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From Horror Indies to The Revenant with Mark L. Smith
I’ve spoken to many people in the film business over the years but today’s guest is one of the hardest working craftman I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with. Today on the show we have screenwriter, producer and director, Mark L. Smith. If you look at his IMDB you’ll see a list of 15 projects at various stages of development. He’s come a long way from entering the Hollywood scene some 15 years ago with his fear-striking horror screenwriting and directorial debut, Séance in 2006.
Mark stumbled onto writing as a hobby during off-seasons at his family’s ranch where he worked after college. Self-taught, some workshops and an inventory of specs later, his path crossed Mel Gibson’s – who bought Smith’s first-ever script written in 2001.
From then onwards, he’s been credited for successful writing and producing for hits like The Revenant (2015) and Overlord (2018) and The Midnight Sky which was just released in 2020, starring the incomparable, George Clooney.
In Overload, a small group of American soldiers finds horror behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day.
While producing his directorial debut horror, film Séance, with friend of the show and veteran producer Suzanne Lyons, Smith was also a writer on Vacancy in 2006. You will hear more in the interview of his experience navigating the world of filmmaking on both sets, as a rookie, and the village of support he received.
Vacancy follows the unfortunate adventure of a married couple who becomes stranded at an isolated motel and finds hidden video cameras in their room. They soon realize that unless they escape, they’ll be the next victims of a snuff film.
After Vacancy, many horror projects started to open up for Smith. He worked those for a while until it felt old and he had the urge to do something different. That’s when he co-wrote the revisionist western script for The Revenant with legendary director, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. The film was based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel by the same title. You can watch the remarkable Making of documentary of The Revenant here.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson, the story sets in the 1820s, where a frontiersman, Hugh Glass, sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.
The twist and turns that caused delayed production of the film and its eventual success will pique your interest. The Revenant became an instant commercial and artistic success. It grossed $533 million worldwide, earned 11 Oscar nominations, 3 Golden Globe awards, and 5 BAFTA awards
Mark recently wrote The Midnight Sky that released last year, starring George Clooney. It is a screen adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel, ‘Goodmorning, Midnight’ which is a post-apocalyptic tale that follows a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
I had an absolute ball speaking to Mark. He’s one of the hardest working screenwriters in Hollywood. We discuss everything from The Revenant, genius-level tips on how to adapt a book to the screen to what it was like work with Quentin Tarantino on the Star Trek script that has yet to be made. If you pray, please pray to the Hollywood Gods that Mark and Quentin’s Star Trek gangster film sees the light of day.
Enjoy this conversation with Mark L. Smith.
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Alex Ferrari 0:03
I'd like to welcome to the show Mark L. Smith, man. How you doing, Mark?
Mark L. Smith 0:07
Great. Thanks for having me. Alex,
Alex Ferrari 0:09
thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I am a fan of yours for a while. And, you know, we I was telling you before we started, we have a friend in common one, a friend of the show of the indie film, hustle podcast, Suzanne Lyons and anybody who's been at the IFH Academy knows Suzanne very well, because she's one of our best selling co instructors selling courses and webinars. And you guys got a little history as well if I'm not mistaken.
Mark L. Smith 0:35
Yeah, man, we go way back before God, I think before I ever had anything made, I sold a few things. But then something got to Suzanne and, and she was just so lovely. I wouldn't let her go, you know, I just hung on. And so we just, she's just the greatest. So it's, um, so we we kept finding things, trying to put little, little indie projects together and it's okay, and as hard as it is to put like a big studio movie together to get all those. It's those little indies or even tougher, you know, it's just like trying to find all the pieces, you know, because it's got to be just right.
Alex Ferrari 1:13
Yeah, absolutely. So we'll get we'll get we'll get a little deeper in the weeds on on that project in a minute. But before we get started, man, how did you get into the business?
Mark L. Smith 1:22
I stumbled into it. I actually had a right out of college. My family had a dude ranch, believe it or not in Colorado. And it was like 2000 acres surrounded by a quarter million in National Forest. And we were I mean so remote our driveway. Our entrance was a two and a half mile old stagecoach trail, literally North stagecoach trail through canyons and over creeks. And so we we would have guests come in from May until like the first of October. And it was you know, hot air balloon rides and whitewater rafting, horseback riding camps, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:56
all they like sit like cities like city slickers.
Mark L. Smith 1:58
Yeah, the same thing, just kind of a little more of a resort vibe with the tennis courts. But it was that same sort of thing where you got that rustic, they stayed in cabins, you know, and it was kind of cool. But we were only open, like five or six months a year. And so I had to figure out a way to kill those Colorado winters. And so it was, um, they were they were very long, very cold, lots of snow. And so, after about two or three years, I start actually started writing stories for my kids, little short stories. And, um, and then I realized, I've always I just loved films, I just love movies. And so it was like, well, these stories are kind of fun. I wonder if I can combine them. So I did. And I just wrote a couple things. And now this is back, man, this is you weren't emailing scripts around and everything this is this is mid 90s, you know, early 90s. And it was um, so I started playing around just during every offseason, I would try to write one or something. And then I actually went out to the asi did a workshop there. And kind of grasped the one thing that the great thing from the workshop that I remember that I took with me was the first class he said in front of all of us, Nico's, you guys all are here because you want to write a screenplay. I'm going to tell you right now, none of you are going to write a screenplay. You all think you're going to write a screenplay, you're all going to try to write a screenplay, but you're not going to finish none of you're ever going to finish. So that to me was like, I'm incredibly competitive. And everything I do is my family and friends will tell you a little too much at times. So I took that as a challenge, you know, so it was I was going to go and so I started those off seasons starting to write starting to learn to write and then I wrote a couple things that I optioned one option to a producer at Disney, and then they they got like, I would enter in the nickels. nickels. Oh, of course, of course, they still do. And so I entered and I would get a one like, each year, I would get into the nickels finals kind of thing. And so and it finally got around to enough that I I wrote a spec and sold it to, to paramount for Mel Gibson, it was the first thing that I ever did, and back in 2001 that ever sold. And so um, so from that point, it just, it was weird, because everything kind of changed. And it was, um, I was super lucky to get it to a guy who knew a guy was just like this really weird way. But it finally got to people, you know that that they were able to buy it. And so after that it kind of people started coming to me more. And so it was from that point on, I was writing steadily and all the way until I guess the first thing I got made was Vacancy. I think it was like oh six
Alex Ferrari 4:39
years or so.
Mark L. Smith 4:41
And then uh, but all during that that period of time it was just kind of nice, nice steady work and couldn't get anything quite made. I was doing a lot of dramas that people like but they were harder to get made. And so I actually the reason I wrote things like they can see your stance on that was because horror was kind of big at that time and it was like okay, I'm Ready? I've had enough fun, just selling things, you know, it's like, let's get something in, let me see it and so on. So it worked out.
Alex Ferrari 5:07
Yeah, that's the thing that i a lot of screenwriters coming up don't understand that just because a screenwriter might have one or two credits on their IMDb have produced things that has, they could be working steadily for a decade. Oh, yeah, making well, making a really good living as a writer and and in script doctoring and, and doing all sorts of things, but only get one or two things produced. And yeah, I know. So.
Mark L. Smith 5:34
It's so even the super successful like, say, a Scott frank, I love Scott Frank is just just, he's my guide as far as writers, but it was, um, you can look and you think, Oh, it's I would have thought he was busier, you know, you look through it. But what you don't know is he's doing he's doing just dozens of jobs in between each of those, you know, he's non stop, he never stops writing. And so it's a it is it's, it's, it's a little deceiving. When you just look at credit system, you know, it's like, oh, they've only they only written that one thing or two things, you know, now what?
Alex Ferrari 6:04
What fear did you have to break through to write your first screenplay, because I know when you when you sit down to write the very first one, when you kind of really are kind of clumsy? You kind of you might have read Syd field, you know, you might have read saved a cat or something. And you might have had something like, what was that thing that you'd like? I'm going to do this. I'm not I'm done. Because there obviously there was fear, there has to be fear. Any writer who looks at a blank screen, it's free
Mark L. Smith 6:29
No, there absolutely. As I tell you, what saves me. It saved me it was William Goldman and Sinfield. And the the structure aspect is, to me is invaluable. And I tell everyone I ever talked to about it structures that thing. Because you're suddenly if you're looking, if you're really into the structure of a script or film, you're not looking at a blank screen that you got to fill 120 pages with, you're looking at a blank screen that goes well, I just got to kind of get 10 to 12 before I get my inciting incident. So if I give good characters and good, you know, some fun action do that, that's 12 pages, I can do that. And then well, now I've only got like 1618 more pages, I've got my first act, you know, so I break it down. And then it's like to my, to my midpoint. And then it's like, where I'm going to turn. And I don't outline when I write I've never outlined. And so I know kind of my beginning, middle and end. But the fun for me is discovering it as I go. And so I tried outlining a couple times. And it was like, actual writing got boring, if that makes any sense. Because Well, I know what's going to happen there. You know, I already know this, it's like, I need to be I need to kind of box myself into a corner and write my way out and twists and turns. So um, so yeah, the structure kind of helped me overcome that fear of kind of just staring at that thing. And I think part of it, obviously is too stupid to know how difficult it was gonna be. Well, I mean, so because I was, like I said, I just started, I just started writing. And back then it was, you know, everything was through the through regular mail. And so I would write a script, send it off to people for to get reads. And by the time I was hearing back, I just immediately dove into the next one. And so I was writing the next one, because it was like, I didn't even care about that anymore. It's like, Okay, what did I learn from writing that script that I can use on this one, I'm gonna write this one. And then I'll say, I just kept doing it, it just got to be in such a cycle of writing that it just became really easy. You know,
Alex Ferrari 8:19
the, the thing that so many screenwriters and filmmakers in general who decide to write as well, they don't understand the absolute insanity that it is to be a screenwriter, the, the diff, the level of, of craft that you need to write a solid screenplay is so much more difficult than reading a novel so much more difficult than writing a novel, or any honestly, other than the Haiku, I think is probably one of the most difficult forms of writing invented. Is that fair? It's,
Mark L. Smith 8:48
it's funny, it's a little bit, um, it's like, to me, I look at almost like a math problem, you know, because I do fall back on the structure of it, you know, it's like, Okay, I've got to do this much in this many, this amount of number, you know, this amount of pages. So everything goes there. So then I have to fit the words and the character and, and all of that into those little, those little sections. So the math part just helps me the structure helps me but it is tricky. And people don't, don't really realize even people that are working in it every day, there was a producer on a film I was hired, went flew over to London, doing a weekly thing, they needed a quick rewrite, they were shooting immediately, and the script was in trouble. So they asked me to do it. So I, I go, and there was I had some friends that were part of it. And so I write I'm writing like crazy. And I, I they need a complete rewrite, but they needed in 10 days. And so I wrote three straight days, gave them the first like 50 pages of the script. And the producer looked at it and she said, This is great. When do I get the rest? You know, it was like, I told her I said, I feel like I'm I'm like having to teach you like you're a small child. I have to teach where babies come from, you know, it's like you don't understand the process. This is what goes into it. You know? It's so it's not as easy as just writing the words down, you know, everything affects everything. And so that was, um, so it's just everyone, you know, it's until you've done it. I mean, it's like anything, you know, it's like, I remember my kids played, played football and stuff in high school sports in high school, and I would you know, I'd be in the stands and grumbling about the coaching and the stuff and I, and then I did some little league football and I'm coaching them and it's like, oh my god, this is so hard. You got to think about everything you got to know. So until you do it, you just never know.
