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BPS 206: Lessons Learned: Being a First-Time Writer/Director with Sarah Elizabeth Mintz

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz received her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she completed her thesis film Transit, starring Dakota Johnson. After graduating she mentored with filmmakers Cary Fukunaga on True Detective, Joachim Trier on Louder Than Bombs, and worked with Alejandro Inarritu on The Revenant.

Sarah was a Sundance Fellow in the 2017 Writer’s Intensive and 2018 Sundance Strategic Financing Intensive with her project Good Girl Jane. She completed a short film of the same name starring Rachelle Vinberg (Skate Kitchen, HBO’s Betty) and Travis Tope (American Vandal), with cinematography by Jake Saner (Ghosts of Sugar Land).

The short premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in London. Good Girl Jane recently wrapped principal photography in Los Angeles starring Rain Spencer, Patrick Gibson and Andie MacDowell. Good Girl Jane is inspired by events in Sarah’s own life.

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Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 0:00
I think I was like, Okay, I'm not making any progress, but it's not. But I can write a little. And then and I was like, okay, the script needs to be better. Like how do I make it better? And yeah, kept redrafting and I kept sending up pieces and finally and it's funny because like it wasn't getting anywhere but then it got into the Sundance of writers and pensive. And I was like, Okay, if it's gonna get in nowhere and then get in here like, I'll take it, you know?

Alex Ferrari 0:29
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage. We're screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com. Now today on the show, we have writer director Sarah Elizabeth Mintz. Now Sarah's new film, good girl, Jane is premiering at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Now her journey and how she got to this point is pretty remarkable. She had the opportunity to work with Oscar winning writer director Alejandro Ruutu on the set of The Revenant the stories alone are remarkable. So without any further ado, let's dive in. I'd like to welcome to the show Sarah Elizabeth Mintz how you doin Sarah?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 1:10
I'm good. Hi Alex thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 1:13
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm excited to talk to you about your your new film Good Girl Jane and, and your your adventures in the film industry which have have been you've got some shrapnel along the way.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 1:27
Yeah. Yeah, sure. This is not my first rodeo. It is my first feature that I've written and directed.

Alex Ferrari 1:35
But you've been you've been you've been in some battlegrounds over the year. So we're gonna get into that. So before we get started, how did you and why God's green earth did you want to get into this insanity called the film industry?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 1:46
I'm just jumping right in, right. So it's like, I don't know if I really had a choice in the matter. Exactly. I actually, I thought I just loved movies. And when I was in high school, I would you know, do the thing where you like, buy a PG to get and sneak into the movies. I think it was like 2002 2003 I really started sneaking into all the movies. I remember I was it was like the dreamers came out to the club where Lucci like that's so cool, like 13 and ghosts, were all like Hedwig and the Angry Inch like I was, I was a teenager and I was like, I would have spent all my time watching like the weird movies that that are at the Lemley, which was like the art house theater by my house. And so at first, I just thought it was like a fan. And it was kind of shy. I was pretty shy, actually. So I spent all my time watching movies, like all night, I didn't sleep and would go to class and super tired. But I was like, Well, I spent all night hanging with my friends, you know, on the screen. So I think that I thought I was chip in. And I also didn't really know that women directed like, there were very, there were very few female directors that I was aware of. I was aware of like Kathryn Bigelow and Sofia Coppola. And truly, I think that was it. Like, luckily, later I was like, oh, Andrea Arnold. Like slowly, people started trickling in. But I didn't know that was an option at all. I did grow up in LA. I did grow up, you know, around people that wanted to act or like people's parents were in Hollywood. But my family wasn't at all and in the film business at all, in the film business at all. No, my mom's a therapist. My dad was he was in entertainment. He was in talent manager for musicians, but not, not different.

Alex Ferrari 3:46
Different worlds. Different crazy, but similar worlds. Different crazy, but similar worlds.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 3:52
Definitely crazy. Around the crazy, but not quite the film crazy. And then I went to college, I went to UW Madison for a year and a half, and I studied Russian language and political science. And I woke up one morning, sophomore year, and I was taking off film classes it like happened really slowly, sort of overnight. And I was like, I'm not going to be able to graduate. Like, I'm not this isn't my major. I can't like figure this out. So I transferred to NYU. And once I was at NYU. I was like, Okay, I'm going to direct but it didn't happen overnight. I didn't feel like it was an active choice in that it just sort of like it was always where it was headed. It was

Alex Ferrari 4:39
You were being pulled into that into that world regardless of whether you want it it was like a vortex like a black hole. Yeah, just sucking you in. That. That is the feeling that many filmmakers have. It's just like I worked in a video store back in the day so I just you know, surrounded by and that one day, I said What am I gonna do Hey, I just looked, I said, I guess I'm gonna direct movies. And that's literally how I got my start as well. It's just something that and then once you're in you wouldn't you get bitten by that bug? I call it the beautiful illness, you can't get rid of it. You can't get rid of this the feeling of wanting to as much as you might want to leave.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 5:19
Yeah, it's so hard to get rid of this. Please give me a call. You now have my number.

