BPS 164: Secrets to Successful Low-Budget Films with Jason Blum

I’m excited to talk to a fellow low-budget independent filmmaker today. 

Granted, he does low-budget films on a completely different level than I or most people do at this point. But if we are going to talk about low budget filmmaking, it is only fitting to have expert horror film and television producer, Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions

Our chat sort out knowledge gems on Jason’s mentality behind his filmmaking and the budget strategy. Especially the ‘freedom’, he’s expressed in many other interviews, he gets from a low budget — in the essence of the chances it allows him to take.

Jason has over 200 production credits for numerous horror television and films franchises. The likes of BlacKkKlansman, Jordan Peele’s Get Out, The Normal Heart, Paranormal Activity, Elizabeth Moss’s Invisible Man, The Purge, etc. 

Black As Night, the Amazon original film, is one of the twenty-five projects he’s produced that have been released this year and streaming on various top streaming platforms.

The story is about a  teenage girl with self-esteem issues who finds confidence in the most unlikely way, by spending her summer battling vampires that prey on New Orleans’ disenfranchised with the help of her best friend, the boy she’s always pined for, and a peculiar rich girl.

He’s recognized for his multiple award-winning works and his production studio which is currently booked and busy with over fifteen projects lined up for the rest of the year to 2023.

That is a testament to his company’s high-quality production. Blumhouse is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films and provocative television series. They have produced over 150 movies and television series with theatrical grosses amounting to over $4.8 billion.

Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin will also be coming out this December. It is the second film in the franchise. Which continues to follow a young man who became the target of a malevolent entity, he must uncover its true intentions before it takes complete control of him.

All you horror and non-horror fans out there need no further introduction about our guest. Please enjoy my informative chat with Jason Blum.

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Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome the show, Jason Blum. How you doing, Jason?

Jason Blum 0:14
Very good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'm doing very good. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I'm excited to talk to a fellow low budget independent filmmaker, but you do it at a completely different level than I do or met with almost anybody does in Hollywood at this point. But I'd like the mentality behind how you make your films.

Jason Blum 0:33
Well, you too, we love low budgets,

Alex Ferrari 0:35
right? Yes. And I think you've said it so many times on other interviews is like the freedom you get on a low budget. is it's immensely like, rather than having $100 million, or I'll make 20 movies or $100 million.

Jason Blum 0:50
Yeah, I love low budgets. Because you can take chances you know, you can make movies that don't feel like other movies, you can work you can bet on actors, you know, maybe you don't have the biggest printer up to use all famous people and you can kill the lead after 30 minutes. And you know, you can make movies about gun control and racism. Yes, that makes everyone nervous. And I love I love I love love budgets.

Alex Ferrari 1:11
So how did you get started in the business?

Jason Blum 1:16
Let's see, I got started. I I went to college with Noah Brownback, who's a great filmmaker, writer, director. And he his first movie he wrote was a movie called kicking and screaming, which was about five kids in college. That was one of those kids was based on me. And he wrote the script and I my friend Jeremy and I said, Let's produce this together. We had no idea what that meant. And we said that to every rich person we knew they all turned us down. One guy who was actually one of my ex girlfriends dad had it was an investor in a movie company in New York called arrow and arrow almost made kicking and screaming and at the end of the summer, they said I'm not going to make the movie but I'll give you a job. And Dennis friedlaender gave me my start in the movie business and I worked for this little company called arrow entertainment for three years and that's that's how I started

Alex Ferrari 2:10
and then you know, we'll jump a little bit fast forward to paranormal activity. How did you get involved with a film like that? And I mean the phenomenon that that became

Jason Blum 2:22
so yes, so Paranormal Activity came much later maybe 10 years later I was I was in my mid 30s I relatively recently moved to Los Angeles to try and you know make my way in Hollywood which is complicated and and we had a we had a first look deal with the overall deal at Paramount. We the first look deal with it with a guy named Stephen Schneider, who's a who's who is who's a producer, but he's more more more well known for 100 movies you should see before you die or 1000 movies you should see before you die, that series of books, he edits that series of books. So he took that cachet he had from those books and started his producing career and it was it was pretty good. And he's really kind of an expert in, in, in horror movies. And, and he is the one I think who initially brought my attention to to the paranormal activity movie which was actually sent to us as a directing sample. We were told we were told by the agent that the movie was going to go directly to DVD but that we didn't want to work with the director and Steven and I both saw the movie and we said we're or Steven showed me the movie and I said you know I bet this could work in a movie theater. And the rest is history but it was it was a long journey from that moment to when it came out in the theater was actually three years

Alex Ferrari 3:47
when you were starting out and had that first job in an arrow what was the what was the lesson that you wish you would have told your younger self that you had to learn the hard way during those those years those early years?

Jason Blum 4:02
That's my lesson I would have told myself well I don't know it's a lesson but the advice I would have given myself is to try and be a little less stressed out I was very nervous you know maybe maybe that's what made me successful I was so anxious about everything but but but I would have told my I would have told my former self to relax a little bit

Alex Ferrari 4:20
but you seemed a little bit more relaxed now. I mean you've chilled a bit over me ah ah chills you in general. I mean as you get older,

Jason Blum 4:27
I'm more relaxed now. Definitely by far yeah,

Alex Ferrari 4:30

Jason Blum 4:31
That's when I was 22

Alex Ferrari 4:32
Oh, can you imagine as I always say, I'm not the only one that ever said this. The youth is definitely wasted on the young

Jason Blum 4:41
he's so great to be young now.

Alex Ferrari 4:43
With with our minds today Jesus the damage the damage we could do cheese. Now when you opened up blumhouse was it kind of like a you open that up because of the frustrations you had with the general Hollywood mission. You have like making big budget movies and ego and always have to like if you make a small movie then and that's a hit you've got to make another bigger movie and things like that is that one of the reasons why you started blumhouse

Jason Blum 5:11
yeah you know my dad had his own company and I grew up in a in a in an environment where having your own company seemed possible and I worked for other people and I thought God I definitely want my own company I think I think initially it was not my frustration in Hollywood but my fret I hated working for other people I just I did not like it at all It just didn't didn't it did not work for me. I wanted to do things my way I didn't want to do things the way someone else wanted me to do them and and that that's what gave me the drive to start my I mean my own company was me and my apartment that was my own company was me and my apartment with a telephone and an assistant would come you know we come over to that apartment from nine to five or whatever and the two of us just sat there and you know tried to sell movie scripts and we sold them you know we made them we got these little movies made they were they were pretty crappy movies but we got them made and that was that was that was that was what drove me to start and then blumhouse what we you know, when we was really paranormal activity was this idea of an independent movie distributed by a studio and that that seemed like the kind of company I wanted to that's what I wanted to pursue as a as a model for filmmaking.

Alex Ferrari 6:32
And then tell me how the relationship with universal came because you have arguably one of the most incredible deals in Hollywood I mean it just doesn't doesn't exist anywhere else when I heard the deal is like How the hell did he get that and then the success on success on success I mean, you're only as good as many successes as you have but how did that relationship even start How did you even get how did you convince a major studio to your craziness

Jason Blum 6:59
I made a I made the such a successful movie for Paramount and then a second movie for Paramount that they kicked me off the lot. And because they wanted to keep all the credit for themselves, wow. And the money to doing that. And my my dear friend and partner in crime, Brian, Lord at CIA, had our lunch with Donald Langley who runs ran universal and still does. And Donna said to Brian, you know we really want to bring back the monsters and the tradition of scary movies in Hollywood. And Brian said you should meet Jason Blom and the first deal with universal with a very small deal and and oh god and and we I made a deal there no no one else You know, I couldn't I couldn't. It wasn't like it was a bidding war. I mean, I didn't have any other opportunities. Y'all and I took it I should say and it turned out turned out great. But it was a it was a it was a real leap of faith on her part and you know, I'll always be indebted to her for that.

Alex Ferrari 8:09
So what was the first movie with that original original urge? It was it was James is as as our friend James the Monaco

Jason Blum 8:17
James Monaco's movie we did the purging we screened it in this little this theater in the valley and a test screening and all of universals showed up because it was like the new horror guy you know Nikki Nikki Rocco was there and all the bras from Universal they're all going to this two and a half million dollar movie and they all liked it name of the company released it Adam Adam focus and was there and it was great but but but it was very nerve wracking.

Alex Ferrari 8:49
So when you work with when you worked with James because James was I don't know what he had done prior to the purge I think he's just in but this was a big deal for him. And when you work with James on that whole project and two and a half million dollars thinking about it now it's like you watch the purge is like,

Jason Blum 9:06
really that's all the cost is 2.7

Alex Ferrari 9:09
It looks so it looks so amazing. How since this was like the first big thing for you, how did you talk to James about the James that final cut? Like how did that work? Did you like did you have that power yet?

Jason Blum 9:22
You know had Final Cut on the movie? Michael Bay. Exactly. That's right. And Mike Kobe's a genius. So Michael, these two guys drew and Brad, who was working for him. And I met with them and we were like, let's do a movie together. No, not at all. And, and they he gave us a movie to do or something. And I said great. Let's do it. And Michael said You know, I'm not gonna give you a movie of ours to produce and loot unless you give something of us to me to produce. So of course we never made the movie he gave us but meanwhile we made six purges and a purge TV show all of which Michael Bay produced But anyway, Michael Bay had Final Cut on he still does By the way, he has Final Cut on every purge movie he had Final Cut or Michael Bay.

Alex Ferrari 10:27
That's I mean, and I've said that 1000 times and like whether you love him or hate him, he changed action movies. He's an absolute genius. Visual Yeah,

Jason Blum 10:34
I was just I just had lunch with, with with with with Jake Gyllenhaal who started his movie and you know I always get the best advice from you always get the best take on directors from actors always actors know better than anyone else. And and Jake was just saying you know he's one of the best directors if not the best and one of the best directors that he's ever worked with like it's just he's just he's he's you know really great at this at this at this at this specific thing but also at moviemaking you know, Jake Jake just loved them. I've never been I've made the Giga guys very rich. I've made him a lot of money I never heard from the guy. I mean, it's unbeliev

Alex Ferrari 11:16
You can't even get him on the phone for God's sakes. I haven't tried to call him calling me fair enough. Now what are you kind of laid out this model for blumhouse films? What are the few of the rules that you that you look for or have to abide by for a blumhouse release

Jason Blum 11:39
on the movie side for the original for an original movie, you know, we have to have you know, I always say you you can either have a lot of locations, a lot of speaking parts or a couple of special effects, but you can't have you can't have you can't have more than one of those categories. So really, it's a funny way of saying with the movies that the scope of these movies has to be has to be has to be small, you know, not too many locations not too many characters, no stunts, no special effects or very limited stunt limited special effects. And you have to be willing to work for scale and participation if the movie makes money and if it doesn't make money then you're not going to make anything more than scale.

Alex Ferrari 12:15
And and why do you were you afraid of people or the or the town starting to copy this model when this when you first came out and you had success after success? You're like, Oh my god, I'm gonna have 40 competitors all the big studios are gonna obviously be doing this. It hasn't turned out that way. But were you afraid of that happening? You know, I'm very competitive.

Jason Blum 12:34
But I'm not i don't i don't i don't i don't you know, I don't I'm kind of I don't have a lot of fear. I'm not like fearful in that way. So no, I mean, I was annoyed if people would try and do it, but I was afraid of that. I was I was I but I'm always competitive when someone else has a successful horror movie. I'm horribly competitive about that.

Alex Ferrari 13:00
Fair enough.

Jason Blum 13:01
And then quiet place almost send me to my grave

Alex Ferrari 13:06
you had get out so I think in Split I mean you did okay,

Jason Blum 13:09
I wanted all the horror I wanted to conflict and quiet place

Alex Ferrari 13:15
when when Jordan showed up with get out, how did that get? I mean, did you how did that whole process in because Did anyone think this was gonna be a hit?

Jason Blum 13:25
No one wanted to make that script, you know, script was laying around for a long time and, and we read it, I thought the script was great. I had a great meeting with Jordan. We talked about race in the meeting, because I wanted to be comfortable. We're gonna make a movie about race. I want to be able to talk I remember saying that Jordan. Like, is it true? Like if there's a party and it's all white people, and there's like one other black person you guys like, acknowledge that? And he's like, Yeah, it's definitely true. And I thought I'm never in a party where it's all black people in another white person, it wouldn't occur to me that you've got to nod at each other like we are. But of course it makes sense. And, and I found it, you know, very easy to talk to Jordan about race and, and, and he had such a clear vision for what he wanted to do with a movie and and, and, and we loved it. You know, we loved it. And we we, we had our partners in Burbank make it and the rest is history.

Alex Ferrari 14:25
No, when? Yeah, it definitely did. Okay, it did. All right. Yeah, it did. Okay. And I saw on one of your other interviews you did that you got, you're like, oh, Jordan won the Oscar. But I didn't. I thought that was great.

Jason Blum 14:41
So honestly, you know, I got nominated, I got the booby prize, you

Alex Ferrari 14:47
know, when you work what you deserve to know it without question. Now, when you work with directors, it seems that you know, looking at your filmography

Jason Blum 14:56
stake that year though they did make a mistake. I mean, that's that we know everyone is excited. allege that Yeah, yeah yeah I acknowledge that they may have a separate Oscar ceremony to acknowledge their mistake gave the best picture Academy Award to the picture that should have won that

Alex Ferrari 15:11
obviously that I think they'll be coming to your door any second any second now the now when you It seems like that from looking at your filmography the directors you you work with a lot of times, they're not first time directors that I don't think there's ever a first time director, but a lot of them

Jason Blum 15:28
blumhouse there are for our streaming movies and stuff like that there are but our on our other model, they rarely are Jordan techlink. It was a first time director. Yeah, well, Joel Edgerton, technically first time director, but they both of them had a lot of set experience,

Alex Ferrari 15:42
right, it wasn't like their first time on set, and they knew how to Yeah, they didn't know what they knew what a grip was.

Jason Blum 15:48
Which is more than I know.

Alex Ferrari 15:50
So when you're working a lot of a lot, but a lot of the filmmakers you work with, some of them were in filmmaker jail, and then they come to you to get out of filmmaker jail, you know, like EMI and emanates a great example because and I love what I did, because after a few of his films, he was just kind of like, Oh, it's over. Don't which is always insane to me. Like how can you take the keys away from an M Night Shyamalan like, how, how does that like, how does the Tom work that way? But when split came out, I'm like, Ah, he's back. He's back, baby it oh, you know, and you give those opportunities back to these amazing filmmakers?

Jason Blum 16:26
I did. I brought him back. And then he kicked me to the curb. It's outrageous.

Alex Ferrari 16:34
But it seems like I mean, it seems essentially that you are money. You're in Moneyball for movies. And I know that's the term that's been thrown around.

Jason Blum 16:40
Was that yeah, I mean, we I mean, you know, we're less that now and all series we were less of that now. And that that's because when we started the company, there was there was a there was there were a lot of super talented people who were not working. And that's no longer the case. It's that there's so much work now in TV and streaming and movies. There's just so much work now that it's it's you can't replicate what we used to do there really? Isn't that the idea of like Moneyball for movies? You know, it's not really, you can't really do it anymore, because everyone's working so much. But definitely the first, you know, 567 years of the company. I taught I used to always say to be what, no one no, no, it's funny to hear you say that? Because no one no one. No one knew what the hell I was talking about when I said that, but that's exactly what we did. You know, we looked and said, hollywood looks at your last movie. They don't look at your body of work, which is insane. It's insanity. always looked at the body of work, like the guy that did saw. You know, he did two movies that didn't work after that, but he wrote and directed the like the most success one of the most successful horror franchises ever of all time. I bet that guy can get this from a horror movie. I bet it will be good. You know, that was James one, you know? Yeah, I mean, amazing.

Alex Ferrari 17:59
Yeah. And when you give those opportunities, and again, Hollywood is just such a it's such a weird town. And it's in its DNA, this whole concept of having to spend more it's almost ego like you know, it like I think you said before the cool kids, the cool kids spend a lot of money and you're not a cool kid.

Jason Blum 18:17
I'm not a cool kid. Now the cool kids, they spend a lot yeah, but but

Alex Ferrari 18:21
you make a lot with your money. So then you become a cool kid after the fact.

Jason Blum 18:24
You think I'm not so sure. If I'm allowed to sit at the cool kids table?

Alex Ferrari 18:29
No, but I was I remember listening to Robert Rodriguez when he did I mean, who's one of the originating low budget guys in the 90s from coming from the 90s. And he did a spike it. And it was a huge hit. But he did it for like 30 million, which was a big VFX thing. But then afterwards, after he's like, okay, here's 100 me like, No, no, just give me 30 again, I'm good.

Jason Blum 18:50
I was smart. That was smart. Because the second one didn't do as much. People make big mistakes they every every manager and every agent, they their their idea of you have a successful movie is to make your client making a more expensive movie, which is which is stupid.

Alex Ferrari 19:05
Do you do you find that there's where do you find the resistance to your model? Is it more in the representative side, in the talent side, you'd like where because when you go

Jason Blum 19:15
and look, you know, the representation, although they now it's better, because I've made a lot of people a lot of money, but representation, it's not even their fault. It's just they're compensated by. It's like quarterly bonuses, right? So they're very, very incentivized to make money fast. Now, if you said I'll pay you $50 now or $100, over three years, give me the 50 now and then I'll get a job for another client. So it's not it's not that they're, it's not that they're short sighted. It's just the the the incentives aren't aligned. And the rep is incentive with the client is not really aligned like the client is much better with $100 over three years. The agent is kind of better with 50 bucks. Right now and then go to the other ones to get more so that's just the way the system is set up. I don't know you know, it's hard to really blame people for that. Now as much as I like to

Alex Ferrari 20:12
fair enough now when you work with directors I heard somewhere that you give director's cuts to a lot of filmmakers that you work with your final films. Yeah, final, final and

Jason Blum 20:23
we always get Final Cut to our filmmakers. Yeah, we do. Not always but 99% 95% of the time we do other than Michael Bay. Well, no, he was the filmmaker in that right so we actually did give the filmmaker but we didn't keep it ourselves. We gave it to him.

Alex Ferrari 20:39
Right? Exactly. Of course of course. But but that is so against the grain in Hollywood like to get Final Cut. So most of all, I mean, it's it's, it's, I

Jason Blum 20:46
think it's immoral to ask someone to work for a reduced rate, but then tell them but I'm going to tell you what to do. Like if you ask someone to bet on yourself, you have to allow them to bet on themselves. So if they go down sinking, they can say well, this is your fault. I mean, if you're really saying like you're financially invested in the movie, you can't do those two things. They they they don't work together, either. Either. You pay people a lot of money and then you know you could I would have no problem taking Final Cut. If people are making money up front. Then we do take Final Cut. But if you're not making money up front, if then if you're the director who has the most control over a movie by far, I think I just like I said, I think it's immoral to to take Final Cut from them.

Alex Ferrari 21:33
Yeah, cuz I remember I mean, when Spielberg and those guys started getting Final Cut, but then they were they were handing out Final Cut like candy back in the day, in the 80s. In the old days, but then it's just unheard of to have that kind of control. But I guess again, because you're at such a low budget, you can, you can play, you can do things that you just don't do and it's hard to give $100 million Final Cut. It's just very difficult. Yeah, that's

Jason Blum 21:57
what I mean expensive movies that never do it. Final Cut has only of the 150 movies with a we've made, there have only been like, less than five times where Final Cut really hurt us and hurt the movie, which is pretty good ratio.

Alex Ferrari 22:17
That's not a bad ratio at all, actually. Yeah, yeah. Now what some of your films go directly to streaming other or VOD and others go theatrical, then go there. What is your determining factor on which goes where?

Jason Blum 22:31
Well sometimes it's pre determined, like Welcome to the blumhouse all these movies for Amazon, they're all gonna go directly to Dell. Yeah. When we make an original movie for Amazon, we we I screened the movie in front of an audience and, and 99% of the time it's very clear if you show the movie in front of an audience, the movie is connecting with a big group of people in a movie theater in such a way that it shouldn't play in the theater or it's or the tone may be kind of the tone may be kind of different and it kind of may be slower or it may be you know the audience you don't you feel it where the audience is not like the movie could work at home, but it's not gonna work in a movie theater. And then we do we don't really do limited releases we either do funnily enough we need to do like a really wide release or we go you know, we'll do it straight to ancillaries to VOD or to iTunes or to all the all the different places you can order movies online now.

Alex Ferrari 23:29
Now you have the dubious honor of having a couple of records of note some are dubious Some are are not dubious.

Jason Blum 23:39
Oh, what am I What am I bad records I need to hear immediately.

Alex Ferrari 23:43
Is it the widest release film?

Jason Blum 23:46
Now got we got we gave that record up I want here now. You gave it up. Oh, we no longer hold that record. Oh my god. partner here. Do you know what the media took that as Cooper? He knows? Okay, so he that took that record from us. I was sorry to see it go. I had to pass the torch.

Alex Ferrari 24:04
That's what I'm sure you were Tara. You really torn up about it. I was

Jason Blum 24:09
real torn off about it.

Alex Ferrari 24:11
Now, I have this is one question. I've always wanted to ask you what makes a good horror movie?

Jason Blum 24:16
The name blumhouse showing before the film. This interview is going to be a great interview. I'm feeling very, very I don't know what it is. I'm hunched drunk, but I'm not drunk and I haven't even done that many interviews. Now Cooper. What is the movie that took the AR record for widest ride release? Lois gross. Ah Gosh, I think it was Warren Beatty I want to say no you knew this. We we celebrated giving up this record you don't remember Oh I know you're on the air. You're Live on the Air right? pressures on Yep. Live on the Air in a in a live interview. That's your interviewer.

Alex Ferrari 25:03
Hi Cooper. No No pressure.

Jason Blum 25:06
What's going on? Can you hear me? Yeah just FaceTime in your other no FaceTime or your face that was your rock the Kasbah that was the same weekend I came up the same week no no no no no are you literally doing a jacket right now it's coming up without answers Cooper it may have been rules don't apply the Warren Beatty movie okay maybe one day we'll go over that now view if you find out something else text Karen and then we'll we'll call it in right now. Now Now this interview is going to be one for the ages I mean this interview I mean, I love it.

Alex Ferrari 25:52
I love it. I absolutely

Jason Blum 25:56
rent your mate Have you are you really relaxed you're just you talked about James to Monaco Yeah, you called James now and I mean he just

Alex Ferrari 26:05
it's all it's all calculated. I I am a master at this sir. Just like making a good horror movie only is only good horror movies have blumhouse at the front

Jason Blum 26:17
only good. first have to have blumhouse and if you have that you're on a good road. Yes, a good horror movie should survive if you have take out the scares. And just watch it with no scares. It should be a great drama so good horror movie has a great story and great acting. If you have a great story and great acting. Good movie, The scares will work if you have not a good story and not a good act and you could have the greatest scares in the world in your movie and they won't be scary. You got to get the audience riveted with what's going on lockwise and story wise in order to do that you have to have a good story you have to have great actors they have to believe what they're seeing. So when you surprise them with a scare, they're so entrenched in the story that they're not ready for it and then it's scary and if you if you don't do that you're not going to be scared

Alex Ferrari 27:05
so yeah, because horror movies are infamous for being you know, they're bad a lot of there's so many bad horror movies out there and then your films aren't so there's a reason like what's the difference?

Jason Blum 27:19
Okay, say you have to have blumhouse obviously obviously right the movie by the way that was the empty man what's the empty man?

Alex Ferrari 27:29

Jason Blum 27:32
thriller well the empty man you look it up but the empty man took my word as the least successful, wide released lowest grossing film of all time.

Alex Ferrari 27:43
Wow. Thank you for thank you for updating that because yeah, please correct me because I was a fan of gem in the Holograms personally.

Jason Blum 27:51
That movie was great I think I still love movies you've done freaky is in a plus movie should have been ahead and it got all screwed up the releases all screwed up my fault By the way, I take all the blame for the release. I screwed it all up. But boy what there's nothing more frustrating as a filmmaker when you listen if you make a movie and it's not so great and it doesn't work it is what it is and we've done plenty of those but when you make a movie that's really fucking awesome and it doesn't work it's so frustrating and you know I always feel guilty about Chris Landon who made this great movie and we didn't deliver for him and we're good at delivering I always say to our directors if you give me the goods I can make the movie ahead but and I'm usually can but I wasn't able to with freaky which kills me at what kills me even more is I wasn't able to deal with Jon Chu who's turned out to be you know, the greatest director on the planet.

Alex Ferrari 28:51
He's done okay,

Jason Blum 28:52
these are two These are two These are two tremendous disappointments that I try not to let keep me up at night but often do

Alex Ferrari 28:58
but well I think you've done a few other ones that have been okay. So I think they balance that and a lot of successes. That's true. That's about to balance things out. Now do you believe Do you think that the purge is almost like the perfect embodiment of the blumhouse model as far as the rules are concerned of what the low budget pillars Oh yeah,

Jason Blum 29:19
there there are two movies that are letter that are really there. They're more than two but like the purge is perfect high concept low budget. Getting get out is pretty perfect, right kind of high concept, low budget, you know, sinister and insidious also really are where are where, where they really embody what a blumhouse original is they check all the boxes that it's this super gripping, wide release, wide appeal movie, made for very little money, and the acting is great. The story is great. The characters are great. And as a result the movies are scary as hell.

Alex Ferrari 30:02
And like and get out I mean, I think the most the biggest set piece was the deer crash right? That was like the most biggest visual effect.

Jason Blum 30:10
To goofiest, they crash in the world. But it's so scary because you have Allison and Danielle like talking. It's his it's his. It's his mixed race couple and they're talking about race and it's like you're you're just you're it's exactly what I described, you're on the edge of your seat because they're like, Oh, he's like, your parents don't like black people. And it's like, oh my god, where's this going? Oh my god, where's this going and the deer hits and you jump out of your seat? Because you're so focused on the conversation between the two of them.

Alex Ferrari 30:39
And the the I think I heard you say this bunch before the the difference on being cheap. And understanding how to get the most out of the budget is something as simple as if there's a waiter that comes to your to your table. He doesn't say he or she doesn't say, oh, would you like to hear the specials? They come in, they dropped the kids off. And the difference between a day rate of speaking day rate versus a walk on?

Jason Blum 31:05
We don't like we don't like characters to speak and yet waiters never speak in our movies. They always come up with a pad and they go like this.

Alex Ferrari 31:14
Exactly. Because of the because that's a substantial cost difference

Jason Blum 31:17
if a speaker cost me $600 What do you crazy?

Alex Ferrari 31:21
And if they don't speak How much does it cost?

Jason Blum 31:22
A Dell $600 less? Because

Alex Ferrari 31:28
it's so funny to hear someone have you know, someone like yourself who's done you know, so many movies talk like this, because you don't hear producers in Hollywood talk like this. Like that's, that's just not something that's talked about is like, Oh, well, you know, I'll just write it in.

Jason Blum 31:42
It's because they're not there. That's because they're already they've been paid upfront. You see, the producer is already made his money. So what are her money? So what do they care of the characters talk, we don't make any money unless these things make money. So we're, we're very conscious of where we spend because every every every dime we spend is a dime less we make. That's why everyone should I always think, you know, movies and shows would be so much better if everyone worked for much, much less money up front and then made money. When the thing you're doing connects, sadly, we're going further and further away from that. closer to that model, because streamers will have nothing of my silly ideas.

Alex Ferrari 32:23
Exactly. Yeah. So the streamers aren't thinking about doing fine. Oh, no,

Jason Blum 32:27
no, no, no, no. The streamers what they do is they pick, they pick, you know, 2030 projects a year that they think are going to be wild home runs, the extra systems, one of them, they pay everyone as if the movies have already come out in our home runs and the rest of everything they do they pay less. And it's a very different way of of, of compensating people.

Alex Ferrari 32:54
You have to imagine that. I mean, obviously you've had a lot of success you've been you know, you've been nominated for some Oscars and with whiplash and get out and other films. But and exactly blackkklansman but did but I have to just because I've been in town so long. And I was I was I've been in I was in LA for 13 years and I've done all the waterbottle tours and I've been in those meetings with agents and producers and things trying to get projects made it someone like you with your energy and the way you're looking at things I can't believe that you will open arms excepted with these concepts when you first started out I have to believe everybody was just like, Dude, this guy's nuts.

Jason Blum 33:35
They still think I'm nuts.

Alex Ferrari 33:38
absolutely insane.

Jason Blum 33:40
Were you talking to Yeah, I'm like, I'm like Crazy Eddie Remember him? Where are you?

Alex Ferrari 33:44
I'm from I'm from New York so I completely know what crazy ideas are you kind of I'm not gonna say but you kind of a little bit

Jason Blum 33:51
I'm a little bit like Crazy Eddie. I've been told that before. I was proud of that

Alex Ferrari 33:56
these movies are insane your logo you should sell do

Jason Blum 34:06
it's fun to do I think what are we doing in Hollywood if you're not trying to do some you know crazy stuff? I mean, I think it's I think it's

Alex Ferrari 34:14
we could you could be thinking it's just somewhere we could be digging we could be digging ditches somewhere

Jason Blum 34:19
yeah we're supposed to be having you know we're supposed to be having fun and making challenge I think also you have to I think your artistic process is better. If you're a little looser about what you're doing I think if you have all this tension it doesn't serve the director as well so I try and I don't know if that believe me I don't know I'm not always like this but I try and try and keep keep keep a sense of humor about what we're doing.

Alex Ferrari 34:43
I mean I can't even comprehend what you know some of these directors with $200 million on their head or I mean God forbid James camera,

Jason Blum 34:49
then that creates so much pressure and lets you know, some directors can work with that kind of money and not feel pressure but most of the most of the time they do and I think it doesn't doesn't help the creative On the movies.

Alex Ferrari 35:01
Now tell me about Welcome to blumhouse.

Jason Blum 35:05
Welcome. Well, welcome to the blumhouse. Yes, is a is a series of eight movies we did with Amazon. And we made this deal with them about two or three years ago. And Jen soggy who runs Amazon who I knew a little bit from her time at NBC. Right when she started, she kind of pitched this idea to me. And I lit up to the idea because we look at so many Scary Movie scripts, and there are a lot of great ones that don't fit for a wide theatrical release. But that I'd love to make that I think would be fun. That's to take. And when we did this deal with her, it gave me a place to put to put these movies so we were actually able to say yes to people who we couldn't say yes to before. And we chose to do all underrepresented filmmakers, which is which is, which is something we both really wanted to do, which is a more accurate reflection of what our audience looks like, you know, our audience audience for horror movies, the minority is Caucasian looks like you and I, you know, most people who watch our movies don't. And it didn't make a lot of sense to me that that the people behind the camera weren't reflecting that. And so this is the second we did for last year. And this is our second for this year. And I think the difference between the four this year and last year is that is that this year, we we not only have people from underrepresented groups directing the movies, but we also the movies are actually about marginalized groups of people. And I noticed that in a more pointed way than, than the last four movies. So I felt like you know, the stories that we're telling better represent the idea of hearing from directors we were we're not used to hearing from so I love the movies, I'm really proud of the movies, I think they're really cool. They're very different. They're very, you know, speaking of all the things kind of we've just talked about, they're definitely really original, all four movies. Don't remind me of anything else I've I've seen recently or a long time ago, and, and I'm excited for people to see him and I was excited to be able to give all these directors a shot. And I think like the first four directors we worked with, they're all going to go on to do more interesting things.

Alex Ferrari 37:26
Now I have to believe that you walking around at a film festival or at an event or even just walking around LA, you might get recognized and you might get pitched by somebody like Hey, I got this idea. Hey, I got the screenplay, because that's LA. Does that happen often to you? And how should you properly pitch a project to blumhouse? Because they're like, Oh, he's doing the kind of movie that I'm writing. It's be perfect for you, Jason. So how do you properly do it? And do you? Have you had any stories of people walking up to you like, Hey, here's my script.

Jason Blum 38:02
Well, you asked two very different questions. Okay, I'm gonna break them down separately. Do I get recognized and how do I feel about it? The answer is not nearly enough. I love nothing more than being recognized as the greatest thing ever when people asked to take selfies, especially when I'm with my wife because it really pisses her off. So you see me please don't hesitate to come up to me ask for my autograph or take a selfie or do anything well not anything because that's the second part of the question. Yeah, but but but I love it it does and it does happen sometimes. And yeah, and I'm working on making it happen more in every way I possibly can find it awesome. And I love to make my wife angry. Yes, that's her number one. Do not if you see me though, please don't pitch me your movie that would not be a good way to get your movie read or heard about in fact it's it's really not a good way first of all, you have to have representation which is just the rules of the game to submit a project to us but if an agent or a lawyer submits something to us, someone at the company will always read it and if it's something that feels right for us more people will read it and eventually I'll read it and and and that's that's the way to get us to do something. And the other way in is if there's someone you know the other thing that always helps is if there are a lot of people that are almost 100 people that work at the company and if someone knows someone who works at the company and is read your particular script, fine for that person to call the person they know it blumhouse and say hey, you should look at this submission or whatever I get I get emails or calls like that all the time. But that's that's the way to submit a something not on the street, but like I said, very happy to do a selfie.

Alex Ferrari 39:44
Sounds good. Now I'm gonna ask you three questions I asked all of my guests one, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,

Jason Blum 39:54
but the the premise of that question you You're implied in the question is like I've learned all the lessons. I have learned all these lessons.

Alex Ferrari 40:05
What are you still learning? Yeah, no, that's uh, yeah. Working on Yeah. Are you still working on?

Jason Blum 40:09
Okay, what I'm still working on is patience. I'm still working on not raising my voice which I've done before which I don't which I'm not proud of so I'm trying not to do that those are my two biggest things that I'm still working on.

Alex Ferrari 40:29
Now what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Jason Blum 40:33
Every I mean it's cliche every failure makes make you stronger but um you know you my biggest failure there like seven things going out of my head right now that I'm thinking about that what you learn from your failure is that you can recover that life goes on so that so that so that although you can fail at something or another thing you don't fail at life where you don't the company doesn't go down and i think i think the scary thing about failure is you think if you fail, you won't live again to fight another day. And I think what what I've learned from all my failures is I've gotten stronger and realized not to not to move past them and move into your next you know, your next chapter and not to dwell on your failures I think that's what I've learned.

Alex Ferrari 41:16
Was there a moment on any of your 150 plus films that you were a producer on that you were on set that day and everything was going to absolute hell and you fit and how did how did you handle that day? And what did what did you do to break from like to get through that that opposite?

Jason Blum 41:34
When one of the beginning of sinister the first shot we shot in the beginning of sinister is when the for the family is hanging from the tree we had a we had a we had a terrible stun person and hung the four people from the tree no one was you know no one was no one was was was was heard in a way they had to go to a hospital or anything but the stunt went wrong and someone was definitely scared and they were hurt you know some what it didn't go there it didn't the stunt did not go the way it should go. And we shut down the move we shut down the whole movie.

Alex Ferrari 42:08
Oh my God first day this day one first day.

Jason Blum 42:11
And we replaced a bunch of different people. And we add to add like you know, between 500 and 1,500,000 a million dollars to the budget with the budget was 3 million so it suddenly became 4 million is 25%. Jesus so it's 25% you know, cost. And that was a horrible day, you know, and I felt like I let Scott derrickson down and and that was my that was by far the worst day I've ever had on onset. Now I don't spend a lot of time on set anymore. So I think worse things have happened on our movies. I can hear a director saying oh my god, that was so much worse that happened on my set. But when when I was actually on the set, that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was bad. It was really bad.

Alex Ferrari 42:55
And last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Jason Blum 43:01
Citizen Kane, Goodfellas. Moulin Rouge,

Alex Ferrari 43:09
no horror movies.

Jason Blum 43:10
Now I'm going with those three today. Moulin Rouge

Alex Ferrari 43:12
is fantastic. And we're what are three horror scripts that every horror screenwriter should read?

Jason Blum 43:19
Roseman, Rosemary's Baby,

Alex Ferrari 43:21
such a great movie,

Jason Blum 43:25
three horse scripts the shining. Yeah. Yeah. And you know what? It's not my movie, but a great script to read, which I actually read this just because it's interesting to read is a quiet place.

Alex Ferrari 43:37
It is a great script. That is a great read. I know it's still I still know it still pisses you off, but you've done

Jason Blum 43:44
and it was a great movie. You know, it doesn't mess me up. I'm just jealous.

Alex Ferrari 43:50
And where can people watch? The when is when is it available? The Welcome to the blumhouse.

Jason Blum 43:55
So the first two films are on the first and the second two films are on the eighth. Perfect taste awesome over first and October. Then the other month, October is the most important month of course,

Alex Ferrari 44:07
obviously, obviously, obviously, it has been an absolute joy talking to you, my friend. And a lot of thank you so much for being on the show. And I wish you nothing but more success. And thank you for giving voice to filmmakers that might have not gotten that opportunity through the work that you do, man. So thank you so much.

Jason Blum 44:25
That's nice to say thanks for having me.

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BPS 156: Inside Warner Bros Writing Program with Rebecca Windsor

rebecca windsor, WB Writers' Workshop

Today on the show is Rebecca Windsor, the Vice-President of the Warner Bros. Television Workshop, the premier writing and directing program for professionals looking to start and/or further their careers in television.

As an extension of her role developing new talent, Rebecca was recruited to help launch Warner Bros. new digital content brand Stage13, overseeing the critically acclaimed short-form digital series Snatchers, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and is available on Verizon’s go90 platform.

Previously, she was the Creative Producing Initiative Manager of Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, playing a key role in coordinating the Creative Producing Lab and Summit, Screenwriters and Directors Labs, and Episodic Story Lab.

Prior to Sundance, Windsor was Manager of Development at Samuel L. Jackson’s television company, UppiTV, and at Mandeville Films. She started her career as an assistant at the Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann Agency and ICM. A San Diego native, she attended Northwestern University, where she received a BS in Theatre.

Write for a Warner Bros. Show

Every year, the Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop selects up to eight participants out of more than 2,500 submissions, and exposes them to Warner Bros. Television’s top writers and executives, all with the goal of earning them a staff position on a Warner Bros.-produced television show. The Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop consists of three components, all geared towards preparing the writer for a successful career in television writing: lectures, a simulated writers’ room, and staffing. The 2021 Writers’ Workshop application closed on May 31st.

Writers’ Workshop – Apply Here

Direct on an Active Warner Bros. Set

The Warner Bros. Television Directors’ Workshop is an initiative that introduces up-and-coming directors to prime time television. With the backdrop of active Warner Bros. Television sets as the learning environment, and top television directors, cinematographers and showrunners as the instructors, those selected to the program will have the opportunity to participate in a workshop that is unparalleled in the industry.

Directors will be taken through the full process of episodic directing, from what is expected during prep, to working collaboratively with actors and key crew during production, through post-production. The 2022 Directors’ Workshop opens on January 7th.

Directors’ Workshop – Apply Here

Enjoy my conversation with Rebecca Windsor.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show Rebecca Windsor. How you doing, Rebecca?

Rebecca Windsor 0:14
I'm good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:15
I am doing fantastic. Thank you so much for being on the show. We we have a, a history together because our kids used to go to school together. And that's how we met originally. And I think one day, I realized, like you said it in passing, like I work at Warner Brothers like, wait, what do you do? And I think one day like we I was walking my girls to school and you like, Stop being like you're famous. You're in the LA Times. So we discovered that

Rebecca Windsor 0:41
You were some guy that like, I don't know, maybe worked in sound design, or I don't know, like, I knew you were tangentially related but like, I didn't know what you did. And then I saw you on the front cover of LA Times. And I was like, Oh my god.

Alex Ferrari 0:51
Exactly. And my girls like why did what why did why did? Why does it stop you what's going on? And it was so funny. Like, are you famous Daddy? I'm like, no, no, I'm, I've got less than five minutes.

Rebecca Windsor 1:07
For the day you were famous

Alex Ferrari 1:08
For the day, I was famous. I did get a lot of emails that day. Um, but yeah, but we and we just recently ran into each other at the Austin Film Festival, which was also a pleasant surprise. I'm just walking around. Like Rebecca said, it was

Rebecca Windsor 1:21
Out of context. I'm like, have it I was like, What is your face doing in this like barbecue mixer? And then it was like I put two and two together Oh, yeah. You moved to Austin last year Of course, he would be here.

Alex Ferrari 1:32
Exactly. So um, but so after after talking a bit, we're like, You got to come on the show. Because I don't think anybody really knows the inside workings of what you do over at Warner Brothers, and the workshops and things that you that you are in charge of. But before we get there, how did we get started in this insane business?

Rebecca Windsor 1:55
I will try and tell the CliffsNotes version or I don't know what the kids are calling it the new CliffsNotes it's something else,right?

Alex Ferrari 2:02
The YouTube video version Yes.

Rebecca Windsor 2:05
So um, so I grew up in San Diego. From the time I was, I mean, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an actor. I actually auditioned and got a callback for Punky Brewster that did not get the rule. But it was all I ever wanted to do. So I went to Northwestern and study theater. And then from there, I moved to New York, I think, you know, New York was always the dream of, you know, go be a struggling actress. And, you know, theater is much more important, and prestigious than, you know, coming to LA and I think also the back of my head, being from California, it just made the most sense that I you know, wanted to go to New York. So went to New York, I spent most of my time working in restaurants and bars, and you know, taking acting classes and you know, doing like really, really terrible student films and off off off off off Broadway, black box theater, but really, you know, was not making a living from it. And, and that was fine, because I, you know, I was young and I thought, you know, I was living the life. And it felt like what I always told myself was, you just have to persevere, you know, people stop pursuing acting all the time. And if I'm, if I stick it out, and I get the one job, then it'll just be a domino effect, you know, work begets work, and then you know, I'll have a career. So that was the plan. And then, you know, after a few years, as I saw, it wasn't happening as fast for me. And also, you can't tell from zoom. I'm six feet tall. So I'm not the most easily castable actor out there. I'm never going to be an ingenue. Um, I, I think it was that and looking at my friends who are also actors who I felt like were even more ambitious and more dedicated than I was, I mean, I was dedicated, but I also wanted to have a life, you know, and then when I met my now husband, I think that was the real thing where, you know, it's one thing when you're, you know, 2223, and you think about buying a home and getting married and having kids, those are hypothetical things that will happen at some point in your life. But when I met my now husband, I made this things a little bit more tangible as something that could happen soon. And so I think it was, it was hard for me to sort of say out loud, that I don't want to pursue acting anymore. And so I kind of, you know, I just kind of kept going through the motions, even though I don't think I'd ever stopped wanting to act. You know, the passion is still there, but it's just the life of an actor. And it's not the easiest. And I'm to, I don't know, tie day to, you know, kind of career oriented to I think that business part of it in the fact that so much is out of your control as an actor, that you have to wait for someone else to give you a job as opposed to your filmmaker you find a way to make your films or you're a writer you can write no one has to give you the opportunity but as an actor He has to give you the opportunity. And it just felt I had, like I had no control over it. So anyways, all of that, you know, combined with, I think, New York running its course for me, I love living there, but it's pretty, you know, tough place to live. And I always felt the pull to come back to California. So we got married, moved back to California, then it felt like okay, now I have to start acting again in a brand new city, find new management, all of that it just felt like, insurmountable, you know, rock being pushed up the hill. And so my sister in law who does not work in the industry, but is very smart lady said to me, Listen, you can go back to acting in six months, or you can go back in 20 years. But if there's anything else you want to do, you should probably start thinking about it now, because you're getting older. And you're going to have to start out at the bottom and work your way up. And it's going to get harder the older you get. So I thought those were wise words, very nice. I started reading I don't even know if they still have it. But there used to be the UTA job list that would come out every week that listed you know, assistant jobs and internships and things like that. So I got an internship back when you could still get unpaid internships, not for college credit, because I already graduated college. So I got an internship at a feature production company and learned about development. And the light bulb in my head went off, where I was still able to use that creative muscle that I you know, was using as an actor. But, you know, working with that we're working with writers and you know, making making scripts better. So it still fulfilled that, that drive in that you know, desire and that passion, but hopefully with more of a career path. So I had the internship everyone there said go work at an agency and if you don't want to be an agent, so I went I got a job at a literary agency called rotor Webb turbine Silverman, which was a boutique agency that was small but represented on the TV side. People like Shonda Rhimes, and Chuck Lorre and Don Bellisario created NCIS. So like, they were a powerhouse in TV. And I went in thinking, No, I want to learn features, like that's the sexy job. But the only desk that was open was a TV agent. So that, okay, fine, I'll just take it for a couple of months, and then move on to a feature desk when it opens. But so I get on the TV desk. And this was like the first renaissance of TV like, first year, there was the Friday Night Lights pilot, and you had you know, obviously, it was Cronos. And, and Lawson, like, you know, start studying to be this like, really like this wealth of really amazing content. So I think it was that like, seeing that the quality was there. And then also, as they learn how the business is worked, I realized that I really like the television business. And I like the cyclical nature of it again, that like, type a sort of structured brain that I have.

Alex Ferrari 7:49
Well, I mean, I mean, this is the one thing that so many people coming up don't understand is like film, film feature films are sexy. That's what that's gives all the splash. But where people really make money is in television. Yeah. And people don't think about that. And now Thank God, you know, there is such an amazing renaissance in the creative of television. And I mean, pretty much started with the Sopranos. It kind of, you know, David pretty much opened the crash the door open, and then everything. Everybody just started doing this amazing work from Breaking Bad madman, and they just so on and so forth. But people still because the sizzle, the Oscars are a lot sexier than the Emmys. And it's just the whip but smart people in the business television and like television directors do very well. Whereas feature directors are struggling to put I just talked to a feature director the other day who will remain nameless, who's like I've been nominated for Oscars, and I I have to do commercials to make ends meet. Because it's between job after job and he doesn't do like giant jobs that are paying him obscene amount. But he's very well known. And he's Philbert were well respected. I was like, that's the world we live in. That is, you know, that is the world we live in. It's not the 80s anymore.

Rebecca Windsor 9:08
100% and, you know, and I can talk about this a little bit, you know, later but you know, I have found just in the last several years as I talked to, you know, indie film directors and sort of trying to like sell them on the directors workshop and all of that and when I was first having those conversations like six years ago, I get a lot of Sure I'll think about it and you could tell there why would I ever do TV got to now people are like oh my god there's this you know, episodic directing, like yes I you know, I really want to do that you know, both for hitting you know, sustainability like you said just like making a living but I think again, TVs a little bit sexier than it was before so much was my my minds are open to it. So

Alex Ferrari 9:48
You know what's sexy though, that check.

Rebecca Windsor 9:52
The check is very sexy. You know, not not living hand to mouth you know, like in a tiny little studio apartment is

Alex Ferrari 10:01
Exactly, exactly now, you early in your career you got to work with or assist. Mr. Todd Lieberman, who is a very well known producer who's done a few movies, not many. But he's done. He's done quite a few films. What was the biggest lesson you took away from working with Todd?

Rebecca Windsor 10:23
Well, I think you know, but the lesson, I don't know if it's specifically with Todd, but it's with that company, which is Mandeville films that he runs with David overband. And they, you know, made like, a lot of really big movies. And, you know, very successful feature producers. The lesson well, if basically, the lesson that confirmed for me is I don't want to work in features. And I took that, I took that job, you know, after having worked at the agency, and started at the agency, I was like, Okay, I want to be a TV executive. And then I interviewed with Todd, and, you know, always take the meeting. And so I'm like, Okay, I'm meeting the President of this big feature company, I'm never gonna get it. And then he hired me. And I thought, okay, and he told me an interview, they were having a TV executive. So I thought, okay, if I'm working with the president, I will have my hands and everything. And so yes, right now, it's mostly features, but the TV, you know, their TV side is growing, too. So that's sort of why I took that job. And, you know, and I'll get to your question in a second. But while I was there, you know, it, it just, you know, it's even for a successful feature company, it took them several years to get their TV business off the ground, which is now very successful, but at the time, you know, it was still like, 90% of what I was doing was features. But, so yeah, I mean, it can, again, having the two and some odd years that I was there, we made five movies, which is, you know, pretty unheard of, or, you know, production companies these days. And even still, it's just that it's and it was, you know, the, the pace, you know, we had movies that weren't, you know, had opened offices in pre production, and we're, like, four weeks out of production, and then just, like, fell apart, you know, and, and things that were in development for years, and years and years, and then things that would fall apart. And then we'd come back five, and I was just like, I can't deal with that, like, I want to know that I'm working on something. And then, and it's either moving forward, or it's dead. I don't want to spend five to 10 years hope, you know, hoping that this project.

Alex Ferrari 12:15
Right, yeah, that's, that's not the way television works. Generally. They don't, they don't.

Rebecca Windsor 12:19
No no. And I think and I think for him, you know, Todd is, I mean, he's so smart. I mean, it was, it was a, it was really like a masterclass in, in, like, being with the studio producer, you know, being able to listen in on his calls and hear how he navigated tricky situations and how, when, you know, like, when he would get in the middle of, you know, I don't know, like an argument or like, having to deal with a situation, being able to, like, be that mediator and make each person think that he was on their side, and, you know, like, you know, fully supported them while he had to sort of navigate all those politics. I mean, it was really, it was pretty impressive. So I think that and, you know, and also just his tastes and his just his the amount of work that he did, I mean, he's a workaholic. And that's what made him so successful. So Young. Right. It's pretty intensive times. But But yeah, I mean, he just has a drive like no other.

Alex Ferrari 13:18
Now, you also got a chance to work at a little startup film festival called Sundance.

Rebecca Windsor 13:27
I keep all the credit for it success,

Alex Ferrari 13:28
Obviously. Obviously, it was you and Bob, you and Bob all the way that you worked over at the the institute, correct?

Rebecca Windsor 13:35

Alex Ferrari 13:35
What did you do for Sundance?

Rebecca Windsor 13:37
So So there's, you know, the Sundance Film Festival, and then there's the Sundance Institute, which runs the festival. So the festival is obviously the public facing, part of it that everybody knows about. The Institute is a nonprofit, and it is dedicated to supporting independent film artists in various mediums through through a lot of different programs. So I was in the feature film program, which was like the narrative side, there is a documentary side that is very successful. They have new frontier, which is like VR and AR and transmedia, you know, sleeve, a lot of different things like that. So, within within the feature film program, they run labs. So there is episodic Lab, I'm sorry, the episodic lab we started while I was there, but the ones that have sort of been around forever were the screenwriters lab in the director's lab. And again, like the people who came through that are people like Quentin Tarantino and you know and Ryan Coogler and Damien Chazelle and Chloe Zhao and like, you know, it's just like it goes kind of on and on and, and I always love like one of the stories that I heard from way back when was one of the first projects that they had in like the very early 80s was a was a screenplay called 3000. That was

Alex Ferrari 14:51
The pretty woman. Isn't it the pretty woman? Yeah,

Rebecca Windsor 14:53
Pretty woman. Yeah. But like when it went through the lab, it was like a dark drama about you know, like, not happy ending Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, a pretty woman, but you know, again, you know, like Tyco, ytt. And like all these people who just, you know, like, the history and the legacy of what they've done is pretty amazing. So, um, the labs are their talent pipeline programs, people apply to them. And, and the goal is how to, you know, trying to find filmmakers? Who, on the, I think on the director side of it, they have to be first time director, first time feature director, so they have to make sure it's I mean, or they have to, you know, done some work. And on the screenwriters, I think they, I think you're allowed to have had one feature credit on my, around the desert writers. But, you know, how do you take these independent artists who have, and it's project specific. So it's not just, you know, we're letting you in, it's, we're letting you in, and we're supporting you to try and get this film made. And they are very intense labs that take place at the Sundance Resort, which is a little bit outside Park City, there were like four to five day labs, and it's sort of like boot camp, in the best, like, in the best, and the most intense sense, like a creative boot camp where they bring in advisors again, you know, like, the top writers and directors in, in Hollywood, and a lot of alumni who come back to act as advisors in your assigned advisor to have read your script. And then you do these, like, two hour notes, sessions, you know, with, you know, again, these like, you know, ridiculously talented professionals who are trying to just give you ideas and help you make the best version of your film. And then you take all of that and go away. And, you know, then the next version is like the kitchen sink version, which is pretty terrible, usually, and then you just sort of like, let it marinate and see, what are the things that I you know, what were the common themes among all of the feedback that I got that are worth incorporating? So there's that that sort of creative process. And then post lab Sundance is really involved in just helping you try to get your movie made, even though as a nonprofit, they don't produce it, you don't finance it. It's, it's a lot of, you know, networking, how do we make connections? So if you need to find a producer, or an executive producer, right now, there's a lot of those people in their in their, Sundance family, extended family. So trying to find you those people like what can what can Sundance do to help you make your movie, if it's, you know, introductions to find in series is if it's introductions to casting directors, editors, whatnot. And then also kind of, you know, again, continuing helping to develop the scripts. And then, you know, ideally, hopefully, you got to make your movie and comes out and all that.