Alex Ferrari 10:32
Oh yeah. Oh, yeah. It's like it's it's I think the film industry, and specifically screenwriting is the only business where someone goes, Hey, I watched the movie. I think I can write that. Like, you don't go You don't you don't pass by a mansion and go, yeah, I could build that. Like, you don't do that and any other
Mark L. Smith 10:46
bridge Game and Watch the Brom play and say, Yeah, I can get out there, you know? Sure. Was that hard? No, but it is, it is funny, because everybody can write everybody has a story. And everybody, you know, so it feels and to be honest, more people could do it. If they had the time, that was the huge benefit that I had, what were those five, six months a year off where everybody else is having to work, go to their day job, do all that stuff. I was at home in the middle of nowhere, you know, and so I could just focus on and without that, I don't think I would have been able to do it. You know, it just it is so consuming and stuff. So yeah,
Alex Ferrari 11:24
it was very, it's very shining, like, very cool.
Mark L. Smith 11:29
Yeah, but no, the writing it was so much. So I figured I would write instead of grab an axe, you know.
Alex Ferrari 11:36
fair deal. I think it worked out better for you that way.
Mark L. Smith 11:39
My wife and kids were thrilled.
Alex Ferrari 11:40
Exactly. Now, how many? This is another thing? How many screenplays Did you write before you sold your first one?
Mark L. Smith 11:51
I auctioned my first one, the first thing I ever wrote out. And
Alex Ferrari 11:55
that's lucky. It's very lucky.
Mark L. Smith 11:57
Yes, very lucky. And then it came through I entered in. It was like the Nichols and the Austin heart of film and those kinds of things that they had. And so, and it was just lucky that somebody stumbled on it. So I actually like the first two or three things I wrote. And then I got a little cute, tried to do some things differently and be smarter than I really am. And so I probably wrote two or three things that I didn't so it was probably like my 76767. Yeah, Devil's kiss was it was a Western, it was a Western thriller, that I am sold to Paramount, with no this
Alex Ferrari 12:30
and that. And and the reason I ask is because I always am a proponent. And in many people that I've talked to a lot of professional screenwriters like, say you need to just write. I mean, just write as many and have as many of those screenplays in your inventory. Like you should look yourself as a business. And your inventory and your product are scripts, the more of them you have. So when you walk into a room, you're lucky enough to get into a room. I don't like this one. What do you have? What else do you have? And you bust out two or three other
Mark L. Smith 12:54
100%? Because it's so key because good writing people will find good writing, but the stories are so subjective. You know, it's like, they may like your writing, but not like that story. So it's so valuable to have those other things kind of in your pocket that it's like, like you're saying, you know, well, I do have this, you know, you never know when one of those will click so
Alex Ferrari 13:14
yeah, absolutely. So now, when you did your first movie with Suzanne, I think that was according to IMDb. At least that's the first movie that got produced on I think it's around the same year, as Vacancy.
Mark L. Smith 13:25
Yeah, I was actually bouncing back and forth between the vacancy set, and that's that they were kind of shooting at the same time. So you were directing nothing to everything. But you were directing that one was like, so I had no clue what I was doing. And I'm sitting here it was so lovely to let me do that. I mean, of course, I would never tell them that. But it was like I was following Jeff Shaft who was who was our dp and, and, and Suzanne and Kate. And they were just kind of like, okay, yeah, you probably want to you know, you move the camera here, because I knew the story. And I knew the performances, I wanted to get into stuff. And the one thing that I realized going bouncing from the vacancy set to the SAM set was we're shooting 10 to 12 pages a day on seance we're shooting half a page, sometimes on vacancy, you know, it's like you have so much more time, right? So I had to like, I remember the actors we we just rehearse on sounds rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, because I knew I was only going to have time for like two or three takes so we had to really do it quickly. And so Um, so yeah, that was it was it was a really wild year and a half or so on those two.
Alex Ferrari 14:25
Now what was the biggest lesson you learned working on Seance because that was kind of the first like you were thrown into the deep end of the pool. And I didn't know that you were jumping back and forth between Vegas he was so you could actually see the difference in budget and in between say, hey can see cuz Vegas. He was like walk back
Mark L. Smith 14:42
into that stage on Saturday and go Oh, God, here we
Alex Ferrari 14:45
go. It's just like, what I had to bring my own lunch today. Suzanne when the hell we did that I used to run.
Mark L. Smith 14:51
There was a Carl's Jr. Just around the corner for work. And I would run during breaks to get myself a sandwich because it really was like the nr Our crew was mostly film students from, I think it was the LA film school. And so that was it. There was there was a time there was a point where we were trying to use a gurney. And I'm sorry, a dolly. And we couldn't. We didn't have anybody that could that could do the dolly. So we couldn't do the shot. You mean literally
Alex Ferrari 15:19
you had a dolly, but you had no doubt, we
Mark L. Smith 15:21
had a doubt you couldn't have anybody do it. So just the DP where he's trying to figure out a way and I'm there trying to do it, but we couldn't get anything, anybody to work. We just didn't have enough people and enough stuff. And there was one day where we walked in, I walked into the set, and the stage, and I go into one of the bedrooms, the college bedrooms, which had been gray, and it was kind of I wanted this kind of dark kind of a, you know, just a plain, plain background. And one wall was yellow, the other was bright blue. The other was like red. It was like a rainbow of color. I go What the hell what happened, you know? And this guy goes, I just thought this was so great. It would make everything pop. And it was like, but no, you know, we don't. And we're shooting now in like an hour. And so there's nothing that can be done. And so now every some of the the wardrobe, were the same colors. So there were shooting scribbles there with a blue shirt against the wall. It's like we're losing. It's like, Oh, god, it's like, okay, move over to the yellow wall. It was just like, it was a learning experience for all of us. I think it's like,
Alex Ferrari 16:19
it's like you were you see those shots with people with green shirts over a green screen. And just like
Mark L. Smith 16:24
it was it was so brutal, but it was, but it was, it was fun. If nothing else, I learned it. It was it was weird. I learned I never had time to be creative on directing. So I was talking to a director once years later, and it was like, it becomes such a machine, you just have no time. So everything has to go so fast. That whereas I can sit with a script and really kind of decide what I want to do and make choices and all of this. You're locked in. You know, when you're on set, you're locked in you're you know, that's that's it. And so you're kind of all your creative stuff comes prior, you know.
Alex Ferrari 17:02
So then you're you're doing vacancy at the same time, which was a hit. It was a hit when it came out, because that spawn to sequel and did it did fairly well. Did did opportunities really start opening up after vacancy?
Mark L. Smith 17:14
Yeah, they did. Then Then I've got every every horror project, Senator, you know, it was all of those. And then I got I saw I did a couple of those kinds of things. And then well, I did a couple of those things. And then I wanted to do something different. So that's when Revenant I actually wrote, I wrote The Revenant right after they can see came out. And really,
Alex Ferrari 17:39
yeah, also, that was a script. That was Hank did. I was an old script, he was hanging around and I wrote
Mark L. Smith 17:44
it, they wanted me to do a pitch on it. And the producers had the book gave me the book, they wanted me to come out and do a pitch. And I'm just the worst at pitching. I just can't do it. I can't tell. I mean, I couldn't pitch you The Revenant. Now,
Alex Ferrari 17:58
you know, now that's done. There's a bear, there's Leonardo DiCaprio, that
Mark L. Smith 18:02
would stumble and say, well, the bear kills the guy. And then they know he's, you know, it's like, so it's it is for me, it's easier to write. So I wrote the spec, and I wrote it on spec. And then it just turned out really, you know, I got lucky, it turned out pretty well. And so we started putting it together. And we were God, it went through so many iterations It was originally I wrote it for Samuel Jackson. That's who was going to be Hugh Glass. And I ran into I ran into Sam on another set, and on another movie that I was working on. And I said, Hey, do you remember that because he sent me this great email after we read the script. He was so excited to do it and stuff. And I said, I asked him, you remember how we we used to, we were supposed to revenue together. And of course, he dropped into some of his, you know, his efforts. And you know how that went. That went didn't happen. But we went out with it with a different director. It didn't, it didn't go they wouldn't give us kind of the budget that was necessary. And so I there were so many iterations we had, we had several different directors, we have Christian Bale was on at one point, and with another director and everything, and then Leo saw draft. And then we got all 100 and 100 came in and then it kind of all started started happening. And then um, so it was it was a really long process.