Alex Ferrari 5:29
No, no, it's true. And I've talked to I mean, I've talked to so many filmmakers over the years, and everyone suffers from the same illness, all of us, all of us suffer the same thing. And there's no way out and many of us have tried to leave. And many of us wanted to leave. I've tried to leave. I've been doing this for almost 30 years now. And I've wanted to lead multiple times, because it's just so hard. It's just so brutally hard over the years. And it's that insanity. That keeps you going. That makes you think that you like yeah, can make this happen. Yeah, I can get the financing. Yeah. can cast that actor. Yeah, I can get it to this festival. It's it's insane.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 6:07
It really is. And I'm not trying to pivot prematurely, but service, the movie that I the good girl, Jane, is it tackles substance abuse and drug addiction. And I definitely think there's a lot of that, in pursuing a career like this, like that sort of, I mean, the highs and lows. It's just it really mirrors. Like any addiction. It really does. It's not

Alex Ferrari 6:33
You're not wrong, you're not wrong. I mean, I mean, I have been around the block a couple more times than you have. But I've seen it as well with young and old. It is that kind of addiction to it. You just have to kind of keep going you wake up in the morning thinking about it, you get to sleep at night thinking about it. It is it is it's all encompassing, but that is art that is an artist's life. And for better or worse. That's why we were put here. We have to we have to walk this way. We have to walk this path without question. Now it was you was talking about a few film? Was there a movie that specifically lit your fuse?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 7:10
Some of those movies that I listed earlier for sure. You know, hmm, outside again, I probably that's probably the movie that I watched, like on a loop. Freshman year, like when I was like 1415. Just the the youthful energy and like that the very tight the Verity vibe, and that film that was new to me. I like hadn't really seen anything like that before. There's also sexy and I was like, you know, a teenager. I just loved that movie so much. And that yeah, probably that one, but also Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I'd say that movie really did change my life. Because it was the first time that I saw a film where it felt like anything was possible. Like you can tell any vulnerable story you want. Like there are no restrictions. Just tell your truth. Like get it out there. And that that movie changed my life like John Kerr Mitchell was my favorite director for a long time when I was when I was younger because of his bravery. And that's inspiring to me.

Alex Ferrari 8:14
Oh, no, there's no question. Once you see that movie. You go. Yeah. Oh, yeah. You could tell them your story. Today. If this has been if this has been put into the world, the doors swung wide open. Anyone can walk through?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 8:28
Absolutely. So even if it's not, even if that film didn't look exactly like the films, I mean, I knew I wanted to make it. Yeah, it changed my whole life. It was like, Oh, you could do anything telling it.

Alex Ferrari 8:42
So while you were at NYU, you made a short film called transit. And it starred a young Dakota Johnson, who was still a seasoned actor at that point. She cheated. She hadn't hit fifth. What is the gray? 50 Shades of Grey yet

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 8:58
No, no, she was on Ben and Kate, which was a Fox sitcom at the time,

Alex Ferrari 9:02
Right. But she was wearing a working actress. So yeah, you know, for a young director like yourself at the time. What was it like? Working with a seasoned actor? How did you approach that process? Because I know a lot of filmmakers, young filmmakers listening, that they get an opportunity to work with a seasoned actor. And I remember when I most of the actors I worked with growing up, were not seasoned. They were young kids like me trying to make it happen. But when you get in a room or get on a set with a real, a real actor who's got some jobs, where he got some chops, it can be intimidating with filmmaker, or it could be exhilarating. How was it for you? And how did you approach working with her?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 9:41
Well, I have to be completely honest. So I made that film, like about a decade ago. And this is really the first conversation. This is the first press I've ever done for it. Because that film, it did jumpstart my career in a lot of ways. And I did work with, you know, some really talented actors to code included, I did that movie with her. And that was, like, gigantic for me. But it didn't do a big festival run I do didn't do a big press tour. So it's like, whoa, a transit like, takes it back. Working with the coda, I mean, so I went to high school with Dakota. And, and we were, we were close. And I knew her and her family. And she had seen me go through a lot of becoming age, that coming of age that I was trying to, like capture in that film. And you're, and she was one of the only actresses that I knew that I that I could ask to do it. Like I was like, Okay, this is a close friend of mine. She is clearly like, I had a hunch about her, you know, when I was little, she wanted to act. And I was like, okay, this person is so talented, and they're going to act and like, I got to get in there and work with her. And we just cared about each other, we crafted a story that was again, very personal. And it was it was a little intimidating, even like asking him to do it, even though we were friendly. Because I remember I took her to the Greenwich hotel. And I had like $4 to my name is through the Grand Hotel. And I was like, let's get like a drink. And, and even just in that meeting, I remember thinking to myself, like she's been in so many more of these meetings than I have. And I was really trying to put like some shoulder pads on and like pitch the film to her and professional way. And anyway grateful to her, she decided to do with me, she trusted me. And it was a really fruitful like that movie, even though, you know, it's definitely a student film. It's not like my finest work yet. Sure, of course, really. It's something that I'm very proud of. And I'm proud of what she gave in that film. And it was, it was a really, it was very, it was dramatic and personal for her to like there was a lot of stuff that I think she hadn't quite put on screen yet at the time. And it was moving to dig that deep with her into that.

