Tom Schulman graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in Philosophy. He studied at USC Graduate School of Cinema, with Jack Garfein at the Actors and Directors Lab, Los Angeles, and with director Joan Darling. He directed the Actors’ Studio first west coast production, Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker.
Tom wrote Dead Poets Society for which he received an Academy Award for best original screenplay. He also wrote What About Bob?, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Medicine Man, and Holy Man. He wrote and directed Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag He was an executive producer on Indecent Proposal and Me, Myself and Irene. He was the writer/producer of Welcome to Mooseport. He co-wrote and co-produced with Rafael Yglesias and J.J. Abrams, The Anatomy of Hope, a pilot for HBO. He recently wrote, with Callie Khouri, Trae Crowder, and T Bone Burnett, a pilot for Amazon.
He recently wrote and directed Double Down South, an indie feature that will be released in April. Tom served on the board of directors and then as vice president of the Writers Guild of America, West. Tom was the president of the Writers Guild Foundation and serves on its board. He serves on the advisory board of the Science and Entertainment Exchange.
Please enjoy my conversation with Tom Schulman.
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Tom Schulman 0:00
With another scriptlets Thing Called Love at second sight, to Lorimar. And then Warner Brothers took it over but and you know, that just turned out to be a disaster being made basically at the same time. In fact, they finished that first and my parents come to visit and we went to see the finished version of that movie. And my dad, it was like, middle of the day and my dad afterwards said to me, you've got to find something else for a living you know?
Alex Ferrari 0:26
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, Tom Schulman. How you doin, Tom?
Tom Schulman 0:40
I'm very good. Alex, nice to meet you.
Alex Ferrari 0:42
A pleasure to meet you as well, my friend. I've I mean, first of all want to say thank you for being such an instrumental part of my youth growing up in the 90s.
Tom Schulman 0:55
I hope I hope you like the result. But
Alex Ferrari 0:58
No, I mean, from I mean, you know, obviously Dead Poets Society. But what about Bob when he struck the kids? So many great films from that, from what, just What About Bob is one of my favorite entities. I wish it and I always always, anytime I talk about Hollywood and the way it used to be, I always use What About Bob as an as an example. And like, they wouldn't make that movie today. Studios wouldn't make it What About Bob? But my God, Isn't it an amazing thing that did at least it existed at that point. But I wish they would make these kind of smaller films, they used to make the 10 or 15 films, and one, two or three temples and they kind of throw them all out and one or two will take care of everybody. But now it's just like.
Tom Schulman 1:41
No they don't have that love of movies anymore. You know, as executives, they're just it's all bottom line.
Alex Ferrari 1:47
It's all IP. It's all superheroes, but yeah. You know, like, I think that Spielberg said it best, I think just like the Western, it will play itself out the superhero genre eventually.
Tom Schulman 1:58
It's hot. It's been around for a long time, but I think he's right. I mean, certainly, Steven Spielberg about that.
Alex Ferrari 2:04
Well, well, obviously you can, because if not, you know, there's there's things that happen. Lightning comes down. It's crazy. Black, yeah. Black accounts just drain of money. Like what happened?
Tom Schulman 2:19
Right, exactly. Just suddenly, you know.
Alex Ferrari 2:25
Exactly. That was that was Stephen right there that did that. I didn't touch my screen. Yeah. Yeah. So my first question to you is how and why in God's green earth? Did you get into this insanity that is the film industry?
Tom Schulman 2:39
Boy, that's a good question. You know, I grew up in the South, I grew up in Nashville. And, you know, I later found out that that the South was kind of a dumping ground for horror movies, AIP, American International pictures, companies, if those movies didn't perform outside, south, but so I grew up, you know, every Saturday going downtown with my friends on a bus, and why going to two or three really lousy horror films, you know, and it really I like movies. But you know, that was just kind of a junk form of entertainment. But then in college, they had a Film Society. And they started bringing really interesting movies in, you know, things from Kurosawa and Fellini, and Bergman, and, you know, just stuff that I had no idea of movies could do. And I just was fascinated by that. And senior year in college, I had a chance to either write a term paper about one of the novels we were reading, or make a short film. So of course, everybody in the class made a short film, I made all Super Eight film and it's terrible, but just fell in love with the process and thought, This is what I want to do.
Alex Ferrari 3:53
Well, the thing that's interesting is that when you were coming up, it wasn't a cool thing to be a director. It wasn't even in the zeitgeist, it wasn't a thing that was even possible. Honestly, there was very few people doing it, you know, compared to today, where, you know, I remember growing up and the only behind the scenes I saw was a Star Wars documentary in Raiders of the Lost Ark documentary that was and whatever books I could find at the library, there was no other information about the filmmaking process that you that you jumped in and like, you know, I think I'm gonna give this a go is amazing.
Tom Schulman 4:27
Great. In hindsight, it's so stupid, but you know,
Alex Ferrari 4:32
Well, isn't it isn't it amazing though the the delusion of the filmmaker in the screenwriter is it's his, his or hers, best friend and worst enemy? Yeah, at the same time, because you need the illusion to do what we do.
Tom Schulman 4:49
You did. It's so true,
Alex Ferrari 4:50
But at a certain point, the delusion becomes a handicap when you're like, Well, I'm the greatest, or I'm gonna see you at the Oscars, or Steven Spielberg is going to produce mine Excel this insanity starts to come out
Tom Schulman 5:03
The megalomania comes with it, you know for sure you know the same little power you have in the, in your world of creating it on the scrap page or, you know, if you're directing on the set, suddenly you're just, you know, I have a friend, a director and he said after he gets through shooting a movie, he finds himself running IT people running into him on the streets of New York. And it's because on the set when you walk from the monitor to the to the actor, everybody moves out of the way, but you know, after the movie, nobody's moving. You know, they don't know who you are.
Alex Ferrari 5:34
You mean I have to get my own coffee. What are we savages?
Tom Schulman 5:40
Yeah, and says he just loves to put his hand out in a Diet Coke comes in, you know, just, it's
Alex Ferrari 5:46
It is. It is a strange, strange carne kind of lifestyle, isn't it? You know, I always say I always say we're carny folk. You know, we're carnival voc because it's you. We ran away with the circus, essentially, to do what we do as filmmakers as a screenwriters at any level, whether it be Oscar winner, or just be working filmmakers. It's, it's the circus. It really really is. Really?
Tom Schulman 6:11
Yeah, yeah. And yeah, you just hope you don't end up in the, you know, within the deformed area of
Alex Ferrari 6:20
Yes. Where are the freaks? Where the freaks, let's just say we don't want to end up in a Guillermo del Toro Carnival.
