fbpx

Want to learn how to write for Netflix? Join Story Expert John Truby for his FREE webinar May 25th

Day
Hour
Minute
Second

BPS 186: Getting Your 1st Film Off the Ground with Brian Petsos

Today on the show, we have actor, writer, director Brian Petsos. Brian is the writer director of the new film, “Big Gold Brick” starring Andy Garcia, Oscar Isaac, Megan Fox and Lucy Hale just to name a few.

After graduating from art school, Brian Petsos eventually began acting and improvising. While in the conservatory at Chicago’s famed SecondCity, he started writing; and later he began making films. Since leaving Chicago for New York City, he has carefully expanded his repertoire to include varying wor ks that he has written, directed, produced, performed in, or some combination thereof.

Petsos started his company, A Saboteur, with the mission of producing innovative, original, boundary – pushing films that challenge traditional expectations and underline artistic integrity. His work has run the gamut, from short form content on HBO and spots for commercial clients, to full – length feature films and writing scripts for major studios.

But today he is primarily focused on writing, directing, and producing his own distinctly flavored work. Petsos’s highly anticipated feature debut, BIG GOLD BRICK, will be released by Samuel Goldwyn Films in North America in winter of 2022.

The film recounts the story of fledgling writer Samuel Liston (Emory Cohen) and his exper iences with Floyd Deveraux (Academy Award nominee Andy Garcia), the enigmatic middle – aged father of two who enlists Samuel to write his biography.

Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac, Megan Fox, Lucy Hale, and Shiloh Fernandez round out this incredible cast in key supporting roles. The film was written and directed by Petsos, and produced by Petsos and Greg Lauritano under Petsos’s A Saboteur banner, with Executive Producers Isaac and Kristen Wiig.

Prior to BIG GOLD BRICK, Petsos wrote, directed, and produced the highly lauded LIGHTNINGFACE (starring Isaac, executive produced by Isaac and Wiig; lightningface.com). The film was an Official Selection of over 30 festivals around the world — including the 60th edition of the BFI London Film Festival, among other high lights.

It received a Best Actor nomination for Isaac at the 2017 Vaughan International Film Festival and a nomination for Best Narrative Comedy at the 2016 Miami short Film Festival, and it was the winner of both the Vortex Grand Prize at the 2016 Rhode I sland International Film Festival and Best Short Film at the 2016 Filmfestival Kitzbühel.

The film premiered online in summer of 2017 as a highly coveted Vimeo Staff Pick and received an abundance of press coverage — from The Hollywood Reporter to The Huffin gton Post, from Indiewire to /Film, to Slate, BuzzFeed, Gizmodo, Film Threat, Nerdist, and many other outlets globally — which ignited virulent enthusiasm and a continuing flurry of social media chatter.

Film School Rejects referred to it as, “Quite simply one of the most intriguing short films of 2017,” adding that, “if LIGHTNINGFACE is eligible for an Oscar Nomination…the other contenders should look out.”

Brian and I had a very raw and open conversation about how difficult it was to get this project.

Big Gold Brick recounts the story of fledgling writer Samuel Liston and his experiences with Floyd Deveraux, the enigmatic middle-aged father of two who enlists Samuel to write his biography. But the circumstances that lead up to this arrangement in the first place are quite astonishing—and efforts to write the biography are quickly stymied by ensuing chaos in this darkly comedic, genre-bending film.

We really get into the weeds about how difficult it was for them to get it going off the ground. Just because he had major talent involved doesn’t mean that it got any easier getting the budget together and so many other little gems.

Enjoy my conversation with Brian Petsos.

Right-click here to download the MP3

LINKS

SPONSORS

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

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

Brian Petsos 0:14
Really good, man. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:16
I'm great, brother. I'm great. Thank you so much for being on the show. Man. I'm, I'm excited to get into the weeds with you on your new film, big goal break, dude, because like I was saying, I want to ask you in a little bit. How the hell did this get produced in today's world is fascinating to me. But before we go down, that the insanity that is big old brick, what is how first of all, how'd you get into the business man?