Alex Ferrari 19:18
Yeah, that's something that a lot of people listening who don't know about the business don't understand is that even if it's an indie or big budget, it it just takes for ever.
Mark L. Smith 19:29
And especially what I found was especially with like, because I've done it, I've done like three things written three things for Leo. And so the great thing is is Leo and whenever he's ready to make it, anybody will make it the tricky thing is that everybody wants Leo in their movie, so he gets sent everything and so you can write these things, but there's, there's only he's only gonna make one every year or two. So you have such a small chance that you're going to be one of those ones, you know, so it took a long time like we were getting ready to go in the financing. Wolf of Wall Street came. So they did that first. And then while that was happening 100 got Birdman financing. So that kicked revenue back a little bit further. And so it was just, you're just waiting for all these kinds of things to align. And it's tricky
Alex Ferrari 20:15
It's Yeah, you got these these kind of giant, you know, solar galaxies kind of flowing around. So you got Leo is one galaxy. Alejandro is another galaxy. The project is another galaxy, and we're just trying to get everything to align properly. Because if, you know, oh, 100 got up there. And that's what people don't understand. Like, the second you get financing on something like something like Birdman for God's sakes, that's not the most box office. I got, I have to, I have to go my friend, I have to
Mark L. Smith 20:45
know that it is a little bit like waiting for like this perfect kind of three Planet Eclipse, you know, for everything to just kind of fall off. And just, it's really tough. And so, um, so you just jump on a bill, you know, just be very grateful when it does happen.
Alex Ferrari 21:00
So Alejandro comes on. And then Alejandro starts working with you on the script, as well. He starts he starts working with you and developing the script. I mean, the concept of The Revenant, you know, with is it's, it's awesome. It's based on a true story. The visuals are amazing, feels amazing, the movies remarkable. But, you know, that's, that's a tough pitch. I'd imagine that that's not an easy that's not an easy studio project in today's world.
Mark L. Smith 21:25
No, and that's why I didn't want to I didn't see any way I could pitch it. It was because, you know, I was even when I was writing because it was like yeah, there's going to be like, I'm going to write 30 pages where nobody says a word you know, and it's going to be really quiet you know in our our star leading man is gonna just get mangled you know, so you probably he's gonna look rough for most, you know, all these different things you know, it's gonna be expensive and out in the cold and and we need to shoot it you know, outdoors are no stages and, and so I knew that was that was going to be really tough and it wouldn't have gotten made without like a Leo. It just wouldn't have known then. So no, and then so and then Allah Han and Alejandro as well. You know, you had to have that combination, but all 100 after Birdman. Right? You know, with the combination of Leo that was the key.
Alex Ferrari 22:07
Yeah. Cuz after Birdman, because they both came out year after year.
Mark L. Smith 22:11
Right? Yeah, he wanted us director for both
Alex Ferrari 22:14
years in a row. And Chico was
Mark L. Smith 22:16
kind of talented. Yeah, Chico. Oh, my God. Geez. We'll
Alex Ferrari 22:18
talk about Chico in a minute. So. So you you Yeah, so he did Birdman which exploded. And it's still arguably one of the best films I've seen in the last 20 years. It's still Yeah, I just absolutely love those genius. So it's a it's at a different level. And I got to ask you, man, because you've worked with some some of the most amazing people in the business. When you're working with someone like Leo or Alejandro? I mean, they, they are at genius levels. I mean, they their crafts is, and I'm not trying to blow smoke up anybody's but but I mean, they definitely playing with a different set of cards than the rest of us in a good way. Because they're just, you don't make Birdman and The Revenant. Right after each other in that, you know, no. Feels like there's something they're playing. Yeah. So, I mean, you've worked with everybody from, you know, low budget Indies, all the way to, you know, Oscar winning guys like Alejandro and Leo, what is that? What is it like being in the room? Not to say that you're not part of that group as a genius as well. So you have done some amazing work
Mark L. Smith 23:27
over the corner
Alex Ferrari 23:28
with the writers, but the writers generally are often
Mark L. Smith 23:34
a little stupid is that's expected. But it's no, the, the thing with 100. He's, and then you combine with chivo. And what they do, because we're working on the script, and we do something like we can pull that one off, you know, we can't really do this. And this because mark, you know, I can do this. Just let me watch. And so so it and it always worked every time that I bought, you know, there's just no way he's gonna be able to pull off that shot and make it visible in there. But he did it and antiva did it. And so and that and then Leo's performance, and especially coming off of I mean, you kind of look at you know, all 100 did Birdman and then Revenant and then Leo just did just did Wolf of Wall Street where he's just rat a tat tat with a dialogue and everything's over the top. He's doing good. And then he does The Revenant, which is all just kind of expression and so quiet and everything that I mean, when you can pull that off. I mean, again, like you said, they're just on a different level. And so it was so fun. I just, I just was on go up on set and just watch them up in Canada. It was like, this is like an all you know, but you
Alex Ferrari 24:36
were on set. So you were on set for a bunch of it. Yeah,
Mark L. Smith 24:38
it was just a as a tourist, sometimes I would go it need a little we didn't change and he had it so heavily rehearsed, that everybody knew every move. And so there was really no changing of the script. But he would say I need some background dialogue here. Can you give me something that's going to happen there so I go to the trailer and do that. But the rest of the time. I'm just standing there watching them work and it was it was just amazing. Like I said, I just I felt like I learned so much just by seeing those guys what they could do.
Alex Ferrari 25:07
And I mean, I saw that documentary that they did about the making of that Alejandro was on and I mean, it looked like hell, man. I mean that that's a hellish, hellish shoot like,
Mark L. Smith 25:19
I mean, there was there was a time I was thinking there was a scene where Leo's hang up the Rockies trying to fill a canteen after he's kind of drug itself to the river. And it is so cold up there. I mean, I've got gloves and hat and and he's laying there on the side of the river and he's filling this canteen is his elbow deep in the water. And, and
Alex Ferrari 25:37
it's not Hollywood, and it's not Hollywood water. It's real.
Mark L. Smith 25:40
This is this is Canadian, Rocky, right? He's there and they would shoot Alejandro would shoot different angles until he was just shivering so much that they'd have to stop and then put him in the suit with a with, like blow dryers heaters that would then heat him up inside the suit and he's doing doing eating soup, and then they'd go do it again. And then they do it to the shivers then pull them out and do it. I told him, I walked up to him one day, and I go and this is the only time in my life that I'm glad I'm not Leonardo Decaprio, you know, it's like, it was the most brutal thing. Again, stuff you don't really realize that actors go through, you know, and so it's not all just let's hang out in the trailer to we shoot this thing. And um, he was super, he never complained. There was never one time that he like moaned and bitched and groan or anything, he was just like, he's just the best it just, he's there to do his job and do you know, give the director exactly what they're looking for?
Alex Ferrari 26:31
I remember I remember someone saying the commentary for for God's sakes, somebody give Leonardo DiCaprio the Oscar before he kills himself? Like everything
Mark L. Smith 26:41
I mean, you know, Alejondro would ask you to do it. You know, it's like, you know, Leo just called God now, really, but he would do it.
Alex Ferrari 26:48
And, you know, he's an intense figure. I mean, he's he without question. He's an intense director, not in a bad way. But he has, he has a vision, he has a presence about him. You know, I've had him I've had I've had the pleasure of meeting Guillermo a couple times. And he has that kind of different energy, different energy completely, but has that presence and those those kind of directors, I mean, when you're going to make the revenue you you've kind of be a general like, you can't, you can't lollygag around you can't show any week. I mean, you're in jail during the year badly that elements and Yeah,
Mark L. Smith 27:23
everybody, you know, it is like your army is miserable. You know, they're looking, you know, you're you're trying, you're looking for deserters at that point, you know, because it is so brutal. And that and it's it's long and it's cold, and it's hard. And so um, he had it, he had a cool thing that he would do, he had this chime that would go off the same time, every afternoon. And when that time would hit everybody would just even if they're, you know, they would time it. So they weren't in the middle of a shot. But every but if it was pre shot for everything, everybody would stop. No, no one would say a word. Everybody kind of just look around, get get get a feel for nature, kind of, you know, remember what we're doing and stuff and then boom, go back into it. And everybody was ready. And it was every day. And it was really cool.
Alex Ferrari 28:04
That's an that's an interesting technique. I mean, it's just kind of like, because you can get caught up in the not only the minutiae, but just, you know, when you're in the battle, it's tough to just go, Dude, look where we are, look what we're doing. Take a second to breathe. That's it. Yeah. So and that's,
Mark L. Smith 28:20
I think he did it for everyone, because he knew he needed it as well. I think it was very helpful to him because he is so intense, you know, and it is, you know, there are directors that will go and it's just the job. It's it's more than the job for a hunter. Of course, this is life and death, you know, and so he's, it's, it's important. It's funny, because I did something with gamma as well, we wrote a script with him, and they couldn't be more different. You know, no, come on. You know, it's so funny. And they're good friends and everything, but they are completely different. And both so amazingly talented stuff in their own ways, but it's just yet very different.