Tom Schulman 6:26
That's for sure. Yeah. Or any of the cartels and those horror movies I saw as a kid, you know,
Alex Ferrari 6:32
Oh, good, Lord. Sorry. So you make sure you make the decision to like, Okay, I'm gonna go to go go be a writer. And as insane as that is, I'm assuming it didn't just use words, your first script and all of a sudden, the door swung open. The money just started tossing at you all the opportunities when the I'm assuming there was a time period where you were trying to hone the craft getting slapped around by the town?
Tom Schulman 6:57
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 6:59
So how long was that? How long was that window?
Tom Schulman 7:02
That window was about I mean, it. I mean, I guess, 10 years. I mean, in the sense that I mean, I started getting work. And basically, after about four, four and a half years, I started getting enough work, to not have to, I mean, I still kept my day job. But I, you know, did Mark i You never know, you just you're working from one one, you know, to another, but it was I was thinking, wow, I'm saving some money. This is I seem to be getting steady work. Nothing's getting made, but I'm getting paid to write. So okay, you know, so optioning some scripts selling a script or two. And then so that was about four, four and a half years. And then another five years of, you know, a couple of things getting made for television, but they bore no resemblance to what I had written. You know, that kind of thing. So you just you made it.
Alex Ferrari 7:55
So I mean, the gladiator wasn't your original vision, sir.
Tom Schulman 7:59
I don't think so. Yeah, No.
Alex Ferrari 8:03
So yeah, I've heard I've heard stories of in for the young uns listening, there was these things called TV movies of the week, back in the 80s and early 90s, which, which was a really fertile ground for a lot of filmmakers. Because that was where they face they get their foot in to show people what I mean, Spielberg got dual TV.
Tom Schulman 8:27
Still, it's a great movie. And yeah, it's yeah,
Alex Ferrari 8:30
It's amazing. So during that time, what did you do to keep going, because there was no indication, at least, that you were going to be able to make a go of this.
Tom Schulman 8:42
It's, it's really hard because you know, you're just, there is no bottom rung of the ladder, or you go home, I'm on and now I can, I'm on my way, you know, you're just you're always jumping for it until you've suddenly, you know, as they say, you can't make a living in this business, you can only make a killing and that's kind of true. There's just no in between, particularly back in the old studio days. You know, there were he's getting made. And you know, I think I think my world opened up a little bit when John Carpenter made Halloween again, because I was writing you know, low budget horror films at first that was my you know, what I'd grown up with and and so people were suddenly and and maybe even before that, were buying, you know, indies were made were horror films.
Alex Ferrari 9:26
Yeah. When the the got Easy Rider was a kind of thing. And yeah, yeah, but that was the 70s and 80s. But yeah, I mean, I think it was when John actually did that was the first really truly like full blown indie. Yeah, out of nowhere, didn't have Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda. And like it was, yeah, no, but it was still but it was still it was still not, it was still not what it wasn't in the 90s. The 90s is when the independent movement as we know it really exploded. So how do you go from the gladiator TV movie of the week, two Dead Poets Society, how did you write? Like, how did you come up with it? How did you get it out there? It doesn't seem like in today's world, you put out that Poets Society, it's going to be, it's going to be a tough sell because of its a drama and this and that. And BBB, in those times, late 80s, early 90s, they were still making films like that. So I guess it was a little bit more open to that. But that's still not a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination.
Tom Schulman 10:27
Not at all. I mean, interesting, because I think it just tells about the times Dead Poets opened with the first Batman with with That's right. Yeah. And, you know, Little do we know, at that point, and Batman did really well, but little did we know that that was going to be the trend that started to, you know, take Hollywood away. And, and, but, ya know, it was it was a very hard. I mean, at first, I can't really remember why I decided to ride it, I'd been where I had been being paid to work, you know, not getting movies made. And I think a lot of the stuff I was writing or just things I thought would sell and you know, they did, but I don't think I was that good at that stuff. You know, and, and then just I had been telling this story about this, this the basic Dead Poet's story to a girlfriend for a while and she was going God, that sounds so good. You gotta write that she and I broke up, I got married my wife saying the same thing. And I finally just said, Okay, I've got a couple of months here, I'm gonna just sit down, clear the room out and do it. And I did you know, and, and my agent at the time read it called me up at two o'clock in the mornings. And it's the best script I've ever read. Let's talk in the morning, I'm okay, great. And I went into his office that day. And he said, You know, I've been thinking about this, I It's a great script, but I will not be able to sell it. And, you know, if you want to get this made, if you want it to be any more than a writing sample, I hate to say you're gonna have to get another agent. And I said, Well, I, you know, I understand all the deficits of this script. But yeah, so I left and I, you know, I think took five agents, before I got another agent to say yes. And that agent said, I've only read half of it. But there's some clients here in our, in our company that, you know, actors that I think might be good for it, some young people and I remember thinking, Boy, what if he ever reads the second half and drops the project? You know?
Alex Ferrari 12:27
Yeah. Yeah, that ending was a bit. It was an interesting ending, to say the least.
Tom Schulman 12:33
Yeah. So. And then, Stephen half, two, who had read the script, just maybe a month after I got that new agent, and a year and a half later called him back and said, You know, I just can't get that script out of my mind. Let me I want to option it. I think I've got some some some connections that might be interesting. Little did he know, every studio had passed. I mean, it was just, you know, as dead as dead could be. Yeah, I mean, it does the people at Disney and it was touched on at Disney that eventually bought it. You know, they did, we did get a meeting there. And they said, you know, it's a strong story, but poetry, you know, Dead Poets Society that three, you know, or any one of those words in a title is death. But this is all on the same one. And they said, Why don't you make it about you know, making them a dance teacher? Oh, right. Because of course, what had just come out but Dirty Dancing. Yeah. So.
Alex Ferrari 13:34
Tom Schulman 13:35
Yeah. And then out of nowhere, you know, maybe three years after I wrote it. Stephen half gave it to Jeff Katzenberg, who read it, then bought it immediately. And you know, we had a meeting two days later, and he said, we're making this movie let's, let's cast it and go so
Alex Ferrari 13:52
My God so was it was Jeff Katzenberg, who got it and yeah, and took off with it. And then then Robin and Peter Weir.
Tom Schulman 14:03
Scene witness the day I finished the script, my wife and I went out to witness and I just said, God, if I could get him you know, and she said, well send him the script. So when I polished it up and so forth, I did and of course they passed now that I didn't you know, so that you know a couple years later to get him was amazing.