Alex Ferrari 17:44
So that's pretty, that's a pretty cool, yeah, I've heard of the legends of those labs. I've talked to a few people who've gone through them, and it's, it sounds like summer camp. But for filmmaking, it's like, the bad you've got, like, insane as actors who just show up, and they're like, working with like, workshopping your idea and stuff like that. Yeah. It sounds it sounds to me, like I sounds amazing. I think everything

Rebecca Windsor 18:06
But I mean, if anybody can get in, it is like the best experience and you know, they have anything to say about Sundance is that I know, probably from the outside, it sometimes can feel like, very elitist or insular or whatever. And it's, it's the opposite of that. The people I send into, that I work with are the most dedicated to the mission of supporting, you know, independent artists who are just trying to get their $500,000 movie made. So it's, it's, there's a lot of sacrifices that are made, you know, because because the people who work there believe so strongly. So really is a family of sorts, you know, in the best sense.

Alex Ferrari 18:44
No, I have to ask you, because I found out during my research that you worked with a an actor that worked at his production company, and Mr. Samuel L. Jackson, the legendary icon, that Samuel Jackson, I got to ask, What's it like working with Sam?

Rebecca Windsor 19:02
Um, I mean, it was, it was awesome. I mean, he's amazing. I was, like, the first time he ever came into the office, and this was the job I had before Sundance. The first time, you know, obviously, he's very busy. So it's not like he's coming to the office everyday because he's off making movies and stuff, but still very involved. But I remember the first time he came into the office, and at the time, I was still an assistant. And he was meeting with my boss in like, one door over but like, the door was open, and I'm like, you know, sitting there typing and doing my work and stuff, but I can hear him and it's just like, you're hearing Sam Jackson's voice and you're just like, This is so weird, because it's like, the voice is so iconic, you know. But then I also remember like another time he came into the office um, you know, it's like a year later and in our offices was on the CBS Radford buttons to your city, and right next to the lot is a subway, you know, sandwich. Yeah. And he like, he like walks in, carrying like a His Subway sandwich bag like to eat and I just I just like kept thinking like, what did the sandwich maker like it was working that way for like making minimum minimum wage. And like Samuel Jackson comes in ask for a sandwich. And he's like making it like, I'm

Alex Ferrari 20:13
He's probably like, make me my mother effin said no.

Rebecca Windsor 20:18
But no, I mean, what I will say about Sam is so nice and down to earth, you know, obviously very cool, and all of that, but really, really smart. Also, you know, the great thing about that job is, you know, sometimes with these, like, talent production companies, you know, actor driven pods, it's a vanity deal. It's like, someone, you know, is just like, oh, yeah, I want to make TV or whatever, and it's good. And it was never about that. For Sam, I think that came from the fact that he just was a voracious viewer of television, and was really passionate about producing it and creating and being responsible for putting great TV out there. And it was the best version of that kind of company where he, he trusted my boss and I and our extensive TV experience to sort of advise him on like, why this might work and why this might not, you know, but also used to, you know, being Sam Jackson, to our advantage, if that helps. So, you know, would go to like the network pitches, so we could try and sell the project in the room. And he would, he would give notes on material and again, like his, his notes and his feedback, were always so spot on, because he has worked with the best filmmakers out there. So he knows story. He knows character. But you know, if you have a note and you said, you know, that's not gonna work because X, Y or Z, he was like, Great moving on, like, I get it. So it was. It was really wonderful experience. And it was just, you know, I think like, the biggest disappointment was that we just never got anything on the air, which happens with production.

Alex Ferrari 21:55
It takes it takes a minute. Now, as a side piece of trivia, since you brought up the CBS slot. I don't know if you knew this or not. But my wife and I actually owned an olive oil and vinegar gourmet shop for three years and we were on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City right by Laurel Canyon. And our back door opened up into CBS. So it was your shop. It was it was called originally Ferrari olive oil is right out there and we don't get me it was it was a dark time in our lives. We're talking about like, nine years ago, eight years ago, so I'm like seven years ago. Something like that. And it was right there at CVS. I used to I used to actually get I was it. Oh, God, Brooklyn nine, nine, always had to shoot in the backlot right in our street. So the so location guys, like, Hey, we're gonna be shooting here. I'm like, well, you're gonna have to pay me cuz you're gonna disrupt my business. They're like, I know. So they would just pay off everybody. Just even if it was like two blocks away. We're like, hey, yeah, you just drop in business.

Rebecca Windsor 23:03
I think we mustn't just because I left. I stopped working at CVS in May of 2012. So we must have

Alex Ferrari 23:15
Just missed like, over we overlap like six months, maybe. So yeah,

Rebecca Windsor 23:20
I would have gone there. I love

Alex Ferrari 23:22
We had some we had some good. We had a lot of celebrities that would come in and buy for the holidays and buy for their offices and things like that. But that was a different life. It was a lifetime ago. But I just thought, because everyone listening knows. They're always asking me when they meet me. Did you really have an olive oil store? I'm like, yes, it's a large, long, dark story of, of times where I was, I was burnt out by the business. happened to the bathroom. It happens to the best of us now. But so now currently, you're working for Warner Brothers in the development? Well, in the workshop, what exactly do you do with Warner Brothers now?

Rebecca Windsor 24:00
Oh, so I run the Writers Workshop and the directors workshop. So two talent pipeline programs kind of similar to what Sundance does with their labs, but focused on on television. So one is for aspiring TV writers and one is for aspiring TV directors.

Alex Ferrari 24:17
Do they just end in they just submit? Like it's just an application?

Rebecca Windsor 24:22
Yeah, the both of them are application based. So I guess just it's easier to talk about them one at a time. So with the writers workshop, the application is open the month of May, we asked for a stack of a show that's on the air, which I know specs are a little bit out of fashion. But we do it for a couple of reasons. One, that is the job of a scarf writer is you have to write your show runners voice so for us if you if we're reading a spec of you know Mrs. Mays all are Stranger Things or whatnot, and it doesn't feel like the show you've failed the assignment. And you wouldn't get you know, you would be fired if you're working on a show and can't capture it. So and I also, you know, original pilots are very tough. And it's sometimes hard, you know, to do like an apples to apples comparing material. But if we have sort of a bar of where we know a show is meant, like to be done, we can also because we have such a high volume of applicants, we get, like 2500 submissions. So to get through that material quickly, and again, you know, we're using like Mrs. nasals as an example, like, okay, which are the ones that, you know, do not feel like the show, okay, those are easy passes, and then you know, go back and say, okay, which are the ones that really stand out. So we get through that. And then if you advance to the next round, then we would ask for an original pilot, or it can be it can be a screenplay, it can be a play, just, you know, some original material, because it is important to us to see what you know, your voice is as a writer. And then from there, we interview a smaller group of candidates, which is very important because TV writing is a communal experience. So it is very important that we know that you are an okay, cool, chill person that can sit around for 10 hours with a bunch of people.

Alex Ferrari 26:05
So the best advice, the best advice I've ever gotten, and the best. And this is the advice. I always tell people, what advice do you have, for me working in the business I go, the biggest piece of advice is, just don't be a dick. And if you that is so valuable. And if you could just sit in a room with someone for eight hours not want to kill them, that sometimes Trump's talent because you might have two people who are equally talented, maybe the other one's a little bit more talented, but if he's up he or she is rough to work with, though I always go with the person I can.

Rebecca Windsor 26:37
Yeah, it's like the showrunners putting together a dinner party, like who are they gonna want to be with? And yes, like, don't be a dick is like obvious, that it's still worth saying. But you know, beyond that, it's it's, I mean, we will look for more than that. I mean, there are people who are not dicks, but like, don't, you know, maybe you're a little socially awkward, you know, like, they're nice people, but you're just like, or they're just so introverted, that they just, you know, and again, everyone has nerves when they come in. So there's a lot of that. And there's also just, you know, we're looking for that like, that spark, you know, the Genesee quad of a person that's, you know, memorable. Whether it's in talking about why they write what they write, you know, what drew them to writing, you know, we want to feel passionate about championing these people, because I then have to put my name on the line when I try and get them staffed, and I'm sending them to show runners. So it is a reflection on me, so I really need to stand by them. So it is it is there's no exact science to any of it. But it's you know, you know what, when you when you meet that person, and you go like, Oh, yeah, they are ready, you know, it's a little bit of that. So, um, so for the 2500 people, we pick eight, Jesus.

Alex Ferrari 27:56
That's, that's almost as bad as Sunday. No, Sunday's is much worse. That's like 30.

Rebecca Windsor 28:00
Yeah, it's a little similar. Yeah. And then, and then the program. And I say like, you need to be in LA for this. We are actually back in person this year, which is really great. We're using the same protocols that the studio is doing for writers rooms, everyone is vaccinated, masked and tested and stuff like that. But so it's very exciting to be in person, but you need to be in LA, we meet one night a week, so that people can have their day jobs, if they're writers, assistants or whatnot. We need from October through March. And a lot of the workshop is focused on everything else that you need to know to be successful beyond the writing, maybe we'll work on their writing. But again, it's so competitive. So if you've gotten in we acknowledge you're talented writer. But there are so many other factors that you know, things you need to learn that are like the soft skills of being a writer.

Alex Ferrari 28:48
So what are a couple? What are a couple of those soft skills?

Rebecca Windsor 28:51
Yeah, so we bring in, you know, showrunners, and executives, we do everything from a class, it's just an overview, like a macro level overview of how the business works. And then we do a lot of other classes. So like, we will do a class on interviewing skills, you know, how do you prepare for a general meeting with an executive versus you're meeting a showrunner to get a job on your show? We do a class on going to set you know, oftentimes the writer of the episode will be sent to set to produce the episode and they act as the proxy for the showrunner. So, your first time staff writer and you go to set you know, and how do you how do you interact with the episodes director if they're maybe not getting the things that you know your showrunner wants? What do you do when the actors don't want to say the lines? And sometimes, you know, you can call your showrunner you know, sometimes they're not available so really trying to see you know, what's expected in that situation? We do an improv class to get writers to think on their feet and not censor themselves. So often in a writers room with with you know, younger writers or newer writers. There's so much pressure put on themselves to pitch something perfect that's going to save the episode and it may not land and then you just let it sit there beating yourself up going like idiot I shouldn't have said you know, then you get in your head, and then you don't keep pitching. So we want to take that pressure off, know that no one's judging you, they're judging their own bad pitches that didn't land and just keep going. Um, we do, we do like a group writing exercise, because oftentimes, a lot of shows, especially when they're under the gun and behind schedule will kind of Frankenstein a script together, they'll just say you two writers are doing x one, u two writers are doing act two, and so on and so forth. And then you have to put it all together and make it cohesive. So we do a lot of those kinds of exercises. We talk about difficult rooms, you know, we have sort of a cone of silence class where we hear from some people about some of the challenges they faced in in challenging rooms, and how do you manage? How do you get through it? How do you find ally ship? When is it time to you know, leave? Do you speak up, do you not? So those are those kinds of classes. And then we also do a simulated writers room, which is where we get into like actual writing work. And everyone is assigned a spec of a show to write, and then they have to hit the deadlines that are expected in a real world circumstance. So they come in and they pitch their story area for their episode, okay, in a story, this is happening in the D and the C. And they have to, you know, write that and then the next week, they turn in their vicita. The next week, they turn in their outline, they write their script over Christmas break, and then they have one week to revise. So we're looking to see if those writers can write strong material quickly under pressure. But also, we have everyone in the class read each other's material, before they come into class, so that we can act like a writers room, because it's one thing to say, you know, Do this, don't do that. And it's another to put it into practice, and see if someone is talking too much, and not giving anyone else any space, or someone had a good idea, and then got really long winded and she was stopped talking three minutes ago, or I can tell someone has something to say, but they don't want to say it until it's perfectly articulated. We've probably moved on. So you know, it's just learning how to how to give feedback in a collaborative, collaborative, positive way and take feedback in a non defensive way and then be able to incorporate it into your material.

Alex Ferrari 32:12
So then, how does so that's that's the that's the writers workshop, which all sounds fantastic. If you want to be a television writer. Yeah. I mean, if you can get a lot of successes, yeah, if you could be one of the eight. I mean, that's pretty, that's pretty awesome. Now the directing said, How's that work.

Rebecca Windsor 32:27
Um, so it's similar in philosophy of taking, you know, directors who have not directed episodic before, so they come from indie film, or commercials or music videos, or whatnot. Um, it's different in a few important ways. I think the biggest distinction and the reason for the distinction is that breaking into episodic directing is maybe the hardest thing to do in the industry, even if you've made features, because compare it you know, if you're a writer, and you've got your first job as a staff writer, you are one of many writers on a staff and you're low man on the totem pole. So you're not expected to do the heavy lifting and save the episode, you're just there to pitch ideas and keep the conversation going. But as the director of the episode, you are the captain of the ship. So there is reluctance from a lot of showrunners to give their $5 million episode over to someone who hasn't done TV before. So. So that's where we step in, is to kind of mitigate that risk, if you will, so. So it's also application based and the application will be open. I think it's January 7 to February 6, coming up to apply, you just need to upload up to three pieces of material, and then you know, personal statement and whatnot. And the other difference is in the selection process. So we will review everyone's material, decide we're really excited about meet the finalists. But at the same time, we also start talking to our shows and identifying which shows are open to a first time director, we have several that are really supportive. They've had success with previous directors of the program. So they're likely to say yes, and then we also have many shows that are not supportive, because, you know, for one reason or another, I mean, we do a lot of big like superhero shows and genre things with action and stunts and green screen that not every emerging director has in their portfolio. But anyways, once we've identified the shows that will support it, we would then match make and send each showrunner three directors material and have them watch the material have the showrunner meet them. And if there's one out of that group that they want to support, they let us know and that gets them into the workshop. But by doing so, the showrunner is also guaranteeing them an episode on the upcoming season. And the reason we do that it means that obviously not as many people get in because we've sent them three directors, they're only picking one. But it's really important to us to not just be a shadowing program. There are several directing talent, you know, pipeline programs around and they all have value but some of them only offer shadowing, which is a great learning experience, but really really wanted our workshop to lead to work and be a path right? And so less people get in, but those that get in No, they have a job.

Alex Ferrari 35:08
So how many so how many submissions do you get? How many actual directors get work?

Rebecca Windsor 35:13
Um, it's so we get less submissions than the writers workshop because as you imagine, not It costs money to direct things. So not 2500 People may not have lots of materials. So I would say it's usually around like the 500. Mark, depending on the year, and in terms of how many people get in, it changes year to year, because it depends on how many people we get episodes for. I would say the average is between six and 10. But again, it's it it changes year to year again, like COVID, like threw us into a tizzy. We didn't do it last year, it was you know, so it'll be interesting to see what happens in the coming year. And then the workshop itself is a nine week masterclass that we do, like end of May the beginning or end of May the end of June. It's taught by two directors, Bethany Rooney, Mary Lee Belli who have over 300 episodes between them. And they've written a book on episodic directing, which is on our website, what's the name of the book? It's called directors tell the story.

Alex Ferrari 36:14
Gotta get them on the show. Or get them on the show

Rebecca Windsor 36:17
If you should, it's a really great book. Listen, I didn't go to film school. So I don't know, you know, I don't know, lenses. I don't know any of that stuff. And so it's a very approachable book. It's not a dry technical book. There's a lot of anecdotes. And what the book does is take you from prep through posts, like what is the process of episodic directing. So we use that book as our curriculum. And again, the class is not directing one on one because everyone that's gotten in, we've watched the material, we know they're talented, it's really about how's the medium of TV different? And what do you need to know to be successful?

Alex Ferrari 36:47
And you have to be and you have to be in LA for this as well.

Rebecca Windsor 36:50
And you what you have to be in LA for this year? Yeah. But it's a shorter span of time. So we have had people who just like get an Airbnb for a month or two, you know. And so part of the clock, like the first few classes are lecture basic. And using the book, I'm just kind of talking about the nuts and bolts, you show up on day one of crap, what to expect, you go into a concept meeting, who's running it? What do you expected to know? What do you need to start thinking about the questions that are going to be asked of you, when you go into tech Scout, these are the people who are going with you in the tone meeting, you know, with the showrunner, you know, that's your last opportunity to have certain conversation. So kind of breaking down that whole process, we'll also have a script that we're working off of for the duration, it's usually, you know, some TV show that one of them is directed in the past. So everyone will have homework of blocking and shortlisting and doing all the creative prep you'd normally do with, you know, character, intentions and obstacles and themes and motifs. And then we spent the last several classes, putting scenes from that script on their feet. So we work on one of our sound stages and bring actors in for the day. And then every director gets a chunk of time to work the scene and get it to where they want it, you know, in blocking and in performance, and then then they will get feedback from Bethany Mary Lou, on on a technical level, you know, how was your blocking to feel organic? Do people get like boxed into a corner was really weird? Is it you know, it was more movement? And then how was your coverage? Did you? Did you get all the shots you needed to? Did you miss anything? Did you cross the line? Is there possibly a more efficient way to get what you want? By combining these two shots? It's gonna save you time in your day. And then they also get feedback on it on a creative level, how are you collaborating with your actors? You know, the trick in TV is that episodic directors are freelance, you're a guest director. And so you kind of go from show to show so you go to a show that may have, they may have been working together for years. So it's not your cast. It's not your crew, they know their roles better than you. So how do you find the balance between being the captain of the ship and the leader and knowing what you want making your days having a plan, having a vision, but at the same time, being flexible? You know, and in the case of the actors, you may have, you know, figured out the blocking in such a way that's going to fit your shortlist. But if your actors instincts, tell them to do something different, that still works for the scene. Um, but means you have to change your shot list, are you able to be flexible on the fly, you know, you don't want to move them around like chess pieces, and have them feel like you're just as a dictator. So we work on all of those kinds of things. And then at the end of the workshop, we would arrange a time for those directors to go shadow on the show. They're going to be directing, so they get to know passing through ahead of time, and then a director episode and then they're off to the races.

Alex Ferrari 39:37
That's that sounds again, amazing. If you're a director out there listening I would definitely suggest you submit to both of these programs. Now you obviously have over the years have read a few scripts from young writers what is the biggest mistake you see young writers make?

Rebecca Windsor 39:55
Oh my god. Okay, so really like simple one is Proof Reading, you know,

Alex Ferrari 40:01

Rebecca Windsor 40:02
Those are the worst. It's I mean, it's like, if you're bad if you have tunnel vision, like just give it to someone give it to a friend like just, you know, it's it just shows sort of, like lack of, you know, professionalism and effort, lack of proper Thank you professionalism. But I think, you know, sort of creatively, I think, um, I think I see a lot of us, but on the one hour side, you know, with, say, like genre shows, or any sort of like role building show two things. One is that you want to set up your world really quickly and really cleanly. So I know the rules, and I understand it, and then it's just the window dressing, and then you get into your characters, because it doesn't matter if we're talking Game of Thrones, or we're talking, you know, any other sort of big show. We're not watching it for like dragons, right? Maybe some people are, but we're watching it for character. Emotions, the relationships, right? And so a lot of times you're either the world is not set up, clearly enough. And I'm going wait, I don't understand. Like, there's two universes and you know, like that kind of a thing. I don't want to have to ask questions, or all it is, is world building. And all it is is like, set pieces and action, genre,

Alex Ferrari 41:16
There's the plot or character, right. There's the plot character. Right, right, right. Yeah. Cuz I mean, look, we've all seen dragons. We don't show up, you know,

Rebecca Windsor 41:24
Weve all seen vampire shows. But like, the reason they keep making them is if you have a specific point of view, and a different way of doing a vampire show that's really captivating. It can be successful, or not like he cares.

Alex Ferrari 41:35
Yeah, we've all seen we've seen vampires. And we've seen vampires done very, very well. So we don't Yeah, it's not just about the, it's not the what I guess when the vampires really start kicking back up. I mean, 90s 80s

Rebecca Windsor 41:49
Well, there was Interview with the Vampire, which was, I think, like, 99.

Alex Ferrari 41:52
Yeah, and Lost Boys in near dark, and that kind of stuff back in the 80s. But you know, it was it was it was kind of like with specifically with something like vampires. It was novel. Back then. Yeah. And like, oh, a vampire script. Now it's like a really another word. You've got to you've got to really take it to another place. Now, the same question goes for directors, have you seen a lot of directors samples and things like that? Yeah. Is there something that you see constantly from young directors who submit that you're like, they just don't understand this part, or they did this wrong, you know, things like that. Or even just even even after the even after they get into the program, even maybe they're extremely talented as directors, but they don't know how to work this crew. They don't know how to work the set. They don't know how to work the politics of it all.

Rebecca Windsor 42:36
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, a couple of things. I mean, I think I have a three fold answer. Okay, what is again, a little similar, like, it's a little similar to the writer things, you know, that style over substance, you know, like something that's like, looks really cool, and it's got visuals and all that stuff, but has no soul to it. Again, I still, I want it to look good. But, but I again, I'm watching it for the characters. Um, I think in terms of applying, and this is not a mistake that directors are make, but it's, it's more just a challenge by virtue of what you know, what we do at Warner Brothers, that there are sometimes really talented filmmakers whose films just feel too tiny, you know, to indie, and I can see the value in but not every producer, can, you know, they can be a little myopic if it's just like, you know, like quiet little dysfunctional family drama set in like 1920s, Kansas in one house, and whatever. And it's like, great performance, but there's no scope to it. I think, again, it's not a mistake, it's just sort of knowing, okay, if you're playing to Warner Brothers, and look at the shows that we're doing, right off, there's often going you know, and it's not just that you need to have like action sequences in your material. But I think thinking about some, you know, cinematic quality, visual style, all of that can go a long way.

Alex Ferrari 43:56
But you got to play to your audience, like, who is my customer here, when I'm submitting stuff, if Warner Brothers is my customer, I'm not gonna I'm not gonna give him the little indie shot in one room. Unless it's extreme. I mean, it has to be at a level that is so good that you just like, Holy Jesus. But if you could show off a little bit of scope, like, we could put them on the flash, we could put them on on one of those shows

Rebecca Windsor 44:19
That's why we asked her, that's what he asked for three samples. So if you have one sample that is super tiny, but like, your performances are just like, amazing. And then you have another sample that shows you know, maybe you're a commercial directory, the brand new continent, it's really like slick and stuff like that. That's great. So we know that you can do that and you can do that. Um, and then I guess the third piece of advice, which I think is more for, you know, writer directors, in particular, who you know, come from film and are used to you know, that autour driven. I am the sole creative voice on this show. That doesn't work well in TV because in TV, it's a writer's medium. The showrunner is king. So while yes, you are, like I said the capital into the ship of this episode, you're servicing another master. And so I think, you know, when I hear about, you know, a particular director on their first episode, or maybe not their first episode, but he just like, did not work well with the crew and was sort of, you know, was not collaborative. It's, that's something that I always tell people, it's like, if you're going to get into this, know that, it you are not that guess you bring ideas, but ultimately, it's not your decision. But having said that, I think there are a lot of benefits to indie directors, working in television sustainability, of course, and like making a living like you go, like, if you get like three to five episodes in a year, that takes up like, three to five months, and then you've made enough money to live and you can go spend the other part of your year working on your passion projects. But I think equally important, is that what you got to do as an episodic director is go from show to show and not a, that means you're directing a lot, you know, a lot of feature directors get to direct what once every couple of years, if they're lucky, you know, for film, or you get to you get it, you're honing your craft, and you get to continue doing it. And you get to work in different genres, with different casting crew with different toys, you know, so everything you're doing on episodic, on the episodic side, is going to make you better director on your own project.

Alex Ferrari 46:18
Now, you also, you travel to a bunch of different festivals and, you know, markets and things like that. And I have to believe that you have been because I've been approached this way. So I can only imagine what you once they find out who you are. They're like, Oh my god, do they? Can you talk for everyone listening, how not to approach someone in the business? If you're just like that, with that desperation? That I call it a kind of a cologne that we can smell kind of like Jakar in the 80s. Yeah. It's just smell it. And it's so off putting, and it's so unprofessional and the way you do it, it's like I just met you, Hey, can you make my dreams come true? I just met you. You don't know me? What do I need to do for you to make my dreams come true? And that's generally not the way do you purchase so can you explain maybe a horror story that you have? And how you should approach someone like yourself At least?

Rebecca Windsor 47:14
Yeah, well, actually, there was like one of the most awkward interactions I've ever experience happened in Austin Film Festival, although this wasn't exactly that, but we were at a different mixer. And he was, I was standing with two of my friends. One's a writer, one's an executive. And we were we were talking about a mutual friend. And this girl just kind of came into our circle. I was like, Uh huh. Uh, huh. Like laughing along with us? Like, she was, like, part of the conversation. She's like, wait, wait, who are we talking about now? And it was like, and she didn't introduce herself. And she just sort of like, inserted herself in a very, very awkward way. And didn't have an ask of us, which I will, you know, like I was happy about, but we were just sort of like, we didn't know what energy who and she was like, oh, yeah, I thought you were talking about this movie, though. We're like, no, no, we're just talking about a friend of ours. Okay. Okay. But like, didn't, didn't pick up on like, it's like reading the room. Right. Um, so that was very weird. But yeah, like, there are people who just, I mean, I think in general, most people that I have experienced, or at least when I meet them at a festival, are respectful, you know, especially like, if I'm, like, if I'm leaving a panel on the table, I don't want to take too much of your time. I just had like, a quick question. Happy to do that. Sure. Of course. Um, so I think it's really just a we're like at the Driscoll bar, which is like the hotel that everyone hangs out with, at the end of AWS, it's like from 4pm Till, you know, the wee hours. Everyone's just sort of, like hanging out, which is great. And, again, happy to have those conversations, but it's like, recognizing, if, if you see someone that you know, you want to talk to, and they are like, in a deep conversation with someone, maybe not at that time, like find, find your moment, right. And then again, if we're sort of in a more social relaxed atmosphere, just be mindful that we also just, like, we're happy to have conversations, but we also want to, like take a break from, you know, from time to time. So I think it's just, you know, being really respectful of people's time. I mean, most people I know, including myself, and my friends are happy to give advice and ask, you know, but, you know, and then there are times where someone will say like, because I don't work in development. So someone will say like, Oh, can I send you my pilot to see if Warner Brothers wants to make it and I'm like, I don't I don't do that, you know, I'm, oh, what? Can you send it to someone? And again, like, then that requires like me reading it and putting my my reputation on the line. And, you know, and there have been times that I will send a person or a piece of material but I think having that ask him in that way, like puts me in a weird position.

Alex Ferrari 49:53
Right and also that asked him somebody you don't know. Like, if you've built a relationship with them, you might know the work or you Like, all that kind of stuff, it would be a little bit different than, than someone just walking up to him like, Hey, here's my script. Can you go hand it to Samuel L. Jackson? Like, like, it's, and that's where a lot of people, you know, hopefully people not listening to the show. Everyone listening to the show would not know not to do this, but, but a lot of times I've seen Look, people send me material. Like, can you help me produce my movie? I'm like, No. Do you not know who I am? i That's not me. It's not what I do at events or festivals. Some people are like, Hey, can you I know that you interviewed? You know, Edgar, right? Can you get this script to I'm like, Oh, my God, I'm like, Dude, no, like, even if I could call Edgar up on the phone, which I can't, I wouldn't do that. Because it's the exact same thing you'd like, I've got to read it. I've got to, like it makes Come on.

Rebecca Windsor 50:52
Yeah. And you know, listen, I have a lot of sympathy for, of course, you know, for aspiring writers and directors, and especially when they are not in New York and LA, because I think it doesn't. I mean, even in New York and LA, it can feel insurmountable. But you generally make out some connections here or there. But you know, again, when you go to festivals, you get people from all over the country and world who just are like, how do I do this? I don't know how to figure it out. So I do have a lot of sympathy and want to be helpful. But I think, you know, to your point, it's, it's yes, like, if you are trying to break in as a writer or director, like, do your research and figure out strategies and not just like, cast a wide net to every person that you have ever come into contact with?

Alex Ferrari 51:33
Yeah, that's the shotgun approach doesn't really work. You got to be more, you know, you got to be more more surgical. With Yes. And do and do your research. Do your homework. Don't pitch somebody who does comedy, a horror script, like that's, this is what a one, but it's a lot of people that like, so desperate, they're like, Well, you're in the business. I want to get into the business. i You're my opening. You're my way in. Yeah, it's just weird. But I wanted to put that out there for people listening, because I think it's a service that we need for young people coming up. Because look, I look, I don't know about you. But when you were starting, I was starting out. I had I bought, I literally bought cases of that desperation. Jakar and I doused myself with it. And anytime I would go to an industry party, you could literally just smell the desperation on me. So I know what it feels like to be on the other side of that. And that's why I'm so like, that's why I put 21 of the reasons I did the show to educate people about Yeah, don't don't do that. It doesn't work.

Rebecca Windsor 52:34
You're doing God's work.

Alex Ferrari 52:35
I'm Trump doing the best I can. Now where can people go to submit to both the television Writers Workshop and the directors workshop.

Rebecca Windsor 52:44
So, um, we have a website with all like, so much of what I talked about, and more. And, you know, as I mentioned, for the writers workshop, we have, you have to write a spec to get in, we have a list of accepted shows, because it's not every single show on air, because it'd be impossible, but it's a really comprehensive list and we update it, we'll update it by the first week of January based on what's been cancelled and what we need to add. So that's on there. On the directors workshop side, we also have a list for for shorts filmmaker. So like if you if you've made a feature, no problem. But if you've made a short we have sort of like the top, you know, 100 short, like Academy, qualifying shorts, festivals, we just want to make sure people are not submitting, you know, films that they made on their phone. Because they're unless they're Shaun Baker, but you know, so so that is on our website, which of course it to

Alex Ferrari 53:39
Go ahead, I'm gonna put it in the show notes anyway, but

Rebecca Windsor 53:41
It's a it's TelevisionWorkshop.Warnerbros.com.

Alex Ferrari 53:46
Fair enough.

Rebecca Windsor 53:47
And also, there's like a Contact Us button. So if you just have like a general question that you know that I have an answer, you know, it goes, you know, someone will say that.

Alex Ferrari 53:58
And I and I'm going to ask you a few questions that I asked all of my guests. Okay, what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Rebecca Windsor 54:08
I think if it is the only thing that you want to do, and I say this again is like recovering, like, currently after recovering, recovering, struggling. So you know, if there's anything, we're just like, I don't need to be like a parent. Like, if there's anything else you want to do do it. But if you know that this is your goal, you have to find a way to do it. So if you're a writer, it's even easier, like you just keep writing you have to you know, and if you you know if you can find like a writer's group, you know, just a couple of friends or colleagues that can keep you discipline. So, you know, you know, I know writers need deadlines. So it's, you know, you're meeting once a month and you have to have a new draft and you have to have a revision, you have to have a pitch, you know, you just have to keep doing it. Even if you have a script that has been very successful and gotten you lots of meetings. That's only going to work for a couple of years and you know, years later, people are gonna want new material for you. So I think you have to keep writing and then directing Yes, you still have to keep directing, it's so much harder. I know, because it costs money, it costs a lot of money to direct stuff. But if that's what you want to do, you have to find ways to do it. And whether it's through, you know, branded content, or whether it's, you know, commercials or, you know, I don't even know how you know how else you find ways to direct but again, if that's your goal, you have to keep working at it. It's the only way to again, hone your skills. And people are, again, going to want to see new material, like I don't want someone applying to the directors workshop with something they made 10 years ago. You know, I want to see that you aid not have something that's super dated, but also have the drive this is this is what this is your passion. And this is the only thing you want to do in your life, you found a way to make it work.

Alex Ferrari 55:52
Fair enough. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Rebecca Windsor 56:00
Um, yeah, don't compare yourself to other people's paths? Yes. And I still struggle with that from time to time, you know, even you know, as I, you know, made the switch from acting to, you know, go into executive path. My path was very zigzaggy. You know, I had friends that I started out at my first agency job with who got a job working for, you know, X producer, or whatever. And that person became their mentor, and they just, like, champion them, and they skyrocketed. And now they're like, running, you know, departments and stuff like that. And for me, I never had that, you know, I, like I said, I ended up in Mandeville films, even though I knew I wanted to work in TV, but I was like, No, I'm gonna work at this feature company and worked with the President and then worked at it at a tea pot, and we just didn't get anything made and then went to Sundance, which like, none of it sort of makes sense, if you will. And if like one other job had come along, or I didn't accept something with it, maybe my path would have been quicker, you know, because some, you know, several of my friends had much faster rises than me. And it was always so frustrating. Like, why is it taking me so long? To get ahead? You know, why can't I work for the boss who's going to promote me? But having said that, when I got this job at Warner Brothers, it, it was the culmination and it was like, all of my different experiences. Having worked at Sundance, running a talent pipeline program, having worked in TV before, made me the perfect person for that job, and made the job perfect for me. So Hindsight is 2020. You know, and don't compare yourself to other people. And especially if you're a writer, director, it's even you know, there is no one right way to go about doing it. So just trust that you're, you know, on the right path and keep working and it'll happen.

Alex Ferrari 57:50
Know what, three pilots that every television writer should read.

Rebecca Windsor 57:58
Oh, God.

Alex Ferrari 58:00
I know there's different genres but just generally.

Rebecca Windsor 58:05
I mean, the Friday Night Lights pilot, I think was just so perfect. Um, I mean, I hate to say like breaking down a madman. That's what everybody says. But it's but it's but it's true. They're there. They're great pilots.

Alex Ferrari 58:20
The Wire. Sopranos.

Rebecca Windsor 58:23
Yeah. Dexter was a great pilot.

Alex Ferrari 58:28
Lost was a good pilot too

Rebecca Windsor 58:29
Lost was a good pilot. I'm trying to think if there's anything more recently. Um, I think the great is a great pilot. Oh, no, there's so many.

Alex Ferrari 58:49
Okay, that was good. We listed a bunch of them off. And lastly, three of your favorite films of all time.

Rebecca Windsor 58:56
Oh my god. It's like choosing among my children. Um, let's see. Princess Bride. Genius. Heather's

Alex Ferrari 59:08
Oh, so good. Heather's that's our generation though. That is so our generation.

Rebecca Windsor 59:15
Oh, man, what's the third? Ah Oh, my God.

Alex Ferrari 59:27
I mean, it's not gonna be on your gravestone, so you could just kind of

Rebecca Windsor 59:31
No, I know, I know. I'm like, do I go with like one of those movies you could just like, watch over and over and over. Or something that's like important.

Alex Ferrari 59:39
Just what No, yeah, cuz yeah. Like, yeah, Citizen Kane and seven, seven.

Rebecca Windsor 59:45
Schindler's List, right. One of the best movies of all time that I never want to see again.

Alex Ferrari 59:53
That's so true. There's some movies that you watch. Once you're like, I'm good. It was fantastic. I never want to go down that road again.

Rebecca Windsor 1:00:00
I think the one like that's that fits that bill the most is Requiem for a Dream. Oh, that movie and I was like, I don't know what I just thought it was brilliant and I can't get those images out of my head ever. But, uh,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:15
I remember pi. When I saw when I saw pi two. I was like, I don't need I loved it. I don't need sci pi again. Like, it's just like, yeah, it's there's just a thin density there but

Rebecca Windsor 1:00:26
Yeah, but I'm feeling you I'm feeling you know ah Clue

Alex Ferrari 1:00:42
I love Oh my god clue. Please, everyone listen to go watch clue. The the Great. Tim Curry

Rebecca Windsor 1:00:51
And not on call.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:52
Oh my god, Madeline Kahn. And I wish a studio would have the cornice to do what they did with clue and release three different river endings in the theater at the same time. So people were like, well, this is how the movie had a no it didn't it ended this way. And then we'll go back. Oh my God, it was such a brilliant marketing move. Why hasn't anyone done that again?

Rebecca Windsor 1:01:18
I don't know. Sorry. Can I amend it? i Can I say one more which again? That I think is like one of again, I don't they don't make movies like this anymore. Goonies. Oh, it's just a perfect adventure film with children that you know what I mean? Like, there hasn't been a movie. Like, obviously, we have kids the same age. And it's like, I wish that there was a movie like that for them. I just like, I don't think that there is like something smart and fun and not like,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:49
Yeah, it's tough. It's tough to find stuff like that anymore. I mean, and now we were sound like the two old farts in the room. Yeah, back when we were kids went back when we were kids.

Rebecca Windsor 1:01:59
Recently. I really liked the favorite.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:02
Yeah, that's good. That's good. But Rebecca, thank you so much for being on the show. I truly appreciate you. You the work that you're doing God's work. You're bringing new artists into the world and hopefully giving them ways to make a living in this insanity that we call the film industry. So I do appreciate everything you do. And thank you again for being on the show.

Rebecca Windsor 1:02:24
Thank you so much for having me

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BPS 146: How to Succeed as a Screenwriter with Thomas Dever

Today on the show we have head of writer success at Coverfly, Thomas Dever. Thomas has been helping screenwriters for years. I wanted to have him on the show to discuss what he’s seeing in the film business, from a street level.

Thomas works with all the major agencies, top end producers and managers. If anyone knows what Hollywood is looking or he’d be the one.

We also discuss how screenwriters can better position themselves in the marketplace, debunk a few myths many screenwriters believe and much more.

Enjoy my conversation with Thomas Dever.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:00
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome to the show Thomas Dever. How're you doing, Thomas?

Thomas Dever 0:15
I am doing well. Thanks so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
Oh, man, thanks for coming on the show, man. You know, you and I have been working together in a in a way for a while now. Because you guys work. You work with coverfly, who works with me on bulletproof script coverage? And why this hasn't happened earlier? I have no idea. So I'm glad you're here. Now we're going to talk all things about the business and how to, you know, I hope that you have all the answers, Thomas, because all of the answers because, you know, there's a lot of screenwriters listening right now who want to know how to make it. And I was told, you know, so we're gonna get into this.

Thomas Dever 0:52
No pressure.

Alex Ferrari 0:54
But how did you get started in the business?

Thomas Dever 0:57
Oh, I mean, I feel like I've got a pretty usual story that I grew up in the Midwest and film industry was just this mythical thing way out on the West Coast. And pretty much as soon as I finished undergrad, I packed up my stuff and moved out without really kind of any clue of what I was gonna do, how it was gonna work. Just like I think as soon as I realized, oh, people like actually do this for a living. And these are actual, like businesses, and I can work at them. Just kind of that was all I wanted to do, you know, started internship to then reading with a production company that had first look studio deal. So we're really fortunate to get that was my crash course on development and coverage and everything that goes into a film before it gets made. And then from there, I started working for a producer that was working on a Fox Searchlight film. So then, that was my crash course on how a film actually gets made. And then after that, I think everybody was kind of telling me, you know, you really got to work at the agencies, the agencies is what you do, that's kind of the way that you get into it. I interviewed at two of them, I won't say which scared the hell out of me, like, genuinely, the interviewer scared the hell out of me. I remember walking out in my, like, nicest suit that I could find and telling the HR person like, Yeah, I think you can take my name off the list, I don't think because I a little too thin skinned and little to reset from the Midwest. So then, yeah, so then I just kind of, I think I use the Verba, mid 20s my way around around the industry for a little bit of producing some things continuing to sort of work and freelance capacity taught at a film school at one point, before eventually finding my way to this, you know, this little world where we found each other, which, you know, the competition and the coverage space. And truly, I went into it, thinking, you know, I remember the scripts that I would write coverage on at the production company with the with the studio deal, and like, they weren't great. They really, I remember thinking, being a professional screenwriter is very attainable, based on me samples. And so when I went into the competition, I was expecting, like, Microsoft Word documents and typos and incoherent stories. And I started reading for them. And it was like, Oh, this is, this is really good. And this one's really good. And this writer is amazing. And these writers are every bit as talented like, what, what's like my brain couldn't process. And I think that's where it all sort of clicked to me of the like, all at once the sort of barriers to entry, not necessarily being your skill sets, or your quality of your writing or your dedication or your discipline, it's all of these other sorts of things, you know, be it geographic or socio economic, or, you know, you know, there's these sort of cliches of who you know, in the industry. And then I think the the rest is history kind of just really dedicated to this competition space. And then ultimately, the the platform that became cover fly, and, and creating those opportunities and providing that level of access and insight and resources to the writers that, you know, weren't fortunate enough to just have that readily available.

Alex Ferrari 4:33
What was what's so fascinating thing a lot of screenwriters don't understand this, they think that good writing and good screenplays are are unicorns, where, I mean, you've read 1000s of scripts, probably in your career. I've read a ton of scripts over the years and I've read some stuff from really accomplished screenwriters, people who have published like, have produced screenplays, some of them even with Some Oscar nominations, I've read some of these scripts, and they can't get them financed. They can't, they can't get them in. And then it just like, it's disheartening. I'm like, wait a minute, this thing is sitting on someone's shelf for the last 10 years. It is amazing. It's one of the best scripts I've ever written. And no one's financing this with with talent attached. And I'm like, What? What is going on, let alone the unknown scripts that I've read from screenwriters who are so talented? And I'm like, why are some Why do some pop? And why do some don't? And it's, I mean, I'd love to ask that question to you. Like, why do and it's a hard question. Like, why does one guy or one gal make it? Oh, get the opportunity to door opens for them? And the other one doesn't? If their talent is at the same level, you know, is you know, give or take?

Thomas Dever 5:49
Sure. Yeah, I mean, it's a it's a strange thing, right? I love a good craft panel or lecture. And I love like craft is undoubtedly more fun than the business. But the business considerations are what are deciding it? Because like, of course they are, you know, that this is a, you've brought commerce into it. And these are, these are companies that are distributing projects. And that doesn't mean that they're all Philistines that hate art. It just means that there's their considerations and what happens here, other than simply what is on the page, and I think that you can find a ton of examples of those of projects that were, you know, not in demand, and then you know, wait a few years, and suddenly they they are and your script that everyone was passing on is is aligns with that. Because the one thing I would say to your question is, you can't like so much of it is out of your control, like so much of it is out of your control. I don't know anybody that can write fast enough to either anticipate or accommodate like the trends, which of course, you're going to be changing on a regular basis. And they also don't know if I've met a screenwriter that can pander, you know, that can write something just because they think it's popular, and not really have

Alex Ferrari 7:16
It's too hard, it's too hard.

Thomas Dever 7:18
I recycle the cliche that like, Look, if it wasn't fun for you to write, it's really not going to be fun for me to read, watch or watch, or watch, right. And I think anybody can see through that. So really, I think our approach to it, you know, if you sort of consider whether your goal is getting staffed on a series, or signing with representation, or getting your project option, or sold, like the last step of that is a decision maker reading it and responding to the material. And there's nothing that you can do to make that happen. Like there's literally nothing that you can do, they're either going to like it or they're not. And so if you accept that, like the final stage of this, you have zero control over, it sort of puts in perspective, put your energy towards the things that you can control, right, which is the material that you're putting out the putting out the best possible version of it networking, creating those opportunities, getting in front of those decision makers, I guess, to increase the odds of responding to it and increasing the odds of this scenario that you have no control over. Because I would say the two the two most common things that I have seen in the sort of writers that quote unquote, make it which is maybe like a separate discussion of what making it. But the two most common things that I've seen is one, they they just they worked their ass off, like they truly just went when I meet the sort of more six most successful or busiest writers or highest level writers that I know. It's like, oh, hey, what have you been up to? And they're like, Well, I just did a draft of this feature. And I'm doing a polish on this treatment. And I'm also going out with this other thing, and that's just in like the past couple of weeks, you know, that is just you have to crank out the material and and it is just, um, it's a really the discipline and the dedication to it. And then the other tree is just a clear focus, like a really clear kind of focus on what their strengths are, what their goals are, what they want to do, what they're good at. And this kind of on this knack for not ever getting knocked off of that, that that not having a sort of like 10 step plan that goes to hell, if Step Two doesn't go as you thought it was going to that is just like, Yeah, I'm going to be a staff writer and oh, this didn't pan out. So I'm going to try this pathway and getting an opportunity that's not like a literal one to one of what they're trying to do, but seeing like, Okay, here's the parts of this that can move me towards my goal. So that's what I'm going to get out of this opportunity. Um, and and so that that's the closest thing that I can sort of I Identify in terms of commonality.

Alex Ferrari 10:02
Yeah. And again that that I love that you said that what is the definition of success? And so many screenwriters think it's getting that million dollar spec script or $2 million spec script or, but, you know, I always look at success now and this is maybe just because I'm a bit older now it's just like, can I make can I? Can I make a living doing what I'd love to do? Can I keep my roof over my head? You know, food on the table, send my kids to school, you know, live a comfortable life. I don't need millions can I do what I love to do? And that's that's a disconnect for a lot of screeners because they're sold so often only they're sold the lottery ticket. I always use the term lottery ticket mentality. They're sold, you know, and it goes back to Shane Black and Joe Astor house back in the 90s. When they were pulling in two, three $4 million. A picture or a script? Do you know your story? Do you know that Do you know the the story? I have to tell I haven't sold the story on the show?

Thomas Dever 11:02
I don't. I don't know just to that like what you're gonna say that like the industry that Blake Snyder describes and save the cat was just kind of like popping off ideas. Oh, yeah. Like that's the industry that I want to work in because that's dope

Alex Ferrari 11:02
God that was it was seeing at the moment. No, it's great. There was a story I heard from from a friend of mine of a house Shane Black and his lot that movie Last Action Hero which has got his the record 4 million you got 4 million for that. He Do you know that he sold that? That script off of a cocktail napkin idea.

Thomas Dever 11:43
It rings a bell. It sounds like I read this in our Grantland article way back when it was

Alex Ferrari 11:49
I just heard this. I was at afff the other day and I was talking to somebody at the bar and I know that I know that. You know, I know. It's it's a reputable person I'm talking to so they're like, this is how it happened. Apparently, the agent of Shane said, Hey, do you have an idea for a movie? And he's like, Yeah, I have a great idea for movie goes. Write it on this cocktail napkin. He wrote these logline on the COC that no script logline on the on the cocktail basket and then that agent called every studio head in Hollywood and said, I've got Shane Black's next script on a cocktail napkin. And you need to come to my office, and you can read it in my office. And wait a minute, and he goes, You can't send anybody it has to be you. So all the six or seven major studio heads all came down to the office read it and there was a bidding war off of over a lot of the cocktail napkin logline and ended up being 4 million for Last Action Hero, which then of course did not do well. And Shane Shane had a little rough time for the next decade. Until he came back.

Thomas Dever 13:01
We got we got nice guys, eventually.

Alex Ferrari 13:03
We know what brought him back was kiss kiss, bang, bang.

Thomas Dever 13:06
There we go. Sorry.

Alex Ferrari 13:07
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang brought him back.

Thomas Dever 13:09
It's like 20 25 years,

Alex Ferrari 13:11
But he was out when he was out for about I think it was about 14 years. Like he was like he couldn't get arrested. He couldn't get arrested. It was serious. But then he finally got Kiss Kiss Bang Bang made and then that launched him back into the good graces. But that was an I use that story as a as an example of the insanity. That I think that was the height of the the the being drunk. I think it was just being drunk on the spec scripts situations back then.

Thomas Dever 13:39
Sure. Yeah. I mean, well, that stories. That story is way sexier, right? Because super sexy if you're if you're sitting at home because writing is such an isolating thing, right? It's literally you you in the screen and the keyboard it is it's so low and some that I feel like it's more romantic to picture just coming up with this once in a generation idea and then the millions of dollars based off of that. I think that's maybe a more enticing story to hear then just yeah, you just like you work your ass off every day and you take these sort of progression these progressive steps with with your career, and you sort of grind your way up to that's

Alex Ferrari 14:22
Not sexy at all. That's not I don't want to hear that. Thomas. I want to hear the cocktail napkin story times I don't want to hear I have to work hard for this.

Thomas Dever 14:31
No, and that's I mean, that's the thing is it's and you know, even with even with that, I feel like it's not like it's not like they pulled shame. Blacks name out of a hat right? You know, he he was already exactly 10 to 15 years before that of the of the grind to get to it. But no, I absolutely and I think that that is the I understand the allure of thinking like that but but the truth is, or at least the more common thing that we're seeing as he is just, it's a job like anything else. And it's difficult, but

Alex Ferrari 15:05
You know, and so I'll give you another another story that might illustrate what we're talking about when Shane was passing around Lethal Weapon. Every studio passed on Lethal Weapon, every studio passing Lethal Weapon. It was a young from my understanding was a young Chris Moore, who is the Oscar nominated producer of Goodwill Hunting and Project Greenlight did all that stuff. He read it and said, This is great. And he forced it up the ladder and got someone to finally take a real look at it again and got it financed. But it was passed on everybody passed it because it was such a Buddy Cops were essentially the new the buddy cop really came in with in 48 hours. And that was only probably a couple years prior to that. So it wasn't a thing yet. And people passed on it. So it was just like he had a champion. And then of course the talent was there. And then everything else blew up. Yeah. And

Thomas Dever 16:01
I think that that kind of goes back to it. Right, which is what I was just saying a few minutes ago though, like, hey, the last step of this you have no control over that was even a script as incredible as lethal weapon. It's getting to exactly that or just not responding to it. But you keep you keep sending it out. You keep sending it out. You keep working on it until it finds the one and you just find that one champion, and that's really kind of all you need sometimes.

Alex Ferrari 16:24
Well, yeah, I mean, finding that finding that champion and finding we all need champions, everybody needs a champion. Spielberg had a champion, you know, Nolan, Shane, everybody, all these guys have champions. You know, if it wasn't for Steven Soderbergh, Nolan wouldn't have gotten I think was insomnia, which then of course, got him Batman. And then the rest is history. Right? Yeah, you know, so but you need someone to just go, Hey, it's okay. But you got to keep grinding. And that's the thing that people the screenwriters specifically don't understand is the grind. It's the grinding day in day out, do the work. I think the other thing is too, I always tell I always tell screenwriters this that if you if you have if you've been working on a screenplay for seven years, you're not a professional screenwriter anymore. You should read. You need to have 10. At seven years. Yes, like 510 screens?

Thomas Dever 17:16
Yeah, I mean, even to like what you were saying earlier, though, because I think that's one of the things that like we so cover fi with, we have a dedicated to you and people and we offer free consulting for screenwriters. And that's whether you're a professional screenwriter that's hit a, you know, hit a rut or you're just an emerging screenwriter, we'll you know, we'll consult and we'll help kind of come up with a focus and a plan moving forward. The first question I asked everybody is, what's the dream like genuinely what's, what is the dream if I could stop, not like, what you think you're supposed to be doing based on trends, or what you think is realistically attainable? Given your circumstances? Like genuinely, if I could, like sprinkle pixie dust or snap my fingers? What would you be doing? Because, like, let's figure out a way to do that, you know, that if your dream is to just make indie films that you write direct produce, that's an awesome dream, let's figure out how to make that happen, you're probably not going to make that happen by cranking out pilot samples and trying to get staffed in a room because you think that that is like the more viable pathway. And you're gonna do a lot of work and probably be unhappy. Right? Even with that your goal is to write and direct your own. And like, Look, if you can find a way through that, that it's like, okay, I'll use this to ultimately get back to the goal. Do that, but it's, you know, do Do you know, like, what you were saying, then like, finding a way to be happy with it. And I think if your goal is to just sell finance and make your own projects, like, do it, instead of living up to this, like that the only measurement of success is selling studio specs or something, it's, you know, that's, that's some person's dream, but that doesn't have to be yours.

