Alan Trezza wrote WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS, a horror-thriller set during the “Satanic Panic” craze of the 1980s. It was directed by Marc Meyers (MY FRIEND DAHMER) and starred Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson and Johnny Knoxville.
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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Yeah, when you started working that first job as an assistant, what are some of the lessons that you pulled out of there? About just the business in general? What are those things that that they don't tell you about in film school but they you know, the hard knocks the shrapnel as I call it, that you get what are those things that you got in that first job.
Alan Trezza 0:21
Relationships are everything cannot meet enough people, your Rolodex cannot be big enough. Every moment you're not at the desk should be a moment spent having lunch with someone new cocktails with someone new dinner with someone new, or, you know, going on a hike with someone that you hadn't met prior or someone who's a friend of so and so's. So your network can never be fast enough or large enough. It really is a business built on relationships.
Alex Ferrari 0:55
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome to the show Alan Trezza. How you doin Alan?
Alan Trezza 1:10
I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me Alex.
Alex Ferrari 1:12
Thank you so much for coming on the show man. I appreciate I appreciate you coming on. And you reached out to me that you've been listening to a couple of episodes recently and gotten hooked. So I appreciate that.
Alan Trezza 1:23
Definitely, definitely. Yeah, it's actually funny. It was the episode with Carrie woods that really sort of got me thinking about my crazy journey, becoming a writer and a filmmaker and a producer. Because my first internship during my senior year of college was actually for Woods entertainment, which was Carrie woods, this company. So it just really got me thinking about the old days and the crazy journey that I've been on. So yep. And then, ever since then, I've just been listening to all the past podcasts. And like I said, I read your book shooting for the mob, which I thought was one of the most true accounts of trying to get a movie made. And just been a fan ever since.
Alex Ferrari 2:04
I really appreciate that man. Yeah, I some people after they read that book, or while they're reading it, they call me up and like, I don't know, if you're gonna make it. I'm like, I made it. I trust me, I made it through.
Alan Trezza 2:15
Yeah, yeah, you made a positive out of a big negative, which is a lot of a lot of what it takes to make it in this industry, because there's more negatives than there are positives. But if you can change those negatives into a positive, then you're on the right track.
Alex Ferrari 2:30
So why in God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity that is the film industry, sir?
Alan Trezza 2:36
Why? Well, because when I was 11 years old, I saw a Clockwork Orange, and
Alex Ferrari 2:42
Stop for a second 11 years old, you saw Clockwork Orange?
Alan Trezza 2:45
Yes, I did
Alex Ferrari 2:46
Your parents are, your parents are awesome.
Alan Trezza 2:48
My parents did not know about. It was a big secret for many, many years. But I saw that movie. And for most people that that can also be seen as a negative, but I turned it into a positive because it made me realize that films were not just about special effects, and jokes, it films were a way of communicating ideas and thoughts and taking chances and asking tough questions. And it was really an eye opener. As you can imagine, I had been an 11 year old and seeing that film. Let me just just the first 10 minutes. And I, I just said to myself, how did this come into existence? Who's responsible for this? And of course, it was Stanley Kubrick. So I would go to the library and pull every book on him and then go through his entire ova. You know, Barry Lyndon in 2001, A Space Odyssey and the shining. And each and every film was more experimental different than the last, constantly pushing boundaries and in a way perfect. He made perfect films, in my opinion. You can improve upon them. They're the best versions of those stories. And ever since then, I've sort of been infatuated with films and making movies and that's what led me on this journey.
Alex Ferrari 4:11
So how did you get into this insanity?
Alan Trezza 4:14
Well, yeah, um, you know, I'm from Long Island. It's about as far away from Hollywood as as you can possibly get. But I went to college in New York City at Fordham University, and took every film course possible. My weekends were spent with a Super Eight camera and making movies with classmates. And then also, like I said, you know, getting an internship or was entertainment and working for Kerry Woods, who, at the time was one of the most incredible producers. He was responsible for night Shawn Mullins first movie. You know, Scott Rosenberg's first scripts he produced, he produced scream, Cop Land James Mangold movie. So I really wanted to learn, you know what it was like to get in on the ground. on floor and working for Woods was was incredible upon graduating Karis VP gave me a list of names of executives in Hollywood because I was really thinking about making a move out here where I am currently. And the top name on the list was Robbie Brenner. Robbie Brenner was an executive at Miramax Films at the time, and flew out here with a one way ticket, stayed on a few couches and eventually got an interview with Robbie, and got the job to be her assistant. And the first script that Robbie gave me and this is in the late 90s. I think this is 1999. The first script that Robbie gave me to read and cover was the Dallas Buyers Club. And she said read this Alan, I'm going to make this one day. Flash forward to 2014. It's the Oscars and she's nominated for Best Picture. And Robbie told me a very valuable lesson. She said, This business is all about passion. If you have passion for material, if you have passion for filmmaking and film, and films, you're going to make it and she's been an incredible mentor. Now she's running the film division at Mattel. And she's in London making Barbie right now with a Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie. So that's what sort of got me started. And I was on a executive path for a long time. I was a development executive for Drew Barrymore of flower films, which was incredible. And one day I get a call and it's Robbie again, saying that Tony and Ridley Scott are looking for a development executive. I said, Great. Good luck finding one for them. She goes, No, I'm calling because you're the guy. And I was like, Well, I kind of been hanging out with Drew for a while, you know, working on some rom coms and stuff. She goes, No, no, no, no one loves movies like you. They love movies, you love movies, you have that in common. It's hard to find out here. So four months of interviews later, I was working at scot free with Tony and Ridley, you know, my heroes. And that was an incredible experience. But all the while I kind of wanted to make my like my own stories and write my own sort of tie tales and movies. So when one day I had the idea to write a short film about a guy whose ex girlfriend comes back as a zombie, and can't get rid of our cat killer. So what C to do, and that turned into a short film called bearing dx, which played out a few festivals. And a few years after that ended up getting made as a feature film directed by another one of my heroes, Joe Dante. So that's what got me started.