Alex Ferrari 14:22
That's that's so interesting for a script of a film that was so well received, obviously, and the script that eventually won the Oscar. I love hearing the stories that it was not this the town knows nothing William Goldman says the town knows nothing it takes one person with just a slight bit of vision just and a little bit of the holidays yeah to roll the dice and and obviously some power and some power Yeah,
Tom Schulman 14:49
I mean it's it's a me too situation. You know, somebody always told me you can learn everything you need to know about executives by watching two three year olds on the in a sandbox, you know, If there's an object, it's like an old bucket that sitting in the corner, if nobody want, it'll sit there for weeks. But as soon as one kid gets it, they all start fighting over it. Right? And at that age, kids can't their necks won't go like this. So the answer to everything is No. So you know, that's those. That's the executive mindset. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 15:22
That's a that's actually a brilliant. I've never heard that. That's actually brilliant and very, very true. You know, you get you get Robin Williams, who at that point, Robin was Robin. I mean, he was still Robert Williams. He wasn't Oscar winning Robin Williams. That was a few years away. But he was still Robin Williams. Yeah. And by the way, that title Dead Poets Society only title worse than that Shawshank Redemption. Yeah, when Robin
Tom Schulman 15:54
You know, so
Alex Ferrari 15:55
And that in that movie? Who's even heard of that? Right, exactly. So we, what is it like working with Robin and Peter, were you on the set? Did you know how would that help? I mean, you must be again, coming from TV movies of the week two. That was the first big one, right? That was the first
Tom Schulman 16:11
Oh, yeah, yeah, I have sold strangely enough, on the same day that the Katzenberg bought Dead Poets, I sold another scripts Thing Called Love at second sight, to Lorimar. And then Warner Brothers took it over, but and you know, that just turned out to be a disaster being made basically, at the same time. In fact, they finished that first and my parents come to visit, and we went to see the finished version of that movie. And my dad, it was like, middle of the day, and my dad afterwards said to me, you've got to find something else for a living, you know, and then I know, I know. But then we went over to Disney and looked at I got them to screen a few dailies for my parents of Dead Poets. And they said, Dad said, Well, maybe you got a chance, after all, we'll see. But, yeah, it was it was, you know, it was? I don't know, I kind of all I was concerned about at the time, was that there gonna make what I wrote, you know, so it was, I wasn't playing defense by any means. But but, you know, I was in there sort of fighting for my, you know, for and didn't really have to, because I was, you know, we all had the same basic vision in the movie. So, it was it was amazing. And Peter Weir. I mean, it's funny, because his first question to me was, why don't you direct? Why are you directing this, I can sort of feel from the way you write it, that that's what you want. And I said, Peter, personal, no one's giving me that. If I were directing it, I would just step aside for you. Number one, but two, you know, are you crazy? Nobody this thing is barely getting made, you know? And he goes, he I understand that. And then he said, Well, you know, I would like be on the set. And, you know, if, if, if it gets boring, you know, that's, I'll understand. But you know, since you wanted to wreck, he said, I've made eight movies. You know, I'm happy to sort of help any way I can. I mean, he was so generous, you know, so, you shadowed Peter Weir, essentially, the whole time? Yeah. And we just had, you know, he would always say to me, just feel free to I mean, the first day, he said, Just anything you're thinking, feel free to just talk to me about it after take, you know, and after about two takes as soon as the override walk up to him and go whatever it is said to me, you know, what, just count to 10 Before you talk, and then then say it to me. And I said, You know what, I'll just go home. And he said, No, don't get offended. Just Just please give me a chance to have my own thoughts. And then you can talk, you know, so I said, Okay, so I did that. And maybe on the third or fourth take of the first shot. He said, Well, why don't you go direct the shot the scene? I said, Peter, I'm sorry, I'm talking to him. I said, No, no, I mean, you'd have an idea go. So I walked out on and Rod, I see Robin, look over at Peter and Peter nods. Okay, so I give Robin something to do and come back and he does it. And Peter said, What do you think? And I said, it didn't work. And he said, I don't think it works either. But nice try and Okay. Well, we'll try that again. Some other time. You know, he was amazing. Absolutely amazing. And I said, Well, what if I screw this up? He goes, I'll fix it.
Alex Ferrari 19:13
Such a car. So much confidence in Oh, yeah. Comfortable. He's so comfortable in his own skin at that point, that he's doesn't even have an ego not even threatened by you in any way, shape or form. He was just so generous to you. That's wonderful.
Tom Schulman 19:28
Yeah, he was he was fabulous.
Alex Ferrari 19:30
So So okay, so I have to ask, because I've had multiple people on the show who've worked with Robin. And what is it like seeing Robin on the set? You know, I'm assuming he rift he had to?
Tom Schulman 19:42
Oh, yeah. Well, interestingly enough, the first he shot I think we shot for three days. And then he had to go off and, and he was in a play on Brian. I think he was well, Waiting for Godot on Broadway with Steve Martin. So he was kind of going back and forth. But the play was two weeks away from the end of its run. So We got him for three days. And then he came back and we had him for the rest of the shoot. And you know, the first three days he was so on book so perfectly on that there was it was a little bit dead. And I was saying to Peter, this is I'm worried. And he said, I am too, but don't worry. And I said, Well, what are we going to do? He said, Well, you got two weeks to figure it out. So when he got back, it was kind of like that the first take again, we were in the classroom for the first time. And he said, Peter said, I got an idea, let's do an improv. He said, Robin, if you were just teaching these kids, what would you teach them? And he goes, Oh, I might read to them, might teach them a little Shakespeare. And Peter said, we're gonna roll cameras just come in and do it. And Robin immediately came in, and he saw that teacher, you know, he had no script. So he started connecting with the students in the way he's so good at as a stand up, but also as an actor, and he realized right away, oh, this is a dialogue, even if the students aren't saying anything. So he, you know, that improv stayed in the movie, we've got that we had that. And then, you know, from that point on, he completely got it felt absolutely free to do whatever he wanted. And it was great.
Alex Ferrari 21:06
And imagining that young cast who turned out to be a couple of heavy hitters came out of that cast. Yeah, that's right. They must have been, you know, like, improving with Robin Williams,
Tom Schulman 21:19
Ya know, they were up to it. You know, they were they, he was a young guy, so nice to everybody. It was just never any sense that you couldn't, you know, he just, he was so encouraging. Why not, you know, you just, it's pretty soon you relaxed, and you just said, whatever you want it. And that's what they did.
Alex Ferrari 21:40
So what was the biggest lesson you learned from Peter watching him on that set, as a director, or as a storyteller in general,
Tom Schulman 21:49
Say, as little as possible to the actors, unless you have to, you know, really give them a chance to do what they what they've brought to the to the party, and then intervene, if they're off, you know, but don't over direct, don't walk up and go, Okay, you know, this is the moment we're going to do that. And this is what just happened and all that, see what they bring, because 99 or 89% of the time, their instincts will be right. And if you tell them on the other thing was always answer a question with a question. If they'd say, Well, what's happening here? And he got what do you think? And then they would, you know, he knew we talked through all this stuff, but that allowed them to own it, you know, they'd say, Well, I think this and that, that puts it into the actor's body. So very simple, deceptively simple, you know, but but very effective.