Alex Ferrari 12:07
Now I wanted to bring that up, because so many filmmakers, you know, it's all great and dandy when you're making getting you're in Tribeca, and you're at Sundance, but to go back to those first days, you know, working on those first short films, that's when a lot of these lessons the foundation, the bricks of the foundation are starting to be poured, or the cement is starting to be poured in that foundation. During those early short films and getting an opportunity to work with Dakota someone like of her caliber for talent is a blessing. And also, I'm sure a learning experience as a director.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 12:37
It absolutely was. And I I really I did study her on that set, because she grew up on set, and I did it. And her and you know she, she was always on time, she was always so friendly to the casting crew really collaborative. But it was also just like, I felt like I really needed to, to I keep saying this. But like I really need to do my homework in order to like have conversation with her on set. I couldn't just wing it because she had done the homework. And I did my first I directed my first love scene on that short, it was like very quick, and it wasn't really graphic. But I had to really make a safe space and a safe set for everyone. And it's actually I worked with the same cinematographer on that short as I did on the Belgian feature.

Alex Ferrari 13:29
Nice. So you brought so you brought him along? You brought everyone Yeah.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 13:33
And like that idea of safety. Yeah, no, no, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 13:37
I mean, anytime I've ever had to shoot a love scene. It is horrible. It's horrible. for everybody involved. It's not sexy at all. It's just about trying to keep a safe space for the actors. And but it's just like it's uncomfortable. Like as a director, you're like, Alright, can you caress the back of the neck more here? Like it's just weird. It's a weird, unsexy, awkward scenario to do.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 14:00
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I had no idea. And I remember both actors I was working with Steve had done love skins prior. And they were definitely like, oh, like, they knew how it went. But I really had to go in there and be like, Okay, I need to choreograph this ahead of time and be very clear on what I need, but they're not just like, uh, you know, and you're right. It's not really a sexy time. The whole point is just that you need to make sure these people feel comfortable and safe and really be clear about what it is that you want. And now we have these intimacy coordinators that are on all this. Gotta say that's profoundly helpful. Very, very profound with the awkwardness with it.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
Yes, absolutely. Just having a middle person to just kind of talk to somebody and go, please help. I don't know. What do I do here?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 14:56
No yeah, but go I want to you want to make sure that doesn't look like they are you know, playing Twister like the angles really matter and these people have to give you that insight. Sorry, that's not very important, but funny.

Alex Ferrari 15:11
It is. It's funny. It's kind of the lunacy of the Carnival that is filmmaking. You know, we are carnies. We're just carnies. You know, without question. Now, you you have, you've had the opportunity to work with some very interesting people over the years. As you were coming up as a director specifically, you got to assist Alejandro Ruutu on the Revenant. What the hell was that? Like? Because all I've heard is, I've heard I've worked with I've talked to some people who worked on the movie. I've seen the documentary, I've heard stories. It was an insanity from what I heard on set in a good way, but just the nature of the kind of storytelling. You were there assisting him at that point. Were you on set? Did you were you did you watch? What was going on? What did you learn? Tell me tell me everything.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 16:01
Wow. So I was on my job in total, I think like three months, so I was not there as long as any anyone else I like I came in near the end. There was quite a, there were quite a few assistants, there was a large team of them, some had, you know, come on earlier and left. And I had, I got that job because I was in high school intern at anonymous content for Steve Golan. And he, he was producing the Revenant. And he and I had stayed in touch. He really been a mentor to me for a long time. And, and he thought it would be good for that job. Given how tricky it seemed like it was going. And so I flew out there and I was in Calgary, so yes, I was on set. I was in Calgary, during all of those like crazy snowstorms we've seen in the pictures you've heard about. And I had directed, I sorry, I guess to sit a few directors prior to that. So I did kind of know the drill. But this was a unique experience. For sure. It was I had to wear essentially like a spacesuit on set. It was that cold I had, I remember just buying out the I landed and then I had to get to set in the morning. And I didn't know how I could get to set and be on set. Like in the clothing I brought. I didn't have like a spacesuit yet. So remember showing up but I just like looked like a dodo. You know, like I was like wearing everything I owned. And everyone else just looked like they really had it down. And I just didn't have it down yet. And I'm carrying like all under his lunch and like all his bags, and I'm I just didn't look cool and like, didn't look ready. So it took me a minute to kind of get into the swing of things. But But I got to see Chivo do all those winners and I got to see natural light being shooting and after late. The day's shooting very short, very little light. Because of the winter, and it's just like the conditions we really only had a few hours to shoot each day. And it would take like two hours to get set. So it was it was a different type of thing than I ever done. It was also the biggest movie I'd ever worked on. It was like $200 million. I have no idea it was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And the most stress I've ever seen at like for them in the produce. I saw some producers like actually just go gray like in front of like, you know, I read a sure I like I probably aged quite a bit in just that short amount of time. But it was also truly inspiring. You know, so ambitious, but really, it's an art film and it's It's gigantic. And that's rare, a rare breed. It's insane did what was like the biggest lesson you learned watching him direct. Did you get a chance to watch him direct? Yeah, and I would say that's probably about all of the directors that I've worked for. But I mean, specifically all 100 Just an uncompromising creative vision. Like there. I mean, you've probably heard there was a really big challenge there wasn't enough snow on the ground for a lot of the toward the end of student was enough snow on the ground. And it wasn't like okay, you know, we'll we'll we'll create some fake snow put on the ground and like that's that you know, the texture of the snow in the way it read on camera. Like if that wasn't as authentic as possible if that wasn't reading correctly, like we would you know, be flew somewhere else. Simple as that. Yeah. Just fly through. And it's not and by the way, it's not just like you know, you you're dp and a couple of other people on the crew you're talking about 100 people plus, plus all the gear in the most insane environment ever tried. I mean, yeah, Leo almost died for God's sakes. I mean, yeah, I also remember seeing all of the mock ups of that horse carcass and and just the artistry in there's yeah so many people building such a universe and I just had never been on set like that. Like it was really stunning the amount of crops people and the amount of talent that was that was on that project.