Alex Ferrari 19:06
Right! No, and I think that what you said it was so wonderful, is being happy doing what you're doing. Because, I mean, I always wanted my goal, my dream, if you were gonna ask me that back when I was 22, I want to direct feature films. That's all I want to do. I want to direct feature films, but I jumped into post production, because that was a way to make a living. And I was very grateful for that. But I was probably in there a lot longer than I should have. And I should have really fought a lot harder to get out of just doing editing or color grading or post supervising or the other stuff that I was doing to make a living. To the point where I got so unhappy. I was bitter I was angry. I was I always tell people to angry and bitter story which anytime I speak, I speak in front of audience. How many people here know an angry and bitter screenwriter? And then everyone raise their hands and like if you didn't raise your hand, you're the angry and bitter screenwriter everybody else knows. So So But it's because you become angry and like that person's like, Oh, I'm working in, I'm working in a writers room. I've been pounding out these pilots. It's horrible. I'm on like this fourth or fifth level down, show somewhere in, you know, in the middle of the country or whatever. And I hate doing what I'm doing. But I what I really want to do is what you just said, I want to write, I want to write direct produce my indirect in detail, because

Thomas Dever 20:27
That's, that's the thing. I think that there's this. I don't know, there's this perception that, gosh, we're getting like, so philosophical here. And it's like, good perception and money is gonna make you happy, like genuinely, post people do pretty well. And if you're on top level projects,

Alex Ferrari 20:44
I did. I did. Right? I did fine. I did, I kept I, my, my, I was good. For a long time. The post, I can't say anything negative about it. But I wasn't happy doing it. Just just as the same thing. If someone paid me a million dollars a year to, to, you know, push a broom around all day, I, the money would be great. But at a certain point, you just like, This is not what I want to do. This is not why I'm here. And now you start asking the question, well, why am I here? Am I here to make money? Am I here to be happy? Now we're really getting deep into philosophy.

Thomas Dever 21:21
Because that's, I mean, usually, it's funny that we're going through like, the progression is like we're deconstructing a cover of like consultation calls. Yeah, another question that I asked, right, like you and I were saying before we fired it up, like we're crazy, right? This, oh, this is insanity. And you know, that I, I admire the conviction that I had in my early 20s, that I'm just like, all pack all my possessions and just drive to a state 2000 miles away. But like those, you know, asking writers it's, I asked what I? What is the like, what do you sort of see coming up in everything that you write, and not just like a format and genre, but like genuinely like what themes? What like philosophical or stylistic consistencies? Like, what are your projects like, and what are they about? followed up with? Like, why is that because this is not something that you just think about, or something that you're interested in. This is something that you are compelled to express in the form of feature screenplays and pilots and shorts. And, and usually, if we're, you know, talking with you, not just that you're doing it pretty well. So like, where that's coming from somewhere there is coming from some sort of innate need on your part to express this. And and so I think that puts in full scope, just how, I don't know just like how much passion is behind this, that, that if you're trying to put it towards something that your heart isn't in how much it is going to take out of you and why it is going to make you and just sort of suck your soul to the point that you were talking about? Because this is a I don't know, this isn't like a job that you can just like, Okay, I'm done. At the end of the day, you're playing, you know, heart soul, and you're into this.

Alex Ferrari 23:08
Could you imagine if you could just check out? Could you imagine if you just clock out at five, like okay, I don't I'm not a filmmaker anymore. I'm not a screenwriter anymore today. Oh, thank God, let me just let me just let me just get a beer and drink and just chillin. I think about anything anymore. No, it's a, I've called it a disease. It is a disease, that you get bitten by the bug, and that bug. And once you're bitten by the bug, it will never ever, ever go away. It can go dormant for decades. But eventually it will surface in one way, shape, or form. And I do this because I've talked to 65 year olds, who are seven year olds who's like, I'm retired now, what I really want to do is direct and it happens. And there's really, I don't even know what other industry there is that that has that kind of insanity. You know, like, look, I did the same thing you did. I did a little bit later in life. I didn't do it in my mid 20s it in my early 30s, where I packed up, moved cross country to California New to people. And this was my plan. My plan was I had to rent an apartment in North Hollywood, where one room would be where we slept in the other room would be where I put up my editing system. And I was just gonna show up. Now mind you, I had I had a decade of stuff behind me before I showed up but even then, I just for whatever reason, I started working. And I started working I started working and it worked out but it could very easily crash and burn.

Thomas Dever 24:33
Oh yeah. I mean, it's the it's the same thing. But I think that like like you said, I mean it sort of goes back to the Hey, you have this like unwavering focus of what you're going to do and you don't have the sort of steps figured out but you're just really not going to be denied. Because yeah, because your heart is in it to that point. And it is always fascinating, you know, to find so many people that are really successful in other fields that this is like a hobby for them or this Something that they're pursuing. And this is, you know, I, but that's I don't know, that's what kind of makes it. That's definitely what makes it so cool. You know, I think of all the I mean, I tell people all the time, I think I've just got like one of the greatest jobs, that I have all the ways that you could kind of get up and earn a living and pay your bills, I get to get up every day, and with an entire company full of people do something that we'd like, genuinely truly care about, and get to be with people that love the same things I love. And that's, that's what's so fun about stuff like this, you know, you were saying, you know, getting together at Austin Film Festival, we just, we kind of find one another, you know, there's this this this little like family that seems to emerge around the screenwriting community.

Alex Ferrari 25:48
Yeah, absolutely. And without question this, I went, when I started helping people with my podcasts and with my websites and things like that, my life changed. And I think I'm blessed just like you, I get to do what I love to do on a daily basis. And while I pursue my own projects, and I pursue my own, you know, books and stories and other things, that things I like to do. Now, one thing that a lot of screenwriters don't really get is the absolute necessity of networking. And being able to make those connections, but make them in a very organic way is opposed to Hey, man, I hear you're a producer. Here's my script, you know, yeah, like, I just met you, like, you know, it's like, it's ridiculous.

Thomas Dever 26:39
Yeah, I mean, I think that there's a I don't want to generalize writers, and I'll say this, that I used to be the exact same way, I think that there's, it's not that networking just makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Because let's let's just call networking, what it is, which is talking to strangers, it's, you know, it is starting a conversation with a stranger and, and, and putting pressure on yourself to build a connection in a short amount of time. And as a person that like I, my undergrad degree is in English, I sat in the back, I spent most of college just reading, you know, so Billy, like, yes, going and talking to people that I didn't know was like, My worst fear at some point in time. Um, so I think that there's a reluctance to do it. And that's what kind of fosters this idea of like, Oh, it's just, you just have to know this person. And they just give these jobs to their friends and things like that, when it's like he like, there's certainly a degree of that in the industry. But there's like, to put in perspective that if you're an exec, or producer, a showrunner or someone around those people, you're going to get a stack of like, 200 scripts for one spot, maybe, and they're all going to be good. Yes, it's very common that you break the tie, so to speak with the opinion of a person that you trust, or a person that you know, or a person that you like, or a person that you just, you know, is not going to let you down in that situation. So take that for whatever it's worth in the scope of networking. Um, but to what you were saying, yes, for some reason, the like, sentiment around networking seems to be, I'm just pitching any stranger that like, returns eye contact with you. And I feel like there is, um, you've all been at a networking event, regardless of how big it is, where there's just a person there. That's just kind of on like a loop of just like, they give their project and their spiel to this person. And then they give their project their spiel to this person. And it's like, I think, surely someone listening to this right now is like, like, they're feeling this, like chills down.

Alex Ferrari 28:50
They're cringing. They're cringing. Yeah,

Thomas Dever 28:52
You know what it is like to be on the other side of that? Oh, like, yeah, don't don't be that person. To me, I always say, go in with questions go in with learn about who this person is, what they do, what's important to them, what they're working on right now? Do they have any problems that you can solve? Do they have any projects that you can help on and like trust that if they're working on something where there is a world for you to collaborate, it's going to come up, I asked him those questions, that if you're, you have this amazing horror features back. And you start Hey, so what do you do? What sort of projects do you work on? What types of movies do you like? What types of material do you respond to? And they start saying, God, I just love horror films. And we've got to find the answer. And we're trying to find something like this that fits your project. That is such a better way to bring up your material and mention it to them versus going in and just being like, I've got a horror feature. This is what it's about, and you should read it and here's that and it's like, I work in TV. Why are you yelling at me? You know, also a screenwriter, I don't know what you want me to do.

Alex Ferrari 30:04
And I was like walk. It's like walking up to Jason Blum and going, Hey, I've got this dog safe Christmas script. That's, I think you'll be perfect for Jason. No. And, and the funny thing is, I, this is always infuriating. I get cold emails about pitching projects. To me, I have no power. I can't finance your script. I'm not looking for projects to produce. All you got to do is listen to three or four of my podcasts or just read a couple articles and you'll understand who I am. And people are just so desperate that they just start throwing things out and it just gets deleted automatically. But you start like emailing, you know, you get an IMDb Pro account, you just start emailing people you script. That is not the way to do it. The shotgun approach doesn't work, you've got to be more searchable.

Thomas Dever 30:54
Well, yeah, and that's that I mean, we take the same approach because we do console. I mean, the thing is, like, am I going to pretend that queries have a high rate of success? No, they do not. However, we've worked with writers that have 100% found success with queries, because I think that there's a, there's a good way to do it. And so if you, you know, so much of what we do is like, um, one be really concise and articulate, get get through who you are, why you're emailing them, and what the ask is as quickly as possible. Because if you're emailing a person that works in the entertainment industry, there's a good chance that they have like 200 emails in their inbox. And if they open it up, and it is five paragraphs of boilerplate, like even if you are a dead center bullseye of what they're looking for right now. They just don't have time to do that. And they're going to delete it. Um, and so like what you were saying with it, it's always like, here's where I am, here's what I do. Here's where I'm, like, emailing you, I'd love it. If you know, if it's a fit, I'd love for you to take a look at my script, if not no worries, knowing that most people are not going to respond. But you might have a person that is looking exactly for that. And you're respectful and got to the point. And they're like, Yeah, sure, send the script. At this point, they've requested your material, versus it's the equivalent of like, put again, put yourself in their shoes and use common sense of like attaching the script in the initial email. How would you feel if a person walked up to you on the street? And was like, Hey, I heard that you can help me spend two hours reading this script and giving me your thoughts on it. Your your response? 100% would be it's awfully presumptuous to just assume that I'm going to do this and yet that's kind of the common practice of queries. Right?

Alex Ferrari 32:38
Right. It's, it's it's a fairly insane. It's insanity. Man, it really is. And I also wanted to ask you this, because I actually had this question from a screenwriter the other day, should a screenwriter sign a submission release form, if they're submitting to a producer or a company or something like that?

Thomas Dever 33:01
There, the thing is, like, they're their common practice, you know, that they're commonplace. So don't think that you're signing your life away, you know, I guess read it and make sure you're not signing your life away. But I am guessing that somewhere in all of them, there's going to be a cause that it's like, Look, if you a year to five years from now see that we have a project that looks really similar to something that you submitted to us, like, you can't sue us. Um, and the reason that's the case is because you can imagine what companies would be opening themselves up to if they didn't do that, but if you, you know, they're already I think, getting sued all the time from people trying to claim that but of every script that was submitted to them that any line or story or beat or commonality that like appeared in a project that was later produced, that's why they're doing it. Um, at the same time. I, I don't think that you have any problem in signing it. I think that there's no, I don't know anybody that is it looking for an amazing script. And if they read your script and love it, and really respond to it, they'll work with you. Because I think that there's a perception among writers or a fear that, oh, they're going to read it and like my idea and steal it. And it's just like, I don't know, I don't know if I've really seen that. I don't really know why they why they necessarily would do that. But at the same time, I totally get where the fear is coming from.

Alex Ferrari 34:28
Yeah, I mean, I've had heard of some people's ideas getting stolen or read. And when I say stolen, it's more like, they took a couple of kernels. And sure, all of a sudden now they have something new. I mean, I remember when we were, this is years ago when I had a script floating around that got to Sony. And I said they asked for it because they seen one of my one of my films. And I said I submitted it to them, and they're like, Oh, we're gonna pass because we have something similar in theme and then two years later, that movie came out, which was not, not anything like anything like my script at all. But there were ideas and themes there. So you have to protect yourself as

Thomas Dever 35:13
I guess what I, you should 100% Protect yourself, you should, it's one of the biggest things that I think is valuable about a platform like cover fly, because you, you know, we have the writer platform where you can host your projects and your bio. And then we have an industry facing portion of it, where they can search for writers and projects. But we really closely monitor the activity on that side of it. And so if somebody downloads your script, we have a timestamp of when they download it, and this isn't necessarily a commercial for the data protection that is cover fly. It's it's to drive home the point that like, yes, you should be precious with your material. And and I think with a submission release form, you're passing it along through a friend or having them request it is always going to be the better option. So I would advise that I'm with it. I will say I'm by no means am I an attorney, and you should always check with an attorney, absolutely lightly taking my advice. The consensus is you cannot copyright an idea, only the execution of an idea. Um, because I do think that like most screenwriters, I know have had like an idea that they were super excited about. And then they see like a trailer they read in the trades and idea that is really similar. And I'm not going to pretend that that doesn't just like it happens all to be

Alex Ferrari 36:34
All the time. Are you kidding me? When I saw when I saw clerks by Kevin Smith, I was working in a video store. I'm like, son of them. I got I had this idea. Why didn't I just execute it? Well, they're you

Thomas Dever 36:50
No, truly and so I'm I get it, I feel the pain of writers in that situation. What I will say though, is that I don't want to say that ideas are cheap, but like Good ideas are good ideas are easier to come by than the execution of good ideas. Truly, um, I think most screenwriters I know come up with like five blockbusters in the shower and on their way to work in the morning, you know, it's just like, you're coming up with these ideas. And really, the tough part is an executing it. Um, so as tough as that can be, it sort of goes back to what we were saying earlier of like, you gotta be cranking out material. Because, man, if you're just kind of hinging all your hopes on one project, you are kind of opening yourself up to that, right? You are you are sort of opening yourself up to like, oh, I have to make this one thing go versus like, really utilizing your talents to give yourself multiple opportunities?

Alex Ferrari 37:44
Yeah, it and I wanted to ask you as well and kind of put this to rest for so many screenwriters out there. This is my opinion. I'd love to hear yours. I get asked all the time. How do you protect your screenplay? I go you register with the the Library of Congress. That's the only one that matters. You could do it with a W GA. That's nice. But the WJ does not hold up in court, the Library of Congress, right? That's the only one that you have the boom and is that and you can and again, you can't do the idea. But you can do the actual screenplay, right? The only way I know of and that I always recommend? Well,

Thomas Dever 38:21
Sure. I mean, and that's I mean, if that's, um, you're probably gonna do that, right? If your film is moving in any sort of production, right? Because at some point, unless you're just kind of shooting the project yourself, somebody else is going to need to own the script. And they're well, halfway there. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 38:40
Once it gets into production, that's you have to have that that's part of a chain of title. But prior to that, whether you're pitching and things like that, to make you feel better, as a screenwriter, you want to have that attention, spend 35 bucks, 40 bucks, get a cover, and don't mail it to yourself, that doesn't work. That's that's a myth. Don't mail as yourself,

Thomas Dever 38:58
Because that's the thing. I think that like what you said there is it's making yourself feel better and giving yourself the peace of mind to know that you're protecting this version of this story on otherwise, I think it's always good to have a paper trail. Right? And and because I know that getting, getting an attorney can be prohibitively expensive for a lot of emerging screenwriters. Why it's just it's kind of like cover your bases to to as much as is necessary for it. You know, if you're in the sort of like talking stages of a project, and there's no real money on the table, you probably don't need a 15 page contract. Right? It says, like to find terms of why, you know, but I think always just be really clear. And I think this goes into a lot of what we've been saying whether it's like working with a producer with a collaborator, especially when you sign with representation, because that's a whole separate discussion we get with writers is just be really clear about being on the same page of expectations. Because I think that that's where a lot of problems come from right which is with I think a lot of writers with producers are being afraid of getting taken advantage of or afraid of their material being mishandled, which is why, you know, before you embark on a working relationship established, if the expectation is like, Okay, we want to, we want you to we want to develop this with you, does that mean one draft and a Polish? Or does that mean like infinite rewrites until I'm happy with it over some non specific period of time? Because if you think one thing and they think another, the project's kind of doomed before it even gets started, and same applies to working with, with a manager or an agent.

Alex Ferrari 40:37
Which brings me to my next question, the agent and manager conundrum, where there's so many screenwriters think that all you need is Ari Gold from entourage, and they represent you, they're going to get you the million dollars, they're going to get your career and so it and then people are like, how can I get an agent? How can I get a manager? I'm like, and I always asked him, How many scripts do you have? I have, I have one and a couple of ideas. I'm like, You're not ready for an agent. And, and I've known writers who won the Nichols, who placed in the Nichols who have placed in multiple big and they get signed, and they go nowhere, because the management is like, should I push Shane Black? Or should I? Should I push Bob? Who I just I'm talented. But what's gonna be how am I gonna make? What am I gonna make the most money from? Where's my money? Where's my ROI? And ROI? You know, make the most sense. So can you please kind of demystify the whole Agent Manager thing for people?

Thomas Dever 41:41
It is on doubtedly, the most popular question that we get. And I don't I actually don't know what's even a close second, it is always how do I get a manager? Right? That is the that is the the holy grail of emerging screenwriters. And I get it, right, because I think that the perception is, I think you're sort of feeling that frustration of being on the outside looking in the lack of access, the lack of opportunity, and like, yes, a manager, an agent can solve that. But if there is this perception that like, okay, great, I signed with a manager crack my knuckles, I put my feet up, and I just wait for the deals to roll in. That's definitely like not the case, right? Like it is you're going to be facing a lot of the sort of same struggles, and even the writers that we do know, with representation are still having to grind and get to that next step. Um, I can't remember, I can't remember who said this to me, because I would give credit if I could recall, but I think we made the comparison of like, view view, getting a manager like having an accountant, like, does your career

Alex Ferrari 42:52
Do you have money?

Thomas Dever 42:53
Does your career necessitate having a manager right now. And in the same way that it's like, if you've just got like your 1099, and your W two, as you can probably file your own taxes, right, and you can, you can get your own opportunities and develop your material and build that. But if your career gets to a point where you need a wrap, it's just a much clearer kind of pathway, right, and getting to a point where you need a manager and need an agent. Um, and that's not to say that people don't sign with representation very earlier, and they're very early in their career, but it's usually much more common that you've built up a degree of sort of, like momentum and opportunity in the managers not, I'm just kind of picking somebody starting somebody from scratch. Um, because I think with, you know, a couple of things. One, think about it from the perspective of the manager, to go back to the queries, we've seen a lot of writers that approach reps, and the consensus is, hey, you should sign me as a client, because I really want a manager. And it's like, that doesn't like what does that do? When I mean anything to them? Right? Like, this is their job. This is their livelihood, that yes, it is art. And it's passion, and it's emotion, and it's this thing that they deeply care about, but this is also their livelihood, this is how they pay their bills. And their job is to assemble a roster of clients and projects that are going to make money that they collect a commission on. So it might not be the sole determinant in their decision, but it's going to be a portion of it. Um, so if you you know, if you understand that, yes, they need to respond to the material, but also have this idea of where your career is going to look right and sort of have these opportunities and what working together is going to look like I'm getting to the part that you're working writer in that conversation. Because the other I think it goes back to the sense of indie filmmaking, which I special place in my heart, my heart is always in indie filmmaking, and will be an indie features. The economics of it don't always make sense to me. Have a rep, because if I'm a rep, and I get 10% of your projects and your deals, and you make a low budget feature, let's just even say 100 grand, yeah, 100 grand, right. And so you, if you're making any money as the writer director, you know, it's, let's say you get 15 grand, right, which is right now, there's no way that you would take 15% of the budget, let's say that you get by 10 grand, right? Five grand, and you're probably working on their project for like, at least a year. That means that their commission is $500 for one year, that even if they love you love the project care about the material, it just is really tough to dedicate any behind any job, anything right to $500 over 12 months, versus something that's going to yield that but I don't, I don't want to taint the perception because I really, I think so much about it too, is just finding that right fit is finding the person that gets you gets your material gets this sort of vision for your career, and you can work with and building that relationship. At the same time. Don't underestimate your own ability to generate those opportunities. We come across writers all the time that have gotten their projects sold that have gotten themselves staffed on series that have episode credits that are getting sort of meetings with major studios and streamers. And there's no really one way to do it. It's just a lot of networking and leveraging relationships and sharing their material and maximizing those relationships that getting themselves to that point, the discussion of pursuing representation becomes so much easier, right? Because if you're, you're kind of painting this picture of like, Hey, here's what my career is going to look like. It's much easier when it's tangible. And you're working in a writers room versus just off of like the samples, if that makes sense.

Alex Ferrari 46:56
It Yeah, it does make sense. And I want to ask you as well, so many screenwriters will walk into a room, you know, like, let's say, let's say perfect scenarios, they get in manager manager gets them a meeting at a studio, because they they had one sample script that they loved. And I like this guy's voice or like this guy's voice. Let's get him. Let's get him in. And let's have a meet. They come in like, Okay, what do we love this script? I can't produce this as it's unpredictable. What else do you have? Right? So that's the moment where a lot of deer in headlights because they're like, wait a minute, that took me three years to do. And I don't have any, I have three ideas. And if you have three ideas, you're pretty much dead in the water. Because everybody has ideas. Everybody in that room has ideas. But you can't produce an idea. You got to produce this grant. So how many scripts in your opinion is a good number two projects that you should walk into with a meeting like that, like real? Like real, real things?

Thomas Dever 47:54
Yeah, I mean, it's, um, I guess, two answers to that, like one, the idea thing is interesting, I guess I won't say but one of the more prestigious writing and directing fellowships, I've spoken to writers that have been through it, where the first couple of weeks is literally no writing, no development, just ideas. And they make you come up with a bunch of ideas, and then they throw them out and make you come up with new ideas. And speaking of the writers that have been through that program, they say, that is the most difficult part more so than notes and writing and rewriting because you're just, you're you're getting down to like the marrow of who am I as a creator? Like, what is my 25th idea? Or is it a new fresh idea, um, but I think that puts in perspective of just like the standard that you have to sort of hold yourself to as well as, like, um, I think after a certain point, you get good at generating those ideas, knowing it, um, to, to your question with it, you know, the two parts of it, I would say, the samples I, I think most people really want to see what you can do. And whether that is I would say at least two maybe, you know, if you've got like 15 It's sort of like oh man, this person just kind of like how like polished or any of these even are polished the perception of seeing 15 I think so. So at least two probably like three or four but but really the the more important thing is having a consistency and like what your voice what your talent is, what your perspective is and showing how it applies consistently but in different meetings, you know, there is no shortage in the world but especially in southern California have people that can write just a really excellent tight feature or one hour half hour pilot like that is not hard to come by. So if you're going in with like, oh, I can write a feature. You You know write write a horror feature writer like create. You're the one

Alex Ferrari 49:53
We've been waiting for you Bob. Poor Bob, Bob really has No clue.

Thomas Dever 50:02
But like truly is as sentimental as it sounds like what no one else literally no one else in the world has is how you tell this story, your respective your experiences, what you're bringing to the page. And as much as you can articulate that, as well as display that on the page, whether that's across four samples or two, whether it's across a, you know, one hour procedural and a thriller feature. I think that's kind of the key to it. And then within that meeting, yeah, that's every Gen ever, right, which is we love is the greatest thing ever, but it's not what we're making right now. So let's spend the next like 59 minutes figuring out what to talk about here. Um, and I think it goes back to what I was saying about networking, right, which is, if you don't make the effort to understand it, you should have done, you know, hopefully, you've done some research before the meeting. But if you don't make an effort to understand what is it that they're working on right now, what is it that they're developing? What is it that they're maybe struggling with? Or really looking for, or excited about? And what do I have that fits that? I think that's, again, it's a much easier discussion to have, because you, you know, what you have in your arsenal. And if they happen to be looking for this high concept project, that you've only kind of flushed out a little bit and maybe only have a treatment for, you can get to that by asking those questions. Whereas if you just fired off, oh, I've got like a comedy feature sample in this one hour, you're now like over three with them. Whereas you had this idea that they wanted to develop with you, if you could have just sort of like worked to that in the conversation. And that's kind of typically the advice we give for generals and things like that.

Alex Ferrari 51:47
That yes, the water bottle tour if you if you're lucky enough to go on the water bottle tour.

Thomas Dever 51:52

Alex Ferrari 51:53
Now, it's a zoom tour water bottle, he announced the zoom to Yeah, bring your own bottle, your own Yeti, with you. Now, I'm gonna ask you few questions, ask all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Thomas Dever 52:10
Oh, my goodness, wherever? Um, I guess I'll give both I think I think in the film industry, it's just it's kind of seeing it for what it is. And I mean, that in the best sense, right? It's like, it's an industry industry, right? You know, and I think that anytime that you are asking people to do to give you money, and in some cases, a lot of money to make your project or to write a project, you do have to understand that there's a degree of business that goes into it. To recycle all my metaphors, they say, you know, Nike doesn't just like design a shoe and then put it on the shelves and hope that people buy it, there's, here's an entire presentation of why Nikes are cool, and why you should buy them and why they're better than other shoes. And that's why you sell them in like two cents. That's what you have to do as a screenwriter. And there's no substitute for excellent writing. And the writing always comes first. But I think the tough lesson is like, understanding the business circumstances that go into most decisions. But accepting that that's okay, that is something that you can use to your advantage. And that doesn't mean that you have to, I don't know, really, that it's all about the money that you can navigate it and, and understand that to your advantage. In life. I see like, you and I were talking before we started I just think like getting getting a little older, you like calmed down a little bit, I think is kind of trust that like things are gonna be okay, I had enough sort of like, one year, five year 10 year plans that just kind of like go out the window, perhaps none more spectacularly. Then in March of 2021, I, you know, have spent the past year and a half and counting at home. And I think that's really kind of informed the philosophy that we impart to writers, which is like, just remember what's important. Remember what the ultimate goal is, don't make it harder on yourself by like defining the steps along the way, as well as saying that you have to do it. There's no timeline on this. You know, there's, there's tons of people that break in in their early 20s in their mid 30s. or later, you know, just just have focused on what you're going to do and try and take steps towards that. That's, that's the best I've gotten in terms of a life philosophy.

Alex Ferrari 54:43
Fair enough. Fair enough. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Thomas Dever 54:51
Um, I'm going to go back to I'm thinking of my I'm thinking of when in my reader days when I was reading and reading it Kevin measures company it had already come out but I think that the screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine is just no. Brilliant it's like it's it's a it's a novel I didn't know if we can retroactively give it like a Pulitzer or something.

Alex Ferrari 55:22
No, it is it is. It is a brilliant it is a brilliant script and a brilliant film. Really excited

Thomas Dever 55:29
To just to just sort of have this really this like dark, quirky comedy that is this also deep exploration of Persia in philosophy that is like readily apparent on the first page and then perfectly executed for the rest of the script. That was the first one that came to mind. Um, I remember reading this script, this probably dates me but I remember reading the script for Crazy Stupid Love. Such a great script, also an a great script that when I read it, and I forget what draft I read, was like near identical to the film that they ended up producing it like down down to the like lines of down to like specific words of just sort of, I say that one not necessarily for like a philosophical or thematic of just like, This is what a produced screenplay looks like, this is a read the screenplay before I saw the film. And then I saw the film. And it was like, oh, that's like, verbatim that these guys just like got it up onto the screen. Um, and then the last one, I feel like I should give a shout out to a cover fly writer.

Alex Ferrari 56:40
Um, this is three of all time, so you don't have to feel

Thomas Dever 56:43
All time. So they're not. They're not whole. I mean, I guess it's prevalent. Now. I don't know how much it's changed. But again, from my like the last duel, which is finally coming out. I see that's a sort of put in perspective, like, there was some major talent attached to it when I read that script 10 years ago. And it is just coming out now. And I think it kind of made the rounds, then I'm just in the sense of like, I say that one to maybe just be cheesy and that it can. Sometimes it is like some really ageless people were on that script. And it still took 10 years, you know, it's just right. You never know, I'm so pumped. I'm so pumped to see it because it was amazing. And the fact that I think that's a testament to reading hundreds if not 1000s of screenplays since then that I still I still remember it. Um, and I don't know, I just gave myself goosebumps with it. Because there's, there is a there's what we love about it, right? That it's just all about building that connection with with the material that it does stick with you years and years after the fact.

Alex Ferrari 57:54
Thomas, it's been a pleasure talking to you, man, I know, we can continue talking for three hours. But yeah, I truly appreciate I know you have a young one that you're taking care of so and you're probably exhausted, and you're probably exhausted,

Thomas Dever 58:08
I've got a I have a two month old daughter. And so I've noticed that I just kind of start a sentence now. And it just I forget, I forget how I started it. And I just kind of go until I run out of steam. So hopefully your listeners and your viewers that this made this made sense and bearing with me. Um, no, I by all means I think before we run out of time, head over to cover fly Yes, get the account set up. Um, you know, that's always kind of the first step regardless of where you're at in your writing career, what you're looking to do, just by creating the profile completely free to do so we can find you and direct you to the resources that are that are most useful to what you're looking to do. And and our team will be able to support and one of those resources of course is is the coverage service that we were talking about beforehand

Alex Ferrari 58:59
Bulletproof script coverage Yeah, so i i Truly I truly appreciate you. Thank you for doing all the good work you're doing with screenwriters out there and helping them navigate this shark infested. You know, alligator snapping kind of world that is a fortunately but I do truly appreciate you man. Thank you again.

Thomas Dever 59:18
My pleasure!

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BPS 141: Selling Palm Springs for $17.5 Million at Sundance with Max Barbakow

I believe that most indie filmmakers have a dream of making a feature film, getting accepted to the Sundance Film Festival, and that film would be fought over in a massive bidding war that generates millions of dollars for the filmmakers. I’ve called this dream the lottery ticket mentally. I always say that someone wins the lottery every week somewhere.

Well, today’s guest is that lottery ticket winner. Today on the show we have director Max Barbakow, the filmmaker behind the largest sale at Sundance in history. His film Palm Springs sold for a record-breaking $17.5 million and .69¢. Those last cents are what broke the record.

The film stars Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, and J.K. Simmons and was acquired by NEON and Hulu at the festival.

When carefree Nyles and reluctant maid of honor Sarah have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated when they find themselves unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other.

I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to be a fly on the wall during a bidding war at Sundance. In today’s episode, I take you through the improbable journey of this first-time feature filmmaker and his adventures of getting his film Palms Springs from the page to the Sundance record books.

You can watch Palm Springs on Hulu.

Enjoy my conversation with Max Barbakow.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:02
Well guys, we are in the Sundance Film Festival season. It is just finished up but I wanted to take you on a journey I wanted to take you on the dream path that all independent filmmakers dream of making your first movie, getting accepted to Sundance and selling it for a record breaking $17.5 million. Well, that's exactly what our guest did. Today's guest is filmmaker max Barba CO, who is the filmmaker behind Palm Springs, which holds the record for the largest purchase price of any independent film ever at the Sundance Film Festival. And it holds that record by 69 cents. That's right, they paid him 17 point $5,000,000.69 there's a whole story behind that I promise you now in this episode Max and I talk about his rise on how he got the bill made how he was able to get Andy Samberg attached and JK Simmons, how they got into Sundance and I've never been in the room when there's been a bidding war at Sundance for a film. But in today's episode you're going to be a fly on the wall on what it's like to be in that bidding war in the middle to three o'clock in the morning in a hotel room somewhere at Sundance while the lawyers and the agents are all battling it out. And you know Max was literally there just front row seat just going oh my god oh my god. Oh my god and we are going to go through that journey. I hope this episode is inspiring to you because it inspired me so without any further ado please enjoy my conversation with Max barber co I'd like to welcome the show max barber co How you doing Max?

Max Barbakow 4:24
Good man. How are you? Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 4:27
There thank you for being on the show man. I've always said I told my wife this and it didn't happen when I was going to one of my wife was pregnant I said if we have boys my boys gonna be named Max Ferrari which would be dope man. That would be an amazing they I actually wanted to go Maximus max for sure. I mean, let's just go straight up. Let's do this if we're gonna go and she's like, I'm so glad we didn't have any boys because that would have been an argument.

Max Barbakow 4:54
The girl My mom wanted to name my brother max. My brother's seven years older than me and my dad. It was like, no veto Max is a name for an old dude who smoked cigars. My mom was like, Alright, whatever. And then I come along, and I guess he changed his tune. Initially, I'll take it though

Alex Ferrari 5:13
I have absolutely bad. So, um, before we get started, man, how did you get get started in the business.

Max Barbakow 5:19
Um, just I mean, it kind of happened with Palm Springs, but I grew up in a family that really like valued movies. So it was always kind of something that I was allowed to dream about doing, which is cool. And a lot of people it's like a very foreign thing. And I grew up in Santa Barbara, California, just up the coast. So la was kind of like, right nearby too. And it demystified the whole exercise of making stuff. And I just always knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. So like, started documentary filmmaking, which seemed like a little more attainable, just because you could go out and shoot and then figure out what the story was kind of like as you were doing it, you know, there's like a low, gray, less involved, less of a blank page just to stare out, let's say, started doing that was doing freelance documentary stuff, I made a documentary about my adoption. That was a that was a feature length film that was kind of the first real thing I ever made coming

Alex Ferrari 6:14
out of college, which is Mommy, Mommy, I'm a bastard.

Max Barbakow 6:17
Mommy. Which, by the way,

Alex Ferrari 6:18
that's a great story. I saw this, I saw that clip on your website. On the website, it was so hilarious when your mom was telling the story, like, hey, my mama bastard. But that must have been me as a filmmaker, that must have been cathartic, just to kind of go through that whole process.

Max Barbakow 6:35
Totally. I mean, just to start something, it was the first thing I started finished

Alex Ferrari 6:40
to, you know, like, that's, that's a big, cathartic, that's a big thing for a filmmaker, and a feature no less.

Max Barbakow 6:46
Exactly. And then to pour yourself into it in a very intense way, and kind of do a lot of personal inventory in the excavation and kind of feel like I had become someone else, by the end of it, you know, and kind of like evolved was a super cool feeling. And I think I kind of got addicted to that, which is why Palm Springs is a little bit of the same way. It was a very personal movie, and a very intense kind of personal process with my buddy and DCR, who wrote the movie. And it's, it's, I love doing it, because that's I think I liked when I realized what making movies really was, I always like that to the idea that you would kind of chart your life through projects and kind of always go back to a moment and look at a project that you'd made or something and think about where you were, as you were making it. So it was always I don't know, I didn't I didn't know what I was doing. I was making a new bastard, which I also always trying to get back to, to that feeling of just like be like kind of learning a new language every time you're making something, and kind of just jumping off jumping into the deep end. But it really was just a great exercise in every facet of the process. Like I cut that movie myself, shot that movie myself. I kind of like, produced it myself. My brother did the music. But I got my feet wet. And I was able to get a job. I took that movie to a film festival and met a couple of producers that had done Silver Linings Playbook it was the year that that was out and I got a job is one of them had a kid that was adopted and kind of connected over the film. And I bothered the other one for a long time trying to get a job on David O Russell's next movie, which at that time was American Hustle and I got a job doing locations on that movie out Afton which was an incredible thing. It was kind of like I knew I wanted to go into narrative. It was a dream but that was kind of the bridge to go do narrative like the next year I went to film school at ASI. I kind of got into film school at the same time. And I was like well just watch that guy make a movie just made my my own movie. Now I could like kind of really feel like I kind of earned or like you had the necessary experience to go into like directing on a set, you know, working with partment heads and stuff like that. And then if I was great and and that was kind of like I met mbcr there who was a good buddy and a great collaborator and made a lot of stuff together. there with him and out of school decided we wanted to do a feature together, went out to Palm Springs to brainstorm came back with the idea of Niles and they kind of was in very unruly creative process from there like I know you said you like Groundhog Day, but it did not start as a time loop idea. Initially, we were very much arrived at that little into the process. But that's that's kind of how I got into making stuff.

Alex Ferrari 9:37
So okay, so you did a bunch of shorts with Andy as well. Um, yeah. And so I have to ask, because, you know, you're you're you basically lived out the dream of most filmmakers around the world. Where as in you make a movie. It's Yeah, there. You make a movie you you kind of live it You're living the dream that every filmmaker dreams of, which is essentially Hey, I'm gonna go write my movie with my buddy. And, and we're gonna go attach, you know an Oscar winner and really famous comedian and some other really amazing talent and, and then we're gonna shoot it and then we're gonna go to Sunday we're gonna get good assented to Sundance, get accepted to Sundance. And then we happen to go there and sell it and make it the biggest sale by 69 cents ever. at Sundance, I mean, you're essentially living the dream. So before we get to all of that amazing part of the story, how did you go from making shorts, to go into Palm Springs to figure out an idea for a script? Which, by the way, everyone listening right here is everyone's got an idea. Everyone's writing a script. Yeah. How did you get that package? How did you get Andy and JK involved in the project? Like, how did you get this whole thing up off the ground?

Max Barbakow 10:56
Um, well, the, the idea of going to make a feature, after a lot of shorts, and film school is just kind of an idea of desperation, kind of, you know, like we didn't, we didn't want to wait around and be and wait for an opportunity. And we had been given the opportunity to make a lot of stuff already. And we didn't want that to go away. So it's like, we got to make something we got to make something also, as I have been drilled so much in film school that I felt like I lost my instincts a little bit. So like the the mission with the movie was never to go attach big actors like that, or even make it on the scale that we made it out. It was like, let's go make something weird that feels like us, and could you know, around one location in a way that would help us rediscover our instincts a little bit. And it evolved from that place into something, you know, after, it wasn't even a wedding movie to begin with. It was it was like a I think it took place on New Year's and it was an existential comedy. We like to say it was like an absurd version of Leaving Las Vegas, like the dark comedy version of that movie, like a hipster goes to that Las Vegas to die, and then learns the meaning of life and decides to live. But it just evolved, it was kind of leaning into the process that we had kind of figured out for ourselves, Andy and I, which was locking ourselves in a room and trying to make each other laugh and try to make each other kind of acting as each other as each other as each other's therapists a little bit. And that's how a lot of those philosophical conversations about life and relationships. I mean, the movie was born out of a very busy wedding season where stuff started to feel the same. And I was like, hopeless, hopelessly single. And Andy had just gotten married in Palm Springs, and was kind of looking down the barrel at his life really stoked, but wondering if he was ever going to be as happy as he was on his wedding night, you know, and kind of those things were ingredients in this kind of this alchemic exercise, and it just got to a place where, you know, putting to commitment phobes stuck at the same wedding together felt like a really fertile premise for a movie, putting characters in their own version of hell. And we just follow the idea and worked really hard at it. And by the time the script was good, it it obviously gotten way bigger than a little movie, you could just go shoot in the desert, you know, there was like a time portal and dinosaurs and shed. So we you know, it just Andy's car siara got a manager who kind of knew what to do with it, he kind of became the third collaborator on the film and sent it around towns and around LA and it just got it got good reads. And it got passed up through UTA where Sandberg is represented and Sandberg Reddit was like, Okay, I'll meet these guys. And we went in to go meet with them and had a conversation and I kind of pitched the vision for the movie. And we got super lucky and that he was seeing the same movie that we were seeing, which was like, you know, comedy, yes, but something a little more driven by pathos, especially for him. There's, you know, it's a different term for him. And when we had the opportunity to meet with him in the lonely island as like potential producers, and then you know, him to star it was it kind of clicked. It's like, Oh, yeah, this could be our version of Eternal Sunshine, or punch drunk love a little more hard to comedy, but like, a generational talent and a goofball in terms of comedian doing a different turn something a little a little edgier for him, and it all kind of it all kind of clicked into like, Oh, this could be something pretty cool. And when he said, you know, that he wanted to do it and that they would produce and he would star and that I you know, was still gonna get to direct it to that level. It was an incredible thing.

Alex Ferrari 14:32
Yeah, that's so that's one thing I want to ask because I've sat in those meetings I've been in I've been in those meetings with with actors and things and getting you to be the first first time director and them giving you the reins. And I don't know what I don't know if you've even mentioned what the budget is. Can you say what

Max Barbakow 14:50
it was like under five or six credit but it was like at the time there was like four or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 14:56
So too, you know, and that's a fairly Large first film.

Max Barbakow 15:01
Oh, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 15:02
yeah, with basically your only narrative being a handful of shorts, and you and you and your documentary that you had done, you know, samples

Max Barbakow 15:09
for it, you know, that weren't similar in any way to the idea. So it's not like you're here's the short that could be the feature.

Alex Ferrari 15:15
Right, exactly. So that way. So it was basically you had a champion and Andy Sandberg, he was he basically said, I see your vision, you're gonna direct it, let's make it happen.

Max Barbakow 15:26
Yeah. And it was, it was, it was beautiful, because I don't if we had an Indy car and I hadn't gone in together, I don't think it might have played out in a different way. I think they recognize because they're buddies, like the Lonely Island came up together. And their friends, I think they saw us as buds wanting to make this thing. They saw how they could help us make it even better. And they're like, that's cool. Like, well, we'll do it. You know, I'm so lucky. They were into that. So we spent the summer after we first met them kind of doing a polish on the script together in that room that Andy and I had been in exercising our romantic demons make each other laugh, it just kind of got bigger with those guys. And Becky servitor, who was our other producer ran their company. And it was it was it was amazing. You know, it was it was unreal. That's no,

Alex Ferrari 16:14
it is very dreamlike. I mean, as a director as you're walking through this path, I mean, you've heard that any every filmmaker has heard these stories has heard you know, I always use El Mariachi or you know, yes. You know, you use it the Kevin Kevin Smith, or, you know, these kind of stories that you hear of this happening, but you're like, but when you're in it, like how does that feel? Like you're like, did you have a feel? Because I know I did. I like I came, I've come close to many damn times to even count. But at some point, do you just go this is gonna fall apart at any effing second? They're gonna fire me any second now.

Max Barbakow 16:54
That's it? That's it. It's totally it. It's like, not really, you know, but what you can focus on is like, is the work you know, I think it would have been totally different if, if, again, we weren't seeing the same version of the movie, you know? But like, we got we got so lucky in that way. They really did. And it was it's not a normal, lonely island movie, either. It's not it's a little nuanced, you know, there's a blended tone. They definitely made it funnier, and helped us like with the comedy and stuff. They helped us with everything. But like, yeah, it's it I you quickly learn to there's no room for that kind of insecurity just because there's so much you so much stuff to do, you know, so much stuff to think about. And especially on an indie movie, too. It's like, you're it's still the same scrappiness that we probably would have made the smaller version with you're just dealing with incredible actors, which is makes life easier. Everything so much better. Yeah. So like, that was a thing when you're dealing with like, it's like anybody like niyati Sandberg JK Simmons on set, they'll do it. We didn't have we shot the movie in 21 days, too, so didn't have any time. And you're like, they'll do a tank, you know, like, that was good. And I have to go like pretend to talk to the grip or something to come up with it. Like a note for them as I'm like, I'll go talk to this guy. Because, you know, it's, it's, we got so lucky in a way. And I was across the board with all the department heads to who had the same twisted sense of humor that we all had, and you know, just really got what was at the core of this thing. So it was an incredible experience. In that respect, which is what I was thinking about being a filmmaker, I always kind of thought about that. It's about having partners in crime, you know, you want to feel like you get away with something.

Alex Ferrari 18:31
Yeah, absolutely. And Andy and I've been a big fan of Andy Samberg for a long time. Back from the SNL days. I mean, I've just followed his career. I've watched Brooklyn nine, nine, I mean, like he's, he's, he's awesome. He's awesome. And he's a very unique voice and the way he does this thing

Max Barbakow 18:47
don't really take years to I didn't really realize it until we were working all together. But those guys were some of the first filmmakers that I looked up to when they were making there because they were just making stuff together and putting it on the internet channel one on one YouTube all that stuff and you're, you know, in high school you're like, Oh, these guys rule you know, like, we should do that. Like the first step I made was like, you know, like rip offs of like, dear sister in the doing stuff. So it was really they they're filmmakers do not not just comedians or performers.

Alex Ferrari 19:19
No, absolutely not. So what point did the story turned into this? Groundhog's Day? esque you know, time loop thing because it please correct me is Groundhog's Day, the first time there was a time loop in a movie in a comedy or is it just the most famous version of it?

Max Barbakow 19:38
I think so. There's like as with anything that's successful, I think there was like controversy when it came out that it was stolen from something like a boardroom or something like that, but I think it's

Alex Ferrari 19:49
probably it's a French film. It's a double leak. It was like dabbling.

Max Barbakow 19:57
But yeah, it evolved. I mean, it Really, we just started thinking about it really came from a place of character because we spent so much time working on like thinking about who these people were. And they're kind of compartmentalised versions of both like mbcr and myself, Sarah and Niles, that came first the foundations and Roy came in like, way, way later. That was like the last thing we put into the draft like a third person, he was here. It was so great. I sent it out. Yeah. When

Alex Ferrari 20:25
I said when that happened, when I watched it, that's a spoiler alert to everybody. But when that happened, when I saw that arrow, just show up. And then when you see it's like, oh, it's JK, oh, yes,

Max Barbakow 20:36
that's perfect. is the best. He's like, no, I we're gonna, you're trying to be on schedule. Right now I need to I will be running through the desert, I will be doing all that stuff myself. Like, this needs to happen, which is awesome. Which is the subject.

Alex Ferrari 20:52
All right, so so is working as a director, especially your first time working on a project of this magnitude? How do you direct an actor like Andy Samberg? Who's basically you know, he's, he does very, very good improv. And he's kind of like, you just kind of kind of like corral the lightning almost, cuz he's like lightning in the bottle all the time. Right?

Max Barbakow 21:15
Yeah. But he was very aware, because we had done work on the script together. And he comes from a writing perspective, too. And he's producer on the movie. So it was like having a real Christian came in, it was the same way. We had less time together like improv, but it was having like creative partners, you know, less than like, it was not like a mystery that you're trying to shroud an actor and they were very aware of like, what this thing was and why it was special. And their chemistry was going to be the engine of the movie. So for Andy, I think he was attracted to it, because it was a completely different term for it, that means playing like an indifferent defeated person. For the first part of the movie, you know, challenge, he was like, always very aware of anything that would be considered to arch, you know, or, or to wild or to goofy. And we were always kind of checking each other. But like he, he had it in, you know, he's done like, he's done turns on that are a little more serious, like in Celeste and Jesse did that movie. And that was one of those where you're like, oh, he has that, like, Is it like I could is a romantic lead for sure. He just had never met never made the decision to do it. So it was honestly just like a lot of communication, you know, and it was like, on this one, I realized every actor because we had a pretty big ensemble, it's like a two hander, you know, at its core, but there are a lot of different actors, and everybody worked in a really different way. So it's just about kind of like having that conversation upfront. How do you like to work? Like, what can I give you as a director, so I like to do things it's like, let's, let's talk about how it can be of help to you. And it with with Andy It was a lot of interest into was always a lot of like, conversations beforehand, like we did some rehearsals, and then just trying different versions of it on the day, you know, because we'd have a lot of time, like I said, so it's like, let's get it right. Just that intangible feeling where it's like this is this is the best version of it. Now let's go way this direction, way this direction, and then we'll do one that is completely out of left field. And then you kind of make choices in the

Alex Ferrari 23:13
Edit. So in you so we're working with someone like JK, who, obviously as an Oscar winner, he's he's amazing. He's an you know, he's played some very intense guys in his films. I'm assuming there was some sort of intimidation, just just meeting him and and having the potential of working with him. How does a first time director direct an Oscar winning actor? Like what is that process? Like? I mean, I had I've had other guests, and I've worked with Oscar nominees as well in my work. And I just go How do you want to be directed like, dude, I'm like, I'm just here. Because there's some people like if you're like, how can you direct Meryl Streep? Like, how, how does that work? So I'm assuming JK similar.

Max Barbakow 24:03
Yeah, I mean, he's intimidating just because of the roles that you associate him with. And he's also just been doing it for so long. And you know, he's, he's such a pro and such a legend. But the thing that I realized is everybody wants to be that that's what they're there for, actually want to collaborate actors want to be directed, you know, like he, he connected to the script and really liked the script. And he had worked with Sandberg before, too. So there was that familiarity they had played father and son and I love you, man. So they were they were friends. So he was there to have a blast and give it a go and like I, you know, you again, it's just communication. It's just something to work on. So like, how can we make this as easy for you as possible? A little movie for you legends, and it's like, I think he appreciated that too. And he, he came with so many ideas. That's the thing. It's like these people are legendary because they're so smart and so and so talented, but it is for them about the work if they're you know, they're not JK Simmons is not resting on his Oscar, you know, like and I'm sure Meryl Streep isn't resting on any of her nomination. She's just trying to do work that can make make her feel alive. Probably.

Alex Ferrari 25:14
Yeah, it's just about how I think you your answers absolutely on point, which is communication, like just seeing because everyone's different like Meryl and Denzel might want to be talked to differently and worked with differently than JK did and just have to have that open and then adjusting your directing style accordingly to them, not them adjusting towards you, because that's not gonna work as much.

Max Barbakow 25:38
Yeah, one thing I realize, like in it, it helps, even when it is everybody knowing what the coverage was, you know, obviously, like, was at the top of the scene and there again, there was no time. So just like, communication is everything. And if you if you could get through a scene, then you then you could have time to give people opportunities to play around, which is always great, because I mean, JK especially just had so many fun ideas. And we were shooting out of borders. And sometimes it was like, ah, who can't. We've already established that side. Like we can't do that. But that is like, that's why you're human.

Alex Ferrari 26:12
Right? And when you work with people of that caliber, you just like God, you make things so easy as a director makes life so much easier than having to pull everything. Now what was your expectation for this film? I mean, obviously has Andy Samberg has all these big, you know, big stars, but it's still in the you know, how, you know, 5 million below indie film and a marketplace that is full of, you know, good content, what was your expectation for this? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Max Barbakow 26:50
I mean, initially, before Sandberg, it was like, let's raise $50,000 or something like that from friends and go make something just get one, get an auction about and that still is what it still was. It's like, let's go, let's ride the creative energy of this and go make it and then when Sandberg comes on board, like in that first conversation, we all agreed the goal was to go to Sundance, you know, and sell the movie, like we weren't trying to go to a studio next It was like, let's go make this on the fly and have a Sundance experience and see what we can what we can do. And that was awesome that that we got in you know, we got, I got the call. And it was I was didn't pick it up because there's like a four It was like a I thought it was spam. And I picked it up. And it was a couple weeks earlier than I thought it would be calling. And it was a sprint to the Sundance deadline in the Edit to you know, that was kind of crazy. And they wanted us and then they wanted us in the US dramatic competition too. Which is like the real that's the, like 12 movies. Yeah, so like, oh, man, they're taking this seriously. So it still was like, let's go, let's have a good time. Like I learned very early on. Even going into that first meeting with the Lonely Island, it's like don't have any expectations. Just like enjoy it. Enjoy the ride. If you have any expectations there, it's going to be way different than you think it's going to be. So like we knew we had made something that we liked, we had no idea what to expect. We thought we had a good chance of selling it, but obviously not at the level that we did. And like a lot of people kept telling us when we're in the Edit, show to friends and stuff. And it would be Yeah, it does really feel like a like a Sundance movie demands like that's good sucks.

Alex Ferrari 28:26
Like, thanks for the next night. Thanks.

Max Barbakow 28:28
I think it helped us in ultimately in this in the sale and in the reception that it was there. You know, we were in a year there were a couple comedies but not really, you know, I think people it was kind of a cathartic release for people in that festival experience to go see something that was like, kind of full of joy and irreverence and a little different and, and kind of a kind of an escape from what normally is a lineup filled with like, amazingly poignant films that are really intense, heavy, heavy and darker. Yeah, heavy. So that helps but like, you know, I sat in the back and our screen and Park City or premiere and I had no idea how it really played. I know we got a laugh right at the beginning because it opens with a lonely island classics card and it was a roomful of acquisitions, people. So like that got a laugh. Okay, we got one out of the way. But, you know, I had no clue until we went to our after party and like offers started rolling in and then revealed like the response on Twitter was cool. So it was just, it was a blur, man, it was, it was truly insane.