Alex Ferrari 22:42
Now, the one thing, and for everyone listening, this is going to be a spoiler alerts, if you have nots, it's not our fault. It's like, what 32 years old or three years old at this point, this movie, it's not our fault. If you haven't watched it, if you want to skip this part, we're going to talk about a spoiler alert here. The ending of that film, I can't imagine it ever getting made today, just ever. How did you have the balls of Katzenberg, and we're and yourself to put this out there in that way? Because that is such a touchy subject suicide is such a touchy. I mean, obviously, it's a minefield, to touch in, but it's perfect for that film. It is, it's necessary for that, but you can't, you can't move that you can't end that film without it. At least being satisfied. You know, better. How did how did you guys approach that? How did Peter approach it? How did Robin approach it? How did you approach it? Like, because it's such a touchy thing. And at what point did you say in the writing process? I'm gonna this is what's gonna have to happen in this film?
Tom Schulman 23:48
Well, when I wrote it, I was too naive, I think, to think that it was anything's difficult, you know, just Steve was part of the story. It's where the story had to go. And that was that, you know, and when Peter and I met and started talking through things, you know, at one point, I don't know, we've kind of avoided the suicide for a while. But finally we got to and I brought it up, because I said, Peter, you know, frankly, now I've got to see people's reactions and talk to people. I'm worried about this. He said, You know, I had the chance to meet Ingmar Bergman once and Bergman told me that the only thing you could do that would absolutely destroy a film was killed, have the main character kill himself. And so I said, Oh, my God, and I said, What are we going to do? And he said, we're going to hope Bergman's wrong. Okay, so that was kind of it with him. And we never had debates at the studio about it. It was really Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 24:42
It's because because Katzenberg is a filmmaker. He Yeah.
Tom Schulman 24:46
I mean, I think I'm sure they thought about it, but they never said anything to me about it because I think they saw that you couldn't have this. It just wouldn't be a good story without it. story wouldn't work. Certainly the ending of the movie with the very Indeed, the movie wouldn't work without it. And, and, but, and then, you know, anything short of that would have just to be kind of whip out, I think.
Alex Ferrari 25:08
Right, exactly. But the soul, the soul, the soul of the script would have been gone.
Tom Schulman 25:13
Yeah. They you know, they wanted to change the title of that. Well, yeah.
Alex Ferrari 25:18
To be fair. Yeah. To be fair. Let's find what it is. What What were some other names that you could do remember that?
Tom Schulman 25:26
Yeah, they asked the marketing department and the distribution people to all eat, they made each of them come up with 20 alternative titles to the store. So we had like, this thick, you know, piece of paper double on both sides with just hundreds of names. And they picked Keatings way. And on and up. For the first few days of the shoot on the slate at the studio's insistence was Keatings wet. And Peter was a little bit worried about it. I remember we went to a video store, and he would love to whenever somebody would recognize him and say, What are you doing next? He said he really wanted up, then they would go Yeah. And then he would pitch them the whole story of the movie, take them he, and because he loved to tell the story. That was the way his way of, you know, really getting into it. And I remember one guy said Robin Williams, and that was not a comedy is it? And it kind of chilled Peter a little bit because he realized people were going to come expecting Rob into being a comedy, which this wasn't, but it just sounded. So he said I'm a little bit worried about the title. But after about three or four days of seeing that on the slate at the he called he called me and said I'm, we're going with Dead Poets Society, to hell with Keatings way. I've told the studio that's the title and just That's it. So what are they going to do? So they're going to take it or they're going to fire me? So I said, Okay, so.
Alex Ferrari 26:50
Yeah, that's Keatings away. For God's sake.
Tom Schulman 26:55
No, I know that that was a TV movie title, right. I mean, that
Alex Ferrari 26:58
That wasn't TV. But Robert was that Robbins first? Dramatic, like deeply dramatic role.
Tom Schulman 27:06
Bizarrely, he had made a movie about two years before PBS in black and white called seize the day. Yeah, about it. And when I heard that, I mean, not having anything knowing that Robin would ever even be, you know, a possibility for the movie. I went, Oh, my God, somebody's made a movie called seize the day. It's a bit it's exactly like this. But I it's always my paranoid. And because, you know, I you sort of assume that once an idea hits you. It's hitting 40 other people at the same time that guys work that way. But anyway, it was not that it was a very dark, very grim film about an in Brighton plays an insurance agent who does anything but seize the day. He just lives a very small life. And so that was a very dramatic role and kind of Walking Dead. I hate to say it, and I mean, maybe I should see it again. But But no, he had done. I guess, Garp he had done.
Alex Ferrari 28:04
Yeah, well, one of the garbage stuff, but it's still but none of those are hits and it was still pretty Good Will Hunting. So yeah, this was the first time they showed his chops. But by the way, before we walked before we did this interview, I went back to watch that trailer just as just to kind of like remind me of haven't seen the movie in a while. And they the first 60 seconds it's set up almost as a comedy. Yeah, like it's set up as a comedy and like, I'm when I'm watching it. I'm like, My God is setting this up as I mean, they kind of get a little bit more serious at the end, but it's really an uplifting treat.
Tom Schulman 28:39
I know, I know. Well, you know, then the marketing department does what it does, right?
Alex Ferrari 28:44
Exactly. So alright, so the movie comes out. It's It's a hit. It's definitely hit it in the in the video stores for sure. Because I was working at the video stores when that came out in the 19. I was in high school. So I remember recommending that film constantly to people in the people coming back like he did tell me about the ending. But it was beautiful. So you go and it gets nominated, you win an Oscar. And now you're kind of you know, you basically, you've hit the dream for all screenwriters pretty much you've won an Oscar, how does the talent treat you? How do you deal with it? Because I've heard out of there Oscar winners on the show. It varies on how the accolades how the town treats you, you know, all of that stuff. How did you how did you handle it? And what was it like?