Alex Ferrari 7:44
Yeah, well, and we'll get we're definitely gonna dive into buried with the axes. I'm really interested in that story. But I didn't know that you worked with Ridley and Tony. So I have to ask, what is it like working with those legends? You know, you know, Tony, you know, rest his soul was he literally changed action movies made. The moment he made Top Gun. Yeah, all action movies changed. And then a few years later, Michael Bay showed up with the rock and bad boys and then all action films, Jason again. But Tony was one of those guys that just even to the very end, he was more experimental than any of his younger contemporaries. I mean, you look at Domino, you look at on fire man on fire. He was doing things that nobody else had the balls to do. I mean, he was he was on the edge creatively and also technically just stuff that he was doing with the film. So what was it like working with Tony and then obviously Ridley's?
Alan Trezza 8:39
Yeah, really changed the game? And in the Sci Fi field, the epics. What was it like, you would not know from being in a room with them that they were the legends that they are. That's to say, the most down to earth, the most jovial, the most approachable, people you can imagine. So much so that I had to like, at times remind myself, oh my god, I'm across the table from the guy who made Blade Runner, or I'm across across the table, from the guy who made Crimson Tide. I remember one day, you know, and they were just like, like Robbie told me they just love movies. So they would come into my office at various times just to talk about movies. And hey, did you see this or what have you seen that you liked? And we were just kind of go on and on and on. And every once in a while I have to be like, Oh my God, that's Ridley Scott talking to me. Because they they're just so so down to earth and they were so cool. And one of the greatest compliments I can give them is, you know, they were very close, but you could not get more different in terms of their art. Right? Or, you know, I mean, most people are sort of, you know, carbon copies of their siblings and stuff like that. But you could not get more different than than Tony and read but they were each incredible at what They did. And just so funny and so witty, but always, always strive for perfection. They always strive for perfection, but at the same time tried to have a good time during that, that that mission that they were after.
Alex Ferrari 10:14
Was there any creative lessons you learned, it's ours, how they worked, how they broke down a script, what they, they looked at, at story, how they trip up, I'm assuming you, you were there, from the script point all the way to when you saw something actually get produced and how it might have changed. Along the line looking through their lenses. What are those things that you learned there?
Alan Trezza 10:35
Yeah, with Tony with Tony, it was a lot about character. It was character, character, character character. First, if we can fall in love with the character, we'll be along for the ride. The character's journey is the story. Ridley, of course, is more of a world builder. So he was really interested in the world and the milieu and the setting and the time period. And tons of research had to go into to Robin Hood and to gladiator and getting all those details correct. If he had a handle on the world, he had a handle on the story. And with with Tony, it was more about character character. So that's that's sort of what I learned from both of them and trying to merge the two in order to make something new, truly remarkable.
Alex Ferrari 11:19
When you started working that first job as an assistant, what are some of the lessons that you pulled out of there? About just the business in general? What are those things that that they don't tell you about in film school, but they you know, the hard knocks the shrapnel as I call it, that you get what are those things that you got in that first job.
Alan Trezza 11:40
Relationships are everything, you cannot meet enough people, your Rolodex cannot be big enough. Every moment you're not at the desk should be a moment spent having lunch with someone new cocktails with someone new dinner with someone new, or, you know, going on a hike with someone that you hadn't met prior or someone who's a friend of so and so's. So your network can never be fast enough or large enough. It really is a business built on relationships. And then again, perseverance, you know, a lot of the people that were coming up back then, who are now you know, very big stars now in the filmmaking world and the producing world, were people that just hustled I mean, they were just constantly constantly pushing that, that mountain that, that rock up that mountain, you know, the Sisyphus example, just constantly, constantly doing and, and then, you know, again, the passion, the people with a passion for it, the people who, when you when they got on the phone, and they were pitching you something, they weren't like car salesmen. They were really, really in love with what the script that they had, or the idea that they wanted to give you. So those were the the main main lessons.