Alex Ferrari 28:55
And how was it writing with Alejandro? Like, I mean, bringing that energy because you're pretty much a loan writer from your credits, like you generally don't partner with?
Mark L. Smith 29:03
No, I don't. And it was, I wasn't sure. But we got in it was it was kind of fun, because we would each write things that he wanted to tweak and change. I would write my 10 pages, he would write his 10 pages, and then we would trade you know, he'd send me his I'd send him mine. And then we would, you know, discuss which one was, you know, we'd have an argument about which was better, you know, and he always won. Which is, you know, that's what he should have, but it was, um, but it was, it was fun, because I got to kind of see storytelling through his eyes in a different way. And also, you know, not just kind of like the lens kind of thing, but also how the character stuff and everything that he would do now, it's funny because we made one big change that my draft of The Revenant was much more of a kidnapping. There was no Hawk there was no sun, in mind, oh, really, in your mind, the sun you actually opened with the, you see the hands of a little boy and a father and they're carving this star in To the wooden stock of a hunting rifle, and you hear the boy coughing and stuff, and you know he's sick, you're getting just a couple words of dialogue. And then there's a splinter in little boy's hand and it gets a couple drops of blood bleed into the star of the rifle. And you kind of go into the grain, you know of that rifle. And then when you pull back out, we're with Hugh as Leo now, and this age old, battered rifle and everything. So my story was when after when Fitzgerald leaves, leaves glass to die, he hadn't killed anyone, he took his rifle. And so we took the last piece of his son, he The last thing that glass had of his son. So it wasn't my story wasn't as much of a revenge to get to get Fitzgerald for that it was he just wanted his his son back. And so it was literally just to get his hands on the rifle. So it was a little different takes. So that was the one big change, I think, in the, in the two versions, and everything else, kind of more nuances, you know?
Alex Ferrari 30:54
Yeah. And that's, I mean, to be honest, either one seems to work
Mark L. Smith 31:00
fine about his version, you know, no, no, it is, it's just it's like, if you want to go really hit somebody hard with the reason for revenge, or if you want it to be something that is more, you know, a little more subtle, and I do tend, I tend to be subtle, even in, you know, in dialogue, it's like, I don't want to say anything on the nose, just like, let me take a few extra lines or a couple extra scenes to get stuff across. You know,
Alex Ferrari 31:23
now, I have to ask me, because when Chivo got involved, yes, when you start seeing this footage, come back. I mean, it's unlike, it's really unlike anything that had been shot the camera was pretty much I think only that if I'm not mistaken, was a fairly new sensor, new everything, I saw some behind the scenes shots of how they did it, you know, with these giant, you know, giant silks across the forest. I mean, like,
Mark L. Smith 31:49
yeah, it was all natural lighting. So we would have just that little window, you know, two or three hours on some days where there was light to shoot, you know, and so it was, so that's why I was so critical. They did the, all the rehearsing and everything, because they knew they didn't have any time to waste. And so um, no, and then to watch to stand there and watch them shoot, and then go watch the dailies, and they had a nice theater that we'd go to and watch the dailies and to see what was coming out of it what Shiva was, you know, what I was seeing compared to what Shiva was finding, he was like, Oh, my God,
Alex Ferrari 32:18
yeah, yeah, cuz, because we were on set. I know, he was insane. But like when you're seeing like, what, what they're shooting and you're just like, there's no light. I mean, it's an exposure, or is this gonna work? Because To the untrained eye, not knowing who chivo is, and not knowing what the heck's going on in the camera, in the sensor in the lens and all that stuff. It looks like it's amateur hour, there's no lights, there's nothing like there's no even
Mark L. Smith 32:42
flags. And it was so funny, because if you walk down there, it was along a river you walked way. I mean, you drove forever, then you'd walk there to like that. The first attack scene where the the Native Americans came in, and it was, like, you walk back in time, and everything looks so real. And there were so many layers for hundreds of yards, there would be extras, walking across getting water doing this. And if one of those people timed it wrong, which happened, all the horses would race through, we'd get some attack stuff. And it was like, Wait a second, that person that no one's ever going to notice, you know, was out of place, we start over again, you know, and so it was just my god, it was just amazing to watch.
Alex Ferrari 33:23
So then once The Revenant comes out, everyone just loses their mind. How was it? You know, Oscar night? You know, again, it gets what was it? How many nominations? Like 11 nominations or something
Mark L. Smith 33:35
like that? I don't even know a lot. Yeah. whirlwind.
Alex Ferrari 33:38
It was. So what is that like being in the center of a storm like that? Because you're just like, I'm assuming you're just holding on for the ride at this time. Yeah.
Mark L. Smith 33:44
Alejandro and I just had to do we went from New York would fly to New York to LA and back, I guess, just doing a bunch of Q and A's. And so it was just he and I and it was it was just a whirlwind. And it was so much fun. And it was, you know, we did a lot of it before, like, after it came out. But before the you know, before there was we did a bunch of stuff before it ever premiered. So we knew how much we liked it. But it was still such a different film. You know, it was kind of a, an action film. But it was an art arthouse film a little you know, so
this, you know,
Alex Ferrari 34:15
it's an art house studio. It's like an art house studio
Mark L. Smith 34:18
film. It really was. It's so it's like, you know, we weren't positive of the reaction, you know, so whenever we got the reaction, I remember the night it opened. And we're all texting and emails and, and new Regency is sending the fox or sending the box office stuff throughout Friday night of what the you know, this is it and it's gonna be this we were like, Oh my god, you know, it was so much more than we expected. So it was it was great from from both into the commercial and artistic kind of sides. It was nice. It was. Yeah, very, very lucky. It was funny because the the title, everybody wanted to change the title at the beginning because they It was like, No, nobody knows what The Revenant means. You know, it's like, let's get something that's simpler and everything but now The Revenant you know, I remember years ago seeing it be thrown around on Saturday Night Live, you know, somebody's giving someone the nickname of the revenue. It's like, it's kind of cool, you know? gonna hang around for a while. Oh, no, you
Alex Ferrari 35:10
know when you hear the word The Revenant you just think bear attack. If you just think Leo and eating, did he eat this? He ate the salmon Dendi.
Mark L. Smith 35:19
Yeah, he did that he actually ate up real liver. He ate a buffalo liver, or I think it was a cow liver. And that one thing and then threw up immediately after the camera stopped. It was just rough because he was vegan. I can't remember he did. It was really crossing a line for all hunter to get him to do it. But he got him to do it. Jesus
Alex Ferrari 35:39
Christ, Matt. Yeah. Now you've adopted a couple of books. As you as you as The Revenant. Do you have any tips on how to adapt a book to the screen? Because I know that's a lot of everyone's looking for IP, everyone's looking for existing intellectual property and kind of things to write scripts about, is there a way that you approach adaptive adaptation?
Mark L. Smith 36:00
Yeah, I find I do the things that there's whether it's theme or character, or world something about it, pulls me in, and I never really go. I don't follow the story, the structure of the novel always, it's like, it's like, I find the character and then I kind of go my own route with it. And so it's, it's a tricky thing. I mean, I love I always feel like it's cheating a little bit, you know, after writing so many originals. It's like, God, when you can adapt something, it's like everybody's doing all the heavy lifting for you, you know,
Alex Ferrari 36:35
it's a play, you're playing at that point.
Mark L. Smith 36:37
Oh, yeah. And it's, you're just finding the stuff that you love, and then using it and building off of it. And so, I don't know that I think I approached it a little differently than most. So I'm not sure I'm the best person to give advice, because I don't follow. I just don't i don't jump in where the novel starts, you know, and I don't ever do that, even with, even with The Revenant, we took on a micropump, the authors, a friend of mine, and it was we just took little tidbits, you know, and then and my first draft was was a little more loyal, close to it. The second one distance itself a little bit more, but it's just you, you kind of find the stuff that you love, you know, in a novel, and then, um, and the stuff that works, and then you you go with it.
Alex Ferrari 37:16
So basically, that's the thing, a lot of times screenwriters will look at a book and be like, Oh, well, it's not exactly like Harry Potter. Like, you know, you missed that part. Like you can't, it's you can't do an adaptation like that, because then it's gonna be a mini series at that at that point, or eight hours, or 10 hours worth of stuff. So your approach, and I think the best adaptations is they take the best of the of the, of the novel in that form, and turns it into a new plot a new a new format, because it is a brand new story, new format, everything
Mark L. Smith 37:44
it is, and there's so many things, I actually just ran into this on this. Another thing I was adapting. There's so many things in a novel that you can get away with little cheats, little things that visually, you can say something's happening on the page. But if it's on a screen, it's like, wait, no, that's not right. That doesn't work, you know, or a cheat in a plot that a plot hole that you go in? Well, I read three days ago, when I was reading, you know, the first 30 pages that that happened, this shouldn't have, you can't do any of that in a movie. So you have to you have to fix those. So there there are some novels that I have loved and wanted to adapt. But they had holes like that they had things like that, that I couldn't figure out a way to get around it cinematically, so I just didn't do them.
Alex Ferrari 38:26
Yeah. Now, you said you said something a little earlier in regards to on the nose dialogue? Do you have any advice on dialogue? And how to how, because you have some very realistic dialogue in your scripts? How do you how do you approach dialogue?