Tom Schulman 29:34
It was it's, you know, I mean, I by the time the Oscars came around, I had already had to fairly, you know, hit movies in the theaters. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Dead Poets both came out within a couple of weeks of each other right? did really good business. So you know, I was getting offers and stuff that just put it up to another level. And then it's it's hard because people start saying, you know, I'm not going to Give you notes, and you kind of go, what does that I just don't, I would never want to tell an Oscar winner, you know what to write and you kind of go, You know what, I'm no better now than I was when I wrote this. And you know, I need input, I need feedback, I don't I need your honest feedback or, you know, I That's just you thrive on that. It's not always, not always pleasant. But that's, that's what you do. So it was hard that way. And, you know, also just to be diluted with so many offers, literally, if I had been diligent about it, which more more diligent about it, which I should have been, I would have been reading, you know, a scripture tonight for a couple of years,
Alex Ferrari 30:42
Because I want you to direct, not just
Tom Schulman 30:45
Write direct write and direct, but you know, I put it whatever you want to do what you know, really, it's, it's crazy. And, and so I don't know that I handled it well, because I still really wanted to, I had my own ideas of things I wanted to do. So I kind of kept putting those offers aside in a way and you know, looking back, I turned out really good things. And if it was, you know, just go some big shows, some big shows that when they hit, you know, to their credit, a lot of times, you know, I would read the book that was offered, and I did not see what the movie that they made in that book, you know, so some very excellent people got a hold of it with a better grander vision than mine. But still, it was it was hard. And it just, you know, you kind of go from, from, you know, your own your own house, you know, getting the mail and taking care of your family to this thing where you you know, you could literally eat lunch and dinner on somebody else for five years. Honestly, it is never stops. People want to take you out what is it Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 31:52
It's it's, it's the golden ticket in many ways. But just like lottery winners, some people deal with it differently. Some people that destroys them, right? Some people don't take advantage of the situation when it's presented to themselves. And it's, look, it's you, there's no book on it. There are some more interviews like this out there, where I ask these kind of questions of Oscar winners. I'm like, Dude, how did you deal with this? You know, but it's a it's a small club, the Oscar winning?
Tom Schulman 32:23
I mean, for me, it was, the luck of it was is that the, you know, five or 10 years of working, you know, basically in my basement, you know, alone doing it prepared me because I had written a lot. So, you know, I felt I never confident, but I felt pretty good that I could about delivering what you know that if, if I got a job and liked a project that I can I could give them something that you know, at least they wouldn't hate me.
Alex Ferrari 32:53
Did you? Did you after you won the Oscars? I've always fascinated about this. Do you still were insecure as a writer?
Tom Schulman 33:01
Oh, yeah. Yeah. And but the expectations go up right now. Winter, they expect everything you turn in? It's got to be genius, because you don't? Yeah, at least I felt that. But you know, it didn't take long to shake that. You know, you can you just I mean, mainly fortunately for me, the day after the Oscars, I had to get up on a plane and go and have some meetings with Bill Murray over What About Bob? So it was just immediately back to work. You know, What About Bob was kind of, you know,
Alex Ferrari 33:32
That was a that was a that was a that was a pretty big hit as well, if I remember. Yeah.
Tom Schulman 33:36
Yeah, it was. I can't remember but ya know, it was it did well, and but I had that work to do. So it was I didn't have
Alex Ferrari 33:45
A chance to overthink things you were just not really working. So with with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Again, did you did you were you brought in on that? Was that an original idea? Are you you were brought
Tom Schulman 33:58
I was brought in. I mean, I would say 10 days before the anticipated start of production for the first day of production. They fired the entire group have they fired the writers they fired the director, they fired the producers. I think I had heard that Rick Maraniss had bought that it was he had been sold that it was comedy. It wasn't a comedy. And my agent called me and said, You're starting this rewrite tomorrow, and you've got, you know, eight days to turn it to fit to turn it into a comedy and I'm like, What are you talking about? So he sent it to me? I said, I know I can't even get through this. It's a drama. What are you talking about? I've already committed you're doing it. You know, there's a meeting tomorrow at eight o'clock. Be there? You know, I'm like, Oh my god. So that was like a Wednesday and I went to the studio and I said you know what, I gotta think about this. I don't I don't I can't just start writing. I got it. I have a take on it. They said no, no, you understand a week from Saturday. Hey, this is going in a pouch to Rick Maraniss. He's reading it on Sunday. If he's doing it, he's going to be in Mexico on Tuesday starting to shoot. If he reads it and doesn't like it, we're scuttling. I'm like, Oh my God, and then they said, so start to buy. I said, No, I'm gonna start on Monday. I'm gonna think about it for three or four days. And they just every two hours, Katzenberg would call me and go, you're ready to start. Come on, start. Just start writing. Just put some boards down. That's all you got to do. And I'm like, No.
Alex Ferrari 35:29
I remember when that movie came out again, this is this is prime video store time. During when that movie came out. Oh, my God, that was such that was a monster hit if I remember it was, it did lot of business theatrically it destroyed in the video store, spawned a sequel spawned a ride or show a Disney
Tom Schulman 35:50
Write and a series to you know, yeah, that's right. Yeah, no, it was. But you know, it was the idea of the previous team that was you know, all credit.
Alex Ferrari 35:59
It's genius. It's a fairly genius idea.
Tom Schulman 36:02
Yeah. So, yeah. So that that part is, you know, but But yeah, it was and it was a surprise hit. I mean, it actually was released along with Batman against Batman.
Alex Ferrari 36:13
I remember that. Actually. I remember that weekend. I was like, What's this Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Genius by that concept is fairly genius. Especially for the time period that it came out in. Yeah, it just was perfect. Perfect for that time. But I mean, you look, you go back and you look at that movie, you're like, Yeah, you know, the visual effects just weren't ready yet.
Tom Schulman 36:35
I know. I know. It's fine. At the time they work but you know, I can remember, you know, because I always saw those Flash Gordon Saturday mornings. They made in the 30s. And you kind of wonder, will Star Wars ever looked like that? And it kind of did after a while? You know? It's really polished it up a bit. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know, but when you first see it, it's so amazing. You just, it feels like that is as real as it's ever gonna get. And it's perfect. So
Alex Ferrari 37:04
It didn't bother the box office. Let's just put it that way.
Tom Schulman 37:08
Yeah, the sort of fake grass and weeds and honey didn't either but the big the ants head and yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 37:15
It was like it reminded me of that. That movie in the 50s. It was a them is called them. The giant ant.
Tom Schulman 37:22
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. The I think that what had happened was is that the previous team had told Disney they wanted to do all the special effects kind of analog old style, that the B would be a man and a B suit, if you know that thing. So Disney had them shoot a test. They saw it. They just said goodbye. That's it. We're not doing it that way. We're getting other people. So they got Joe Johnston, who was a model maker. Yeah. Um, and, you know, that's, that's,
Alex Ferrari 37:51
They call Joe. I remember. I think I saw them the ILM documentary or something on Disney Plus, he was like, yeah, and then they called me for this Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie, and they just needed someone who could do some effects. So I got the job.
Tom Schulman 38:03
Right. Right. Right. And it was George.
Alex Ferrari 38:04
It was George Lucas who, who gave him the attaboy like the Donnie Brasco. He's, he's he could do it.