Alex Ferrari 13:00
You mentioned, networking and building relationships, which is such a such a crucial part of our business. And I've discovered that years ago, how do you do it properly, in your opinion, because I found so many young writers, young filmmakers, young actors, they walk up to someone like you or me at a party, and they just start like, hey, read my script, hey, do this for me, Hey, can you connect it to this guy? I mean, you have no idea how many emails I get on a daily basis after like, someone comes on my show. And they're like, Hey, can you send this script to John Leguizamo? I'm like, no. That's not the way the world works. Can you explain to them how you should actually build and actually network and how to build authentic relationships?
Alan Trezza 13:43
Yeah. Well, to go back to Carrie woods, I got that internship from a cold call. I had actually seen screen at a test screening and said this is going to change genre movies. Who's involved in this? Okay, Wes. I know about Wes, Kevin Williamson, this up and coming screenwriter, but who's the person who kind of made the movie who produced it. And I saw that it was Carrie woods. I can't remember how I got the number. But he just so happened to have had an office in Chelsea, you know, not too far from Fordham University where I was going to school. And I found that number and I cold called and I just think there was something in my voice that was very honest, that I was very, you know, in very passionate about this business, and I wanted to be a part of it. And I think that that's something that you can't fake and whenever I'm approached by someone, and I can sense that passion, and I can sense that authenticity, then I'm more than likely to you know, engage. And then as I said, it's the sort of the used car salesman mentality or the people who sort of want to be in it for alternative reasons. They're going to have a more difficult time because we can sense that we have very good sort of BS detectors, right? So if they come at you being honest and true and just authentic and saying, Look, I know you don't know me, but I really want to do this. It's been my dream. And I've been writing scripts for X number of years. I think this one is the one which please read it. That's different than. So this isn't my first script. But it's incredible. And it's a masterpiece. And I'm going to be Kubrick one day, and Aronofsky wants to produce my first movie. And I've got CAA calling me and I've also got, you know, ICM calling me, it's kind of like, right, who are you going to trust more with? So if you're authentic, if you're honest, and if you're respectful to you know, respect people's times, respect people, you know, their privacy, I think you're going to be okay.
Alex Ferrari 15:53
You said something really important that I want to kind of dig into a little bit authenticity, not only the authenticity of when you're trying to pitch to not pitch somebody but trying to build a relationship to be truly authentic and being of service to that person. But do you believe that the reason for the people who succeed in our business is because of their own authenticity? Ridley and Tony, were authentic to who they were, they were not trying to be anybody else. Carrie Woods was not trying to be anybody else. You have not tried to be anybody else. That is the secret sauce that kind of sets us all apart from everybody else. Because if we all tried to be Quentin Tarantino, it's not going to work out.
Alan Trezza 16:30
Yeah, there was already one Quentin Tarantino
Alex Ferrari 16:32
He does a pretty good job with that.
Alan Trezza 16:34
That's right. Well, look, the best example I can give you as a personal example. I've been writing scripts for many, many, many years, and I've sold a few. The two that I've had made so far, were the ones I thought no one would be interested in. They were the ones only I was interested in. Okay. You know, a comedy about a guy whose ex girlfriend comes back as a zombie that was written before the Walking Dead was the number one show on TV that was written before zombie land that was written before World War Z. I wrote that because it was a story that I had that I wanted to see. And if I couldn't see it, at least it'd be there on paper. And if I wanted to see it, I could read it and picture it in my head. That one got made. My second film we Psalm in the darkness takes place in the 80s. It's about heavy metal and the Satanic Panic. That was written before Stranger Things that was written before the whole 80s Wave. I simply sat down and wanted to write a movie, I wanted to see a movie that was personal to me. I grew up in the 80s. I was in a heavy metal band, I had a lot of people thinking that I was a Satanist because I listened to Kane diamond. And I wanted to write a story about that, that ended up getting made. The other scripts that I sold, I've sold scripts to Paramount, I sold scripts to Miramax, those are on the shelf somewhere. They're commercial, for sure. And they ended up getting at studios. But as I said, it's the ones that were more personal to me that there was just some driving force behind them and other people got on board. And we pushed that mountain up that hill, and we got those movies made. So I think there's something to be said about that.
Alex Ferrari 18:14
So let's talk about Yeah, first step first film buried with the X urinate during the ex. That was short that you made first, right? So you produce a short How do you get the short? Yeah, to a feature which so many people listening have tried to do that myself included, by the way, trying to make short films to get an act to get a shot at a feature. So you didn't just get a feature. You also got it directed by a legend by the legendary Joe Dante. So what was the story from the short to the feature and getting Joe involved?