Alex Ferrari 20:43
Same same kind of setup. Good girl, Jane, right. Obviously, just, you know, hundreds of people on set

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 20:51
Shooting for months on end

Alex Ferrari 20:53
Months on, if you didn't like the way the garbage was landing in the back alley, you would just go to a rally?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 20:59
Yeah, yeah, definitely. No, I would personally move the garbage.

Alex Ferrari 21:05
You know, it's so fun. It when you're when you have the ability or the opportunity to be on a set like that. It's just so remarkable, because you're right, it's an art film at a level that no one gets to play. And that's a that's a that's a sandbox that a handful of directors in the world get to play and literally a handful of directors in the world because,

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 21:26
Like, let go like I yeah, I mean, it was that was so cool. Because I had really I had worked on arthouse films, like that's what I had done for the most part. And this was that it was just giant. Yeah, it was just on such a bigger scale. And, you know, it's like, yeah, I'm working with see one. You know that there is a producer that does big movies, like, Yeah, but yeah, but like, but also like Michelle gone refill. And it's so it was, it was a really unique experience. And it is the last movie I assisted on. So I really did. Like, I was like, Okay, I've seen it all I've seen it all is nothing more than can be seen. Usually,

Alex Ferrari 22:15
I need to move on. Now. This is this is the next this is the next step. No, it's pretty. It's pretty remarkable. Now, how did Good Girl Jane come to life?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:25
Like, from like, day one?

Alex Ferrari 22:29
Well, I mean, I'm assuming I'm assuming they just throw money at you, right? Because this is obviously

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:33
Oh, yeah. Like I'm gonna make I'm gonna make a movie out of it directly one before and I'm just gonna find a million bucks. And then Oh, and there it is.

Alex Ferrari 22:42
Right. Right. And there's like God just just showed up. Right? And then you could just start working at the next day.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:47
Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 22:51
That's the story. And that's the story. And that's the story I'm sticking to.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 22:55
Yes, exactly. So, um, so I'm talking to you, I'm in this living room, this apartment that I'm submitting, and it's, um, I'm in I'm in Brooklyn. And I started this whole process in Brooklyn, seven years ago, sorry, in Manhattan seven years ago. So I, I was, like I said, assistant directors, and I finished the Revenant. And I was like, Okay, I'm going to write, I'm going to write a movie. What do I know? You know, that's, that's, they tell you to start there. That, so it's, I had one option. And I was like, so I sit down and start writing and I'm in living York, and I'm like, Oh, I can't, I can't actually write this. Without going home. Like took place in LA. It's like about my childhood. I have to go home. So I moved to LA. I didn't want to live in LA, I wanted to live in New York. But I moved to LA. And I wrote the whole thing in my mom's backyard in like a little truly like a good like, storage closet like thing in her backyard. And I wrote it and then I took me a while. And then I sent it to a bunch of like labs and screenwriting competitions and whatnot. And got a bunch of rejections. Like how it goes, nobody wanted it. But but people liked it. I think I was like, Okay, I'm not making any progress, but it's not but I can write a little. And then. And I was like, okay, the script needs to be better. Like, how do I make it better? And yeah, kept redrafting and I kept sending up pieces. And finally, and it's funny because like, it wasn't getting anywhere, but then it got into the Sundance writers intensive. And I was like, Okay, if it's gonna get in nowhere and then get in here, like, I'll take it, you know? I'll take it so, so I had a feature script. I brought it there. It was called Junk food diary at the time, it was like very kind of like punchy and like completely different had voiceover like top to bottom. And I got a bunch of notes from the finance advisors and throughout the script entirely. And they gave me a little bit of grant money for being the program and I went and made that short film. But the proof of concept short film. And I guess we're like three years in at this point, I make the short film I, I partner to make the short with this producer and Lauren Pratt. It was her first movie, but I had met her while I was assisting directors and I was like, I think she's gonna be the killer producer. I'm a partner with this girl. And so we partnered together, she helps me develop the project into the short and then much bigger. And then Sheikh senior who shot transit with me, I brought him on shoot the short and, and then after the short was made, again, still seeing this transit. It got me some attention. Like I got a manager off of it. And it played three months but had no life on the festival circuit. Like I would get emails back from programmers like good job. Like it didn't play anywhere.