Alex Ferrari 29:26
It was the first time you've ever been to Sundance.

Max Barbakow 29:29
Yeah, I never I never having a movie and so is cool. And it's what was that? Like? Everything? It's like the last film festival Film Festival for the foreseeable future.

Alex Ferrari 29:44
Exactly. So what was it like? I mean, because I've been to Sundance Scott's like, seven eight times in my life. And never had the pleasure. I've always been rejected. She's like that. Be the hot girl that always kind of teases you like maybe maybe we'll go on a date and Maybe in your mind, we're gonna go out on a date. But you just you ran up in first first one out. You got that day mean, even when you're there and you're gonna leave like is this? Isn't it the same feelings? Like at any moment someone's gonna come in the door and go, you don't belong here. Yeah. That's amazing. So you go to Sundance, you get, you know, you have this amazing, these amazing screenings, you're getting good stuff and then the offers are starting to come in from studios.

Max Barbakow 30:34
Yeah, from from, from like platforms and distributors and stuff. You know, it was at our premiere party it was, we were drinking really for the first time that weekend, like celebrating and then go to dinner. And it's the thing where they're like, Alright, stop, like sober up, like, we're gonna have gonna have some meetings tonight. And it became the experience that you read about and like, Oh, you know, all the books about and so on. I fit in one thing where we went back to a condo, and people just different companies came in, and were pitching us their vision for the film. And it was just so surreal to hear. Like, I always I love in prep, you know, like, we got meetings or you know, just page turn meetings and going through the shit that you're trying to pull off in a movie and everybody taking stupid stuff like blowing up a goat. So seriously, like talking about it. Like, it's great. Like, it's funny to me on that level, when you haven't really thought about pulling stuff off. And now you're dealing with acquisitions, people, like pitching their passion for a movie based on the same stuff, you're talking about, like, loads of money, you're just sitting there like, what is this is crazy, but it what it meant was that more people were gonna have a chance to see our movie, which was so cool, you know, that I kind of had contextualize the entire Sundance experience to it's like, well, the all this means is like, it's no longer ours really, like we've lived with this for so long. And like, we're going to this festival, people are gonna see it. And then like, people are either gonna hate us or they're gonna, you know, they'll be okay with it. But like, it's not going to be our little thing anymore. And, and when there was a response from from buyers, it was their offers and stuff. It was incredible because it just went oh, my God, like more more people beyond this festival are gonna see the movie, you know, are gonna bring it. Were you involved in

Alex Ferrari 32:17
that process? A lot. Because you producer as well on the project,

Max Barbakow 32:21
not not a producer, but they were super cool. And we were all you know, we were up all night and all in the same meetings and stuff like that. And

Alex Ferrari 32:27
so you saw you saw first that you were front row on all this stuff?

Max Barbakow 32:29
Yeah, yeah. No, I just didn't I just like this is great. Yeah. How much? Like how much

Alex Ferrari 32:33
do they like? I'm sure the first offer that came in, you're like, yes, take it. Yes. No. 5 million. 5 million. Yes. Take five. Yes. breakeven. It's fine. Let's just go Let's go.

Max Barbakow 32:47
I never I never understood I was all I was thinking while we were going through and I'm like, can't read this all go party and do this tomorrow, or go to bed and do this to really get down understand. And then it's like, oh, yeah, you do it all night. So they can't say like sleep on it and change their mind. That's why you go a night like that. That makes

Alex Ferrari 33:03
sense. That makes us exactly if you go to sleep tomorrow morning. This will not be here. No, yeah, that's how that's basically because if they wake up in the morning, you know, that wasn't that good. I can't, I can't. Is that high? It's that high of the Sundance screening. Was that too? How did you handle the altitude By the way, that must have been rough.

Max Barbakow 33:24
I was like, I honestly was just all adrenaline like, yeah, after I stayed the whole time, too, because I had never been so I wanted to see movies, and I wanted to meet other filmmakers and stuff and other like everybody else in the world kind of left on which it became this other experience, which I loved. Like I just was kind of like a film fan. They're seeing seen other stuff, but I I crashed after that, man. I like like, I like the adrenaline when and I was like, I I heard all over. Like,

Alex Ferrari 33:53
I'm not 20 anymore.

Max Barbakow 33:55
Yeah, I've been taking care of myself. Oh, that's right. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 34:00
Sundance, he has time. Isn't that does that to you? Yeah, that I've gotten sick almost every time almost every like last few times. I've figured out how not to get sick but you always altitude weather change. No sleep around a lot of people. It's I'm really curious to see what's going to happen this year with Sundance now because it's COVID and I can't force me they can't have a you know, there has to be a virtual version of it. But they can't be Park City is not there. Like you can't go to parks.

Max Barbakow 34:32
Yeah, though, and it's it's way different. I mean, I'm just so grateful that we had the Sunday live you could have played south by or Tribeca which would have been awesome. But that would have been a completely different experience. You know? So there's so many it's such a crazy year and there's so many great films that are you know, are getting lost. Change. Yeah, they got lost in there.

Alex Ferrari 34:54
Now what how did you guys come up with the whole 17.5 and 69 cents like how did that how does That happened.

Max Barbakow 35:01
That was a that was a key that one of our producer, like, just came up with that I think we're getting they're going back and forth. And 17.5 is the record. And rarely will ever gonna tie the record when they add like a little 69. And I just love that so much. It's like my favorite. It's my favorite thing because it also just holds a mirror up to the absurdity. And like, that was Akiva like, at 4am. Like she's Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 35:32
And now the thing is, to me, the amount of press that you guys got off of this off the sale was massive, I read somewhere that Hulu got like $50 million worth of press, just because they bought it for 17.5 and 16. And that 69 says, probably got it about another million or two of President would have gotten like that. But that must have been like, and I'm assuming everybody was bidding on it. But by the way, how did the neon get involved prior to the sale to Hulu or that together? They came in they

Max Barbakow 36:06
came in together it was partnership. And under looking at it, yeah. Which to me to begin with was like, pretty cool, because that just feels of this time, you know, it's like everyone, everything is gonna live on a streamer, you know that. But if you could have and you're gonna have a great theatrical release. And we did do drive ins with neon. And it's out film nation is now taking it out, like around the world, like it's playing in Italy in theaters, and it's in Russia and Taiwan and Taiwan and stuff, which is really cool. But like that to me, I was like, Oh, that's cool. That's a cool partnership like that feels like what how most movies should enter the world. Now. It's like you figure out where it's gonna live on a streamer. But then like team with a really cool taste making company to give it a little bit of a cultural moment, right and create a ripple so that that was always exciting to us. And they were great when the pandemic hit to just kind of like calling an audible and figuring out a way to still make it special. Despite the crazy circumstances, but then we did together and they they were great. They were when did it get released? What

Alex Ferrari 37:07
was the time like, what month July

Max Barbakow 37:08
time? so rough? It was rough, like in the neck you like so long? I was like, I don't even know. But it was definitely like, it was definitely the beginning just felt like one big snow day or something. You know, you're like, this is like, you know, like this is gonna be wacky and a little bizarre and maybe a little fun for a while. And July was definitely the point where like, God,

Alex Ferrari 37:36
everyone, just everyone just strapped in because the garden that I just started just started giving me tomatoes. And I learned how to make a mean sourdough like it's exactly, exactly. Now I have to ask you about how you know. So you have, you know, again, you you've got, you've lived the dream you've lived, I talked about the lottery ticket mentality, like so many filmmakers, what you said was basically their entire distribution plan is we're gonna make our $50,000 movie with no stars attached. And we're and our distribution model is to go to Sundance to get basically what you got. But the scenario, the timing, the cast the story, everything kind of it was a perfect storm, which is what a lottery ticket. You know, like I've said, and many I think even Robert and Kevin said this, like, El Mariachi shows up today, no one cares. You know, clerk shows up today, it's that no one's gonna see it. It's not gonna get you know, we don't see these directors. We don't those voices get squashed. Or it's not what we know it as today. So everyone's always looking at this lottery ticket. You know, at Sundance, Sundance is the lottery ticket. You won that lottery ticket. So I want to find out. What is it like winning the lottery ticket in regards to your career in regards to how the town treats you now? Because you're the belle of the ball, man, you won Sundance the biggest movie, and then you just didn't win Sundance, you sold the biggest movie ever at Sundance. So I'm assuming that comes with some sort of dancing, some sort of courting from people around. So how did the town treat you? And what was that experience? Like?

Max Barbakow 39:13
A lot of meetings, you know, you get to meet a lot of people, you get to just see you get kind of a fuller concept of what the, because you learned a lot putting the movie together too, right? We were trying to going out to try to find financing after the Lonely Island came on and we got to know kind of what the landscape was through the agencies and all that, but um, yeah, just get into to meet a lot of people. Getting to see what projects exist getting to kind of flirt and dabble and like think about projects and then realize, Oh, yeah, you always want to be self generating, like, like, anyway, you know, like, it's, I just, I'm stoked that I'm gonna get to work again. You know, that was the other thing at Sundance, when it went well. I'm like, Oh, yeah, we're gonna get someone someone's gonna pay. My mom is Like, employment, you know, it's like there's still a lot of speculative conversations, which are, it's always hard to sort out like, what's what's real or not. But that's just kind of, that's part of it. And I and I do say, I will say, like, I think the healthiest thing happened, which is that all this happened, and I've been at home, you know, like, there wasn't it, I think it would have been a little different if we were able to go places or go do a press tour, and it just like, it doesn't quite feel real still, it feels nice. It does feel real is having like certain work to do and projects to, like, get off the ground and stuff. That's really cool. And they're, they're actionable now because of the success of the movie. So, I mean, it's been, it's been cool, man, it's been, it's been a dream. It's like, it's always good to see something awesome to see something you made. People are engaging with it and makes you It puts wind in your sails. You know,

Alex Ferrari 40:54
that's why we do what we do. I mean, we, we make movies so people can watch it. Yeah, exactly. You know, and the more people that watch it, the more people connect with it, and actually like it. Oh, my God, that's the dream, you know, and if you can get paid. If you get paid somehow it can continue your continuous career. Why not? I love that, like, Hey, guys, we're gonna make another movie. This is awesome. Like, I'm actually employed for at least another couple years, at

Max Barbakow 41:24
least. Another movie and other thing and like another thing that we like, like and can choose from it. You know, it's like that, too. It's not just like taking the job for the sake of taking the job.

Alex Ferrari 41:34
And you said something, I want you to kind of clarify for people who don't understand when you say self generating as opposed to being like a director for hire, because I'm assuming you were pitched ton of stuff to direct and all that kind of stuff. And you've chosen I don't know, what what is your next project? And, and how do you

Max Barbakow 41:49
love that there's stuff that I'm attached to that, that were like directing assignments that but like, for me, it's always I'm, I'm about having that balance, like I want to work, I want to be working. And it's, I like I'm writing something right now. That's like a, like a passion project. And it's a labor of love. And I'm less, I like working with Andy a lot too, because there's another person in the room. And it's harder for me to stare at a blank page. And but I'm very passionate about this, I could do that. But like, I also want to go get back on set and stuff. So if there there's stuff that I could find a way into emotionally, and I think deserves to exist, you know, and I think it'd be really special. Of course, I'll go engage on that and try to get involved and make it. So for me, it's kind of like it's a balance.

Alex Ferrari 42:38
There. What is your next project? What's

Max Barbakow 42:39
the next project? Not not sure I'm writing this movie right now. That's that's about the the amazing Randy who actually just passed away yesterday. Rest in peace. That is super exciting.

Alex Ferrari 42:53
Isn't there a Jason momoa project that you're working on?

Max Barbakow 42:56
Yeah, they're trying to figure out when we could do that because of COVID stuff and scheduling stuff with that. Yeah, that's it's called the good, bad, good, bad and undead, and it's a it's very similar. It's Peter Dinklage and Jason momoa. It's like a buddy comedy. Nice, like a very, very self aware fantasy universe. I think we're just playing. The last Van Helsing version of Van Helsing is like, an alcoholic and a gambling addict. And no, as a vampire, we've taken a vow not to kill and a con artist comedy, they go around the village to village gone and people do this pretense to, to, to get them out. And they split the money. And then pretty soon, like a big bounce is put on their head and it becomes this giant chase movie. So it's like a very grounded human story about these two outcasts, you kind of bury a lot of their shame in this heightened world, which is kind of similar to Palm Springs. Right? That's, that's why I read it. I was like, this is really fun. Like, I could apply similar tools. You know, that sounds? That sounds awesome. I can't wait to see that. I

Alex Ferrari 43:58
hope I hope we are actually able to get that off. No big round one day, hopefully,

Max Barbakow 44:03
one day, hopefully

Alex Ferrari 44:04
to get on a set again, man. Just Exactly. I mean, do I mean, as I know, if I know a lot of directors and cinematographers who are working right now, depending on where they are in the country, or in the world. I mean, as a director, I haven't been on set since how, like, I don't want anyone to die. Because I'm making a movie. Like it's so yeah. How do you how do you how do you feel that you're going to get to back come back on the on the job?

Max Barbakow 44:31
I think from from what I've heard and and read it's it just is a lot you know, there's zones, it's a lot just very differentiated, like between shooting on film and shooting digitally. It's you have to be like very deliberate, you know, when the stakes are a little higher, and there's there's less room for for error. So I think it just is being very thoughtful with the number of people on set, which I think is good too. I think it's an opportunity, like redefine how many people you actually need to go make these things right. Think it's probably pretty hard for actors because you can't be as intimate. And for me, it's like, a no go go make something up. I think it's safe. But it's also you want to make sure that you're not. When you make something unsaid, I feel like it's already a set of compromises always. It's like once a compromise after caught, you know, you're always you're trying to just get it get into cancer, like this COVID thing is just a huge conference for everybody. Yeah, so it's, I don't know, man, I'm not I don't think I'm close to going back to anything. But hopefully soon, hopefully, in the new year.

Alex Ferrari 45:33
Let's hope man, let's hope now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests, all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? past COVID? Like,

Max Barbakow 45:43
yeah, they don't quit, you know, find a way not to quit. Like, that's the number. I think a lot of people just quit. But it's about perseverance. You know, and also recognizing, what idea is the idea to or project to really put, because I do, I do believe it's important to I mean, you want to have a lot of irons in the fire, but you want to put all your eggs in the basket that deserves those eggs. So it's about having the self awareness and like the taste, to know what the idea is worth, what ideas worth kind of really investing in a lot of your time. And because I see that a lot. Just, there's a passion project that it's like, Man, this is not, this is not the one you know, it's like, you just have to know you just have to kind of be aware of that way. And a lot of times it comes from that's a gut, a gut feeling in an instant, you know, it's the one it's based on character, and it's based on on emotion.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
Now, can you also let everybody know, because I'm assuming a lot of people listening right now think that you are an overnight sensation that you made one script, and it's just you walked it over to Andy. And Andy said, Sure, and you got 5 million bucks, you won Sundance and your career exploded, that, please tell everybody how long this overnight success actually took.

Max Barbakow 46:59
We went to Palm Springs, to I'm talking about like, the beginning of your career. Oh, like, I started, that I graduated college in 2013 or 2011. And started like, doing freelance doc stuff and writing then, you know, and then what is it 20 2020. So like, nine years of, like, chasing it in a way, but not kinda like that, that's, that's part of it. It's the journey, you know, you're never ready, like, nothing to put into the work if it just happens, you know, you have no, you have no foundation to stand like you need that. Always. And now, it's about even when you're done with a project, it's about starting over, you're back to zero. So you also have to, like, figure out who you are now, to, like, put that to put that into the project, which is a whole nother, you know, layer of, of the process, at least for me personally, yes, but input Palm Springs that started in like, 2015, the first seed of the idea and kind of, you know, in, in just in like 2000, mid 2016. So it's been, it takes time, you know, we're not doing just this, but it's like, you know, that's the one like I'm saying, I'm like, this is, this feels special, this feels like it could be really cool. So we can't quit on it.

Alex Ferrari 48:15
Now, um, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life,

Max Barbakow 48:24
I think patience. I mean, we're talking about it, but like, patience, you know, and being okay. With being in the moment, being okay, like very being sad about the work, you know, like, and just persevering, and not also not being turning off that whether it's writing or in the editor, whatever, turning off that critical voice in your head, and just kind of leaning into the process that that, that takes, I think, a little bit of experience,

Alex Ferrari 48:56
and what is the biggest fear you had to overcome to make this film? What was that thing that you had to kind of like, I gotta get past this in order to even be able to set foot on set?

Max Barbakow 49:07
I think failure you know, just just just, you know, getting past that and not putting the carpet like before the before the horse so to speak. And yeah, just not not even thinking about what it was going to end up as just kind of again, engaging with the process.

Alex Ferrari 49:26
And three of your favorite films of all time.

Max Barbakow 49:31
Oh, man. I would say Boogie Nights is definitely in there. I would say he gets alone either Fellini movie is really good. This makes sense.

Alex Ferrari 49:55
Both films that makes perfect sense so far, so far. You're on point you're on brands. So far so far.

Max Barbakow 50:03
And I would also say I look basketball a lot. I watched that again. Forever somehow under a movie. It is it is aged well, I think it's gotten much better with age, like sports fandom has become even more ridiculous on that, you know, it's like it's so

Alex Ferrari 50:25
and then it's that they actually created that entire sport. Yeah, like this rule. commitment. That's what like, again, learning from the Lonely Island and it's just like the silliest stuff. It's such commitment goes into that. And that's the genius of it. It's so all that silly stuff is always like so dense and so smart. And so well thought out, basically, boy, I just love that excellent, excellent choices. My friend. Excellent choices. Max has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show, brother, I wish you continued success. You are an inspiration to all of us independent filmmakers out here you you have walked the path that many of us dream to walk. So I truly appreciate you sharing your adventures with us and, and continued success. Man, I wish you the best.

Max Barbakow 51:10
Thank you, man. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 51:13
Want to thank max for coming on the show and inspiring the tribe today. It is truly amazing to feel like you were in the room when these big deals were being made at Sundance. And again, it really, really inspired me tremendously. And I recommend everybody listening to go watch Palm Springs on Hulu. It is a really really great film. Now if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, please head over to the show notes at indie film hustle comm forward slash for 38. And guys, I know most of us were not able to make it to Sundance this year. But if you want to feel like you're at Sundance, you should check out my movie that I shot at the Sundance Film Festival about three crazy filmmakers trying to hunt down a producer and sell their movie at the festival called on the corner of ego and desire. You can check that out at ego and desire film.com it's free on Amazon and on ifH TV. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 140: The NO Bullsh*t Guide to Making Your Indie Film with Jeff Leisawitz

Have you ever been in a place where nothing is going right creatively? Do you ever feel like you are standing in your own way? Me too. Today’s guest is author Jeff Leisawitz who wrote Not F*ing Around— the No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground.  This little pack is quite a punch.

I wanted to have Jeff on the show to drop some knowledge bombs to wake up the tribe a bit. To help you get out of your own way; to get you out of any creative rut.

Jeff Leisawitz, Not F*ing Around: The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground

This guidebook is a manual for creatives who can’t quite get their creative juices flowing? The day job sucking your soul? Fizzled out before you put the finishing touches on your amazing creation? With relentless positivity, full-on authenticity, and a punk rock thunder spirit, author Jeff Leisawitz pulls back the curtain on the creative process and reminds us that we are all creative SuperStars.

It’s time to get off the couch and get on the path. It’s time to tap into the cosmic heartbeat that thumps in your chest and shines from your soul. It’s time to get NFA!

About Jeff Leisawitz: Jeff is an award-winning musician/ producer, a critically acclaimed author, and an internationally distributed filmmaker who has devoted his life to creativity.

As the guy behind Electron Love Theory, Jeff fused interviews with Seattle’s WTO demonstrators into electronic music, garnering more than a quarter-million downloads worldwide. Jeff has released five studio albums and has landed thousands of music placements in film, TV, and multimedia for clients like HBO, MTV, Discovery, Microsoft, NBC, and many others.

As the founding writer for Seattle’s taste-making alternative rock station 107.7 The End, he chronicled the alternative grunge scene in the 90s.


After training as a Life Coach and practicing NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Re-Patterning) Jeff landed a gig as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific Lutheran University— teaching college students to rock. (Seriously)

When creative businesses, schools, and organizations like Brown Paper Tickets, Tacoma School of the Arts, Gage Academy of Art, Northwest Film Forum, and others need to amp up the creativity, Jeff leads workshops and events to fire up the creative spirit and empower people to tap into their true potential.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeff Leisawitz.

Right-click here to download the MP3


  • Jeff LeisawitzIMDB
  • Jeff Leisawitz – Website
  • Not F*ing Around–the No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground – Amazon


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Alex Ferrari 0:28
Now I know all of us have problems getting our creative dreams off the ground. And we always struggle with our own demons, or obstacles that we throw in front of ourselves or obstacles that are thrown in front of us trying to just go down the journey go down the path to get to where we want to be, wherever that might be in our careers in our just life journeys. And today's guest, Jeff Leisawitz wrote a book to help you with that part of your journey. It's called no effing around the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground. And I had a chance to read this little book and it is just plumb full of amazing little stories, guides, things that to just kind of help you. And it's kind of like a reference book that you can go back to again and again. And again, when you're feeling down. Or if something comes up against you. It really helps you break through a lot of that creative bs that that we put in front of ourselves, I had to deal with that for 20 odd years of just constantly getting in my own way. And this book hopefully will help you get out of your own way to make your dreams and your creative dreams come true and your professional dreams come true as well. So this episode, me and Jeff really dive into the book go over a lot of the tips and techniques that he came up with to help creatives just get out of their own way and also just be able to achieve those goals that they're going after. So without any further ado, here is my conversation with Jeff Leisawitz. I'd like to welcome the show, JJeff Leisawitz. Man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Jeff Leisawitz 3:36
Hey, thank you, I'm happy to be here.

Alex Ferrari 3:39
So you've written this wonderful book, called no effing around the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground. And I wanted to have you on the show. Because I think everybody in the tribe listening definitely can help have to get a little bit of assistance in that they get in their creative dreams off off the ground, myself included. So why did you decide to write the book in the first place?

Jeff Leisawitz 4:05
Well, I wrote this book, really by accident. I was minding my own business going to the coffee shop on a weekend morning as I often do, to do some writing, whether it's on a screenplay or journaling, or poetry, or just whatever. And I just wrote this piece, which was, you know, sort of this empowerment kind of stuff. And when I was done, I was like, geez, this is pretty good. Maybe I should write a book. Why not? I've never read a book before. Let's do it. So I wrote an outline, you know, shortly thereafter and then busted the thing out. But it wasn't until after I wrote it, that I realized why this was such an important piece for me and hopefully for the world as well. And that is because on one hand, I'm this big creative. I've spent my whole life as a musician, as a writer, as a filmmaker, as a photographer, all That kind of stuff. But on the other hand, I'm also really big into empowerment empowering people. So everything from being a summer camp counselor with the arts and crafts program to teaching songwriting to college students now, I also am a life coach, right practicing life life, life coach stuff, and something called NLP Neuro Linguistic repatterning, which is sort of fringy philosophy, psychology practice, where you help people untangle their subconscious blocks, so they can move forward and make better choices around their worlds and you know, the things that are sort of built in with them. So this book really put both of these pieces of myself together in the same place and seems to be working.

Alex Ferrari 5:51
Now, why do people get in their own way, specifically in the creative world, because I know I'm, I'm definitely a victim of that.

Jeff Leisawitz 6:00
People get in their own way as creatives for about a zillion reasons. But I believe it all comes down to our psychology, because the way we think, both consciously and unconsciously, seriously affects and maybe even totally affects everything we do. So if you have a belief system that was sort of programmed into your brain, when you were a kid, right about not taking risks, okay, and that's in there. And that's, that's your thing. And now it's time for you to take a risk in your creative life, guess what, you're probably not going to do it. On the flip side, if you were programmed with an idea that says, Take every risk possible, anything goes, right, maybe you sneak money out of your mom's retirement account, to make the film in black and white. Right, right. Right, because hey, any risk goes, both of these strategies are really not that helpful. Both are too extreme. So if you can understand where you're coming from, and the forces that are driving you, as a creative, you will then be much better able to make better choices.

Alex Ferrari 7:25
Now, how can you discover what you love to do? Because I know a lot of people listening, you know, they listened to the podcast, because obviously they want to be a filmmaker, or screenwriter, or some sort of creative, but but how do you know what you love to do? There's so many different things you can do even within the film industry, there's 1000 different jobs. How do you find that thing that it that makes it I gotta do this for the rest of my life?

Jeff Leisawitz 7:50
Well, the the biggest way to dig into that is to keep asking questions. And the question that at the end of the day is always Why, why why why. But before we even get to that, take a look at what you love. Right? If it's, you know, for talking about making films, what do you love about films? Is it the story? Is it the way the character emotes on screen? Is it the special effects? Is that the sound, right? I mean, this is pretty obvious, but it's going to drive you towards what you love. If you if you love experiencing it, you're then going to love creating it or working with it or something like that. So really just taking a look around. And then the next question is why? Why do you want to write a story? And what kind of stories do you want to write? There's a concept out there called make your mess, your message, right? What is your pain? What is your What is your tragedy? What is your, you know, the difficulties that you've had in life? And then create a story from that if you're a screenwriter, right, or director things like this. So those are ways to start digging in, you know, another way might be to look at what you do want, like aspects around the sort of job or career path? Would you want to work alone? Do you want to work with people, right? Huge difference, and that's going to separate you from you know, separate these jobs in huge ways.

Alex Ferrari 9:34
Also, I would also throw in there, ask yourself why you want to do something even if you find something you think you love. Ask yourself why do you want to do it? Because are you doing it for money? Are you doing it for fame? Are you doing it for Fortune? What what's what's the purpose? Would you do it if you weren't getting paid? You know, that's, that's always a great if you could do if you can answer them like I would do this and if I and I get paid, I'll be happy.

Jeff Leisawitz 9:58
That is absolutely True. Because if you are being driven by something that is not true to your heart, in any career, it doesn't even matter if it's creative, it can be anything. If your head and your heart are not aligned, you will never be able to take action that is that is balanced and focused. And it will never get as far as you would like it to go. If you were just doing it for the money. You know, that's not a it's not a real good driver. And hopefully there should be something else in there when we all got to get paid. And you know, of course,

Alex Ferrari 10:37
I guess you're on course, of course. Yeah.

Jeff Leisawitz 10:40
But it's not the only factor. And you know, fame. Like what is fame? And you know, the question, like you said, is why? Why do you want fame? Because guess what, when you get it, if you get it, it's not going to be what you think it is, I promise you that

Alex Ferrari 10:55
I just had the pleasure of doing a pre screening of the new movie coming out called the last movie star, I'm going to be having the director on soon, which is starring Burt Reynolds. And it is a story about basically a washed up actor, who was at one point, the biggest movie star in the world. And it is heartbreaking to watch, but rennels, for everybody who doesn't know on, you know, for all the millennials out there who doesn't know, Burt Reynolds was Burt Reynolds was basically Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt thrown together. And he was the number one star in the world for probably like six to 10 years, making the most money out of all of them. And you know, he's fallen on hard times. And you know, he's kind of fallen off. But the movie was brilliant. But the one thing I loved about watching that is, when you're talking about fame, it doesn't get more famous than Burt Reynolds at the point of his peak, like he was the biggest star in the world. But at the end, does it matter? What did you do with your life? Were you happy?

Jeff Leisawitz 12:03
Exactly what are you contributing? And what you know, what do you How are you healing? through your creative work? I mean, it's a huge part of my book, and my workshops and stuff like that, you know, sort of the the main theme of what I've got going on over here is using our creativity, our creativity, to be seen, expressed and healed. Right. So what do I mean by that to be seen? Well, you know, as we're running around in the world, it's easy to become anonymous, right? It's just people everywhere. So there's that piece, but then the next piece is like, Okay, what about your inner circles, your friends, your family, your you know, significant others, co workers, people like that? Did they see you and understand you? Yes, hopefully somewhat a little bit maybe. Right? But do they fully see you and understand you. So if you can use creativity, to you know, create something, whatever it is song movie piece of writing, whatever, it's a new way to be seen. The second piece is to be expressed. So what do I mean by that? It means to go from the potential to the actual. So the potential is, you know, the dancer who knows all the moves, but she's sitting in the corner, on the day, you know, on the dance floor is right there. And the music's playing in that moment, she has just potential. But as soon as she gets up there and actually does it, that's when she becomes actualized as a dancer. So once you're seen and expressed, then the healing comes in. Right. So a lot of creativity, a lot of films, a lot of books, a lot of stories, especially are, you know, away, to have a catharsis create a catharsis for yourself? What are my tragedies, what are my struggles, all this kind of stuff? You get it out there for the world, but it's even more than that. Right? That's the sort of obvious healing. But there's also a healing, I believe that goes on. When, you know, if you write a love song, right, sure. Where's the healing in that? Well, the healing and the love song is all the loneliness that preceded the celebration of that song. Okay. So when you're seeing expressed and heal through your creativity, something really cool happens. You give a gift to the world. That's your film. That's your screenplay. That's whatever you're up to. And then here's the even cooler part because it comes around in a circle. When you when you're seeing expressed and healed and you give your gift to the world, and by that I don't mean you know, a major release of your film or this or that. I mean, it can be a small thing, right? It can be a poem to your your friend or your girlfriend or something. Right. But when you do this, you become the gift, right? Because you show Others in the world that they can be seen, expressed and healed. And this is freakin huge. If we all did this with this kind of intention, the world would rise in a way that would be huge.

Alex Ferrari 15:17
You know, and one thing as I gotten older in life, I've noticed this with films, going back to features, that when you when you see a movie by a filmmaker or group of collaborators, who truly love what they are doing, who truly have an amazing intention, it spills off the screen, it spills off the screen. But it does, but when you watch something like and I've bashed this movie enough, but I'll bash it again, the Justice League, you watch that, and you can see people in it who want to, but the box is not, you know, the the, the car is not really well put together to go on the journey. You know, and it's just this, this Hollywood, like, flashy stuff. And we've seen it a million times, you know, with all the transformer movies, you know, all that kind of stuff, you can tell that it's not coming with the right intention. But you watch a movie like Black Panther, and it spills off the screen, the intention of that movie is you know, it's it literally, and audiences can pick it up.

Jeff Leisawitz 16:28
I totally agree with that there is a you know, I believe almost like a metaphysical energy that is imbued or infused into our creations. So an example I like to use on that is, you know, your basic pop star. Right, you put them up there, and yeah, they can sing. Yeah, the song has a hook. It sounds good.

Alex Ferrari 16:50
It's already He's good looking. Yeah, sure.

Jeff Leisawitz 16:52
Exactly. And you might even like it, and you might even like it for, you know, a minute or a week or a month, but then it disappears. Yep. And then you've got a song like Aretha Franklin going Ari SP CT. Mm hmm.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
And you can feel that oh, my God, can you that song? Oh, God, you can feel like almost any song by YouTube.

Jeff Leisawitz 17:15
Exactly. It's because they're coming from the heart. They're coming from real truth. And they're tapped into it. And that is what audiences always respond to.

Alex Ferrari 17:27
I think also, I know we're going off track a little bit, but I think we're still on topic is, as as filmmakers, as storytellers, if we can if we can tap into truth, and authenticity, because in today's world, there's so much Bs, there's so much fake news, if you will, fake this or fake that, or, you know, people putting out these fake lives on Instagram that like, Look, my life is perfect. Or on Snapchat, when you know, and I know, it's not one, but when you put something that's truth out there, people so so can feel it, and are drawn to it because they want authenticity in their stories. They want truth, they want to feel something from the artist, not something that's manufactured truth, because manufacture truth might have worked in the past, but people are so savvy now. And that's why Hollywood's having such a tough time. You know, they're having a really tough time. You know, unless they're able to tap into some of those real truth. And I'm not saying you can't have a fun movie and have truth. Like, again, Black Panther, I saw it was wonderful, so much fun to watch. But you could just see it spilling off the screen authenticity of that movie of Ryan coogler, who wrote it and directed it. It was amazing. It was amazing. But would you agree with that?

Jeff Leisawitz 18:49
I totally, totally agree with that. And I believe there is a major paradigm shift coming and actually underway right now. With artists and thinkers and business and all this stuff, because you're right, people are sick of the crap. They're sick of corporate, you know, agendas, they're sick of just just things without any soul or truth or that's

Alex Ferrari 19:15
Why artisan foods and artisan crafts and you know, in you know, they don't want to buy a table that was made in China, they want to make it they want to know who made their table, you know? Exactly, it's to an extreme I mean, I don't want to get hipster on everybody but but but artisan food like understanding where food comes from where organic food comes from, as opposed to McDonald's. That's why McDonald's is having such a an all these fast food places are having such a tough time because the world is changing and they're being left behind in their wake. And people want that authenticity in their food, in their in their entertainment in their books. You know, you can go back there's certain books you go read 1984 tomorrow today and it's still gonna ring true. Right gonna threw in another 50 years, maybe a little too true.

Jeff Leisawitz 20:03
And this is a huge opportunity for us as independent creators. Right? We have tools now, obviously with, you know, cameras and all kinds of computers and the internet and podcasts and all this stuff, right. As well as distribution that, you know, we've never seen before, you know, so we can tell powerful stories without spending $100 million to do it. Oh, yeah. Right. Absolutely. So that is a key piece that, you know, I think filmmakers really need to hear it's like, Yeah, it's great to have the production values and all that kind of stuff. But what's really going to drive the story is a great story and actors who care, right?

Alex Ferrari 20:54
Exactly, and not actors who want the biggest, the biggest trailer, it's about the story and about getting into the weeds and exposing themselves, not physically, but emotionally and spiritually on that screen. That's why when you watch Meryl Streep, god damn man every time because she knows how to do Daniel Day. Like, every single time, they just know how to tap into that truth. Without question. Mm hmm. It's pretty insane. It's pretty insane. So let me ask you, you suggest people fail fast? I agree with you. And I understand what you're saying. But can you explain it to the audience? why people should fail and fail fast?

Jeff Leisawitz 21:41
People should fail fast, because failure is an absolutely necessary step to success. Okay. I have talked to the hundreds of success, like very successful people in different fields. And they all say the same thing. Thank goodness for failure. Right? So here's the deal. failure. First of all, it First of all, it's looking at it in such a way that it's not you are a failure, it is I failed, right? And there's a very big difference. And that goes back to the psychology again, right? If you identify yourself as a failure, that's not good. And you really got to work on that. But when you look at it as I failed in this particular, you know, event, or or creation, or whatever you're going for, that's fine, right? You separate it, you deal with the pain of it, perhaps. And then you step back and you're like, what can I learn from this? Okay, here's what went wrong. Here's what could be optimized. Here's what could be better. Here's what could be cheaper, or here's what I want to spend more money on, you know, whatever, just ask a million questions, because remember, the better the questions that you ask, the better the answers you're gonna get.

Alex Ferrari 23:04
Right? It's like, a question like, why did I suck at this? Not a good question. Not a good question. Exactly. It's gonna Yeah, as opposed to like, what can I learn from this situation to make myself be a better filmmaker or person? Exactly. better question.

Jeff Leisawitz 23:21
Exactly. So you know, my philosophy of fail fast is you get it together, the best you can you get in the car, you you step on the gas, you crash into the wall, you step back, you learn what you can learn, you get in the car, and you step on the gas again, and hopefully you go a little bit further this time.

Alex Ferrari 23:40
You know, the funny thing is that with that mentality, I've done that so many times in my life where I just get in the car and just drive to see what happens. And I've crashed multiple times. Like as you as you should. Exactly. And then with my latest film, I actually got in the car, and just put the gas to the floor. And I didn't crash, which was very odd. I was like, Oh, my God, it's things are things are happening. Let's go. It was a fast trip, but I got it done. And I think well, I wouldn't have been able to do that unless I crashed a million times before. And I could just weave and dive through the obstacles that I knew were coming. Right, but you need to fail. And I would say not only fail fast, fail often. Yes, absolutely. as well. Now, are there any tips on how on how to handle the world just slapping you're kicking your ass on your journey because reality in the world always comes in and just slaps you across the face. It happened to me in my early 20s. And anytime I see someone young or even someone older, who's got a complete chip on their shoulder or completely arrogant, I'm like, I don't care who you are. It will happen at one point or another. The world will come crashing down on you Some sometimes bigger than, then than you expect, what do you? What kind of advice? Can you give people on how to handle that first slap across the face? From the world?

Jeff Leisawitz 25:13
Sure. Well, the first, the first thing I would consider is not taking it personally. Okay. Yeah, I mean, that sounds pretty basic, but it's true, because as creators, you know, somewhere within us, we believe that our creations and our projects are us in a way that is different from the way an accountant might think of this and accountants screws something up, ooh, you know, sorry, you know, that's my bad or whatever. But it's not like it's their baby, right? It's not their child, right. But creatives tend to believe that what they are creating is them. So you must separate this conceptually in your head. Right. And that is going to give you a lot more distance, and a lot more breathing room, from the pain that the world will definitely give to you at one time or another. And really, really, a lot of the time. You know, if you're going for it, you're gonna get way more rejections than success and failures than successes. In any of us. You know, when I was in college, and I was getting ready to graduate, you know, I've got all my creative dreams and stuff. And my advisor sits me down, and she says, you know, if you're going to be an artist, get ready for 97%, pain and rejection. And I was like, You gotta be kidding me. And now it's like, yeah, I maybe pick that up to 98 and a half percent. It's like, there's a lot. So there's the one piece. The other piece is sort of what we talked about before, which is process and product, right? If you genuinely and deeply love doing the thing that you are doing, there is a gift to bear. As opposed to, I got to make a ton of money. I got to be famous. I've got to win some award, like like the ego stuff. Right? So if you genuinely love writing screenplays, hey, of course, it's great to sell one, of course, it's great to produce one and go for it. And I'm totally down with that. And you're going to have a lot more longevity and a lot more health, in your hearts and being you get value simply out of doing it.

Alex Ferrari 27:47
Absolutely. And yeah, so much more. Because that kind of lessons, that's a great decimal great advice. Because if you love doing it, regardless of what the outcome is, which is one thing I've always said is don't attach outcome to whatever you're creating as much as little as possible, because that's when you really get hurt. And that's when those slaps really, really hurt. Without question. Now, can you discuss the two major motivating forces that guide most of every decision that we make, which is avoiding fear, and gaining love of one way, shape, or form or love of something?

Jeff Leisawitz 28:26
Absolutely, those are the true, the two forces that will guide everything, we are either moving towards love, or avoiding fear, and you know, in pain, and you know, those kinds of things. So, it's really critical to, again, ask yourself questions. What are you doing? And why are you doing it? Right, and if you're moving towards love, and there are reasons to move away from fear, and again, conflict and pain and all that, I mean, there's definitely a purpose there. But to use these powers, and these motivators in such a way, that helps you, you know, move towards the truth of who you are and what your expression is. And if you do that, the outcome might not be exactly what you thought it you wanted. But it will still be valuable for you. I mean, I'm sitting here now talking about this book and all this stuff, you know, around empowering creatives, guess what, up until, you know, two years ago, I had no idea this was like really my mission. You know, I want to be a rock star and a filmmaker and all this stuff. And I you know, I still love all that stuff. But again, I was attaching this huge outcome to these endeavors. Now, it's like, Hey, you know what, I'm going out here. I'm doing my thing. And, you know, hopefully people will get some value out of it.

Alex Ferrari 30:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And same exact same thing for me. Three years ago, I had no idea that I was going to be doing this, interviewing people like you doing a podcast, doing a website, doing all this kind of stuff. And if you would have told me, oh, you would have shot to feature films, and you, you know, have this podcast and, you know, in this community you've built up and helping people, I would have never would have never believed it. So it but when you find it, you're like, Oh, this feels good. I'm gonna keep doing, I'm gonna keep doing this.

Jeff Leisawitz 30:40
Okay. And, and again, I believe that's the alignment of our head and our heart and our action.

Alex Ferrari 30:48
Yes. Yes, without question. Because I mean, I've been I know, you've been on projects like this too, but you're on a project, you're doing it for the money, or you're doing it for something other than what really you should be doing it for. And it never turns out, right? It always becomes painful, it always becomes stressful. It always is. It's a car crash car. Hey, man, I've crashed that car plenty of times. And it's tough sometimes, because you want to take them, you know, sometimes a gig is a gig. And you got to do it for the money sometimes. And don't get me wrong, I've done that millions of times.

Jeff Leisawitz 31:27
And that, and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we move forward in our lives, you know, the question is ask the questions of what can drive you towards sustainability, you know, as you know, making a living or whatever? And also, what, why do you want to do the thing that you want to do? Because that is going to make a huge difference. And again, you know, we're sort of talking about this in terms of, like career stuff, like, but it doesn't have to be, you can make films on the weekends for the hell of it. You can write screenplays, because you like writing screenplays and not even worry about selling it or making things right. It's just, you know, again, it comes down to the process and the product, what are you trying to do? Why are you doing it?

Alex Ferrari 32:18
And it's never too late. That's the other big thing I love to preach is like, Look, if you're 50 if you're 60 and you want to start writing screenplays start writing screenplays. Sure, that was a Julia Child's was 6465 when she started. Oh, wow. Yeah. And the colonel from KFC. I think he was like 70 when he opened up his first KFC. That's a good piece of trivia. I like that, you know, like these guys started late in life, it there's no reason why age should stop you. You know, and a lot of ways as you get older, you have a lot more tools in those toolbox to get started, as opposed to a 20 year old getting started. In the exam field. Would you agree? Yeah, absolutely. Now, how do you handle that wonderful little voice in your head? That tells you you're not good enough? Why are you even bothering doing this year? You have no talent? Look at you. How do you handle that guy?

Jeff Leisawitz 33:20
I call that little voice in our heads the IQ or the inner critic, right? You've sort of heard that before. And it is true that if the IQ gets loud enough, or talks long enough, it will kill any creative dream that comes across your your heart. Right? So how do we deal with this thing? Well, first of all, we have to realize that it's actually there for a reason. Okay? The reason is outdated, outmoded, whatever, but the reason is to keep you safe. Okay? So, you know, you go back, you know, 10,000 years or whatever, it's to keep you safe from the tiger and you know, all those kinds of things. But now, the world is a lot different. We're not faced generally, with that many physical threats. Now, what's more emotional threats, or possibly financial threats? Right? Are we fitting into the group? Are we you know, are is our ego balanced and healthy or not? Things like that. So, first, by acknowledging that IQ, you know, the, your inner critic, is there for a reason and to honor it for that, right? Actually lessens its power. Right? Then, you sort of you can get into meditations I do this in my workshops and my you know, stuff like this meditations where you go in, you go into your mind, you go into your heart, and you'll be like, Okay, again, thank you for your service, but you are not needed here. And I've got various exercises where you can essentially turn down the volume on what the IQ says and how it says it. by loving the EQ and letting it go, you take away its power. And that is tremendous. Because if it's too loud, it is going to screw you up. And we've all had it.

Alex Ferrari 35:24
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, my IQ is Mike was on full blown. He was full blown. But eventually you kind of you kind of wrangle them down. It's, it's that little voice, I always tell people the story, the little voice, like, Look, the little voice in your head is the is your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. We all we all had a dinner. And then we're stuffed because we ate this huge dinner. And all of a sudden, dessert tray comes out. And you want to like, Alright, let me just have a piece of cheesecake. It just looks too good. And that little voice inside of you is telling you. Yeah, I just had the cheesecake going, you'll go to the gym a little bit more, you'll you'll burn it off. Don't worry about it. That night, when you get home and you take your clothes off in front of the mirror, that same voice goes to you fat pig. Why did you eat that cheesecake? You've got to control that voice? Because if not, they will control you. Exactly. Exactly. Now, there's a there's a chapter in your book that says say yes. And agree to whatever is in front of you. Can you explain a little bit of that? Sure.

Jeff Leisawitz 36:33
So years ago, I took an improv comedy class, I guess, right? And there's a bunch of different tenets about how to do improv comedy. One of them that really struck me was say yes, and, and what they meant by that was, you know, when you're improving a scene, you need to take whatever facts or information that everybody else is putting out there and assume it's true. So if somebody else says the aliens are coming down, and they're spaghetti all over the floor, right? You buy it. And then you move on, you know, okay, maybe we should feed the aliens, some spaghetti might be your, you know, what you do as an actor in there. Okay, if you don't accept that reality, the whole thing stops dead. Right? So I thought this was really a really smart way to think about the world. Because if you say yes, in your life, what that essentially means is I am accepting reality as it is as objectively as you can look at it. Okay, that's the first piece. Where are you? Really? What are your skills? Where do you want to go? What's your thing? Right? And then the second piece is, say yes. And blank. What can you add to what's already there? How can you create value? How can you move forward? How can you do all this kind of stuff? That is going to essentially step the scene up? Right? Just like it does an improv comedy? What's the scene in your life that you can step up? So you know, if, if, if the reality of your life is I can't afford a big fancy camera, but Jeez, I've got my iPhone. That's the Yes. Okay. And then, what's the end? Well, jeez, I know, a couple friends who are actors, and I have this little script. Let's bust this thing out. So now, you've accepted reality, and you've created value and move forward with that, which is a lot different from the mindset of, well, geez, I only have an iPhone and not even realizing you have an iPhone. I can't get up my $30,000 to do my scene. You know, I have to hire all these people and stuff like that. Sure. It's great if you have that, but that's not your reality. Right? Right. So by clearly looking at what is your reality, you can then step forward in more meaningful and powerful ways.

Alex Ferrari 39:11
That's a powerful really powerful statement. Honestly, it really is because I was caught in that or in that world for so long. of I can't make I can't make a move until everything's perfect. So I have the right camera, the right dp, the right cast the right store, like it froze me for 20 years, you know, till I finally just said, screw it. I'm tired. Wait, I'm just gonna and I actually just said, This is my reality. This is what I'm gonna go do.

Jeff Leisawitz 39:43
And that I mean, that's my exact story filmmaking wise to I was trying to sell my screenplays, you know, to Hollywood producers and stuff and like, you know, getting the bites but you know, no sales. And finally, like, screw this. I'm just making, I'm making short. I'm just doing it. I just did. Man, isn't it. It's amazing. It's also amazing. By the way, it's might be helpful for your listeners, I put that thing out. It's called mystic coffee. I put it out to tons and tons of film festivals. And I got shot down by every single one of them. And I was like, oh, man, wow, that's a major fail. Right, right. And then I get a call out of the clear blue from a company called Gaia TV. Sure, right. Conscious media is what they do and call themselves and they're like, somebody showed us your film from a film festival, you know, or, you know, a curator at a film festival or whatever. And we love it. We want to give you a 10 year non exclusive deal worldwide. Like, sure. Like Okay, now the films out there, it's making money and people are seeing it. So you don't ever know. The way it's gonna go.

Alex Ferrari 40:59
It's never the way you think mostly. It's rarely the way it's it's rarely that way. And it's generally sometimes it's better. A lot of times I find it's better than what you imagined. Or at least different. At least different at least definitely different without without question. Yeah. It the whole Oh, by the way, I don't know if you knew this or not Steven Soderbergh just made this his latest film on an iPhone. Really, purely because, you know, obviously, Steven, because you in on whatever he wants, right? He decided to go on an iPhone, I watched the trailer of it, I was like, looks pretty good.

Jeff Leisawitz 41:37
And I'm sure I would love to hear his, you know, his reasoning for doing that.

Alex Ferrari 41:43
I think he just, I think he's one of those guys. He's like, he's never gonna make a movie for a studio again. He's done with that. So he, he just said that he's going to be doing his movies the way he wants to make them, and just go out and shoot them. And just, he doesn't care. And because he's got the clout of who he is, actors will come and work for him. And, and he's gonna just do his movies. And I think he wanted to, I think he wanted to prove that it can be done, which is a lot of stuff that he's done is like, I'm just gonna prove that it could get done. Right, you know, and he's just gonna do it. And it looked pretty good. You know, I mean, if you watch tangerine, which is Shawn Baker's beautiful movie, shot on the iPhone, it looked great. It was like, remarkably great. Did you see his latest movie Florida project? I have not. Oh, such right. We completely, completely snubz he should have been should have been an Oscar nominated film, without question. But anyway, um, so let me ask you, what advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jeff Leisawitz 42:53
Well, basically what you just said, which is just do your thing and love what you're doing. If you're a screenwriter, write screenplays, put them out, you know, do whatever you got to do there with that kind of the business stuff. But write the screenplays for the right reasons, the reasons that matter to you. Same thing with the filmmaker, bust out your iPhone, or borrow your buddy's camera. I don't like just do it. However, you can do it. You're going to be moving forward, you're going to be getting better at your craft, you're going to be failing fast, and you're going to be getting better and you're going to be stepping closer towards your goal. And at the end of the day, if you love what you're doing, you're already winning.

Alex Ferrari 43:38
Amen. Yeah. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Jeff Leisawitz 43:52
I've read I've read a lot of books. I, the first one that the one that pops into my mind is Catcher in the Rye, which I turned on to probably as a maybe 12 or 13 year old was sitting in my parents bookshelf. And I read that book literally, every year from probably 13 to 25. I love that book so much. And then I stopped and then you know, maybe when I was sitting around 40 or so I read it again for the first time since then. And I was amazed at the difference of perspective that I had between being younger and being a little older. So what did I get out of that book? I think I related hugely to obviously it's a Holden Caulfield, the character specifically, in ways that he could see through the bullshit of the world. Half of this book was him looking at stuff and saying, like, Man, this school that I'm at, everybody's a phony, right? And here's the beauty in this little piece of the world over here that nobody's even looking at. Right? And over here, this is this is a bunch of crap. Right? So, you know, grown up, and even now still, I have the same mindset. I'm like, Where is the beauty? Where's the truth? And where is the nonsense? And let's get rid of the nonsense. Let's think, for ourselves. Please write, we are so inundated with media, with, you know, peer group, with advertising and marketing, with social with, you know, like educational institutions and government, like all this stuff, has a gigantic effect on us. And if you're not, if you don't have your filters up, this stuff will brainwash you. So, again, being more conscious and asking questions, why do I think I have to buy this expensive thing? Hmm. Is it because you really need it? Or is it because you've seen 40,000 ads for it?

Alex Ferrari 46:20
Great. If I if I if I may translate that for filmmakers? Do I really need to buy an Alexa? Or can the iPhone work? Or can a Blackmagic Pocket camera work? You know, or cheaper? You know that that whole gear, people buying gear again and again and again and again? Do you really need it? What do you what's the minimum thing you need to do your art?

Jeff Leisawitz 46:41
Exactly. And it can be an excuse? Oh, guys, I need I need all this expensive stuff in a huge budget to do my thing. Now, you know, you know, the freakin Beatles made Sergeant Pepper's with a four track. Right? So if they can do that, what can you do with all of this stuff? Most of which is so cheap and even free.

Alex Ferrari 47:09
Right! It's pretty, it's pretty remarkable. And for the kids in the audience, The Beatles were a band back in the signum joking. I just saw amazing documentary on how the Beatles changed the world and just completely changed my perspective on them the death before but I really loved them after I saw that document.

Jeff Leisawitz 47:30
I just saw that too. Isn't that good?