Brian Petsos 0:41
Sure. So I actually Well, I went to art school. And part of my education, which I sort of designed my own program was, I started off kind of on the directing path in film. And I was I grew up a film buff, both of my parents are like huge film buffs. And so it was just always a thing that I really wanted to try to see if I could do and, and make stuff and was very discouraged. Actually, after a year with that kind of focus. I kind of always been like an ideas person. And that was so vocational, that it sort of set me off doing other art making, basically, and then was sort of coerced into going to Second City by a bunch of friends repeatedly goading me. And so I ended up at the Second City doorstep one day and started studying there. And absolutely loved improvising. And then I started kind of studying with improvisers would used to call straight acting. And, yeah, and then, you know, it's funny, because like our first day of class, I remember we all went to the bar after and pretty much everyone wanted to be on SNL course, and I wanted to make movies. And that's kind of what I raised my hand and said, I was there to do and I know it's a super kind of circuitous path. But I knew that was something I always wanted to do. So then I started writing, I actually got an agent as an actor in Chicago, then I moved to New York, that agent got me a new agent in New York was very kind to sort of set that up. And then I kind of kept getting more and more agents eventually ended up at UTA as an actor. And then there was a point where I mean, I was writing and producing like short films. And there was a point where I just realized I, I had to, like, stop performing, because I really wanted to take a crack at trying to be a fancy pants writer, director, dude. And I just felt like I didn't want to be that guy who I with all due respect to my friends who do everything. We're like, Yeah, so I'm acting on this TV show. And then I'm also trying to get this thing I'm directing doing and then I just, I just was like, I need to go like, full priests style. And just give over and like, just see just, honestly, if it takes, like bleeding over, then I'm going to bleed. And so that's sort of where that one.

Alex Ferrari 3:17
So you went full monk, full monk mode. Full monk.

Brian Petsos 3:20
Yes. Yes. Minus the haircut.

Alex Ferrari 3:22
Yes. minus the haircut. So you did a lot of you did a little bit of right interacting with Funny or Die back in the day when when they were kind of launching and it was early on, right? They were only a couple years old or something like that when you were working with them. Right?

Brian Petsos 3:36
Yeah, that was, they were so kind to me, they were you know, I did some stuff that was a little bit higher production value, but the stuff that I was personally directing was like, really low fi. And, you know, still absolutely had its own kind of voice and stuff. But, but then we started, I was performing and writing and producing, we kind of made some higher production value things that they picked up for the HBO show. And they picked up two pieces of ours and sort of featured them as like movie of the week in the in sort of inside the show. And she gave it a like little premiere kind of moment. And that was really cool. And then yeah, and so that, you know, that was a great help and definitely got some of that stuff out there. And so I'm very thankful to them still.

Alex Ferrari 4:26
What were some of the lessons you learned from doing all that kind of work? Because you mean you were that I mean, I know a bunch of guys who worked in at Funny or Die and you know, that's kind of like running gunmen like you do everything?

Brian Petsos 4:38
Yeah, yeah. I mean, well, you know, it's, it's, I'm, I come from a long line of, like hardworking Greeks. And so this kind of entrepreneurial thing is been something twin a constant in my life. And I, for me, the only logical thing to do even when I was acting You know, I'm like new to New York is like, let's just start making stuff. And I think that served me really well. You know, initially, as as I do think there's a point where you need to slow down and not just make tons of stuff and really kind of tried to, you know, concentrate your resources and try to make bigger, more impactful stuff. But I think initially, it served me very well just get out and kind of gather, gather the troops and make stuff. So that entrepreneurial thing I think is a is absolutely a thing.

Alex Ferrari 5:32
Now, you, you hooked up with a couple of little actors, Kristen Wiig, and Oscar Isaacs, back in the day, you were doing short films with them and working with them? How did you get hooked up with those guys?

Brian Petsos 5:44
Well, I mean, Chris's are known for a while Oscar and I had the same age. And we're all here in New York, New York is a very small, very big town. So you end up kind of, you know, running into people and becoming friends. And, you know, both of them were involved. With lightning face, the short that preceded, they go brick, and you'll find a lot of the same people that were involved, because I kind of developed those two projects in tandem. Because I was writing big gold brick, and I knew it was gonna have a bunch of visual effects in it. And the only sort of, kind of higher production value short film that I directed was ticky tacky, which I shot in one day, by one day, I mean, I think we had eight hours of the actual set. So you know, so with lightning face, I knew that I could incorporate some of that visual effects stuff. And I felt like that was gonna really help buffer out conversations, when people got this big goldbrick feature script. And they're reading all these crazy visual effects sequences. I was like, I can do it.

Alex Ferrari 6:53
Here's, here's a proof. Here's some proof.

Brian Petsos 6:55
That was the whole but evidently, it worked out a little bit, I guess.

Alex Ferrari 6:59
So then you you've been acting for for many, many years. What from your acting experience did you bring into your directing and writing?