Alex Ferrari 26:17
The most. The nicest of us ever.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 26:21
Totally, like people were engaging to tell me that it was really like affecting or like it really shut them or something. And I'm like, nobody's playing this thing. Like, literally nobody's buying it. So although no budge put it in like a little like a showcase it in Brooklyn. And I remember that was a fun thing. Because I was like, okay, playing in the theater, like, it's good. I got it. But took the short film, to Sundance with just like, brought it with me to say my backpack, you know, and Lauren and Jake and I, we we paired with a sales agency at the time. And they put us on a bunch of like, speed dating, basically with financiers and one of the financiers. Just money.

Alex Ferrari 27:10
So back up the speed dating with financers. I've never heard of this. Where can I sign up? Where's the speed dating for five dancers? I've heard of this is fantastic. What is that?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 27:25
It's a really, it's a really, really good question. Well, I'll back up two steps. One is that Sundance for me. And one other program, which is called like the, forgive me, it's like the women and film strategy and financing and tax of something. And so they put me into that program with my producer. And that was the first finance your speed dating. You did. So we did two. This. We did two. And this first one. It was I mean, Lauren, and I prepared. Like, as if it was the bar. It was instant. And that sounds probably like really crazy of me to say. But it's we studied for so long. We had this whole pitch memorized. We were like, it was a whole thing. We it was a whole show that we were. So we went and we pitched him on to people. And we got a bunch of meetings where we didn't get the money. But we did take a bunch of meetings, a bunch of places because of it. And we got sort of out of that a sales agent. And that sales agent, we, Lauren and Jake and I that percentage, Harman producer and I, we were like we're gonna go to Sundance, we want to make this we want to get this movie put together and the sales agent was like, Okay, we know some financiers will set you on, like two days of meetings. And that was what the speaking like,

Alex Ferrari 28:44
That's amazing. I've never heard of that called investor speed dating. That is,

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 28:49
I probably shouldn't call it that, then.

Alex Ferrari 28:51
It's fantastic. It's actually awesome. I've never heard of it that way. And it should be. There should be more of it. I think we should all have access to speed dating for investors. I think that would be a great company.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 29:04
Yeah, I mean, and it's not to say that, like again, at this point. I'm what it's like four years in like it's not overnight overnight is what you're saying overnight? Yeah, overnight. But once we sat down with a student films, which is the company that ended up financing the film, we sat down, I think on day two of the meetings, and I pitched them the movie and Lauren and I were talking about it, and they just agreed to finance it within a few moments of talking. Really? Yeah. They were kidding. They were kidding. And I thought I was going to like be physically ill because I was so I was like I don't want to get excited you know I didn't want Oh yeah. And I was like no I only here knows this like can't actually be real. And remember they took us I met with Dominica remember like to the producers over there. And they needed to take us to Fredbear and see who was the one that was gonna, like sign the check. And they're like, Yeah, we're gonna go over to talk to Fred. So it's like, I like had it. Like, I just had it prepared. I didn't know who this person was. I was so nervous. I was like pinching myself. Like, as I was walking over there, like, please just don't like fall over just stupid. Anyway, it was totally fine. He, he wanted to make a movie, too.

Alex Ferrari 30:27
It's, it's fascinating that we as filmmakers constantly are getting nose most 99% of the time we get nose most nose the most. Other than actors, actors get more nose than filmmakers do. That's true. That's a fair. That's a fair statement. That's a fair statement. But it just in the whole process of filmmaking. There's nose all the time. No, no, no, no. When someone says yes. And in the way that you just stated it like so quickly. So like, oh, yeah, let's just let's go out and you're just this cat. This was

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 30:58
Absolutely not. Like, now I'm now I'm skeptical of you.

Alex Ferrari 31:08
I was pitching myself to you. But now that you actually liked me and want to make my project, I don't trust you.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 31:15
And it's not just like, I knew I was gonna make this movie, because I was going to keep trying to make it till I actually die. You know, I was like, I'm gonna make this movie. I'm gonna figure it out. But, but it was just Yeah. I was getting a little numb from the nose at that moment.