Alan Trezza 18:47
Okay, cool. So, the short, is something I'm extremely proud of. I directed it, I was one of the producers on it, I wrote it. We had a fantastic cast. The lead was John Francis Daley, from fixing geeks fame. Now a very, very famous writer, director. He's directed he's directing Dungeons and Dragons right now with Chris Pine. And one of the other leads was Daniel Harris from the Halloween franchise. You know, one of my favorite actresses growing up because I love those those movies so much. But I hadn't made that film just by calling in favors. As I said, everyone I knew everyone I had met along the way. And every company I worked with, I ended up getting a shot on the Paramount Genesis camera, which was incredible camera at the time. Yeah, my DP had a great relationship with Panda vision. And yeah, we got the panda vision genesis for a weekend. Just kind of checked it out and was like, oh, bring this back on Monday. gave it back on Monday. But yeah, that got made it was 15 minutes and played at a number of festivals, I think I think people really liked the tone, the energy. And of course, the cast was pretty cool and recognizable. We played at ComiCon and several other festivals. But the first step was really adapting it into a feature, I wasn't going to give it to an agent and say, Here's my short, make a feature of it, they needed sort of like a proof of concept, they needed a script. So before doing that, I sat down, and I had to kind of break apart that 15 minute short and see, okay, what's the story here, where's the 90 minute version of this movie, and a lot of changes had to take place, you know, and in a lot of ways, I have to kind of forget the short and start from scratch. But you know, after about three or four months of writing, I came up with a 90 minute screenplay that I gave to a bunch of friends. And they were very honest with me, they said, this is actually really, really funny. I left that almost every page. And, and after that, it was just the search for money. Of course, of course, we tried going out to studios, and there was some interest because at the time, this was at the time when like the studios had like their sort of their mini kind of genre divisions of their companies. I think like Paramount had one Fox had one Paramount Vantage. Atomic, I remember Fox comic. Yeah, they were kind of close on it, they because I mean, you know, it was, could be made for, you know, a good budget and which genre and, you know, comedic, so yeah, it just clicked all the boxes. But at the end of the day, they ended up passing. So we tried the studio route passed, again, is the passion to try to get it made that made me say, Okay, make this independently, you know, a lot of your favorite movies are the independent films and you know, out of Sundance and other festivals, maybe this one could be yours. So went to every AFM, which is the American Film Market that's which is in Santa Monica, California, once a year for about a week. People from all over the globe get together and they sell their movies and stuff like that. So I'd sneak in there because a badge is like $400 or something. So I kind of sneak in or just try to mingle with people. And eventually, thankfully, I did meet some producers, Carl Evanson, and Kyle tequila, they had a company, and they were based out of Texas, and they really believed in it, and they were getting a company together and thought that this could be made for a price. And they came on board and soon thereafter got the Joe's hands. I was meeting with Joe Dante, you know, the next day, couldn't believe it. I screwed up the first two minutes of the meeting, because I sat down and they said, I have to tell you. I was 13 years old when I saw the Halloween. And you could just see Jeremy like, Oh, God, thanks a lot for that. Like that, and I saw how far it goes. Thanks for making me feel alone. I said no, I didn't mean it like that. It didn't mean like that I meant is the best world transformation I've ever seen even better than John Landis is American Werewolf in London. Since then, you know, that was years and years ago, we're still friends, and we still email each other. And he's, he's just an incredible human being. But yeah, it was it was many, many years of just, as I said, networking, going places, meeting new people who's got money, who's interested in a zombie pick, this, this and that. And then finally, I remember you know, the movie had some starts and then stops and then starts and then stops. And then when I thought the movies, when I thought the movie was was basically dead and gone. World War Z came out, and ended up being the highest grossing film of Brad Pitt's career. And the next day, we got a call from some financers, who said, We hear you got a zombie pick. When can you get started? And we were like, yesterday, and they said, Go and we were shooting that movie. And that's how that happened.
Alex Ferrari 24:09
So between the moment that you finished the short to the moment you started production, how many years?
Alan Trezza 24:18
Conservatively five. I would say conservatively five.
Alex Ferrari 24:23
So this is the question I have to ask you, man. And this is such an important question because so many of us have to go through this. How did you get through those five years? How did you get the energy to continue to push this boulder up a hill with no no indication per se that it was actually going to get to its destination you had you had Joe Dante? Great. That's awesome. You had some elements to get the thing going, but even after the first year or two, you're just like, okay, is this gonna happen? Like how psychologically how did you get through it?
Alan Trezza 25:01
You know, I mentor a lot of kind of young up and coming screenwriters because I want them to learn the lessons that took me sometimes years to learn, I want them to learn it, you know, in an instant, to save them a lot of the hardships. The hardest part about making a movie is finding an idea that you fall in love. That's the hardest part. Okay. And if you have that, you're already on your way. Because in a lot of ways, it's like a marriage, there's gonna be some good years, there's gonna be some bad years. But if you truly love that idea, you're gonna stick with it. And that's the best analogy I can give you. Look, if it was an idea that I wasn't truly and head over heels in love with, we wouldn't be talking about this movie right now. Right? But it was a movie, it was an idea that I truly loved. And like with any relationship, there's going to be incredible highs and devastating lows. And it's just a matter of sticking by with, you know, the person that you fell in love with, or the idea you fell in love with. There's something there that keeps you going. Okay, and that's the idea. So if anyone's having writer's block, or, you know, doesn't have the energy to sort of get up and keep going. Odds are, they're not truly head over heels in love with the idea. But this was an idea that I was in love with. So I stuck with it.
