Landau 1:13:21
Well, my last, this is my fifth book. And my last three books have all been about television. So I did a book called The TV show runners roadmap, which primarily covered broadcast TV, and I wanted to have a lot of interviews with cylinders in there as well. It looks different perspectives. So I interviewed for that book, I talked to Shonda Rhimes, and Vince Gilligan and David shore and, you know, just to kind of talk about their creative process. And then the other half of those books was me and what I teach in UCLA in the MFA, screenwriting program, because I run inside of the program. And I've had a lot of students have found success. And so I would love to just kind of write a book that talked about the nuts and bolts of how to write a pilot, and how to put a series together, whether it be a drama, you know, one hour or an hour eliminate after that, but when I finished that book, there was so much new TV coming so many shows, like, you know, Mr. Robot and House of Cards, and barns is the new block. And I decided, you know, there's so much more than say now. And I was lying in bed to having trouble sleeping, and I came up with the idea of the title TV outside the box, which was basically going to talk about with TVs going, and I got up and I Googled it, and it didn't exist as a title. And I thought, Okay, I'm gonna, this is gonna be the new book. And I'm gonna read about the trailblazers in what I thought was the new Platinum age of television. But as I researched the book, I realized it was a TV revolution. You know, like, what happened in the music business, just happening to the TV business was completely changing everything about it, how we consume it, how its distributed, and And now, so that that then took me to the new book, he'd be reading on demand, which is, it's being distributed differently and, and made differently, and doesn't have to be written with commercial breaks and act outs and doesn't have to be programmed the time slots where the audience is, you know, where we're, the network might be afraid if they miss a few episodes, they'll never catch up. Because nobody misses episodes anymore. You know, we have the ability to watch things whenever we want, and in any order we want. So then I just thought, well, I want to write a book that's kind of a companion to TV outside the box that talks about how the contents being created differently because of this revolution that we're in, in the TV business. And so the new book talks about, you know, Atlanta and the crown and Westworld and the new Fargo and Stranger Things and insecure and Ozark and the night of, you know, American Gods and basically the next iteration of great television, and why the shows are great, and how they're being created differently because of because of how the consumer interacts with them. So for example, instead of lawn order, you know, one of the most stalwart, you know, successful TV shows ever, where there was a murder, investigation, trial and a verdict all in 42 minutes with commercial. Now we have this season long procedural, where it's one murder over the course of the borehole. There were people who tried to do that in the past, but now that's just kind of like, everything is slowburn, you know, Big Little Lies and Handmaid's Tale. And, you know, everything is serialized, and recently was a slow roll. And the audience really appreciates that. So yes, so the new book basically, is more for content creators and writers. But there's also analysis of a lot of these great shows that are very hot right now. And what makes them work and how they tend to fit into the new TV landscape. So I, if you give people who read the book, they'll see there's chapters on dystopias and magic realism and portals and comedies that don't have to be comedy or drama. And, you know, just kind of how everything's shifting and moving away from Formula and moving toward slowburn serialized content that takes us places we're not expecting, because there's the time to go deeper and to explore arcs over time.

Dave Bullis 1:17:31
And everybody I am with focal press, we're actually going to give away a copy of this book, which is to be reading on demand by Neil, we're actually gonna give away a copy for free. So if if you want to read tweet, by the way, so here's how it's gonna work. It's gonna retweet. Not only this the episode, but also comment what you've learned, during listening to this episode, you will get a free copy of the book, if you're inside the US, you will get a choice between a PDF or hard copy of the book. If you're outside the US, you can still participate. But I can only if you win, I can only give you a PDF. So I will link to Neil's book in the show notes. So again, just to enter, you have to retweet the episode and also mentioned what you've learned from listening this episode between Neil and I, as we've gone through this through all about writing and everything else. And it's a really great book, by the way, I'm going to link to that in the show notes, everybody, it's TV writing on demand. And Neil, I've just been going through going through all the different chapters you have here, just about all the different things that have going on in the TV and all the examples and stuff like that. And I'm starting to realize, you know, there's so many different TV shows, you start to remember, like Jesus, all these TV shows are happening at the same exact time. It's unbelievable.

Neil Landau 1:18:47
It isn't the question I get the most is how do you possibly keep up with all content? And the answer is, it's really hard to stay up very late. And I read a lot of scripts, and I watch a lot of dreams. And this is my you. This is what I specialize in now. And I love I've always loved television, I've always escaped into television, just from the time I was a kid. And I've never seen that better time. I mean, I you know, this is just the just most exciting to him and television. Both it for viewers. And if you're a content creator or writer, there's never been a better time to break into television. There's a huge demand. And it's still cutthroat and extremely competitive. But there is opportunity and people need to fill. You know, there's just in a big appetite right now. So I encourage people to write stuff that's authentic, that only they can write. And probably the last thing I can leave you with is if you're gonna create a pilot for a show or a screenplay, the three most important questions to ask yourself are why this idea why you as the writer and why now For this project, if you don't have good, compelling answers to those questions, I think you need to dig deeper into your creative process and what what do you want your work to represent about you? Deeper, you know, because just writing a story that you you're not connected to that you think might sell isn't enough anymore. It has to go deeper. And there is the personal story where the story that's rooted in authenticity is what everybody is looking for.

Dave Bullis 1:20:34
And, Neil, I think that's a great way to sort of put a period in this whole conversation. So Neil word, we will find you Where can people find you online?

Neil Landau 1:20:43
Either Neillandau.com, Facebook, or UCLA, you know, but Neil lynda.com will give you no contact information.

Dave Bullis 1:20:54
Neil Landau I want to say thank you so much for coming on.

Neil Landau 1:20:58
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it and have a good weekend.

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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
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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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