Brian Petsos 7:08
For sure, I think, to start with the writing, actually. You know, I, I've been told that I tend to shed light on even smaller characters, or at least give smaller characters. A moment here, there, which is something that I really appreciate, especially as an actor, because I do try to really think about creating a moment for everyone. But process wise, you know, improvising, is really informed my process as a writer, so just me alone. I'm kind of improvising a ton when I'm when I'm writing. So that means me sort of going through and playing multiple parts in a scene. Probably talking to myself probably pacing around my apartment. So yeah, there's there's a lot of that. Yeah, I know, it seems kind of crazy. So there's that whole side, which is, which is absolutely thing, the irony is when it goes, turns to time to be on set and shoot stuff. I actually don't do a ton of improvising. I probably am trying to come out of the Hitchcockian School of let's like come with a plan and try to stick to it as much as possible. It's not to say that I don't like I will absolutely let takes go places for sure. But I just I really need to know that what mechanically worked for me on the page, like at least we get that. And I also don't think of improv is like, I need my actors to try to be really smart writers while they're acting, you know, that's let's have them just be really good actors and hopefully trust the text. So that sort of, you know, I also think you can improvise in space and it doesn't have to be saying crafty stuff. I think you can think about performing an improvisational way that doesn't include necessarily having to create dialogue. Think that type of thinking I really hope I can foster but I really work with everyone differently. I feel like everyone has their own kind of needs. Hopefully my past as an actor, even though I never reached any real heights. I had a fair amount of experience in different venues. Hopefully, there's a commonality there and people can feel comfortable and at the very least, that comfortability will allow them to explore and I can guide them the best that I can.

Alex Ferrari 9:25
It's really interesting from from someone who comes to have such a strong improv background, you are more militant, a little bit more militant to the page than I would have thought because I would thought that you'd be much more loosey goosey on the page but I feel that you probably doing all the loosey goosey stuff in the prep in the in the in the development.

Brian Petsos 9:43
That's exactly what it is like and you know, I've I sort of consider my job is being like a perpetual student of the medium. Perpetual student of everything really, but definitely the medium as well. And, and I've read a lot about people that I admire that have similar kind of flow He's on this. I'm, it seems to me that that's gonna be the way it is for me. I really, I spent so much time writing a screenplay. Like I just, I just finished my next script, and I've been working on it for several years, you know, a fair amount of that full time. Right? So, yeah, it's, it's, um, you know, I write a pretty deliberate script. You know, hopefully I've done I've worked out a lot of the kinks by the time you get the PDF.

Alex Ferrari 10:30
Exactly. You know, and in any other any other profession, you walking around talking to yourself, they would commit you. But as a writer, that completely makes all the sense of the world. I've done that myself, like, as long as I'm writing dialogue in the scene, or something like that, I'll be like, and I'll catch myself like, You're mad. But this is a process. This is the process.

Brian Petsos 10:51
I don't know that I was ever a big talking to myself person until I started actually acting.

Alex Ferrari 10:57
That's probably a good, that's probably a good thing, sir. I'm just saying you shouldn't generally talk to yourself.

Brian Petsos 11:02
Like, you know, you're you're you're, you're on the subway, and you're running lines before an audition show, your mouth is gonna move a little bit, right, and then you just start to just not really give a blip.

Alex Ferrari 11:14
And if it's if you're in the subway, really, who cares? Really in New York,

Brian Petsos 11:17
New York subway, like, after the pandemic.

Alex Ferrari 11:21
No one, no one really cares. Let's just be honest, no one really, you're the on the on the scale of things that people are looking at. In the subway, you're probably really low on the totem pole, the guy talking to himself with a script, just a guy talking to him. It's just a guy talking himself. That's completely fine. Now I've shot a couple I've had my last two features were mostly improv. So I know as a director and as an editor, that it is fairly difficult to edit improv. So because it's just like, every takes different. So you're trying to find gems, and moments, and takes at least when you when you have scripted stuff, it's like, you get the same line 20 times. But when you don't, when you have every line is different. Every take is different. It's so difficult. Do you have any advice on how you put that together in the edit room and all of that, like, I usually try to get whatever's on the script once out. And then I kind of let them kind of go, generally, that's what I did.