Alex Ferrari 31:33
And at that point, and you're at this point four years in, at least Yeah, at least four years at this point. Yeah. Now, one thing about this project that when I was when I was pitched to me, it was based on on true life events. So I've seen the movie. And I was telling you earlier, like, I hope it was very loosely based on real life events, because it's a pretty, it's a heavy film. It's a heavy film, and it was based on true events of your own life. So how much of that? And how much did you want, want to expose about your own life in your storytelling? I've done something similar. I wrote a book about a horrible experience I had with making a movie for the mafia, when I was 26. And that's a whole other conversation.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 32:16
Be easy go right? Writing about

Alex Ferrari 32:18
Route your own life. Yeah. So like, you find like, I for me, I always found that, like, I got to put it all in, I can't hide anything. And I just let it all out and let it let it hit where it hits. Because if I start editing it, it's just it becomes on on authentic. So what was your experience with it?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 32:38
I'll tweak the language slightly in that it is inspired by my freshman year in high school, essentially. So my freshman year in high school, I did fall in love with a drug dealer, and I was addicted to meth. And I did have, like this sort of trajectory that we see happen in this film. But I, it was, it was not too challenging to fictionalize the narrative, really, because even though there's, you know, many, many drafts and stuff, but it was like, Okay, well, how can I? What am I trying to say, with this film, what I'm trying to do is kind of like I was talking about earlier with them, like in 2002, when I was sneaking into all those movies. I just wanted to offer that. That kind of that feeling of being seen. I wanted to offer that to the to the Jains out there, if there are any, because I was, you know, one of them. And so I was like, Okay, it's not so much about, like, what is the essence of my experience? Is it like the monotony of the day to day or is it the feelings of isolation, and the feeling a lack of intimacy, and the loneliness and the shame? And the desperation like, those are the things really that are the truth. And so the people like the characters that you see in the film, like they're definitely amalgamations of people that I was around that year. But it's all kind of like, like a new puzzle that like this stuff, that's that's really Jane is is like those, those struggles. And that love story is it tracks pretty closely.

Alex Ferrari 34:36
Very, very, I mean, applause for being so honest and authentic with your storytelling. And I think honestly, that's probably why I got the attention I got is because there is authenticity behind it. And, you know, from someone who's been in the business for a bit, you start getting jaded by stories, by movies by scripts you read, but when you find something that is off Benteke pops, for whatever reason is, you know, you want to get metaphysical on it, the energy coming off the screen off the pages. There's something about it that you just, there's something there. And I saw that in the film. I was like, There's something here. I just was like, praying. God, I hope it wasn't all this. God bless her.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 35:22
I mean, yeah, like, it's the the timeline of the film is probably it's about a year, and this moment in my life was probably was a little longer than that. So everything's kind of condensed Of course. Yeah, condense. You know, I'm alive.

Alex Ferrari 35:42
Hey, you know what, what doesn't kill us? makes us stronger. No question about it. Now, as a director, we all go through this. We all understand the insanity that is a set, especially your first movie is even more insane. And like I said, we didn't have revenant money. So there wasn't an endless amount. Not quite. When we didn't have craft certain revenants craft service budget. We didn't even have their travel budget.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 36:14
Hobbit in plain sight somewhere else.

Alex Ferrari 36:17
Yeah, there's Where's there snow, Antarctica, let's go. So, so there's always that one day, if not every day, but there's generally one day that's even more extreme that you feel like the entire world is coming down crashing around you that you're gonna lose the light, you're gonna lose your camera, financing drops, the actor can't show up for whatever reason. There's that one day, what was that one day for you? And how did you overcome it?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 36:41
So we had to, okay. First one is so, so that so I've done this. So this movie shot over the course of a year. We shot we started shooting, I'm gonna mess this data, but it was like March 3 2020. Which is like the best week in the history.

Alex Ferrari 37:03
Absolutely. shoot films. Absolutely. is the best time to start a movie. Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 37:07
Right. Like so like seven years into this process. We like get greenlit, I like on the set, you know, 10 days in the film was supposed to be 20 days shoot already, like very quick. No 10 days in. And they're like, whispers of an issue, like a virus. I may go home after Friday. I think it was like Friday, maybe Friday the 13th emergencies, obviously. Yeah, I go home anyway, wake up on Saturday. And they're like, we're gonna furnish that back. Right. And I was like, okay, yeah, yeah. Just make sense. We're gonna shut down. Yeah, I think that makes sense. Totally. That tracks with the struggle of all of this. And like, let's do it. I mean, we had to keep everyone safe. But like, of course, that's the choice you're gonna make. But it was crazy. And it felt like we might not come back up. Definitely.

Alex Ferrari 38:05
Right. No, I've had, by the way, I've had multiple filmmakers, on all levels of budgets. Come on the show that started in March, April, May have their movie was made. And then it's gone. And they just like, I don't know, if we're in a year later, they come back. Yeah. How long did it take you to come back?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 38:24
We started shooting the second round of production March 3 2021.

Alex Ferrari 38:30
So literally a whole year, a whole year of you sitting on half your movie. Yeah. I'm assuming you're editing, maybe some scenes, maybe you're rewriting some of the script. You're reworking stuff. You just that's all you could do. But as a filmmaker psychologically, I can't even imagine just the brutality of that year for you.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 38:50
So a lot of compartmentalizing and like, like a lot of what is it like cognitive dissonance, I was just like, we're going back and that is its denial. That's what it is. I was in denial. I was just like, planning my return. And I Yes, I was editing the film. I was shortlisting with Jake. Constantly, constantly, we reworked to our shots. I rewrote the end of the film. I was texting with my actors being like billbergia You know, like,

Alex Ferrari 39:24
I'm still here. We're making this

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:27
And I was like, don't get a face tattoo. Literally. That's a lot of what I was doing. I was just