Alex Ferrari 26:25
So were you on set, most of the time when you were making that film
Alan Trezza 26:29
Every single day. And Joe was incredibly collaborative.
Alex Ferrari 26:33
So I So question number one, there's always that day that the whole world is coming crashing down around you. How did you see how did if it was something that happened to you? Or was something that happened to the production or to Joe? And how did that person or that situation? How did you get through to the other side of that?
Alan Trezza 26:54
Well, thankfully, how I got through how we all got through was Joe. He was the captain of the ship, and the captain can not show nervousness, anxiousness, anger, or any type of anxiety or doubt. And Joe never did. And I remember I was on day two, which is usually on day two that I have found from, you know, the two movies that I've I've made. That's kind of, it's going to dictate where your movies kind of going day to day one, there's a lot of excitement, there's energy, you know, day two, you're kind of like more into it, but you're starting to kind of see where some of the cracks might be. So when day One day two came along, I remember, one of the producers came rolling up in a giant Escalade, and came and said that they wanted to talk to Joe and I said, Oh, here we go dope. And up until that time, you know, they had, like, happens to most independent films, they had slashed our budget, a pretty good amount. And we could only shoot with one camera. And we only had 20 days to shoot the film. So 20 days, one camera. Two cameras would be ideal, right? So you can get more coverage, you know, half the time, but one camera 20 days. I said, Okay, this thing is gonna look like clerks, unfortunately. What are you gonna do? Right? You can only put it down on sticks and shoot, and then kind of you can't get too creative, right? And I also think they like, got rid of our steadicam. I think they got rid of some dolly tracks.
Alex Ferrari 28:32
The point of doing this, Dennis, come on, man. We're all here. We're on the party's here. Let's all get this just do it. Right?
Alan Trezza 28:39
Well, they just needed to slash and burn. So then day two comes around. And one of the producers comes and an Escalade and wants to talk to Joe and I said, Oh, here it is, you know, he probably saw the dailies says everything looks really static. And what the heck are you guys doing? And I'm going to cut more, you know, I'm going to cut your days. So he asked to talk to Joe and they go in the corner. And I see Joe talking to this producer and the producer is kind of waving his hands like this. I only like that. Oh boy, oh boy. He's asking why the footage looks so static and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then, about two minutes later, the producer shakes Joe's hand, waves goodbye, gets in the Escalade and drives away. And then I said, I went to jail. I said, what's going on? Is everything. Okay? He goes, Yeah, yeah. He says the footage looks amazing. He says I'm making a two and a half million dollar movie looking like a $5 million movie. And how do I get it to look like a $10 million movie? And I said give me another camera. Give me a Steadicam and give me some dolly tracks. It goes cool. You got it. And then the next day we had our the next day we had our Steadicam and we had our dolly track and we had our B camera. So yeah,
Alex Ferrari 29:53
That's isn't that the way it works is it is just so fascinating. That's just the way like we are I got producers financier, sometimes it just drives me absolutely bad. What was you know, working with Joe, what was the biggest lesson you took away from just it just working with someone like that it's such a close, you know, such a close collaborative way.
Alan Trezza 30:13
Best idea wins. That's, that's the best lesson doesn't matter if it comes from a PA, craft services, the ad script supervisor best idea wins. So keep an open set, you know, encourage collaboration, encourage freedom with the words with the script. With the story, you'll never know what you might find. The document the script is a is a is a fluid document. So what's funny is when I'm when I was shooting Burien. And when I was shooting, we summon the darkness. The person who asked for the most changes to the script was actually me. Because I was seeing how the actors were portraying the characters and I was seeing what they were bringing to it. And I wanted to bring out more of it. So I would constantly be changing dialogue and pages and have new pages. Because as I said, The movie takes a life of its own. It's not it's not on 120 pages or 90 pages of paper anymore. It's now flesh and blood. So you have to adapt to that. And yeah, that's that's what I learned from Joe.
Alex Ferrari 31:21
Now, how did you get your next film off the ground? Which also sounds like like you said, on paper, you had other ones much more commercial? How did this one get produced?