Brian Petsos 12:23
I think, you know, you've I've not done a ton that I've directed that has been largely improvisational, I've performed in stuff that has been filmed that has been largely improvisational, but I always remember hearing about Christopher Guest having to wade through, like 80 hours to get down to to write and, you know, I that sounds to me, like

Alex Ferrari 12:47
It's insanity it's insanity,

Brian Petsos 12:49
Which is one of the reasons why, you know, I probably don't want to do that. I mean, it's it's hard enough wading through stuff that was planned. Um, but I think, you know, it's tough again, also, because time truly is money, especially when you're trying to be conscious of a budget, it's, the stuff really comes into play, but I would say, you know, to me, managing a bunch of improvised material is, I think, in the Edit to me would be largely organizational write, um, you know, finding a way to sort of, you know, filter through segments, like story beats as fast as possible. And then kind of honing from there. I mean, the closest thing I can think process wise is the way I actually work as a writer is I catalogue tons and tons and tons of notes. And my process is very editorial in weeding out or moving notes from one area to the other. So I think thinking about like, that massive amount of material that way is probably to me the most logical way to do that.

Alex Ferrari 13:55
Now, how do you? I mean, how do you direct any advice on directing improv improv because you've been involved with a ton of improv in your life. And you know, some people like Mark Duplass and, and just Winesburg and Christopher gas and these kind of guys who do a lot of heavy improv like, to the point where it's just an outline, a scriptment, and they're like, Okay, guys, you got to get from point A to point B, however you get there is up to you. That's how I basically did my first two features. And it's I always, for me, as a director, I always like I'm just there to catch, capture the lightning, like that's my job. That's my job is to capture lightning and make sure it doesn't go too far off the reservation and just kind of keep but as opposed to script, it's a scripted story. Your your, your lane is very thin, whereas within privates a lot wider, but there's still a lane that you got to control.

Brian Petsos 14:47
For sure, for sure. I mean, I think, you know, obviously, you're dealing with you want to sort of you want to be there to support a performer. I think, to me, good filmed and improvisational stuff Is, is not good until you have performers that you can really trust to do that. Because to me, you know, it's interesting because coming out of, you know, Chicago, at least the second city thing when I was there as a student, you know, all the way through the conservatory it was, it was, yeah, be funny do good improv but do good acting to correct. And I know in the conservatory program, and this the way it used to be, you know, it was pretty rigorous audition wise that it tends to, like really scale down to less and less people as you go through that whole program there. And I think the people that end up kind of the last people standing are really good actors that are also really good at improv. And so I think that duality, that's going to probably yield the best results if you're a director who's, you know, I mean, the level of collaboration is just different. It's a different kind of, you know, kind of arrangement you have with the performer, I think. And so it's to me, it's really more of almost, you know, playing the role of conductor, right, a very real way, whereas I am more of a voyeur, I think in my stuff. Sorry about the siren. Yes,

Alex Ferrari 16:12
You're in New York. It's completely acceptable.

Brian Petsos 16:15
This is This is white noise.

Alex Ferrari 16:21
So if you guys didn't know, we're not in a studio.

Brian Petsos 16:25
Certainly not.

Alex Ferrari 16:28
No, but I really do agree with your, your analogy of a conductor because that's what it felt like for me, when I'm directing that you're just like trying to move the different the brass over here, and the, you know, the the horns over here, and the drums over here, and, and all the different kinds of components to make the scene work. But they're kind of, they have a guiding force, but they're on their own. And it's really exciting for me, directing that kind of movie, it's like you're on the edge as a as a creative, and there's no met. And it's super exciting to know, again, you're making a half $1,000,000.02 million $3 million movie? Um, no, absolutely not. But if you make a lower budget film that you can do, it's super exciting as a director to play like that with the actors.

Brian Petsos 17:20
Yeah, I would imagine it is again, I've got much more experience performing right, and directing the stuff. But I mean, I, I still love improv, I'm very grateful for the education that I have and the experience that I have. And again, like I said, I don't discount it in any way I do try to think about it differently. Sure, you know, for me, I will tell you, you know, with big Olbrich being my first feature, and me also being a producer, I mean, every page I'm looking at, you know, there's there's money being spent, and I don't cripple my own, you know, creative side of my mind thinking about that, but I am absolutely cognizant of it. And it's very real. You know, the dollars they are swimming away.

Alex Ferrari 18:07
Oh, my God, it's, it's, it's, I still remember when I was shooting film back in the day, and it was like, when film would start turning on you here. And it was just a money burning, just money burning. And that's every second you're on set. Money is burning, it's very valuable, some of the most expensive time on the planet.

Brian Petsos 18:26
I know. And that's, you know, I've talked about before, it's so ironic that, you know, you spend all this time kind of, you know, in advance of actually shooting, and then you get any of this huge, very concentrated amount of time where you're working to the bone everyone is, and you know, you're making yourself ill and you just try to cram it all into the sausage casing. And it's super expensive.

Alex Ferrari 18:51
It's, it's an expensive sausage. It's an expensive sausage.