Tom Schulman 38:10
Yeah, I think Jeffrey called George and said, Who you got. And George said, I got this, you know, he's a modelmaker. But he's, he's brilliant. And he can do it. Just that okay. You know, so
Alex Ferrari 38:22
Those things don't happen today. Like, unless it's unless it's a Steven or someone from the old guard. making those calls but I think once that generation is gone, these the new gen. There's just nobody that has that kind of juice anymore, or has that power to even do it. No one a Disney, other than maybe Iger could do.
Tom Schulman 38:45
Eisner was part of that. I mean, of course, the firt I had made it because I had gotten sick every time I went to Mexico, I made it because they said well, you know, you're going to be on the set. I said, Nope, not going to Mexico to be on the set of this movie that I'll watch dailies here, not going to cry. No. So they said, you know, at that point, they had them because we went into a seven days, you know, process but the first day the dailies came back, I was there and something happened. And Jeffrey looked at me and said, Did you write that little kid said something. He said, Did you write that line? I don't remember that in the script. I said no, but I like it. And he they stopped the dailies. And they said, Get Joe Johnston on the on the on the phone. So they got him on the phone. I remember David Hoberman, who was head of production was talking to him and he was saying, you know, we're not going to improvise. We've worked really hard on this script. We and then he hung up. And Eisner said what happened? He said he hung up on me. And I like oh, so Eisenberg goes, what do we do? Katzenberg said, Well, we can fire him or we could make his life miserable. Or we could go along and see what happens. And iser said, What do you want to do. And Katzenberg? Let's go along, see what happened. I was Joe's career was on the line, I don't think he ever did. But But, and you know, he did a great job. So
Alex Ferrari 40:15
That's amazing. That's amazing. So whether we do outline when you work
Tom Schulman 40:24
Extensively, I mean, I outline I take notes for months, or however long I have. And then you know, to the point where I'll have 150 pages of just notes, sometimes I've written the same scene twice, and don't even remember it, but, and then I go through and I organize them, I make sure there's space between them, I print them out, I slice every idea in paragraph or whatever scene into a separate thing, I put them in a pile, I pick it up, and I go, Oh, this is Act Two somewhere, and I leave the floor open. So I lay this whole thing out along the floor. And there is the point that I start, there's there places where I don't know how I'm going to connect scenes, I might not even know how this whole section is going to work. But while I'm figuring out what's going on with all the other stuff, those little AHA connection moments happen, you know, so it's a, it's a really good process, and I just stumbled on it.
Alex Ferrari 41:19
Do you do you? When you're writing? Are you trying to tap into the ether? Are you trying to do that thing that that kind of flows through you or not? Because no, you're just what
Tom Schulman 41:32
I'm just into the story completely into the story and characters, you know,
Alex Ferrari 41:37
They're the ones driving it. So you're not trying to like waiting for inspiration or the muse to show up?
Tom Schulman 41:42
No, no, they are the Muse and it'll show up if you work with them. You know, if you're just there, the ether, to me, is a kind of place of self criticism of thinking, oh my god, nobody's ever going to make this. Okay. I just You just read that somebody just sold a horror film for a script for $15 million. Anybody gonna buy this piece of crap, I'm, you know, this this thing, I'm working on no chance that all those things come in, you got to leave them out. You know, that's the so just stay with your story, you know, get through the first draft, maybe at the end, you'll just go this was a bad idea. You've wasted a couple months, whatever, but probably not.
Alex Ferrari 42:24
Something comes out of it. You're a better writer, you're a better writer,
Tom Schulman 42:26
You're better. Absolutely. You know,
Alex Ferrari 42:29
Now, how do you do? How do you deal with studio notes?
Tom Schulman 42:32
I kind of figured that the people giving the notes have the same pride of authorship that that I have. So you know, their job to give notes, right? So I want to encourage them to give good notes. And I do the same thing to them that they do to me, which is the if they're good. They'll always start by going wow, we love what you did. And of course, they're going to shred it and eviscerate it. But by telling me how much they love it and giving me all that support. I'm open and I do the same thing to them when they're giving me the notes. I go Oh, that's interesting. Really good, huh? I write everyone down is if I love it, and they feel very good about my response. And then when I come back and go, Yeah, you know, I love this note, I love that one. But this thing you know, I'd like to do it. But it doesn't work. Because of this. They listen because they know I'm on their side. If I'm defensive in the room, you know, which I did when I was early going. They're just like, Oh, we got a defensive writer and they're not gonna listen to anything you said. But if you're if you're open there, you just you form a great relationship and then they go Yeah, you know, you're right. That would ruin the whole rest of the movie if you did that. So
Alex Ferrari 43:39
You don't drop because I've heard some writers do this is that they'll put something in so ridiculous. Just to give them some some meat. You don't do that.
Tom Schulman 43:48
Now I'd never do anything that I think would would be it
Alex Ferrari 43:52
Because it possibly might get stuck in there if you're not.
Tom Schulman 43:55
Absolutely you know, don't don't ever write anything you don't want shot, you know, and
Alex Ferrari 44:00
Did you ever did you ever hear the story of what Goodwill Hunting? What they did put the script in the middle of the script. They put this massive orgy sex scene with will haunting and his friends. And there's this giant thing. And I forgot who it was. I think it was either Chris Moore or I think Chris Moore told us telling me this story on the show. And it's like he gave it to the studio which was I think that was Touchstone as well. It was a touchstone or Hollywood one of those Disney arms if I'm not mistaken. Oh, or Miramax. It was a Miramax film at the time. Yeah. And then I think it was somebody who read it and they're like, you know, we love the movie, but that orgy scene in the middle. This is seems a little out of place. And they go we want to make sure that you read the entire thing. So we stuck that entire scene in there. That's how we know if you actually read it or if you didn't read it, because if you read it, you're gonna say something.