Alex Ferrari 47:31
Netflix and Netflix and amazing documentary? Right? Yeah. I didn't know that. They literally changed the music industry multiple times. Yeah, it's remarkable. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jeff Leisawitz 47:52
Wow, well, I'm still learning it, I'm sure. But something recently came up. That is really pretty extraordinary for me. And this goes down into the psychology. So I was I was with some people. And I was saying, Hey, you know, my business or my book and my workshops. In some ways, it's going great. I'm getting out there. I've got clients, and you know, people showing up to the events and all this kind of stuff, fantastic. But it's really not getting as big as I would like it to be, I'm not having as much impact as I know, I could write. So there was sort of giving me advice or thoughts on it. And one person said, you're not confident, I'm like, wait a minute, I'm confident when I started, I was not confident, you know, of course, I'm starting a new thing. It's out of my comfort zone. Now I can talk about the stuff I know what I'm doing, et cetera, et cetera. So I really felt in my mind that I was confident. However, somebody else said to me, you're you are confident in your mind. But your heart is not fully ready to be seen. And I was like, Oh, my mind blown. And this has, you know, without getting too far into it, this has been sort of an issue under an undercurrent of my consciousness my whole life for various reasons. And so I took this little bit of wisdom, and I'm still doing this journaling on this, why is it that I'm not really ready to be seen? And how can I be seen and how would it feel to be seen because that's vulnerability, right? That's huge. You're putting yourself out there as any creative does. And then meditations around this stuff, again, using some of these NLP techniques that I know to re essentially rewire my subconscious and let me tell you Have something within days of this happening. And this was really just like two, three weeks ago, within days of this, I have gotten a ton of new clients, a ton of new opportunities to speak, and do my thing, and workshops, and all this stuff without changing my outward actions in any significant way. Amazing, isn't it? It's amazing. And, and that is why I really believe so deeply, that it's not just your head and your action in the world that will help Of course, you know, move you towards your goals, but it is the energy within you. And if you can unblock that, and move that forward. That is it will help you in tremendous ways.

Alex Ferrari 50:52
And sometimes it takes a lifetime for people to understand that it does that they just they they die, bitter and angry, because they didn't achieve their goal. But a lot of it was like you just didn't find this one key inside of you to unlock that part that stopping you. Because at the end of the day, if you keep pushing forward. And obviously if you keep hitting the wall in the same place, and the walls not moving, you got to change your direction, change your attack, if you will, sure. But at a certain point, if you keep at it, you will have to make some sort of some sort of headway in, you know, look, if your goal is like, I need to win 10 Oscars, I'm like, this is not, this is not First of all, a horrible goal, to start the journey on. If that's if that's the only way you're doing it is to get 10 Oscars, that was the point. But I think that people do get so they see that thing inside of them, or they don't see that thing inside of them that stops them. Like me, it took me 20 years to get out of my own way. And once I got out of my own way, it was like a rocket ship. It just took off in a way. And it's only happened in the last three, three years or so. For me, and it was because I got on my own way. And I got a lot of these preconceived notions out of my head, you know, like, Oh, god, what is going to be my first movie, my first movie has to come out, it has to be Reservoir Dogs. Right? You know, it's got, it's got to take the world by storm. I'm like, No, dude, it does not. You could just make the movie. And if it's good, great. If it's not, you make another one. And so on. So it is it's sad. But anytime I see that in people, I always try to help as much as I can. Because I'm no expert by any stretch. But I always try to, like, look inside, what's stopping you? Because you've been doing this for 10 or 15 years? Do you agree? Like there's something there's something? It's more likely something inside of you?

Jeff Leisawitz 52:58
Exactly. It's it's always let me just say that it is always you to some extent, and usually, to a large extent, right. So again, that's what I do with my coaching. And that's what I do at these workshops is, you know, help people not only with the practical actions, because that's important too. But dig into the why unblock these pieces that are screwing us up, create different identities. Did you fail? Or are you a failure? Right? The all this kind of stuff? Are you ready to be seen Why or why not? Right? And if we get into that stuff, it changes. It just changes everything.

Alex Ferrari 53:40
Absolutely. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Jeff Leisawitz 53:44
Oh my. Well, gosh, three, I'm going to go with you know, it's so easy to say it but Pulp Fiction because I mean, that's just some great first Star Wars movie. You know, I feel connected with Luke.

Alex Ferrari 54:02
We all do. That's why it's why it's Star Wars.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:05
That's right. I sort of escaped my home planet and i've you know, believe in the forest. I'll turn that freakin scope off for that last, you know, killer shot.

Alex Ferrari 54:15
Yep, yep. Yep.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:18
What's another one I love? Well, I love contact.

Alex Ferrari 54:21
Oh, wow. Yeah, I love contact.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:24
No, I mean, that's essentially faith and, and science

Alex Ferrari 54:29
McConaughey and Foster had absolutely no chemistry but the movie was correct.

Jeff Leisawitz 54:33
Yes. I and one of my screenplays is thematically similar to that panaceas dream about a shaman, a scientist who invent a pill that cures any illness and it works. But they don't know why it works. And you know, when the scientist sister starts dying and the pill doesn't work for her. The scientist has to figure this out. Sounds Yeah, you Yeah. So, you know, I mean, I could list a bunch more movies, but

Alex Ferrari 55:05
No worries, no worries, threes good threes. Good. Now where can people find you?

Jeff Leisawitz 55:10
Right! best way is jeffleisawitz.com. Hopefully you can spell that right, or our show notes. And yeah, sign up, you know, for the newsletter, and you can have free chapters in my book. So that's cool. And then again, I do the coaching, and both creativity and business coaching, by the way, you know, branding, social media, all that kind of stuff, and online workshops. So you can be anywhere, and we can do this.

Alex Ferrari 55:40
Awesome, Jeff, man, thank you so much for dropping some beautiful knowledge bombs on the tribe today. I really appreciate it. I hope it inspires some people to ask the deeper questions on there.

Jeff Leisawitz 55:52

Alex Ferrari 55:52
And on their journey.

Jeff Leisawitz 55:53
Thank you. And again, if we can all do this be seen expressed and healed through our creativity, the world will become a better place as well.

Alex Ferrari 56:02
Absolutely, my friend, thank you so much.

Jeff Leisawitz 56:04
Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 56:06
I hope you enjoyed Jeff and I's conversation. I learned a lot from it. And I really want to thank Jeff so much for being on the show and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe. So thank you, Jeff, so much. If you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/226 for the show notes there, you'll have links to the book, which I highly recommend you get to small little book, but it is just plumb full of great, great stuff to help you guys on your path. So please check it out. I also want to remind you that Suzanne Lyons, and my indie film producing masterclass is coming out April 9, if you want to get in early, please email [email protected] And you'll get on a list to get it a little earlier than everybody else. And maybe even a slight discount. And it's going to be $90. And, and for retail, and it's going to stay at that price. We're rarely ever going to have any specials. But if you email now and put yourself on the list, there will be a $15 discount. So please email at [email protected] And if you guys really want to understand indie film producing from someone who's been doing it for many, many years and has worked with big stars, and done budgets from $50,000 budgets, all the way up to $15 million budgets, understand all the legalities, all the paperwork that you're going to need contracts, all that kind of stuff releases all of that's included in the course that you can download as well. So [email protected] to get in early. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 130: How to Avoid Career Pitfalls for Screenwriters with Felicity Wren

I wanted to take a deep dive into the marketing side of screenwriting today because it is in fact, a necessity in the industry today. Unfortunately, not many writers bother themselves as much about marketing their work. While I have some course resources on the IFH Academy website to help writers pitch stories or to get past the gatekeepers and so on, I thought it would be favorable to have marketing and development exec, Felicity Wren on the show to delve into the subject. 

Felicity started off in this business as an actor and now is a producer and VP of Development at the International Screenwriters Association (ISA). ISA (Est 2008), is a screenwriters community and resource platform that allows branding, marketing screenplays to producers and provide learning resources for seasoned and new writers. 

To date, ISA subscribers include 5,104 Industry Pros, approximately 70,000 Screenwriters, and 8,039 resources for screenwriters. Definitely, a goldmine!

Felicity trained academically across the performing arts sphere (writing, directing, acting technique, and script analysis). She pursued acting and appeared in films like Star Trek Into Darkness, The Battle of Hogwarts, Tales of Uplift and Moral Improvement, and more, but lost interest in the competitive reality and stress of waiting for the callback.

So, she pivots. Alongside her partner,
she launched a theater company, Unrestricted View (1999) in London that worked primarily with new professional creatives. A decade later, Felicity moved to Hollywood to seek the bigger dream.

Some of Wren’s work includes short films like The Trap, Homeless Realtor, Who’s Who, The Force, and several others. At the ISA, she get’s to work directly with the Program Writers, and ISA Contest Winners, ensuring their projects get in front of eminent producers, managers, and agents in Hollywood.

For screenwriters trying to sell a script, you have to know your voice and feel comfortable using it beyond your incredible writing. Understanding what you bring to the table is key in every profession. Of course. Coupling that with some marketing tools can propel you for higher success. That’s why this conversation is important.

Enjoy my very informative conversation with Felicity Wren.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show Felicity rent. How you doing, Felicity?

Felicity Wren 0:19
I'm really good. Thank you, Alex really good indeed.

Alex Ferrari 0:22
So thank you for coming on the show. You know, I've been a big fan of what you guys do over at ICA for a long time. And, and I thought it would be appropriate to have you come on the show to talk about marketing, because it's something that writers generally don't think about your career building and how to pitch how to actually try to pitch your story, how to get through all these gatekeepers, all these kinds of things. So I want to kind of do it a little bit of a deep dive into marketing, because it's, it is unfortunately, a necessity in today's world, if you just can't write the great American screenplay and hope that the, the gods from Mount Hollywood show up and you're like, you now shall write, here's $3 million this way to the Hollywood Hills, like that's not, that's not a thing. But a lot of screenwriters and I know that you know this, I think that's the thing. And it's not this. It's another skill set now that we have to talk about, which is marketing. But before we get into that, how did you will get into this business, this ridiculous business that?

Felicity Wren 1:25
Yeah, we were just talking about the fact that it's a bit of an abusive relationship. So yeah. Why on earth? Well, I kind of, I'm from the UK Originally, I think my accent does give it away, just in case anyone was wondering what's wrong. It's not Australia is the UK. And

Alex Ferrari 1:42
I was gonna pinpoint South Africa. South Africa, obviously.

Felicity Wren 1:48
Obviously, makes perfect sense. So I always loved acting. And then I realized that it's actually so difficult, because you're always waiting to be picked. So I thought, What can I do to change that? So the guy I was seeing who became my husband, that time, we started a theatre company, and we actually found ourselves in a little theater. And we started working with creative people and people who were starting out in their career. And that was 20 years ago, and I still run that little venue in London. And 11 years ago. I was thinking, hmm, it surely there's more to life than this, because I think, I don't know if everyone feels the same. But I think that even genetically it says, every seven years, you become a completely new person, every cell in your body is renewed. So I feel like if you're having a lovely life, or even if you're not having a lovely life, that's maybe a moment for you to think what else could I do with myself? And so I you know, you always have that Hollywood dream, much as you were saying earlier about the writers getting someone will discover me, I felt I could come from Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 2:51
discovering my genius is what I like to say is like, why hasn't Hollywood discovered my genius, obviously? And why hasn't Kevin Fey he called me up to direct the next Avengers? I don't understand. Can you explain to me

Felicity Wren 3:05
the reason if you do need to be there, as though it's one of those things to kind of like, or not so much anymore, but it used to feel like that. So I thought, well, Hollywood, you know, just really needs a female British actress. It looks a bit like Meryl Streep's daughter that she didn't have, who hasn't had any work done? So that's my thinking, of course, very sensible. Until unrealistic.

Alex Ferrari 3:29
Sure. So the thing is, it's funny, because we're talking about the pecking order of abuse in Hollywood, and actors get the worst, the worst of the stick, they have no control. They're commodities in the process. writers are right next door to them, they have a little bit more slight bit more power, and control. And then probably directors, filmmakers, and then all the technical aspects of things. But I mean, and this is something I've said before on the show is, you know, to get into this business, you have to be a slightly bit insane, because it's not, it is not a business that makes any sense of any any sort whatsoever. I mean, because I mean, I've been in the business world, and I've been in the film industry. And this is the only business in the world would you could spend $5 million and have a worthless product at the end of it. I mean, am I wrong? Like you could you can spend $5 million over but over over selling, you know, over building a house with marble and this and it's in the wrong neighborhood in the wrong location, yet you still have a house with some value might not be the full value of what you spent. But there's value there, you literally can be have something that is worthless, and spend $5 million, if you don't know what you're doing in this business, and how it's insane and you know, and by the way, you can't even tell it what money you get. If you put 5 million in you're like, I think we're gonna get five to 10 back maybe what world is that a business

Felicity Wren 4:56
is not a business and the thing about that I always feel as well if you kind of work In the business world, you can think I'm going to start at the beginning. I'm going to serve my apprenticeship. I'm going to work my way up, and someone's going to notice how good I am. And I've been here for 10 years, and then it's going to mean something. And it's here. It's like, it doesn't none of that none of those rules apply. I think there is a kind of sense that maybe for an actor, you don't have to audition anymore, although Viola Davis was talking about the fact that she still had to, I think that's changed a bit with them recently. But you know, it was disgusting. It's used to racism in effect right there.

Alex Ferrari 5:33
Jesus Christ.

Felicity Wren 5:36
You know, I hear even if you're doing really well, and you're thinking, I can't do really great if you do a bomb project, when you go to movie jail, and you're back where you started.

Alex Ferrari 5:46
It's, it's insane. The old deal joke is how do you make millions in the film industry? You start with billions. So

how do you make millions in the business? You start with billions. But what it's, but it's it's true. I mean, and I'm kind of spotlighting and making poking fun of our industry, because it is it's insane. Obviously, someone's making money. Generally, it's not the artist. And that's a whole other conversation. Generally, it's not the artists. But you know, there is a business somewhat in there. But at the independent level, and things like that so hard to generate any real revenue, especially in today's marketplace, and for screenwriters trying to sell a script. I mean, when I was coming up in the 90s, you know, we were still in the boom of the spec script. It was kind of tailing off the spec script boom, of the 80s, where Shane Black and Joe Astor house, they weren't like getting, I mean, I think I read somewhere, Joe Astor house made $20 million on films that never were produced. Never were produced. I mean, he did produce they he did a couple really good movies. Yes, it gets. Yeah, don't get me wrong. He, I mean, he's, it wasn't like an anomaly. He was a really good writer, and still is a really good writer. But but that was that was kind of tailing off in the 90s. And there wasn't nearly as much competition and there was nearly as much information about I mean, I think when did subfields book come out? Like,

Felicity Wren 7:17
Oh, my God, does that save the cat? No, no,

Alex Ferrari 7:19
no. sixfields was the basically the first book on like, screen for screen format. It was all about screenwriting format. I think, the 90s I think it was in the mid 90s. I know save the cat came out in the late 90s. But it wasn't Yeah, there wasn't a lot of information yet. So the competition wasn't as fierce. But today, everybody's a screenwriter, everyone's a director, everyone's because there's so much more information about our industry. So I mean, how do we cut through as a writer in today's world in your opinion?

Felicity Wren 7:53
Um, well, you have to know your voice. I think that's the thing is like more than anything, is you have to really kind of like drill into I mean, obviously it worked really well for me being Meryl Streep's daughter she didn't and didn't realize she had that's my obviously my my benefit but I think it really understanding what you bring to a piece of work to your work to the industry. And really then making the most of that and using everything everything that you have so that you can understand that if there's a big push right now for Latina writers then if you're Latina, go for it don't go like I want to be seen just because my writing is just like this. No, absolutely just use everything you can I think it's a start with the very beginning. Understanding yourself looking at the movies that touch you, why did they touch you? What is it about them what the stories they keep telling will probably tell you a lot about your own pressure points. The because I feel like writing itself is a really therapy, isn't it? I mean, that's what writers are doing. They're just working out what's going on inside them on the page. So if you look at other movies that really touch you, I think you'll get a bit of a clue as to what's really going on with you then really understanding those ideas and working to to really hone them and find your way of presenting them that is different from other things you've seen but the same because that's that's the other thing you know, it'd be too crazy because people want things that have already made money. But I think that's going to be the first point is understanding who you are your voice getting really clear about it the stories you want to tell the themes that you have that are important to you and then start writing I think the idea that you just need one great script is a lie. I know this this I think again, that's still with that whole thing about I think they've been like one or two stories and where people have been swooped in and kind of like it was my first grip. It was my first acting role and

Alex Ferrari 9:55
Diablo Cody is a perfect example of that with with Juno. She got the Oscar and all A lot of stuff it was like it was my first script and she had been writing for years and that's what people don't understand she she'd been writing. She's been a prolific writer before she did her first screenplay. But, but I always tell I always tell screenwriters and filmmakers as well. That the only thing you have going for you is your secret sauce. That thing that is unique to you like there can't be another Quentin Tarantino because he's already he's got them he's he's cornered the market on Glentoran. Like Aaron Sorkin has cornered the market on being Aaron Sorkin like there's no one's going to be able to do that. No one's going to be able to be another Alex for another Felicity. Like we have our thing that is ours, that gift that that voice, our experiences. It is so unique to us. And I think once writers understand that all successful writers do this, all of them across all mediums are the ones who tap into that, that makes them special, the guy or the gal who is copying or trying to imitate. And by the way, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. We all do that. We all start imitating because that's how we learn from filmmaking and screenwriting we start, you know, we read the Shane Black scripts, we read the Tarantino scripts we like we got to read script, like the moment you sit down to start to write dialogue like Tarantino, you realize, Oh, this is not possible. Because it's just something inside it. Like when you start writing Sorkin dialogue, you go, I can't get the beats the heat he's doing or Mamet or they can't, because it's there's, you can't, you could try to go down that road. But I think once you start tapping into that, that well inside of you, is when the magic start happening. Do you agree?

Felicity Wren 11:43
I totally agree with that. And I feel because the thing is you said at the beginning is there's no guarantee about really being in this business. So you should do it for the love of it. So if you really love sitting down writing, getting these stories out thinking about your characters exploring where they might go, then at least you'll have the pleasure of that, regardless of what happens. I mean, of course you want something to happen. And you aspire for that. And there are things you can do to put yourself out there so that more people know about you, I think you have to be brave. Understand what your ideas are. And then don't be afraid to share them. Because actually, people want to hear about you we want. I think this idea that only some stories matter is false. All stories matter. We're all human beings on this planet, trying to get through trying to make trying to make ends meet, trying to cope with heartbreak and enjoy, you know, all the gamut of emotions. But the way we connect is through story and through understanding and really having compassion and empathy with another person. And you don't know I always say to my writers, I'm like, you don't know what that one story that you've written that one line that one moment that one scene will do for someone else who either reads it or watches it, and suddenly they feel seen. And that is probably that should be enough for you to sit down and go like, I'm gonna do it for about a minute. So if one person and then I feel better, then that's enough. And then from there, of course, we want to make money. But if you start from that, I think very sweet, unique place.

Alex Ferrari 13:28
No. Are you telling me then that you shouldn't get into this business for the money? Is that what you're trying to say? I mean, I got into some TV rich, obviously. So why it hasn't happened yet. But but that's why I started obviously, because this is the place to make money. I mean, every money in this business. I kid I kid but but as a kid, so many, so many writers and filmmakers come in to this business like I'm gonna be rich, you know, it's like, hey, it's gonna be it's gonna be raining Benjamins all day. Because you read the stories and you hear the press that Hollywood does. I've always said the holly was extremely good at the sizzle, but sucks at the steak. And they sell this. They sell the Hollywood dream. So beauty. They've been selling the Hollywood dream since the 20s. Since you know, since Chaplin jumped out, you know, or the Keystone cops are running around. They were selling the Hollywood dream. And I always tell people who haven't been to LA. I got the perfect example or analogy for Hollywood is this. It's the Oscars. When you go down to Hollywood Boulevard on Oscar night, oh, my God, it looks amazing, doesn't it? Oh, it looks great on television. It's great. Then your family flies into LA and they're like, hey, I want to go down to Hollywood Boulevard at the Chinese theatre and like, you don't want to do that. No, no, no, it's great. No, it's great. I want to go see it. I'm like, you don't want to do that. So I did the same thing. When I first got here with a friend of mine who lived here before I moved here. And I went to downtown downtown and I went to Hollywood Boulevard, and we parked where Madame Tussaud's is now that was that was an empty parking lot back then. And I parked in the moment. We got out there was a woman who walked by and she's just like, welcome to Hollywood and she lifted up and flashed us. And I was like, my wife and I were just like, wow. And my friend goes, welcome to Hollywood and we walk down the street and I just my wife was clinching to me because it was not. I'm like home like, and the farther you will get away from the from the Dolby theater. Oh, it gets shade here and shade here in shader. And that is it. It looks almost like a cesspool other than that little block. Am I wrong? I mean, it's perfect analogy for Hollywood, because it shows you on the screen. Oh, it's so pretty. But the second The show is over, they pull up the red carpet, and it's like, needles in the gutters. It's insane. Yeah.

Felicity Wren 15:45
Yeah, that corner is particularly ugly as well when the red carpet is gone. But it literally from above, when you've got the seats down and you can't see the street. There is absolutely nothing there. And then you're just accosted by people out of work or actors dressed as Disney characters trying to take their photo with you. And then it just gets further down to is really stripper attire. Drops further down the shops further down. But it is the absolute opposite of what you think there is no paved with gold in Hollywood. That is not true.

Alex Ferrari 16:15
It's a Boulevard of Broken Dreams. That's damn sure. It's as cliche as that is once you're here. I've been here for over a decade. And when I got here, the streets were paved for gold. For me. I was like, Oh my God, look, there's Warner Brothers. Oh, look, there's Disney. Oh, look, there's a boathouse, I was so excited just to be in the business about a year or two. And you're just like, yeah, this is this is the reality. Okay? Okay, this is how this game is played now. But at first you don't. And that's one of the reasons why I do what I do is because I want to warn people trying to get into this business. Look, I'm not saying don't follow your dreams, but you got to be prepared for what's coming. And most people aren't there. Most people are not prepared for that. I always say people, the punch, we're all going to get punched, we all get punched throughout our throughout our careers. No matter who you are, if you're Steven Spielberg, if you're, we all get punched by this business. And occasionally, you learn how to avoid the punch, you learn how to duck, you learn how to take the hit a little bit easier. But if you don't know that there's a fight, you're gonna get knocked out in the first one. And how many fighters have you run into who the first time that punch comes, whatever that punch might be, they're out for the count. And they just like, I'm out. I don't want to do this, because they weren't prepared for it.

Felicity Wren 17:32
I think as well as so many things can be disappointing. Especially if you're a writer, a baby writer, or someone that's doing it as a second career, we have a lot of that. Then you're used to a certain set of rules. You know, if you're a baby, right, then you just come from school or college and everything's been pretty easy until that point. And if you're a second career, then we have those rules again, that you can work hard enough and people would understand and you would get somewhere or is it this just not like that here. So people promise you things and then they don't do what they say they're going to do. So you have to understand that you can it's a weird thing though, because I do think still think you need to celebrate all the time to keep your morale up. So the fact is that someone says I want to option your project, you should be like, wow, you know, you should literally like run around your front room, you should call your friends you should if you drink have a beer, if you don't drink, have a look. This is not an advert for look for you know, do something to go like oh my goodness, this is amazing. Someone has realized my work, seen it and liked it. And that's wonderful. And then just get back to work. Because until it's actually signed, the contract is signed until the money has gone over. Till even it's there started Principal photography until Principal photography has stopped till it's in the editing room until it's all done, done. Done. It doesn't even really exist.

Alex Ferrari 18:57
Until you're at the premiere on a screen or on your home screen at a digital premiere nowadays. It doesn't exist, it doesn't exist. I know it's shocking for people to listen to but here in Hollywood people do exaggerate sometimes. And they lie straight up and they tell you they're going to do something and they don't. And the first few times that happens to you You're just like wow, this sucks. And it's it's it's it's rough. It's a rough go of it no question.

Felicity Wren 19:30
I think it's because everyone's trying to kind of push each other away push off of each other. And this is I don't mean it sounds so cynical, but it's so hard to get a movie made that you're like well if I get someone attached, then maybe someone will then put the money up so you kind of like you lie to both parties to say that this person is attached to you want to put the money and then you go this person for the money I'm so do you want to be attached and there's that that kind of money. Yeah, that really I think can be, that's where it can all fall apart. Because actually nothing is really set in stone until it's set in stone. And like we say, that's when it's all done. So I think you have to find ways to make it almost like a game for yourself. So it's more lighthearted, I think, to kind of stay in a place of it would be great if that happens, but it's not gonna ruin my life, you know. So that's what you need lots of other stuff. I think the other thing to remember in this business is that you do need friends, family, hobbies, you know, other bits of your life to fill you up. Because this, whatever this is, is never going to be enough. And so when you're let down, you still have other things and you're like, well, I can go to the beach, it's okay, I can stop writing for a day I can do that I can, I can go out for dinner with my lovely partner, I can do something that makes me remember that I am a human being living on the planet. And this is just one of the things I do. However, you have to have a passion for it. But it's still one of the things you do.

Alex Ferrari 20:59
That was the biggest mistake, one of the biggest mistakes I made coming up is that my entire identity was associated with being a filmmaker, and being a director, like that was my whole life. And, and to a certain extent, you have to kind of be that obsessive, especially at the beginning you have to be. But that balance that you and I are talking about is it's only because of age, you know, we've been around the block, hey, I've been around the block a little bit. It's like, you know, just to speak the way you just say was so eloquent. And wise. I don't hear 20 year olds speaking like that, generally speaking, and it happens every once in a while, but very rarely. So that is just you just kind of kind of go through it. And you realize there's a hopefully people listening who are of that age, can take these notes and understand that that I know you're trying hard to to break through and I'm writing and this. But if you completely attach your identity to the craft of screenwriting, or filmmaking, or being in this business, you will never, ever be happy. I don't care if you went to Oscars, because I spoken to Oscar winners who have won the Oscar and then they're like, now what? Because and when that if you don't win the Oscar the next year, I'm a failure. Like, how crazy is this? thing? Things like that. So you have to have a balance in life. And I'm so blessed to have a family that balanced me because when I was young, I was it was first 10 years. There was just that's all it was. But I was very, very depressed, very unhappy, because it was just this kind of high, low, high and low, high. Yeah, constantly. And you never, you never had this baseline. It was just constantly highs and lows. So you, you'd be so happy one day, and you would crash the next because that guy lied to you. Or the financing fell through, which was never really going to happen anyway, because it was just some kid with a trust fund who said, Oh, mommy's not gonna give me the money this week. So, you know, these are the things

Felicity Wren 22:57
and condition them is next, isn't it? It's like next. So you get there and you think, Oh my god, I would be so happy. If I moved to Hollywood, you move to Hollywood, you're like, Okay, what's next? I'll be so happy as someone read my script next, then they want it, then. And you can't lose track of that moment when you were a little person just wanting to move to Hollywood, and being able to look back and think actually, I've come so far, and I'm doing so well. And am I enjoying this process? That is what it should be? Am I am I taking a moment each day to be grateful? And just to say, wow, I feel like being a storyteller is one of the best jobs on Earth. I mean, I know it's not easy. But getting to dig into the human idea, again, to tell stories about love and triumph and changing the world. I mean, what an amazing thing to do. I think there are lots of jobs where people are just earning a paycheck. And you know, I respect them so much. Because that's, that's hard just to do that just to do something for the paycheck. Whereas with a story, you actually get to go like disappear into your mind. And imagine a different way for yourself and for others. And I just think it's such a privilege to be here. And so enjoy it in the in this process. Really, pat yourself on the back more often than not, you know, take a stop and go oh my god, this is amazing. I'm so glad I'm here. I'm so glad I'm doing this and even when it's rubbish, it's just show me how good it's gonna feel when it's great.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
Then I want to point something out that you just said, the process. I think that that's where so many screenwriters fail is that they don't enjoy the process. They only look at the outcome. And they're putting so much pressure on their work and their art that it can never live up to it. I used to do that constantly with my work when I would release a short film. I'm like, this is the one. This is the one that's going to blow me up. This is the one that Steven Spielberg is going to see and he's going to come down from Hollywood tapped me on the shoulder is like now you shall do Jurassic Park seven. Now like that was that was the end when it didn't Do that which it doesn't, and it can't. And the people and I've spoken to the people that had that has happened to, by the way, and every one of them never expected that no, never thought it was going to happen to like, I was just making a short film. And all of a sudden, someone from Hollywood showed up into like, hey, do you want to make the feature version of that? And here's a couple mil, like, literally that conversation. They never said, Oh, this is the thing that's gonna blow me up. No one ever said that one of the famous conference, one of the famous mythical stories is El Mariachi, which is Robert Rodriguez isn't people still talk about that movie? As the like, well, he did a movie for $7,000. And we can get into all that another time. But But he was making that movie. And everyone's like, oh, he was making that movie to get found? No, he's making that movie for the Spanish VHS market. And happened to drop it off at an agents who a friend of his who worked as the assistant to an agent, that agent happened to be the biggest directing agent in Hollywood. He saw it, and but it wasn't. And when they were going to release a mariachi, it's like, No, no, no, no, no, no, give me the money to remake it, I don't want to this was I was just playing, I don't want people to see this. And that was and that was the thing. So writers have to understand that as well that you have to enjoy the process. And the moment that I stopped, I started to enjoy writing, or enjoy what I do on a daily basis and never put an outcome towards it. I became so much happier.

Felicity Wren 26:31
Yes, I like everything in life, isn't it, it's like, if you're trying too hard it is it worth the cost of that. So if you're looking for love, if you want to be in love, don't look for it, it's that same kind of thing, you do it because you're having a nice moment telling the story. And then keep telling them keep telling them and I think that's the other thing about I think we started with that is that I think you should really be thinking about ideas and writing out the ideation you know, really spending some time every week, every month to just think okay, reading articles what's exciting me right now what is kind of like happening in the world that is important, but still is relates to me and is relevant to my life and the things that I care about. And just say like just write start writing ideas out about right. So what would happen if this if these people, if these people who I'm trying to think of an example, had cat is landed on the moon, and it's not a great one, it would be a very niche market. But you know, so start thinking about what ifs and ideas and stuff like that. So you're always trying to generate new ideas that are relevant to what's happening socially right now. And that also kind of still touch who you are. So that you you're not stuck as well on just the grind of this one script that maybe you're working on or you're madly in love with, but might need a little bit of time away. It doesn't mean to say that you're writing on 15 things at once, but be focused on those scripts you're writing on. But then think take some time to write some other ideas. So that if you are ever in pitching this fabulous script that you're in love with, and they ask you what else you have, then you have 10 or 15 other ideas ready to go that they can talk to you about because as we know, even if they're only going to buy one of the scripts from you, they're actually buying you the writer rather than just the script. And so you want to show that you're that kind of writer that's full of ideas, and really can be flexible and move with them. And if they start talking, you can start riffing back and you know, they want to it's like a marriage, you're going to get in bed with them for a long time, if they take your script unless you start to make it.

Alex Ferrari 28:36
I was talking to a screenwriter The other day I was a very successful screenwriter. And he's like, when I went to pitch, this is what I did, I would have the eight minute pitch for my big script that I loved. And then they would go That's great. What do you have? What else do you have? That he's going to a two minutes, two minute pitch for another script he had? And he was like, boom, boom, goes. Yeah, that's great. What else do you have? Then he does this thumbnail 22nd pitch, they're like, That's the one. And you just never, you never know. He's like, Alright, that's the one you want to buy? Okay, well, we'll sell you that one. So you have to have multiple things. And I always tell screenwriters as well, that if you're working on a script for two, three years, and it's just one script, and that's the only thing you're writing on, you are not a professional, you're hobbyist at that point, you're not a professional, you have to professional writers write and write a lot and have multiple scripts. I know you don't have to have multiple scripts doing at the same time, though I find it to be helpful to be jumped back and forth. Sometimes maybe between two or three, maybe Yeah, not 15, but two or three. But you should always have your product and ideas. It's you need to walk into meetings with minimum of three ideas or scripts ready to rock and roll if not five or six. And you're really not going to be any good at writing into you're probably into your fourth fifth sixth. Seventh, if not 20th screenplay unless you're a prodigy and they do come but that That's the that's the outlier. You can't really Hey, well couldn't turn it here. I'm like, stop it. Stop right there. Stop. Well, Aaron Sorkin did stop, stop. Don't put your name in the same sentence with them because they're, they're a different level than you are. And it's not better or worse. It's just at a different place in their career than you are and the kind of towel. It's like, well, Mozart started looking. Like I picked up the I picked up the piano. Well, Mozart was seven. I'm like, really, really, he was seven. Really, you compare yourself to one of the greatest geniuses. But that's, that's the insanity of screenwriters and filmmakers.

Felicity Wren 30:37
I know, the good news is you can get better at it. You can get better at it. And actually, it's not as ageist as other bits of the profession, so you can get better. It doesn't matter how old you are in the same way unless they're looking. I was talking to someone the other day, a millennial. Actually, no, she's probably the the younger than that. She's like, she's only 22. And they're not millennials and more on open other

Alex Ferrari 31:02
and new. Forgot the new Yeah, not even. I don't have that new generation anyone. Anyway, but we are so old fellas. We are ancient. We are ancient. We are dating ourselves. Let's just watch. Let's go to blockbuster went to VHS and just watch a movie tonight. I mean, seriously, we're that old.

Felicity Wren 31:26
He was talking to me about dialogue. And she was like, Oh, God, all these millennials writing this dialogue for our generation. And I was like, I mean, cuz I was like, that means? I mean, just like, Oh, gosh. And that's like, yeah, so um, then Okay, then I think you've got it. She's a writer too. So I say then you need to get out there. And actually, all these people in rooms need to be going, like who are hiring from rooms need to be going, Okay, I need to find me some baby writers, because we think we know how people are speaking and they're not speaking that way. So let's actually get some authenticity in the room. And I think that's something I've really enjoyed this year. COVID, and just previously to COVID, this whole kind of thing is this I search for authenticity in writing, and in rooms and in TV shows and in features that stop being older white dudes kind of writing young women and stuff like that. I felt like it's great that things are changing.

Alex Ferrari 32:28
Yeah, no, there's no question and you're starting to see more and more diversity in, in, in movies and television shows. And it's, it's not that the old white guy story is not good. It's just that's all we had, we need to have, yeah, other points of view, because that's not the country we live in. And having those other points of view are are fantastic. And I'm really glad that that's happening now. And giving opportunities to mean being a screenwriter in the 90s. Unless you're a white dude, it was it was rough. I remember coming up as a Latino in Miami. And they said, If you direct the Spanish commercial, you won't be able, they won't allow you to do English language anymore. Because I would then be put in the box of he's a Latino director does Latin American or Latino commercials, because God forbid, if I can aim a camera at a Spanish speaking person, I can't aim a camera at an English speaking person, you know, or, I don't even get me started that whole world. But that was that was that was the fear. And I had done some Spanish commercials. And I'm like, I can't put them on my reel. Because I would get I would get ousted from the room. It was just insane.

Felicity Wren 33:41
It was like, I'm glad that the multi hyphenate has become a thing though. I think though that has become it didn't used to be. And I think everyone was very much more if you're an actor, you're an actor, if you're right, you're right. If you're a filmmaker, a filmmaker, a director, you know, I mean, you weren't allowed to do all those things. It's like you're almost being greedy. Whereas now actually, they want you to do those things. But it also means that you have to as a screenwriter, or a filmmaker or anyone in this industry. Treat yourself like a business you are a business person. And I've been talking to him recently, and I think even going so far as to become a producer yourself as a screenwriter. So you can hire yourself as a producer on for scripts, if they're going to get made by somebody so that you can be fired off the script as a screenwriter, but you're still on in some capacity as a producer is something to think of. So everything you're doing now when you're trying to get your script out there. Think of it as a business person, not as a creative and that's why you kind of need your head split down the middle I would say and I'm sure you would agree is that half his business and half his creative because this business half has to be making the deals or learning how to build a pitch deck. Being good on the phone, selling something, learning That is the business side. And the other greatest I sometimes forget, like, we aren't going to tell this amazing story about things I love, you know, it's like the two halves.

Alex Ferrari 35:07
Well, like I always say there's the word show in the word business. And the word business has twice as many letters as the word show. And there's a there's, there's a reason yes, it does, one needs the other. But without the money, they no show. Because they'll put on a show, it could suck, but they'll put on a show. But the money is what really is going. Now, I was talking to someone the other day that about branding, and they were a screenwriting team, and very successful screenwriting team from the 80s and 90s. And I was talking to him, and they were saying that they branded themselves in town as the rewrite guys, they would be known as the guys who would come in to trouble projects and rewrite these projects and in specific genres. So they did romantic comedies. And, and through an action, which was weird, it was, like I said, they would add a little bit of comedy to action projects and things like that. And I think as a screenwriter, even at a certain level, you need to think about branding, branding yourself in the business, because the business wants to throw you in a box, they need to throw you in a box for their, their small minds, to to put to be able to deal with you. Because there's just so many things, if you do everything. I can't, I don't know where to put you. So you need to kind of find a niche at the beginning, you could venture out later, but at the beginning, you need to find a niche and focus on that niche and become a brand on that. And it could be you're the dialogue person, you're you know, I can I can do rewrites. I'm really good at you know, subplots, I'm there's things as far as getting work, not selling the million dollar spec, working as a writer, I think that's so powerful because every every major screenwriter you could think of they had their niche. I mean, Quintin was rewriting Crimson Tide. And you can tell the scene that he rewrote, because it's so clearly him, because Denzel Washington in a new killer service, talking about Silver Surfer, so. So it's like, that's the good dirtiness. But he was he was he was brought in to punch up dialogue. We know when he was starting out, because that was his brand. Would you agree about branding? And how do screenwriters If you agree, brand themselves in the business?

Felicity Wren 37:29
Yeah. It's a really interesting question. I reached out to our writers on our development, slate, and the the way we asked them to talk about themselves, is that if you were a Hollywood producer, because they're all or average from anywhere, quite frankly, but you were clicking through, and you were looking at your profile, so the kind of like the bio of you the story of you. What kind of writer would they get if they hired you? So are you someone who in is fascinated by familiar relationships and how they explode? And how life can be different if you come from a blended family? Or do you do like to focus on dialogue and comedy and and unpicking stories and from narratives that we've already heard? You know, I mean, so whenever you because I feel, again, it's that thing that we started within the idea that knowing who you are and what your pressure points are, and what your story is, that is your brand. So you have to get it get very kind of clinical, I think, and dissect and go into your work and go like, what are the things I keep talking about? That actually, if someone was going through and they went, I want to punch up a dialogue and a family script with a with a breakup, a new Hello, I really interested in relationships and breaking up and kind of, then they've got that for you. I think it's, I think if you're particularly interested in horror, or something like that, and you say, like I seem to be drawn towards these kind of genres, and to put that in as well. But I feel like the how you tell a story and the kind of beats of it, the heart of it, even in these different genres will probably remain pretty similar. Because that, as you said, is your special sauce. So I guess what, what you're asking for the brand is to find your special sauce and articulate it correctly.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Write it, articulate it, if you will. and promote yourself that way. You're right. I think one of the bigger mistakes that a lot of early or baby screenwriters as you'd like to call them do is that they're like, Oh, I write horror, romantic comedies, actions and sci fi. Like you're done. There's just this No way. No one's gonna hire you because they don't want a generalist. They want a specialist when it's writing. Would you agree that they're like, I'm an action producer. I want a guy or a gal who just loves action and writes action. And if there's a little humor in it, all the better great but I need someone who's focused on actual or at least someone who's focused in horror, and thrillers or I need someone who's focused in sci fi, or in romantic comedies or comedies. Do you agree?

Felicity Wren 40:10
I think I mean, I felt like it's got a bit because of a much more genre busting. And I think genres themselves become a bit more fluid. But I think it's that the thing about, as you were kind of saying is, you can't be an expert in everything. And if you are trying to build up your career, you should be trying to find producers, directors, managers, these kind of people that like people like you. So in a way, you want to kind of work out what your voice is, what your brand is. So that then you can be very targeted in your approach, if you are thinking about producers you'd like to work with or that might like to work with you. So what do you have in your portfolio that is like, work with what they have produced, and then see if you can find a way to get to them. I mean, it's always trying to find kind of roads in but that I think helps you decide who your brand is, and what your brand is. And then where you can target your approach. And manager, if they tend to, I would say, probably tries to cover all bases, but see if there's a hole in their roster. So they've got a comedy person, they've got a an action person, they've got a TV person, but we haven't got someone that's really focused on horror, then maybe you could approach it that would be your approach is that I see. I really like these interesting characters that are in difficult situations. I particularly like horror that psychological rather than gruesome, I see that you have done these other your other writers on your roster, do this, this and this, I feel like this is maybe a place where I could fit in your roster if you're looking right now. So I think branding will help you across the board, in your sales pitch.

Alex Ferrari 41:46
Can you also know, myth bust, this concept that all I need as an agent in my life is going to be better. All I need is a manager to sell me and then they will see my genius, and the millions will roll in. Can you please bust this myth for anyone listening?

Felicity Wren 42:09
I always say there's a reason why they take you they take 10 and you get 90. And it's because even if you get a manager at maximum, they're gonna do 10% of the work and you do 90%

Alex Ferrari 42:22
That's great. I love that. I've never heard that one. That's great. So

Felicity Wren 42:25
I mean, like the idea that they're going to, they're going to take you on and then the unit sit by the phone, and it's going to ring and it's the same for actors, you know, I mean, that is not not going to happen. The best thing you could do if you were going to meet with managers, or try and get in touch with them and try and you know, there's a whole thing, Twitter, follow on Twitter, you know, do your homework on IMDB Pro, this is not an ad with IMDb Pro, but find out you know who their writers are, is that you nowadays can find out a lot about who they are and what they want. So that you when you approached them, and you're like, actually, I think I might be the right fit for you. And I've done some homework as to where I think my projects might land in the industry. They're like, thank God, I don't have to think about that. They've already given me if they like you, and they'd like your work. They're like, wow, I already have a starting point, I don't have to think about where I'm going to send them. Because if I agree with some of these ideas, and that's taken some of the work away from me already, managers are looking like most people to do as little as they can for as much return as they can. And depending on where you are in the roster. Again, they've got lots of people at the top that they have to, they have to be seen to be doing a lot more for if you've just signed with them. And you are literally the last person that or they might give you a bit of a burst at the beginning where they're like, okay, you around town and you have this kind of flurry at the beginning. If nothing happens, then then it will be crickets, and nothing will happen ever again. So this idea that they are going to look after you and change your world is absolute rubbish. But it does give you It gives you a tick, it gives you an authenticity it gives you someone else has chosen you for when you can then go out into the world and approach other people. And you're like, well, I'm signed with this manager. So therefore let's have this conversation.

Alex Ferrari 44:10
Yeah, and I noticed you kept saying manager and you didn't say the word agent very often in that conversation because it's very true. Managers are a little bit more open to nurturing careers slightly bit slightly more agents are mercenaries. They're absolutely mercs business. Yeah, it's just the business in for P and for screenwriters, you have to understand that no agent is the agent is only going to sign you if they believe they can make money with you. And the easier the money the better. You just want Sundance, I'll sign you because I know I'll be able to probably flip you really quickly and make a little quick cash. You're a commodity. That's what that's what it is. You look at you look at these huge movie stars from the 80s and 90s. They're not at CIA anymore. They're not at William Morris anymore. They're at they're at second tier because their career doesn't is not making 20 million he's not making she's not making 20 million a pop anymore. So it's business, it's business where a manager will kind of little bit more. But yeah, you're right, the water bottle tool, though, they might throw you on the water bottle tour. And if no one if there's no bites on that shotgun, it's a shotgun approach essentially, to should throw you out there, see if anyone bites if someone bites, great if no one buys, okay, let's see what happens, we'll hold them, you know, we'll hold them around or hold around for a little bit to see what happens. But it's, it's the case. And like you said, the more the more of a complete package you can bring to them as a writer, the more likely you're going to get so if you are a prolific writer, who is now not only written screenplays, but has multiple selling books, self published books on on Amazon, you have a website, you have a maybe even a small following from your books, you've got a business, it, you've packaged all this together, you bring something like that to them, they're gonna take that writer, much more than the writer who's just like, this is the one I forget, it

Felicity Wren 46:17
was a nice idea, but it's just again, is that they only the manager only has so much time to in their day. And they are on to make money themselves, you know? And so if you can help them make money from you, then they're going to be like, thank you very much. I've been looking for you. Yeah. And also, I think it's just to empower yourself. I mean, the we talked about this earlier, Alex and I, you know, the actor has nothing until they start writing, you know, and if you're a screenwriter, you know, you, in a way are waiting to be picked. So how, how can you help yourself, you write a lot, and then you do the research so that if something does come along you already if someone if you're in a lift somehow, if it ever goes in elevator, that's the word that you can you can pitch your project, you know, where it would land in a streaming or TV, you know, producers that might be interested in it. And you've already done this work. And if someone's saying that what you're doing right now, again, well, I'm doing this and I think it'd be right right to do Max, but I'm just awaiting my manager speaking to a few people over there, then suddenly, you can speak with authorities and they're like, Oh, I show maxes looking at someone's but you know, then because everyone likes to hear those kind of trigger words that there may be means that they should be interested in having a look themselves. And it means that you have something, something to hang on to, rather than just, this is my art and I'm writing. It gives you you know,

Alex Ferrari 47:43
you're providing value. And that's the key to any career. Anything you do in life is to provide value to the other person, every relationship that you have. you're providing value. So, so many screenwriters Do you know, I get pitched. I get I get pitched screenplays. They send me this is how and I've said it 100 times on the show. Don't send me a screenplay. I'm not a producer. I'm not gonna produce your screenplay. I know. And I will get cold emails with a query letters with a screenplay attached, which of course gets deleted instantly. Now I'm like, Why? What you've done no research. You just saw me talking to some producer and you think that I'm gonna like read your screenplay, and go, Oh, you know who we are all you know, I'm gonna reach out to this guy that I just talk to. Because obviously, no notes to your homework. I mean, and that's the other thing like somebody screenwriters don't know who to Who do you approach and how do you know who you approach I always tell them IMDb Pro, IMDb pro IMDb pro IMDb Pro is your best investment, great ROI. And you like you've been saying, find out what they're looking for who's on their roster, what kind of projects that they're into? Are you going to pitch a romantic comedy to Blum house? which I'm sure they got and I promise you they get them? I promise you they get?

Felicity Wren 49:14
Well, I think you just want to set your, your best foot forward. This is just so that you have more of a chance. And I think sometimes it's difficult because again, it's your own work and dependence. Some people are egomaniacs and like it's my work, you got to listen to me, but I tend to find that they tend not to be the best writers is the people that are more

Alex Ferrari 49:36

Felicity Wren 49:37
Yeah. It's the people who are a bit more humble a little bit more sensitive and find this difficult. Try and imagine it's your best friend. I don't know call your rights yourself. I guess it's Beyonce, isn't it? It's Beyonce and her kind of Alter Ego you know, she has her stage persona. Queen Bee the queen bee Yeah, queen bee. So I guess basically do that for yourself is that you have the right to who is a sensitive Human has to kind of expose it in a way so that we can have enjoyment from it. And then you have the business person that goes like, Okay, I'm going to take that sensitive little soul, and I'm going to work out the best way to move them forward and use a different part of your brain, call yourself something different. I'm sure people have actually kind of Well, I think is all those kind of old movies where they were like, Hey, I'm here for the meeting. And then they go, like, I'm here, you don't mean to pretend to be the agent and then ring them up. You don't have to do that. But I think psychologically, it's probably worth doing that. So treat your writer friend, as your best friend and try and see if you are giving them advice. What would you do and how you would be like brave, be brave, throw your hat in the wing, enter that contest, you know, try and send a cold email, see who you might want to work with, you know, really give them advice as as you would a best friend, because I think there's only so hard when it's just little you and your work. But actually, people are looking for story all the time. And it is so hard to find good ones a good script is honestly, it's not even a needle in a haystack it's needle in the haystack in the hay field. You know, I mean, in a in a low in somewhere where there's lots of hay. I mean, it's like, it's huge. It's so hard to find a good script. And an original voice. I mean, if you have something if you think oh my goodness, I read a script the other day that I really liked because it was about two young homeless kids, and then living on the streets, and then sort of an incident happened, and then how they get off the streets. I've never really seen that. And it was and it was written from such a authentic point of view and gave the main characters had had things that were extraordinary about them, even though they were dirt poor and living on the street and in hardship, you know, in that that I was like, Okay, this is this is good. This is interesting. So, whatever your story is your uniqueness, your point of view, if you have something original, honestly, someone will want to read it and will want to make it.

Alex Ferrari 52:05
And I think you mentioned this a little earlier in our conversation in regards to the the pressure that you put on art, but like the, the All I need is this and then this will happen kind of thing. Like I just need to win the nickels and an hour I guess I just need to get an agent or I just need Steven Spielberg or Chris Nolan to see my work and I'll they'll come on and Shepherd me through and you know, these kind of things. And I think screenwriters as well as filmmakers need to break apart from that, just get that guy get out of that mindset, because it is all about the process and enjoying the process and enjoying the road. Because this is going to be a painful Look, you've chosen a very interesting career path. As a screenwriter, it is wonderful, it is beautiful, you get the privilege to tell stories, but it is not an easy path. For any writing. Writing is never been easy for when it was Charles Dickens. Shakespeare had, you know, Shakespeare had a rough time a rough go of it. You know, he wasn't considered Shakespeare when he was writing, you know, he was just another dude trying to get a play off the ground. So, and to understand that, that humility that you must have, because if you are not humble, this business will humble you to your knees. Oh, my goodness, he will humbly anytime I see one of those egomaniacs which I've run across, oddly enough, a handful of times in my business. And in my time, in my time in the business, I always say to myself to the business will take care of them. You know, I've had literally I've literally had producers in the room like I'll see at next year's Oscars with this film. Like it's just such such delusion. That and i think i think i think when you run into people like that, and I think this is an interesting conversation to have, when you run into delusional people in this business, on every every level, from the screenwriter, to the producer, to the financier to the actor, whoever, when you that is obviously a defense mechanism that they've created for themselves to survive this. This this this Bartlett that is the film industry. They don't understand yet that that's not the way to do it. But it's it's a defense. How would you if you have to deal with someone like this, which I'm sure you have, and I have as well? What advice would you give to deal with delusional people? And by the way, if you don't know any delusional people, you are the delusional person. Like I always, I always, always say like, how many people here have ever How many people here know an angry bitter screenwriter or angry and bitter filmmaker? And and everyone raises round like if you didn't raise your hand you're the angry and bitter screenwriter that everyone else looks at. So

Felicity Wren 54:49
oh my gosh, but it's true, isn't it? I think I think you're right though. I think I try and look at it like this for anyone that is being Either mean, or delusional or, or horrible, or where that all that kind of stuff comes from something that they've got going on with them. It's actually nothing to do with you. And the fact that you're at the kind of like, I had no receiving the the blunt stick of it that and you know, then behaving so badly. I think it's just to try and remove yourself from that situation and get to what they are really angry about or delusional about or so you kind of try and undercut and keep asking questions. So you kind of go like, so is it this? You do? Not? I mean, so you kind of like so. So you've got the money. So where's the money coming from? Okay, so who's Billy? Is it in the bank? You'll I mean, so you keep asking questions, that kind of unpeel the kind of the delusion, I think not in a mean way, but just in a kind of like, so I don't understand. It's like, it's really kind of getting to the truth of it. Because if you ask for the truth and ask enough questions, I think you can then kind of like barely the guy like I'll, or they'll be like, admit something, or they'll kind of storm out and then you know, and then just God anyways, but I think remaining in your own strength, so not kind of getting caught up in their what they've got going on. So like, does that seem real to you? You know, it's the same thing, isn't it? If a deal seems too good to be true, is

Alex Ferrari 56:27
no. So with that said, though, with that said, I'm going to I'm going to tell you a story really quickly. If I told you that there was a producer, who said, we're going to get a million dollars for this project. Where's the money coming from? Oh, there's this. This guy who married a rich woman in South Africa, let's and he gets a stipend of a million dollars a month to play with, as his has his walking around money. And a million dollars is no big deal. And he really just wants to be part of the filmmaking process. Give him a part in the movie a little, a small little cameo. He wants to go to the red carpet, all this kind of stuff. And the director is a first time director. The cinematographer has never shot a feature. And we will probably have a couple of real actors involved, like faces and maybe even an Oscar nominee. Do you believe that thing happened?

Felicity Wren 57:35
I hope it did. Because it sounds amazing. But oh my God, what a What an amazing group of things to happen all in one go. Did it happen?