Mark L. Smith 38:39
I tried to my one thing is never answered the question. Somebody asked, you know, it's like, if you if someone asks, is the sky blue? You don't say yes, you know, you would say the sky is blue, but not not like it was yesterday, when the you know, when the storm was here or set, you know, what had just blown through or something that leads to something else, you're always every line of dialogue should kind of be telling you something about the person that is speaking it, you know, and the events and what's going on, you just want to you want to get that feeling. Because that's how people in real life, you know, they don't, you just everything isn't just a ba, ba ba back and forth. It's like things, things flow, you know, and you kind of get off tangent, and you get back and you find your ways. And, you know, it's um, it's essentially, I'll throw another name, name drop on you again. So I was doing the Star Trek with with Quentin Tarantino. And so he and I are working on that together. And when we're talking about he's writing this dialogue scene that I've written, and then he writes it. And it's like, Oh, my God. I thought I was like, didn't want to be straightforward with anything. So I'm kind of flowing over here. And then he does this thing, which is now five pages longer than my scene was. And he's going all out here and he's touching on stuff. That's way over here. And then he comes back over. And it was just beautiful. It was just so wonderful and so funny. And so it's like, he just, again, you're talking about someone that sees stuff. Oh, well, normal humans, you know. And so. And I say that, you know, reverence. It's, but it, he's just that guy. And so he's really good at not just being straightforward with that, you know? So yeah, clearly. And so that that's to me is that you just kind of, you want to take your time, don't rush, don't rush to feed information, don't just deliver information through exposition and everything, you, you just want to you want to have conversations and then let the stuff come out in conversations this did this thing we're just selling, it's a TV show with Benedict Cumberbatch. And I've got these two strangers that kind of meet in Europe. And they're each asking questions about each other, just having a conversation, but neither one ever gives a straight answer. So you, by the end of it, you kind of know where they're coming from, but you don't really know any details about either one, they're still missed your mysteries to each other. And that's, I think, is is important, you don't want to, you just don't want to know who everyone is, you know, in the first 510 minutes, because then it's like, Okay, I'm just gonna follow this guide, then it then it all comes down to and I build everything from character anyway. But if you if you do that, if you feed everybody, if you've given everybody, the audience what they need to know, in the first 10 minutes of a character, then it's like, you're now you're relying on explosions or actions, or whatever, you know, it's just, you're not really getting into the twists and turns of character. And that to me is like that. That's the fun.
Alex Ferrari 41:39
So that was I was gonna ask you, because I always ask screenwriters Do they? Do they start with plot or character. And I know they obviously need both. But some, some writers focus on the plot much more than the character but I always say is my personal experience in it. And I've talked to a lot of writers about this is like, when you think of a movie that you've loved. Rarely do you remember, it's like, Man, that plot was amazing. I mean, you could say that the sixth sense, like Sixth Sense was such a strong plot that right, that that's what you remember from it, but that was like that, yeah, but generally, like Indiana Jones, like I kind of, I kind of remember Raiders of Lost Ark, I vaguely remember Temple of Doom, because not one of my favorites. But then I vaguely remember, Last Crusade, like I get the general plot, but what I remember is Indian, his father and Last Crusade, like that's what, that's what you connect to?
Mark L. Smith 42:32
Or are short, rounded moments, right? It's moments and moments come from character, you know, unless you're in a Michael Bay film, you know where it's like. But it is it's so unique characters, everything. Like I said, I always start off with the beginning, middle end, just two lines. So I know kind of where I'm headed. And then when I my character, I start building the character, normally that middle will change, you know, what's gonna, what I thought was gonna happen at the middle no longer happens, because this character decided to do something else. And so the ending is, usually I'm going to get to the same ending at some point, you know, it, that doesn't vary as much, but it's all about, it's all about the character and where they're taking you, you know, and it's a reason why I'm not, I can't really pitch because I can't, I can't write, I don't know what I'm going to write, you know, I don't know who this character is going to be. I can't tell you like in a TV show, I can't tell you what he's going to be doing in Episode Five yet, you know, I've got to get him to the pilot. And, and there was one time I was first starting out the only time I ever pitched it was a job I really wanted. And I had a week to get ready. And so I sat down and I wrote the script. And I just plowed out the script, 111 pages or something, whatever it was. And then I wrote a pitch from the script that I'd written. And that's what I pitched. And so that's the only way I can do it, I have to actually write it.
Alex Ferrari 43:54
And fill on what you said something really interesting. And I've heard this said so many times, and I've read it in so many books, is that a lot of times writers like Stephen King and some, you know, prolific writers, they'll say this, this comment where like, all the character took me somewhere, or the character decided to do something. And I know a lot of writers listening, I get where that that statement comes from. Because as a writer, I see kind of words, certain things kind of start flowing. But I want to hear your opinion on like, what does that actually mean? Because for some for some people who are starting to write, let's say they start off with Indiana Jones like, well, where does Indiana Jones go? How is Indiana Jones talking to me? Like I think quitting says it he's like, I just let them I'm just addict. What is it a dictator, not dictator, um, court reporter Yeah, yeah, yeah. A court reporter between two I'm like, that sounds great. Quinten but for the rest of us, mortals. How does that work? Like I'm sure you know, Mr. Mr. Blonde, and Mr. Black are talking. That's fantastic. You know, but like, how like, I just want to know from your point of view, and being inside of that space in your own writing, how does that work?
Mark L. Smith 45:03
It is it's so weird. It's, um, it's like he said, it's these guys are talking, and I'm hearing them and I'm saying it, like my wife will say, I heard you, I heard these lines, you know, the dialogue, she's walking past. And it's like, because I don't even realize I'm saying them out loud, you know, and it's, I'm just doing it and it's you, they just, they do they speak to you and they change. It's like I just this one thing, I just sold it. In the in the first 10 minutes, this guy, this man and woman they meet, and you think they're gonna be this great, this this love stories can be wonderful. And then boom, there's just this like tragic death. It's kind of in a thriller action thing. And by it's a TV show, so near the end of the pilot, she dies. And that's the way it was all planned, that's whales all written. I liked her character so much, and they were so good together, that it was like, okay, we're not going to kill her now, you know, we're gonna change this, because she, she just did things that became so important. And she became such a part of the story that we never intended, I never intended that now, she is kind of the second lead in the show. So she's gonna, you know, it's all gonna work out. So that's, I guess, again, the thing that I say, I don't like to outline don't, I don't want to get too locked in, I would always recommend that to be flexible. You know, just because this is the way you thought you were gonna do it when you started. Don't Don't lock yourself into that, because there's so many moves that can be made. And, and if you find, if, as you're writing, and you find something that wow, this feels like it's really working, and I really like it, that means it's really work. And it's probably good, you know, so keep going, keep that person. If that dynamic, you need those two people to really make it work, then don't get rid of the one person. And so um, so there's, there's all that stuff in and characters again, they just, they evolve, and they write I mean, the way I write is I write as many pages as I can in a day. And then when before I start the next day, I go back and I read all the pages that I wrote the day before, and then I kind of change and I tweak and I do all that stuff in those, those first pages. And I keep going that way. So I'm always rewriting. And like, if I just stuck on page 40, I'll go back to page one, and read all the way through and start making changes. And I just keep doing it.
Alex Ferrari 47:15
So that's kind of so so in your writing process on a daily basis, you let's say you write 20 pages, the next day, you'll you'll come and read those 20 pages, and it's almost kind of like a runway to get you going to the next gen like Dodge, as opposed to just starting cold. Pick it up. Exactly.
Mark L. Smith 47:31
I'm already now Okay, I'm with them. I'm with the journey. Now. It's like I'm going I've got momentum. And so it's like, I just keep going and, and it's a quick read, you know, because you know what's going to happen and stuff, you're just kind of seeing if everything is flowing, and if you bump on anything, and then if not you just like you said to run what you just take off.
Alex Ferrari 47:46
And when I'm writing, you know, when I was writing my my nonfiction and fiction books, I do the exact same thing. Sometimes I'll get caught. And I'm like, Where do I? Where do I go from it? Let me just reread this chapter. And you just start back and it just all of a sudden, oh, there it is. And it just, it's kind of like you're picking up a signal or radio signal almost like your channel.
Mark L. Smith 48:05
Yeah, a little beacon back there, you know that you get Okay, and then I got that now I can go but it is true, there are those little things that that you've put in this first sections that you knew were going to take you to the next ones, you just sometimes have to remind yourself, you know, and just see them again.
Alex Ferrari 48:18
Now another thing and I would love to hear your point because you've you've sold a lot of scripts, you've been working in the business for a long time. When and I'm sure you probably did this originally because if not, you wouldn't have sold your first scripts or options your first scripts with the the way that the script is formatted. I've always heard that you people want to see a sea of white, they want to see as much white as possible not as not a lot of description not a lot of black. Unless and obviously dialogue to a minimum unless you turn into you know, which then you do whatever you want. That's a whole other that's another thing. And then also before I'm gonna just go sign off for a second people are always use quit and Shane Black Sorkin you know, Kaufmann these kind of giants in the screenwriting space and they're like, well, we'll quit and does this and and I was reading a quitting script the other day and there was some grammar grammatical errors. And I always tell them, dude, he could he could misspell every word. And it's still gonna get sold. He's at that place.
Mark L. Smith 49:18
That's that's so that's so exactly right. I mean, you just you don't ever pattern the way you're going to do things the way off you know Tarantino or stalking, you know, it's just you're not gonna be able to and right it's you you do want my thing is always I tried to be as sparse with words. I get very descriptive in my in my action. The because the short
Alex Ferrari 49:43
though but short
Mark L. Smith 49:45
Yeah, it's short, but it's I want people to know I it's like you get one shot at reads and read in a screenplay can be kind of a cold read. You know, it's like it's not. They aren't the warmest emotional thing. So I do add flavor I do. Mine's a little different. There. was an executive at Paramount once that told me that, you know, she got a script without a title page. And she started reading and she knew it was mine, because it was the way it was written and a lot of haze a lot of ellipses and I just, I go, and I continue action and then a lot of dialogue, and I'm, I'm doing action down here and, and I space it out, but I want people to, I want people to really invest, you know, because I've got him for a read. And if I have him for 10 pages, if I don't have after 10 pages, if I don't have him for those 10 I don't have them, you know, and so it's like, you've got to be you want to you want to pull them into the story. And sometimes you just, you know, the description for me helps it more than the dialogue, you know, you can, that was what I was gonna say on some of the ones that I, I kind of got off my path I got early on, I got real, I thought, well, I've kind of figured out the structure and all this, I'm going to get super cute on dialogue. And every single person is going to have all these really snappy lines, and it's going to sound great, and people are gonna love me and think I'm so clever. And what it was, was, every character sounded exactly the same. And they were all annoying, you know, it was just like, oh, enough, enough of the cue banter, you know, and so you just, you don't want to do that you you just want to, again, keep people keep people authentic, you know, keep keep, you know, keep them real.