Tom Schulman 44:56
That's great. That's so smart. Yeah, the interesting thing too Mi is most people and I'm guilty of this myself, when they hit something that really bumps them and bumps them badly. They don't read anything after that, really. They just they think they have, they will finish the script. But you know, you get in a meeting and you go, boy, that thing or they'll start you can tell something's really wrong that thing on page 20. What did you do? You fix that? And you come back and they go and God, well, all that stuff you fix in the second half of the script. It's amazing. Where did you get? How did you do that? And just a day, and you know, it's been there all along. They just couldn't, they couldn't process it. Yeah. So it's, it's interesting that way
Alex Ferrari 45:38
Sometimes, sometimes I've heard, even I've done this on a couple of jobs where I'll just write the same. I just, I'll just send it to them again, after the note, and they'll go, Oh, it's so much better this time. I'm like, That's great. I'm crabby. Your notes are fantastic. Is there is there anything you wish somebody would have told you at the beginning of your career? Well, hoping a little nugget of something you like, man, you know, when you win the Oscar? Well, that besides that, besides that,
Tom Schulman 46:13
People told me so many things, I got a lot of good advice. You know, most of the advice was if you can do anything else with your life, get out you know, because you no matter how talented you are, this movie is gonna eat this film is gonna eat you alive. And, and people told me that, you know, but I was too stubborn. And you know, to listen, that's not going to happen to me, you know, me, and everybody else, you know, ever picked up a pencil. But you know, I don't know. I mean, people have told me, you know, just only fight the important fights Don't you know, and I don't agree with that. I actually think you do better. You know, I mean, I've had people say why, why don't you know, come? Can't we just do that? Like, No, why would I agree to do something and why would you want to do something? That's not right for the movie, every little detail. We have no idea what's going to bump this audience and throw them out. So let's not let's not make any mistakes if we can help it you know, we're gonna make plenty but let's not consciously do something that we think is just okay. You know? No, I got I think, I think I can't think of anything. I mean, maybe I'm just Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 47:30
Okay, fair enough. Fair enough. Now, tell me about your new film double down south, which you wrote and directed. I was telling you I saw the trailer and it's so refreshing to see with Fred the trailers great. It's well put together shot gorgeously, but I'm really intrigued by the story because I've never seen a film about Keno. And in the south, which is like this unique normally it's in the big city like color money or something like that hustling bars, but tell me about that film.
Tom Schulman 48:00
I grew up as a soldier in Nashville. And, you know, as part of a misspent youth, we'd go to this pool hall called 20th century pool hall, which was to dive in a fairly shabby, then Jabby part of Nashville, and three guys named Nick ran it. They were Nick Nick Nick, the old it middle, Nick and young Nick, young Nick in that play was about 30. I guess old Nick was just crotchety old guy middle, Nick was a genuinely mean person, you know, and you just, you'd never want to ask him one question. You never talked to him again. He was so dismissive. And I was, you know, he hated kids there, but he let us come in. Because you know, we spent money on and in the corner, they had this game called Kino pool, which was this board you put on the table, there are holes in the board, there are numbers for the balls, and there's this double hole. And if you make a double, you get to shoot again. And you the bet doubles. So if you are playing for five bucks, and we both put $5 on the table, and I make a double on the break, you have UNL me 10 bucks, and I get to shoot again and the beds now 10 bucks, and if I hit the double hole again on the break, you owe me 20 bucks. So people that are good at doubling up and you know, the first time I played I made the mistake of not quite understanding that and, you know, almost lost my watch and never got to shoot because if you shoot and miss, it's the other guy shot and he gets to keep going until he misses. So it's it's a diabolical gambling game. And there was this really good looking woman. I have no idea how old she is. But I mean, I was 14 she would come into this place every now and then and would be back there with the guys playing Keno and you know, we'd sit back there, my friends and I just gawk at her and she never gave you know even glanced at us but it stuck with me because it was a rough crowd. And she seemed to she was I never saw her smile. She is a tough tough on brand, you know. And so she was kind of the for years, I thought I want to make something store I want to write a story about this, but it never just kind of went away. I couldn't figure it out. And then maybe, I don't know, a year a little over a year ago. I just went, Oh my God, I know what that is both of those to be because I had a friend whose brother ran a poker game in accounting, you're outside in Nashville. And it was kind of a he was really smart about it, because he, I mean, it was illegal. But he paid off the cops. And he would bring star poker players from all over the United States in advertised them, you know, kind of underground and poker players from all over which show up to see if they can beat these guys, you know, and he took a cut of the pot. That's all he did just cut the pot. Yeah, so that that those two things were sort of the inspiration for this plantation house, where this game of Keno is played is a kind of, you know, high stakes keynote.
Alex Ferrari 51:03
I mean, I'm dying to see it. I can't wait to see it. It looks it looked really cool. It's like it's an original idea. I just haven't seen that before. And that's such a rarity. In today's world, you just because everything has been made. Everything is every story has been done. But but this is just a unique placement for it. So. So this is I think this is an independent film at this point. Yeah, yeah. So how'd you get? How'd you get the cash? off the ground because it's not easy nowadays.
Tom Schulman 51:32
My friend Rick Wallace, who is we've been friends since the late 70s. television director was worked for bochco for years, ran some bochco shows, great guy, just dear old friend read, read the script. And he's he's moved to New York, outside of Seattle. And he said, You know, there's a whole group of people up here that every now I meet him, and again, they say, if you've got any, any, you know, movie ideas or whatever, you know, we've invested in some low budget horror films, blah, blah, blah. And I said, Sure, give them the script. And you know, what, it just, they just came through, it couldn't have been any easier, you know, the budgets very low. So, you know, and, and they were just like, the day with the money was supposed to be there. It was there. What, what's the No, I know, I mean, the money dropped on the day was a bomb. Everything was just, you know, as easy as it could be that way, you know, and we still had to go off in the middle of COVID. And, you know, make the movie in 22 days, but, but you know, we did
Alex Ferrari 52:37
Everyone, everyone listening, this is not the way things happen.
Tom Schulman 52:40
It never, never the money never Is there ever, never comes.
Alex Ferrari 52:45
It's always out tomorrow, but you have to pay people, well, we'll just start shooting now. And we'll pay you and we'll get it to you. And this just lets your studio based. It's that's just the way it goes.
Tom Schulman 52:57
Yeah, yeah. It's a shot. And you know, I just hope they get their money back. So,
Alex Ferrari 53:03
But it looks, it looks great. I can't really looking forward to it. And it comes out in May you said,
Tom Schulman 53:08
Yes, it's gonna be released in a minimum of 10 cities, in theaters in May. And then right after that, it'll be on all the digital platforms. And then after that, streaming somewhere, it'll find a home somewhere. Yeah. final final resting place.
Alex Ferrari 53:25
So let me ask you, you know, as directors, there's always that one day on set that is that you feel the entire world's coming crashing down around you. And it's generally every day. But there's there's that one day unless you're Peter Weir, and then you're just a cool cucumber. But, but for the rest of us mortals. Yeah. What was that day for you either on this project, or any of the other projects you've worked on? And how did you overcome it?