Brian Petsos 18:54
Certainly, what a strange medium.

Alex Ferrari 18:57
It is, it is it is a weird and wacky world that we live in, especially in the film industry. It's just and it's getting more and more interesting. Which, which brings me to how in God's green earth did you get the financing for big gold brick? And how did you get that film off the ground? Because you know, when you see it, you're just like, I am glad that this exists in the world. I truly am. How did you get this thing off the ground, man?

Brian Petsos 19:24
Well, first of all, thank you for being glad that that exists. Yeah, absolutely. It's so fun. Oh, that's I say that about a lot of movies. I'm like, I'm so glad this movie exists. Oftentimes, those are the movies that I cherish the ones that I say that about. I'm not saying you know, you necessarily cherish big break but the it's it's a it's a great place to be. You know, I'm someone as I mentioned, you know, an ex art school, dude, and you know, I It sounds pathetic. Just put, like the art side of it is like really, really important to me, the medium happens to also be entertainment. And that's something that I never want to disrespect. And I love movies that are just pure entertainment. But for me, the stuff that I really kind of worship on screen is the stuff that really takes that intersection and sort of savors it. And so that is kind of, you know, especially for this, this first one, I was very deliberate in kind of, you know, what I wanted this thing to sort of do when it got out there, that the thing that I just finished writing is much bigger, and probably a little more straight ahead, that that there isn't a couple snazzy parts here and there. Quote, unquote, snazzy. But But yeah, I, you know, this one had to sort of be what it was. And, you know, I think having the two short films precede this screenplay, getting out there. This is something I've talked about before, where, you know, there were certain people, both on the financing, and on the talent side who were like, this is just too much.

Alex Ferrari 21:09
Likely you want to do all of this, and you've only done two shorts. Are you out of your mind?

Brian Petsos 21:14
Yeah, absolutely. And then there were other people who were like, you know, I'm down, like, Let's go crazy, like, let's get this done. And, and, and that happened, both with on the finance, the financial side, and, and with actors kind of coming and committing. You know, Oscar was, was the first person attached, because, you know, the whole lightning face thing, the genesis of all that, and Oscar is always just been such a huge supporter. And I'm tremendously thankful, I think, you know, when the scripts started floating around the agencies and stuff. I was very pleasantly surprised with, you know, kind of, you know, it's like I said, this, you know, you got a script out there circulating. The next thing, you know, Andy Garcia was just calling you and saying, let's talk about your crazy movie. And so, you know, that's a real moment, but

Alex Ferrari 22:07
I'll just stop for a sec. I gotta, I gotta unpack that for a second. What's it like, Andy? Like, Andy, for Andy Garcia to call you and you have that conversation for the first time. I'm like, Are you like, just kind of grabbing yourself a bit?

Brian Petsos 22:20
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 22:23
Just like literally just say. Yeah.

Brian Petsos 22:25
I think because I have just been such an Andy Garcia fan. Oh, like, I just his body of work is incredibly. He's amazing. And, I mean, it's, you know, I could I could talk about him for hours. But when he calls your phone and you've never spoken to him, yeah, you kind of need to stop shaking. And then you need to start talking about stuff. You know, you're aware of the fact that he's worked with Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Steven Soderbergh. And then this is the list in the list here with his hat on. You know, so it's Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's,

Alex Ferrari 23:02
And then me, yeah, like Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, Steven Saab, and me. Yeah.

Brian Petsos 23:09
And other people as well. But it says, yourself in that, in that in that context, it's absolutely fine. You know, so yeah, but I mean, you know, the way this there's such a dance, if I can just talk boring producer stuff. Sure. There's such a dance between compiling the cast and actually closing the money. And this was a film where, you know, I wrote a film, what you see represented, I think, ultimately, is pretty close to the script. Pretty damn close to the script. There were a couple sequences that I had to I had to peel some layers off because I, we didn't get quite where I wanted to financing wise, but I will say having having friends who make movies, I feel like we did okay, we did pretty good with the amount of money that we had to spend first feature especially I'm you know, I'm very thankful for that. But yeah, it's a process you know, you you get the cast and you get the money and you close the money and you make sure the cast is gonna show up and next thing you know, you're in Toronto shooting and it happened.

Alex Ferrari 24:10
Okay, the waiting for the money to drop phase of the project must it's just just torturous. Like, any day the money the money is gonna drop tomorrow, money's gonna drop tomorrow. And you're like,ohh god!