Alan Trezza 31:33
Right. So with, it's called, we summon the darkness, again, I wanted to write something that could be made. So minimal locations, not a lot of effects. But with really, hopefully, good characters, good story, and, you know, some good twists, and ended up writing we some in the darkness. Same thing, it was an idea that I fell in love with. It was something I really wanted to see come to fruition. So then I started to reach out to some producers that I had met along the way. The first person I called was a producer named Christian or Machida who was a very, very big genre fan, worked on a ton of genre movies. And I said, I think I think this guy might be the right person. I think he might see what I'm trying to do here. Because it was very specific. It was a very kind of specific genre specific tone specific time period. Again, like I said, this is before Stranger Things. There's before at the 80s were super cool. And I remember we had lunch one day, and he walked in wearing a faith, no more t shirt. And I said, Okay, that's cool. I dig them. And we just had a great talk for about two hours. And it was kind of like an informal job interview in a way, you know, because I didn't bring up the script right away. It was only like in the last 10 minutes. I said, Well, I've got something and it's a little weird. It's a little strange. It's a little unique. But here it is. And he said, I think that sounds really cool. And two days, I sent him the script. And two days later, he said I'd like to talk to you about this, I think I think he got something. So we worked on it together a little bit. He helped develop it definitely. And then he sent it out to his network of people. It ended up getting on the blood list, not the blacklist, the blacklist is you know, the list of Hollywood's you know, favorite unproduced scripts. The blood list is the year end list of unproduced genres scripts that people really love. So it ended up on there, which ended up getting more reads. And we just started to put this movie together little by little, we needed some extra help in terms of the financing. So I called up the producer of my last film, I called up Kyle tequila. And I said, Kyle, you know, I know how hard you worked on burying the ex. I know how, like when the going got really rough that you just put it all out there. You just risked everything to get this thing going. Would you do the same thing for this? And he said, he goes, alright, if if I read it, and if I like it, I'm all in. I said, Well, that's why I'm calling you. So he read it. He liked it. And sure enough, he was all in so we had this little team now Christian, Kyle and myself. And then the search for a director began and that that took a long, long time whereas with burying the ex Joe Dante was pretty quick to come on board. We went through I think about five directors. That's including a directing team. So that's two so ultimately, again lot of highs a lot of lows you know you're working with a director one day for several several months only to have their managers call you up and say yeah, they just got offered a film at Universal and it's shooting next month. He's gonna have to drop out. Needless to say that film at Universal never got made. So and And we would say that we would say is it is it real? And managers would say yes, it's 100% real, that film ever got made, but we still lost the director as a as a result. And then finally, when we again just when we thought the movie was done and over, it was just before Christmas break. I think it was 2017 just before Christmas break, and Kyle and Kristian, call me and they said we saw a movie called my friend Dahmer. I said, I know that when they played at Sundance, it's really, really quite amazing. It's about Jeffrey Dahmer, but when he was in high school, told from the eyes of his best friend, and I said, Yeah, that movie is actually kind of amazing. We've been looking at these genre filmmakers, like these kind of genre film festival kind of guys who were making a big splash. But he was like, a real, like arthouse filmmaker, a real sort of character driven filmmaker. His name was Mark Myers. And I said, well, good luck getting him. Because he makes like real movies like we're looking for like a genre fun genre film. It's a no he likes it. And I got on the phone again, it was just before Christmas. Within five minutes, Mark says, I think the script you know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of a clockwork orange. And then yeah, I remember. We were all in separate parts of the world. I mean, Mark is New York, New York City based and I'm in the valley in California. Kyle, I think is the most fearless and I remember texting Kyle and Christian, holy shit. And, again, it was the passion in Mark's voice. It was the authenticity. At the end of that call. I said, Mark, you and I will make this movie together. And he goes, Yeah, cool. Let's make a movie. Less than a year later, we are in Manitoba, Canada making the movie.
Alex Ferrari 36:57
That's amazing how. So from that point, because this was done independently. How did you get it to Netflix? Because that's another journey, I'm assuming as well.
Alan Trezza 37:05
Yeah, so thankfully, Mark directed the hell out of the film. We had an incredible cast. Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson Johnny Knoxville, amazing cast incredible production. Incredible acting, just mark made such a fantastic movie that really struck a chord with people. And we ended up getting a deal with a film distribution company, Sivan films, and they were the ones responsible for getting it released all over the world. And on Netflix, it was supposed to have a very nice theatrical run. However, it was slated for a theatrical run in April 2020, just when the pandemic hit. And I remember we got a review from Olynyk Lieberman and variety, a fantastic review. And he said I'm the only sad thing about this is that this, this will get a theatrical review. And if anything is meant to be played in with an audience of raucous film goers, it's this movie. So that that was unfortunate, but who knows, you know, it could still play on the midnight circuit, you know, somewhere down the line as a cult moving?
Alex Ferrari 38:20
Is there anything that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career?
Alan Trezza 38:27
Just that is going to be 10 times harder than you thought it would be? And that you'd work 10 times harder than you thought you ever would. And not all hard work is rewarded. A lot of the times a lot of the times that we reward a lot of times the reward has to come from the work itself. Right. So as you said, so what kept me through, you know, what got me through the years of trying to make bearing the acts, are we some in the darkness, it was, well, I had this document, I had the script. And I remember, Christian would say like, sometimes he would just read it just to read it because it would make him smile, you know. So a lot of the times the reward comes out of the work itself or the reward comes from, you know, I got a piece of fan art about three or four weeks ago from someone who had seen we some of the darkness and they just loved it so much that they they drew like a mock poster of it and gave it to me and that's it. That's That's an incredible thing, you know, so not all not the rewards won't come in the way that you expect them to. But their rewards, they're just have to know how to recognize them.