Alex Ferrari 39:33
Don't change you're haircut

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:36
Because I had like, you know, 10 20 year olds that I was like, for a year

Alex Ferrari 39:45
Like, like herding cats like herding wet cats.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:48
Yeah, it was a tough like, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 39:50
So that was the first day. So that was the first thing what was the second day?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 39:53
Oh, yeah, right, the second day. So then the second day, and you've seen the film. So there are chip shots in, in a car. The whole half third film was in the car. But there's there's some shots in the car that were processed trailer shots. And man if I knew some stills and send them to, but we had, like revenant style day One day, like it was a massive rigging team and Jake was strapped to the top of the vehicle. We had like six cop cars circling. We had we were on like, I don't know, it was extended Sunday or Wiltshire like a thoroughfare in LA, with like six kids in the car. And we end the rigging took so long. We have like an hour to hour to get the all the shots.

Alex Ferrari 40:53
It takes nine hours to rig and an hour to ship.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 40:58
And then there was a lightning storm. Of course it was. And so my ad came up to me like sweetest, sweetest man, I was just like, insurance day like go home. We go home, right? And of course like we're not going to shoot anything. If it's unsafe as a processor. There is metal like it's all metal.

Alex Ferrari 41:18
No one can be done to China Denna.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 41:21
Yeah, so we had to track the weather, like to the second get people in the car, shoot for you know, two minutes, get them out of the car, wait till the rain stop, get them back in the car. And we already didn't have enough time. That was a day where I was like, huh,

Alex Ferrari 41:40
I don't think I'm gonna make. Yeah, but you made it through. And that thing, that's the thing with these kinds of things is generally speaking, it works out in some way, shape, or form, but definitely didn't work out the way you want it to do.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 41:51
Works out better. It works out better.

Alex Ferrari 41:53
It always does. I always does. It's just so weird. But those when things happen, I just, I now just go okay. This is obviously where the universe wants to take us right now. Yes. Let's see what happens.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 42:04
That's true. It's woowoo. But it's true. Like there are so many. We like when we shut down. We had one false start. We tried to put the production back together. And I got a call from our lead actors team. And they were like, he just got booked for six months on a job in I don't remember where it was like in Europe. And it was like, Okay, well, so never getting him back. You know, it's like, there's just there have been so many, so many times where I've thought okay, this is the worst day ever. This is the worst case scenario, like shutting down for a year. And you know what, it really benefited the movie? It really did.

Alex Ferrari 42:48
It's a painful way of doing it's a painful way of doing it. But it does. It does do it absolutely. Every time there's ever been a complete disaster and anything I've ever done. It's generally works out better, generally, almost always works out better. Now, after after this whole experience, you've you've made your movie now you've you've been around the block, you've, you know, on the Revenant and on True Detective and all these others and all this stuff that you've done over the last decade at this point. Is there something you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of this journey?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 43:23
Well, I wish someone had told me sooner that women can have this job I like it didn't. I wasted a lot of time thinking that because I was an introvert. And I say that like in a very literal way. People say that all the time. But I just like, I'm not a very social person. I'm very shy. I was a like, I mean, you'll see them. I mean, it's like I was Jane, I was like really hard to hit off like most. But I was like, okay, that person can still have this job. I did not know that. And obviously someone can't give you permission to like live your destiny. But you can go and add information. But I wish I could see you know what, it's not so much. I wish someone had told me this is changing. But I wish I'd seen women just directing seen female directors seen directors that didn't all just looked like one day. And that would have changed the game a little sooner for me.

Alex Ferrari 44:17
I was lucky enough that I'm a Latino man. And I had not seen any Latino directors growing up. This was just I just didn't know anyone. Where are they? Where are they? And then all of a sudden, Robert Rodriguez showed up in El Mariachi showed up the year that I was in high school thinking about being a director and I said oh oh there's there's the one dude he he did it and he did it in an insane way. Okay, this can be done. So you do need to see you need to see you need to see other people like yourself doing what you are doing just to give you the confidence to go if they could do it. Then I have a Shot to do it as well. And that is so, so important to be represented out in the world. And then sometimes you see these directors who, who were just breaking down doors to get to be the first to do something is so what's the word? You know, so amazing that they were able to do that and have the grit and hustle to be able to do when they didn't have anywhere at all. But I agree with you 100%. Now, um, and this is coming out on Tribeca, right, you got into Tribeca, and that was what was that phone call light.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 45:40
So it was an email. And it was was really funny. I remember what, okay, so we got an email from them. Again, after you know, some rejections get email from them. And they asked if we were still available for a world premiere, if they hadn't, like often, they're like, this was a very long time ago. It was like, it was in December, I was like, not not thinking about this festival. Yet. It was so far away, and read an email. And they're like, is goodwill Jane still available? And so I talked to my producers, and I was like, Yeah, we're still available. And then I had, like I said, I'd been in the Sundance intensive. So I spoke with the lab people at Sundance, and I was like, you know, I think like, Tribeca might want this film. And we were just like talking about the festival rent the lab, people are different from the festival, they just sort of like, they just give advice, and they're just like, really, the loveliest anyway, I was on a call with them just being like, Help me God guide me, like, how does this work? And my producer called me was like, actually, we got in and we're going, you know, like, we just got invited. I mean, she didn't say we're going, but she was like, we just got officially invited and like, congrats. This is happening. This is actually happening. They're not just like, a little interested. I think what I was asking the Sundance people is I was like, How do I convince them to take me or like, I never just like if they reached out to you, they say like it, you know, like, festivals. Yeah, I was like, oh, like, do they mean it? I'm just clearly a little skeptical. I was like, do they mean is this real? But know that they Yeah, but evil. That's the artist the spot. And then the second I spoke with the programmers, I was just, like, changed everything. They They are the perfect home for this movie, like New York is the perfect home for this movie festival is the perfect home for this movie. This is my favorite city in the world. Like, there, my whole family can come to the screenings, my producers rarely come to screening. But like a lot of the cast was here. It just it ended up just like it's one of those divine things that we were talking about before. Like, I didn't know what the future was gonna look like this movie, or where it was gonna play. And I knew it, it really needed to play somewhere. And then it's playing in the right place.