Brian Petsos 24:22
Well, especially when you have like, it's coming from disparate sources, right? I'm person drops out, you know what, like, now I have to go get this $500,000 chunk. And it's, you know, it's, it's a thing, man and I do have to say, like, there were two times I think we thought we had all the money and we didn't and delayed our start date. And, you know, it's, you know, you break down I mean, these I'm a pretty sensitive person. You know, I am no stranger to letting myself feel emotion. There's just gonna rip your hair out. And you know, I mean, that's your shed.

Alex Ferrari 24:59
Yeah. I want I want to make a point of this is that you had you know, Oscar Isaacs, you know, and, and Andy Garcia, and you had a decent a really good gas, not a decent gas, an amazing cast. And yet you're still having struggles to Close to close financing on films like that. And I want everyone listening to understand that that did like, oh, it's like, oh, well, you had Oscar on board. So it just must have been cake all the way. I'm like, No, that's the beginning of the conversation is having an Oscar or an Andy aboard? That just starts the conversation and then when that got the beginning of the beginning, exactly. And if money drops out and you got to go find 500,000 Well, Andy might be going on to the next Steven Soderbergh film, and you might lose them, because scheduling.

Brian Petsos 25:46
True as well, this schedule thing comes into play, you know, people are representative of very big agencies. And, you know, the whole agency system is is you know, I don't want to I don't want to like rain on the mystique, but it's, that's a businessman in a very real Oh, yeah, they're trying to make money and that's great. That's that's what their job is, is to make money. And if that means like carding an actor off to the next project like you're Sol and that's that and you're right. It's there's so many the plates that spin it's unbelievable. And you know, I've also talked as you said, like, yeah, Oscars my friend Oscars done stuff for the Oscars attached to this, like this. The pain involved in getting this movie together. I think it'd be impossible for me to put into language. It is not easy. It's not easy for anyone. Making an indie, as you said, doesn't matter how big the indie is. If it's an indie, any Hey, even if you have fancy pants, actors, it's torture. I would never advise anyone to do what I do

Alex Ferrari 26:51
I should have been independent filmmaker, absolutely not go get a real job.

Brian Petsos 26:57
I I've said before, like, film is the closest thing I have to religion. Yeah, if you want ledges go be religious man.

Alex Ferrari 27:05
Yeah, no, there's there's no question. And I just I always like to demystify this for people because some people just think because there's certain costs involved. You know, look, Scorsese has problems getting projects off the ground. Spielberg has problem getting projects off the ground. They're obviously at a much different level than you and I are talking about, but they still at their level, they're still having struggles. You know, the only person that probably doesn't is Nolan. He's the only person I think in Hollywood, you could just basically walk in anywhere and go, I want to make a movie about Oppenheimer. And I need $100 million. Who else?

Brian Petsos 27:35
Yeah, gets one hand is the amount of people that can just ease into something it's always difficult from what I gathered from from as a student of other directors and just doing a fair amount of reading and hearing some stuff, you know, through through people. It's, it's always difficult. i It's probably though it's probably a little easier for Scorsese,

Alex Ferrari 27:57
No question. But the thing is, is that it's just not trying to make a $25 million movie because he can make those movies all day he needs $100 million movies about two months

Brian Petsos 28:06
$200 million movies,

Alex Ferrari 28:09
Exact $100 $200 million movies with like two monks that are you know, going off and are silent for most of the film. Like that's, that's what he wants to do it. It's relative. I mean, look at Coppola. He's like, he can't get financing with Oscar. He's gonna Oscar is gonna be in this movie. And he's like, Screw it. I'm just gonna drop $120 million out of my pocket for my crazy wine money.

Brian Petsos 28:31
You know, I had heard that. Right. I believe I read it. If I didn't read it. I heard that for Gangs of New York. There was a point where a Scorsese wanted another 20 million bucks or something. Yeah. And studio was like, Sorry, man, you're cut out like we given you more like one or two times. That's it. He's like, okay, cool. And he just threw 20 million of his own dollars. And now, I'm happy to say I couldn't throw 20 of my dollars. Did her but to be able to buy coffee from my art department that day was was humbling.

Alex Ferrari 29:04
Wait a minute. How many coffees are you buying here? I mean,

Brian Petsos 29:07
He was like, well, Starbucks was like four

Alex Ferrari 29:09
Four I was gonna say there's not I was like, 20 How many coffees you buy with 20 bucks these days?

Brian Petsos 29:14
Canada man, so

Alex Ferrari 29:15
Okay, just five, maybe five, maybe five? Exchange? No, but I'm glad but I'm glad we're talking about this because it really kind of demystifies it a lot for for filmmakers coming up with they have these delusions in their head or illusions in their head that it's a lot easier once you get to a certain level. And dude, absolutely. Having Oscar attached to your project opens doors, but it's the beginning of the conversation. It's not like how much money do you want? Where do I send the cheque? That's not the way this business works with anybody really? It really is very few people who have the ability to just make things on a whim.