Alex Ferrari 39:42
Isn't it interesting that most people in general, but specifically in the film industry, they work towards a goal and if they don't get the goal, they're unhappy. But the majority of people in the film industry don't get to their goals, not the goals that they set out in Maybe other goals, maybe other situations, maybe other opportunities. But generally speaking, all of us, I think, at one point or another said, we're going to be Steven Spielberg, we're going to be Stanley Kubrick, we're going to be Eric Roth, we're going to be whoever that person is that you idolize. We generally, almost always never get to that place. But we get to wherever we're supposed to be. But so much of our journey is depressing. Many times, because we don't focus on the journey, we focus on the destination. And if you would have focused on the destination with these two projects, you wouldn't have made it you were actually focused on like, just the enjoyment of whatever you'd say the joy of it. But the process is that a fair statement?
Alan Trezza 40:47
100% 100% Yeah, it was the, like I said, I wrote the movies that I wanted to see. And even if I didn't get to see them on the big screen, or on a 60 inch flat screen, they still existed in my mind, and on paper.
Alex Ferrari 41:05
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter or filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Alan Trezza 41:14
Okay, for screenwriters. Find that idea that you fall head over heels in love with? Don't chase the marketplace? Okay? Don't try to be the next. You know, don't try to write the next Marvel movie. Okay, they they've already got the next five years of Marvel movies already lined up. And if you really think about it, if you really think about it, look at who Kevin Feige is hiring to write and direct these Marvel movies. Is he direct? Is he hiring the big tentpole folks, the people who have made those 100 300 400 $500 million grossing movies? Or is he hiring someone like pica? What TD is he hiring someone like James Gunn, he's hiring people with unique and original voices. Okay? That's the trick, find your voice. Okay, if you have something to say, and only you can say it, and you have an idea, and you're the only person that can execute that idea. That's what you should do. Okay? Because that's how you'll get noticed. That's how you'll get a meeting at Marvel or any other place because they've got all the big action guys they've got all the big dialog guys are the the next Tarantino is and stuff but what they're really looking for is a unique original voice who could take a property like for and bring a whole new life, right? Or take a properly like the Guardians of the Galaxy, and just completely up end, you know, that whole franchise? So that's my advice for screenwriters do not chase the marketplace. Work on your voice. You know, when you're talking to friends when your friends are like your seniors, you're so funny because only you do this or you think this way. Okay. What is it that that that that gives you your voice? What is it that your friends are constantly entertained by? That's your voice work on it, find it take chances, don't worry about selling. Okay. And then for filmmakers out there again, it's it's the network of people it's about getting seen by as many people as possible. Okay, always produce find your fight injure. You know, I say a lot of the times making a movie, it's kind of like forming a cult. Okay, you have a you have a document you have words written on paper that people believe in that people trust in and then they the Cabal grows larger and larger and larger. And then before you know what money's been spent, okay? And then at the end of the day, everyone gathers in a room to see what the document has produced, right? It's almost kind of like a cult or religion, right? So find that team find that team of people that you trust, like when I found Christian and Kyle, and you know, the other people that I work with, and you'll be on your way.
Alex Ferrari 44:06
Isn't it funny though, when you watch, you know, when when you watch guardians of galaxy, or or Thor The third one is, you know, Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the oddest properties that Marvel owned. They were kind of like in the bargain bin of comic books. I remember them when I was collecting comics. I was just like, the Rocket Raccoon. Yeah. And he turned it into a huge franchise. And then Thor was pretty much kind of like a almost a third tier character behind all the other ones. The first two movies did you know? But then he's now one of the favorites because of this humor that you bring. And I'm dying to see the new one. Love and thunder it's it looks amazing. But it was because of that unique voice I hope people listening understand that those those to James Gunn, and to keep I can never say his name Taika Waititi take a look at they both are so authentic to who they are. That's what made them that's what made the pop. That's what got them these jobs. That's what got them. The success that they've gotten, they didn't try to be anybody else. So,
Alan Trezza 45:17
And their highest grossing films, which are, I think, still today, Infinity War and endgame, were directed by the Russo brothers who are directing episodes of Community and Arrested Development. Okay, they didn't go and hire the guy who, whose last movie was a huge hit at the box office, they, they hired according to voice and according to a perspective, and a point of view and something unique.
Alex Ferrari 45:43
Right, and they just I mean, and the only time they they've broken that rule once in a blue moon, where they could Sam Raimi with which, but he also but Sam hasn't done anything big in a while. Right. And Sam has one of the most unique points of view in, in, in Hollywood history, honestly, so, but they gave him someone like him, every toolbox, every tool in the toolbox, and he's like, this is great. I want to keep working like this.
Alan Trezza 46:13
The best parts of those of that film, you know, and even the reviewers and audiences agree were the Sam Raimi moments.