Alex Ferrari 51:15
Now you you've written a handful of horror scripts and thriller esque scripts in your in your day. In your opinion, what makes a good terrifying film? Or script? Is there an element or a couple elements that you feel? Yeah,
Mark L. Smith 51:31
I mean, you need that kind of cool hook on a horror script, you know, that it's something, you know, like a vacancy where it's like, they know, they're going into the hotel and their cameras, you know, and now, you know, it's gonna be a snuff film. It's weird.
Alex Ferrari 51:44
It's a terrifying concept. Because we've all i think that's another thing, if you feel like you've been there, or are going to be there, like, Look, if there's a giant shark coming after you like, chances are, I'm not going to be that's not gonna happen to me, right. But if but going into a motel on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere,
Mark L. Smith 52:00
a lot of people have done that. Airbnb now or whatever, you know, you don't really know where they are. So that to me was that you get a hook, and it's a hook that people can relate to. And then it goes, everything goes back for me to the characters, you have to then build characters that you care enough about that the audience will care enough about that it matters, whether they get through it or not, you know, that you're rooting for them that because if they're people that you don't care, you might get some jumpscares out of or whatever, but you're not going to be really an audience won't be tense, they won't be frightened. Because they don't really care what happens, you know, the fate of the characters and so that it's it's you just have to you have to write you know, characters that people want, you know, want to love want to protect.
Alex Ferrari 52:41
Yeah, cuz if you think of Well, I mean, the exorcist. I mean, Jesus. I mean, like, that's one of the I mean, you want you want you want to save that little girl.
Mark L. Smith 52:50
Yeah, that's it. I
mean, so that's it so often, that's really what it comes down to. And I mean, any great you know, any great story is really about you just want the people to be okay at the end of it. I mean, if if it's like a thriller, man on fire denville you know, and so we've got a fan, which is just, I just love that film. But these guys these two characters that you care so much about, you know, his journey, and then this little girl in that relationship, and then all the other stuff that happens you're just so tense because you're not tense because the guns are firing, you know, you're not tense, because the cars are flying around. You're tense because the people you care about are in the car or getting shot, you know, and so, it's always you just always have to remember characters is the key.
Alex Ferrari 53:32
Yeah, I mean, you look at you look at something and everyone listening on the show knows that's one of my favorite scripts of all time, Shawshank. I mean, it's all about Tyler Hunter, because it's just, it's, it's about you know, a guy who's been thrown in jail and it's in that what is in the 40s 30s 40s something like that. Yeah, 4050s or something like that takes place. And it's you know, it's a horrible name. Let's I mean, if you think The Revenant was a rough sell, I mean, Shawshank Redemption is even more. But it's all about you. You follow? You know, Andy dufrane you following red? You? It's all about character. The plot is fantastic. Don't get me wrong. Yeah.
Mark L. Smith 54:11
No, it's I feel like it's a near perfect film. I just hate that movie. And it's everything about it. The world the character, you know, and even the stuff you know, that that was, I know was written into that because i've you know, I've read the script and the stuff that you think is just a director's choice, but it was on the page, you know, the, the vibe of what this place feels like and what these guys were, you know, no, it's it's wonderful.
Alex Ferrari 54:36
It's Frank. It's a fab. Frank is Frank. Okay. He does okay. Yeah,
Mark L. Smith 54:40
yeah. I think he's gonna make
Alex Ferrari 54:42
i think i think he's, I think he's gonna make it is gonna be fine. Yeah. That your latest film that just got released a little bit ago, the midnight sky. How did you get involved with that in George Clooney?
Mark L. Smith 54:52
It was I got my manager found the book. It was just this kind of little thing. So I'll book review on it and he sent it To me, and, and I didn't read it for a long time, I was really busy. And I said, I don't think so and everything. And so I slipped it to my daughter, and who she and I actually wrote a script together this shooting summer, but but so she said, she said, You need to read this because you're gonna want to do it. And so and she was right. So I read it and loved the characters loved the setup. And then knew I was gonna change certain things, again, kind of like we're talking about it, it was I, I grabbed hold of, of kind of a core there and then want to do my own thing with it. And so I wrote the script, we sold it to Netflix, just the pitch. I didn't pitch Luckily, but my producers are really good talker. So he loves Netflix. So I wrote it, and then it came out. Okay, and we sent it. We were looking for directors, but we were also thinking about the character of Augustine and who we could get we kept thinking about cloning, we thought well, who's a director that could, you know, that could get George and we didn't think George
Alex Ferrari 56:05
Lucas was the director who could get George George George could get George.
Mark L. Smith 56:10
But, um, so we did, yes. So we sent it, it got to him more for the acting part of it. And then he read it and said, No, but you know, I'd really like to direct it. So there were a few different directors that we're trying to get at that point. And we just loved the, the Clooney package. So we, we we did that. And it came together like incredibly fast. And probably God, three months after I wrote it, it was in pre production, it was like super fast.
Alex Ferrari 56:35
I mean, I remember when when George came out with his first when his first directorial film, the one about the Gong Show guy confessions of vessels of dangerous, dangerous, but I was so blown away by his, by his take his his choices, as a director, he doesn't get as much credit for the directing, because his persona, and his acting is so locked, that shadow is so large that the directing almost gets swallowed up. But man is accomplished director, man really so good.
Mark L. Smith 57:06
There's like an ease to it, which I think is, is sometimes people don't appreciate what the effort that goes into it also is acting as well. No, just is amazing. He makes it look so easy. That it's it is um, you know, it's not always appreciated. But, um,
Alex Ferrari 57:19
and how is it? How is it collaborating with him?
Mark L. Smith 57:22
It was great. It was really great. I mean, it was it was nice, because he loved the script. And he didn't, he didn't want to do a lot to it, you know, like some directors and then he made some tweaks. The biggest changes, I think, we ended up going because Felicity Jones turned out to be pregnant, she, she wasn't pregnant when she was cast. And so the character, her character, Sally was this kind of loner who never wanted a relationship. And everything that we'd built was this idea that she was she was traveling to space and stuff. So she would never have to settle at home and actually have a relationship with another human being. So now suddenly, we had our our character was that and now she's pregnant. And it's like, Wait,
Alex Ferrari 58:00
does that happened? immaculate? conception.
Unknown Speaker 58:05
It's different movie.
Alex Ferrari 58:07
That's a whole nother movie. immaculate conception and space. Somebody pitched that pitch that right now. That's ours. Yeah.
Mark L. Smith 58:17
But it um, so. And then. So George was in London when it happened. And, and he goes, Okay, we've got to make some changes. And I was over here in the States. And so he and Grant Heslov who they've written so much stuff together, I mean, nominee for Oscars and stuff, so they know exactly what they're doing. So they ended up working in the pregnancy angle, I didn't, I didn't do that one. And so the stuff that happened on the ship changed a lot because it became so much more about her pregnancy, because that was such a part of the story, that other stuff that was kind of built in for conflict, and everything kind of lost that. But um, but it was a trade off in some ways, because it was, it probably worked to some advantage, because there was maybe a little more of an emotional thing, because now it's like, you know, there's a child that you're kind of protecting for the future. Also, it's not just a bunch of adults on
Alex Ferrari 59:02
there. It's, it's fantastic. That's it. I mean, you have had a heck of a ride so far. Mark, I have to say,
Mark L. Smith 59:09
I know. And it's fun because it's enabled. I just get to work with this the best you know, it's just really talented people. And it's like all these people that are kind of, you know, walkthrough just watching their films and stuff. And now to be able to actually kind of interact with them and stuff. It's and work with them is really cool. I'm incredibly lucky.
Alex Ferrari 59:28
Yeah, it's and that's what I was gonna I was thought we were going to talk about earlier is there isn't a matter of luck for this. But the thing is, there's no question because there's a there's 1000 other screenwriters who are really good writers. But the differences I feel with is luck, helps once you've prepared for it. And once you you need to help it along. And then certain things kind of like the character in a story. It starts to Miranda but you've got to give it that that push that fuel. Yeah, that's what's writing constantly and getting all Those scripts out and, and putting yourself out there. And that's when these things happen. Because if you don't write those scripts, chances of anyone knocking on you don't go, Hey, can you write a script for Alejandro? and forgot? George? Like, that doesn't work that much. Yeah.
Mark L. Smith 1:00:16
I always took it like the old, you know, the old good fishermen, you know, good guys a lot of lines, you know, yeah. And, you know, you're not gonna, you know, you're probably not gonna get a bite with one. But if you throw out 10 or 12, you thought we cast out those many hooks, then you just your odds increase. And so it's luck. But it's also kind of perseverance is kind of just not never stopping. You know, it's never, like I said, if you if you write one, and then just hand it off, and hope, you know, for the best and, man, if I, you know, I should be lucky enough to get that it's not gonna you know, it's not gonna happen. You've got it, you've got to keep going. Because not only are you increasing your chances for luck, but you're increasing your chance, you're increasing your skill, you're getting better so that the, the fifth sixth one is going to be better than the first one, no matter how much you love the first script. The fifth one's always gonna be better, you know? And so it's just the way it is you everybody gets better when they you know, use the muscles,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:07
and then and also work on a dude ranch, obviously, yeah, that
Mark L. Smith 1:01:12
was one of the things that I one of my early scripts was all on a dude ranch and so did that. But
Alex Ferrari 1:01:16
that gets old did that gets old, it got optioned.