Alex Ferrari 57:44
Yes. I wasn't, I wasn't the director. But and I won't say any more about the project because I don't want to bring the project out. But it is in my past. I was part of the project in a small capacity. That's exactly how it happened was a good? No, no. Nothing in that conversation stated that it was going to be good.

Felicity Wren 58:09
No. But I mean, again, I'm hopeful. It seemed like a dream come true. I wonder if somehow then blossom,

Alex Ferrari 58:15
blossomed into an Oscar winning now. Nothing, Nothing. Nothing. No, it was a complete and utter disaster. The only thing that held it together was the cast. And they were it was also at a different time period. It was thinking, like I say the dates but it was at a time period where it was easier to sell international based talent nowadays is not as easy. But yeah, but so there's those stories, and you can imagine me I was just like, why is this happening? and Why doesn't anyone give it to me? Why hasn't someone given me the million dollars? obviously have a much better back? Don't they understand my genius? Like I always say, I'm the humblest guy you'll ever meet like the humbleness of the humble. No, but humble people. I'm the humblest but yes to being home. I'm the best at being humble. Number one. Best the better. Everybody else. It's ridiculous. But so you see things like that. And I worked along the post production business. So I would see these stories come in. And it would get me so angry. I was an angry bitter filmmaker for so long. Oh my god so long. And I know in the screenwriting world as well, you see these projects get done and you see these paydays. And you're just like, why did that person get that? What? But you can't look at things like that. You just got to go out on your path. You're on your on your journey and just keep, keep look going down. And I promise you something good will eventually happen if you do that. If you enjoy the process. You're winning. Right? Are

Felicity Wren 59:49
you already winning? And I always kind of think you can reframe everything. So like you can kind of go like Oh, why did they get that money and you go and it's so terrible. And you're like, well, this is inspiring me so I can go I got that money and it's terrible. And mine's gonna be better than that. You know, I think everything that really annoys you, if you can take a minute to step back from it, and just kind of flip it, flip it, I feel like you could do this in life anyway, just try and flip it and go like, Oh, I didn't get that role. And I think it was a Jennifer Aniston she was opera and an advert or something. And she, she was down to the last two that you know, that pen heavy pencil thing. And she was going. And she was really she didn't get it, she was absolutely devastated. Because it was going to like be I know, $5,000 because I used to pay or maybe even $15,000 because I used to pay quite well back then. And she was going away filming and everything. And she didn't get it. And then she called into the friends interview. And it would have been while she was away filming and she got that role instead. And you have to think about how different her life has been for not getting that interview.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:54
I do believe that there is a plan for us on a now we're not we're going into spiritual world and the destiny and all that kind of stuff. I think we do control our own destiny, I think we do definitely have to put the work in. But they're there. This just forces man, there's just things that just you you can't see things like you know, the friends gang. How they all got together like it just so happened stance that was so perfectly put together. We're making a hundreds of millions of dollars 20 years later still and they're still making money off that show. All those kinds of things. There is destiny, there's just no question I was listening to. I had the producer of pretty woman on the other day. And and he was talking to us about Julia Roberts. And he wanted Julia Roberts to be on the show on the movie. And Gary Marshall wanted Julia Roberts but Richard Gere had to sign off. So Julia Roberts, Jesus, this is Julia Roberts, basically, I think after mistake pizza. So she was not Julia Roberts, she was I think, 20 whatever. I think she's like, 2021. She was a baby. She goes to his apartment, Gary's with her. Gary leaves the room. This is the way the story goes. Gary leaves the room. He's like, I got to go to bathroom so he can get to get to know her. And then like, 15 minutes later, he still hasn't come back. He calls up Richard, on the phone and goes Richard, what do you think, while she's at the room, and while he's on the phone, Julia Roberts writes on a post it writes a little note on the post that and then shows it to her. And it says, Please say yes. And, and, and Richard, of course fell in love with her at that moment. And the rest, as they say is history. But that was just a, you know, just a that's fate like you can't and how the and how Julia Roberts was even considered for that role. So many stars had to align to get there. There is that there is that?

Felicity Wren 1:02:53
But I think the the friends thing, sorry to interrupt you, I would say with friends is that all that money didn't make them happy? Not everyone?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:02
Absolutely. You're absolutely right.

Felicity Wren 1:03:05
So actually having a happy life is more valuable than being an Oscar winner. Or the best screenwriter, or the most famous actress, or the most, you know, being happy with yourself and with your who you are as a human being is me for Be careful what you wish for. Because it might just come true.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:27
And people listening like oh, I want to be a famous this or I want to you know, direct that or I want to write this. They don't understand what that entails and what trade offs you have to do. If you want to be the biggest movie star in the world. There is some trade offs. You want to you want to write on a studio project. There is some trade offs. You want to direct the Marvel movie. There is some trade offs things that you don't understand because you've never sat in that chair. And I've been blessed by being able to talk to a lot of these writers and directors who do sit in these chairs. So I hear all the stories. So when Kevin Fay he does call me for Avengers part five. I'm ready. I'm ready. So Kevin, if you're listening, I'll take the meeting. I'll always take the meeting. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked my my guest Felicity what are three screens? What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?

Felicity Wren 1:04:28
God Yeah, get out. What's God is the one that's just it's Emily Blunt and john because

Alex Ferrari 1:04:40
Chris was quiet place. quiet place. Yes. a quiet place you should read that because i think i love about that. Is that so imaginative about how they, how they put it on the page. You know, I mean, they kind of did something different and want to Jim Hart's ones. I would either go Dracula or hook one of those people. Jim Jim, a friend of the show, Jim. And, and yeah, that hook. God are the stories of Hogan and Dracula. Oh, god, they're they're amazing. Yes. All great choices. Also, I wanted to kind of highlight what you guys do over at the ICA. So let's you're what you're helping screenwriters as well as we are, what are you doing? What are the resources you guys have for screenwriters? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Felicity Wren 1:05:31
Yeah, thank you. The I will, I'm the VP of development for the International screenwriters Association. It was started by someone who was a actor turned screenwriter who moved from Chicago to LA and was like, oh, my goodness ever wants to take my money and no one is doing what they said they were going to do. So he just started as an online resource for screenwriters, so that you could check stuff out. It's a place of community for screenwriters is a place where you can put your profile up, you can put your screenplays, you can put posters sizzles. So you can make it a place with other screenwriters where you can completely put your brand in one area. We have producers that are signed up to the site, and they definitely go through and look at talent and look at screenwriters, you can promote your success on it. And then it's also full of the other half of the business. So that's you and your craft and your career. There's a lot of teaching elements of it too. But there's also the business side. So we have it's called ISO insider where movie make a variety of all the news comes through. So you can have a look at that. There's pro tips and tricks about what's going on in the industry, red carpet interviews, interviews, like such as yourself. But as you go and speak to directors and producers and see what they're doing and how they how they found a way in the world. So it's always just it's a hub really, for you to find people like you and information you might need. I also want a development slate of 172 writers, which is a top tier writer pool of scripts I found through contests and referrals and success stories, just brilliant success stories. I love following people who are doing well and telling people about it. That's the other thing if you weren't doing well, not to be obnoxious. But let people know. Let people know that said no to you in the past, let people know that helped you on the way say thank you. Those those are all we all like to feel that we've you know, it reminds me that we're all connected. And in some way, even the pizza takes hundreds of people to make it, you know, want to grow the corn did my middle look on? You know, like? Yeah, I mean, it's, we're we're also interconnected, I think COVID showed us that more than ever, is that we actually all need each other. So to be in a place where you kind of go like, okay, we're all here again. And when it is when times are difficult. And when you have those moments where you're dealing with delusional people, things are down there to have these other people that will lift you up and say like, I really believe in you and you know, keep going.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:11
Now in England, do they have pizza made of corn? Because I wasn't aware that corn was an ingredient in pizza. So I was just I just wanted to clarify because I haven't been to England. I'm not sure if that's the thing. I just want to be prepared. If there is corn pizza, not to look like an outsider. Yeah. I'm sorry, I couldn't let it go. I now have weeds. Oh, god damn it. Yeah, you're right. As you were talking, was you were talking like Did she just say corn? I can't let that go away. About the tortilla pizzas. Everyone. It's it's very LA. It's very la it's very la with the tortilla pizzas. So what advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Felicity Wren 1:09:11
Find your people. I think. Go on Facebook, join all this amazing groups. Go on Twitter, go on Instagram do all the social media stuff and find all the people are out there doing it. Hashtag screenwriter is massive on Twitter, you need to be following that. And from there you will find lots of screenwriters and showrunners and producers because they're all looking on there to it became an again an amazing when the industry changed. It became a place for people to find each other so and I also think is a place where you can celebrate so if someone has got a new project out and you've seen that in the trades, because you're now reading the trades as part of your job. You can then congratulate them on Twitter or Facebook or wherever and they do notice if you keep saying and if you say something smart If you're funny, the other thing to do in those Facebook groups is to help others so that if someone says I need a script reading or I need a logline looking at be one of those people that offers advice that does help out, not to your own detriment to avoid writing. But do it enough so that you're a person that's part of the community that's actually trying to make this stuff happen, then I think it's hard to kind of enter contests and fellowships and look for grants and see if there's like a little area in your hometown, if you're not in LA, that that has projects that they're working on, volunteer on, find people are writing shorts, or producing shorts, film, schools, volunteer go to be unset, you can learn a lot from being on set, I think, one about how actors and directors work with each other with lines, but also just how the whole process is so that you can be a better screenwriter, I think really immersing yourself in the job, then read, read all the time, read other people's scripts, read scripts, whilst watching the movie, see how much they changed it. If your TV's your thing, kind of get into TV, t scripts, TV scripts, and then it's the start putting pictures together, start practice looking at pitch decks, thinking about so you actually act as a producer for yourself if you are going to create this because it's probably in your mind. So then how can you put it on the page? What's the tone? Who would you have in it as your dream cast? Why now why you why you this writer, put that all in the pitch deck, even if he never send anywhere which you should, even if you don't, it means you can talk about it more eloquently. If someone asks you about it. Practice your pictures for 10 minutes, one to two minute one, one minute, Mark, as Alex was saying about that. And keep learning don't give up. Be persevere, believe and know that you have your your own journey in this process. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. It's miserable. And pointless.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:57
And bitter, bitter, bitter screenwriter, the bitter filmmaker

Felicity Wren 1:12:02
just makes you feel horrible. What's the point in doing that? You know, it doesn't touch them at all. And you just going around going it should have been me It should have been me and it's like my eye and just makes no sense. Just try and do something better.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:17
Or just do something that you that they can't do that do that thing that you can do and only you can do. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Felicity Wren 1:12:35
self belief. I think that is the hardest one. And unfortunately, nothing in any aspect of your life works without it. You have to believe in yourself. You have to think that you're worthy. So self worth, I think, and it's an ongoing process. I'd like to say I'm there but I'm there on Sundays that you know, I was nervous about doing this. I will beat myself up afterwards about times I stumbled over words you know, I mean, so it's a continuing, we're all a work in progress. So I guess remember that and let yourself off the hook about it. You know? I haven't killed anybody yet. You know, so I'm not a murderer. So it's their worst things.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:15
Exactly. And I've already forgotten about the corn pizza. Oh my god. My name is facility worm when I eat corn pizza. I'm telling you that is a teenage sleuth book series. Right now you and I should we should go operate. And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Okay. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Surely.

Felicity Wren 1:13:46
So good. The only thing is I have to have 10 minutes afterwards to cry. I literally have to cry for 10 minutes afterwards because I'm so sad about my life choices and so happy about them at the same time. It's one of those things that you know if you had to do it all again, would you Yeah, yeah. It does it hurt like hell. Yeah, so it's just I love I love the imagination of it the magic of it. I mean, I was gonna then go, can I do for because then I would then that leads me to the Truman Show. I'm a very kind of I'm very think a very big fan of Jim Carrey. I think he is underrated as an actor. He's I mean, he is a modern David Van Dyck again massive fan of his. I think he is so versatile and so talented. And people when he was in this in a stereotype box for a while, but you know, he he is incredible. I think he's an amazing, man. Amazing. So so those are my two. I'm going to link those together even though they're not the same. And then the hours I just love because I really enjoyed Steven daughters directing. I just think the script itself is so beautiful. I haven't seen So I hadn't seen many pictures with three very dynamic and different female leads, who kind of that ensemble was such an ensemble piece. And it was, I'll never forget that image of Julianne Moore on the bed, reading the book and the water just coming at her feeling like she's drowning by being a housewife. And as someone who doesn't want to be a housewife, I really, really kind of really spoke to me. So the hours and the storytelling is beautiful. And the acting is incredible. And then I think, a bit more recent, is arrival. Because I just, Oh, my God is such a smart script. And it just, when you understand what it's been doing with you at the end, how it's been messing with your mind. I was I was just blown away by the ingenuity of it and the the stylishness, exotic sophistication of it, and and I also hate it when alien aliens are portrayed as the enemy, because I feel like it's another form of racism. It's all like,

Alex Ferrari 1:16:11
who's not you is an alien ism.

Felicity Wren 1:16:14
Yeah, it's an alien is a racist. Everything is this whole thing about keeping us divided, you know, anyone that's not you is to be feared. You know, and I feel like, I love that about arrival. It turned that on its head. And it gave us an same time humans, we're gonna help them too. So it wasn't a case of we've come to rescue you it was a partnership. So I really enjoyed that about

Alex Ferrari 1:16:35
and where can people find out more about what you find about you. And what you do over at ICA?

Felicity Wren 1:16:43
well, you can find us at www dot network iaasa.org. And I am on the website there. You can I mean, basically, you can just go this is a really kind of big website, you can go and have a bit of a poke around Have a look isn't so much free stuff on it, there is a $10 a month or $99 a year membership. That puts you want to slightly, it's called IRC Connect, it's a slightly more elevated membership, the rest of it is free. And that basically just means that you get for free contest entries a year which is actually worth more than the fee you pay to be on it. And you have a few more things that adjust for you extra classes and stuff like that. But you can have a look. It's all free, have a wander around. I'm there.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:28
Very cool. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you had a lot of fun. And I'm I hope this episode helps a few screenwriters out there and hopefully they're not crying curled up in a corner somewhere in the fetal position. After this conversation, I hope they are empowered to move forward with their dreams and their careers. So thank you so much for that.

Felicity Wren 1:17:48
It was such a pleasure to meet you.

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BPS 110: What Talent Agencies Look for in a Screenplay with Christopher Lockhart

Today on the show we have award-winning producer, film executive, educator, and industry story analyst Christopher Lockhart. Christopher is renowned for his script editing acumen. He has read over 60,000 screenplays.  He is also an award-winning filmmaker and member of the WGA, PGA, and the Television Academy.

Chris got his start at International Creative Management (ICM), where he worked as script consultant to legendary talent agent Ed Limato, who represented industry giants such as Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer, Liam Neeson, and Robert Downey, Jr.

He later moved to the venerable William Morris Agency, which merged with Endeavor to form WME.  At WME Chris has worked on award-winning projects for A-list clients like Denzel Washington, Russel Crowe, and Rachel McAdams among others.

Chris branched off into film producing with the cult horror hit The Collector and its sequel The Collection, which opened in the top ten American box-office.   He wrote and produced the award winning documentary Most Valuable Players, which was acquired by Oprah Winfrey for her network.  Chris has set up several other projects, including A Rhinestone Alibi at Paramount, and Crooked Creek, a modern noir thriller.

As an educator, Lockhart shares his talent and 30+ years of industry experience as an adjunct professor at Screenwriting program and at UCLA. His writing workshop The Inside Pitch was filmed for Los Angeles television and earned him an Emmy Award nomination.

Chris and I also teamed up for a new webinar from IFH Academy called How to Become a Hollywood Script Reader from Industry Insiders

HOW TO BE A HOLLYWOOD READER is a webinar focusing on the secrets of one of Hollywood’s most vital and mysterious jobs. A reader evaluates screenplays and stories, practicing quality control through “coverage” – a written report that judges creative success. The reader wields huge influence that empowers Hollywood chiefs to greenlight film, television, and new media.

This webinar examines the core components of coverage, how to write it, and provides tools and pro tips to navigate the reading profession – led by two preeminent Hollywood readers. By pulling back the curtain on this creative process, the webinar also gives writers, directors, actors, and producers a rare look inside the mind of those who decide the fate of their material. To access the webinar Click Here

Chris prioritizes emotionality and his client’s character role and development ahead of the overall story solidity. He shared some tips for new writers, some lessons learned from bad scripts, what goes on behind the agency curtain and the blessing of untapping a story’s best version from re-writes.

Enjoy my conversation with Christopher Lockhart.

Right-click here to download the MP3



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Alex Ferrari 2:24
Well guys, you are in for a treat. Today's guest is Christopher Lockhart, who is a story editor at W m. e. William Morris endeavor, the world's largest talent agency, where he curates projects for a list actors and artists such as Denzel Washington, Rachel Mike Adams, Russell Crowe, and so on. He has read over 60,000 screenplays over his career and is also an award winning filmmaker and member of the WETA PGA and television Academy. He's also created the amazing Facebook group called the inside pitch where he helps screenwriters navigate the crazy world of screenwriting in Hollywood from inside the machine. And that's why I wanted to have Chris on the show, I wanted to talk to somebody behind the walls behind the walls where everybody wants to get to. He is there. And he has a very unique perspective on story on what sells on what movie stars are looking for, because this is what he does, day in and day out. And as you heard at the beginning of the episode, Chris and I have teamed up to bring you the How to be a Hollywood script writer webinar at IFH Academy, which will not only make you become a script reader understand the mentality behind script reading. But you will also become a much better screenwriter, just by understanding the craft of breaking down story after story and learning these pro tips that jack and Chris bring to the webinar. Again, you can gain access to that webinar at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash script reader. Now without any further ado, please enjoy my eye opening conversation with Christopher Lockhart. I'd like to welcome to the show Christopher Lockhart thank you for so much for being on the show. Christopher.

Christopher Lockhart 4:27
Thank you. It's great to be able to talk to somebody

Alex Ferrari 4:32
Exactly as we're we're all locked up in our in our little quarantine caves here in LA. Well, I was gonna ask you though, like, you know, you being on the agency side, I've been hearing from a lot of agents and managers to say that the world has changed. They're never going to jump into a car for an hour and a half again, to go take a 30 minute meeting and then come back to their office. What are you hearing on your end?

Christopher Lockhart 4:54
Well, you know, my policy has always been that I try to get people to come to me for my meetings, generally speaking. But yeah, you know, I think that that we have been forced out of our comfort zone, believe it or not our comfort zone was driving an hour and a half to go to a meeting. And now, we realized that this technology works, it's equally as efficient, and perhaps more efficient, because now we can utilize our time more wisely. Let's face it less time in an automobile makes a very big difference. And I think we're gonna see this ripple through a lot of industries. I think, for example, the commercial real estate industries, you know, you're going to end up with a lot of vacant buildings, because I think a lot of a lot of companies might actually have people just work from home in the future. It's cheaper, it's easier, right, you know, less rent. It's less wear and tear, I think that there are a lot of people who would be open to that.

I haven't been in my office in many months. I look forward to getting back to it. Just you know, just because, you know, you never know what you have until it's gone.

And so I hope that a lot of us just generally speaking, not even with work, but just with life that we realize, I think sort of how lucky we are generally speaking, and then there are some pluses to this, perhaps some people spending more time with their families than they might have or maybe want to, but I think that there are some definite pluses to to, to this, need to cling to those at least otherwise.

Alex Ferrari 6:43
There's some sort of silver lining in this ridiculousness that is 2020. But yeah, you're right. I think it's going to up end the commercial real estate business without question, because there's going to be a lot less people renting, because they don't need to, like, you know, I know, attorneys and things like that. They're like, I'm shutting down my office because I don't need it anymore.

So, before we get started, how did you get into the business?

Christopher Lockhart 7:10
Ah you know, it's always just who you know, you know, who, you know, is very important. And I've been out here for a while, working as a writer, and, and and then, you know, I sort of had some crossroads and, and some things happened in my life. And an opportunity was presented to me to go and meet with this Uber agent named Ed llamado, who was the CO -resident at ICM and agent to the stars Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer. Robert Downey, Jr, Liam Neeson, you know, go on and on. And he basically needed a script consultant, he needed somebody who could go through all of these projects that were coming to his office for his clients. And, you know, make a long story short, I took the job, and 25 years later

Alex Ferrari 8:15
And Big Bang, boom, we're here. Now, and did you when you were working with? Well, you've been you've been working with, you know, big actors and big, big agencies, because you move from ICM to over to WMA? WME? Excuse me?

Christopher Lockhart 8:31
Both, actually. Yeah. Because in 2007, we left ICM, we went to William Morris. And then in 2009, William Morris merged with endeavour and then it became WME.

Alex Ferrari 8:44
Right. And you've been working with clients, high end clients ever since then doing the same thing, just basically vetting their projects. So you've, you, you, you have a very inside inside information in regards to what big movie stars are looking for, in their movie in their projects, generally speaking.

Christopher Lockhart 9:02
Yeah. And believe it or not, it's, it's not always it's not really rocket science. You know, they're really just looking for good projects. And and I think the, the smartest actors are the ones who don't pigeonhole themselves. So very rarely do I get marching orders. You know, rarely do I get a client who says, Listen, I only want a script that does a, b and c, that that order comes down sometimes, but not often. And I think that's how actors really succeed because they are open minded to all different kinds of projects. And hopefully, the ones that I'm sending their way are, are good. They can't do all of the projects that are sent their way they can only do some. But, but yeah, my job is to it. is to be be a taster, you know, so to speak.

Sometimes I liken myself to a little, like a real estate agent, you know, where I'm trying to find a piece of property for a client. And the job involves other things as well. Yeah, there's a lot of reading. But I'm a little bit of a development executive, because I'll work with some of our writer, director clients, on their projects from the very beginning. Sometimes I'm called in in like a hail mary pass to go into the editing room and consult there. So I basically work with story anywhere from the very earliest of the development process, right through post, I even go on to sets, you know, and sort of work from there also. So, so so it the job entails a lot of elements that make it interesting, because each day is different. Maybe not right now. Right now, every day is exactly

Alex Ferrari 11:09
it's groundhogs day.

Christopher Lockhart 11:10
It's Groundhog's Day. But typically, it's it's, it is varied, but there's a lot of reading, there's no doubt about that.

Alex Ferrari 11:20
Lots and lots of homework to do. Now, obviously COVID has up ended the entire world, let alone our small little corner of the world that is Hollywood. How do you see COVID affecting not only Hollywood, as we're currently seeing it, what you're seeing currently, right now, because it's changing pretty much on a weekly, weekly, or monthly basis. At this point,

Christopher Lockhart 11:43
Warner Brothers just broke the news about how they're going to start to release their projects for 2021. And it's pretty shattering. Actually, it's really changing the game. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 11:56
God, how are they doing it? I haven't read that.

Christopher Lockhart 11:58
Well, there. I've only skimmed through it because it literally just came out. But they are going to do a day and date with HBO max with a 31 day license. And so it's it's it looks pretty complicated. I'm sure it'll be complicated from the agency end. As these deals of course have to be brokered. So ya know, not exactly sure yet, how it's going to ripple out, or what the other studios are going to do. But let's face it, everybody, everybody's improvising. And people always ask, oh, you know, what's the business going to be? Like, in six months? I don't know. I know, I know, just as much as you do. If you would ask me yesterday about Warner Brothers release plan for 2021. I wouldn't have told you that this is what they were gonna do. So maybe the writing was on the wall for other people who are more intuitive or pay more attention to that. But I don't, I don't have a clue. I'm literally riding the surf like everybody else.

Alex Ferrari 13:11
So I No wonder woman is being released. I think Christmas Day or something like that. Day in and day is where they're going to release in the theater. And they're going to do so it's a similar thing, but they're only going to allow it on the platform for 31 days, and then that's when it gets pulled off.

Christopher Lockhart 13:25
That's right, that's exactly what they are doing for all of their 2021 releases.

Alex Ferrari 13:30
Wow, that is a huge, that's really upside down. Yeah, because 2021 even with the vaccine with everything, we're not going to get back to where we were in 2019 for at least a couple years.

Christopher Lockhart 13:42
Well, what what might this news even do, let's say to the stockholders of AMC, you know, I mean, is this going to send complete panic through the ranks there. So, I, you know, this is just this has been a crazy year, and people who say, Oh, I can't wait until 2020 ends, like, there's just gonna be a hell of a lot more than 2021.

Alex Ferrari 14:08
I keep telling people that 2020 can make 2020 is when you want to make 20 look like 2019?

Christopher Lockhart 14:14
Very well might, I hope not,

Alex Ferrari 14:16
I hope not to trust me, because like, I don't know how much more I personally could take. I don't think any of us.

Christopher Lockhart 14:22
I just I it's like I'm on a 12 step program. I just I, I take this day, you know, one day at a time, I really think that's, that's just the best way to do it. Because things are changing so rapidly. You know, there were a lot of layoffs throughout the industry. And, you know, who knows, you know, who knows if anybody will even have a job in six months. So it's just, it's too much to think about. So I just sort of do what it is that I need to do day in and day out, and I just don't think about or try to control those things that are in the future.

Alex Ferrari 15:00
And how do you think all of this is affecting screenwriters? Because, you know, and how can they kind of adjust themselves to this new, this new world that's changing by the minute,

Christopher Lockhart 15:13
What's new about isolation for screening?

Alex Ferrari 15:16
Well, there's that

Christopher Lockhart 15:17
This this is, you know, this is, if there's anybody in the industry who can thrive during this time, it is the writer, because the writer should be writing. That's exactly what they should be doing. Now, it's hard for director to go out and direct or producer to produce. But a writer can be writing at this very moment, by the end of COVID, every writer in town should have two to three new scripts that they've written. And there are still deals, you know, so there are still still writing deals going on, and writers are working. So I think if, if anything, they have the the, they're able to make the best out of this.

Alex Ferrari 16:08
Now there was, there's I think one misconception that I hear a lot of screenwriters that I talk to all the time, is that they look very much like independent filmmakers. They think they're making films today, like it was 1992. So they like thinking of like, Oh, just go to Sundance, and I'll get this and that and they have this kind of magical world that was then I think screenwriters have the same thing with the spec market, which in the 90s. I mean, the Shane blacks and the Joe Ester houses. I mean,

Christopher Lockhart 16:35

Alex Ferrari 16:35
Can you talk a little bit about the spec market? And what is if there is a spec market? is it happening? What's the deal?

Christopher Lockhart 16:43
Yeah, there's not really all that much of a spec market right now, a few scripts have sold clearly this is this is not a banner year for selling a screenplay on spec, which is why screenwriter should be writing because there is a possibility that when this drought is over, that people will be looking for content much like after, you know, any WGA strike. You know, we've often seen remember a lot of that that spec boom of the early 90s was fueled by the writers strike in the late 80s. So, so there is a great possibility that that will be hungry for content once the industry is up and running again, which is why people should be writing now worry less about the business at this moment and concentrate more on the creative, because then I think you will be prepared for the business when it is reanimated.

Alex Ferrari 17:53
Now, what is some? What is one of the biggest misconceptions that screenwriters have about the industry about Hollywood in general?

Christopher Lockhart 18:01
Oh, boy, I don't know probably 1000s.

A few. I think I Well, I don't know, I think that, that maybe some more naive writers might think that they literally just sort of can write a screenplay, and then the doors sort of open for them. I don't really understand that. That process as to how the doors would just automatically open. But that's, but that's what they think. Or they feel like because they've written a screenplay that the industry owes them the respect the time to read their script, when that is definitely not the case, by any means. I'm not saying that they don't deserve the respect and time. Sure they do. But nobody's going to give it to me. So. So I think that's a really big misconception. I think another big misconception, of course, is that they're going to make millions and millions and millions of dollars. Write screenplays, when, like anybody in this business, it's a lot of struggle. And one reason of course, that writers at least in the WGA get paid what they get paid is because that might be all that they get paid for three or four years. And, and so they need that money to hold them over. Right. You know, this is why actors get residuals and etc, etc. Because the work is often far and few between. So so there's a lot of struggle. There are, I think, misconceptions that a writer sells a script and their career is made. I would say probably the majority of writers who sell scripts never, never go on to a career.

It's a you know, it's like a one hit wonder. You're always working, it never gets easy. It never gets easy. And I really think that a lot of writers who haven't been out here they think Yeah, I just I just need to sell that one script with no, you know, listen if, if you sell it in it, and it and it rocks the town, that's one thing. But that's not most, that's not most scripts sales. You know, most script sales are for load and no money. And they go under the radar, the movies never made. Or if the movie is made, nobody sees it.

Alex Ferrari 20:26

Christopher Lockhart 20:27
So there's just so there's so many ways for your career not to get started after it's got started.

Alex Ferrari 20:36
It's funny because I always tell people about Kauffman and Sorkin like the you know, they have scripts that they can't they can't produce, like they they can't, that they're amazing. But no one's willing to give the money. And I was telling if Charlie Kaufman and Aaron Sorkin are having problems, what do you think you could have? right to be? It'd be as realistic as possible about this.

Christopher Lockhart 20:59
That's well, and, and, and not every script that an A list writer writes, hits it out of the ballpark. So you know, I've read a lot of scripts by writers that I love. And unlike Yeah, this just doesn't work. This just doesn't work. And this probably wasn't a great project.

You know, that happens all the time. And for new writers. I think that they're often under the impression that because they wrote a screenplay that they've written a screenplay, and yeah, often when you read it, yeah, sure. It starts with fade, and it's got fade out. It's got slug lines. It's in proper format. It's got 120 pages, but it isn't a screenplay. Right? And, and so it often takes a lot, a lot of trial and error, to be able to get to that screenplay that eventually can help you break through. So impatience is certainly an issue with new writers thinking that they don't necessarily have to put in their time.

Alex Ferrari 22:09
So like, you know, a 12 month plan is not long enough, is what you're telling me to start my career as a screenwriter?

Christopher Lockhart 22:15
Yeah, I'd say 12 years. Probably would be more realistic.

Alex Ferrari 22:21
Right? I have a long Yeah. I have a one year plan, like you haven't had a 10 year plan.

Christopher Lockhart 22:25
And then you're just starting. And listen, there are always exceptions to the rule. I had always,

Alex Ferrari 22:31
of course,

Christopher Lockhart 22:32
I had a student many years ago named Josh Schwartz, who's a, you know, this phenomenal show runner. He created the the OC and, you know, Bob, lots and lots of other shows the runaways which is on Disney Plus, I think, yeah, and just, you know, right, on and on and on. Amazing kid. And, you know, he sold his first spec script for like, $1.75 million, or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 22:59

Christopher Lockhart 23:00
You know, yeah. And so, people look to that. And they're like, you know, I'm gonna do that. But that's the Powerball.

Alex Ferrari 23:08
No, it's a lottery, lottery ticket, I call it the lottery,

you know, somebody wins the Powerball lottery every week.

Christopher Lockhart 23:14
But that doesn't mean that you should quit your job, and wait for your numbers to come in. So, you know, that, that That to me is, is, is something that people really need to consider is, is the long term plan. And just having patience,

Alex Ferrari 23:36
Right? And that's that every time I was people always ask me, What do you What's your biggest piece of advice I could patients? It took me a long time. I mean, I was just, I just was talking to James v. Hart, who was on the show the other day, and after doing some research on him, he he got hook, when he was in his 40s. And he and he was, he was bumping around Hollywood for 1015 years, had a couple of things produced and he was writing and getting paid to write but nothing was getting produced. And it was, you know, then, Mr. Spielberg called and life changed.

Christopher Lockhart 24:08
Right? But and that can happen, but he really had to put in the mileage

Alex Ferrari 24:14
Correct. He had to get to that time. Now you said something about residuals earlier and I wanted to see what your take was on this. Because the game of residuals and, and those those kind of deals like the friends have and and Seinfeld and you know, all these residuals, Netflix has changed the game in regards to buyouts or and now I think even Disney is trying to do like maybe a two year season run or something like that, and then it's done. What what is what are your feelings on like that? Or is it you know, is that too touchy of a tough topic to talk about?

Christopher Lockhart 24:47
Well, you know, I'm not going to pretend that that I'm an expert on that. Thankfully, I don't have to negotiate deals. I'm not an agent. So you know, I get too strict. really stick with the creative. But all I can tell you is this that a lot of big talent is more than willing to work for the streamers. So and you see that, you know, so that isn't a secret. You know, we have a lot of big names, good names in series. And a lot of big names. Look at somebody like you know, Sandra Bullock and birdbox for Netflix. We've got George Clooney coming up in

Alex Ferrari 25:35
Can't wait for that movie.

Christopher Lockhart 25:37
Yeah, I can I read the script. It was called Good. Good morning. Something.

Alex Ferrari 25:43
I forgot the name of it.

Christopher Lockhart 25:45
But it changed the title now. And and

Alex Ferrari 25:50
Fincher Fincher, too, he's, I mean,

Christopher Lockhart 25:53
yeah, you know, and so we can go on and on. This is I remember, you know, 10 years ago, if your movie went to Netflix, you didn't tell people it was embarrassing.

Alex Ferrari 26:08
Right, right. Right. You're right.

Christopher Lockhart 26:10
It was it was, you know, it was like, a, it was like The Scarlet Letter. And, and now, you'd be lucky if you could get your movie on Netflix.

Alex Ferrari 26:23

Christopher Lockhart 26:24
So it's, it is amazing how it has evolved. And, and talent wants to work with the streamers very much. So. So there's clearly a big future in the streamers provided that the that their business model can be sustained. You know, I still ask myself all the time, how is Netflix going to sustain its business model when it spends so much money on content? Now, I did notice that they raised my monthly rate, like $1, or something, you know, eventually Netflix is going to be $25 a month. You know, like, I feel certain for that of that. Because that's going to be the only way to hold up that model. Because they have to they they must have content in order to compete.

Alex Ferrari 27:19
And to me, that's it, you got to feed the beast, it's like a constant feeding of the beast. And it's, I mean, I have a I have a streaming service and it's small. I mean, obviously it's like a miniscule thing. And I feel like I have to constantly be putting new content up obviously my my projects don't cost $200 million to to, to put them up, but it's just it's not never ending and also by the way, Netflix set that priority that that standard up to release 15,000 things every week. And I

Christopher Lockhart 27:50
Listen, I'm glad they do.

Alex Ferrari 27:51

Christopher Lockhart 27:52
Right. And when did they when they raised my rate $1 I was like, give me something like I appreciate Netflix. I appreciate the content I don't love everything but there's always something there that I can find to watch and and I suspect that it will only get better but again they you know they they are they are shelling out a lot of money for content a lot of money yeah and and that and that's why you see big talent flocking, there

Alex Ferrari 28:27
It is it's kind of like a gold rush. But I agree with you i just don't know how how long this can sustain itself because they are an obscene amounts of debt. They earn an obscene amounts of dead right now.

Christopher Lockhart 28:37
Well, we have to hope that they that they can figure it out. Because if we lose the streamers after having lost the movie theaters, you're then then we're screwed.

Alex Ferrari 28:49
There's no there's no, there's no because we lost DVD. We lost VHS. We lost DVD, which was so much money. And and then, yeah, you're absolutely right. Because if Netflix goes down, it's it shatters a lot of things.

Christopher Lockhart 29:02
Right? So they can't go down. And, you know, people will often say, Oh, you know, how does Hollywood feel about Netflix? And I'm like, Netflix is Hollywood. You know, we just it's just Hollywood is evolving. You know, there was a time when movies had no sound, you know? So

Alex Ferrari 29:22
no color.

Christopher Lockhart 29:24
No, no color. So it's evolving. You know, you got you got to go with the flow. So yeah, you know, I wish any venture the very best, because that means opportunities for my clients, which in turn keeps me employed.

Alex Ferrari 29:46
And then there you go. Now what when you're looking at scripts for your clients, what are you looking for, but I mean, is it just basically I just need a good story, but there's there anything specific in the scripts that maybe give some tips to screenwriters

Christopher Lockhart 30:09
You know, I think generally speaking, I do not have a checklist. I always say that I look at scripts holistically, I'll read any script that is given to me, I will read it from beginning to end, even if I know by page 12, that the script is terrible. Because actually, sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes on page 12, and 15, and even 30. I'm like, Oh, my God, this script is so boring. And then a little bit later on something happens, A Beautiful Mind. For example, I remember reading that for Russell Crowe and and just wanting to toss it aside. Because I was like, Oh, my God, this is just like a perfunctory spy thriller. And I was like, This is so boring. And then you get to that twist, you have the rug pulled out from under you, if I had tossed that script aside by page 30. And listen, I still think that that twist should have been moved up a little bit earlier in the script. But regardless, if I had tossed it aside, you know, things might have been a little different for Russell Crowe. So. So I've learned my lessons over the years to stick with scripts I I also learn a lot from bad writing, actually learn more from bad writing than I do good writing, but an answer to your question. Because of looking for talent, my eye is always drawn, most importantly, to the protagonist of the story, the role that might client might play. So for me, I'm looking at that. And how does that character evolve? What is the character's journey through the story? how active is the character? How does the character change?

Alex Ferrari 31:59
How does conflict inform the character? These are things that I look at. So often, I'll read a script, where sort of the stuff on the periphery, I don't think is very good. But I'll say this is a terrific role. And not all that long ago. And I'll make this a blind item. But there was a screenplay that I read for a client. And I thought the role was amazing. But I really felt like the story went off the tracks at about midpoint. And then for the second half of the script, I didn't really have a clue what it was about, but I was like, Man, this is a good role. And that client made that film and won an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.


Christopher Lockhart 32:50
So you know, so my eye is always drawn first and foremost, to the character. And, and, and how I see the client in that role. So that's first and foremost for me. So that's what's really important to me.

Alex Ferrari 33:11
I mean, in a lot of times, I find this I've been speaking to so many different people in the industry and writers and screenwriters. I've come to realize that character I mean, plot is very important. But you don't generate remember plots of movies you remember characters of movies like I can I remember Indiana Jones? Do I remember the plot of Raiders of Lost Ark? Yes, because I've seen it 1000 times. But if you put my my feet to the fire on Temple of Doom, kind of remember the plot, but I remember, I remember the characters I remember all of those characters. so clear.

Christopher Lockhart 33:43
And most importantly, at least from my experience is that we remember the the emotionality

Alex Ferrari 33:50

Christopher Lockhart 33:51
Attached to the character. Because ultimately, you know, movies, screenplays, any art form, at least in my opinion, is is an emotional experience.

Right You know, if you if you go back to Aristotle, it's all about catharsis. So it so it is, it is about emotion. And for me, when I read a screenplay, I want to be moved. For me a screenplay is never should never be an intellectual exercise. That doesn't mean that it can't be smart. It doesn't mean that it can explore intellectual subjects. But ultimately, it has to be emotional. And, and so if I read a screenplay, and I feel the same way at the end, as I did at the beginning, it's probably a pass.

Alex Ferrari 34:49
Now, you said something earlier about you learn more from bad writing that you do for good writing. Can you tell us tell us a little bit about what you learn when you read a bad script?

Christopher Lockhart 34:58
Well, you know, you often learn and sort of what you shouldn't do, and more importantly, why. But I also think that, because I've read so many scripts, I've read over 60,000 scripts in 30 plus years. So I, like I have so many stories in my head. So let's say that you write a screenplay, and I read the screenplay, and I don't think it works. Now, I can guarantee you that I have read at least a dozen screenplays, very similar to your story. Because you know, you're all using the same archetypes and, and tropes and motifs. And I can then think, on those other dozen screenplays and how they were able to make work. What you weren't able to make work, just and then I can sort of compare and contrast. And so often, I can sort of figure things out or even through rewrites because I have, I have to read a lot of rewrites, you know, I can remember, you know, a script like, like man on fire with Denzel, I must have read 17 or 18 different drafts of that script as it came in. But I can remember very specific scripts that I had read, that didn't work. And, and, and I couldn't figure out why it didn't work. I could articulate that it wasn't working. And I might even be able to say why it wasn't working, but couldn't tell you how to fix it. And then you get a rewrite that comes in. And whatever it was, that I was feeling has been altered, the rewrite is much more successful. And then I'm able to look at what they did, and compare it to what it was before. And then have a learning experience. through that. I always bring up Matchstick men. As an example. That was the Ridley Scott Nicolas Cage movie.

I don't want to screw this up. But in the film, he he Nicolas Cage is a con man who meets his a strange daughter. And then they go out and do a con together. And then spoiler alert, we find out that she has content, she is not his daughter. Right? So really clever. The first draft that I read, she was his daughter. She was his daughter. And so then you get so then you get to this third act, it never has a really interesting climax. And it really felt like something was missing. And I couldn't figure it out. And then seven months later, a rewrite comes in. And I read that I'm like, Ah, that's it. Of course, it makes total sense. This is a movie about cons. This is a movie about confidence men. So you need a great con, you need a twist in the third act. I love the sting.

Alex Ferrari 38:09

Christopher Lockhart 38:10
And, you know, this has been all sort of part of my learning experience through reading so much. And and you know, I studied dramaturgy as a graduate student at NYU, I've been MFA. But really, so much of my education has come through reading scripts, and of course, being forced to read scripts. So my education has been at gunpoint, so to speak. But a lot I've learned a lot as a result.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
So you're like a database of of stories and screenplays because of just just sitting around reading very much like I'm very much like, Bill Murray and Groundhog's Day, so I'll bring it back to that. He's like, maybe there is no God, maybe he's just been around so long that he knows everything. So I'm not saying you're a god, sir. But, but but you but you, but you do have a database of all these stories in your head that helps you, you know, has I mean, it's like a computer almost. So you could just kind of go in and dive into things. That's really where

Christopher Lockhart 39:15
You know, a lot. A lot of what I do is somebody saying, Hey, you know, we're looking for romantic comedies for this actor. Can you you know, come up with a list. And, and so yeah, you know, so I go into my database, which is not just here, but is also on my computer, although I have a very antediluvian kind of system. So it's, it's very tough. Sometimes I it's it's really weird how I have to find projects that can often remember the stories but titles now for me, because there's so many titles, I can't recall titles. Sometimes I'll have a co worker who will call me say hey listened. You know, last week you read the ABC script. And I'll say, Wait, wait, wait. I remember that script at all, what was the logline? Because you know, that was like 30 scripts to go from me already. So it's like I read it, I move on to the next. But once I get a prompt, everything opens up in my head, and then I can really remember the story.

Alex Ferrari 40:24
So can you talk about what a screen when a screenwriter is ready for an agent or manager? Because so many times I hear screenwriters say, All I need is that agent or manager, I just need that that champion to just get me that deal. When are they actually ready for an agent or manager to take them on?

Christopher Lockhart 40:42
Well, my glib answer to that is always they're ready when the agent or manager knocks on their door. Because ultimately, when, when they're coming to you, you're ready. And people might say, Oh, well, how do they come to you? Well, they come to you because you want the nickel fellowship?

Alex Ferrari 41:04

Christopher Lockhart 41:05
You know, or maybe you wrote some low budget film that you thought nobody would see. But you know it, it was Sundance on fire. So but ultimately, it's a one thing that any writer can do is turn to his network to get feedback on his screenplays to see what's working and what isn't working. Because sometimes the writer isn't the best judge, especially when you've been working on a script for so long. And right. Yeah, absolutely. So So having that network of people that you trust, who can read your script, I give you notes. And then eventually, I think you can get the feeling when the notes go from from this to this, that maybe your screenplay is ready to share with representation. But that still may not mean you're ready, because in some cases, a rep might read your script and say, Wow, this is great. You're a great writer. I can't sell this, though. There's no market for this. What else do you have? And then you don't have anything? Right? So maybe having that follow up script, I used to work with an agent named Brian Cher, who's a manager now.

He's a he was a real wonder kantipur he was selling spec scripts at William Morris when he was in the mailroom. True story,

Alex Ferrari 42:39
That's amazing.

Christopher Lockhart 42:40
Yeah, so I have a lot of respect for him. And he always used to say, you know, something, a writer only needs one script, that's all I need. I just need if a writer's has only written one script, and I can sell that script, that's all that matters. But the truth is, is that often you're not writing that one script that's gonna sell, it just might be enough to sort of get the door open a jar. So having more than one project. And then of course, helping a rep, a representative see you and understand who you are. So if you do have more than one script, and there's a little bit of controversy here, but I suggest that writers brand themselves and that and that they stay with one genre, because if an agent or manager reads your action script, and they love it, but they can't sell it, but they love it, and they want to see what you have next. And it is a historical romance. Oh, that's gonna be a big letdown. So it kind of sucks, I think because writers hate the thought of having to be pigeonholed. But I think branding yourself is wiser. And then eventually, when you break through, and you want to do other things, then your reps job will be to help you cross over and do other things. But branding yourself, so you become that guy. I also, I also think there's just some common sense in it. So it's like if you write action scripts, and you write one action script, and on a scale from one to 10, it's a five, then you write a second action script, this time, that's a six, then you write your third one, it's a seven, you write your fourth one, it's an eight. And then by the time you have your fifth one, it's a nine. Now you're now you've got a really great action script that you can share with the town that the town will be excited about. But if you started with your first action script you wrote that was a five and then your second script is a romance. That's a five, and then you write a mystery, and that's a five. You're not, you're not necessarily growing. And the truth is, is that every time you write a script, you're a new writer Anyway, you know, and but so it helps to carry over some of those tools and get really, really good at doing one thing, and then a rep can sell you because if you have all different genres, a rep doesn't know how to sell you.

Alex Ferrari 45:14
So thinking along those lines help, and just getting your work out there again, you know, sharing your work with people entering it into contests that are reputable, like the nickel fellowship, for example.


Christopher Lockhart 45:29
yeah, yeah, I, you know, like, really the, in my opinion, the only contest that that matters industry wide is the nickel.

Alex Ferrari 45:40

Christopher Lockhart 45:41
And the and the studio fellowships, which are these TV writers, fellowships, they're just good. Because often if you are, if you are accepted, and you do the fellowship, you are transitioned to a staff, TV job at any of those studios. And so clearly, that's a really beneficial program, but screenwriting contests like Austin or scripta, Palooza, or even final draft, I wouldn't say that they are accepted universally through the industry, I would say that a lot of them have fans. But they don't have the kinds of brand that the Nickel fellowship does.

Alex Ferrari 46:32
Got it,

Christopher Lockhart 46:32
for whatever reason.

Alex Ferrari 46:33
Fair enough. Now, you said something earlier in regards to a low budget, low wonder like a kind of like a hit low budget hit? Do you recommend that screenwriters write a low budget independent film that can actually get produced so they actually have something out in the world as opposed to just a screenplay in hand with a cup in hand?

Christopher Lockhart 46:56
Right. You know, I think if a screenwriter has access to filmmakers, and money, even if she's not going to direct or even produce the movie, then it would behoove her to do that. But trying to sort of second guess the industry. I don't always know if that's wise, sometimes I just think the best thing riders should do is write the best fucking crazy ass memorable script that they can write, whether it's a gazillion dollar budget, or a low budget, because the odds of it selling are slim to none anyway, right. And what you want to do is make a splash. You want people to read your script and go, Wow, I want to meet this guy. That's what you want. First and foremost, the idea of trying to sell a script is I'm not saying that you shouldn't think that way. But, but again, the odds are that you're not going to sell a script, what you want to do you want to get representation, what you want to do is get a job. You know, you want somebody to say, Hey, I'm not going to make your movie, but we have a project that is similar to this. And maybe we can bring you on to do a rewrite.

Let's face it most. The majority of writers in the business, their bread and butter is through assignments. It's not spec selling.

Alex Ferrari 48:24
Right. Yeah, exactly. The spec selling thing is that lottery tickets that Powerball. That's right, that and so

Christopher Lockhart 48:31
So I say right, what you're good at, right? What you want to write, and write the hell out of it. You know, we're doing a logline contest right now. On my writers group, my Facebook writers group, and, you know, so we got about 400 log lines. And you know, a lot of them it's like, you look at these and I'm like, Yeah, like, Man, this this just doesn't feel like a movie in me.

Alex Ferrari 49:03

Christopher Lockhart 49:03
You know, maybe the screenplay is different. Maybe the screenplay is gonna take me in some, you know, other direction. Surprise me. But like, Yeah, I don't know about this that just doesn't feel like a movie. It's not it's not very exciting. Doesn't really smack with with conflict, which is something that I always look for in a logline. You know, I want to know what the conflict is. And does it sound like it's compelling? Does it sound like it could, you know, hold up a script for 120 pages? And and so I just, you know, I think that that writers should just just really think about what they're writing, you know, the process starts at the beginning, when they're hatching an idea and come up with something that's really compelling, because you have to stand out, you know, if you're just going to write that's that relationship script.

Alex Ferrari 50:08

Christopher Lockhart 50:08
About You know, you and your dad and you know your estrangement, and you come together under some sort of circumstance. And like I've read a million of those look, it doesn't mean that your writing may not be brilliant to could be brilliant look at Juno, right, like, read a script like Juno. And the writing is really fresh. But if you heard the logline You know, it would sound like an after school special from the 80s

Alex Ferrari 50:36
You're right

Christopher Lockhart 50:36
It does, but the writing is amazing. The problem is that it The problem is that you have to get people to read your writing. You know, Diablo Cody was she had a very popular blog. You know, I believe she'd already written a novel I think she'd even been on like the David Letterman show. And, and Mason Novick, who was a manager, he he approached her and said, you know, have you thought about writing a screenplay? And and so she was already juiced in. It's like, if you're somebody from Iowa, and you have no connections, and nobody's banging on your door, and you write Juno, how, how are you going to get it out there, especially when the logline is an after school special from? Well, hopefully, you entered into the nickel and they recognize the writing, and you win, or place very, very high, which perhaps opens some doors for you, as we said earlier, but but I just think that writers need to think about what they're writing, and, and just light it on fire, you know, light it on fire, because I read a lot of scripts, as do many other people in this town. And a lot of them feel the same. They're just sort of homogenized is when you're reading a screenplay, and you come across a character who's making compelling and unique choices, in pursuit of whatever it is that he or she is pursuing. Right? And these choices result in very unique and compelling conflicts. Then you say, Wow, I'm going to remember this. And then also, as I said, earlier, we remember the emotion.

And, and so it's like, you know, if you can write just one amazing scene that is moving and that doesn't mean moving somebody to tears, it means you could move them to laughter moves into fear. Again, out of all screenplays that I've read, I could I could tell you moments in screenplays like oh, yeah, there was this one script. I don't remember what it's called. And it really remembered the story. But there's this amazing beat, where ABCD happens. I might even remember where I was when I read it.

Alex Ferrari 53:13
Because it hit you emotionally.

Christopher Lockhart 53:14
Yes, exactly. Right. So you know, those are the things that you need to be going for, you know, so, so think so think, original, think, think emotionally, write a screenplay that is going to grab the reader by the throat, even if it is on producible. That wouldn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 53:39
Yeah. Which brings me to the next question I had, do you should screenwriters that are trying to break into the business. Think about budget when writing? Do they write the $200 million original story that more than likely will never get produced? Because that's just not the way the system is working right now? Or do they make that they write something that could be done for $20 million for Netflix? What should it should that even be a consideration?

Christopher Lockhart 54:07
You know, I have there's obviously two schools on that. I am a pragmatist. I and I'm very realistic about things. And so yeah, I would say Listen, don't write a $500 million script. But at the same time, I just said before, nobody's gonna buy your script anyway. So go ahead and write an amazing $500 million script. The thing is, this is it's not about budget. It's it's it really comes down to whether the script is good or not. This is I wish this is what people would worry about. But this is what writers don't concentrate on. They concentrate on all these things that they can control. Like, oh, I shouldn't use we see in my screenplay. That's a no no. Or I can't write it. big budget, screenplay or you know all of these things that are in their control. The one thing that they don't think about is writing an amazing screenplay. because believe it or not, that is out of the control of most of most new writers. Because, look, to be honest, most new writers shouldn't be writing, they shouldn't be writing screenplays, they probably shouldn't be writing emails. And so, you know, it's worry about your craft worried about the quality of what you're writing, don't think about the business. Because Great, so you write a script that Netflix can produce, but the script sucks. And as a result, Netflix isn't going to produce it. So what does it matter?