Brian Petsos 29:51
Yeah, I mean, I think I had the advantage. I did have some money attached right away. That helps. Yeah, it wasn't a ton, but it was it was it was a little chunk of the budget that was sort of pledged by, you know, someone who's have a fair amount of net worth. And that that also, I think helps, you know, even the agents here that at least, this isn't like a total fantasy and, and especially when they know, they know some of the finance years and, you know, it's it's a whole sculptural game, like I said, I've just kind of the money in the cast, and you're kind of piling all together and using your hands to, to work out the undulations of what the sculpture looks like. And it takes a little while. And then like I said, in retrospect, it seems like it didn't take as long but it's it was, it was a slog, man,

Alex Ferrari 30:36
Yeah, and then that's another piece of advice, if you can have some money up front in you, nobody wants to be the first one to the party. So if you can have even a little bit of money, it makes everyone feel a little bit more comfortable, that there is some money involved, you know, out and specifically, outside money, because even if you threw in the first 20%, that'd be like, yeah, that's nice. But you know, you don't have anybody at the party, still your party.

Brian Petsos 31:03
They're looking for faith. Right. And I think I think that's, that's what it is a lot of times, and, yeah, I mean, it's, it's, um, you know, I, there's also two different kinds of businesses in the indie world, I think there are people that wish you had the next kind of horror film, or the next, whatever it is, and there are other people that aren't trying to make those kind of movies. And so I think you'll find, you know, as you go through these conversations, the group divides pretty quickly.

Alex Ferrari 31:28
Now on on big old brick, you know, as directors, we always have that one day, if not every day, but I always look for that one day, that the entire world come crashing down around you. And you're losing, you're losing the sun, the camera broke, the actors can't get out of their trailer, something happens. What was that day for you? And how did you overcome it?

Brian Petsos 31:48
Well, we shot for 30 days, I had about 40 days worth of stuff. And we had to do it in 30 days. So to answer your question, that was day 12345. I mean, there wasn't a day where you know, from from a generator blowing up to, as I've talked about this before, there was there we were on the 55th floor of a building, which is Megan's office or law office, and someone pulls a fire alarm. Elevators go out, Megan, start sprinting down 55 floors, takes her heels off and starts putting down to decline floors. had to sprint back up. 50 not a half hour later. I mean, to say that, you know, that's, that was that was the kind of thing that would happen about every other day. Losing locations, sure, oh, I need I need 100 feet of clearance on a ceiling and a studio and I get 50. You know, so I have to cut like three really huge signature shots. Sure, I have to lean on the visual effects more than I intended to, which is also an expenditure, you know, after the fact. I mean, it's every day man, like, and I'm the writer, the director, and I have my producing partner, my producing partner. And then we also had Canadian producing partners facilitating locally. I mean, it's, it's, it's a tough job, man, I honestly, I feel like just sort of that it was my first time and it was, it was just guns blazing all the time. I didn't allow myself to like feel discouraged ever. It was just, I need to have an answer. I need to have it now. You are the person that literally everyone from you know, from whoever it is, you know, the literally the PA out there gathering cones to Andy as a question for me, and I have to have the answer to it. So it's no waffling. It's have the answer and just, you know, take the beating.

Alex Ferrari 33:47
I mean, so if anyone still listening who wants to be a filmmaker, you could just look at the bottom line is look, anyone who listens to my show, you know, knows how I feel about making films. I love it. It's an it's an addiction. It is a I call it the beautiful illness, the beautiful sickness. Because it's it well, we're ill we're ill. I mean, we're not well, this is not a normal way. But artists in general are not well, and that's what makes artists great and makes artists so wonderful to be around. Because they're insane. And I say that with all the love in the world. But this is unfortunately one of the most the toughest businesses for an artist to survive and thrive in than any other art. Really. I mean, music even is is tough, obviously, as well. But music doesn't cost that much.

Brian Petsos 34:38
Exactly true. I mean, someone like me, I get paid every two years, man. I mean, it's it's that that alone is tough,

Alex Ferrari 34:46
Right! You get paid every couple years and you're just like, What am I going to do? It's like it but you gotta love it. It's this this this kind of love for it. And like when when someone asked like, you know, should I go into the business and I will say absolutely not. If you agree or my advice, then you might have a shot? For sure. That's that. Because if I say, oh, yeah, come on in, it's great. I'm generally you know, then I'm a giant film school that's trying to sell you an $80,000 degree, that by the time you're in, you'll never pay that off.