Mark L. Smith 1:01:19
It did never come later. So yeah, so. But it is one of those things that also helps to write what you know. Yeah, I was gonna say that. Yeah. Because, um, it's, it's one reason that I, I've always kind of stayed away from sci fi. So I'm, I'm not, I don't really know, I don't love writing technology technologies. I've always found if I bring into story, I use it as a cheat. You know, it's like, I want people to have to deal with their own emotions and their own conflicts and their own stuff. And I don't want to have to be able to use technology to get in and out of stuff. And I know other great writers smarter than me can use it well, but it was even like on Star Trek, whenever I told a told witness. It's like I I'm not a Star Trek guy. You know, I'm not a big sci fi guy. I know the characters. And I like the relationships and all this and I know about it, but he goes, don't worry about that. I'll take care of all the, you know, the big sci fi stuff and everything. Would you do that? And so you kind of find what you know, when you write what you know, don't try, especially when you're starting out, don't try to try to write something that doesn't feel like a fit. Because if it feels clumsy, it's probably gonna be clumsy at first, you know, just kind of build build up to that.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:20
And I have to ask, because I know, I'll get shot if I don't. How did you get involved with quitting and Star Trek? Like how? Because I've heard of the, I've heard of this, this story in town that, you know, Quinn's gonna make a Star Trek movie and he's writing a Star Trek movie. And it's going to be whatever, like pulp and fiction and space. I don't know. But so how did you and generally couldn't doesn't work with other writers? He generally is a lone wolf like yourself. How did that work? How did you guys get together?
Mark L. Smith 1:02:45
It was it was through JJ Abrams. And so it's through Bad Robot. I've done a few things with them. And so they always they kind of bring me stuff. It was like they had a tough script. Guillermo del Toro that they that he was on and so I worked on that with with him I worked on and then with Edgar Wright on a script with for JJ and stuff, which was another I mean, completely different experience, but just as much fun. But, but Tara Tino was like, he wanted to do this. And then we so we all gather in your room, and we talked about the ways in and so after that, he they just called me it was like the day later and said, Hey, are you up for Do you want to go? And if so, you know, quitting wants to wants to hook up. So I said, Yeah, sure. So and that was were like, one of the first times I ever I guess it was the first day I met when we were in the room. And he's reading a scene that he wrote, and it's like this, this awesome scene, and he's acting it out. And he's doing the book, back and forth. It's like I told him, I said, Man, I'm just so mad at my phone, like, record it. At that point, this would be like, so valuable. It was just amazing. But um, so yeah, so then it was that then I then just we started, where do I go? Right? We hang out. I go hang out his house one one night and watch old gangster films. I mean, we're there for hours. I don't
Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
know what to film on film, obviously, on film. Yeah,
Mark L. Smith 1:04:05
in his little in his theater. He's got this amazing, huge theater attached to his house on film, he actually had his projection is from his theater there on Beverly coming on coming through it. So it's just, you know, we're just kicked back and I watched some gangster films laughing at the bad dialogue, you know, and, and then, but talking about how it would kind of bleed into what we want to do. And so, um, so yeah, then it was it. I don't know. I give it 10% chance that ever gets made. You know, it's one of those things that's so tricky for him to do. It's like if he really wants to, he's got this set limit that he puts on and he keeps, he'll tell me he's got an you know, well, I can say it's not an original so it won't count against my you know, his Yeah. And so, but I think it's, it's, I would love for to happen my god I'd be I'd just be thrilled if it did. But I gotta
Alex Ferrari 1:04:51
I gotta say, though, I mean, when I heard that, I'm like, how is that how is paramount? going to give? Karen Tina one of the most valuable IP They have me Quinn's gonna do what Quinn's gonna do? Like he's not he's not gonna like, you know, kowtow to studio execs on, like, Well, you know, we're gonna make some toys like yet no, it's gonna be full blown open. So how does that like when I heard that I'm like, I want to see it. I'm first in line to see it. But like, how is a giant conglomerate going to give their biggest IP, arguably Paramount's biggest IP? Yeah, to to one of the most Renegade filmmakers of his generation.
Mark L. Smith 1:05:31
Again, it goes to like, you know, guys, like Quentin can do stuff that the rest of us can't, you know, they can get into, they're going to trust him because they know what they're going to get is going to be like, something that's going to be talked about for years. You know, it's it's just and it and it was I mean, the, the script is it is so Tarantino and it's it's hard are and it's violent. And it's you know, it's got all these great elements, and, but and I guess probably too, I mean, I guess they've gone, Paramount has done different things that kind of veered back on Star Trek, they probably feel like Tarantino's worth being able to veer off path and
Alex Ferrari 1:06:07
always be its own thing. It could be its own thing. And in the Zeitgeist of Star Trek, like it's in the Pantheon. It's not going to mix in with Kirk. I mean, maybe it does. I don't know. I haven't read the script. But yeah, no, it does.
Mark L. Smith 1:06:20
Yeah. No, we've got no it's all the characters are there and stuff. And so it would be it would be those guys, but it's like, you know, I guess you look at it probably like, all the episodes of the show didn't really connect, you know, yeah, this will be almost its own episode, you know, and
Alex Ferrari 1:06:39
it's like an adventure. It's like it's a cool episode. It's like an adventure somewhere else that kind of doesn't connect with the rest of the
Mark L. Smith 1:06:45
little time travel stuff going on. There's all this other Yeah, so it's, it's not really just stop it. You're
Alex Ferrari 1:06:49
getting me excited. Stop it, and I'll never ever gonna
Mark L. Smith 1:06:52
get more angry that it has.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
And the more you tell me about it, like what time travel What? What's going on? I need to know. Oh, my God.
Mark L. Smith 1:07:00
It's so great. Yeah, hopefully, fingers crossed. He'll, he'll decide that he gets so bored. And he just he's gonna do it. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:07:06
I mean, it's Yeah. Oh, anyway, Alright, stop. I gotta stop. I can't I can't stop thinking about it. Because it's just gonna get me upset. I'm sure afterwards, you're gonna get quit and what's going on? Man? Are we just happening?
Mark L. Smith 1:07:18
Some angry call from the studio? Wait, what do you know? What are you talking about? You know?
Exactly how secret.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:25
So now, what's next? What are you working on next?
Mark L. Smith 1:07:28
I am doing God. Well, we've got a Daisy Ridley film that's shooting. That's the one I wrote with my daughter Marsh king's daughter starts shooting in June, we hope and it's a little little thriller that we're really excited about. I adapted a book for another book for Clooney called boys in the boat. And that is its true story of the Olympics. 1936 The crew that um, had to go over to Germany to Berlin and kind of these underdog things. It's a it's a really cool sports. You know, I just love how the script turned out. Doing a thing. I did another thing memory wall adapted for a short story that I'm Johan rank the, the director from Chernobyl and everything he's going to, he's going to do and so I don't know another thing for JJ. Couple. I'm doing a couple things with Pete Berg, who I just Yeah, I love Pete Berg. He's insane. He's insane. He's insane. We're doing this. We're doing this as quick story that I'll get out. But the first I'd never met him before. And we were going to do this Western TV show. And I go into his office and I'm just sitting there waiting. And all of a sudden I hear this screaming, yelling and it's like, God, what is going on? And it's getting louder and louder and closer. And all of a sudden the door comes open and Pete Berg runs in with his hatchet. And he's charged him he goes this is the show. This is what we're going to do. This is our show. And so
Alex Ferrari 1:08:58
did you saw yourself sir? Did you saw yourself at that point?
Mark L. Smith 1:09:01
Yeah, okay, sir. Sure. Whatever. But uh, so it was so it's he's so fun. So I'm doing doing a couple things with him and separate Robert Redford. He was going to direct but now he's producing and so yeah, it's um it's it's it's a charmed life. Sir.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:16
You lead it's in pretty.
Mark L. Smith 1:09:19
really lucky I'm waiting for like, my roof to crumble is crashed out.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:22
I have to ask because I have daughters man. What's it like working in writing with your daughter man? Like, I mean, I have young daughters. So they're not the right the stories would be interesting now. Very interesting. They would find that structure might be a little off. But um, but how is it like just on an emotional and creative level as a dad working with someone that you've raised? Like, I'm just curious, this is just purely This is not even for the show. Now. This is just me asked dad. What's it like man?
Mark L. Smith 1:09:52
It was tricky. To be honest. Now it was funny because the we we were adapting a novel but it's about a Father gets out of prison. And he's, you know, they love each other very deeply. And, but he's not a good guy. And so it's really the story is about her trying to, you know, he, she has to kill her father, you know, instead of sending her daughter thing, you know, all these emotions that, you know, all these little secrets that she had about me, you know, she's gonna, it'll all come out. It'll flow easily for but it was, he was really good. She's really good. She she feels a lot of the gaps in my writing, you know, so she, she finds things that kind of keep it going and, and, and really good with female characters and stuff. So that that's good as well. She'd always helped me with stuff. She was always kind of the first person I would send a script to when I was done with it and let her read it and stuff. She went to NYU Tisch, and, um, and majored in writing and stuff up there dramatic. But so, but the process was tricky. Because there would be feelings hurt, it was almost it wasn't unlike, and I, you know, it's like, we can have our arguments, but 100 was always gonna win my daughter, and I learned and I could always have arguments, but I was always gonna win, you know, and so that's just the way it was. And, um, and so, so
Alex Ferrari 1:11:07
you were the 800, you were the 800 pound gorilla in that in that room? Well, 100 was 800.