Right, exactly. Now, if you if there's a writer who wants to break into television today, what should should they write a spec script on an existing show? Or should they write an original piece?

They should be writing original pilots.

Alex Ferrari 56:01

Christopher Lockhart 56:02
Yeah. However, I would say that a lot of the studio TV fellowships that I mentioned earlier, like Warner Brothers, for example. They I believe, also want to see an existing a spec from an existing show. So it wouldn't hurt a TV writer to have both. But definitely, original pilot.

Alex Ferrari 56:32
Now, what is the biggest mistake you see screenwriters make in writing screenplays? Because I'm you have a few written if you've read a few. So I'm sure you've read a few bad ones. What are these constant mistakes, story wise, structural wise, character wise, that you see that you just like, Oh, God, I wish they would just stop this.

Christopher Lockhart 56:51
Yeah, the number my number one on that list. And I don't really make lists. But this would be my number one is that they create a protagonist, who has nothing to do through the story

Alex Ferrari 57:06
Who's just like a just an observer, or just hanging out

Christopher Lockhart 57:10
in an active protagonist. So, you know, ultimately, in drama. And again, you know, this is, this is the way I look at material, this is not the way everybody looks at material. You know, I definitely when I, you know, first started writing and studying, you know, like, Aristotle was definitely my guy. So, you know, I believe that, that you have to give your protagonist something to do. And in a film needs to be something that that is active. And that can be filmed. So when somebody says, Yeah, so I have this really exciting story. It's, it's about a character who wants to feel safe in a world where she's lost. And I'm like, Yeah, I don't know what that means.

Alex Ferrari 58:23
Because I was watching a movie The other day, and I can't remember it because it was bad. But the character didn't, the main character was just along for the ride. They didn't, they didn't generate the story. They didn't because of their actions, nothing that they did affected the story, the story was going in the direction it was going to go regardless if they weren't, and they were the protagonist, which was just a weird thing, as opposed to someone that is constantly moving the foot moving the story forward in one way, shape, or form.

Christopher Lockhart 58:52
Right, it's it's it. So I will meet writers who will say, well, the character doesn't have a lot to do, because this is a character piece. And like, yeah, that doesn't make any sense to me. Because in drama, a character is defined by the choices that she makes. Yes, you will create little idiosyncrasies for your character that texturizers the character, but that is not what creates a dramatic character. So in a screenplay, you give a character something to do something important, like in Erin Brockovich, she spearheads a legal case. Right? So she, she sets out to win a legal case. She's even a lawyer, and she sets out to win a case for these cancer stricken people who have been screwed over by some utility company, right. And so that's her goal, right? Her goal is to win this lawsuit. That's her goal. And now through the movie, she sets out to achieve that goal, scene after scene after scene. And there are choices that she has to make things that she has to do. And these choices reveal who she is. So for example, she goes to some place and she needs copies. And so she lifts up her boobs, and, you know, she, she playfully seduces the nerdy clerk, that gives us an inkling of who she is. So the choices that characters make, let me just give you a very broad example, if I may. So let's say you have your your characters walking down the street, and he looks down at the sidewalk, and he sees a wallet, somebody had dropped their wallet, and it's filled with cash. And what your character does with that wallet, will help to define who the character is. If the character just leaves the wallet on the ground, and walks away. That's one character. If the character takes the money and leaves the wall behind, that's another character. If he takes the whole wallet, that's somebody else. If he takes half the money and leaves the other half, that's a different character. If he takes the wallet to the police station, to return it. That's another character if the owner of the wallet comes to the police station and offers the character a reward, if the character takes it or doesn't take it also reveals character, this is what reveals character in movies, it is the choices your character makes, it's not the novelistic details that people get caught up in, like these idiosyncrasies of well, this character drinks Coca Cola out of a bottle, Pan, it looks that's interesting. Like it that's, that is a fine piece of texture for a character. It's not dramatic, it's not speaking in the language of which you are trying to tell your story.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:21

Christopher Lockhart 1:02:22
So So and of course, you want these choices to be made within a dramatic framework. So Erin Brockovich is making these choices in this framework of her having to win a case, right, or Hamlet sets out to avenge the murder of his father. That's, that's Hamlet's journey through that five act play, or Sheriff protein, jaws has to kill the shark, you must give your character something to do, you must give your character a goal, because that keeps the character active. And it also keeps the audience engaged because we want to know what will happen. We asked ourselves, gee, will Aaron win the case? And we stick around for two hours to see if she will, will Hamlet avenge the death of his father, we stick around through five acts to see if he will, will Sheriff Brodie kill the shark? We stick around for two hours to see if he will. If you don't ask that question. There's no reason for the audience to stick around.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:31
Right. And we won't and you think it's that's story one on one, but a lot of a lot of writers don't get that

Christopher Lockhart 1:03:39
not a lot. Not a lot. Most.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:42

Christopher Lockhart 1:03:43
I'm saying for because I do read a lot of amateur scripts. You know, I also teach so I read a lot of students scripts. That is, it is it's like the COVID-19 of screenwriting, is not giving your protagonist something to do that is the virus. It is a pandemic. And no matter how many times I can say this, it doesn't matter. Like sometimes I'm at these events where people pitch. So they'll come up and they'll pitch and they'll you know, spend two minutes and then I'll say, Well, I'm not sure what is it that your character is doing in your story? And they don't have an answer. And I say, Okay, look, you know, let me hear a pitch where your character is active, where there is a goal and your character is, is traveling through the story to reach this goal. Let me hear and then somebody comes up and does the pitch. And there's no goal. Like Okay, I guess you didn't understand me. And so I explained it to get who has a story where the protagonist is active and has something to do. Every hand goes up and it doesn't matter you literally can go one after the other after the other after the other. So they seem to understand it but then it gets lost in translation somewhere. Listen screenwriting is an easy it's the reason why not a lot of people do it. It's really hard. It's really hard work. And and also, I think a lot of writers come in writing from from a perspective that they're writing. You know, I always say that screenwriters are not really writers. They're really not write screenplays are constructed, they're built.

The writing the the, the writing spirits, like you're committing mellifluous prose to the page is not what screenwriting is about, because nobody will see that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:55

Christopher Lockhart 1:05:56
Nobody wants you to describe a sunrise in 1000 words, in a screenplay, like you wouldn't have novel, you have to describe that same sunrise in five words, in a screenplay,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:06
but get the same emotion but get the same emotion to say

Christopher Lockhart 1:06:08
of course. So screenwriting isn't about writing. I mean, you know, look at the word playwright, right. Like if if, if you actually look at the word play, right, it's w ri ght? Er, right? Like a ship, right? Right, a builder of so you're building, you're building, a screenplay, it's all about, it's all about structure. It's all about how it is constructed. The way one scene is juxtaposed to another, the ebb and flow, the cause and effect, the setup and the payoff. It's all about construction. And so a lot of people come at screenplays as writers, rather than builders. And I think it's the builders who are successful. First and foremost, look, that doesn't mean that you can't, you know, have beautiful writing in your screenplay. Sure, you know, but ultimately, that doesn't translate to the audience experience.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:08
No, I mean, you read a Shane Black script, or a Tarantino script and Tarantino's dialogue snaps, and you will hear it. But if you look at the Shane Black script, I still I still love Shane's descriptions. His descriptions are amazing, but no one loves it.

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:22
And, but he's also not trying to be literary.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:26
Right? He is.

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:27
He is sort of he is a storyteller. And he's telling a story as if he were in the room almost.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:34

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:35
And and you know, he has that very sort of specific where he's winking at the reader all along. And, but it's not Faulkner,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:44
you know, it's by any stretch. Now, I'm gonna ask you the last few questions I asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Christopher Lockhart 1:07:55

Alex Ferrari 1:07:57
I read the pop into your head. I hear the questions.

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:01
I say this, you know, because I use it in my classes. insomnia. Yeah.Hilary Seitz wrote a screenplay that was adapted from a foreign film. Which country I don't recall.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:17
Swedish, Swedish Swedish perhaps? Yeah.

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:19
And I'm not saying the movie. Mind. Your screenplay is much better than the film. The script. I believe the screenplay for insomnia is the actual reading experience is interesting. I would say that is The Very Best Screenplay that I have ever read.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:40
And the Nolan remake the Nolan remake one not the original script of the remake the Hollywood

Christopher Lockhart 1:08:47
IMAX. Correct. But again, I'm not talking about the movie. So don't go out and watch the movie. I'm talking about reading the screenplay, because that was your question. And and yeah, I think that script was was an is brilliant. And and because it just does everything that a screenplay should do. And does it so well and in an in a fairly complicated way. So So I love that script. Andwhat do you want me to say Chinatown? You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:26
Godfather, Shawshank Redemption.

Christopher Lockhart 1:09:30
You know something? i? I honestly think that in some ways, once you've seen the movie, the the screenplay experience is ruined for you. I feel like I'm lucky in the sense that I read all of these movies before their movies.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:49
Do you think you read meant you were you were involved with a man on fire, which is I love man on fire but on the page. Please tell me that Tony Scott translation that he did for the film, that kinetic energy that vibe, the thing was that on the page was even close to being on the page, or was it just a completely different experience?

Christopher Lockhart 1:10:13
The, the, the thing that's in the screenplay is the emotionality right there, the relationship between creasy and the girl. And, and that's, that's, that's what sells the script. Tony Scott is Tony Scott. And then he brings what he brings. Of course, I knew that Tony Scott was I but I'm pretty sure that I knew that Tony Scott was attached to direct when I read the script, so I could probably imagine the way certain things would go. But ultimately, reading a screenplay before it's a movie, in my opinion, is the most beneficial thing for a screenwriter, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't also read screenplays of films they love. But I say this, because once you see the movie, when you read the screenplay, you are now interpreting that screenplay, through the director, through the cinematographer, through the performances, through the music, it's all been done for you. When you read a script, before, it's a film, none of that is done for you, you have to bring all of that to the page, I have read a lot of mediocre screenplays, that have been great films, because you end up with a really good director and a really good actor, and you have a good film. And, but if you're just reading that screenplay, you you can you can see the flaws. So, so I'm definitely an advocate of of that. So I'm gonna tell people that if they read in the trades, that screenplay just sold for a million dollars, try to get your hands on that script. You know, this is why you got to have a network of people, by the way. But you know, try to try to get your hands on that's good to read that script and try to understand why somebody would invest that kind of money into this project. Sometimes you just scratch your head

Alex Ferrari 1:12:27

Christopher Lockhart 1:12:28
And sometimes you don't, sometimes you're like, wow, like, I totally get this,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:32
Or have sold a bunch of scripts that never got produced, and he got paid handsomely for them back in the day

Christopher Lockhart 1:12:37
absolut, absolutly will, let's face it, again, the majority of scripts that sell never get made. So so that is not that is not unusual. I have read many scripts over the years, that I still feel sad that they have not been made. and and, and and I continue to promote those scripts. So I will always continue to promote those scripts. So when somebody asks me for a list, and there's that script that I love from 15 years ago, but it's perfect for this actor, that title goes on that list. And that's how movies get made.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:20
Yeah, I mean, I remember seeing an interview with john Cusack who said, he wants to his agents, he's like, give me the script that you can't, no one is ever going to produce. And then they ended up being john malkovich. Because you mean john, being john malkovich is not a commercial film. But it was, it was brilliant. And then you give it to spike Jones, and then you put that cast together. And it all it all worked. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Christopher Lockhart 1:13:47

Alex Ferrari 1:13:49

Christopher Lockhart 1:13:51
That is paramount, and create a network. So you start to create a network. And again, you can do that. If you live outside of the industry here in town. You can follow people on Twitter, and on Instagram. There's all kinds of Facebook groups. Again, I invite anybody to come to my Facebook group, it's called the inside pitch. And it is a place where you can meet people and have friends and exchange screenplays with them. And creating that network is really important. Those are the things that screenwriters need to be doing all the time. And in my opinion, it should almost be 5050 it should be you know your writing 50% of the time and your networking 50% of the time, because one without the other is fairly useless. It's great to have an amazing script but if you do not have a network in which to share it, then you're at a loss and yet at the same time if you if you have a network, but no work to share with it, then you're also at a loss. So those are those the things and those are things that you can do. Those are the easy, simple things. And then of course, you should be educating yourself. So watch movies and read screenplays. I mean, it's kind of just all basic stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:17
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? I'd love your reactions. By the way, everybody who's not watching this, his faces are amazing.

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:33
Why don't you just ask me what kind of tree? I would be? What was the question again?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:38
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:43
Oh, that's easy, because I actually just learned it very recently. You have to vacuum every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:51
The best answer to that question?

Christopher Lockhart 1:15:53
No, but it's absolutely true. You have to vacuum every single day. And then you don't get a lot of dust in your apartment. You know, I mean, I just, it has just just just come to me. You know, I'm like, because I'm always dusting all the time. It's a pain in the ass. And I just realized through COVID every day I vacuum, and I'm not hardly dusting. So my advice, vacuum every day.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:21
That should be the title of a book. Vacuum every day.

Christopher Lockhart 1:16:26
See? Maybe you and I will write it. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:29
Christopher, I truly appreciate you being on the show. And if people want to reach out to you, I guess the inside pitch Facebook group is the best place. That's the best place. Thank you again, so much for being on the show. And and just your wealth of information has been very beneficial to my tribe. So I appreciate it my friend.

Christopher Lockhart 1:16:45
Right. Thank your tribe, and you'd be well.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:49
I want to thank Chris so much for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe. Thank you again so much, Chris. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproof screenwriting that TV forward slash 110. And again, if you want to get access to Christopher's new webinar and IFH Academy, head over to bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash script reader. Thank you again so much for listening, guys. I've got some amazing guests coming up in the coming weeks and months. So stay tuned. Thank you again, so much. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 103: How to Approach a Lit Manager in Hollywood with John Zaozirny

Today on the show we have literary manager and producer John Zaozirny. He oversees the feature film production slate for Bellevue and the Literary Management Team.

John and I discuss the raw truth of the film business, what he is looking for in a client, how screenwriters should approach a manager and he does some Hollywood myth-busting as well. If you are looking for representation in the film industry this is a must listen to episode.

His clients’ writing and directing credits include INFINITE, PARALLEL, ELI, BAD MATCH, BETTER WATCH OUT, HEAVY TRIP, OFFICE UPRISING, SPLINTER, A CROOKED SOMEBODY, amongst others. His clients have written feature scripts that are set up at Warner Bros, Paramount, Netflix, Fox, Lionsgate, New Line, Focus Features, Fox 2000, Sony, Universal, amongst others. As well, his clients have had 20 scripts on the last 6 Black Lists, the annual list of the best-unproduced feature scripts. His client Elyse Hollander wrote BLONDE AMBITION, the number one script on the 2016 Black List, and his client Sophie Dawson wrote HEADHUNTER, the number one script on the 2020 Black List.

His clients have also written on TV shows such as MR ROBOT, CLOAK AND DAGGER, TRAINING DAY, TINY PRETTY THINGS, LIGHT AS FEATHER, HAWAII FIVE-O, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and HAND OF GOD, amongst others.  He also reps the writer of the Eisner nominated comic book LITTLE BIRD.

As a producer, John’s feature film projects include CRISTO (set up at Warner Bros, Black List 2010), WARDEN (set up at New Line) CAPSULE (set up at Fox, Black List 2013), BLONDE AMBITION (set up at Universal, Black List 2016), and LION HUNTERS (set up at Warner Bros, Black List 2017.) He was an executive producer on the feature films ALWAYS WATCHING, PARALLEL and produced ELI,  which was recently released by Netflix. He is producing INFINITE, which has Antoine Fuqua directing, Mark Wahlberg starring and is set to be released by Paramount on May 28, 2021.

Enjoy my conversation with John Zaozirny.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:49
I'd like to welcome the show Salva Rubio how you doing Salva?

Salva Rubio 2:32
Hi, Hi, Alex and Hi to all your viewers and listeners. We're doing fine here in Barcelona.

Alex Ferrari 2:40
Very cool. And I just I always love technology. I mean we're literally across the world from each other. And we're still able to do this it's still I don't take it for granted I'm old enough to know when this was not a thing

Salva Rubio 2:53
You know this is this an apocalypse going on outside? So let's just hope that there is not a solar storm or something like that. Why everything by 2020 has been crazy so far. So why not alien invasion and zombies

Alex Ferrari 3:08
Alien zombies alien invasion more people more people haven't risen up from the bottom yet from the core of the of the planet to take over. Atlantis hasn't risen. I mean, there's there's a few things that are yet to be done. But we still have two months.

Salva Rubio 3:23
We have a couple of months and 2020 so far has been exciting. But maybe it needs to go with a bank. No, no, no,

Alex Ferrari 3:31
No, no excitement, no police. We've had enough excitement this year to last us a decade, if not to. But we're here to talk about about save the cat in your book, save the cat goes goes indie. And I wanted to bring on the show because we've had we've had people on the show before to talk about Blake's Blake's world with save the cat his groundbreaking work. But I wanted to I wanted to bring you on because of the indie aspect of because a lot of my listeners are indie filmmakers. So before we get going on that, how did you get involved with save the cat?

Salva Rubio 4:03
Sure. Well, I mean, it all starts like in 2004. So I finished my university degree with theory's licenciatura. And then I decided that I wanted to work to work in films on how and I found a job in a production company which also has, well it was a half production. Also distribution also exhibition. It was like the most important in the production company, distribution company and so on in Spain. So I started reading scripts, just like so many people. Well, the lucky thing about my job is that I could read a lot of big names, scrape scripts, I mean, it wasn't just like spec scripts, you know, like people trying to get into the industry. We have show that but all of a sudden I had a David Cronenberg screenplay, or maybe Michael hanukkiah screenplay, or maybe you know, Danny Boyle screenplay, because they were, Europe is very common to show your screenplay around before the film is done so that you can start getting money, you know, as a foreign production company, you can get European money, but it has to be done in advance. And it was a funny thing, because I was reading these screenplays and wondering how the resulting feel, could be. But then a couple of years later, I would see that film, on the cinemas in the theaters. And I would be, you know, like, wow, from that screenplay to that movie. There's such a big distance, but in visual terms, the screenplay was there. And they've got me thinking, you know, like, what, so the screenplay can be a classic thing. And then the film can be avant garde thing. I think it was in 2000, maybe seven was I have a very bad memory. Blake Snyder came to Spain, actually, he had a gig in in London, I think he went through Barcelona. And I was lucky, lucky enough to be there with him to meet him and to take his seminar. That changed my whole view. Because I realized that there was, I was an aspiring writer, and I realized there was a method, there was a guideline, there was something that could help me in my learning.

Alex Ferrari 6:44
Very cool. And then can you go over a little bit about what save the cat is for people who are not familiar with it the cat?

Salva Rubio 6:52
Yeah, sure. Save the cat is one of them. Most, one of the best selling screenwriting books in history, I couldn't say is the best selling one or another, but is one of the most important. And he came and took the world by surprise in the mid 2000s. Because they were very good, nice, stylish books. They were all a bit serious, a bit academic. And Blake, he was a comedy writer, he viewed quite a funny book, about screenplay, and screenwriting is structure full of interesting, funny, even childish terms. But the result was that it was a very easy to follow method, based on 12 steps, the breaks neither be cheap. And well, it became a bestseller. Because for students and also for executives, it became like a pattern of how a film should feel.

Alex Ferrari 7:52
And can you go over those those 12 beats the Blake's beats and kind of talk about them a little bit?

Salva Rubio 7:57
Yeah, well, I can try by memory. But first of all, you have the opening image, the opening image is the view of the world before the adventure happens, you know, there's a world with a systemic problem, we still don't know how to fix it, but it's there somewhere. Then we have the setup, which is the moment in which we come to meet our main character is usually two or three scenes, watching him or her in his everyday life is to get to know him or her. This point is another bit called the themes theater, in which another character secondary character, maybe a mentor, tells the main character, the protagonist, the theme, so you should learn is, and we have the catalyst, which is like the inciting incident, you know, halfway through the first actual thing happens that pushes the story forward. And then we have something called the debate, which is a few scenes still in the first act, in which the main character tries to avoid that adventure, and thinks of ways to avoid that. But obviously, that's not going to happen, he has to go this is so we have played called the break into act two, which is the first choice and we enter act two, we have a very long act as everyone who's trying to write the Scooby knows. But Blake called the first part of this second. He called it the fun and games. And that is certainly a very important concept because the fun and games section is where the writer has fun and games no fatalities is telling a horror story to tell and is not going to have any fun. But this is that where the poster moments are where the trailer moments are. This is where you show what the people came to see is what Blake called the problem. of the premise, then we have the mid point, which is a very important bit like a kind of tempo holds the picture together. And we have victory, which the character feels Oh, so this adventure is easier than I thought, I don't have to change at all. But then we have default defeat, which are these the evil characters take notice of the hero and start attacking him or her. So we entered the second part of act two. And we are in what Blake called the bad guys close scene. As the name is surface, planing, as the name says is where the main character has to become a warrior, he has to become someone to defend, depending on which hand gener we can be in a horror film, and he has to fight the monster, he can be in a film about grieving, and he has to confront his feelings, then come three, so important bits to finish the second part of the second act, like he used to call them, they are called or is lost. She's like this belly of the whale moment that writers know very well. But then he had something called the dark night of the soul, which is a time for sadness, a time for regret, because the main character couldn't change, or didn't know how to change. And then we have what Blake called a break into Act Three, which is a moment of illumination, a moment of precision, the main character wants to change, but still doesn't know how to change. So we have the x three, and the x three, here's something cool. In his third book, like revise five beats more, which I can say, so they're not actually, we can say they're actually 17. So in our three, had the preparation where people, main characters are heroes prepare for the duel, then the duel start, then at the middle of the duel, there's going to be a reversal, something that I like to call the it's a trap moment. And then we have the duel per se, and 70s and 80s. They fight each other. The protagonists have some sort of final illumination like Luke Skywalker theory and Obi Wan, say use the Force. And then well, usually the bad guy is defeated. And then we have the final image in which we use as a mirror, we have the opening image and the closest image. Those should be different. We should see that song has changed in that universe.

Alex Ferrari 12:47
Whoa, that was amazing. Is that about? They think you think it is? That off the top of your head? I don't know what you're talking about. You don't have good memory.

Salva Rubio 12:59
So I guess it's kind of my head that I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. But it happened.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
It's hard to it's hard wired. It's hard wired. And now you've seen a lot of I'm assuming from from writing your book, you did a tremendous amount of research watching a ton of independent films. What is the biggest mistake you see in independent film?

Salva Rubio 13:19
Hmm, that's an interesting question. I mean, independent film, as you know, is a universe a different universe, per se. And okay, my biggest insight is this. People usually say that there are two kinds of screenplays First, the literary screenplays, so to speak, and then the technical screenplay. Some one is more like, you know, for the screenwriter, and the other one is for the director, and I believe that I think you need a sales a screenplay, and a shooting script. Right. And also different because many people try to write the film of their dreams. But it's sometimes so different. So we are so intense are so on a moroto

Alex Ferrari 14:13
On marketable.

Salva Rubio 14:15
Marketable. Yeah, that's the word. So investors and all kinds of people who must like it, they they become scared. So I would say, give us a good screenplay clear that I can visualize that feels classy. That doesn't feel like too novelty. That doesn't feel like too strange or weird. And then at some point, during the development process, speaking with people with the money in your pocket, then you can realize your vision.

Alex Ferrari 14:49
Okay. Now, can we go over I want to go over a couple of the genres that you that you kind of spoke about in your book, which I thought I loved the names of these. So Did the how to save a cat approaches the specific genres. So monster in the house?

Salva Rubio 15:06
Yeah, well, let me start by saying that the generators are really useful. I mean, these are an individual like in sort of invented them is what we could call universally storylines. And every story fits one of them. So there's like a kind of short talk to understand each other. I mean, normal gingers are like westerns, which are movies with Cowboys, usually, or horror movies, movies with a monster so but sometimes you have a Western, there's a guy with a heart, but can be a horror story can be a comedy. It can be, you know, it's a problem because traditional gingers don't tell you the story. They just speak about the aesthetics. And that is Berlin. When do you need someone to picture in their mind your screenplay? So the Blake Snyder generous, they tell the story. So monster in the house, for example, is usually horror look always horrible is usually horror. And what is cool about the generous is that Blake, yeah. Is that for this generous to work? You need a few elements. And if those elements are not there, well, it's going to feel incomplete. You know? So for example, monster in the house, as the name says, have a monster with a supernatural creature. Do you need a house? Do you need people locked inside a place to neither maybe a mansion? Maybe a hospital? Or maybe a country? Like in 20 days later?

Alex Ferrari 16:48
In the 2020? Or 20 days later? Yeah.

Salva Rubio 16:51
London 20 days later. Yeah. So then you need a couple things more like for example, you need a sin. People need to be served, what the what is happening to them. And then you see to have enough elements for a page to come before refer to her as a woman Jenner that can help people understand your film, but it's things you can do, you can throw in the elements that are going to make that story original, like you're writing a slasher film. Well, we know they're all the same, but you can say so this is a slasher, with this new Monster of inventing or in this new setting. There's no one no one has ever done. And I think it's a way to focus really soon in those original points your needs your script needs to have.

Alex Ferrari 17:45
So kind of like alien was obviously a monster in the house. But it was the first time that anyone had done it in a spaceship before. That's it. Yeah. Now, the Golden Fleece. How does? What does that genre?

Salva Rubio 18:01
Well, the Golden Fleece are basically wrote movies. They basically wrote movies and Golden Fleece is an element in Greek mythology. The whole Golden Fleece was something like a lamp. I'm not sure

Alex Ferrari 18:16
if it was a lamb. It was a lamb like, thing.

Salva Rubio 18:20
Yeah, skin, lambskin skin. skin was magical. And it could turn anyone into a powerful person. But it was guarded by a dragon in a very distant part of the Mediterranean. And you have to physically go there. So these are the most basic stories like in Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, which hero has to go somewhere and get something to be happier to be healthier for his for his community. But this can be for example, this great film by David Lynch. This straight story. You know, it was about an old man going in a tractor. Yeah, America. But that's it. It's a movie after all. So we also need a few elements. We need a road network sampaoli in in The Wizard of Oz, the road is what the yellow brick road. But in this film I just mentioned, alleys are a little missing. Chinese away from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. Do you need a team, the team is the people that are going with you or that you are going to find in the way for example, in Little Miss Sunshine is the family but it's important to see that the family of Little Miss Sunshine and the companions of Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, they're kind of similar. One of them is a heart or one is the brain, blue is the wheel and so on. And the funny thing about These Jenner is that Junaid wells Blake code wrote apple at the end. Do you need some sort of disillusionment or deception at the end? Every character that arrives to the end of the physical journey will find news. We'll find that that which they were looking for, like for example, the Wizard of Oz, I want to go home when you realize that the Wizard of Oz is a fraud. Fake and well, you cannot go home using his power. You need to go home by your own means. That's what this this is sorry. Sorry about now,

Alex Ferrari 20:39
Dude with a problem. So another cool one.

Salva Rubio 20:43
Yeah, well do with a problem is basically thrillers, and action films, do a problem. As you can see, all of these have like mythological origin. In fact, in the city catalog, we have been publishing a few articles about how these generals have their origin in mythological tales. And in truth, a problem. It could be the Hercules story. He was a normal guy. He wouldn't have been he was special, but all of a sudden, he was tested by the gods. So dude, we are rolling out those stories. Like for example, guy, Hart, McLean, and Hercules they're the same guy. They are. Ordinary guys pursues extraordinary art. And well, they need to find their own strength and their own power they need to believe in themselves to to defeat the gods themselves. So Well, that's a really intense gener

Alex Ferrari 21:53
So it's onra like that a lot of the examples you just gave are very big movies. big big movie. So in the indie world Are there examples? Because dude with a problem like diehard for indies is a little rough, though it can't be done. I guess if you're like in a school somewhere. The school is taken over by terrorists. You're the kid. So I'm just writing a story right now. And you're you're the kid is john McClane. It's basically home alone. But but on an indie budget. Are there any examples of like specifically, like due to the the problem? Or the Golden Fleece or monster in the house? Obviously, most horror films are monsters, low budget, but like low budget, more indie stuff?

Salva Rubio 22:33
Yeah, sure. In in, in the book in civic art goes to the Indies. There's 50 films that we go, we analyzed. And there's 10 genders, five films for each gender, and all of them are independent. Like, for example, let me just tell you the five we have a monster in the house. We have 28 days later, we have the lives of others, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. We have the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yeah, we have the Yeah. And The Blair Witch Project. Of course, what's so cheap, you know, a couple of cameras and, and then we have funny games, which again, is only one location and Golden Fleece, we have a Little Miss Sunshine. We have old brother reservoir rocks, the strange story which is mentioned and the full moon, people may see for Monty Lesnar, a rogue film in this category, you also have the role to perfection films in which people get better doing something you know.

Alex Ferrari 23:44
So no, so like so another genre that that I saw in the book was the superhero genre. Now a lot of people think when they think superhero, they think Marvel they think DC they think Superman or Spider Man or x men are one of these big budget things. How can you apply the superhero genre in the indie world?

Salva Rubio 24:05
Well, the funny thing is that superheroes existed before they kept superheroes, you know, as a superhero in musical terms. It was a different person with special abilities. It could be physical abilities, like for example, Achilles, he was invulnerable, you know, no one could bullets or arrows couldn't hurt him. That's a superhero in my book, you know, he had his own kryptonite, which was the Achilles heel. So this kind of characters have been around, they're always in. This can be normal people so to speak, their powers may not be evident. their powers may not be like flying or having x rays in their eyes. But charisma can be a superpower. Like any politician can tell you, or the ability to inspire others, right in our list. We have for example, Erin Brockovich. As you remember, it was an indie. And it was a film by Steven Soderbergh. And it was a woman that was she defeated a big company out of her willpower, not of her love for other people. That is also a superhero. The others we have is fantastic, Mr. Fox, you know how you remember how he became the leader of his pack. We also have a rubber seal, I turn yellow, and also the Elephant Man, because the super hero Jenner, my favorite thing about it is that people with, you know, underdogs, and people which are ignored by society, they are really powerful because they know how to survive in very harsh environments, like the normal world for you and me, is not really dangerous. But for many people with disabilities, for example, there are my world is a challenge, go wave. That's why they are so brave. And so that's why we have the Elephant Man. And we have a proper comic book superhero in this list, which also was an indie. I'm sure you remember it. We made it was the crow. Sure.

Alex Ferrari 26:25
Yeah. And the Crow was wasn't in the in the production. Yeah, and I'm going to be having the director of that. That film on the show very, very soon. Alex Ferrari is Yeah, he's I'm super excited to have him on the on the indie film hustle podcast, because I love the crow. I thought the Crow was it's a masterpiece. I mean, obviously, it was tragic. What happened with Brandon Lee in this and all of that, but the movie itself is it's almost an anti superhero film, you

Salva Rubio 26:57
know what I mean? But the comic book was great. I mean, if you can read it, it's great. But also the people kept their hearing you they will realize that the people that are watching this they will realize I'm I'm I know him. So the Chroma middle has failed the 90s Oh, sure.

Alex Ferrari 27:20
Oh, yeah, that soundtrack Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails. Oh, good.

Salva Rubio 27:24

Alex Ferrari 27:25
Good stuff. Good. I think Smashing Pumpkins was on there as well. I think there was a song by Smashing Pumpkins. It was amazing. It was a great, great soundtrack. It was just at the same time I was in college. So I was watching. I was watching that movie and listen to that soundtrack constantly in the 90s. But yeah, and then I'd like to thinking about superhero as well. Like someone like Sherlock Holmes. He has a superhero power, which is his intellect. So a lot of times the superhero genre, even in the indie world can be someone who's just smarter than everybody else, or has this like he's excellent at a specific thing that nobody else is they are a high achievers are, are their abilities in a one area is so far beyond everybody else that that is considered a superhero. Correct?

Salva Rubio 28:09
Correct. Also, because most superheroes at some point, are rejected by society. I mean, the lesson in the classic superhero, and I'm talking about made, especially the lesson is that many of them will be rejected because they are too powerful or because people are envious of their power or because they inspire people. So they are dangerous. I mean, like, for example, a film like Malcolm X for candy, or films about Che Guevara, those are films about political leaders, but they can be told as a superhero story because they have power, which is inspiring people and leaving them to freedom and that is dangerous for the bad guys

Alex Ferrari 28:55
Or the establishment if, if it goes against the establishment, that's a great I never thought about Gandhi and Michael max as a superheroes, but I guess that is a broad definition of what a superhero is, which is anybody who has an ability that nobody else has, and makes them special. Hence, superhero superhero. Yeah. Not another genre loved. And I'd love to hear your take on it is when the full triumphs, which is a great indie. It could be a great indie genre.

Salva Rubio 29:32
Yeah, he's really into material. I mean, the full childfund is another story that has its roots in the mythical past. But it's it's good material, especially for comedy because the fall triumphant is basically the story of the the village for I think that's the also the name in English and is about their character, that underdog which everyone just ignores because Okay, he's a silly or hero See the world as the rest of the people, or? Well, I mean Helios looks or feels like, full. But I love these general because, you know, once you start with that word, mostly stories, you start with a character, which needs to change the neither a transformation. So some of them start being like a bit, let's say wrong or bad, a bit stupid, a bit evil, whatever, they have a flaw, and they need to work on that flaw. But fools in firms full are mostly well meant they are mostly good people. So they cannot just have a normal arc, like our characters could imply for them to become worse. So, in this in this dinner, the kind of change we're aiming for is adaptation, the need to adapt to the world without losing their inner light, you know, without losing that which makes them nice and special.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
So like Forrest Gump is a good example of of that, like he Forrest Gump doesn't change. But he had gaps from when he's a boy all the way to the end, being a multi millionaire, ex Vietnam vet Medal of Honor winner, and all the other amazing things that happens to that guy, but he does adapt to the world. But he never changes he, he doesn't get harsher. He doesn't change his inner light. Can you give us a couple of examples of indies in that genre? Sure.

Salva Rubio 31:38
I need to say also that the book is called civico goes to the Indies. And it also includes European fields, which are technically indies and Altera films in general. So that's why in this category we have for example, the King's speech,

Alex Ferrari 31:54
Which was appealing was it was a it was a Europe was a minute, it was a European that wasn't a European movie, was it?

Salva Rubio 31:59
Yeah. Yeah. It was very interesting.

Alex Ferrari 32:02
Yeah. But it was independent is a loose term with that, because it won the Oscar looked fantastic.

Salva Rubio 32:09
Do you mean that it was Yeah, it was crazy. But I think production wise, I mean, we were very careful. I don't remember the details. But I think we were very careful to select fields that would fit in the band. Okay. Otherwise, what

Alex Ferrari 32:23
Considering can it's not a studio project, to say the least, and is definitely an indie story, to say the least. Because that's not something the studio would pick up. They might pick it up for distribution after it's made. I think that's what happened with King's speech. Do you have some other examples?

Salva Rubio 32:39
Yes, sure. For example, life is beautiful. We also won an Academy Award. Sure. It's an Italian film. And also, there was a film that made huge waves in the past, but is it's been like sort of forgotten, but it's a great film is called the artist.

Alex Ferrari 32:57
Oh, yeah. The one that was the one that won the Oscar?

Salva Rubio 33:01
Yeah. Yeah, yes, it was the black and white film about sound film and siren film, and how our character had to adapt. And we have a couple more we have Boogie Nights, which is these Well, before in the in the poor industry in the 70s. They also must understand us a terrific film. And we have a special category for Rs film, which is the dark for his people which are playing for, but they want to take advantage of others. And that is much point. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 33:44
Yeah. And that's Yeah, that's the the dark fool is interesting, a concept as well. There's so many different and in the book, you go through all these different movie examples, which are great. So you really can kind of connect the genre with actual films that you can kind of start applying to in your scripts. Which brings me to my next question. When a screenwriter is working on a screenplay, specifically aiming it at an independent film market? Should they be thinking about budget? Should they be thinking about how it's going to get produced? Or should they just kind of go wild?

Salva Rubio 34:19
I think if it's if it's your first film, you should have the budget into consideration, obviously, because they will trust you if you can make a cheap film. And it works and it looks great. It says that you're a good general in this fight in this battle. It says that with very few elements, you can make a worthy thing. You're not afraid one of the very good film in this regard, is let me check because sometimes I forget the names. I'm sure your listeners remember pie. Yeah, first of all, Darren Aronofsky Which was grainy and dark. And it was so cheap. But that made it so special. There's no film alike. So I think if you aim for, what can I do with a little money? How can I make this look special, not maybe great because some people put all their money in trying to make the film look professional. With that same make look special. It could look different as a director, and show your identity and show us what you can do with what you have.

Alex Ferrari 35:37
But also, I think that takes a level of, of not only bravery, but also of someone who's extremely comfortable in their own skin. Because I know as when I was coming up, you try to emulate other directors, you try to emulate other storytellers, other screenwriters, because you're afraid of your own voice, you maybe haven't found it yet. You haven't developed it yet. And you're afraid to put yourself out there completely, wholly. But these examples of you that you've talked about many of those screenwriters and directors, like pi is a fantastic example. He was a young director and just came out and did exactly what he wanted in a very, like there's still no film look that looks like pie. Pie was this grainy black and white 16 millimeter, high kinetic energy, wonderful story myth mysticism in it. It was an amazing introductory film, and but it's, you could just see the bravery in it. I mean, Reservoir Dogs, obviously, it's a great example of that as well. I mean, look at you know, and, and his writing and how he shot it and what he did. It's, it's remarkable, but I think you you do need to have a sense of comfortability as an artist, I think that goes for any artist, right? In any genre. And any, any, any any craft, whether it's musician, whether it's art, painting, writing,

Salva Rubio 37:02
Yeah, I mean, sometimes you should temptation to say, well, maybe if I don't do what I like, and I do what they like, maybe I can have a shot at the rate. But, you know, I think life's very short. And sometimes you don't get many chances. So I would be happier with with shooting the film I like, and I can be proud of when I can show my family. And I can say to my friends, this is what this is sorry, I've been meaning to sell for all this time. And if that is the last thing, and the last film, I should, okay, so be it. But I'm proud, you know. But if I just go with what they want, I am going to be restless. And I'm going to be you know, sort of unhappy maybe. So, some people don't have the choice. And some people do go and you know, they they shoot something they are hired to shoot and then they go on to make their own stuff. And that is great also. But if I had to choose, I would always choose. I'll do what I want, and then see what they want.

Alex Ferrari 38:12
Exactly. And it's it's a difficult path regardless, as a as a screenwriter, as a director, especially in the indie space. Do you have any advice on getting your screenplay, your independent film, screenplay produced, anything that you can kind of put in there, or present ation, or whatever? Anything that you could do as a writer to help you have a better shot of actually getting produced?

Salva Rubio 38:36
Well, I mean, the world right now, as we were seeing the world is crazy. It's crazy, in a good sense. I grew up I mean, I grew up professionally reading all these screenwriting books from the 70s, and the 80s, and the 90s. And they all said the same thing. Right, the script in this way, and then you print it and then there's a three punch thing. And then you send me with an introduction. And that is out. I mean, that is God and not valid anymore. So we're writing history, we are finding new ways to do it. So I always say if you have a mobile phone in your pocket, should the film shoot the damn film tomorrow, get your friends and do it and then show it in YouTube or whatever. Because for me right now the difference is not making that big film that will put you on the map is making a ton of films, short films, episodes, art, whatever, get you to get into the industry, have friends that will help you with your films do will help them with their friends and then this guy knows one guy and then he puts you in touch and things happen outside your room and things happiness I home and you need to meet as many people as you can help them as much as you can. I think that the gears start moving. And then at some point, you have a chance. But if you try to do everything by yourself, what does it mean to be difficult?

Alex Ferrari 40:12
Very, very, very much. Trust me, I've done it myself. So it's not that easy to do. Now, what's up? What's up? What's next for you? What are you working on?

Salva Rubio 40:23
Right now, I just finished a new draft of an animation film and doing for it's a co production is a production company, New York and in Spain. So they are trying to build you know, this project, animation or young our thing plus, we could say that, and also I'm doing a lot of graphic novel stuff, which, in in the US is mostly superheroes in the comic books and graphic novels. But here, we have many more Jenner's if I may say, so I just have a graphic novel released in the US by the US Naval Institute, and its concentration camps story is a real story about the Spaniards that were in Nazi concentration camps, which is something that not many people know. And it's about the Gracie plan. Some of them of them have to steal pictures of all what was happening in the camp and take them out for the world to know. They do. It is not really a woman's story. Well, it's fascinating. So I invite you to read the photographer of my 1000 is called Ivan, US Naval Institute. And that's the last thing I released in America. Very cool.

Alex Ferrari 41:47
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Salva Rubio 41:54
Oh my god. You know first name pops in my head always is John Cameron.

Alex Ferrari 41:59
James Cameron redacted said Yeah.

Salva Rubio 42:02
James James Cameron. He writes so well. So I would say anything by James Cameron. Like for example, aliens. Could be great. Little Miss Sunshine. It's hidden hidden piece.

Alex Ferrari 42:14
He didn't do that one. Oh, you do? James Cameron didn't do aliens. But little Mr. Johnson. Other one?

Salva Rubio 42:19
Yeah, that's another one.

Alex Ferrari 42:21
I was gonna say I don't remember James Cameron. Because that would I would actually watch James Cameron's A Little Miss Sunshine. That would be amazing.

Salva Rubio 42:28
It would be a different phone as he called. Little, big dark night.

Alex Ferrari 42:35
And there'll be some sort of 3d animal or creature?

Salva Rubio 42:39
No, I didn't watch another one. Yeah. Broly. You know, I've been the first Indiana Jones are some films like Gauss, because they are straight to the point funny scenes quick to read. Okay, Yes, they are. Hollywood script, but why not? Anyway, you know, each year we have, we're lucky because the academy publishes only screenplays. And there's a few indies in there. So that's also to take into consideration. And just let me say, one, one more. It's a more love by Michael haymaking. Because it will break any expectation is of 67 page script that results in a film of 127 minutes. So you know people that say no, it's one page one minute. Well, not always.

Alex Ferrari 43:40
Not always. That's not a that's not a script to look at proper formatting. But it does the job, but it does the job.

Salva Rubio 43:50
Because what Yeah, good.

Alex Ferrari 43:51
So what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Salva Rubio 43:57
Let's say write a ton of stuff. Let's say don't write 123 screenplays out thing you're down and your talent is there? No, right one every two months, or every three months or every four months but right one finish another? Keep making friends. And somehow if you have 10 screenplays is easier to make you that if you have to.

Alex Ferrari 44:24
And where can people find out more about save the cat and your book?

Salva Rubio 44:28
Well, this blog is save the cat.com weekly there's articles and new beat sheets. So if you're interested, there's a ton of research material there. And my own website is sour Rubio dot info. Just like my name. Well, there's this stuff I've been polishing lately.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
Very cool Salva man, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been It was a wonderful talking indie save the cat. I'm a fan of save the cat. I love it. I talked to everybody and I talked to all the different kinds of story systems and I just find that they all are going to the same place. We're all trying to tell good stories at the end of the day, so I do appreciate you coming on man and sharing sharing your knowledge with us.

Salva Rubio 45:16
Thank you so much, Alex. I'm thanks for everyone for listening. And you know, don't give up. Keep writing keep shooting to make it.

Alex Ferrari 45:25
I want to thank Salva for coming on the show and sharing his knowledge with the tribe today. Thank you so much Salva. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including links on how to get the book, head over to the shownotes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/102. And guys next week, I have a big surprise coming to the bulletproof screenwriting tribe, so stay tuned. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 101: How to Make 2021 Your Year – Happy New Year!

Well, 2020 has been one hell of a year. Our industry has been turned upside down and inside out. The way business is done in Hollywood has been changed forever. There has been so much pain and suffering this year. People lost their jobs.

Legendary companies that were thought to be unbreakable filed for bankruptcy. The mear act of being on set became a highly dangerous occupation. So many beloved filmmakers and actors passed away. Film festivals closed their doors. Movie theaters giants shut their doors, some for good. COVID-19 devasted not only our business but the world.

2020 just f**king sucked!

With all that said I see a light of hope on the horizon. Like every New Years before Jan 1 brings with it a new hope, an opportunity to improve things, and for your life to be better than before. 2021 has a lot of pressure on it for sure. I know so many tribe members have had a rough go of it but the only thing we can do is to take charge of what you can control.

You might not be able to control the world, the virus, your employer, or the economy. But you can control what you do on a daily basis, how you act, how you think. You can think everything sucks and there’s no hope for you or your dreams or you can think that you have the power to change where you are in life right now.

Every dream, every success story started with one thought, I CAN DO THIS. As Henery Ford once said

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

The power of your own thoughts is so much more mighty than you think. Trust me I speak from experience. Looking back on my life I realized that in the roughest moments my thoughts were destructive and when I was experiencing great successes my thoughts were constructive. Whatever you focus on grows so if I were you I’d focus on the positive and not the negative.

This year I came to a profound truth that the key to success is to help others. The moment I launched Indie Film Hustle my life began to change. The more I helped others the better my life became. The opportunities I had been chasing for decades just started showing up at my door. Don’t get me wrong, as you know I hustled like crazy but not on getting things for myself as much as providing value to other people. As Les Brown said

Help othersachieve their dreamsand you will achieve yours.”

In 2021 make it a goal to help others with their dreams and I promise you that things in your life will change, it did for me. In 2020 I released my second feature film On the Corner of Ego and Desire, created BulletproofScreenwriting.tv, my premium online education platform IFH Academy, launched the IFH Podcast Network and multiple podcasts including The Filmmaking Motivation Podcast, The Directors Series Podcast, Inside the Screenwriter’s Mind Podcastand spoke to legendary filmmakers and screenwriters on my shows like Oliver Stone, Barry Sonnenfeld, Alex Proyas, James V. Hart, and John Badham just to name a few.

And most importantly I was inspired by you the Indie Film Hustle and Bulletproof Screenwriting Tribes. Your stories of overcoming obstacles, massive successes, and following your dreams moved me. Getting emails and messages from around the world gave me hope that yes we are in tough times but even with all that you, the tribe, continues to move forward like an unstoppable creative force.

In 2021 we will try, fail, and try again because remember…

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

The more you might fail the closer you are to succeeding. I’ll be trying a ton of new things in the new year and hope they will be a success but am ready if they don’t live up to my expectations.

In 2021 I’ll be launching a couple of new companies, partnering with amazing new instructors for IFH Academy, releasing my new book, adding amazing new content to Indie Film Hustle TV, publishing new audiobooks through IFH Books, producing a few new podcasts for the IFH Podcast Network, and developing new websites to further help filmmakers and screenwriters follow their dreams.

I want you to write down what you want to accomplish in 2021 and what steps you will be taking every day to get those goals. Do you want to set a goal of one or two screenplays a year as Oliver Stone does? Do you want to direct your first feature film? What needed tools do you want to put in your toolbox? What need skills do you want to learn to make you a more dangerous and knowledgeable filmmaker or screenwriter?

After speaking to hundreds of the industry’s most successful artists and business people I found they all had one thing in common, they never gave up! They all just kept going no matter what. Oliver Stone had the script for Platoon in his pocket for years before someone produced it. James V. Hart was in his forties when he had his breakout with Hook and Dracula. Barry Sonnenfeldwent from shooting adult films to having his movies gross almost $2.5 billion worldwide.

Every successful person you look up to failed and failed often on their way to success. They never gave up and you shouldn’t either. Every no is one step closer to a yes. I wish all of you an amazing 2021 and don’t forget to keep that hustle going and keep that dream alive!

Be well, stay safe, and Happy New Year.

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Alex Ferrari 0:02
Well, guys, 2020 has been one hell of a year and emphasis on the word owl, our industry has been turned upside down and inside out the way business is done in Hollywood has changed forever. There has been just so much pain and suffering this year. So many people lost their jobs, legendary companies that we thought that would be there forever, and they were unbreakable, filed for bankruptcy, or closed completely. The mere act of being unset became a highly dangerous occupation. So many beloved filmmakers and actors and writers and technicians passed away this year. Film Festivals closed their doors, some for good movie theater giants, shut their doors, some never to return. COVID-19 has devastated not only our business, but the world. 2020 just fn sucked. With all that said, I do see a light of hope on the horizon. Like every new year before January 1, brings with it a new hope and opportunity to improve things. And for your life to be better than it was before. 2021 has a lot of pressure on it, to say the least. I know so many tribe members that have had a rough go of it in 2020. But the only thing we can do is take charge of what we can control. You might not be able to control the world, the virus, your employer, or the economy. You can control what you do on a daily basis, how you act and how you think. You can think everything sucks, and that there's no hope for you or your dreams. Or you can think that you have the power to change where you are in life right now. Every dream, every success story started with one single thought I can do this. As Henry Ford once said, If you think you can do a thing, or think you can't do a thing. You're right. The power of your own thoughts is so much more mighty than you think. Trust me because I speak from experience. Looking back on my life, I realize that in the roughest moments, my thoughts were destructive and negative. And when I was experienced great successes, my thoughts were constructive and positive. Whatever you focus on grows. So if I were you I focus on the positive and not the negative. This year, I came to the profound truth that the key to success is helping others.

The moment I launched indie film hustle, my life began to change after years of struggle, after years of hustling and trying to hack the system and trying to get to where I wanted to be no matter what. It was launching indie film hustle that made the biggest difference in my life. The more I helped others, the better my life became. The opportunities I had been chasing for decades, just started to show up at my door. But don't get me wrong. You know, I hustle like crazy. I'm kind of insane about it, to be honest with you. But my hustle is not about getting things for myself, as much as it is to provide value to other people. As Les Brown once famously said, help others achieve their dreams, and you will achieve yours. I want you in 2021 to make it a goal to help other filmmakers, other screenwriters, other people with their dreams. And I promise you that things in your life will change because it certainly did for me. In 2020, I released my second feature on the corner of ego and desire, created bulletproof screenwriting.tv my premium online educational platform ifH Academy launched the ifH Podcast Network, and multiple podcasts including the filmmaking motivation podcast, the director series podcast inside the screenwriters mind podcast, and spoke to legendary filmmakers and screenwriters on my shows, like Oliver Stone, Barry sonnenfeld, Alex prayas, James v. Hart, and john batum, just to name a few. But most importantly, I was inspired by you, the indie film, hustle and bulletproof screenwriting tribes, your stories of overcoming obstacles, massive successes, and following your dreams moved me moved my soul. getting emails and messages from around the world gave me hope. They Yes, we are in tough times. But even with all that, the tribe continues to move forward, like an unstoppable creative force. In 2021, I'll be launching a couple of new companies partnering with amazing new instructors for ifH Academy, releasing my new book, adding amazing new content to indie film, hustle TV, publishing new audio books through my publishing company, ifH books, producing a few new podcasts for the ifH Podcast Network, and developing new websites. To further help filmmakers and screenwriters follow their dreams. I want you to write down what you want to accomplish in 2021, and what steps you will be taking every day to get to your goals. Do you want to set a goal of one to two screenplays a year like Oliver Stone does? Do you want to direct your first feature film? What needed tools do you want to put in your toolbox? What new skills do you want to learn to make you a more dangerous and knowledgeable filmmaker? Or screenwriter? What side hustles Are you going to try to create the generate revenue for yourself while you're chasing your dream? After speaking to hundreds of the industry's most successful artists and business people, I found they all had one thing in common. They never gave up. Oliver Stone had the script for a platoon in his pocket for years. And everybody in town rejected it. Everybody in town said will never produce this. Nobody wants to see this movie, but he never gave up. And in 1986 he won the Oscar for Best Picture. And Best Director James v. Hart was in his 40s before he had his breakout hits with hook and Dracula. Barry sonnenfeld went from shooting adult films, to having his movies grossed almost $2.5 billion worldwide. Every big screenwriter, every big filmmaker, every big director, every big producer, they all have one thing in common. They failed and they failed often on their way to success. They never gave up and you shouldn't either.