Tom Schulman 53:53
Well, that that day for me was probably about 15 days into the shoot maybe a little less, maybe 12 to halfway through when I was shooting a scene that's about two it's basically the end of that too. And you know, it had been there and seem good for you know, the however many months it had been eight months since I've written it and hundreds of eyes it seen it, shot the scene, it felt good. I woke up at two o'clock in the morning and went, Oh my God, that scene, the movie does not work from that point on. It's this I've made a huge mistake. And the character that's talking about this would not be concerned about what he's talking about. The whole movie falls apart at this point. And I just, it's like, oh my God, and I, you know, I just thought, I can't save this. It's done. I'm gonna have to go in and want to call the invest. I mean, we're screwed. So and then I thought, Okay, you're right. I just put on the T and see what that you know, think this through to end by five in the morning because I had to be on the set, I believe it's 530 for the set. I had figured out the whole how to rewrite the scene and the movie. Not only was it was going to work better, because of the new way the way the scene was going to be, and I went to the set. And I said, we got to reshoot that scene from yesterday. No, we don't have time. Why would you do it? It was a great scene. We all love it. I said, Listen to me. And I told him what was wrong with the scene? They're like, Oh, my God, you're right. And here's how we fix it. Oh, my God. Okay, great. Great. Well, we'll figure out how to reschedule it. And we did. So it was, but that was a terrifying. Oh, my God, you know, it was.
Alex Ferrari 55:42
It is there's always that day. I mean, it's, you know, for me, it was insane. This is an insane proposition. It's art at at a level. Because you can be an artist view writer and just write and that's fine. There's their stakes, but they're not that big in the sense that they could do in your time. You could be a painter, you could be a musician. They're very solitary. But when you're working as a director, yeah. And you've got millions of dollars and people's careers, and every second that is going by all you hear is teaching to achieve X.
Tom Schulman 56:18
Yeah, it's it's just it is so crazy. To be spending money at the rate we spend it normally at the in the way we do you know, it's just, it's always baffling to me. I mean, I rehearsed we rehearse before this movie, we had a couple of readings before dead poses, like most people never rehearse. And then it's like, what? You don't ever even have a read through the script. I mean, come on, you got to you got to at least I mean, every one of those, those exercises gives you a big clearer picture or a clearer picture of what's working and what's not. And yet people just end by the way, most stuff works. It's not like it's saying, yeah, so but but, you know, to me, the process is, it's baffling, you know, but that's the way we do it. So that's what we did.
Alex Ferrari 57:08
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter or filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Tom Schulman 57:16
Well, today, it's easier in a way, because you can go out with your cell phone and your friends and you can make something you know, you can write it, you can direct it, and then shoot it. And, you know, you can more cost much. So that's what I would do. That's what I would advise anybody to do. If you don't want to direct you know, find somebody who likes your script. And you know, somebody your age, preferably with, they will listen and, you know, and make your stuff because there's huge opportunity out there. Now, you know, you can get your stuff. I mean, agents won't read anything anymore. It's hard to get them to watch you if you're going to make something even if you make a short you need to make the trailer for the show. They'll watch a 32nd trailer, they will not watch your eight minute short, you know,
Alex Ferrari 58:03
Basic, isn't it?
Tom Schulman 58:05
I know. I know. So, you know, we made the trailer the part of the deal was you got to make a trailer for the movie just to sell it. You know, because the sales agents do not want to watch your movie they they'll watch the if you tease them with the trailer and they liked the trailer, then they'll watch the movie, call them up and say you've got a movie, they'll go okay, we'll see it and you know, two months later, it's like Yeah, yeah, we'll get to it. Show them the good trailer, they'll watch it that night in the movie that night. I mean, he just you know, the short attention spans are something we just all have to deal with now, so you know, make sure you cater to that.
Alex Ferrari 58:40
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Tom Schulman 58:49
You know, trust trust my instincts I did it when writing you know, when I'm sitting down, I'm alone and I just, you know, I just try whatever I don't spend a lot of time you know, questioning my own instincts I just if I think there's a bad scene it is and I just redo it or they feel like something's wrong. I fix it. You know, I don't I don't ask myself should I fix this though? I just do it. But when I get with people as a director and you know and in meetings I'm less likely to sort of just lay out who I am and that's a mistake you know, you got to get comfortable just sometimes being the dumbest person in the room or the you know the mic or like Tom Hanks in big going I don't get it you know and even if everybody's gone What do you mean you don't get it come on you did it you know, you're going you know, you just got to you got to be completely honest with with people and and if you are it it you know, I got after two or three movies getting made and I just somehow I got more or let's say less likely to be a to rock the boat a little bit, you know, just in some ways less less confrontational than I had been before. You know, Disney and when I started there had a reputation being a writer kill any studio, you know, the writers would just complain. Oh, my God, I, you know, I was I wrote for a month and you know, summarily fired the other one, I didn't really know that. So I just spoke up on it right? Thought some, I mean, I just was just like, I don't think that works. And then people would look and you talk and then okay, all right. Well, what do you got? What would work though, that we had a real dialogue all the time. I was less likely to do that at other places. And I frankly, don't know why. But it was a mistake, because you just you have to bite the bite, maybe maybe I was aware that the other places had had shorter fuses, you know, and, and I had come to trust that Katzenberg wasn't going to fire me no matter how obnoxious we had some shouting matches big ones. And in front of other people, you know, but and I, you know, just we just trigger each other like that. And he never, you know, most of the time he would cave if you fight hard enough, he will. Okay, you know, and that's obviously we would back then, but I don't know, I got I pulled back from that. And I don't think it helped the movies that I hadn't made later.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:18
Fair enough. Fair enough.
Tom Schulman 1:01:20
Yeah. And that's the opposite of most people will tell you, you know, try to try to please but I don't think that's the answer.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:27
What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?
Tom Schulman 1:01:32
Well, for sure, Casa Blanca, who shared Chinatown? I think Groundhog Day? You know,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:41
It's one of the it's one of the most brilliant scripts ever written. Yeah, yeah. And I and I've said it so many times. It's the most spiritual film I've ever seen. It's amazing. It is it's literally the most it's the journey of a soul reincarnating again and again until he gets it right. And he learns his lessons along the way. And at the end, he is liberated. I mean, it's literally that.
Tom Schulman 1:02:03
Yeah, it's one of my favorite movies of all time, you know. Incredible. So
Alex Ferrari 1:02:09
And then what are three films? three of your favorite films of all time?
Tom Schulman 1:02:13
Three of my favorite films. Well, that's so hard. Today, today, today, if I had you know, I guess the two godfathers
Alex Ferrari 1:02:23
That counts as one. Okay,
Tom Schulman 1:02:24
That counts as one probably Ekaru. You ever seen that? Oh, acre? Of course. Of course. Yeah, yeah. I guess Casa Blanca, I would have to say it's beautiful. The message of that movie is just one of the most you know it's it's humanity's best moment. You know? I think that that what happens in that moment? So
Alex Ferrari 1:03:00
Tom it has been a pleasure talking to you my friend. Thank you so much. Again. Thank you so much again, for all those amazing filmmaking moments you gave me coming up and and I'm dying to see your latest movie when it comes out. But I appreciate you my friend. Thank you again for all the the knowledge and the and wonderful stories. I appreciate you.
Tom Schulman 1:03:19
It's a real pleasure.
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