Mark L. Smith 1:11:14
I know, I wish I thought to kind of do all my, my arguing and like that in all 100 Spanish accent, you know, to really get some flavor. But um, but it was good. And it turned out, it turned out really well. And we've done other stuff together since so it's like, yeah, we haven't killed each other yet.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:30
That's I can imagine that must be tricky. Because even when I I've shot some stuff with my daughters for school, and it's, I'm directing them, and I'm directing them in a scene and it's just like, it's, it's in my wife. It's hard. My wife would be sitting there like, they're not actors. They're your daughters. I'm like, and I'd get frustrated. I'm like, No, you gotta do this. And you're like, they're they're eight.
Mark L. Smith 1:11:56
Luckily, yeah, luckily, I started very young in college, when Lauren was born, so it was, she's she's older so she can take my, my kind of yelling, it's like, No, you know, structure this has to happen by Hey, what are you talking about? You know, so, but it's no, it's, it's really, it's turned out? Well,
Alex Ferrari 1:12:14
fantastic. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. Okay, what are the three screenplays every screenwriter should read? Oh, God.
Mark L. Smith 1:12:24
Oh, man, you pop this on me? See, I would I would point people I would. I would steer people away from a Tarantino script for almost the reasons you were talking about earlier. It's an outlier. He's an outlier. Yeah. You don't want to do that. Because you don't want to pick that stuff up. You don't want to get infected because because you're just not going to do it as well. You know, so you're always gonna write bad parenting and the best you could ever be is a bad parent, you know, and that's like, who wants to do that? Yeah, right. So
I mean, any anything by Sorkin is his he's just so clean and his dialogue so good. Scott Frank, out of sight. Oh, such a good move. Oh, Clooney film? Yeah. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 1:13:08
that thing Soderbergh? Oh, so good.
Mark L. Smith 1:13:10
Yeah. In the writing. It's so that's such
Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
an under that's such an underappreciated film because it wasn't a massive hit when it came out. I mean, in the head, obviously, George and George was George was still George but he wasn't no Ocean's 11 George hitting that he wasn't Ocean's 11 George yet, but he was still George and Jennifer Lopez was just starting to become Jennifer Lopez. And Soderbergh was still started becomes auto Berg as well. So it wasn't, it was a real kind of interesting film. But when you watch it, there's so much style. Some of the dialogue is crisp, it crackles. It's Oh, yeah. The cast line.
Mark L. Smith 1:13:45
No, just amazing. No, it's Yeah. Including I would talk about that one a lot. Because it didn't. To me, it's like it's probably my favorite of his films. And so but um, of the things that he started but its people it did kind of miss you know, it just kind of slipped under the radar. And I'm sure people found it later. But it's got everybody
Alex Ferrari 1:14:04
go watch out. Yeah, watch out. So
Mark L. Smith 1:14:07
via I don't know on screenplays, I'm I'm terrible at that stuff. I mean, I have my writers, you know, the,
Alex Ferrari 1:14:13
the writer so so so. Frank Aaron Sorkin, who else we study? You can't go wrong with Goldman, I guess? No, we've
Mark L. Smith 1:14:23
Goldman's was the guy that Butch Cassidy was the first movie I ever saw. So it's all in the theater. So it holds a special place in my heart. So yeah, Goldman would be the other. I mean, again, you're talking about dialogue and kind of stuff and characters. I mean, those journeys he takes, I mean, film wise, jaws is my film. I mean, that's the that's the that's my go to and um, if somebody is gonna, you know, what's your favorite guys?
Alex Ferrari 1:14:49
Can you kiss because jazz has come up so many times on the show on both my shows and it is as perfect of a film as really you can get I mean, it's such an it's a movie made in the 70s Very few movies hold the way jaw. I mean, go to godfathers and those of course but right. And there's others that the jaws man, it just hold so well. And considering we all know, it was hell. And it wasn't planned this way. And it wasn't like things just happen. It was all the mastery. It was almost like almost like a possession by Spielberg to get that made the way it was because even he thought it sucked.
Mark L. Smith 1:15:27
So scared, I know No. And what's amazing is that it holds up with a mechanical shark that was done in the 70s you know that now you look at you go got that thing. So fake, you know, but it doesn't matter. This, the characters in the story and everything are so great. And it's funny, I bumped into the only time to meet Spielberg. And it was, um, it was at this. This was after the Oscars, it was after the governor's ball and, and revenue just lost this picture. And I was kind of in a lousy mood. And I was I was kind of saying stuff, my wife, we should just go home or whatever. And she said, You better get your act together and appreciate your look over there Spielberg talk and I go, you know, you're right. So I go over, and I just introduce myself and tell him he's, he's the kind of the guy that got me into this. And
Alex Ferrari 1:16:12
I'm sure he's never I'm sure he's never heard that before. Yeah.
Mark L. Smith 1:16:17
But so he goes, Okay, which movie was it? And I said, jobs. And he goes, Okay, so you're a storyteller. And so he just starts going, because he just the judges people, and they're kind of what they see in films by their favorites. And so, so that was kind of a, it was an interesting thing, because I kind of like to do consider myself a storyteller, you know, and so it was, um, it that was that was, that's my Spielberg moment. And my jaws moment. And so it just, even jaws was always there. But it just went a little bit higher after that,
Alex Ferrari 1:16:45
right. And so jaws is number one. Fair enough, that's not a bad number one to have. It's not a bad one. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?
Mark L. Smith 1:16:55
Right, just write every free moment. I mean, just never, you just, that's the only way it's going to happen, you know, you're, you just have to keep, you have to keep producing content. And then once you have that content, send it out. I would also say don't send anything out too soon. You know, if you're, if you're going to write something, and you've got this first draft, you call my God, this is just the best thing and you send it to your, your very best friend, they go, Oh, god, you're genius. You know, this is also great, I would love to see this movie, don't send that to any agents or anybody that you really are going to count on. Because you're going to need to do work, and you're going to look at it yourself three weeks from now and think, Oh, God, I've got to fix that, you know, I always when I wrote it, I would set it aside. And, and then I would come back to it, I write I set aside, I'd start working on something else, that pull that one out and go through it and make all the changes that I want to make for ever let anybody read it. And, um, it's really important. So it's, you just, you just want to make sure that you um, I guess it's, if you want to be a writer, you got to love writing, you know? So it's like, you're going to be doing it a lot. And so if you find that it's a chore, and you don't want to sit down and put in and write the words and look at those blank pages. And then you're probably you're not gonna be great at it, because you're not going to want to do it for very long, you know, and I guess maybe that's what that instructor know that first guy that if I when he said to me, none of you guys are going to ever write a script, you think you are but you're not. It's probably what he was thinking. Because it's just, it's not for everyone, you know,
Alex Ferrari 1:18:28
but but there are moments I'm assuming, even in your writing, where you just don't want to sit down is there or do you always like, there's moments you're like, Oh, God, I can't crack that next scene. I don't want to go in there right now. I mean, there has to be those moments, right?
Mark L. Smith 1:18:42
Every right. There's our I usually I try to have two things going. Now that never I slam into a wall here. It's like, Okay, let me go over here, because I'll beat my head against you for two or three days and realize I'm not getting anywhere. So I'll jump in this one. Fine, kind of get my flow. And then I'll go back here and do that thing where I read through again, it's like, oh, yeah, that and then gets me through it. And so it's it is kind of nice to have to
Alex Ferrari 1:19:03
know. And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Unknown Speaker 1:19:11
Oh my god.
Mark L. Smith 1:19:14
I'm a slow learner. It really, I think it probably comes to if you think you're good at it doesn't mean it's gonna be easy. You know, I think that's what really took me a while to figure out it was like, wait, I'm writing this stuff, and it's good. And I know it's pretty good. You know, people are telling me is good, but why isn't Why isn't it selling or why isn't getting made? You know, why are they making this instead of that? And you just have to realize you have you kind of just have to trust yourself and kind of the process is isn't simple. And so you just you've got to you got to be in for the ride and and know that, you know that to be patient. You know, I guess maybe patience is the thing to learn because it's it's The good stuff rarely happens easily and quickly. You know, and it's, um, you know, the stuff, the stuff that you remember. I mean, Revenant meant so much more to me because it took seven years to get made than it would have if it got made in this first six months. You know, it's like, it was such a journey and these things that you fight with, and that you just, you know, so and patients because it's at ups and downs, so you just gotta, you just gotta be able to ride them all pay
Alex Ferrari 1:20:25
me I'm telling you, patience is my anytime I asked to answer my own question. It's like, it's patience, man. I it's never gonna go as fast as you think it's gonna go and it's it will probably go slower. And then your thinking is going to be at every level.
Mark L. Smith 1:20:40
Yeah, no, and you can't even sometimes get sucked into where, you know, like, oh, wow, these two things happen quick. Now. I've figured out the way it's gonna work. So they're all gonna happen now. It's just the next one's gonna stop and it'll be three or four years, you know? So
Alex Ferrari 1:20:51
that's amazing. The Mark, man, thank you so much for being on the show, bro. It is
Mark L. Smith 1:20:55
no, no, this was so great. No, I thank you for inviting me. Yeah, this was this was really fun. And as we're talking, I'm just, I'm admiring your room. I love all that stuff. But no, this was this was so great. And please, next time you talk to Suzanne, tell her I said hi.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:13
I will. Thanks again.
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