Every no is one step closer to a yes. In 2021. Educate yourself as much as possible. learn something new every day. Take a course read a book, experience something, work on a set safely Of course, do whatever you can to put more tools in your toolbox. The reason I was able to Go to Sundance, and shoot an entire feature film in four days, running around completely guerilla style was not only because I had an amazing group of people working with me, but it was also because I had been working for two decades, putting tools in my toolbox, being able to not only direct, but also right, edit, color grade, do the graphics, produce, and so, so many other jobs, I can't even keep track of them all that I did on that film. But I was able to do that, again, because I educated myself and I and I worked on putting those tools in my toolbox. In 2021, I want you all to add a ton of new tools in your toolbox. If you're a writer, learn new techniques, learn new approaches to the process, or hell just write more, because by writing more, you're adding more tools in your toolbox. I'm going to go back to my conversation with Oliver Stone. And I asked him how many screenplays Did you write before you got to direct your real first film because he did a film right out of right out of college. But he doesn't even count that one as much as he does a second one. And he had written about 1012 screenplays, something along those lines before a producer finally financed one of his projects. The road to success is not easy, but it's doable. And it's doable for everyone listening to my voice right now, anywhere in the world. If you think you have a tough, you should listen to that podcast about what Hollywood and how that amazing filmmaker makes his films for two $300 us. And he makes it he built an entire industry in his in his town. He's world renowned now. But when he started, he was just trying to learn trying to put more tools in the toolbox. I don't care where you are in the world. If you want to make something happen for yourself, make it happen. The power to change your destiny is in your hands. It might not be easy, but it's something that you can do. I want to wish you all an amazing 2021. And please don't forget to keep that hustle going and to keep that dream alive. He will stay safe and have a great new year. And of course, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 098: Screenwriting a Road Trip Comedy with Jason Shuman

I have a treat for the tribe today. Last week we had screenwriter Eduardo Cisneros on the show discussing his new film Half Brothers. Today we have his co-writer and producer of the film Jason Shuman. Jason is a writer and producer who has made over 20 motion pictures grossing more than $500 million worldwide as well as produced over 100 episodes of television.

Shuman has produced four films that reached number one at the box office with Darkness FallsThe MessengersBangkok Dangerous, and the critically acclaimed Lone Survivor. Other well-known films include the 2017 docudrama Rebel In The Rye, Little Black BookDaddy Day CampMiddle Men and the beloved comedy Role Models.

On the television side, Shuman has also produced shows including TBS comedy Are We There Yet? with Ice Cube, and served as Executive Producer on the FX show Anger Management and the Emmy® nominated TV movie, Dawn Anna. His new film is Half Brothers.

Renato, a successful Mexican aviation executive, is shocked to discover he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher. The two very different half-brothers are forced on a road journey together masterminded by their ailing father, tracing the path their father took as an immigrant from Mexico to the US.

I first met Jason years ago at the Sundance Film Festival where I spoke to him on the Indie Film Hustle Podcast about the film he had in the fest called Rebel in the Rye. In this episode, we discuss his career as a producer, how he went “all in” to become a serious screenwriter, how Danny Strong (Gilmore Girls, Empire, Billions) helped him become a better storyteller, and his epically funny new film Half Brothers.

Enjoy my conversation with Jason Shuman.

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Alex Ferrari 0:03
I'd like to welcome to the show Jason Shuman, man, how you doing Jason?

Jason Shuman 0:24
Hey, good. Great to be back. Alex. Good to see you. Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:34
Yes. This is your first time on the bulletproof screening podcast but you are a friend of the show from indie film hustle back in the day. We we did a when I did my I think it was my first Sundance interviews. When I was at Sundance doing interviews and you were one of my I was lucky enough to talk to you while you were there with rebel in the Rye.

Jason Shuman 3:51
Man, that was a for me. That was an amazing Sundance, my favorite Sundance that I've ever experienced. It was so great.

Alex Ferrari 3:58
And it was the shining outside it was snowing so much that year it was like, like, but no joke was like a like a dilution of snow outside. It was insane. how crazy

Jason Shuman 4:12
It was special because I loved rebel and working long and so I was so proud of the movie, but also because I had so many friends that wanted to come to be a movie premiere. So I rented this like house and it was like about 14 of my friends. Some who brought their wives. So it was couples and it was like a fraternity house I had there were like four rooms and the rooms had bunk beds in it. So they were like husbands and wives sleeping together and bunk beds all so if there was this I had a great sort of thing and I was like, Hey look, I'll I can promise you as if you come with me everywhere. I can get you in if you roam on your own. Good luck to you. And so everyone was like it was like my little entourage Had the whole time it was best.

Alex Ferrari 5:03
Do you remember? Do you remember what we what we did the interview in that in that penta. And that kind of like penthouse area was like it was like that. That's where I was staying. So it's like this kind of kids camp for grownups going to Sundance. It's like camp for grownups, if you stay anywhere within the vicinity of Main Street, unless you're rolling really hard, and you're one of the big stars, you get your own private everything, but generally, but generally, there's just no space. So that you have to get you got people, you know, who are very high end, like people in the industry, big producers and directors and actors. And they're, they're doing exactly what you said, they're sleeping bags around the corner somewhere to Matt. They're like the two of them in a bunk bed. Like it's,

Jason Shuman 5:50
Happy to be here.

Alex Ferrari 5:51
Yeah, it's, it's, it is such an it's just an amazing experience. And I can't wait to actually experience it again. Hopefully, I don't get it back, you know, hopefully after it. But so before we get started, can you tell the audience how you got into the business because you have a unique path to your screenwriting side?

Jason Shuman 6:11
Well, I mean, I look i was i was a film geek. Since I was 10 years old, I was riding my bike to the mall to see everything in anything. I had a note from my mom, that in the movie theaters knew me to let me see R rated movies if I wanted to. Because I had that note that would never fly today, by the way, like I was just a little film geek dreaming of going to Hollywood and making movies and, and my dream was to go to USC film school. So when I got in, I thought like the heavens had parted. And like I was anointed the next coming. And then you get to orientation. And you realize, so did the other 60 people that got in everyone felt the same way. So you kind of have to have a big wake up call and say, all right, you know, I'm just an 18 year old freshmen time to work. And so I got to go to USC film school and meet the most incredible group of friends that I still am very close with to this day. And I had a wonderful experience there. I got to do internships because I was living at USC, and you get to be so close to Hollywood. And so I didn't know I was just doing everything in anything making movies on the weekends, doing internships on days, I didn't have classes, and one of my internships led to an internship with a guy named Marnell, Koeppel Sim, who passed away two years ago. But that was a big thing. Because he was he was a huge producer at the time, she's huge and won an Oscar for Petunia, just a couple years earlier, it had the fugitive, which was not only ox opposite, but got nominated for an Oscar. And he was in the middle of making seven devil's advocate eraser. outbreak. And so there I was interning for this for this company, this man, he had this huge production company at Warner Brothers. And so I felt like I had like the king of the world, even though I was just making copies and getting coffee. And that led to a job when I graduated. So I got some my first, you know, big break coming out of there. But to be honest, I kind of had wanted to be a writer, director, as we all do, and we, but because I was offered this job, everyone was like, Well, why don't you just take it? You can just learn what do I know? I'm 22 years old. So I took the job. And I spent a couple years there and it was a great sort of induction into the business from a Reno film school is not real reality.

Alex Ferrari 8:48
No, stop, stop. Stop it. You mean to tell me when you're out in the real world. They don't talk about Kurosawa all the time.

Jason Shuman 8:59
My favorite freshman year, my buddy herb Ratner, still a close friend. He goes, he calls me up. It's like a Tuesday night and he goes, man, there's like a sneak preview of Philadelphia, with Denzel and Tom Hanks, we got to go and I was like, I have a geology test tomorrow. And he's like, we're talking about, you know, who cares about the geology is let's go see this movie. And I was like, you're right. I'm a college student. Now I don't have to study for the geology does that though. So my, my, my going rogue as a college student was not going to that party and getting drunk on Tuesday night. It was like going to the man's Chinese and see a sneak preview. That to me was like being the rebel.

Alex Ferrari 9:45
This was your Animal House. This was your house.

Jason Shuman 9:49
So there was a lot of that in college, a lot of sneaking off. So, um, so I worked for Arnold for many years and rose up there. And then I had this most amazing opportunity to start my own production company with a guy named William sherek. And so we went off and I quit, I quit that job, I went, and we started to make some movies. And one of the original ones was darkness falls, which I can't believe now was like 18 years ago.

Alex Ferrari 10:24
And if I, if I can stop you for a second, because when we spoke the first time, I actually know the story of darkness falls, how it got produced. I'm, like, one of my co hosts was with me, Sebastian, he was like, how do you know that? I'm like, dude, I'm a film geek. And any story about a filmmaker who made it like that any because that was a lottery ticket. Essentially, he had a great short, that he had a great short that got picked up. And then they turned it into a feature, which then was a big hit at the time. And I was like, of course, I know that story every you know, if you have to know that just kind of like they'll mariachis and the clerks and like he was one of those. He was one of those guys that had that that window. Yeah. So it was great.

Jason Shuman 11:08
Like he was he is and was the nicest guy Jonathan, he became close friend of William and eyes. And so it was a magical experience, because we go off and make this movie. We're all in our mid 20s. And we shot it in Australia and, and anyway, we bring it back in the studio didn't know what they sent these three guys off doing. And then they just put it God bless Tom sherek. Who, who was like, let's put it out on Superbowl weekend. And everyone was like, Super Bowl Weekend. That's a two day weekend. No one goes to the movies on Super Bowl Sunday. And he's like, Yeah, but there's no competition. So we came out in 2003 Superbowl weekend and we were number one for this little movie. And that sort of helped William and I get a deal at the studio and and and then we were off to the races making a bevy of movies over the next 10 years. And we just flying over genres like we did the Messenger's Sony we did little black book, we did role models, we were just hopping all over the place with comedies with horror with romantic movies, some family movies, so it was a great run. I really loved it.

Alex Ferrari 12:24
Now, let me ask you a question though. How as a as a producing team or as a production company? Yeah. The the standard frame of thought is to pigeonhole yourself or at least it's your, your, the heart like Blum house, he's like, you can't Blum house, you know, slapstick comedy, I'm not gonna probably go see. But, um, maybe I would, because I'd be curious. But generally as a as a production company, or as a producer, you kind of want to knit yourself like Arnold was an action. He was the action dude, he was the actor. He was like, he reminded me very much of Joel Silver like him and and Joel

Jason Shuman 12:56
Intern are as well.

Alex Ferrari 12:58
Yeah. So that's, we have to have a conversation about that another day. But, but yeah, those kind of guys. So you were jumping all I saw me when looking at your IMDb, you're everywhere, like role models horror, like it's all over the place.

Jason Shuman 13:11
That's my own fault. And probably to my own detriment, because we had we came right out of the gate with two fairly successful horror movies and darkness falls and the messengers, and we were getting a lot of offers for people like can make horror here can make horror there. But the truth is, I'm just I love movies, and I love stories. And I love all kinds of movies. Like I'm just not I see everything. I don't care small, big, which genre you are. I see it all indie movies, and, and I just was like, William, I can't sit in another meeting and talk about the mythology of these of the ghosts and what their motivations are. And I started to become creatively stagnant because, you know, yeah, we had to meet in a row and they were hits but we probably developed 15 others at the time. So I was in so many meetings and reading so many scripts having to do with this thing and that thing, you know, blumhouse came later and certainly he grabbed that with paranormal and he wrote it and that's probably what William and I should have done. But I was so excited to read little black book. I was so excited to read Bangkok dangerous, so excited to deal with being meetings on role models and talk about like, the big set pieces because I loved Judd Apatow and I our offices were right next to Judd Apatow and I was like, but I want to make movies like him too. So it's great. Just to have my own wanting to flex the that muscle of like being just telling different kinds of stories. So that's what we just kept doing.

Alex Ferrari 14:53
And it seems to have worked out okay for you. You've done, you've done no complaints. It's like and I think Once you've set yourself up as either I mean for screenwriters would you recommend screenwriters stay kind of on, on on a genre at the beginning, so at least they kind of put themselves in that box. And then they can kind of spread out like once you're Aaron Sorkin, you can write whatever you want. Once you're Shane Black, you can pretty much write whatever you want. But at the beginning, the town kind of likes to know what you are, if you're a horror, got your horror, got your comedy, comedy,

Jason Shuman 15:24
because your reps need to know how to sell you they need to know how to introduce you to the town. And that is done easier for them. And for you, if you kinda like this is the I want to make the next blumhouse movies or I want to be the next jet Apatow if you can kind of sell yourself that way. It just makes their job easier, whatever that is,

Alex Ferrari 15:45
right. But but you actually because you were jumping all over the place that became kind of your brand. Like, oh, he he does everything.

Jason Shuman 15:54
That's what people don't. They're like, Well, yeah, you you can look at my IMDb and you're like Jesus, but I you have to understand when I went in to make daddy day camp, which seems funny now, right? But Sony called William and I and said, Would you be interested in producing it? Like the kid in me is like I grew up on those Herbie the lovebug movies and can't movies like meatballs. And I was just like, Wait a second, I am going to submerse myself in can't movies. And I am going to try to make the greatest can't movie for the this generation of eight to 12 year olds. So it's like you think like, Schumann, why would you go off and make daddy day camp? It's like, well, because to me, that was an exciting opportunity to give kids of that generation, a camp movie that maybe they would watch over and over again. And I went nuts. I watched so many camp movies, not just the ones that I remembered. I was trying to submerse myself and what made camp movies fun, what kids would want to see today. So it's like, even though the result may have not been this beloved, like legendary can't movie that was the attempt that was and that goes for everything. When we were making Bangkok dangerous, you know, it's like, we were thought we were making, we tried to make an action movie that could parallel, you know, the action movies that they and we thought there would be like, this was Bangkok dangerous, then there would be like Shanghai dangerous, then there would be we were trying to set up so people have to understand sometimes it works like role models, lone survivor, etc. And sometimes it does, you tried everything and just fell a little short. It's not like you didn't work any harder. Right? You did any more to make it a great movie. So you just put them out there and go, let's see what happens.

Alex Ferrari 17:56
Now I was when we spoke. When we spoke at Sundance those years ago, you were at that point talking about getting into screenwriting, and that you were moving to New York to work with the work with Danny Thank you, Danny, with Danny strong and, and kind of just like, you know, go under his wing a little bit. You were telling us like, Hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna learn how to be a screenwriter. So what made you jump from being a producer to wanting to go into the very non competitive world of screenwriting?

Jason Shuman 18:30
There's many things, it's just you get a little older. And you start to say to yourself, how do I want to keep challenging, but there was also that kid in me who look I had what William and I got to do at the young age, we got to do it and the opportunities I had learning from Arnold at 22 years old. I wouldn't take that back for anything. But there was that 1415 year old and me that was like, but I wanted to, I wanted to write I wanted to create stories from the beginning not to sit with writers who and I love and respect Good, good screenwriting. So I thought either I put my money where my mouth is, and see if I have it in me, or just, you know, go and continue to be a producer and keep trying to evolve that way. And it was Danny who called me and said, I want you to drop everything. And I want you to move to New York. And I just want you to like, Come meet with me every day. And just let's talk screenplays let's I want you to write and I'm going to read your stuff. And I'm going to critique it. And I'm just going to give you a bootcamp and I was like, how can I turn this down? That's amazing. We had been pals since 18 since USC film school, but like Danny at that time was, was at the like he had just won every award for game change and the height of the butler coming out and he he hadn't even created Empire yet. Which I got to be sitting there with him while he wrote the pilot for empire that was pretty cool. He kept like turning his computer going like, Is it me? Or does this seem seem really fun to you? And I'd read it and it'd be like cookie, doing something like they have the vision for cookie way, way at the beginning. So I owe it all to Danny. Like, really?

He I did. I did what he said, I left my life in Los Angeles, and I moved to New York. And I sat and wrote every day with him, he texts me in the morning, here's the cafe I'll be at, I'd show up. I do my stuff. He'd be doing his stuff at lunch, I'd asked him a bunch of questions. And when I was ready to show him stuff, he'd read it. And he was brutal. He was brutal with me, but it was helpful. He'd give me all the ways he approached writing all the sort of mottos that he would take how he approached a blank page, how he would approach characters, how we would approach everything. And I just tried to make that habit. And it took a while he, it was a year and a half of writing, handing him stuff and him Wow. shitting on it. And finally, after a year and a half, he thought that maybe I had morphed myself into a writer who could be consistent. I don't think he was looking for a good scene here. And there. He was looking for consistency. He was looking for, like my storytelling to have evolved to a place where he felt like, now I could go off and maybe sell some stuff or, or or had honed my voice. I mean, that's a hell of a friend.

Alex Ferrari 21:39
I gotta say,

Jason Shuman 21:40
yeah. One of the greatest things he taught me. So any screenwriters listening was, he was like, sit down and write write down a list of things you love, and things you hate. Like things, things that anger you because that's where recount came for him. It's like, it's like, he hated that election process, the 2000 election, he was angry about the outcome, and it really boiled his blood. And so, you know, then he goes and buys some books and reads about the Florida recount. And that turns into a story that he outlines. And so that was a big thing for me. You know, like, if you look at a lot of the projects I'm working on now, this show I have at Apple. Eduardo and I are writing short circuit, my HBO show about the Lakers. It's all stuff in the 80s because one of the things I wrote down on that when I would do those exercises is I love the 80s I just do. Yeah, that was my era. I love the music. I love the television. I love the movies. I love the campiness, I love the outfits, I love my memories. I like what malls looked like I liked just that. And so it that list he had me do really reverberated in the work. Not all the work that I've done in the last four or five years, but a lot of it is like things that really angered me are things that I just love so much that I want to live in that world and with those characters. So that was just every I could we could do a whole couple hours on the Danny strong method and how well it works. But it really was,

Alex Ferrari 23:24
I'm not sure I'm not sure everybody can afford that, that that seminar for a year and a half. And I'm not sure Danny has the bandwidth. I know I'm joking, I'm joking. You should you should actually call Danny. Like Danny, I'm just gonna I'm just gonna put out a seminar, it's gonna be called the Danny strong method. I'm not paying you anything, unfortunately. But I think Danny strong. That's amazing. So you said something really interesting. Like, how do you approach a blank page? How is there? is there is there are there some tips because that is the most one of the most daunting things a writer has to do is, and it's not a page anymore. Is that blinking cursor? Generally speaking, yeah. How do you approach a blank screen?

Jason Shuman 24:10
This is it was Danny had always sort of taught me that. Don't get it right, get it written. I don't care if it's the worst scene you've written in the world. And Eduardo subscribes to that same theory. So when I started working with Eduardo was nice to see that like, I have friends I have very successful screenwriter friends, who they'll spend the whole day on that one page so they get it perfect. And God bless them. But I found that what Danny's method and Eduardo's method, which is just just write the worst version of the scene, I don't care because the rewriting it to us is the fun part. So I feel like I've written the most amateurish worst awful scenes that I wouldn't show like my closest friends, but then you go back and you immediately start to realize how lazy it is how cheesy the dialogue is. But at least you're not looking at a blank page anymore. At least you're looking at some semblance of a scene. And somehow, even if you're rewriting the whole thing from scratch, it somehow to me makes it mentally easier. If I'm rewriting a scene that exists, then then staring at that blank page. So that's what I've always done these last couple years.

Alex Ferrari 25:29
I mean, from I can't agree with you more, I always find the rewriting process so much easier than the writing process for me. And when I'm like, I write a lot of Britain, but my books and, and I do my writing, I write, like seeing the announcement from our iPod, my blogs and stuff, but it's just starting sucks. It sucks. But the rewriting part, so sometimes I'm writing I'm like, this sucks. I know. It sucks. I'm just gonna keep Yeah, that Oh, that was horrible. Let me just keep going. Or is this is this is atrocious. I'll never let anyone read this. And I'll just keep going. And then the next morning, I'll come back and like, Okay, this is exactly what I thought it was really hard. But why don't we do this? Why don't we move over this over here. And let me rewrite this, oh, I have a brand new that this really bad paragraph that I wrote, has now set me on another path in my mind. To write a brand new paragraph has nothing to do with the old paragraph. But it's a complete rewrite from basically and just go. So it's, it's it keeps it keeps the thing flow. And it keeps the things it's kind of like editing I've been I've been an editor for 20 odd years. So like when you edit the scene, you edit a horrible, just get it all just cut it just cut it. It's master shot theater, there's no nuance, get it up there, then you could start slicing and dicing

Jason Shuman 26:42
same, it's the same. And I wish you know a lot of writers beat themselves up and like everyone has their process. Everyone approaches it however they want. This works for me. And the tidbits that Danny's taught me or at least the ones that I retained are that way because I think they spoke to me. But like I remember I showed up one day. And I got a terrible sleep. And I was just kind of groggy. And I was like, Danny, I don't know if I feel it today. And he's like, doesn't matter. Keep writing. And I'm like, I got like two hours of sleep. And he's like, let me tell you something. When you read your screenplay, you got 126 pages of crap, that you're ready to sit down and read through. You won't remember which scene you wrote on that day when you came and you're like, Oh, I feel great today. Remember which scenes we felt great about which seat because it's all just sort of blends in. So the goal every day should just get those two pages done, get those three pages each day, just get that done. Because then when you stack it all together, you probably won't even remember and it probably won't even be as bad. Just like on those days where you think you wrote brilliance. And then you go read it next day. You're like, wasn't that brilliant? I mean, I walked away. I walked away the day before thinking like, Man, what a great day of writing. It's, it's it's the same thing. It's never as good as you thought it was. But it's also never as bad as you thought it was. And so just keep doing it. Just keep writing. Don't let yourself get excuses. And just kind of keep powering forward and like that. That's what makes Danny Danny because it's like yeah.

Alex Ferrari 28:31
I and I think it's I always find it to be better to be prolific than to be perfect. Yeah, there's a lot of directors, a lot of screenwriters out there who just put out stuff. And yeah, they're not all home runs. But a lot of them a couple might be strikeouts, but there's a lot of singles, a lot of doubles, a lot of triples, and there's maybe a one or two homerun situation in there. If I may, if I may be as cliche is to use a baseball metaphor with it, but but I always find that it works. Baseball metaphors work. That's why it's so cliche.

Jason Shuman 29:02
One of my favorite stories from Forrest Gump because I got to work with this guy, Charles Neuwirth, who was the UPN line producer on Forrest Gump. And he said like Zemeckis had been talking about the shots he wanted to get, and it took like six hours to set up, and they could only do it during a certain time of the day. And so they get it all ready, they're rehearsing it, they go to shoot the scene. It's not quite what he wanted, and he just turned to Charles and what they can all be gems. can all be gems, but when you mix it in with Forrest Gump, you have so many great things about it. Does it matter that not everything is and I try to remember that they can all be gems, but if you've got enough gems in there, yeah, it'll be good stuff. it sparkles. It

Alex Ferrari 29:48
will sparkles. Now, as you know, obviously you've been around town for for a while you've been working in town when you started to go out as a screenwriter. How did the town respond to you? As you know, because everyone used because this town is very loves boxes and loves putting people in boxes. So when you came out from, hey, you've been a successful producer. But here's my script I need you to read. How did the town respond to you? I'm curious. Um,

Jason Shuman 30:19
I had to fight that I had to convey my conviction in my heart and soul that that this was like, not just a thing I was trying that this was a full commitment that I was making, that I wasn't looking to just sort of dabble my foot in it. And I meant it. When I packed up and moved to New York. I was like, I'm all in. And so I had to convey that this was not just some hobby, and I was hoping that I was going to succeed by hook or by crook. And so yeah, I had to deal with it was nice that when agents would read it, and they didn't know who I was, because I'm not, I'm not Brian Grazer. I'm not just like, not everybody knew who I was. So I ended up having some, when I started sending my material out to agencies, tried to send it to people I thought maybe didn't know who I was, but who I knew and admired. And so those were some initial meetings that went really well. And I did, I was honest with them that I have a producing career, but I'm hoping I'm hoping that my knowledge and my background of producing will only make me a better, better writer, especially in television, where TV or TV show running and TV writing, a lot of it is producing too, I have hung around enough a TV shows to see that the the show runner, half your job is overseeing the writers and the other half is dealing with the network and the studio and dealing with the politics of and that is in itself producing. So I knew I could combine both in a way that could be advantageous to the writing. And then along the way, I almost wanted to call up every writer I've ever worked with as a producer, and say, I'm so sorry that you have to take notes from me, because now that I've given myself a grad school in screenwriting, and I feel like I understand screenwriting, so much better now than when I did as a producer. I'm like, you had to sit there and listen to my notes. Like, and now I feel like I was just talking out of my ass. Like, how did I not do this sooner, at least sort of dive into screen, right? I feel it makes you a better producer to sort of understand the nuances of not only being a writer, but just on how story works and structure and characters and God just like it's just crazy to me that that the way this town is built where you could get a really good job like I was given right out of college, and in a room with million dollar writers and have Arnold Coppola single, like Jason read the script, meet with me with that million dollar writer give him notes. And they have to listen to me. And they're very cordial and respectful. Because I represent Arnold COPPA Xin. But I'm like thinking back upon that now, not only was I I should call those people up and be like, thank you for not just being like your biggest moron Jason, who sent you into this room.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
And that's isn't that amazing. But that is that is the way this town works. It is just ridiculous that there's a huge producer, a legendary huge producer, who sends in a 20 something and goes, I kind of like I trust your taste, Jason, go read it. And then go talk to this million dollar plus screenwriter and give him notes. Who's been who's written probably 30 or 40 screenplays in his life, probably even more, you've never written one. And you've written you've read maybe five, so maybe 10 I'm being generous. So give him you're giving me notes based on the video store experience you have.

Jason Shuman 34:20
I would do that. I would prepare all night. I'd be like in order to make this character more three dimensional. This is what you should do this to do. And I was prepared on it. But Jesus Lord, okay, all right. I guess my youthful, like, fake it till you make it kind of stuff.

Alex Ferrari 34:41
And that's and that's, you know, that's a really good lesson for screenwriters listening today, because you're gonna deal with young Jason's. And by the way, Jason is one of the nicer ones that I've I've ever met in this business, but you're gonna get, you know, we all deal with people who are put in positions of power that don't have they shouldn't be there. Especially talking to creatives who might know it's, I mean, it's this. It's the oldest, I mean, manque. I mean, manque just came in late. I mean, so it's been happening since the dawn of our industry. Someone just said, you know, someone told Chaplin, you know, when you fall, it's not really ringing true. So can you put the banana peel over to the like, there's telling you, you're doing it wrong, or wants to put in their stuff. But so how did you deal with? How would you? How do you suggest screenwriters deal with notes? Because that is something that every screenwriter no matter what, what level they're at, unless you're Tarantino, or one of these big writer directors who have every does every Yeah,

Jason Shuman 35:46
sure. Yeah. Um, look, I think one of the skills of the good screenwriters, the ones who have a lot of success working within the studio, and the network system, is learning how to address notes and interpret notes without just being a typist, like your job. And I think they expect this of you is not to literally take the notes and just go and do note number one, and just go into the document and change it. They're giving you what's bumping them about what you've written, and they're trying to articulate it, hoping that you will get it. And then that's, that is an art form that I'm constantly trying to work on. And having Eduardo getting to work with Eduardo makes it easier because we're just two of us. So we can talk it through. You know, people like Danny who works solo, Danny just has an interpretive mind. So he's like, Okay, I know what they want. I, I can read between the lines. And so I guess it's just something you should, if you're a writer, if you have a partner, a room that you work in, talk it through, maybe from talking it out loud, you kind of like, oh, here's Okay, I see what they're and then you bring your own creativity to the note and your changes, so that it doesn't mess up the overall tone and theme that you were going for. That is an art form and of itself. And if you can become good at interpreting network and studio notes, you will be a successful writer. I'm still working on it to this day, I do feel like my past as a producer helps. But believe me, there are still plenty of documents I get, or I'm like head scratching like shit. This is bumping them. But the note is confusing me. It's confusing me and I don't understand what exactly they want. And sometimes it takes a few days of it. And I like talking it through like did they mean this? I mean, look, if you have a good relationship with them, you can call them and ask them to explain it. But a lot of times we've done that, and I'm even more confused.

Alex Ferrari 37:58
Exactly. Now how did you get it? Now how did you get involved with Eduardo and and what is it like writing with a partner? You know, because I'm also a soloist I I've written with partners before and sometimes it's been great sometimes it hasn't been good. Eduardo loves working with you because I had him on the show as well obviously. So he speaks nothing but high highly of you sir. Except off off air off off air. off air. He was destroying you, but on air. He really really enjoyed working with you wasn't working with how is it working with it with Waldo? And how did you guys meet?

Jason Shuman 38:36
Well, look, Alex, I'll go deep. I have had no luck in my personal social life finding a like as to my mother's dismay, like, finding some married started family. Yeah. Not for lack of trying. I just can't seem to click with with someone out there. I know. It's harder. Now we're in a pandemic. But even before I can't use that as an excuse, somehow in my business world. I've had two partnerships, me and William sherek. And me and Eduardo. And they both came very naturally. It was not forced. It was not anything. It was like I met William. In college, we totally clicked. And then naturally we got we just started working together. There was no sort of like, like formal like, thing. It just felt so natural that we were into each other's Yang like and then the same thing with Eduardo like I just met him. Coincidentally, it was kind of full circle from co Pilsen because my sort of mentor at Cobo Wilson was this executive named Sanford panitch. And he's sort of the opposite of what I was just describing. He was a young executive who was brilliant, just brilliant, even at a young age, and he found Arnold so many of those movies like like, seven and future And devil's advocate, and eraser, he found those scripts and he developed them. And he was like 2526. At that time, he's amazed. And now he runs. Well, he's president of Sony under Tom Rothman. And he's just that good. He's just that good. And I was having breakfast with them. And he had read some of my stuff that I had been writing and he thought it was good, thank God. And he said, Look, I just signed this deal with this guy, Eduardo Cisneros. He just wrote and produced this massive hit called instructions not included, which Sanford couldn't speak highly enough of. And he said, The guy is like the Judd Apatow of Mexico. He He's created all these hit shows. Now he's created his movie. I just signed an overall deal with them. Why don't you meet them? And if you guys come up with an idea that you can work on together. Great. Do it here at Fox at that time, Sanford was at Fox. And so it was Sanford. He kind of like

Alex Ferrari 41:01
Matchmaker, he's a matchmaker.

Jason Shuman 41:04
And so we we met in a conference room at Fox, and I came with like, literally 10 ideas that I had prepared. I was always the Judd Apatow when I had offices near him. He always said like, when he worked the comedy clubs, and when Sandler would say like, Hey, man, could you write me like three jokes. And he would write like 20 jokes, because he just wanted to show Sandler like that he was up for the challenge that like, he wasn't going to waste this opportunity. So that always kind of like, Okay, I'm gonna come prepared every time and I wrote down 10 ideas. And I pitched them all to him, and Eduardo hated all of them. So then we were like, well, then we just started shooting the shit. And then we just started talking. And then I somehow stumbled on a germ of an idea that he was interested in, but it was not fleshed out. And then we ended up meeting for coffee another day, talking about the idea more, which led to more meetings. And then we eventually took the idea to Sanford, he bought it. And then we were able to write our first script together. And I'm not kidding. It's kind of like, it was so easy. It was so natural, that, like, his strengths were my weaknesses. Vice versa. His work ethic was the mine, in terms of like, you know, being available for each other, we didn't have other stuff going on, like, that frustrated each of us. And so it was such a wonderful process that when that was over, he was like, hey, I've had this other idea. Maybe we could work on it together. And we ended up selling that as a TV show to Fox didn't get made. But we got to write another thing together. And in during that is when he said like, Hey, I have this idea for this movie called half brothers. And then he's like, now we just pitched that one together. So it just happened very naturally. Where would there was never like an official, hey, let's shake on it. We're working.

Alex Ferrari 43:05
We're writing tea.

Jason Shuman 43:07
It just happened naturally. And so I'm just grateful. I'm just grateful to the universe, that in my work life, they brought me to partnerships that have just been magical, where in my personal life, I'm like, still waiting, still dealing with the phone calls from my mother being like,

Alex Ferrari 43:26
Oh, my God, I dealt with that so much that my mom, my mother actually connected me with my wife, she actually matched make me with my wife, believe it or not. And it worked. It works. By the way, it was a swing and a miss of a handful of times before. But it was Oh, man. on that. Yeah. Cuz it was like, every time she would try to hook me up with something I'm like, this is Do you even know who I am? Like, why did you Why would you send her to me? Like, this makes no sense. But yeah, so that's, that's great. And then as far as writing, I mean, cuz you wrote by yourself for a little while before you start writing with a partner. So yeah, when you're writing with a partner, what Eduardo said at least was that you guys just kind of, you'd be you have, you'd have someone to bounce ideas off of, and you can kind of bounce things back and forth.

Jason Shuman 44:14
A lot of people have asked me, What, don't don't you get frustrated because I have my own voice. As a writer, I have all my life experience that I bring to it. Do you get frustrated and I could see how people could ask that because when you're just up by yourself, you may be get frustrated with yourself but you're not arguing over this jokes, funnier, that jokes funnier. But I think that with Eduardo and I, we just haven't had that issue. It's been a total sort of two one plus one equals 10. We feel like we get 10 times more done. We're not hurting each other's voice. Sure. Do we argue about like I think that's funny and he doesn't think it's funny or vice versa. But we just let it go find keep your joke. Um, early on, I Eduardo, getting getting to know him. He had such a mission with his writing. You know, my mission was just to try to make people laugh. I just grew up Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, Mel Brooks, I just I just wanted to make the world laugh. I didn't have specificity specificity that Eduardo did with what he not only wants to make the world laugh. But he wanted to change the stereotype of, I'll say, Latin x people for him, specifically Mexico. But he really had a goal with his laughter. And that changed my world, to be honest, Alex, because I had just sort of grown up thinking like, oh, laughter is the best medicine. But to meet Eduardo, and have him talk about, yeah, I want to make people laugh. But I also want to create characters that defy the stereotypes. And I'd like to do it by sort of, like putting cheese on the broccoli. Like, maybe we can change hearts and minds by creating positive Latinx stereotypes, like having characters that would normally just be a white doctor, or a lawyer or a successful businessman. But why can't we can Mexican Cuban, South American, and somehow the comedy can just come and somehow People will laugh and see the movie, but then they'll walk away, not realizing that like, Oh, it was a Latino character that wasn't just a garden or a made a Narcos, a rhino. And so, when, when he started to talk to me about that, it was to me, I was like, sign me up, Eduardo, sign me up, because I want to go on that mission with you. So to me, helped me understand where the last many decades have gone wrong in in their portrayal of Latino characters, and let's try to let's try to make a positive impact on the way it brought a whole nother depth to what I was just thinking of just gonna be another funny Jewish guy, to being to having more of a purpose to the writing. In an entertaining way, obviously, first and foremost, we're trying to entertain Sure. And so, with that goal in mind, can we also elevate what we're trying to do?

Alex Ferrari 47:45
That's, uh, if you can combine those two things in your professional life in your creative life, that is a very honorable way to to approach it. It really truly is. I mean, for me, I mean, I'm Cuban. And only two main Cuban influences in pop culture are Ricky Ricardo, and Scarface who happens to be Italian. So he, you know, so, and for years, you know, like, Hey, man, how you doing, man? Like it was constantly that throughout me when I was growing up, you know, because Scarface was the 80s By the way, nothing gets missed a poem. I think Scarface is a tastic film. And I think Chino did a fantastically a performance of what it was, it's a it's a bit over the top, I'm just saying just a bit over the top, and it's just a bit but he's a patina. But it's but it's true. And and I think now with what's going on in the world, and there is a lot more awareness of, of bringing these kind of characters, and I think you guys are at the forefront, and I can't wait to actually see half brothers, but from the trailer. It looks hilarious. Like, I'm like, I told my wife about it. Like, we kind of watch this when this comes out. This is gonna be amazing.

Jason Shuman 48:54
Thank you, I love the movie. It was everything Eduardo and I wanted to do when we set out to write it, to produce it, and bring on the team of Luke and Luis. Like, it's, I'm, I'm so proud to have been able to make a movie like this that is very contemporary, very, we think, but also follows the classic structure of movies that I grew up loving, like planes, trains, and automobiles. I mean, I, I worship these movies, and I've watched them hundreds of times. So to get to kind of live in the genre of some of my all time favorites, but try to create a modern movie with also the intention of like what we were saying to to just change the stereotype a little bit change the perception. So it was it was a fulfilling experience from top to bottom.

Alex Ferrari 49:52
You know, you know what's funny is when I was watching the trailer, and I saw that scene with when he's running towards the car with the goat By the way, everyone You can see the trailer at the at the show notes. So it doesn't sound like we're like talking weird, but definitely watch the trailer. But when he's running towards the goat first image that popped in my head, I don't know why it was planes, trains and automobiles. Like I just like it just it just felt very john Healy to me, which was great. And I was like, oh, now that you said that, it makes all the sense in the world because you can see that, that that kind of tang to it, it has a flavor of of those kind of old midnight run. Especially midnight, I just recently watched midnight run again.

Jason Shuman 50:34
Oh, my God grown and consider anything, anything, even if one little moment in a movie that I'm a part of reminds me of john Hughes, like, we're good. I'll take it cuz that's, I don't I could never make planes, trains if I tried. It's such a brilliant movie. But we just tried to bring the funny in the heart and the warmth and the characters that were that could make it an entertaining movie, and still take you on a trip and take you on a journey. And so we can have another conversation after you watch. I'll come back anytime.

Alex Ferrari 51:10
I can't wait. No, I can't wait. I can't wait to see it. And, okay, just let me lose my train of thought. Um, we were talking about john Hughes. All right, I forgot. We'll go on to the next question. So with with half brothers, in you, obviously now, sitting on both sides of the table as a producer and as a screenwriter. What advice do you have for screenwriters on approaching a project approaching a producer? How What does that screenplay? How does that screenplay have to be? How should they approach it? What's the do's and do nots? Should we just show up at your house? and knock on the door with a screenplay? I mean, I heard that's the way it's done in Hollywood. I've seen movies. How do you? How do you look at it?

Jason Shuman 52:00
choosing a producer? It's it? You know, you got to be careful because there are a lot of producers around around town. And like I don't know. And

Alex Ferrari 52:12
can we use the air quotes with the words producers, because I

Jason Shuman 52:17
Hit a producer.

Alex Ferrari 52:18
But also you could just go down to the FedEx store and or UPS store and get a business card made up and say you're a producer? There's no accreditation.

Jason Shuman 52:27
That's the scary part. Yes, sir, is so important. Because as I've learned, if they give up on your script, it's good as dead, like the producer has to keep that boulder being pushed up the mountain, you're a screenwriter, you know, unless you happen to have a career as producing like I had luckily done. So we sold in this case, we sold the pitch to focus there were no producers attached at the time. But I knew what to do as far as how to get keep the studio as as we kept doing drafts. And we got Luis attached to star and we got Luke interested in directing. That was me just instinctually taking over and saying I've got a script that I'm really proud of. And I think there's a movie here, I'm just gonna keep putting it together. So when it came time to the studio saying like, I think we're gonna make this, then they were just like, Well, why don't you just produce it? Why don't you and Eduardo just produce it since you've kind of been acting as producer anyway. So that was just a lucky situation where I turned to Eduardo. And I was like, wow, that's, that was it? We get to make it ourselves. But I do I do. Really. I don't take for granted good producing. Because even in my writing career, I've I've now been able to work with producers, that unlike they have skills that I don't have as a producer, I think they are they've helped me see things that I'd like to do in my producing game. And people that I just respect immensely. And so if you're a screenwriter, and you've got a script, like you can, you can either take your chance on a young ish producer or a new producer, if they have a lot of excitement for your script. But don't, don't, don't, don't sell your soul away. Like if they dropped the ball, you got to be willing to change it up. Because you can just sit dormant with a producer's kind of given up on it. And then it's just the if you go with a big company, like a big grant, Brian Grazer type company, well, they're great and Brian's amazing, but you're probably going to be dealing with their executives which is okay to just make sure that you get along with them. Make sure that you have a rapport with that executive and you feel like this executives got your back has the same vision of you do of trying to get it where it needs to be? There's no right answer, Alex, because every producer is gonna have a different set of skills, they're gonna have different contacts. Like, I only know the people that I know. Right? So if you bring me your script, I know the agents that I've known for 20 years, I know the talent that I know. And I have a way of doing things that might be totally different than somebody else who's like, been doing it the same amount of time I have and their connections are totally different. So the attachments that they might pitch you the agents they might talk to. So it's sort of an instinctual thing. You got to meet with producers, you got to hope there's enthusiasm, you got to look into their eyes, male or female, and you got to say, I trust them. I got a good feeling. You know, bring another Danny strong story when when when he wrote recount, and HBO was like, Danny, like, Who do you want to team up with on this movie? Because Sydney Pollack, who was the original Director Producer of recount passed away, like months before they were going to go shoot. And so Danny was given carte blanche to like team up with so many different and I find named you some of the director and be like, Lord, but he met with Jay Roach, and Jay Roach at the time. This is before Jay Roach has gone on now to do a bevy of dramatic work. That's amazing. But at the time, he had had the Meet the Parents movies, and the Austin Powers movies. But Danny met with them. And I'm gonna steal his story. He felt much better. But he just said, I met with him. And I was like, this guy's a winner. This guy, it's like, could I go with some of these other people who have more dramatic stuff on their resume that I admire too? Sure. But I sat there with Jay. And there was just something about this meeting, where I was like, Yes, I want to, I want to go down a road with this guy. I want I just this guy's a winner. And everything he touches turns to gold and I'm in and that was just Danny's instincts. That was just Danny's instinct saying like, I you could talk me out of it. But But am I gonna let you because? And I feel like that's what as a writer, you gotta send your stuff out there. You got to be fearless in that and then the meetings you take. If somebody seems shady. If somebody seems a little suspect, don't do it. Don't do it.

Alex Ferrari 57:37
But that doesn't happen. That doesn't happen in Hollywood, Jase. I mean, everyone who is so nice and upfront, and they didn't do anything shady here. Right. That's sarcasm, if anyone did not pick up on the sarcasm, that sarcasm, I'm just both Jason and I have gray hair for a reason.

Jason Shuman 57:58
I was always taught, like, a good deal with a bad person is a bad deal. Yes. And a bad deal with a good person is a great deal. And I don't forget that like if I meet with somebody, and they're offering me less money, but, but I just feel like such a good person. And I asked around about them and people speak lovingly. And then there's this other person who just don't know but but they're offering me more money 10 times out of 10 I'll go with the less deal but with the good person because it will in the long run it will pay off to me.

Alex Ferrari 58:39
That's a great, great advice. And I've just remember what I lost my train of thought the one thing I was gonna say it's so great that Focus Features you know, is producing films like a half brother because in the studio system that's that was very commonplace, but nowadays, yeah, you don't you don't get films of this because that halfway there is not a tentpole. You know, it's not $200 million movie so generally the studio's that's what that's what they're doing. And now specifically with the way the world is like no, but like what Warner Brothers just released the other day was just like, holy cow. This is this is changing the game. I mean, who knows what's gonna happen in the next year? So it's so cool that they actually are putting so many resources in a really, it truly is. It truly is.

Jason Shuman 59:26
That was a testament to Eduardo his work with Oh, honey. Oh, derbez. Um, you know that that Eduardo had worked with him not only on instructions, but Latin how to be a Latin lover had helped him out with overboard. And so those movies, Oh, honey, it was a brand. So those movies performed really well. And focus was willing to take a shot to kind of create their own division or at least their attempt to kind of get into that market. If we're just talking about from a business standpoint. They saw that there is a niche being created by Eduardo and no henio and Ben Odell and their company. And it was just sort of like, and look, we're in a pandemic, so the movies come out. And it's doing fine for pandemic wise we're doing great. But you know, in a real world, the box office would have been more on par with like Latin lover and overboard and instructions, but the world's changed. And so most people will safely watch it on their on their things. But if they happen to be in and around a theater, or drive in, I went to the drive in this weekend to watch it was so fun. And but if you're in Phoenix, or Texas, or Florida, or somewhere where there's a theater and you feel safe, you can experience it how Eduardo and I intended it to be experienced, but eventually it will come out and hopefully still do the same kind of numbers that that those other movies did. Over the lot.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Yeah, and I want to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests sir. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Jason Shuman 1:01:10
One, my first and foremost is network.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:14
So good. It's been Yeah, that's, that's been on that list a lot.

Jason Shuman 1:01:18
A lot. I refer to it quite a bit. And it's just brilliant to me in every way, shape and form. I could never use the word so easily that he uses. so brilliant. I really do love a Paddy Chayefsky as a writer but also the movie network. The other ones I sort of flip around from a genre perspective. I love Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire script. Because I think that drama D is a difficult, difficult genre, trying that the critics often crush you. And it's like, when you get it, right, though, when you do Terms of Endearment when you do a movie that has comedy, but also has a ton of drama in it. And it's about someone like Jerry Maguire, like just taking a small step forward in life. And so I love reading that script all the time, because I think how he pulled that off, we created a big movie about a sports agent is quite brilliant. And then, God, the third one that I would say, because I read so many scripts that I often refer to, I, I would this is gonna come out of nowhere, but Oliver Stone, his script for wall street is very influential to me. Because he created a world created a world that I'm very fond of. He created a pace and a character. And that character's goal is to make money and to be like this. This like Gordon Gekko guy who's supposed to be the bad guy, but turned into this iconic, like, good guy. And so when I read Wall Street when I read Wolf of Wall Street, also another great script, similar vein, they create these worlds that are so fun to live in. They're so intoxicating. Yeah, though, they're sort of nefarious worlds. And so I often refer to the wall street screenplay as well. So I know that's kind of all over the place. But I use those those three scripts have inspired me a lot.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:55
Well, you and I are of similar vintages. So Wall Street, in my video store days, I must have seen Wall Street It was a religious experience to watch Wall Street for me. I can read I can recite the greed speech right now off the top of my head. I'm not joking you I could go off the top of my head and read that because I just, it was such a you and I never really understood it. But you actually said something really, very pointedly there that it's intoxicating. That that world at that time was I wanted to be Gordon Gekko so bad when I was a freshman in high school. Like I was just like, um, like, I started reading Wall Street books. I started reading, you know, investing books. I started like, you know, oh, yeah. I mean, I had the poster, the greed poster. There's they said they sold greed posters, with the whole speech. And I had it framed in my room. Oh my god.

Jason Shuman 1:04:50
Wait, it's not just the greed speeds. It's like when he's in the limo and he says, You're either inside or you're outside. And I'm not talking about some schmo making 300,000 living comfortably I'm talking about liquid rich enough to own your own jet, you know as a 15 year old the movie's supposed to be a tragic of a guy who's sold his soul to the devil. Yes pays the price. But But our generation saw it as as like a beacon of light of like how to live our lives.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:28
The funny thing is that the devil is the thing that you love the most about the film and that's what the devil is good at. Yeah, he's good at it at a toxicated bringing you in. And and I actually like the second one, Wall Street. Money doesn't sleep.

Jason Shuman 1:05:42
I don't want to talk about that you don't like my good friend Allan Loeb wrote it and I love him. He's one of the best screenwriters. But it was hard for me to watch because I the first one is so perfect. why he's such a perfect movie, that it was just I don't think there was any version of the sequel that would have made made you happy. It's just like, if somebody made Apocalypse Now, too. I probably go like I can't.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:06
I can't do it. I can't I don't care if it

Jason Shuman 1:06:09
Perfection. How do you top that? Just let it be.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:12
I don't care if Coppola goes back in time and writes it in the in the jungle while he's shooting? The first one. I'm not watching it. I'm not watching

Jason Shuman 1:06:21
Can't do it.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:22
Now. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jason Shuman 1:06:27
Very simply, I have a couple mantras I live by them. It's like, first off, you got to be all in. Yeah, like playing poker, you got to look at your hand, whoever you are, if you're whatever culture you come from, whatever males like female, binary, whatever you see yourself as whatever you look in the mirror and identify as you've got to look at the hand you've been given. And you got to say, I've got a lot to say, and I'm in it to win it. And you got to put your chips in and say I'm all in. I'm all in. And I'm gonna keep going until I die until I have a heart attack. And because it is so tough, it is so competitive. And you gotta just say, I'm just like, whenever my time is, and I do feel like everyone gets their shot. That you got to just keep writing every day. No excuse. Just tell your stories. I don't care if it's, as Danny would tell me. I don't care if it's making a list of things you love and hate. I don't care if it's just going off book and just in your journal writing extemporaneous scene, you've got to write every darn day, you have to even Sundays, like you got to adjust. Jerry Seinfeld says he has a calendar. And he makes sure he writes at least one joke every day. And then he puts an X in his calendar so that he looks back on the year. And it's like, okay, I wrote 360 a minimum I wrote 365 jokes. So you should be able to look back and say I wrote every single day. And I promise you, if you do that one year, then two years, then three years, stuff will happen. It just Will you unless you're just too scared to show it to anyone then I don't know what to tell you. But like, if you just do it, just just put your chips all in the middle and say whatever this hand is, I've been given in life. I'm all in on it. And I'm gonna I'm gonna keep evolving obviously as a human being and as a writer, but I'm I'm in it to win it as a filmmaker and a storyteller. That would be my

Alex Ferrari 1:08:41
that's awesome advice. Yeah. And again, just perseverance man, perseverance. Just that's it's it's a lot of times I found in this business. It's not about the who's the best or the most talented. It's the one who just keeps grinding it out and keeps going keeps showing up.

Jason Shuman 1:08:55
I don't love Jay Leno. I wasn't the big Jay Leno fan. But man, that guy had a work ethic. He would write he jokes on Saturdays on Sunday is in the morning at night. He was like, I'm not the best looking guy. I'm not the funniest guy, but I'm gonna work harder than everyone else. I'm gonna just if I'm, like, I don't have that natural charisma, like Letterman does, or everyone just loves Letterman. But you know, and my I have a lot of respect for people like that. And so that these are just the people like the Judd Apatow story I said, where he'll wrote 15 jokes. There's a theme to what we've been talking about. And that's just how I see it. I'm just like, I'll put in the work. I'll deal with the rejection. And it's no fun Look, I don't like it. I have plenty of friends who have dealt with lots of hours of phone call me being like, uh, uh, but then I get up the next morning and just keep going. Just keep keep it going.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:55
Keep keep keep the keep the hustle. Keep the hustle. Last question, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jason Shuman 1:10:06
So easy to answer that enjoy the process? Mm hmm. So results oriented, that you can't, you just cannot be, it can't just be the selling of the script, or just getting the movie made or the TV show made. You gotta try to enjoy the process of writing that you're like, every day, you get to sit there and tell your stories, you know, and some days are good, some days bad, but try your best anything in life. Try to enjoy that you today, the goal is to write three pages. And if you did that successfully, go have yourself a beer or a nice meal or pat yourself on the back. Because that, you know, enjoy the little victories enjoy the process, and then the outcome will be what it's going to be. I don't I have no control a lot over that. And yes, I used to. I used to start having grandiose things of like, oh, maybe I could sell this for a million dollars and get it made with Brad Pitt. And great, great when it happens. I've been lucky enough to have it happen a couple times like that as a producer. But in general things happen in ways you never saw come in. So just try to the process. And and then half brothers is out right now as we as we speak in theaters, and then as a coming up. Do you know when it's coming out? Oh, no. We'll be out on VOD, Amazon, all that stuff, but it will at some point.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:39
And I will I will put all that in the show notes. Jason and I appreciate you coming back on the show man on this show. First time, it was an absolute pleasure talking. I know we can keep talking for at least a couple hours. Just and I'm the first one to sign up for that Danny strong seminar you're going to be creating soon, so I appreciate that

Jason Shuman 1:11:58
Thank you Alex anytime.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:01
I want to thank Jason for coming on the show and sharing his journey with us if you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including how to watch his new film half brothers. Head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/098. And guys, if you have not checked out, indie film, hustle, TV, and all of the amazing screenwriting courses and filmmaking, lessons, workshops, movies, documentaries, things like that, head over to indiefilmhustle.tv and check it out. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.

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