Alex Ferrari 48:08
That's fantastic. That's fantastic. Well, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 48:18
If you can do anything else, then you're probably trying to do the wrong thing. Like, if you're like, I want to make movies, and if it doesn't work out in a few years, like, I'll go do like social media direction or so I don't like creative, a doctor, whatever. Anything else, then, like, I don't know, it was real. I don't know. I mean, I'm not to discourage anyone. But I think that's actually like a fun thing to think about. It's like, if you know, this is like, everything, and this is 100% What you're you have to do, then you're gonna figure it out, because you just won't stop. That kind of passion and that kind of like true. Like that type of dream. That's, that's rare. And if you have it, you have it.

Alex Ferrari 49:10
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 49:16
Still learning. So I spoke like, briefly about how this this movie is about a moment of time in my life that was like, very shameful. And I had it felt that yeah, I felt a lot of shame at the time of like, when I was younger, and when I was pitching this movie a lot. I had to kind of show up in those meetings and pretend that I had no shame or like, you know, act very loving of myself. And it's actually just really okay. To be whoever you are, like, this process making this film has taught me that I don't know if I knew that going into making it. I was faking it. And then making it making the film has been like, cheese, it really is fine to be exactly who you are like, you don't need to put on all these errors or like pretend to be someone else, or it's going to work out if you're exactly who you are. So

Alex Ferrari 50:27
I'd argue that the key to making it work out is to be yourself. It's the only thing that makes you stand apart.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 50:34
100% it's Yeah, I mean, all you have is you you're not going to be like a great version of someone else. You're gonna be only a great version of who you exactly are. But I didn't I that took me a long time to figure out

Alex Ferrari 50:48
Oh, yeah, agreed. I know I, I, you know, I I'll never be a great invitation of Tarantino or Rodriguez or Fincher or Nolan or Spielberg. Because they're good at what they do. And they're pretty much the best at being them. Yeah. So but you can only be the best version of yourself. And that's a key and when and I think any, anybody who has any success in any avenue of this, in this life, is true to themselves. Generally speaking,

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 51:16
It's true. And, and this, like, this moment of my life that is very dark, has been the inspiration for the thing that is the most stunning and the most beautiful thing in my life, like, like this, this experience that I had, and the struggle that I had is, like, you know, I wrote this movie about it. And now, I'm here, like, I'm so happy that happened. I'm so happy that that I'm that I made it out of it, for sure. But I don't wish I could like carve some pieces out of me and take some of my history away. And it's like, what's the use of that? It's not at all.

Alex Ferrari 52:00
Agreed you are, who you are. And whatever happened to you and your past is what made you who you are today. And I've, I came to grips with that a long, long, long time, though, just like, if I had to do it over again, I would go the same way. Because that's who I am. And if you take that away, you take a big chunk of who you are away, and you wouldn't have been able to make this movie you wouldn't have, you wouldn't have done any of this stuff. So where would you have gone in might have been a different world might have been better? Might have been worse? Who knows? But this is the path that you would put on and embrace it without question. And last question. three of your favorite films of all time.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 52:34
Should have prepared for that one. Well, I eat a lot. I mean, it's definitely one of them. I would say fish tank entry Arnold. And there's so many but I'm gonna say reprise your country or the I worked with yo Keem on louder than bombs. And he is brilliant, brilliant director. So yeah. Really, really anything.

Alex Ferrari 53:04
Sarah I appreciate you coming on the show. It's been an absolute joy talking to you. It's your energy is infectious for what you're doing. So thank you for coming on the show. And congrats on all your success so far. And I know you're gonna do a lot of amazing things and tell some really remarkable stories in the future. So continued success, and hopefully, there's a little girl out there who's gonna see this and go if she could do it, and if he could do it, I mean, I got a shot.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 53:37
Oh, man, that's, that's what this is all about. That's what this all about for me, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 53:42
But I appreciate you my dear . Continued success.

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz 53:45
Thank you so much.

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