Alex Ferrari 46:21
The things that made Oh, that's Sam, Sam brought that in. Yes, this. Like, I still remember in Spider Man two, there was that horror movie in the middle was coming off.
Alan Trezza 46:34
Oh, that was awesome.
Alex Ferrari 46:35
That was literally a horror movie in the middle of it. And we're like, where did this come from so beautifully. That was awesome. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
Alan Trezza 46:49
The longest to learn in the film industry or in life? I think that it would be what I had said is the reward is in the doing not in the finished product. That's the longest because you know, you write something you love you think it's going to sell? Not all scripts self, not all people see what you see. Is that mean that the last three, four months or a year were wasted? No, hopefully not. Because why? Because the next one will be better. Write or you learn something along the way. You learned how to write a character better you learn how to write dialogue better, you learned how to add subtext into your dialogue. So hopefully, each script you do you learn something from so that the next one's even better? Don't repeat yourself. Don't say, I'm gonna write, you know, the same thing all over again. You'll never grow that way. They'll never get better that way. And you'll never get noticed that way.
Alex Ferrari 47:55
And even if you are sold, it doesn't mean it's going to be made into move.
Alan Trezza 48:00
Because you have that experience. You get experiences. Well, yeah, few times a few times.
Alex Ferrari 48:07
Hey, listen to as long as the check clears. We're all good.
Alan Trezza 48:11
Eventually, it did eventually. Eventually it arrived. Thankfully, at the clear,
Alex Ferrari 48:17
Yeah, I mean, I know so many screenwriters who, whose IMDb might be short. But they've been working nonstop for a decade or 15 years. Script doctoring working on projects getting picked up. I mean, working with the biggest people in Hollywood, but yet they just can't, they can't get that thing, the pop, and then they only get maybe once or twice or three times in a decade. It's not easy getting a movie made, especially now. I don't I don't want to tell you, sir, I know. I want to tell you this. What is the biggest thing you learned from your biggest failure in the business?
Alan Trezza 48:58
The biggest thing I learned from my biggest failure was trying to chase the marketplace, trying to looking at deadline saying this movie just sold. I'm mad, I'm angry, I can do that. Let me show them I can do that. And then as I said, you know, you wasted six months, because at the end of the day, a that movie already exists and already sold, you know, or that script already existed and already sold or be. There's no passion in the writing because it comes through. It does come through, as I said, trust your voice stick with it. It was the moments when I wasn't trusting my voice when I was trying to be someone else. When I was trying to write something else that I'm not good at. You stumble, you can't be an imposter. So I would say you know, I've written maybe two or three scripts, simply because I thought they would sell and of course First they didn't, because people saw right through it. So I would say that that would sort of be the biggest lesson. And it's the like, as I said earlier, it's the ones that I thought wouldn't sell. And the ones I thought no one would like, but I did. Like that ended up happening.
Alex Ferrari 50:20
And what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Alan Trezza 50:24
Hard one, but let's go with Clockwork Orange. Let's go with Halloween. And let's go with Punch drunk love.
Alex Ferrari 50:33
That's a heck of a combo my friend
Alan Trezza 50:36
The pop, but the ones that I can see over and over and over again, and find different things in them each time. Right. That's why I think I chose those three.
Alex Ferrari 50:48
And they age. They're different every every decade. That's what great art does. As you change the arches, you watch Clockwork Orange and 11 and you watch it as a 40 year old two very different movies.
Alan Trezza 50:59
Yeah, punch drunk love came out 2003 2004 It's been quite a long time. And I saw that film twice in a weekend because it was just had such an impact on me. It was an experimental film all the way through from wardrobe soundtrack casting ilog casting, stunt casting, incredible stunt casting, and every experiment, every risk he took paid off, incredibly. And now other filmmakers can now benefit from that other filmmakers can cast Sandler in a role where he isn't comedic all the time. JJ can experiment now with lens flares because that film used lens flare as an aesthetic sort of piece of it. People started hiring John Bryan to compose their soundtracks, because they heard the work that he did. I mean, I was watching them some episodes of the flight attendant and that percussive soundtrack that, that that sort of chaotic sort of drum beat. I said, That's punch drunk love right there, you know. And I remember sort of watching it, maybe two or three months ago, I'm like, I wonder if this thing holds up. I wonder if it's still as amazing. More than ever, more than ever. Does that film hold up? It still has the same impact on me it now that it did when I saw it in the theater back in I think 2004
Alex Ferrari 52:26
Alan, it has been a pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your journey with us and hopefully somebody's listening has picked up a couple of these nuggets and hopefully won't be you know, have so many so many problems moving forward in their journey. Hopefully they'll avoid some of these pitfalls that you and I have come through over the years. So I appreciate you my friend. Thank you so much for for coming on the show.
Alan Trezza 52:50
Not problems opportunities.
Alex Ferrari 52:53
Thank you my friend.
Alan Trezza 52:54
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