Brian Petsos 35:16
Like, exactly true. I do think it does help if you think of it, like a calling, correct and not a job. And, and something that I've touched on before in conversations is, there is a certain amount of sacrifice, be great to be Todd Phillips, and make a movie as crazy as the Joker and make a ton of money making it

Alex Ferrari 35:41
And and have and play in that sandbox, play with that character with that kind of those kinds of resources with that kind of caliber of talent attached. It That's the dream, obviously.

Brian Petsos 35:52
Absolutely. But, uh, you know, you can't just walk into that door and be that guy. I mean, and so you know, but I mean, look, those those, those scenarios are out there. I mean, you know, but for me, it's like, if you just keep your expectations low, and stay humble, and, you know, I don't live a very crazy lifestyle at all, I live a very, very simple lifestyle. And, you know, to me, any additional money is appreciated. But it's, I just, I just keep it to where I can get the next movie going. And so that's the only way I know.

Alex Ferrari 36:26
So after this movie that Hollywood didn't come with the truck of money, and just dump it on your that's not?

Brian Petsos 36:31
No, I mean, look, I think I think people have read this new script a bit quicker than it took them to read, of course. But um, yeah, I mean, it's like, do you know, am I am I buying a new apartment this Saturday? I don't think so. man

Alex Ferrari 36:45
Not in New York. And Idaho and Idaho yet, possibly. Now, what is something? Is there something you wish you You're what is there something that you wish you could tell you, you could have told your younger self? When you first started coming in from your experience so far in the business?

Brian Petsos 37:07
Yeah, I mean, I think, well, you know, that's a tough one. I, if you if I could have told my younger self that wasn't yet in the business, I would say, you know, are you sure, I would say, being who I am now, I would say, you know, like, it's possible to make cool stuff and survive. I was very concerned, like, especially right out of college, that I was going to be literally homeless, and especially when you have no desire to create, but it's, it's a condition that you have to, which is something that I have, you know, I wish someone would have came in and told me, like, don't be scared, like, stick to it. You know, what I was going to say, in terms of my time actually working in the business in the professional realm. You know, I spent a handful of years out there as an actor. Yeah, you know, with with a real agent, like, you know, a pretty big agent, actually. And, you know, it's even at the time, like Oscar and I had the same agent. Oscar has already worked with Ridley Scott at this point. If Oscar and I are getting the same script, I mean, Oscars like, five notches above me on the roster there. So, you know, your job for someone like me was to go in Audition all the time. And I would actually audition quite a bit. I mean, even getting auditions is I've found is miraculous. So I'm out there auditioning all the time. And, you know, it's, it's at a point what I stopped acting, I kind of started from square one with trying to be a director. And even though I've achieved, you know, no real height yet, as a director, I've already achieved more than I did as an actor, as a director. And so good for you. I think this directing thing was a thing that I was going to do when I was like super old and gray. And something always felt wrong. And I got to the point where I decided to be a director and I think even you really need to listen to yourself and what is going to be creatively satisfying to you.

Alex Ferrari 39:11
Now where can people see the film?

Brian Petsos 39:14
They can see the film, in theaters, on demand, and digitally all the same time. Friday, the 25th of February.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
My friend I'm very excited about the film coming out and I am I'm proud of you sir. That you got this damn thing off the ground. This has been his journey and I'm so glad you shared the journey warts and all with the audience. And with my tribe, so they understand even a little bit more how difficult things are and what it was like five years ago is not like what it is today and what in five years from now, it will you know, I don't even know where we'll be trying to get these kind of projects off the ground but they you were able to get this off the ground. It is a small miracle, my friend, and I'm so glad it was it was able to be made. And when you're saying films that I appreciate that are that were made, I always think of Mars Attacks. Like, I like that Tim Burton got Mars Attacks made. It's not as bad as a system. It's not as best film by any stretch of the imagination. But that it was made that it exists. It is amazing. And when I saw this, I'm like, I'm so glad that he's been able to get this off off the ground and it's out there in the world brother. So I, I applaud you, man and congratulations. And I hope everybody goes out and rents it, watches it in the theater sees it on demand wherever they get to. So thank you, my friend, thank you for the inspiration to hopefully, we've scared off people who were never going to make it and hopefully inspired people who now are like, You know what, I think I'm going to go for it. So I appreciate you my friend.

Brian Petsos 40:55
I appreciate you and thanks so much.


Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors