BPS 092: Creating the Ultra-Violent World of John Wick with Derek Kolstad

Today we have a special CROSSOVER episode of the BPS Podcast. Our guest is Derek Kolstad, the genius behind the extremely successful John Wick franchise. An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, JOHN WICK (Keanu Reeves) is a fresh and stylized take on the “assassin genre”.

He is also the screenwriter of One in the Chamber, The Package (starring Steve Austin & Dolph Lundgren). This episode is from the archives of The Make Your Movie Podcast with Dave Bullis available from the IFH Podcast Network. Dave chats with Derek about bad movies, screenwriting, the film business, and working with Keanu Reeves.

Read the original John Wick Screenplay:

I wanted to bring this amazing episode to the BPS Tribe. Get ready to dive into the ultra-violent world of Derek Kolstad.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:05
Now guys, today we have a special cross over edition of the bulletproof screenwriting podcast I have today on the show, Derek Kolstad, who is the creator and screenwriter of the amazing john wick. Now this episode originally aired on the make your movie podcast hosted by Dave Bullis, which is part of the indie film hustle Podcast Network. And I had to bring this episode to the bulletproof screenwriting tribe because it is pretty remarkable. If you want to know how Derek was able to create this insanely wonderful world that john wick lives in, and how he was able to get the project up off the ground and how Keanu got involved in the whole ball of wax. This episode is for you. So enjoy this special cross over episode. Without any further ado, here is Derek Kolstad.

Dave Bullis 2:51
Joining me today is Derek Kolstad. Derek is a screenwriter of john wick, and the upcoming john wick to Derek, how are you doing today, sir?

Derek Kolstad 2:59
Doing well, man tired, I can't remember the last time I had a weekend. But those are good problems to have.

Dave Bullis 3:04
So, so just to get started, could you give us a little bit about your background?

Derek Kolstad 3:08
Yeah, I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. You know, I'm 41 this year. And when I was a little kid in the early 80s, that's when the VHS boom happened. And, you know, people ask me how I got into this. And, you know, a lot of people don't remember but like in line at shopko, or wherever you shop, you'd have a bargain bin of VHS tapes. And my mom would would purchase them and we don't have cable, we could afford it on Sundays, especially Sunday nights PBS would actually show like the conversation of the Godfather, that kind of stuff. And so it's not downstairs, and my love of movies, you know, just began there. And what's really interesting though, is, you know, growing up Madison, Wisconsin, you have a very red family, very conservative, very supportive, like an ally coming home from sneaking into the theater, and they asked me what I had seen, and I'd seen Robocop which any other kid would have gotten into some serious trouble about. But in reality, they they looked at each other after I told them and just said, Hey, you know, we should probably support them in this. And so, you know, being a Midwestern kid though the idea of getting into film was a dream. And so when I went to college, it was for business, but I kept writing and became I worked for Dale Carnegie in Chicago. And what got me out here is my little brother called, and he's asked me how is doing like, broke down and started crying. And I'm not an emotional guy. And the realization was, I had to come out here to see if I was going to fail. It wasn't a matter of success, you know. And so I had my little golf PDI and half the backseat was taken out by a large fucking Dell computer and a CRT monitor and drove out here. You know, I was 15 years ago and apparently 15 years is an overnight success. So that's a little bit of a background man.

Dave Bullis 5:00
It was a great movie to pick By the way, Robocop.

Derek Kolstad 5:03
Oh, dude, dude. Yeah, you know the other favorite story I tell almost everyone I meet I was allowed to see, you know, raise last arc but Temple of Doom was to demon, you know? So my parents went saw it and they got back and I'm so excited to have I had my dad Sit down. Tell me that the movie right from beginning and it was awesome. So three years later realize my dad is falling asleep in the movie and just make up a story. It's still my favorite man.

Dave Bullis 5:32
That's absolute. Did you actually when you saw the movie? When you finally saw the whole movie? Did you go Wait a minute, this is nothing like what my dad said.

Derek Kolstad 5:39
Well, I could it was funny because I could tell the point where he fell asleep. You know, it was the opening sequence in Japan, which is you know, just legendary. And then you have that kind of slow jaunt between the first and second act. And my dad, my dad's notorious for falling asleep in movies, most notably animated ones. And so I mean, some of the stories we all share, is we the mood start, and I'd hear from the end of the hour. Oh, it's animated. 30 seconds later, you heard him snoring. So good guy, but still.

Dave Bullis 6:11
Yeah, my, my dad fell asleep at Star Wars Episode One. And he had like, afterward somebody asked him about the movie. And he was like, I had no idea. I don't even remember anything. So you know. So Derek, when you say, you know, you were you were in college for business? Did you actually graduate with a degree in business?

Derek Kolstad 6:32
I did. I did. And I went, got Business Administration, and then a minor in English. Well, a lot of minors, because let's be honest, it's pretty easy a bunch of minors. And then I went and worked for the family company back in Mesa, Maine, Wisconsin, which is WIC homes, which was a construction company. And then I moved to Chicago. And during this time, I was still writing, but I wasn't. I was writing short stories and screenplays I wasn't really sending them off. I was reading books about screenwriting is just in college, I suffered from insomnia. And the only thing that could actually get me to sleep is putting my dreams down on page, you know, and it wasn't until that phone call from my brother where it's like, fucking, I gotta try, you know.

Dave Bullis 7:15
So when we were writing, were you focusing on screenplays? Or do you actually, you'll focus on just writing like, you know, short stories, long stories or anything in particular,

Derek Kolstad 7:23
you know, I have huge respect for people who write novels, simply because, you know, the screenplay. It's like feigning exterior interior. It's one sentence and you read a great novel, and it's like, holy crap, they're spending time to just craft the world. And what I'm trying to do is, tell a good story that fits in 90 minutes, you know? And so what I loved about screenwriting, what I still love, love screenwriting is, I'm a tourist and fast, but more importantly, I can move from one story to the next. And that's why I like short stories as well. In fact, you know, when I was a kid, I was the guy who was teased at sleepovers because everything scared me. And so as a, you know, as a temperament to that I got into reading Stephen King and Stephen King short stories to this day, you know, are are a massive influence, and I still have them all. Behind me on my bookshelf. I mean, that, that's glory, dude, I can't I want to do what he can do in the short form, but he's the master.

Dave Bullis 8:19
Oh, absolutely. Did you have his book on writing?

Derek Kolstad 8:23
I do. It's one of the few books on writing that I I've read.

Dave Bullis 8:27
So I just what other books on writing? Do you do you recommend? You know?

Derek Kolstad 8:34
Not many. My thing is, like, just write, you know, I remember someone, I don't know what the book was, again, I'm a more of a writer nowadays and a reader. But someone told me once about the 10,000 hour rule. I don't prefer that. Yeah. In reality, like, I look at the stuff that I wrote even like four years ago. And it pales in comparison how I'm writing now simply because I've been doing it for so long, that it's not writing and rewriting especially that's where the skill comes in, it becomes like an algorithm like, it becomes something outside of the English language like you. If you make one change on page three, you know, the ripple effect, you know, to look for and to get to that stage. You just need to do it. So you know, people always like get the bad screenplay out of you in reality is that you first screenplay is terrible. And then you keep writing and writing and writing, rewriting. And at a certain point, you find your stride, not saying that everyone will become a writer, but you get better over time. And the other thing too, is, especially when I talk to college kids nowadays, I watch the films of my grandparents and my my parents. A lot of people haven't watched the films of their parents nowadays, like I'm very fluent in film, but a lot of people nowadays when you hear they haven't seen Casa Blanca are the godfathers if you name them, like you look around my office like Butch Cassidy or frickin Pulp Fiction or Miller's Crossing which is arguably my my Best Film my best. My favorite film. Watching right man? Listen.

Dave Bullis 10:06
What's that movie called? castle? What? fucker was funny? I heard Robert McKee whenever he does one of his seminars. You know, I don't know if you've read story by him, but he always shows Casablanca, like day two, or three or whatever. And he says, has anybody in here truly never seen this before? Or more people are raising their hands. And, you know, he's like, well, well, we're gonna spend the next 10 hours on this movie. So, you know, get conference funny, too.

Derek Kolstad 10:35
Because, you know, you hear when people do their top 10 lists of films, and you find yourself almost rolling your eyes like, of course, Citizen Kane. But then you put it in, and you watch it at minute 30 minute, five, you're like, God dammit. That's good. You know, and even if you're, you know, I know a lot of people who won't watch black and white films, which astounds me, you know, and yet you watch, like, for instance, it's a wonderful life. Everyone's like, Oh, that's a smarmy piece of Hollywood crap. It's an incredibly dark drama. I mean, he's killing himself. I mean, stuff like that. And when I encourage people to watch film, it's like, dude, ask your grandfather, ask your mom and dad, like, what their favorite movie movies was. Because even though, you know, the timing of movies has changed. You look at the Blue House horror movies compared to those in the 60s and 70s. They're sprinting, you know, Rosemary's Baby is really extremely slow. It's genius. But it's slow. But you have to watch at least once to respect what was going on, like, Lawrence of Arabia, you have to see once, I'm not gonna watch it again, it's long, but you have to see it once you know, just to know that everything on screen is real. They really shot that into respect that and learn from it.

Dave Bullis 11:53
Yeah, and very true. I remember in one of my film studies class in college, by the way, I have a degree in business administration, too. And I right, so you and I are very similar already. So

Derek Kolstad 12:03
I gotta admit, though, the BA degree is kind of bullshit. But you know, we got it.

Dave Bullis 12:08
Every day of my life, I tell everyone how it's bullshit. I sit here and go, like, what I still want to pay my student loan payments. I'm like, What the hell did I learned?

Derek Kolstad 12:18
Yeah, I think the big thing about college though, is it really doesn't matter. Like you know, what your degree is, you learn to learn. And I think you know, when people don't go to college and Come on, you're great. If you do to go to college, come on, you're great. But having a college degree gets you into the mailroom, you know, unless you know someone you still need to have that sadly.

Dave Bullis 12:40
And a true a lot of the positions that I see too for like anything if you want to work at the studio, or you know, like for instance Comedy Central, I just filled out an application to work there. And they all want a bachelor's degree, like that's a minimum requirement. You have to have a bachelor's in something.

Derek Kolstad 12:57
You look at guys like you know, Kevin Smith and Tarantino, br our flat men not flashing pants wrong saying they mean they're one a billion mean, these guys are incredibly talented forces nature, and yet, they're one of a kind, you know, not very few of us are, you need to actually have that degree in your belt to get into the industry. Even when it comes to, but when it comes to like screenwriting or acting, they don't care. Yeah, good is good.

Dave Bullis 13:25
Yeah, very true. And especially to cuz, you know, Tarantino, he just took a I mean, from what I've heard, he just got like a two day film course, to get an understanding and when he wrote Reservoir Dogs, that's where he met Terry Gilliam and Terry Gilliam really set him you know, this is what you have to do. And then when he finally got around to making Reservoir Dogs, he was like, prime and ready. I mean, having Terry Gilliam sort of mentor you. I mean, that was just like, you know, one genius showing another genius the way

Derek Kolstad 13:52
Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, and I remember reading an article with Django about Django and changed. And he said, the line that only Tarantino can say, and it was I had to teach myself how to make a Western. No one else can say that. I mean, Tarantino is a guy who devours film devours movies and has a respect for the shitty ones as well which you should I mean, you can you can pile shit on. Roger Corman flex, and the stuff that you know, a lot of these trauma is done and yet you watch you like to kind of get it I kind of get it and yet tanti loves it and he applies it, which is huge respect there.

Dave Bullis 14:28
I always heard Orson Welles too loved. I don't know if it's true or not, but he loved to have film parties at his house and he would show like these odd movies and I will be like, What the hell are you watching Orson? And he was like, No, this is this is just something unique and they didn't know if he was like, you know, making a joke of everybody or uses as this you know, playing is this practical joke everybody or he was dead serious.

Derek Kolstad 14:51
Well, that's what I love, though about where we are technical. Technologically. You know, when you think back that when I was in college, you know, 2020 years ago. I didn't have email yet. And there's no cell phone. And the only foreign movies that the video plays had with the douchey ones, like, of course, it's good, we want to get more that kind of stuff. But then as time progresses, and I remember being living in Chicago, and the video placed on the way had a large Asian section, as suddenly you're introduced to chalian, fat and gently and you're like, holy shit, well, how could I not know about this crap, you know? And now, you know, with Amazon and everything else, like, I can see movies like The Man from nowhere, I can see movies like I saw the devil, these ones that back in the day, I might have stumbled across on cable but now you're like, Okay, I get it.

Dave Bullis 15:43
Yeah, and it's very, it's very true to cuz I remember going to the video stores. And you know, just having like, look at different covers and stuff like that. I remember the some of the first time I discovered it. And it's like, you know, holy crap. This is freakin awesome, man.

Derek Kolstad 15:57
Yeah. Well, it's kind of funny when you think back in the day. Everything in Madison was the video station and you'd go in. And I still have a couple of horror titles just kind of emblazoned on my brain because of the whole how horrific. The VHS box looked. And you and I finally seen the movie like, Oh,

Dave Bullis 16:18
my friends. And I used to have this like little game we used to play where whoever could find the weirdest box art. That's what we did. They would have different deals like I think it was it was five movies for five nights or whatever. Yeah. And for $5. And what we do is we find like the, the craziest, like box art and whoever can find the craziest. That's one of the ones who definitely rent and stuff like that.

Derek Kolstad 16:41
What is funny about that is we used to do the whole, like, who can pick out the worst movie, right? So you get two or three movies. The problem with worst movies is they're boring. You know? You've never I mean, the worst movies that are fun to watch are actually fun to watch. When you do that. Let's find the worst you're gonna be going usually looking at your watch going, Oh, god, it's still going.

Dave Bullis 17:02
What was the worst movie I've ever seen by doing that?

Derek Kolstad 17:07
Let's see. I would argue that man skeeto is up there.

Dave Bullis 17:12

Derek Kolstad 17:14
they're kind of I think the worst movies I've seen tend to be the Friday night premieres on sci fi. And yet, what sci fi did is they embraced it. You know, like shark NATO. I get it. You know, you're totally making fun of the shit you're trying to, you know, give us years ago. I'll say this, that I've only walked out of two movies. The first one was the road to Melville, which was with Dana Carvey and a slew of characters back in the day. Do you read that one?

Dave Bullis 17:44
Yeah, Matthew McConaughey was in it. And a few of the I forget who the person was. But yeah, I remember wrote Well,

Derek Kolstad 17:50
it was just it was all and then the second one was sliver with Sharon Stone. Because it was like this psychosexual thriller that nothing happened. And every time we had sex, she like cried, and after about 20 minutes, I'm like, Yeah, I kind of miss the sunshine right now.

Dave Bullis 18:08
Anthony Hopkins, he was in Roseville. That's right. That's right. You know, you know, that movie was actually based off of Kellogg.

Derek Kolstad 18:15
Yeah, I know that guy. I mean, the movie is crazy. But that life story is even crazier. Still. I was really close to walk out of frickin episode one though.

Dave Bullis 18:26
Yeah, I remember episode one didn't leave much of an impression on me either.

Derek Kolstad 18:29
And I and part of the reason I stayed is, you know, everyone I was with was a massive Star Wars fan. So they had like the rose tinted spectacles on, but I was just kind of like going this whole thing's a cutscene of the PlayStation game.

Dave Bullis 18:46
When I was when I first saw it, I you know, I forget how old I was. I was like, you know, something's missing here. I I didn't mind at that point in time. I my my brain I didn't have I didn't wasn't into film like I am now you know. But something was was inside was telling me because I never felt this way about the original three, like the original three, like, I'll just watch and like I'm entertained from beginning to end. Episode One. I was kind of like, what's going on? Who's doing Who's this guy? And

Derek Kolstad 19:15
also, it's like, the plot is the is like a political Trade Organization treaty thing. You're like, wait, this is what we're after. But you know that everyone becomes a cynic at some point because I remember seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater, with my family, a bunch of friends and I was the guy I was one of those guys who was a growing number leaving going I think I hate he walks

Dave Bullis 19:41
Yeah, I don't really I haven't got that point yet where I hate the he walks but you

Derek Kolstad 19:45
will love it. Ah, I don't know why it just happens.

Dave Bullis 19:49
Well, Harrison Ford hated him right away. He called him the teddy bear picnic. You're at college. Where were you got your degree. You should writing your writing in your in your spare time. And you know, so where is it that you started to say like, you know, should I write screenplays was before your brother call to call you? Where's the answer your brother college

Derek Kolstad 20:11
I was actually in high school we went my family one on a Alaska cruise we know we saved up for this thing. And I wrote my first screenplay because I love movies on in longhand on a yellow notepad and came back and at a time, you know, we have WordPerfect and I built up a template. And I wrote it and gave it to my mom, who she gave me back my first notes, and they were brutal. And yeah, looking back and reading that first screenplay and senior notes, she was actually being very kind. I think it was just, I was I wanted to emulate what I loved, you know, and I love and I still love movies, you know, and short stories and movies were what I do, but I just want one show anybody you know, in fact, for a couple of years, the cousins, you know, I come from a large extended family. When I got someone's name, like, for Christmas, I would write them four or five stories and kind of bind it together. And that was my gift. I just enjoyed doing it. You know, it was never, it was never work. And even now, like, I would argue that your first draft of anything isn't work. That's fun. Work is the reracked and making 15 people happy and keeping it afloat, you know. But to answer your question, man, I just, I watched so many movies, and it gave me so much joy. I wanted to emulate that.

Dave Bullis 21:39
So, you know, a little feedback. So I moved to LA and then you you start writing again. So like what was your first, you know, professional screenplay that you would call it, you know, that you actually were using, as soon as I get your foot in the door, so to speak. And as far as

Derek Kolstad 21:59
the first one to get my foot in the door, I was called the wayfair. And it was a it was a sci fi thriller in the vein of matrix by way of the shining what's called and my two leads were African American. And I got a bunch of movies. I mean, got a bunch of meetings. And they were surprised because I'm a six foot two white dude with red hair. You know, they thought it was something else. But I was wanting to see Denzel Washington and who's Murtaugh? I can't remember his name right now. From

Dave Bullis 22:30
Danny Glover.

Derek Kolstad 22:31
Yeah, I wanted them. I wanted them paired up, you know. So got a lot of meetings. And, you know, what happens is, I was used to the, you know, the professional world, but you move out here and you get involved in the industry. It was different. And it was hard. And I just kind of I stepped away for a bit. And then I stepped back and I did a couple of you know, what would you call them direct to DVD or VOD movies was the package and one was one of the chamber. And they were hard, simply because you look at you look at the package. They had like 12 days to shoot. And you have very little money. And you have people who don't care because they pocketed their paycheck and other people who did care. Because it was a movie we known as movie they were part of. And so after, after those two, I was close to quitting again, because to pay the bills. Even with those I was doing a lot of nonprofit stuff like doing videos and websites for NGOs and like, and it wasn't until I wrote this wrote the screenplay called acolyte, aka simple man, that Sonia, who's we lovingly refer to as a script pitch, because she's the first line of defense for quality. She read it, and she said, I think you should try again. And a buddy of mine, Mike Callahan, who was a producer on those two titles I mentioned, introduced me to Mike Goldberg and Josh Adler were a new wave at the time. And they saved me, you know, everyone in their life at some point has individuals who saved them professionally, and those two saves me and they brought me to where I am today.

Dave Bullis 24:17
So, you know, just to dig a little deeper into the script, Eric, when you were writing out You You You told me you don't you didn't see a lot of screenwriting books. I don't know if you if you had read them at that point. But do you did you subscribe to any sort of of you know template, whether it's you know, enter if you read solipsistic Syd field screenplay, or save the cat by Blake Snyder,

Derek Kolstad 24:39
which I did. The cat I didn't say the cat that was great. I haven't read anything by Sinfield. But uh, I think my big thing is, when I was a kid, I was a my whole family were ravenous readers. You know, I would probably read when I was in grade school, I read a book a day, just because you know, I love I loved reading. And I've always been imaginative. But when you read and see where other people's stories go, it's awesome. And my favorite authors at the time were Alistair MacLean. You know, and Dashiell Hammett, and Tom Clancy, and then when I was in high school, it was shipped CIT who wrote the firm.

Dave Bullis 25:21
That was

Derek Kolstad 25:24
crap. JOHN Grisham.

Dave Bullis 25:26
Yeah, it's very, it's on my bookshelf behind me, I could just turn around.

Derek Kolstad 25:29
But a lot of like, especially when we play, you know, hearing of guns of navarone. And what I loved about his stuff is if you look at, for instance, what's the movie? Ronin did it best is? You know, at one point, Max says, ask the question, Do I know you by way of the germ or something like that? It's never addressed again. But by just by having that one line, the world kind of expands a little, like a little bit bigger, and asked him a claim. And Hitchcock especially, they would have these lines that made their their movies seem bigger and more complex than they were, when in reality, they were very simple. You know, you take john wick, I mean, it's a revenge story, but he's not. You know, I'll let people argue about it. But it's more than just the dog. You know. And I think the best movies are that it's more than just the sled, you know, Rose, but it's more than just the ring. It's more than it's it just, it hints at a larger purpose. And I think by not answering what that larger purpose is. That's where the movies I love come into play.

Dave Bullis 26:39
Yeah, and I know exactly what you mean. You know, in in john wick, you know, it is more than when they, when they do whatever happens, the dog. I don't know, if anyone who hasn't watched it yet. I probably should stop now and watch it, and then come back. So I am going to be talking about I do want to delve in deeper to the movie. But be at your I agree with you wholeheartedly. And you know, it isn't I always am fascinated when I ever, you know, talk to an accomplished screenwriter, like yourself, Derek, who, what they've read, and what method methodology they subscribe to. Cuz some people swear by, say the cat, and I've had others here on the podcast who say, Don't ever even read it, keep it away from you at all costs?

Derek Kolstad 27:17
Well, you know, everyone functions differently. everyone learns differently. I don't know, like, people ask me, like, where did these ideas come from? To be honest, I don't know, a lot of it is, you know, what I've read, and who you are and where you are, and where you see and how you see it suddenly comes into play. But what I tell everyone is, as soon as you've finished a screenplay, write the first page and the next one. Because it's kind of like, you have to keep that flame stoked, or else a lot. For me, personally, I've talked to other writers is, when I finished a screenplay, it's kind of depressing. You know, because you've been with this story. And now it's done. You're like, shit, you know, you you are crafting this world. I mean, they hand it off, you have to start the next one, or else you know, for some of us, you know, you know this, when you talk to writers, I understand a great deal why people turn to the bottle, or turn to the needle or turn elsewhere. Because when you get to the end of that novel, bring you the end of that screenplay, or even a short story, you feel very alone. But if you keep it going, you feel very alive.

Dave Bullis 28:26
So Derek, I want to ask you, are you? Are you a part of a writer's group of any kind? I mean, mean? Like, do you have like a group of that you meet with me once a month just to exchange, you know, whatever you're working on?

Derek Kolstad 28:36
I actually I don't, you know, Sonia, is very key. She comes from a house of readers as well. And so between her and Josh and Mike, they tend to be my readers. And but what I am a part of is, you know, a guy named screenwriter named Matt altman invited me to his screenwriter forum on Facebook. I can't remember what it was Josh invited me anyway. And what's really cool about that is the first thing I want to do until I, until after the first week, I realize it's just a bunch of people encouraging each other. And I think that's incredibly important. You know, to have that group of people that when you have a question to ask, they're excited to answer because you were excited to answer them. And I love it.

Dave Bullis 29:25
Yeah, I'm a part of a writer's group right now. We we started about two years ago, when it was a will. A friend of mine got inspired. Because we were watching the Oscars, and Tarantino gave a speech about Django, and it just sort of hit me like a lightning bolt. And I was like, holy crap, why don't I just that story of writers group with some of the people that I know in the area who I trust, and just see what goes from there, you know? Yeah,

Derek Kolstad 29:49
right. And that's the thing though, is like you I'd argue almost in every capacity, you can't be a solitary person. Even though I'm happiest alone. I'm happiest alone with my computer. No music on and just I love that. And yet I know if I stay within that bell jar, I'll get worse because I have to have those outward influences to make what I do better. And, you know, those who writes, I'd argue, you know, seek out even on Facebook or any other site or even locally, people who think like you, because a lot of things that you worry about, they do too. And that's important to actually connect on.

Dave Bullis 30:28
It's a very good point. And so, you know, as we know, we talked about writers groups and everything like that, you know, a little later, I wanted to ask you another question. Sorry, sorry, for the bad segue. But I, I have a note in front of me, I want to ask you say after, afterwards, but you know, as we're writing, you know, I, you, you, you had the May fers, you, and then you I assume now, once you were done that you started your next project. So what was your next project to that?

Derek Kolstad 30:58
I don't know. He's, here's the thing is I write, I write a lot, and I write fast, you know, and, but a lot of times too, and you might have been the same place, like a lot of times write the story to get it on my head. It might not be good, you know, but at the same time, like, it's haunting me that it's still in there. I think I think of stories as people in line at the bank, you know, if it's 15, deep, you're pissed. But if it's 3d be fine, you know, so I try to get those 12 out of the way. But I would argue that acolyte, which is, you know, making the rounds again, that one got me on the radar, and it was john wick. That made me may be able to say that I'm a professional screenwriter now. And you know, what's really fun about the john wick process was, I'd written it, and it was originally entitled scorn. And the character was in his early 70s, because, again, I loved the movie, Ron, and I thought, how cool would it be to grab like a comedy Jones or a, you know, a, you know, just an older actor, and do an action piece that made sense, because, you know, I just wanted to see that the dog was like 15 years old, the wife had passed two years ago. So my, my agent at the time, Charlie Ferraro, well, you know, but over UTA, he called me after the screenplay and went out and he's like, we've got like, three or four offers. And I'm not going to tell you the numbers, but I really think we should take the lowest one because they want to make it now. And you know, you got a great agent who is looking at the long game, you know, it's more important for me to get an okay payday and a made movie than a million dollars and no man movie, you know. And so, they set it up with basil monic, over at Thunder Road. And, you know, we developed a back and forth for a while, and then he went out to directors. And on a Friday afternoon at like, one o'clock, Keanu Reeves called basil. And he's like, Hey, man, I heard about this screenplay. I really liked to read it out. Can you send it over? So they couriered it over? And at 430 Keanu Reeves called back and he said, I want to do it. Now basil called me again. And I grew up with a guy. And I was I was, I was excited. No, because this is a very violent movie. And I'd love to see him do this again. And the first time I went over his house, I walked past his den. In his desk, I shoot, you know, like 200 screenplays. This guy's hobby is reading screenplays. And in that moment, it was probably the most humbling I've ever known going. Holy shit. I was one of those who picked it, you know? So that's how I want Canada and honestly, the title came about because Canada would not refer to it as scorn. You'd always refer to the project as john wick and it stuck.

Dave Bullis 33:44
You know, I, by the way, did you actually get to meet Canada? Oh, yeah.

Derek Kolstad 33:49
Yeah, I mean, Canada is a incredibly bright cat. I mean, you sit down with anyone and their first two notes. You're like, man, oh, shit. He got to his third note. I was like, damn it, that's better than what I had in mind, you know? And so he was. We spent a ton of time together on every character in every scene outside of his own. And he is equally responsible for what's up on that screen. I mean, Chad, Dave, basil, Erica, and I mean, this is an awesome production crew. But at its heart and soul, it's Canada because Canada loves the character. And I can't you know, honestly, I'm not pandering. You can ask around. You've probably heard stories, but he's a genuine dude. And he's, you know, for instance, when we shot in New York, he got to know all the guys at the coffee shop, because he would join them for their smoke breaks. And I was last day it was like saying goodbye to your best friends at camp. And you don't see that a lot with especially guys of his caliber.

Dave Bullis 34:50
Yeah, I've always heard that he is an absolutely awesome guy.

Derek Kolstad 34:53
Oh, yeah. In fact, you know, my, my most surreal story like something like that. Nice guy, but I, I like being alone. He everyone knows his address out here. You know the

Dave Bullis 35:06
little little

Derek Kolstad 35:08
buses that go by with tourists. They stopped by his house and you know all that kind of stuff. My favorite was one day we're working on john wick. His doorbell rang and he's got a little you know, you know, it's like Who's there? And this woman says, Hi, my name is so and so from Boise, Idaho or something. Huge fan of yours or just wondering the the picture and he's like, okay, she goes outside and hangs out with this teenage girl in her family for like five minutes taking pictures then comes back in. Like who does that? That's, it's unbelievable. It's awesome. But that's the kind of guy he is.

Dave Bullis 35:44
Yeah, that is absolutely hilarious. I mean, I don't know if this is true or not. But I saw that apparently, he gave his matrix two and three money away to the special effects guys. I don't know if that's true or not, but it is

Derek Kolstad 35:55
true. And the other thing that I thought was really cool is because you know, Chad was his stunt double in the matrix. He can Oh hired who's the guy who makes the custom bikes motorcycles that Jesse didn't know. I'm talking about?

Dave Bullis 36:12
Yeah, it was Jesse James for a while it wasn't it

Derek Kolstad 36:14
was I think, I think it's Jesse James. But like, Kanno as not only do they give away his bonus money he had everyone on the stunt team made customized motorcycles that were delivered by Jesse James. and stuff like that, where you know, you don't have to do that. And yeah, you could argue that he's a multi millionaire, whatever. But again, he's just he's a unique and genuine, you know, generous man.

Dave Bullis 36:41
And it's no, it's absolutely awesome. And, you know, for him to get into the john wick character, you know, when you finally saw the movie, and you finally you know, saw everything playing out, you know, what, what were your initial thoughts when you finally saw his finished product?

Derek Kolstad 36:54
That's a great question. Because we, when we saw the friends and family, you know, that like the first cut in the movie with I had no idea I because when you get to a point and rewriting, you're not seeing words anymore, you're just seeing kind of numbers, if that makes sense. And so when we saw it, I remember looking over it, it's Sonia, first join. Was it good? Like, I didn't hate it? I didn't I didn't know. And she was and she by her expression. I know, it was, you know. And the moment that hit home for me is we when we did our initial screening at the dome out here at the arclight. We're doing a q&a afterwards and said I don't it's 700 seats, and it is a pretty big forum. But I you know, I showed up and I didn't watch the movie, because at that point, you'd seen it so many times. But I scan the audience to find the people who don't want to be there. And at about minute 20 everyone would have this huge grin. And you know, my favorite movie going experience in my life. And I tell almost everyone I meet is when the raid came out. Have you seen the ride? Oh, yeah, absolutely. Okay, When the rain came out, I love the trailer. And I love to Meranti which are think that's mainly when the movie made before that. We walked into the theater with the arclight here in Pasadena and it's a smaller theater like 130 seats, or even maybe even less. And if you look at the audience, it was every sex every age, every color, every creed. It was weird. It was like a serial killers Daydream. It was bizarre. Like, if you ask people what are they here to see, you know, but we sat down it was sold out. And when the reverse door guillotine happened, I leaned forward and my seat and looked around like you did when you're 12 years old. At the end of the I was a 17 year old Korean man who's doing the same thing. And he pointed at me and mouth.

Dave Bullis 38:44
Did you see that?

Derek Kolstad 38:46
Oh, and when I watched people watching john wick, especially during that house invasion, and to see a guy who's 68 years old lean for as chairman around that may my MA my life man, you know, cuz that's, that's what that's what I wanted to bring out of people. And so I want to bring on people now, you know?

Dave Bullis 39:05
Yeah, it is phenomenal with that, you know, movies can bring people together like that.

Derek Kolstad 39:11
Especially what I loved about a john wick process or even release was the number of older people or, you know, again, yes, action movie, but it's got a huge female fan base. Just because, you know, a lot of people will say, you hear the term grounded, which means deep, elevated, which means good. You know, it's like I want to make an elevated horror, like we you know, we want to make a good horror or good action piece. And what I loved about the john wick process is from this, the original spec of the bones and the muscle mass remained the same. It was just the skin and the hair that was massaged in by everyone involved. And again, Thunder Road and the directors and Kiana about Lions Gate. They just, you know, at any point, any production, everyone hates everybody because you're just tired and yet when we do That q&a following that you just saw the joy in gone. You know, it's, it's a major miracle to have a movie made. It's even more so to have it be anything good or let alone critical and financial success. So I use the term a lot like I'm humbled and I am, you know, because, you know, you look at all the other stuff I have on my platter, it's It's horrifying, because you're like, Can I can I can I do what I just did? We'll see.

Dave Bullis 40:27
And speaking of that, you know, I saw john wick, too, was just announced.

Derek Kolstad 40:30
Yeah, yeah, in fact, I mean, he has got the latest draft his script, and we're going to be talking about this Sunday. He loves it. I mean, the body count is probably three times bigger. And that what I love about piano too, is you look at a guy who is he 5051. I don't remember. But he wants to do. He hates when people refer to what he does his stunts because it's not it's him. He's really doing this stuff. And when you look at that movie, and try to copy what he does, I can't 12 years younger than him, it's like, I can't do that. And yet he beat the shit out of himself. And he did it with a grid. And he is kind of like, you know, he sees that, like, I I love that man's workout.

Dave Bullis 41:16
And that, you know that that's awesome. And that's indicative. Everything I've always heard about Kiana was that he is, you know, a guy that's willing to go the extra mile, you know, and so when so I want to ask you is Derek is? How, from what point did you start working on john wick? Two? Did you know that? I mean, did they did they immediately greenlight it and say, Get to work on it, Derek, or did you start working on it already?

Derek Kolstad 41:39
No. I mean, I, I hadn't started working on it. Because when you start when you get a movie in production, your life is rewrite hell, and it's just, it's continual. And what I learned too, is when I was out in New York, on the shoot, it was hard for me to do anything else. Because every 10 minutes, even though you're doing very minimal labor, you have someone coming in asking, Hey, what's the nurses name? You know, the hospital, like I, who gives a shit, but, you know, they came to me for that. I spent I spent about five weeks just playing civilization five on my laptop, because I couldn't, I couldn't work on anything else, you know. And yet, you know, for a couple of days, every week, Kiana would come back, we'd have lunch, and we'd lunch with a buddy of mine named Todd, who, you know, he does all the, the, we call it all the artwork, you know, all that kind of stuff. And canowindra asked me is like, so you know, where do you see john going next, you know, how many have you seen in your head? And I liked him. I was like, I got seven. I got seven of them. And he laughed, and I pitched him two and three and four. And you could see him kind of not grow pale. But go Okay, let's just focus on the next one. All right. So I didn't start it. And to be honest, it's even in you know, even with the greenlight, we've we've chaotically gone between different storylines. And yet, what we've remained true to is, I don't want to look at it at it as a sequel, I want to look at it as you know, john wick chapter two, because what the Fast and Furious did so well is after the third one is they weren't sequels anymore. They were chapters, and I think those are the best. Those are the best franchises to have, you know, I would you know, Empire Strikes Back is not a sequel is a chapter, you know, most sequels or remakes are the first one. And with this one, you want it to be unique, but familiar, you know?

Dave Bullis 43:38
Yeah. And that's a great way to put it to different chapters.

Derek Kolstad 43:42
Yeah, I mean, and that's why you can't help but respect about the Fast and Furious movies, even if you don't like them. Each one got better, you know, at a certain point. And, you know, people ask me what I watch and like, I gotta be honest, I haven't seen it yet. But you know, I'm gonna love Mad Max. I mean, I've been watching that trailer every day on a deafening TV screen with my arms out wide grinning, because that's what I want to do, you know?

Dave Bullis 44:08
Yeah, everyone I know who was seen as not that. I haven't seen it yet, either. Yeah, did you see fast, furious seven.

Derek Kolstad 44:16
I'm really behind on everything. And you know, what I've learned too is when you when you write like this, or you get to this, you know, degree of success, I would argue, I don't, I don't like going to the theater. Simply because I'm alone most of the time. And when you sit down with a bunch of strangers, it's a bit of anxiety. And you're watching a movie and when you find yourself not liking it, you're suddenly reminded that people don't like what you do. It's weird. You know, I like it. It's It's weird. I mean, I love movies, man, but I like him now in the privacy of my own home.

Dave Bullis 44:50
Did he teach his own you know, and and sometimes I I totally get what you're saying because I sometimes just like to watch movies in my own home too. That's why like when it follows was coming out and they were like, oh, by the way, we're gonna do VOD the same day as theater. I was like, go good. I can just stay home now order a pizza, and I go watch it follows at home and they pulled out the VOD. So I ended up, you know, because it did better in theaters than they expected it was going to do. Yeah. So now I, I've pulled up Netflix and watch or watching something else.

Derek Kolstad 45:19
Well, it's like the event movies. I, you know, I go see in the theater. And to be honest, my favorite movies to see in the theater are the ones that are aimed directly at kids. Because, you know, the cynicism really hasn't sunk in, and to go watch, like, you know, anything by Pixar, you know, are a lot of Disney stuff, and to look across, and, you know, when we saw the movie, Frozen, it was a couple of weeks out, and the little kids in front of us were singing along to every song And in that moment, like, you could be irritated, oh, man, or you can go like, that's movie magic. You know, these little kids love the movie so much. They're singing along and you know, in this day, that was all that's love that memory.

Dave Bullis 46:00
And, you know, that's what movies do. They help me give those memories. Yeah.

Derek Kolstad 46:04
And I mean, you think of the movies that make you cry. I was a little kid. I mean, I wept a frickin Fox in the hound. You know, I wept when he came back to life, you know, then as you get older and older, it's always it changes like what affects you. I think the last movie I cried in was big fish of all movies. Like I was dating Sony at the time. And it's, you know, any kind of father son by any story gets me. And when he tells his father, the ministers breaking down, I was a blubbering mess. And it's like, you got me, man. Congratulations.

Dave Bullis 46:40
Yeah, man, what's

Derek Kolstad 46:41
the last movie that made you cry?

Dave Bullis 46:43
That made me cry? Yeah. I'm not even sure.

Derek Kolstad 46:48

Dave Bullis 46:51
That's a good question. I have to think about that. Derrick.

Derek Kolstad 46:54
My favorite was I went to go see Wally. And I would argue the beginning of Wally's one of the best in cinema, because it just showed you true loneliness. And as a writer, you'll know that you tap into loneliness. And at the end of the island, my buddy JC it's, there's a quiet moment. I just hear I hear quite tears from his eyes like goddamnit Pixar, you got me again.

Dave Bullis 47:21
They are phenomenal at that.

Derek Kolstad 47:23
But they respect the process, man, they take their time.

Dave Bullis 47:26
Yes, they there's so many good points about Pixar that like of what they do with their stories and how they structure them. And the characters and the and everything you know, and it's just, that's why there's so many. I mean, if you go like speed of screenwriting books, if you go like, look online, there's so many screenwriting books now about like doing it the Pixar way, whatever, you know what I mean? Yes, because you know, they are the guys you want to emulate.

Derek Kolstad 47:51
But also, you know, I think the best filmmakers Love, love their characters, you know, in the Pixar movies, you can tell that they love their characters, even the bad guys, you know. And I think that's important. I mean, what's been great in developing john wick, too, is we love john wick, you know, I mean, he was the Baba Yaga. He was the devil. And there may be a bit of that still inside of him. But there's something about that you love, you know. And the best movies are either the ones where everyone hated each other on the set or loved.

Dave Bullis 48:24
Yeah, and I heard there's a lot of frictional madmax it so Oh,

Derek Kolstad 48:27
yeah. Well, did you read that article with Tom Hardy hardy said, as soon as he saw the movie, he apologized to George. Yeah,

Dave Bullis 48:35
that's that's what I saw. And then I saw apparently like it at the Cannes Film Festival. They were like, he apologized for some of his behavior or something, or apparently something. There was some friction about something.

Derek Kolstad 48:45
Well, you know, and that's the thing about the industry that a lot of people don't understand until you really hear is, you can we can bemoan the fact that stars can be odd people who are assholes from time to time, but I do not envy their position. I mean, especially when you see it firsthand how people treat them. And I wouldn't I can never live in that kind of world, you know?

Dave Bullis 49:12
Is it really? Do you ever see anyone ever like trying to treat Kanto bed?

Derek Kolstad 49:17
No, it's not a matter of treating them bad. But it's, it's a matter of going, Hey, I recognize you from all your movies. See, I say we're buddies now, you know. But like when he's having dinner and just having people come up, and, you know, continuously come up to them. I don't get that, you know, New York is different. And I'd argue various sections of Hollywood are different simply because they're used to it and it's a different culture. But when you have you know, people from the Midwest, where I come from, you have two kinds, the kind of comes up to Canada goes, Hey, I love your work and then move on. And then it's the or the Hey, I love your work. We're friends now. Right?

Dave Bullis 49:57
So do you have a lot of friends in the Midwest, calling you They'll be like, hey, Derek, you sold a screenplay. I have a screenplay idea. Do

Derek Kolstad 50:04
you know? Not really, because I, I'd argue one of the greatest things about the Midwest is you're instilled with a work ethic. But more importantly, it's like one of my best friends out here is Austin Bryan, he played a little kid in Last Action Hero, you know, his Lawnmower Man, and all that kind of stuff. And he's a very successful photographer now. And he was kind of stressed one day when he was going to meet my cousin, who was a big fan of his. And my cousin, Joanna, came to a party, she walked up to him, shook his hand said, Hey, I really love your movies. And I went to the kitchen to start cooking something I don't know. That's, that's what I grew up with. And I think that's awesome. But every now and then you have people come out of the woodwork, of course. And that's just kind of nice Facebook is you can ignore them. And yet at the same time, like, the reality is no one helped me, you know. And what I mean by that is, of course, people helped me. But when it came to this, to getting into the industry in the screenwriting, it was years of incredibly hard work and work for free to get to this point. And yet, I kind of wonder, would I be the same guy had the success happened at age 30? Then 40. Hope so. And so a lot of times when students reach out to me, or people reach out to me, those conversations tend to be very healthy, because they're grounded. You know, I'm, I'm a screenwriter, man, the crazies don't come to me.

Dave Bullis 51:30
And sometimes, Derek, do you have annoying people to ask to be on a podcast?

Derek Kolstad 51:34
You know, what I what I love about podcasts, though, is this medium has given so many people like yourselves an opportunity that didn't exist 10 years ago, you know, I love that. And I mean, who knows what the next generation is gonna, you know, face as well. But you have the opportunity to be and create and manage your own brand. And how cool is that?

Dave Bullis 51:56
Yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, and I think the next generation is gonna be robots are just gonna, are gonna call you and they're gonna interview you, and then, you know, just whoever's around, be listening to it.

Derek Kolstad 52:07
Let's see, that's what I like about podcasters though, is, you're not, you're not a cynical bunch. I mean, you're doing what you love. You know, it's one thing doing an interview for the international press. It's nothing doing this because we're, we're fanboys to a certain degree of films themselves. You know? I'm, I have not seen the most movies, any, any person I know. yet. When I see a fellow person who loves a certain movie, like, you know, I asked last night on Facebook, like what movies you watch when you're down or drunk, or, you know, alone. And my response was, like, I've seen cabin of the woods and Evil Dead to too many times to count. And yet, when people hear that, you can kind of see the Amen, brother.

Dave Bullis 52:49
Yeah, it's just so interesting. You know, I remember this, this this anecdote that Kane Hodder, I don't know if you can't hotter race, but he was Jason Friday 13th from seven on. And he wants they actually were talking to him once. And they said, who was the best actor you've ever worked with? And his response was, Charlie's Charlie's Theron. And he said she was just absolutely phenomenal monster. And he said that she just blew everyone away. And he's never worked. Someone you know, it's just it's it was she was just beyond, you know, what he was used to? You know, I mean,

Derek Kolstad 53:22
yeah, a friend of mine who saw Fury Road was just like, thrones, amazing, because she's looking in the rearview mirror. And acting. And you're kind of like, I can't do that. Like to have volumes of backstory in a look. It's huge, you know?

Dave Bullis 53:42
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's why I think does work. I mean, I haven't seen it. I'm just here. works behind him as well. But, you know, I mean, you've got Tom Hardy, who's phenomenal. And you have her? who I think is absolutely phenomenal. I loved her. promethease I don't know if you saw previous.

Derek Kolstad 53:57
Yeah, I wasn't the biggest fan of that one, man. I loved her, though.

Dave Bullis 54:02
Yeah, she was I you know, I just have a big soft spot for that movie. I know it has for

Derek Kolstad 54:08
everyone has. That's the thing is everyone has those movies that connect to you on a certain capacity. So there are very there are very few movies I will refer to as horrendous or terrible, simply because you connected with them on a certain level. I mean, I have movies that are indefensible, but I love them. Because they they amuse me in a way that only that movie could, you know?

Dave Bullis 54:30
Yeah, I totally, totally understand. So, you know, they're talking about and an hour now, I know you have, you know, I don't want to have too much your time. So, you know, I have one question or actually two questions that came in from the fans if you don't mind. The first question I actually I briefly referred to earlier was about what the question is, I'm just gonna paraphrase this is, you know, with a lot of talk in the industry about script consultants. Where do you feel that they fit in to the whole screening process?

Derek Kolstad 55:04
You know, it's hard for me because I'm Sony is my script consultant, you know, and so, between her and Josh Adler's my manager. You know, that's, that's where I've gone. But I would argue that, you know, my dad used to say that phrase that when you bring in someone to do a job, and you're getting a quote, get five quotes, you throw out the biggest one, throw out the lowest one, and was screw consulting, is if you look at the numbers, if it makes sense for you, great. And a lot of times, especially nowadays, you can find some good ones that all you need is to hear back. Both that criticism and encouragement make you better, you know, I would argue that a lot of us have people who serve the script, consultation, capacity in some respect. But for the pros, they're reading tons of scripts, they know that they know, they know what's selling, they know what's not. And I think, even though I haven't done it before, I can see the value in it. Just don't spend, you know, an ungodly amount, you know.

Dave Bullis 56:11
So, in your opinion, you know, what's, like, do you think there should be like a cap of $100 $1,000 or something like that?

Derek Kolstad 56:16
But, you know, you can't really say a finger because Who is it? You know, you know, at a certain point, like, if you buy a luxury ice cream container for $8, you're like, Oh, sweet, would you buy it for 80? fuck knows ice cream at a certain point. What is it that you're buying, you know,

Dave Bullis 56:35
very true. Just as a funny side note, I actually just saw in, I think it was Abu Dhabi, or somewhere in the Middle East, they actually have ice cream. Now. That's like $1,000 an ounce.

Derek Kolstad 56:49
What's in it?

Dave Bullis 56:50
gold flakes, got diamonds, and caviar and something else. But it's, but it's like the way they make it is they it's all freeze dried. Right. So they make it literally, they make it right in front of you from scratch everything from scratch. Totally not not not the diamonds, of course, but like the ice cream. And then what they do is they put it into this, they mix it up with everything. And then they top it with gold flakes.

Derek Kolstad 57:13
I don't know who told me this years ago, but they're like, it was when the Trump hotel I think was serving up this $800 hamburger, you know? And he said, If I ever found myself wondering about that burger and ordering it, I should just give that money away. And I think that's the truth or most likely Well, if I find myself wanting to buy a Bentley, I should give that money away if I had it.

Dave Bullis 57:39
So yeah, I know what you mean. Although I would say I probably would buy a Bentley. You know, it's funny. Joe, Esther Haas once said that, there's a there's a great way, if you ever stuck on a screenplay, he has found the perfect way to get unstuck and cure writer's block. And he says what you do as you go down to find your local exotic car dealer, and you either get like a Lamborghini or Ferrari and you take it out for the weekend. And he said, What by the time you get back, you're going to do anything in your power to make sure you come by once you could drive out again.

Derek Kolstad 58:15
I like that.

Dave Bullis 58:17
Yeah, and I'm actually trying to get him on the podcast, by the way. Might be a little subtle. Is he

Derek Kolstad 58:23
still writing? He kind of had a big blow for the industry and kind of took took some time off.

Dave Bullis 58:29
Oh, he's the writing. Okay. And because he is he his last work was actually a book. It's an E book called heaven and mail. And it's all about working with Mel Gibson. Nice. And the other question that came in, Derek was how do I go about getting a screenplay mentor?

Derek Kolstad 58:49
Good question, man. If I look at my own life, find someone in your life who reads and reads voraciously, simply because when you read you, you know what's good, you know, what's, you know, what works. And, you know, the other thing too, is my thing about screenwriting, especially the industry, I said at the beginning is you have to be here. I know you can hate LA and hate New York even but you have to be here. You could honestly move to LA right now. jump online and find a group of people who will read your screenplay in 48 hours because they're trying to do the same thing. And it's kind of like the Brotherhood, the script. And you know, that's the bet if you really want to see if you can fail at this move here, you know, but if you don't and you want advice, seek out the people who love the medium. And it's amazing too. The other thing too is you'll know if you have a good script when you have your friends sit around and read it out loud. Because it's amazing, especially with comedy something that intimidates the shit out of me where It's funny to you. It's funny on a page when it's spoken out loud. It's just like gravel, you know? And that's what I'd say.

Dave Bullis 1:00:09
That's a very good point. Did By the way, directors that sort of add on to that, did you see the blacklist has its own podcast now? They're actually reading some like unproduced screenplays. Oh, really? Yeah. That's a really cool idea. Yeah, the the first one they did was a balls out.

Derek Kolstad 1:00:24
I've I haven't read that one. I've heard of it.

Dave Bullis 1:00:27
Somebody once told me about it. And then I heard Craig Mazin mentioned it again. Craig Mazin, you know, he is right. Yeah. Okay. So he mentioned it, and I looked it up. And I was like, Wow, it's easy to find. And apparently, it's been circling around Hollywood for years, but nobody actually wants to make it. But everyone's like, this is fucking hilarious. Haha. And they just pass it on. And and it's been like, why the hell so? Apparently, it does get like pretty outrageous and stuff. So I'm actually going to read it one of these days. But I've read the first 20 pages. I thought it was hilarious.

Derek Kolstad 1:00:59
Like, have you read the screenplay? passengers?

Dave Bullis 1:01:02
No, I haven't. Dude,

Derek Kolstad 1:01:03
that's that's one right now. I think. I think Chris Pratt attached? I don't know, do the female leaders right now. That's one that every exact I talked to us. Like, that's the best game plan read in five years. But we passed on it. And the realities of this business are it's like, let's say you read a screenplay, and it's your favorite ever. But you're like, that's $120 million. You know, pG 13 R rated sci fi thriller. That's unique. You know, it's not based on anything. You know, you've got shareholders, man, it's, it's a huge risk. So when people pass on certain stuff, like I've talked to a number of people passed on gravity. You're like, wow, and then you realize, Oh, yeah, if you hadn't seen the visuals, and read it, I get it, you know? And yet, every now and then, especially being an aspiring writer, like yourself. Oh, fuck that. You're a writer, you know, is when you go to the theater. You're like, you get 12 minutes into the movie, like, how is this made? And a lot of times, even the people involved like I don't happen.

Dave Bullis 1:02:09
Yeah, there's a there's another podcast too. called How did this get made? And? And I first I was like, What the hell? But But yeah, I know exactly what you mean. You know, they even mentioned you What the hell happened here. But you know, it's funny Derrick member landed the last one that came out with Will Ferrell. Yeah, that that studio, they they bought the book so much on that. And then what happened was when a failed, everyone got fired?

Derek Kolstad 1:02:35
Yeah. That's the kind of thing though, that you can you feel for certain people involved because I remember talking to the producers of Jonah hacks. And they, you know, this was after the fact they were like, Derek, the screenplay was fun. It was a blast. The table reads to great. Three weeks for shooting, they carved off like $15 million for a budget, we thought we do fine. And then when we started seeing dailies, we were like, what happened? It's just, again, it's a miracle, and you get a good movie. And it's simply because, you know, it's it begins and ends with a script, sure. But at certain points, people step in, and the script gets muddied. And things happen, you know, often a bad movie. That's only bad when it hits the second act, you know, that's more often than not.

Dave Bullis 1:03:27
Yeah, very true. Yeah. Something I've always heard is the the second act is where movies go to die.

Derek Kolstad 1:03:34
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I would argue that the movies I write the I love, just actually I love thrillers love sci fi. The work is an act to me an act one you come up with, when you're out for a walk, or you're having a meal. x three is just fun, because you can finish the fucker. But act two. That's where the writing comes in. And when you start receiving notes, all your notes are an act two, not one or three.

Dave Bullis 1:04:06
So you know, Derrick, in closing, uh, you know, I mean, we could talk all day, you and I could tell we have you know, we have we have the same taste in movies we've got

Derek Kolstad 1:04:14
we're both give a shout when the next film comes out, man.

Dave Bullis 1:04:18
Okay, definitely. Because you're both have degrees in business. We both do writing. We both have red hair.

Derek Kolstad 1:04:25
Losing my I shaved my head.

Dave Bullis 1:04:28
But thank you for that writer comment, by the way. Yeah.

Derek Kolstad 1:04:33
I have to stop myself because it's kind of like Kiana said about he doesn't do his he doesn't do stocks. He's really doing it. And so when I talk to people, it's like, you're not to say you're an aspiring screenwriter means you want to be a screenwriter. He's being paid, but to be writers to be a writer. And as soon as you have one person read it, you've affected their entire life. And I think it's it's a difficult career, and yet it's a it's a fun one. I'm not saying john wick is going to be out there changing people's lives but I want making movies that like predator diehard for instance, we are you're at a hotel one night. It's 11 o'clock you're tired. You turn on the TV halfway through predator like fuck gotta watch it. Those the movies I love.

Dave Bullis 1:05:16
I mean, I remember when I when I was beyond the commercials for john wick. I was on Facebook one day and a friend of mine who's kind of a hard guy to please movies actually was like john wick Anyway, you know, dot dot dot the ellipsis anyway, that was pretty fucking good.

Derek Kolstad 1:05:31
See that's the best. That's what I want, you know. And in fact, I had people on Facebook who were like, in their late 70s, early 80s friends of my grandmother, who hadn't seen an R rated movies since maybe the Godfather. They went to see it sparked me there just like that I really enjoyed that.

Dave Bullis 1:05:49
He gigs, I mean that there's a couple things in john wick. Like I said, people if you're listening to this troja job was gonna dig into it. But just you know, real quick, I know, you have to go. But when john wick he was going through the nightclub, and he's all action scene, and we're following the whole time. And it's just everything about that we're just all came together beautifully. And I was like, and I was like, Damn, that's a really good action scene right there.

Derek Kolstad 1:06:11
Yeah, it was fun is, you know, Chad and Dave, their background is, you know, his his stunt direction and that kind of stuff. But what I loved about working with them. And what I love about where he would have now is a lot of the action beats I wrote into the script are on the screen, like to see that john shoots the guy's foot aliens for and shoots his head. And like that was in the screenplay. And so I know for a lot of like the Marvel movies or the bigger properties. They say john wick fights 15 guys, like in the script, they gave me the opportunity to help them along the action, action wise. And what I love about their directing style is there's no quick cuts, they're doing all these moves, they're landing all of these blows. And it's it's kind of like an ode to the kung fu I grew up with, you know, and we had fun with it then and we're gonna have a blast with it when the next

Dave Bullis 1:07:05
is there a rough date for the release date for the next one? Not, not, not

Derek Kolstad 1:07:09
really. Lionsgate really wants one there. They're talking with various people in Cannes right now. So we could shoot in the fall, or we could shoot in the spring. The Lions Gate has been very, very generous. I mean, it's very rare to be in a place where you have a greenlit movie, you know, and it's greenlit, and they're like, the sooner the better. And yet they want to massage this into a franchise and Kanno who's, you know, implicit in all of this is very careful to do so as well.

Dave Bullis 1:07:40
And that's absolutely phenomenal. And you know, Derek, I want to say congratulations on all your success. He's you know, you've definitely earned it. And you know, I wish you nothing but the best with you know, john with two and hopefully john wick three and you know, all the other future products you have.

Derek Kolstad 1:07:54
Thanks a lot, man. I enjoyed talking to you.

Dave Bullis 1:07:56
Oh, my pleasure, man. Anytime we get talking about like movies like anyone who's seen man skeeto or were killed dozer or future or you see rubber. Yes, I did see rubber Yes.

Derek Kolstad 1:08:11
That you know,

Dave Bullis 1:08:11
if you ever really want to punish yourself, and this goes for finale, you Derek or anyone listening? If you want to see the worst film that I've ever seen, I know exactly what it is. And it's called Nuki. What Nuki it's NUK ie, it's a movie about two aliens that crash land in Africa. And it is it was supposed to be like a kid's movie like a ripoff of et. And it is so odd and bad and boring and dead. It's It's It's hailed as you know, they usually have the worst movies ever made. They usually put plan nine on but plan nine is actually entertaining. This is just bad. So so if you ever and I'll link to in the show notes too, if anybody actually wants to venture out to see Nuki but it is absolutely barn on the worst movie I've ever seen in my life.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:01
Obviously, martyrs, martyrs No, that is one of the most disturbing horror movies I've ever seen. So

Dave Bullis 1:09:07
okay, I'll make I'm making a note of that.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:09
That and three extremes is awesome.

Dave Bullis 1:09:12
Yeah, I've seen extreme extremes.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:14
Yeah. And go for hours, man.

Dave Bullis 1:09:17
Yeah, seriously. I mean, we could always be talking I mean, that's a that's what helped me fight you know, find somebody like yourself, who just says seen all these random movies that I've seen. And I'm gonna check out that movie Casablanca you mentioned I

Derek Kolstad 1:09:30
don't Hey, when you're out, man, give me a shout, dude.

Dave Bullis 1:09:35
We'll do Derek.

Derek Kolstad 1:09:42
I don't do Twitter anything.

Dave Bullis 1:09:44

Derek Kolstad 1:09:46
I just I just a private guy, man.

Dave Bullis 1:09:50
Cool. And, you know, everybody can find me at Dave bulls.com. You can you can find you can find me I'm a I try to be private but I got way too much social stuff going on. You don't even need channels. Um, but actually, Derek, I want to say thanks again for coming on. And please, anytime want to come back, just let me know.

Derek Kolstad 1:10:08
Sure. Thanks. Good luck, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:10
Like I said, that was an awesome, awesome interview. Derek. I'm a huge fan of Derek and I'm a huge fan of the john wick franchise. So if you do want to get more episodes by Dave Bullis on the make your movie podcast, just head over to eye f h podcast network.com. And check out all of the other amazing podcasts that we have in the network that is focused on filmmaking, film history, analysis, and screenwriting. And if you want to take a deeper dive into the mind of screenwriters, definitely check out our new podcast inside the screenwriters mind, which is an archive of all the best screen writer interviews that the IFH Podcast Network has, and you can check that out at screenwritersmind.com. Thank you guys for listening. Next week, we will be back to our regularly scheduled program, and I got some amazing new stuff coming for you in the coming weeks. Thanks again for listening guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 090: How to Write a Successful Horror Franchise with Final Destination’s Jeffrey Reddick

Today on the show we have screenwriter and director Jeffrey Reddick, who is best known for creating the highly successful Final Destination horror film franchise. The franchise has grossed over $650 Million world-wide. Not bad for an idea that was first conceived for an X-Files episode.

Jeffrey also co-wrote the story for, and executive produced, Final Destination 2 (2003). Jeffrey made his first connection to the film industry at age 14 when he wrote a prequel to Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) and mailed it to Bob Shaye, the President of New Line Cinema. Bob returned the material for being unsolicited. But the young man wrote Bob an aggressive reply, which won him over.

Bob read the treatment and got back to Jeffrey. Bob, and his assistant, Joy Mann, stayed in contact with Jeffrey for over five years. When he went to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York at age 19, Bob offered him an internship at New Line Cinema. This internship turned into an 11-year stint at the studio.

Aside from Final Destination (2000), which spawned four successful sequels, Jeffrey’s other credits include Lions Gate’s thriller, Tamara (2005), and the remake of George Romero’s classic, Day of the Dead (2008). Jeffrey’s directorial debut is Don’t Look Back.

When a young woman overcoming her traumatic past is among several witnesses who see a man fatally assaulted and don’t intervene, they find themselves targeted by someone, or something, out for revenge.

Jeffrey has had an amazing career so far and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Enjoy my spooky conversation with Jeffrey Reddick.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:52
I'd like to welcome to the show the legendary Jeffrey Redick, how are you doing Jeffrey?

Jeffrey Reddick 3:43
I'm doing well. How you doing? Brother?

Alex Ferrari 3:44
I'm good man. I'm good, man. It's as good as we can be in this horror script of a year.

Jeffrey Reddick 3:52
I know. I know. It's just like when you think you hit the final act, killers dead killer pops back up again. And it's like,

Alex Ferrari 3:59
I mean, like I was talking to another guest the other day about is like this is so on the nose. Like, you know, studio would produce the script of 2020 it's just too It doesn't even make sense.

Jeffrey Reddick 4:11
Yeah, absolutely. No, it's been. It has been like, you know, you try to stay stay grateful and you try to stay positive about stuff but you can't not take in the fact that like the world is like suffering through something really. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 4:26
Absolutely. And getting getting crazier and get it getting crazier but but we as filmmakers and screenwriters are insane enough to go yes, I know the world is burning. But how do I get my my screenplay produced? I need the budget for my film.

Jeffrey Reddick 4:44
We can still make this movie we can do it safely.

Alex Ferrari 4:48
This insanity of the psychosis of a filmmaker or screenwriters you're just like how do I get this movie made this crazy this is that I imagined there filmmakers in the Mad Max world and I know we have no gasoline, or cameras, but we got to shoot something.

Jeffrey Reddick 5:05
Yeah, I would say no starting an only fans page, not not doing the stuff that they normally do on there, but just only just me typing just to somebody. I'm sure there are some people out there that will be like, Oh, that's so relaxing to watch every type all day. Just pay me a couple of bucks a month.

Alex Ferrari 5:23
You could just walk why, exactly. It's the it's the new generation of the burning log or the fish tank video. Yes. So Jeffrey, how did you get into the business?

Jeffrey Reddick 5:37
Um, how I, how I got in business is a pretty funny story. It all started when I was 14. And I was a, you know, 14 year old hillbilly living in eastern Kentucky. And I saw this movie A Nightmare on Elm Street that blew my mind. It's still my favorite movie ever. And I went home and I banged out a prequel on my little typewriter. And I found out who owned new lines in it, who ran New Line Cinema, Bob Shea. And I got the address. And I mailed it to him. And he sent it back to me. And he's like, you know, we don't take unsolicited material. Thanks for sending your thing. So I had to look up unsolicited because I'm 14. I didn't know what that meant. And then I wrote him back. I sent it back to him. Because I was kind of perturbed. I was like, Look, sir, I've seen three of your movies. And I spent $3 on your work. So I think you can take five minutes to read my story. And he actually read it.

Alex Ferrari 6:29
But this is so what yours is so we're talking like at this was at five. So this is the time that you could actually call up Bob Shea's office, get a receptionist or get her his assistant and actually maybe possibly get through.

Jeffrey Reddick 6:44
Why didn't get through to him on the phone, but I okay, yeah, I got it,

Alex Ferrari 6:47
but even get through them, period.

Jeffrey Reddick 6:50
Yeah, I think but then I wrote the letter. And and, you know, once I wrote that second letter, he wrote me back and he's like, thank you for your aggressive introduction. And he read the story. And he was very constructive. And basically his assistant joy man who was a wonderful woman, she's not with us any longer. She her and Bob kind of took me under their wing from afar. And so they would send me scripts, and movie posters and just things that, you know, a 14 year old kid in Kentucky like flips out over. And they stayed in touch with me till I was 19. And I went to college in Kentucky at this great University College called Berea College. And I went to New York for study for a summer program to study acting, and Bob and Joyce said, Well, how do you want to intern at new line? I'm like, Are you kidding me? Of course I do. And I got an agent and decided to stay in New York. And you know, my internship turned into a position at new line. And I ended up working there for 11 years, and they ended up you know, producing final destination. So

Alex Ferrari 7:46
that little thing yeah, that little little film that you liked what you just dropped that into? Yeah, that's the final destination. Well, one of the more successful horror franchises in history. Now, how did you get well, first of all, how did you come up with the idea for final destination?

Jeffrey Reddick 8:05
The, the colonel for the idea came when I was I was flying home to get a lot of stuff was as Kentucky base, I was flying home to Kentucky, and I read an article about a woman who was on vacation. And her mother called her and said, don't take the flight you're on tomorrow, I have a bad feeling about it. And so she changed flights. And then the story, they said the flights that she was supposed to be on crashed. So that put the idea in my head, but I didn't know the story to go with the idea. And then, you know, years later, I was trying to get an agent for writing. And so I had to write a spec script for something that was on TV. And I loved the X Files. So I use that idea is a setup for an X Files episode. And I got the agent. And then my friends and newline were like, this is a great idea. Like don't, you know, don't send the script in, like for an X Files episode, like make it a feature. So I ended up writing a treatment, you know, because back in the day, you could sell treatments for her projects are no pitch or a pitch. Yeah, you can do that back then. And now it's like, hey, pitches the story and tell us who your star is.

Alex Ferrari 9:04
And you have and you have 50% of the financing in place already. And you have distribution in place.

Jeffrey Reddick 9:07
Yeah, it's like, yeah, the business is, is changed so much. But But you know, I one of my friends, Chris bender that worked at New Line had just started working for Craig Perry and Warren Zeid, who were producers that had to deal at new line and I knew that even though I worked at new line, and I had a straight kind of pipeline to the creative team, I knew that it would give me more juice if I had producers on board because they would just take it more seriously. But it was a hard Honestly, it was a hard sell. Like they were like we don't get death being the killer. Like you can't see it. You can't fight it. And we're like, that's the point. And so it wasn't until we threatened to take it to Miramax or like we'll buy it. All right, well buy it. It will take a chance on it.

Alex Ferrari 9:54
No, it's a great it's a it's a great idea. It is such a you know in your And you're right. I can only imagine back then, because there was like you had Jason, you had Freddy, you had Michael Myers, you had Chucky and all these, like, you could put that on the poster, you can't put death that has no figure on the poster. So it must be it must have been a difficult sell for the marketing team.

Jeffrey Reddick 10:19
It was and I think they did a great job with Oh, yeah. But, you know, the whole reason that we, you know, the whole reason that I, I want, and I'm glad that when James Wong and Morgan came on, they fought to make sure that that that death never had a forum, and they came up with some some other amazing thing, like the whole Rube Goldberg aspect of it. But the reason that I wanted to not give death a form is because I wanted it to be as universal as possible. And if you put like, if you put like a Western kind of Christian version of death, you know, like Grim Reaper with sickle or something like that, then then it doesn't appeal to people who either are have different religious beliefs or spiritual beliefs or don't have spiritual beliefs. So I thought it was very important to not do that. And, and I think that's why it's been as successful as it has been.

Alex Ferrari 11:05
Yeah, it travels very well around the world, because everybody has death in their culture, that is something that concept is in every culture, the figure of it is different from culture to culture, right. But that's it. You can project they can project their own version of what death is on to the movie, which is fantastic. And I remember the trailers of that film. They just as the sequels kept coming, they kept focusing more and more on the deaths. Like that was like, that was the selling point. Like, what is the craziest way we could kill? So?

Jeffrey Reddick 11:38

Alex Ferrari 11:41
That became the the hook I guess, as as these kept going, how many? There was five? Right?

Jeffrey Reddick 11:47
Yeah, there have been five of them. And there will be a sixth one. There. It was definitely in the works before COVID hit and now COVID just kind of put the brakes.

Alex Ferrari 11:56
Are they? Are they good? Are they going to kind of reboot the whole thing? Are they going to just make a straight up sequel? Or you don't know? You can't tell?

Jeffrey Reddick 12:03
I don't Yeah, I mean, I don't. I don't know if reboot. I think reboot is too strong of a word. Um, you know, because it's the final destination, you know, films have their formula, you know, a big set piece at the beginning and then death comes after people. So I don't know if reboots the right word, because that that intimate,

Alex Ferrari 12:23
but bring a new generation, I guess. I mean, but but every but every cast was like you didn't have one cast member that ran through the whole thing.

Jeffrey Reddick 12:30
Did you remember Tony Todd is the is the recurring has been the recurring character and Ali Larter was in the right and second one. Yeah, Tony Todd's been, you know, he hasn't been in every single one of them. But he's been in like, a lot. Yeah. Yeah, he should be in every one of them. There are a few where they can put him in there. And they they they got they got the message that people love Tony Todd. And

Alex Ferrari 12:54
now I do remember when you and I originally met 10 years ago on a panel here in LA, a horror film panel. And I remember you saying on the panel that like, Look, I they can make as many of these as they want. Because every single time they make one I get a check. So yeah, I know. residuals, residuals

Jeffrey Reddick 13:16
know what that sounds like. Good. Yeah. Yeah, that sounds better on a panel. There are people there, then I sound like a douchebag.

Alex Ferrari 13:25
No, no, no, and I don't even I don't mean to make you sound like that. I completely. And I know that and I listen, I look, I know a lot of I've had a lot of screenwriters on board that like they work on a few of the first ones. And then I had the guy who did Air Bud, who created air bug. And they made 12 of those films. He was only involved in the first two or three but every single time they make a new one, he gets a residual check. So that's nothing to be ashamed of as a screenwriter. Well,

Jeffrey Reddick 13:56
I know when it will even as a horror fan, though, it's like I want there to be yes, the money is nice, but I want there to be more because I can't think of any other franchise that's been this successful. And they've only made five of them in 20 years, like every other. There have been like 20 Halloweens and 20 Friday you know there have been like even you know even nightmare downstream there have been like it's like come on, make some more because the fans want it and I need to get some new shoes.

Alex Ferrari 14:27
As we were saying residual checks are nice. They're very very nice. Now how did I wonder I always like to ask this of a screenwriter who has a hit because when Final Destination came out it was a fairly large hit for for the but it was a fairly small budget to I'm imagine it wasn't a huge budget.

Jeffrey Reddick 14:44
No, that was that one. I have to say they It was 20 million which is actually big for a horror movie back then. Big Four horror film. Um, but yeah, it was a it was a big hit. sleeper hit it opened it like number three or four and then the next week it went up and then the next weekend. Number one, so it was definitely a word of mouth hit two, which was nice to see happen. And that rarely ever happens. Especially with horror. Yeah, usually they open big and then they drop. Right, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 15:10
So I always like to ask screenwriters who had that kind of success? How did the trap the town treat you? What was the experience of being in the final destination? hurricane, if you will?

Jeffrey Reddick 15:22
Well, the funny thing is I, I missed the hurricane because I was in New York. So I worked out of the New York office of new line. So I wasn't in LA, we're kind of all the, you know, the hurricane like action happens. So I was, I was aware of how well it did. But I was in a different world. And so I stayed at new line because I, I just loved the company so much. I'm just one of those people, you know, creatures of habit that gets very comfortable. I actually stayed at New Line, until I sold the sequel, the story for the sequel, in 2000, in 2000, and then finally, my bosses were like, you know, everybody knew I was like, we love you to death, Jeffrey, but you sold two movies. Now it's time, it's time to

Alex Ferrari 16:09
go out into the world, Jeffrey, it's okay. Like they were pushing you out of the nest,

Jeffrey Reddick 16:14
out of the nest. And, but I was happy in New York. So I was going to stay in New York. But unfortunately, you know, 911 happened. And I lived in Battery Park City, which is not far from the World Trade Center. So once that happened, I then I decided to move out to LA. So you know, typically, when something like that happens, even when you sell a project, you kind of, you know, looking back, you kind of you know, you move to LA immediately, you milk that movie as much as you can till it comes down. And if it's hit, you're out here, but I kind of missed all all of that stuff. So by the time I got out here, it was funny because people, my agent, you know, I got an agent, he pretty much had to introduce me to the town. Because, you know, James Wong, Lynn Morgan, who, you know, co wrote the movie and also directed it, you know, they were out here in the hurricane. So people didn't really know who I was until I actually got out here. And then they read my script. And they're like, Oh, I'm like, Well, my name is all over the poster. But they don't you know, it's a town where if you're not sitting in a room with somebody, they don't actually go and look at a movie poster in the credits.

Alex Ferrari 17:19
Yeah, out of sight, out of mind,

Jeffrey Reddick 17:20
basically, out of sight out of mind. So, so I missed the craziness of the hurricane, which I think was probably a good thing. For me, just as a person, because I think if I got out here, I may have got sucked into like, just the world of craziness that I wasn't prepared for I I got sober like 15 years ago. So I think if you know, and mine was my my advice was drinking and it was, you know, just wasn't anything like super crazy. It was just kind of more like, sitting at home being sad, drunk and not being happy. So I think if I had been out here, in that celebratory party kind of scene, healthy. I think it would have been very unhealthy for me. So I think it was a it was probably, you know, God looking out for me in that that that way. But um, it's funny now kind of, you know, as the years go by, though, seeing how much of an impact the movie has had, like, you know, when I hear somebody say, this is a final destination moment, like, even when I'm not around, like, they don't know that I'm involved with it at all. I'll just be out in public and somebody's like, Oh, it's like, final destination. And it's like, holy shit. Like, this is like part of the culture now like,

Alex Ferrari 18:31
Oh, it's in the it's in this guy. So yeah, it's it's definitely transcended, like, I mean, I'd argue kind of like a Freddy or a Jason or a Chucky or Michael, but in its own its own very unique space. I mean, you have a final destination is a very unique niche within the horror genre, because there is no killer. Yes. Visual killer. It's a very, you know, very, very unique in that has more than one movie. It has five movies, you know, so that it's in itself, and I guess they kept being successful because it kept making them.

Jeffrey Reddick 19:07
Yeah, absolutely. You know, and it's, you know, it's, it's just as somebody who's been a horror fan my whole life. It's been, it's been very gratifying, you know, it's but it's also a dragon that you're chasing, you know, you find yourself chasing that dragon dragon. Something's like, Well, why don't you bring to something like Final Destination? And I'm like, What? idea and they're like, Oh, that's too much like final destination. Well, that was not enough like final destination.

Alex Ferrari 19:28
So that is something that is something that's real because a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters don't realize that but when you're you're a hit in town for something. That's the box you get put into and you a lot of times have to fight your way out of that box. I know. I know, for a fact that Wes Craven, one of the greatest horror directors of all time, I knew his personal assistant. That was his personal system for many years and he was dying to get out of he wanted to do something different. He'd been doing horror for such a long time. And that movie music The heart which was called 500 violins. The only reason he got that was because they wanted scream to He's like, what do you want me to do scream to Harvey? I need Give me the budget to make. Yeah, to make this. And that's how he got it. But he was I felt that he was, from what I understood. He was frustrated that he was only able to do horror. I know he wanted to venture out as an artist. Yeah, and that happens, doesn't it?

Jeffrey Reddick 20:27
Yeah, they it's it's it's it since I love horror. It's I don't mind being in that box as far as writing goes. But yeah, the idea that it's like, we need you to bring us something like, final destination, that unique thing that you created. But then we didn't actually we were very concerned about it because it was unique until it became a hit. It's just a hard place to be in but you know, I The good thing is I find myself like branching out a little bit like right now I'm working on two animated series for the car for Netflix. You know, in their, their their kid animated series, and one of them has some creepy, fairy tale dark fairy tale elements and the other ones like a spin off of the saga Yojimbo, the Japanese comic. So that's like Samurai rabbits, you know, and it's so much fun to do it. So I'm finding myself Finally, branching out a little bit, but I always will come back to genre like I love this genre so much that

Alex Ferrari 21:22
well, if you love it, you love it. But you but you also want to break out from like, I don't want to write another final destination. I did that. Let's, let's move on.

Jeffrey Reddick 21:29
Let's do something else.

Alex Ferrari 21:31
Now, were you involved with the sequels? I know you were involved with a second sequel? Did you? Were you involved with the other sequels at all?

Jeffrey Reddick 21:37
No, not not not physically involved. I mean, I I'm very good friends with a producer Craig Perry. So, you know, he'll call me up and a lot of times and bounce ideas off of me and let me know what's going on. So I definitely kind of know what's going on with the franchise. And it's, it's actually been fun to see. Other people kind of come in and put their their mark on the brand. I mean, the first one, it's always been this almost incestuous circle with the first four. It's like, you know, I worked on the first one in the second one and James Wong and Glen Morgan worked on the first one and the third one, Eric brass, and Jay maca. Gruber worked on the second one, and then Eric rested the fourth one. And then we brought in somebody due for the fifth one. And it was like, you know, I love the fifth one. But it's just fun to see, like other people kind of come in and take that concept and put their spin on it.

Alex Ferrari 22:21
Right? I'm imagining what the George Lucas feels like with what they've been doing with Mandalorian. And, and all the other cool films and stuff that they're doing with his his baby that he had put out so many years ago? Yeah.

Jeffrey Reddick 22:38
I think it all depends probably on personalities. Like if I like I'm not sure like that, cuz I know some people get very protective and precious of their work. But you know, I think that's part of working at a studio, what that helped me kind of separate my ego from a lot of that stuff. Because I realized, like, you know, once you write a movie and somebody else buys it, you're kind of handing it over to other people. So you just hope to create a good enough relationship with those people that you can have some say and how they execute it. But again, it's a quality problem. It's a quality problem to have if you have other people doing sequels to your stuff. So I definitely don't complain about

Alex Ferrari 23:15
writing first world problems. As I say it's first world problems. Now, you are such a fan and a student of the genre of horror films, what makes a good horror screenplay?

Jeffrey Reddick 23:28
I mean, I think for me, it it all, it starts with the basics of, you know, having relatable characters. I think if you make me fall in love with these characters and care about them, then I will follow the journey wherever it takes me. Sometimes scripts go off into bizarre directions, but if it's grounded in characters that I can really relate to and care about. That's always the most important thing for me. I do think, you know, for horror, you know, you want to, you know, you want to have some kind of hook that can bring people into the story, some kind of concept that doesn't feel like we're reading the same story of, you know, a family moves into a house and, you know, something horrible happened there. And now a ghost is like haunting them. It's like, we've seen that so many times, it's like, you do want something that we haven't seen 100 times unless you're putting a very unique spin on it. scares and suspense are obviously important. And if you're doing a straight up horror film, obviously, the kills in the set pieces are important too. If you're doing a movie, because you you, you're also you're writing something for for people, but you're making it for an audience out there. So there's certain things that the audience expects in a horror film. So you either want to deliver on those expectations or subvert them in a cool way.

Alex Ferrari 24:47
So very cool. Now, what are the biggest problems you see with horror protagonists? Because, you know, it's almost a cliche. You're like, why are you doing like you're yelling at the screen. Don't go in there. The Killers in their The what? What is the biggest problem you see with protagonists in horror films in general?

Jeffrey Reddick 25:06
I think that you pretty much ended on the head. I mean, I think a lot of movies require and you know, and I'm sure, like, there, there are movies that I've written where this happens to. But you know, when you require, because the thing is audiences, I read this somewhere where a psychologist said that that film audiences always think that they're braver and smarter than the people on screen. So like, you know, when a character wouldn't do something in the film, they're not, they're like, well, if I was there, I'd have jumped on that killers back and done it. But the worst thing you can do is have like, an I've seen so many good movies just get undermined by this, where they just have the main characters, stay in a location when any rational person, right have left and do stupid things that any rational person wouldn't do. So if you have a character that keeps making bad choices, just to keep the story going, that's the biggest mistake I see are I wrote somebody scripts where it's like, you know, this is the city, this is any good movie talking. This is like a human being like, I cannot think of any person, no matter how tough they are, that would stay here after what they just saw. Right? You know, like, you know, I read a script recently, where, you know, a person gets invited to like, some mysterious party and doesn't know who invited them and walks in, and there's like, some weird orgy going on. And, you know, she backs up into some strange guy. And he's like, Oh, don't worry about that. Follow me, I'll show you what's where the host is. And I'm like, Oh, this would be gone at that point. You know, she's, she was horrified by the origin wasn't like she saw the orgy was like, that looks fun. She was like, horrified. And so who's gonna follow some strange man, you know? So when I see stuff, like when I read stuff like that in scripts, especially when that happens over and over again, I think that's the biggest mistake I see in horror films is making your characters continually do silly things just to keep the story going. Well, when

Alex Ferrari 27:00
I when I was thinking, thinking of three films, specifically that are horror films that are so good, that they transcend the genre, almost, which is Jaws, Exorcist and Silence of the Lambs. The stories, the characters, everything is so well constructed. There's never a moment in Silence of the Lambs. I'm like, don't don't like why are you doing that? Like jaws is perfectly it's as as perfect of a film, it's period as you can get. And the actresses like, those, the situation is structured in a way where, well, the priest is trying to get the devil out of this girl. So he has to be in there. Because that's his job as opposed to, you know, oh, let's get this all split up in the woods. Yeah, so the killer could knock us off one at a time.

Jeffrey Reddick 27:52
Right? And you don't get a pass because I see a lot of this in the scripts to where people will be like, really? Now you want to split up now? Have you seen a horror movie and then they still split up? It's like, that doesn't give you a pass by

Alex Ferrari 28:04
exactly now, and that was the perfect thing. Well, that started with scream when scream actually was so self aware of its own faults. Yeah, I mean, that is a brilliant script. And that's Yeah, love scream.

Jeffrey Reddick 28:16
I that's one of my favorites.

Alex Ferrari 28:18
I mean, so brilliantly done and the first opening sequence with Drew Barrymore I mean, it's it's the psycho and you killing it. I mean, spoiler alert first 10 minutes drew dies. But, but it like it was shocking for a new generation. It was basically what what psycho did back in the day, but it was so brilliant. I remember when that came out. It was just like a revelate like everybody, it was such a monster hit

Jeffrey Reddick 28:44
at the end because I went to a screening of it and I didn't I you know, I saw the poster in the trailer. I thought Drew Barrymore was the star of it. I just went in there with my sweet ass going, Well, I can't wait to watch Bruce. Bruce scream for like 90 minutes and get and I was like,

Alex Ferrari 28:59
What? What? What's going on?

Jeffrey Reddick 29:01
Oh, it's like one of the most brilliant 10 minutes of cinema.

Alex Ferrari 29:06
Yeah, it's it's amazing. Now, with the blue we know what the problem is with protagonists. But what can you do as a screenwriter to make a horror villain legendary? Because we've already rattled off a handful of names that are all you need to do is just say their first names and in the horror genre, they know what it is. So what do you do? Like what makes Michael Meyers Freddy? Jason you know, those characters so so legendary, as opposed to other horror, you know, other horror either franchises that either come and go, that have those kind of looks from the poster. The same elements is Jason or Freddy, but they don't live up to it and they don't what's that magic? What's that thing? In your opinion?

Jeffrey Reddick 29:54
You know what I think? I don't think that there's I don't think that that that's almost an answer because it's it's almost like catching lightning in a bottle. Because sometimes the characters are so like you mentioned Simon lamb like Hannibal Lecter is such a delectable like, you know with its with just the portrayal and the way that he was filmed and everything is that it's mesmerizing that so you have sometimes you have villains like that, or Freddy Krueger, I think is probably the best example of the of the slashers. Because especially in the first movie, like he was so feral, and so there was just something so wicked about him, like he cut himself, he cut it, people he was just horrible. Like, we'd never seen anything like that. And Chucky had such a distinct, you know, it's a toy, you know, it's like, look like a little toy. You know, you almost had as much fun with the Chucky movies when the dolls getting knocked around, knowing that, knowing that it's possessed, like, so it's, there's something about that. But, you know, I think, you know, with Michael Myers, he didn't say anything. And it was just, he was an embodiment of evil. But also that movie came out at a time, you know, we were kind of in, you know, the suburbs, everything was about the sub suburbs and how the suburbs were safe and the last bastion of safety in America. And, you know, Michael Myers came in and kind of took that over. And with Friday the 13th, you know, like people forget, you know, Jason's mother was a killer. And the first one, he wore like, a sack over his head. And the second one, he didn't get the hockey mask on the third one. And I think that that, that by that point, it you just were our culture was at the time. slashers are so hot. And that just happened to be the one that like exploded Friday, the 13th exploded. I don't know if it's necessarily because of Jason per se. Time Bomb.

Alex Ferrari 31:38
It was timing,

Jeffrey Reddick 31:39
I think with timing on that one. Because again, most people think of him with a hockey mask. It's like, well, he didn't have the hockey mask till the third movie. And he wasn't the killer in the first one. So I think timing has a lot to do with when certain movies take off and when certain movies hit but I think good. No, I was gonna say, but I think when you create a villain for a horror film, especially if it's like a slasher film, you do kind of want to come up with some kind of iconography, some kind of look that's unique, where people will like, they'll remember that, that that killer if your movies fortunate enough to like, really strike a chord with people and take off. Like, that sucks about finals nation. It's like, we could have had a Halloween costume and a toy line, but we don't because it's we don't have a killer. So

Alex Ferrari 32:25
we have five but we have five movies. And hopefully, yes, yes.

Jeffrey Reddick 32:29
But it's funny because it's Yeah, because I love like collecting, like, you know, stat you know, movie posters and statues and tchotchkes. So it'd be nice to have one for mine. But that's our

Alex Ferrari 32:41
they should they should actually sell the statues of the kills. So like the, the sequence of a kill like that chap.

Jeffrey Reddick 32:50
That would be awesome. Like the log going into sheriff's car. Exactly. All those kills a B on the balance beam. And the fifth one, like I love that kill, too.

Alex Ferrari 33:00
Yeah, but you look at things like leprechaun, and I'm like, how did that thing become? How did that become a thing? Like they ran off? Like, how many of those are the things that they just took off? So and then something like candy man did it? Like there should be 20 candy men?

Jeffrey Reddick 33:15
Yeah, there should be. I mean, well, you know, what's interesting, too, is we have to also look at the time when these movies came out as far as what was accessible. So, you know, back when, when I was young, you know, there were like three networks in HBO. So everybody was watching the same things. And so people were seeing the same movies. There weren't as many movies that were coming out as there are now so, you know, you didn't have a, you know, when scary movies came out, like everybody rushed to see them. But everybody across the country was seeing like the same movies and watching the same things on television. You know, like, back in the day, it was like 60 million, you know, viewers was like a hit for a network show. And now it's like, well, we got 10 million viewers, it's a hit. So you know, the country used to be much more the choices used to be a lot more limited. So a lot of the people would get around, especially the horror fans with with reading Fangoria. You know, you'd see what was coming up and Fangoria, and then all the horror fans would rush out and see those movies. And they're, you know, they're cheaper to make and they turn a profit. So I think that's why you have a lot of horror franchises. You know, they seem to have burned themselves out a while ago. Just because I think the marketplaces got bigger with like the streamers and so many theater chains now with so many movies coming out like it's you really have to like rise above all the clutter out there.

Alex Ferrari 34:32
Right and and I can't imagine being I think it's in the camera ready that Jordan Peele remake

Jeffrey Reddick 34:38
Yes, Kenya is gonna come out but they had to push it but you know, Candyman is one of those movies I mean, it's it's it definitely appears in like the top rated you know, as far as it's a it's a beautiful movie. Um, but I do think you know, people you know, I don't I like to say delicately because people get their hackles up when when you start talking about at all, but you know, you have to look at the time when that movie came out. Right. And, you know, it's basically an interracial love story. And, you know, people weren't quite ready for that. I mean, I just read an 85. You know, there was when they put up commando, there was a love scene between Arnold Schwarzenegger's character and the female lead. But when they cast right on Chong, they cut this loveseat out because they're like, the country's not ready for this yet. And there was there was still a lot of that I think itchiness that people had about interracial relationships. And I'm like, screw you. Because if it wasn't for interracial relationships, I wouldn't be here so.

Alex Ferrari 35:37

Jeffrey Reddick 35:38
exactly. But But, you know, it was a different time back then. So I you know, but that I mean, that movies from the acting directing?

Alex Ferrari 35:47
Yeah, I remember it.

Jeffrey Reddick 35:49
I mean, everything is like, it's a I mean, it's a masterful movie, like you. Such a beautiful movie. And I thought the sequel was good, too. I liked I liked the sequel a lot. But yeah, it did. I think the reason it probably didn't take off as it was, it was, it was it wasn't the, you know, hot teenagers getting slashed up. You know, it was like dealing with like, you know, racial inequality and racial injustice. And it also had an interracial love story at the center of it. So I think people you know, I again, I just think people weren't quite ready for that at the time that it came out.

Alex Ferrari 36:22
So how do you see from from the moment that final destination was released to now and moving forward? How has horror changed because I don't see as many slasher films anymore. That's not as in vogue as it used to be. Right. You know, it's not like the 80s the golden the golden era of slasher films and that kind of horror, what kind of and then there was the Was it the horror porn or not poor porn, but, um, so I saw it torture. Yeah, the saw and the hostel and that that whole era of, of kind of horror, where do you see horror going? And it Are we going to come back to some of this, you know, nostalgic slasher, because I know they tried to remake Friday, and they did it. They did as good of a job, but you can't catch that. Robert England is ready.

Jeffrey Reddick 37:12
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think right now we're, we're very much in a supernatural kind of

Alex Ferrari 37:19
write up, contract,

Jeffrey Reddick 37:20
kind of horror kind of world. But but I honestly, you know, because I know that the business tries to the business tries to stay ahead of the curve and kind of run the ball about what's going to be popular, but then something popular comes out and then they everybody tries to start making that so everybody's, you know, trying to make the next get out now, like socially relevant kind of horror films. So I think we'll be seeing some more of that coming out for a while, but I think we're just one, you know, fresh slasher film away from having any of these genres come back. I mean, I still love it good slasher movie. You know, I, you know, there have been a glut of zombie movies, like, you know, and I get on Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu and everything. I'm like, you know, from every country, it's like, there's a good zillion zombie movies out there right now. So I don't know. I mean, I think people go to see horror films to escape, though the horrors going on in the real world. So I feel like escapism or like supernatural kind of stuff, is probably going to always be popular, and slasher stuff, because that's still escapism if it's not sadistic. You know, like, just mean spirited. I certainly know when COVID first hit, you know, all my friends were like, we're writing a COVID script. I'm

Alex Ferrari 38:41
like, No, no, I said the same thing. And like I had, I talked to some executives, like we got 20 COVID scripts a day, and nobody is going to produce a COVID script. Because the last thing I want to watch is a COVID script. Like you didn't want to watch a 911 movie after 911 or Vietnam movie while Vietnam was going on. Yeah,

Jeffrey Reddick 39:00
yeah. So I think that um, I think the escapism horror You know, I think supernatural still goes strong for a long time, but, you know, I think slasher movies are always going to be popular, it's just you got to, you know, you got to hit that right slasher kind of combination with characters in the slasher together.

Alex Ferrari 39:17
And in the end, that's the one thing I love you said that said something a second ago mean spirited with those those slasher films of the 80s that we all kind of love and grew up with. They're not mean spirited. I mean, Freddie is funny. Like, he got funnier, he got a lot funnier, after sec, the second and third and fourth, he became almost a comedy act, you know, killing people towards the end and towards the end of that series, and, and, you know, it wasn't mean spirited, even Michael and those in Jason who are kind of basically voiceless, they don't say anything. And when Freddy vs. Jason came out, I mean, that was hilarious. That was so much fun, but That is a key isn't it not being mean spirited in the way you do it and I think a lot of those torture kind of torture porn films, kind of, I think a little bit were a little bit mean spirited, like salt one was amazing.

Jeffrey Reddick 40:13
Yeah. And I think that's it, you know, it's all a personal it's a matter of taste for sure. Like I don't, you know, cuz I know certain people, like certain types of movies, but I shouldn't there's, there's a difference, like, and I'll just use hostel as an example. Like I thought the first hostel was very entertaining, like it had an add humor to it. You had, you know, male antagonists for the first time in a long time in horror movies. So and it was also kind of commenting on how like, you know, you know, American men will American anybody will travel internationally and they're just we have an arrogance about it. Like we, you know, we go to like France, and we're like, annoyed that people don't speak English. And then we're here demanding that everybody speak English, but when we travel, we're like, why does anybody speak English everywhere? So they kind of played up that whole thing and made the character you know, the characters were kind of, some of them were sympathetic, but some of them were kind of jerks. And the torture didn't come to later was I think, if you watch saw too, you know, in my humble opinion, I like it. It kind of did everything right that hostile did I think hostile to did wrong? You know, because it had, you know, women it had the, you know, Heather amaszonas character who's like, tied up naked, hung upside down, like begging for life as this woman like, slowly like, slices her for, you know, it's just, there's a difference in tone. Like, there's a Yeah, there's just a mean spiritedness about, like hostile to and there's a mean spirited is about certain of these kind of torture porn movies, where it's, you're not just you know, because you want to go have fun at these movies. It's not like, it's not like watching it. You don't want to go and watch somebody you know, you don't want to watch a mortician dissected the body correct in real life. So for a horror movie, it's not like you want to sit there and watch a killer slowly like to torture a person to death. You know, it's like watching somebody torture academ you know, online it's like, that's not entertaining. That's just feels gratuitous and is mean spirited. And I think that that's why those films don't tend to have as big of an audience because even the Saw movies they're, they're not I don't feel like they're mean spirited. there's a there's a sense of like, with jigsaw, you know, giving people a choice to like, save themselves or save somebody else. You know, sometimes, I don't feel like they're, you know, they're gruesome but I don't feel like they're mean like it feels like you're like

Alex Ferrari 42:30
I remember hospital being like costal was a hostile to specifically was I agree with you was mean. Yeah, like, there there was just like, I don't want to watch this like this is, then you watch Friday. And you're like, well, this is fun. Like it this is this is just fun. Chucky is you know, like, when when my wife saw Chucky the first time she's like, and she watched it years later after it was really she's like, this is ridiculous. I would just kick the damn thing. It's a doll. Like, it's so it's a doll. What's wrong with you people like it's like, but that's kind of what makes it funny, and that he's so wonderfully written and his dialogue and everything is so yeah. And the bride of Chucky and all of that. It's amazing. Now, what do you feel? Because you've I'm sure read a lot of scripts in your day. What is the biggest mistake you see young screenwriters make?

Jeffrey Reddick 43:24
Um, I don't know if this is a quantitative light. If this is like a literal mistake, I can say I think the problem that I find with a lot of young screenwriters is they think they're great. writers are a script. Right? Right away. Yeah. And, and any, in any, you know, just if you think logically, no matter what if you're no matter what you're, if you're an artist, whether you're a painter or a writer, thing, or you get better with practice, and the more you do it, and if you're a craftsman, if you make stuff out of wood, you get better, like the first thing that you carved out of wood isn't going to be the best thing that's ever been carved out of wood before. So I think the biggest mistake that I see with a lot of young writers is they kind of come out with this attitude. Like, I understand that you have to believe in yourself, because trust me, this business is like, you get rejected, you know, 1000 times and then you get one person saying yes. So you have to keep your ego. You know, you have to keep your spirits up and your ego right sighs but I just see a lot of young writers where they're like, this is the best script, you know, I've ever written and you got to read it. And if you read it, you start giving them notes, they start arguing with you. And you know, not that I think that my notes are the end all be all, but it's like, there's an unwillingness to recognize that they're young, like, trust me my first couple of scripts, I went back and read them. I'm like, wow, these are, you know, years later, like, these are crap. You know, these were awful. I can't believe I thought these were great. But you have I think the biggest mistake young writers make is they don't understand that. You know, it takes You've got to keep doing it to get better. And you know, every script that I write hopefully is better than the last script that I wrote. Because I've learned something in between. So I think being open to that process and realizing it takes time, like there's a lot of people that think there's some easy shortcut, like, and I'm sure you've heard this, too, every time. You know, I speak at a, you know, any place, whether it's a high school or a college or a horror convention, or a screenwriting convention. The two questions that people ask me are, how do I get my script to a studio head? And how do I get financing? How do I get an agent? Yeah. And how do you know and it's like, there aren't any. think that there are like, it literally, like I heard, there was a 10 year old somebody, and I can't remember who it was, I wish I could, somebody very smart and famous at the time, it said you have to be if you're an artist, you have to be willing to dedicate 10 years of your life to struggling before you finally succeed. And they said, we say succeed, we don't mean that you're going to all of a sudden be rich and you know, have all the money in the world, we mean to get something done. And, you know, I thought that Rose Bowl, when I went to you know, New York as I was 19, I got an agent, I was interning at New Line, I was like screw that 10 year rule, it was 10 years to the to the year I graduated high school that I sold final destination. So it took all that time of me writing scripts, getting them rejected, almost getting jobs, not getting them, it took 10 years to actually get my first project like produced and made for when I graduated. So people have that's, you know, I think that's a rule that people need to keep in the back of their head. Because there's so much clutter in the business, where you have people who are like, Alright, I'm going to try this acting thing for two years, because my dad has a lot of money, and I'm pretty, or handsome. And if I don't make it, I'm going to quit. So you, you have like people who are dedicating their lives to this plus, you have all this clutter of hundreds of people coming to Hollywood every day, you know, with with rich families, and you know, their good look, the best looking person at their school. So there, they've got to be the most beautiful. And so you have to outline it's almost like survivor, you have to like Outlast

Alex Ferrari 47:04
What is it? What is it? I'll think out last?

Jeffrey Reddick 47:07
Yeah, it's like, You got it, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta be in it for the long haul. Like, you know, this, this isn't a business, you know, like that you that can be kind of a side hobby. You know, it's something you really have to like, jump into the pool, and you have to, like swim in that pool for up to maybe 10 years. So there aren't, there aren't any shortcuts. You know, because it's even this stuff. Like when I wrote that letter, Bob Shea, I wasn't I didn't have any grand plan about oh, this is going to lead to this. And this and this in the future. I was just like, I have a story I want to tell and I want this. He He owns the he does the Friday movies. And I want him to read it. You know, like that was my only goal. Because I had a story to tell that I wanted somebody to read. So I could never have planned that, oh, he's going to kind of take me under his wing. And then I'm going to get it Yeah, I could I you know, I never planned any of that stuff. So I found that what people call like luck has, has often been years of me working really hard over here and it not paying off like I thought it would but then somebody else on this side of the you know, this side of town reads a script. And they're like, oh, let's call Jeffrey and, you know, so there's been a lot of that. So all the work that you put out there will benefit you somehow, but you just don't always know how it's gonna be. So you can't expect like a shortcut, like, somebody at a convention is going to, you know, have their agent sign you and then all of a sudden you're gonna sell your script and then that's it, you know, it's just

Alex Ferrari 48:40
it's no it there is no shortcut. I completely agree with you. And and I, I we both got wrapped up lots of it in our business, lots of shrapnel, lots of wounds, lots of wounds. And when you say put work out there, you know, when I with this podcast I've been, you know, that's why a lot of podcasts fail because they just like I'm gonna do 20 I'm just gonna keep dude like after 20 they're like, well, no one's listening. I'm not making any money. I gotta go. And it's the outlasted almost all of my contemporaries. And by putting out these episodes, it's amazing. Who listens to this stuff. Yes. And all of a sudden, I get a phone call or I get an email going, Hey, I listened to this one obscure episode. And this guy who directed some of the biggest movies ever wants to be on your show, because it'd be a good fit for what he's doing. Right. I'm like, like, what? Like, how is that? But that's the thing. It's it's putting work out there without any attachment to the outcome? I think is I think the biggest piece of advice.

Jeffrey Reddick 49:38
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 49:40
Now, can you tell me about how you transitioned from just being a lowly screenwriter to now being a writer, director of a new film?

Jeffrey Reddick 49:54
Well, yeah, it's so funny because you know in features Yes, the writers are like look slowly at TV.

Alex Ferrari 49:59
But yes,

Jeffrey Reddick 50:00
I started, I worked, I worked. I started working in TV recently, I'm like, I've been missing out. On the party, like the good stuff is in TV, oh my god. But you know, it's it's funny, like I, I had a couple projects that I said, I have to direct these because if I give them away, I already know how people are going to change them. And I These are things I want to direct. And when I first went out with good samaritan, I just went out with it as a project I didn't go out with, you know, with the idea of me directing. But the thing with this story is, you know, you're not sure if it's a supernatural force that's after them. Or if it's a killer that's after them over, it's all on the main character's head because she's had some trauma in her past, and every place that wanted to do the movie was like, just make it straight up supernatural, or just make it a straight up killer. And then we'll do it. And I'm like, but that's not the story, I want to tell like, that's, that's kind of the easy story until like, I want to tell something a little different. So I realized that if I wanted to do this movie, the way that I wrote it, then I would have to direct it myself. And I'd been on enough sets and been a have been in the business long enough that I knew the basics, I directed a short in a in a, you know, like an indie music video for a friend. So, you know, I knew that I knew the basics, but you definitely don't know what you don't know until you actually get on a set and start directing yourself. So, you know, that was a little that was some hubris on my part. I'm thinking, well, I've been on a lot of sets. And I did a short, so I'm ready. That's awesome. But I have to say it was like, such, you know, now that now that we're done, it was it was such a fulfilling experience. And it was such a learning experience, too, because now I know the areas that I need to fill in that I didn't know before. So I'm excited to do it. I'm glad that I did it. It was you know, again, and my friends, always, my director, friends were like, well, you trust me, when you direct your first feature, you're going to be like, screw that I'm never directing again. Or you want to do it again. So I definitely want to do it again. But yeah, the reason the reason for me doing it was out of necessity of not wanting them to change. You know, the story into like, just a straight up supernatural movie or straight up, you know, slasher movie. And it's, you know, like Final, but I mean, this definitely didn't have anywhere near the budget of final destination. But like final destination. It was a, it was a concept where the people that wanted to do or like well, it's not horror, supernatural enough to sell it as a horror movie. And if we sell this as a thriller, then you need a list stars. So we have to get a list stars attached so that, you know that whole all that business kind of crap that came up with even with final destination where people weren't there, like, Oh, you can't do something that's not easily put in a box. I'm just kind of motivated me to like do it myself.

Alex Ferrari 52:50
Yeah. Because you were you were trying to go down the road with the film, like traditional like, go to the studios trying to get financing, do it a little bit, you know, do it the normal way. But you kept getting so much stuff, so much resistance on your vision, you're like, well screw it, let's just go do it indie. Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about first of all the name of the movie, what the name of the movie is? And what is it about?

Jeffrey Reddick 53:11
Oh, yeah, the movie is called don't look back. It was originally titled Good Samaritan. Some people might get confused by them. It's called don't look back. And it's about a group of people who see somebody getting fatally assaulted in a park. And they don't help and one of the people and it gets the video goes public, the victim's brother outs, the witnesses and somebody or something starts killing them. So our lead character is a woman named Caitlin who's gone through some trauma in her past. And she's convinced that something supernatural is after them. So she's trying to solve the mystery of who killed the guy in the park. And everybody else is like, there's a killer after us. And then she kind of ends up popping up but a lot of the scenes where the dead people are because she she's kind of seeing these supernatural signs around her that are pointing her into a direction of It's Supernatural, but you're not sure if it's in her head or not. So yeah, that was a bad elevator pitch because I kind of jumped around a little bit.

Alex Ferrari 54:09
I can't I'm gonna have to pass on this one. I can't I can't, I can't I can't finance this one. Jeffrey, I'm sorry. Yes.

Jeffrey Reddick 54:16
Five, six sentences. And, but, but yeah, it's, um, it was it was a really fun film to make. And, you know, again, what was great for me too, is I got to, I just had a lot of creative control, like, again, and there were definitely areas like, with locations and things like that, where we had to, you know, compromise because we didn't have a budget to do certain things. But, you know, I got to work with a wonderful cast. You know, our lead Courtney Bell is a wonderfully talented black actress. And, you know, I got to find the Best Actress for the film who was, you know, a black actress, which, you know, if I done this with a studio, the people that they were throwing at me were, were not, they were like, you know, and you know, that's, that's Always an important that's been important to me for so long because I've written, diverse cast in my films before. And they always end up being cast with all white actors and actresses. And I just tried to explain to people because again, people, when you talk about diversity, it's again, like certain, you know, hackles start rising because people start getting like defensive. But it's, it's, it's more about, you know, when people read scripts in Hollywood, or when they cast movies, their default for every character is a white actor or actress. So that's just the default for a leading, like, we'll send out a casting notice for leading ladies or leading men, and we'll say, you know, all ethnicities, and 99% of the submissions will be white actors and actresses. And even if we send out, you know, note saying, we were looking for black actors and actresses, they'll send us a lot then but then, you know, they're still throwing in more white people at us being like, look at these people first. So for certain roles, people of color are just not in people's brains, even the casting people's brains when it comes to leading roles, and so we're starting to course, correct that now. But it is frustrating when they've cast like, you know, white actors and actresses in roles that were written for people of color. And they always say, well, we just went with the best person. But I've seen so many, I've been in the rooms with casting with people casting projects, and their thinking is what is going to be the most palpable to people across the United States and across the world. And that's why they make that decision most of the time. So now we're seeing that course corrected a little bit. And I've just seen so many wonderfully gifted, lead talented actors and actors of every race, you know, white, Latino, man, you know, Asian, black, it's, there's so many talented people, that just giving people an opportunity that, you know, like Courtney would not have been cast as the lead in a horror film, if it was done by a studio, but I think what people see your performance now they're gonna be like, holy shit, who is this girl? So I'm really excited about that.

Alex Ferrari 57:00
Well, I'm looking forward for it to get to released and I will put links to all of that in the show notes. I am going to now ask you a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What are three horror screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Jeffrey Reddick 57:17
Um, well, I am going to say A Nightmare on Elm Street. I think that's a really, really strong script. I think the A because I consider aliens or a sci fi ish.

Alex Ferrari 57:31
It's it dances the line of horror I get you, I get exactly where you're coming from. There's a monster. a predator arguably is is a monster film. I mean, if you think of monsters of the Frankenstein, and Dracula of our generation is aliens and predators. Yeah. But they they danced the line between action sci fi horror. But yes, aliens. Aliens is just an amazing film period.

Jeffrey Reddick 57:54
And it's a it's such a great script. And that's a script where you can tell a director wrote the script, because when you visualize the movie, you visualize exactly what ended up on the screen. So that's how James wrote that script. But that's probably not a good rule, because I always tell screenwriters not to direct in their scripts.

Alex Ferrari 58:13
But alien, the alien script also was terrifying. Yeah, the original the original alien was terrifying as well.

Jeffrey Reddick 58:21
And what's another great script? I feel like I'm cheating because it's just like, I just think of silence the lambs to like, that was another script that I read that, you know, I'm trying to think of those obscure horror scripts. Like, you know, the scream script is really fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 58:37
Yeah, but extra ILOG extra extra cyst obviously, is is a good screenplay. jaws. I'm not sure if the screenplay is as powerful as the film. I haven't read the screenplay. Have you read the screenplay now? Yeah, I don't know if that translates. But But I think the exorcist if I remember correctly reading that script. That was pretty terrifying.

Jeffrey Reddick 58:59
Yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 59:02
Okay, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jeffrey Reddick 59:11
Write a lot. By, you know, reading scripts online, I think finding a genre that you're passionate about is very important, because they again, the business does tend to pigeonhole you or put you in a box based off your first kind of hit. So I think, you know, if you like, horror, if you like sci fi, feel like action. Find some of your favorite movies in that genre and find the scripts online because reading scripts will give you a lot of, you know, a lot of inspiration and, you know, even instruction on how to write stuff. So I think that's really important. And I tell people to it's like, you know, we live in an age now where people can shoot movies like 4k movies on their iPhone. And, you know, the reason you write a script is because you want to get it made. And if you're I think if you're a young screenwriter, especially surround yourself with the creative people like find a good friend of yours who's a director. You're especially if you're in like school, studying screenwriting, you know, like, I was talking to Craig Perry at UCLA to like their screenwriting class and Craig asked the class you know, screenwriters, raise your hands, directors, raise your hands. And he's like, how many of you all hang out together, and none of them did. And Craig's like, guys, you're crazy. Like, you're a writer, you should be a director, you should be hanging out with the writers because you need scripts to write. And I think people don't think that way. When you're, when you're younger, it's like you think a little bit more myopically. And I think if you think about that, you know, connecting yourself with a good director writing a really amazing short and having a director direct, it can get you a lot of attention. You know, I think that that those are the things like it's, it's continued making sure that you keep growing as a as an artist, like, have friends who will give you honest feedback, you'll, you'll find out your friends pretty quickly, you'll have the friends that hate everything you do, like, you don't need those friends to give, because they just hate it, they're gonna hate everything you do. And you don't want your mom reading your script, because she's gonna love everything you write. But you'll find that right balance that people who give you constructive criticism, and it's just be open in that to be open to learning more, because you're always going to grow as an artist.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:13
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Jeffrey Reddick 1:01:21
What if I haven't learned it completely. Trying to control things that I have no control over? is, is, is the lesson of life that I still also struggle with? You know, I still try it. I try not to, but I think it's a very important lesson is to, to, you know, let go and let God because there are certain things, you know, you can beat your head against the wall for 20 years trying to do something or, or be angry about something that you have no control over and kind of letting that go as much as possible, I think, let you have a much less stressful life. And you can kind of go along with the flow of life. Like when you know, when the acting thing hit a wall for me. I didn't quit the business. I started writing, you know. So it's kind of going with that flow and seeing what life brings your way being open about. Jeffrey, I

Alex Ferrari 1:02:09
really appreciate you being on the show. Thank you so much. I want to congratulate you on making the jump from screenwriter to Writer Director and finally getting I know that's a big step. It is a big step. It's not done very often. It's definitely not done well very often. So I am I am I congratulate you. And thank you for bringing Final Destination into our into our world into the Zeitgeist. It is still very entertaining when I go back and watch those films. So thank you so much for everything you do my friend and I continue success.

Jeffrey Reddick 1:02:45
Thank you for all your support. And yeah, yeah, just now you got me all like blushy Yeah, I just really, I do. I appreciate the support. You've been a great supporter for so long. So and you know, you know, I've got your back on this side, too.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:59
Thank you, my friend. I want to thank Jeffrey for coming on the show and dropping the horrific knowledge bombs on the bulletproof screenwriting tribe today. Thank you so much, Jeffrey. Please don't forget to check out his new film, don't look back and get links to that. And anything else we spoke about in this episode, after show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/090. And if you guys haven't checked it out already, please head over to ifhacademy.com. And check out all of our amazing courses, including screenwriting courses, how to get money for your film, how to produce a film, film distribution, blueprint and so many more courses and education to help you guys on your path. So thank you again for listening. If you are going to go trick or treating, please, please be safe. And as always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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Aaron Sorkin MasterClass: Learn Screenwriting from an Oscar Winner

Aaron Sorkin masterclass

Learn how to write incredible screenplays from Aaron Sorkin in the most comprehensive screenwriting course he’s ever taught. In addition to both improving your storytelling skills and outlining what it takes to write incredible scripts, Aaron invites you into his writer’s room for an eight-part screenwriting case study where he and his team will script, rewrite, and break down a new Season 5 premiere of The West Wing.

Aaron Sorkin first broke out with his Broadway play (and the film adaptation of) “A Few Good Men” starring Tom Cruise before creating “The West Wing” and the remarkable HBO show “Newsroom“. He won an Oscar for writing “The Social Network” and was nominated again for “Moneyball”; more recently, he wrote “Steve Jobs.”

Diving deep into screenwriting fundamentals, Aaron offers detailed lessons on narrative structure, character development, generating new ideas, and his signature style of dialogue. Aaron knows that great screenwriting requires intention and obstacle. He dedicates several lessons to explain how to create conflict, raise dramatic stakes, and keep audiences watching.

Designed to offer useful lessons to seasoned and emerging screenwriters, Aaron’s class can be enjoyed by writers of all skill levels.

Over the course of 25 video lessons spanning five hours, as well as a 30-page workbook and interactive assignments. His workbook includes an entire lecture devoted exclusively to the walk-and-talk. Sorkin is going to share “his rules of storytelling, dialogue, [and] character development,” critique select student submissions, and work with real-world examples from the decades he’s spent writing movies, TV shows, and plays.

You can ENROLL in the course now to this game-changing screenwriting course. Click here to gain access

Who is Aaron Sorkin?

One of the most acclaimed, both hated and loved and a prominent screenwriter of modern times who has made a name for himself in the industry is Aaron Sorkin. Claim to fame The West Wing, Sorkin’s signature style can be recognized and is matchless. His screenplay is unmistakable with witty and rapid dialogue or monolog, morality tales, and sharp, intelligent male protagonists.

His dialogues often hint at liberal political messages, and he is renowned for his smart stories of politics and the government. Aaron Sorkin has written both on the media industry and television especially.

Though the style gets diverging at times, Sorkin undoubtedly happens to be a brilliant writer who’s credited with the creation of modern classics like A Few Good Men including recent successes like The Social Network. Sorkin has won several Emmys, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe and carries on still to be a powerhouse both in television and Hollywood.

Born in Manhattan New York City to a Jewish family, Sorkin was raised in the suburb of Scarsdale. His father was a copyright lawyer who had battled in WWII and had put himself through college on the G.I Bill. His mother was a school teacher and both of his siblings, a brother, and sister went on to become lawyers.

Aaron Sorkin took quite an early interest in acting and before he had become a teenager, he loved shows like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And That Championship Season. Scarsdale High School was where Sorkin got involved in drama and the theater club.

When he was in 8th grade, he played the role of General Bullmoose in the musical, Li’l Abner. In the senior class production of Scarsdale High called Once Upon a Mattress, he played Sir Harry. Sorkin also acted as the vice president both in his junior and senior years at Scarsdale High School and in 1979, he graduated.

Sorkin got himself enrolled in Syracuse University, and in his freshman year bad luck struck, and he flunked a class which was a core requirement. It was a very devastating setback as Sorkin had aspirations to take up acting and become an actor but the drama department did not permit the students to come up on the stage unless they had passed all the core freshman classes.

Resolute to do better, he returned again in his sophomore year and then graduated in 1983. According to Sorkin, his drama teacher Arthur Storch had a great influence on him back in college, and his reputation as a director and being under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg was the primary reason why so many students aspiring to do something in the theater and film industry chose Syracuse. And it was always Storch that pushed him to do better and encouraged him on his capacity to do better. Sorkin earned his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in musical theater in 1983.

Shortly after graduation, Sorkin moved to New York City. Most of his time in the 80s was spent struggling as an occasionally employed actor with lots of odd jobs like delivering singing telegrams, touring Alabama with children’s theater company Travelling Playhouse and handing out fliers that marketed the hunting and fishing show, driving a limousine, and bartending at Broadway’s Palace Theatre.

While housesitting for a friend one weekend, he came across an IBM Selectric typewriter, and according to Sorkin, he felt such joy and phenomenal confidence that he had never felt before in his life.

Reflecting on his experiences that he had with the touring theater company, Sorkin wrote Removing All Doubt which he sent to his theater teacher at Syracuse University, Arthur Storch. Impressed, Storch staged Removing All Doubt for the drama students at his alma mater.

Sorkin made quite a professional leap when he wrote his second play Hidden in This Picture which was debuted Off-off Broadway (which are smaller than standard Broadway and Off-Broadway productions,) at the West Bank Café Downstairs Theatre Bar which belonged to Steve Olsen, in 1988. The content of this first two plays ended up with him having a theatrical agent.

While having a conversation with his sister Deborah, Sorkin got the inspiration for his next play. A courtroom drama called A Few Good Men. Deborah told him how she was going to defend a group of Marines who were about to kill a fellow Marine in hazing which was a direct order by a senior. Sorkin was working as a bartender at the Palace Theatre, and he wrote all that information on cocktail napkins.

He returned home and typed all in Macintosh 512K which was purchased by his roommates.

The Hits

Sorkin sold the rights to David Brown before its premiere who produced it at the Music Box Theatre. Starring Tom Hulce, it was directed by Don Scardino. It ran for 497 performances, and by the time it hit the big screens, with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, Sorkin had become a major Hollywood team player.

In 1993, Sorkin co-wrote Malice, a dramatic thriller. It starred Nicole Kidman and Alec Baldwin but still got mixed reviews. In 1995, Sorkin came up with The American President which took him a few years to write. With the presence of Michael Douglas and Annette Benning striking up a romance, it was critically acclaimed.

Sorkin made a comeback to the small screen in 1998 with Sports Night which was a comedy regarding the behind-the-scenes production of sports news programs. It was filled with a quick wit and snappy dialogues and garnered Sorkin a nomination in the Emmy Awards for outstanding writing. It lasted only two seasons though. This cult hit was loved by many fans and critics and won many awards too.

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Unwavering, Sorkin’s next project earned him the repute of one of the best American television writers in the history being pure Sorkin-ey. When he was writing The American President, the screenplay was huge which was cut down, and that ended up in creating West Wing which was an hour-long primetime drama revolving around the staff of a fictional Democratic President, Jed Bartlet which was incredibly played by Martin Sheen. The show ran for seven seasons and Sorkin left after the fourth with his production partner in 2003.

The West Wing was a huge hit and got Sorkin one of the record nine Emmy awards that were awarded to the show in 2000. The show is regarded as one of the best television dramas of all time. It featured a dazzling cast of Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Alan Alda with Stockard Channing.

The West Wing was where Sorkin earned his reputation for a particular writing style which was witty, quick, and sarcastic at times. The walk and talk are the best portrayals of his style in which the characters would be briskly walking together in hallways and fired sharp lines at each other with brilliant speed. It also earned him a repute for having quite a heavy-handed political opinion which was hated by conservatives.

The Bartlet Administration depicted the ideal progressive administration of Sorkin, and the characters would often comment in detail delivering lengthy monologs on current controversies and events. None could stop the show, and it still has a very respectable place in television history.

The follow-up series by Sorkin Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, died out just after one season. He made a comeback to the theater with The Farnsworth which failed to impress. But Sorkin found success again with a political comedy-drama which was an adaptation of Charlie Wilson’s War(2007). It starred Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Sorkin then centered his focus on the origins and the following legal battles behind the upheaval of the social media giant, Facebook. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, it was adapted from a book by Ben Mezrich. The Social Network(2010) happened to be a rewarding achievement for Sorkin and he won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for this screenplay.

Garnering Oscar buzz, Sorkin followed with another adaptation and co-writing the script for a baseball movie, Moneyball(2011). The Newsroom(2012) was Sorkin’s another return to television. It combined elements from his last projects, and it emphasized on the exciting behind-the-scenes production this time, at a cable news channel. The cast did an excellent job of witty banter and passionate speeches.

By the end of the show in December(2014) Sorkin had completed the screenplay for a biopic of the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. It was released the next year and starred Michael Fassbender as the lead. This earned Sorkin his second Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. As of January 2016, Sorkin announced he would be making his directorial debut with an adaptation, Molly’s Game a chronicle by an underground poker organizer, Molly Bloom.

Aaron Sorkin would be working with Bartlett Sher this time for an adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, for the stage. In March 2016, A Few Good Men would go into production on NBC and will be aired in 2017.

BPS 082: The Indie Film Screenwriting Process with Joshua Caldwell

Today on the show we have writer/director Joshua Caldwell. Joshua has been on the Indie Film Hustle Podcast three times before and all his episodes went viral.

Joshua and I discuss what it takes to write an indie film, how you need to change your mindset, and how to best position it to actually get produced. His latest film is INFAMOUS starring Bella Thorne, Jake Manley, Amber Riley.

His first feature film was Layover (available on IFHTV), a $6000 micro-budget film he wrote and directed.

In this French-language feature film debut from writer/director Joshua Caldwell, Simone (Nathalie Fay) is a young Parisian en route to her wedding in Singapore. But when the airline cancels her connecting flight, she’s forced to spend the night in Los Angeles. She decides to make the best of it and contact an old acquaintance, Juliette (Bella Dayne), who is going through a rough patch in her marriage. Invigorated by her friend’s arrival, Juliette insists on taking Simone out for a night of club-hopping.

With little regard for her friend, Juliette soon disappears with a stranger, leaving Simone stranded downtown without a ride. When an attractive motorcyclist (Karl E. Landler) appears and offers her a ride, Simone cautiously accepts, leading to an evening of adventure that results in her questioning her life’s direction and, ultimately, if she’s truly ready to make her connection in the morning.

Enjoy my conversation with Joshua Caldwell.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 0:49
I'd like to welcome the show Joshua Caldwell, man, how you doing, brother?

Joshua Caldwell 4:00
Good, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 4:01
I'm good, man. I'm good. You are a returning champion on the indie film hustle podcast, but this is the first appearance or sample of the bulletproof screenwriting podcast, and it was I thought it would be very interesting to have you come on. From your, your background in the industry, it's, I think you have a very unique perspective. So for the audience who don't know who you are, sir, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the business?

Joshua Caldwell 4:30
Yeah. I'm a writer, director, producer. And I started making films when I was younger in high school. And ended up going to Fordham University in New York City where I studied, I didn't study film, I just kind of started making movies on my own. And one of those movies was a short film called The beautiful lie, which I got nominated for one and MTV Movie Award. Golden popcorn back in 2006. And that kind of kicked off my desire to move to Hollywood because it is I was going to you know, and I basically was like, Alright, now I gotta move to LA and I'm gonna be the shit. And I'm gonna be like the big they're gonna give you the key today, because you have the golden, the golden, the golden block. I mean, obviously, everybody saw it. And that didn't happen. And, you know, so I started writing scripts and trying to meet people. And I eventually interned and then eventually landed a job at working for Anthony zeichor, created CSI. And I worked for him for a couple years as an exec and then started directing on my own. And I've been directing, basically writing directing since 2013.

Alex Ferrari 5:36
So the lesson of that story is that the golden popcorn does not open the doors that you might have thought it

Joshua Caldwell 5:41
open. Yes, exactly. Does that

Alex Ferrari 5:45
I actually I'm actually not. It's not

Joshua Caldwell 5:50
a here's the thing. You know, it was one of those things where you think you get this thing you go, you're on the MTV Movie Award? Oh, yeah. On the MTV awards, right. And of course, like in the press release, they leave off your category. And so nobody really knows I got so much. I got like, not so much. I got some interest from managers and stuff, when they announced the nominees, because if there was a big announcement in The Hollywood Reporter variety, or something like that, and I was actually listed there, but then when they announced the winners, and they had the winners, press release, they didn't put that category in. And like the thing is about the Movie Awards is it's hilarious because you've got, you know, you win Best kiss, like who gives a fuck, you know, like, you win. You win. Best Movie. Who cares? Nobody cares. It's like a popularity contest. But like, I was this kid just out of college. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 6:43
was gonna say I must have been a kid. Yeah.

Joshua Caldwell 6:45
Like, and you get a thing for Best Film on campus. best student film. You know, it's like you think it's like a cool big deal. Oh, my

Alex Ferrari 6:54
God, I couldn't even imagine. What would have happened to my head. Oh, I got it. Oh, look at that. Look at that. 2000 I'm gonna put that right next to, to my blockbuster award. Yeah. choice. People. Now listen deeply before People's Choice Awards a little bit grander. Yeah, exactly. But it doesn't open the doors that it used to sir. Right. Right.

Joshua Caldwell 7:28
Exactly. So but, you know, I, what I talked about, I've talked about this with some people, I don't know as much anymore. But it was, it was, it was such a great lesson in humility. Because you, you come out, you think you're gonna be the hot shit. You're not. And so very quickly, like, very immediately, I was like, okay, like, I could, you know, just because I want this thing, it doesn't mean anything. And the only thing that's gonna get me somewhere is the work, you know, and so that I really, I put the popcorn, I like kind of pissed off, but I put it under my bed, like, wrapped it up. It was like, fuck this thing. And then, but you know, and then really started just hustling and working my way up and trying to get what I could, and just never put myself in a position where I was, I was relying on accolades. So it's a very good lesson early on to say, like, none of that matters. And, and I was bitter about it for a while, because I was like, Well, something should have happened, you know, something should have something should have happened. And I did get a manager out of it for a while, like a junior manager, who's a great guy, but still, at the end of the day, you just feel like, you know, I was a little bitter about it. And then over time, I started seeing, okay, well, like, that doesn't matter, you know, and you start to turn over and go, Well, what is success? What's the goal? What do you want to be doing? And it takes 10 years but eventually get to that place where the success is doing the work, you know, it's not whatever that response to the work ends up being because you can't control that all you can control is what you're doing which is either writing or directing or whatever it is that your your thing is, you know, but yeah, so I made it guy got the Movie Award, it was really cool at the time, but then really I came out to LA I moved out to LA and I just started you know crank and I just started trying to take whatever I could and get whatever I could doing music videos and writing scripts and writing script after script and you know, getting one option and then not going anywhere and kind of doing the whole the whole thing for a long time.

Alex Ferrari 9:29
So getting it an option and then that being produced that's a that's a rarity in Hollywood. Obviously that doesn't happen very often. That you get the option and it doesn't get produced. Are they exempt?

Joshua Caldwell 9:39
Yeah, well, I didn't pay money for it. So

Alex Ferrari 9:41
Oh, that's alright, so this let's go let's do

Joshua Caldwell 9:46
Oh, yeah, con. Okay. They it was it was it was one of those. I didn't I didn't necessarily mind it because it didn't feel predatory. Sure, it was with it was with Todd Comber Nikki who produced. What else? Okay, well, and like really great guy like really knows his stuff like his big, you know, as a friend now and, and that kind of thing. But it was just one of those things where it was like, oh, and then the other the other great thing about all of this was literally moved out to LA, October 2006. And at boom, writer strike, and it just completely changed everything in Hollywood. And we were trying to get stuff made after that, you know, and it was like, this was one of those movies it was, I'm gonna put it out there because maybe somebody will want it, but it was called glory days of Chet steel. And for anybody that's seen my movies, this is gonna be also out there. But it was the second movie wrote my writing partner at the time. And I and basically, the story is, it's about this guy named Chet steel, who in high school was a hot shot quarterback, right. He was like one of the best High School quarterbacks in Texas, and 20 years later, he's the bum sitting up in the stands, you know, loser, typical formula, right? But then what happens is, he finds out this new hot shot quarterback named Cody powers, is going to courses is on track to beat his all time passing record. And what Chet doesn't understand is that his record is not a permanent record. He doesn't understand that it can't, somebody can't come in and beat it. And when he finds that out, his whole world gets shattered. And basically, through a loophole, the No Child Left Behind Act, he's able to go back to school, because he didn't graduate to a good app to high school rejoins the football team, at 40 years old. And now of course, the team sucks. And so he has to get them better in order to protect his record. And along the way, he learns the importance of teamwork. And,

Alex Ferrari 11:55
of course, of course,

Joshua Caldwell 11:56
oh, that's just just our pitch was its Will Ferrell and shoulder pads pads playing football with college with high school kids, you know, and the thing about it was we wrote it. So specifically that everyone that read it was like, Well, unless you get Will Ferrell, there's no way to make, like, no, there's other people that could do this. Like

Alex Ferrari 12:14
that actually would be a funny Will Ferrell film, I have to admit,

Joshua Caldwell 12:18
it will be hard. Todd, the thing was, we thought, okay, like, Look, maybe they'd give us a couple grand, you know, for an option. Who cares? Like, I got the experience of working with Todd on node rewrite, working with a real producer. And also like he had made a movie with will, you know, we're successful. So probably the best chance we have. But of course, the problem that we ran into was post writer's strike. It just disrupted everything. And so everyone was like, Well, if you don't, it was the age old thing. But it was even harder now. Which was like, Well, if you don't have an actor, you can't go after well, until you have money. You can't go after money until you have an actor. Nobody wants to touch it. So ended up dying, unfortunately. But that was like one of our second experiences. And

Alex Ferrari 13:01
so what was your How did you get your first paid writing gig?

Joshua Caldwell 13:06
What was my first paid writing yet? trying to remember. I think it was actually more recently. Let me think about this. I've had I just had a weird I've had a weird career. I've never, I've only sold technically one script, which was infamous. And that's to the producers, basically. Because I'm not a spec writer. Right now. Like, I'm not going out and just writing spec after spec up to spec trying to get a soul we did. I used to what was my first paid thing, trying to think? I don't think I made very much even if it was something Oh, you know what it was like kind of in, I think it was in 2000. As a writer, I got paid to, like, nothing money to try and adapt a graphic novel. Okay, which didn't end up going anywhere. And probably rightfully so, because I wasn't quite right for it. But it was like that, if you want to know how that came about that came about from, you know, I recently signed with CAA. So this was in 2016. So yeah, 2016 I mean, you know, 10 years before I really got my first job, you know, first paid thing as a writer.

Alex Ferrari 14:21
So that's how you got it. And that's how did you get the attention of CAA?

Joshua Caldwell 14:26
So, well, it's almost like you got to go all the way back to the beginning. But basically, I'd had a manager for a while and went through, you know, script after script and short after short, and eventually, you know, I started I did a couple shorts, I got some experience and then really, it was the thing that really kicked off my career was layover. layover was the thing that started everything. You know, in 2010. I made a short film called Digg, which I still think is some of my best work but It was like 26 minutes long, you know, and it just never went anywhere in terms of in terms of festivals, you know, never got me anything, but it was a great experience. I spent, you know, cost like 40 grand and make it. I've been there, but it was period, you know, and you want to good actors and whatever you want in five days of shooting. So I, you know, basically did that. And then I made a $6,000 wrench in the movie with no stars. And that's the thing, that guy has gotten me every job.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
Okay, so that's okay. So because we and I'll put that in the show notes. You know, you've done about, you've done two episodes that have aired. Yeah, that aired on on indie film hustle. The first one was about layover, which was basically a $6,000. Now that we've done three, the third one hasn't released yet. Yeah, correct. Yeah. So layover was a $6,000 feature. And that's how we met originally. Because I'm always fascinated by low budget micro budget films that actually are successful in one way, shape, or form.

Joshua Caldwell 16:02
Still, I still don't know how.

Alex Ferrari 16:05
So? I don't know. So you wrote that, but you wrote it. You translated it all in French.

Joshua Caldwell 16:11
Yeah. So I wrote it. I wrote in English. And, you know, I'd written with a partner for years, you know, I came out because I always felt like I was a writer who I was, I felt like it was a director who wrote, as opposed to a writer who directed and I liked the idea of working with a partner. But like anybody, you start to get niche, you start to go maybe, you know, maybe this I'd want to write on my own or, or, you know, maybe I want to try something and layover was the first thing, right, I kind of went into it going, I'm just gonna start. And then if I peter out after 30 pages, then don't bring someone else in, you know. But I just basically sat down and pounded it out. You know, I did it in about two weeks, and it just kept going. And that was a weird because I sort of knew the beginning and the end, but the middle I kind of made up like the whole concept of the motorcyclist just came out of nowhere. I was like, she's just going to meet a guy. And then I'm writing right around like, oh, what if he's on a motorcycle? What if it's this? What if it's this, you know, and, and that skipped script, the first draft of it really came together? by actually typing it not typing up outlines, and all that kind of stuff. But I wrote it all in English. And then Carl landler, who plays the motorcyclist, who's from Paris, he basically did all the translation from the script, which is why in the movie I gave him I gave him credit, as Translation by, you know, on the same card as my, I think on the same card as my screenwriting credit. So I felt like he was so contributive I mean, you know, it's like a whole other language, not just like,

Alex Ferrari 17:40
literally, literally a whole other language, literally.

Joshua Caldwell 17:44
It's a completely different language than English. So no, but what I'm saying is not it's not like you're just going to Google Translate and typing it in.

Alex Ferrari 17:53
No, you gotta, there's nuances. Of course, yeah,

Joshua Caldwell 17:54
there's watches and they're sayings that don't exist that in French that are in English, you know, to make it work,

Alex Ferrari 18:01
so so I don't think I've ever asked you this. Why the French?

Joshua Caldwell 18:09
Okay, so, a couple years prior, there was a movie. What was it called? I think it was Maria, full of grace. Yeah. And basically, I remember every single article about that movie was about the fact that the director did not speak Spanish. And did a movie in Spanish. Right, right. Did you? Look, you're looking for that hook?

Alex Ferrari 18:36
Yeah. It's something you were trying to do what you were trying to set up.

Joshua Caldwell 18:40
You were setting Brando longer beta movie. You know, nobody cares, a movie. So I just that was that stuck in my head? I was also, you know, look, I mean, layover is largely modeled after a French New Wave approach to filmmaking, right. But the other thing that's stuck with me was just this notion that so often, when you see a Foreign Language Film, it's because it's set in the country where the language is spoken. And I just thought it'd be really interesting to see a Foreign Language Film that's set in America. And would that, would that tweak somebody? Would that tweak somebody into LA and their understanding of La if it's seen through the eyes of somebody that not only doesn't isn't familiar with the city, but doesn't even speak the language. And so I just like the idea, all those things combined with the idea that for me from a character perspective, the story of a girl traveling from New York to Singapore, and she gets stuck over in LA is not that interesting. It's not that hard to find your way around LA and know what to do and know what's going on when you speak English. But if you don't speak the language at all, it can be extremely confusing place to anybody who has ever gone to a different country. You know, you don't know the customs. You don't have language. You don't know what people are saying you Don't know what things are. And I just thought that would be a really interesting obstacle. You know, that would prevent certain things from happening, that would be really easy to happen if she spoke English, right? It's like, Oh, I'm stuck in stuck in the city for a night. All right, I'm gonna veg out and watch TV. Like, you know, it's, it's the second city and and then she goes out with a friend, the friend speaks English, but she doesn't speak English. And then once she loses the friend, she meets a guy who speaks French, and she feels Well, I don't I don't know what's going on. Like, you know, my big thing was whether people are going to buy into her going with the guy, but Carl is really charming. So

Alex Ferrari 20:36
and this also suspense of disbelief is

Joshua Caldwell 20:38
expensive to believe. But the fact that she speaks French and she meets a guy that speaks French, there's an instant comfort level

Alex Ferrari 20:45
Sure, of course,

Joshua Caldwell 20:46
right? It she goes with them in a way that she probably wouldn't. If she was like, you know, an American she meet another guy that spoke American it would just be like weird, you know? So that just felt like a really interesting way into it. So there were a number of reasons.

Alex Ferrari 20:59
All right, so that movie when you made that movie for six grand, you were able to you I think if you did get distribution for the film, and you made money with the film, is that the film that got UCA?

Joshua Caldwell 21:11
No. So layover got me another movie. First of all layover got me a series on Hulu that I just directed. I didn't write it, but called South Beach. So I directed that next. And then layover combined with the Hulu show. Got me a movie called be somebody which was this made by this company called Studio 71. Which they had another name before I forget what it was, but anyway, and they, I pitched on it. I went in and pitched on it. And because I needed money basically, and, and got the job. And it was an influencer movie that started this guy named Matt Espinosa who had like 20 million followers online and never been in a movie for this movie kind of the script was from like the mid 90s. And it had been kind of updated and refashioned. But then one of the things about that. And again, like it's weird, because so often people talk about well, I sold this script, right? Or I got paid to write this script. But like I've written on every script that every project I've made, you know, I did writing on the Hulu show, I didn't get credit for it. I didn't get paid for it. Be somebody was a mess. Like what happened was, I got pulled onto it. And then I do a rewrite on the script I do I if I can I rewrite every script that I direct because it's how I get my fingers into it until I get to know it. And then I got to put my own thing onto it. So far, I'm sure that won't happen when some huge writers, you know,

Alex Ferrari 22:46
when you when you when you have you to marvel when you're working for Marvel, certain not so much with the rewrites. Yeah,

Joshua Caldwell 22:51
yeah, exactly. Although maybe, who knows. But the point is, I felt I felt compelled to do it. But this one was like it needed to be done. I mean, it was already too long. The writer was not involved anymore. And but it was 109 pages when I got it. They were like, We need to cut it. I'm like, yeah, so I cut 16 pages out of it, to bring it down to 94. And so then I give it to them, and they come back. And they're like, yeah, so we just did a budget on your script. And it seems like we're like $200,000 over what we want to be. And I go What was the budget on the other draft?

Alex Ferrari 23:29
Was 16 pages more?

Joshua Caldwell 23:31
Yeah. And they go, Oh, we didn't do one. So they never did a budget, they greenlit a movie without doing a budget and budgeting the script. And then I had basically and then I got this script that was still 200 over. And they're like, well, we got to make all these changes. And they're like, Can we cut this? And I'm like, Well, if you cut that you have no ending. So then what's the movie about? Like, what's the whole point of the movie. So they literally for like a couple weeks, up until we started shooting me and this other exact at the company, we're basically rewriting it from scratch. I mean, we literally started over and we knew we had these characters, because we already cast it these locations because we were already scouting. And so the biggest my biggest regret over that movie was basically we ended up shooting effectively the first draft of like a new script. And if you watch the movie, you see that there are like repeated, like lines of dialogue and things that come up like when normally you do have gone through and been like, Oh wait, we already we already did this part, you know. And but it was it was writing under duress. And it was basically a real interesting experience. Because you're like, you got to go movie for a job. Right? Right. You want to make it happen. I was also trying to start I had just closed a deal to do negative. And so I didn't want to push this movie, you know? But and so you're just like, I mean, literally the weekend of Thanksgiving. I was out here in New York, but I was down in my in laws basement like typing up drafts of the script and sending it off to the producer. Like every scene, we just send off a new scene to the producer. And so, you know, I think like, clear, it was clear to me that this was not the way the best way to make movies, you know, and I got really tired.

But for all my problems with that movie, one there, I think it really speaks to a certain age group of, especially girls that I've heard from repeatedly that said, Oh, we love you know, I love B, somebody taught me so much about this. And I love seeing, like the multiracial family. And, you know, you get a lot of feedback about the things that we chose to do in that movie that makes you feel like okay, at least somebody's taking something from this, you know, but the other thing and then the other thing was that that movie because it ended up getting bought and released by Paramount. Got BCAA.

Alex Ferrari 25:46
Got it. And then there you go

Joshua Caldwell 25:48
in conjunction with everything else that I was doing, right, I'd done a Hulu, I'd done this.

Alex Ferrari 25:52
Yeah, sure. You build, you build and build and build. And I think

Joshua Caldwell 25:56
it happened was also really quick that the other thing was when I left zonkers. I also left my current my Venn manager, because it just wasn't working out. Like he wanted to go, he was doing other stuff. And it wasn't I was feeling I was hit pocketed. So as soon as I left, I also started looking for a new manager. And I got introduced to my current manager, Tom sprigs. So he came he, he, I signed with him in 2013, right after I left, you know, right after I left psykers. And then that was a conversation we were having, which was about agents and I kind of basically, you know, as much as I wanted one, I was also starting to get to that place where I said, You know what, like, if this like, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna even entertain the idea of an agent until they want me. Because if it's, if I want them, then I'm always in that position of like, need and, you know, desire, right, like, and they know that

Alex Ferrari 26:51
you're in a weaker state, you're in a weaker, you're in a weaker position.

Joshua Caldwell 26:54
And if I just keep doing what I'm doing, eventually, they're gonna find me. And they're gonna say we, you know, we'd like to see, but after be somebody, I was just like I said to Tom, I'm like, you think now maybe we should start thinking about an agent, because like, I've got, I've done three movies. Now I've got signing deals, like I did a show for Hulu, like, you know, maybe it's time and he said, Yeah, so we went out to a couple places, but CAA was always the top of the list, because I had a lot of relationships there from working with zeichor, because he was rep there. So funny enough, like my agent, one of my agents. Now Frank Chung, was the guy that I knew well, from my time at psykers, doing stuff in the digital world.

Alex Ferrari 27:28
So So I think this is a really good point to bring up for the audience to understand about managers and agents, because there isn't this kind of myth out there that all I need to do is get a manager and or an agent, and I'm good, they're gonna go out, they're going to get me work, I'm going to get paid, they're going to pitch me they're going to sound good. They're going to sell my scripts, I'm going to get the lottery ticket million dollar buy, like, you know, Shane Black used to do back in the 90s. And more. Yeah, and just like a bidding wars, and it's just your house. And it's all this kind of stuff, right? But But the reality is, or, which is where you kind of just put out is that you shouldn't, first of all, no agents going to be interested in to you in you until you are able to generate revenue for them. Right. So you are perfect example, before these three projects that you did, or three or four projects you had done. You had no true value to an agency because you weren't going to be able to generate revenue for them. So once you got like, Oh, this guy, this is this is a horse that's can can win a couple races. That's basically Yeah, it's it's as crass as that is your basic Nami. Livestock, you're just like, yeah, creative life stock.

Joshua Caldwell 28:39
Because sometimes, you know, and I also didn't have, I didn't have some, like, spec script that people were flipping over, right, which is what it used to be to, like, you wrote a spec script that everybody was enamored with, and you'd have everybody calling you, but I didn't I didn't have that. And yeah, so you're just like, you know, look, the other thing is that it's a transaction, you know, and the thing is, not only is it about well, what do you have? What did you have? Right? Okay, great. Like, the thing is great. He made a movie, so he can demonstrate that he's got value. But what else does he have? What's next? Right? Oh, what everyone's gonna ask anyway. So always What's next? You know, and it was interesting, because I, when I was going out for managers, I met with a couple people. And there was one guy who wrote, you know, who got back to me. And I remember just being like, I sat down with them. And his whole thing was just like, you know, look, this is really hard, man. Like, really tough. It's gonna be what, you know, just this stuff. And I remember coming out of that going, like, I know, it's hard. Like, the amount of calories. I'm not kidding. The question is, what are we going to be doing to try and do what we can do? I don't care if it's hard, you know, but I just recognize that attitude, you know, versus somebody saying, Look, it's not gonna be easy, but I have ideas. I people we could set you up with like, you clearly are demonstrating an ability to make low budget movies, which you know, or spend very little money, which people are going to be attracted to. And we work your way up, you know, but I, I think that like, anytime I do look, and I'm guilty of this, too, having not now been through it, I also think that if you're, if you are asking the question, How do I get an agent or a manager? You're not ready for an agent or manager?

Alex Ferrari 30:25
Exactly. If you've got to ask the question, then you're not ready for this question. You just

Joshua Caldwell 30:28
not ready for it. And that's fine. But like, if you're asking that question, that's a sign that now is not the time, you know, that you've got more work to do. You got more connections to make, you gotta get your material out there. I mean, you know, even when I had a manager, like, right after the movie award, and like, up until 2018, right, like he was, he's a great guy, I love him, but he wasn't able to do a lot for me, you know, I mean, he get us in for some meetings. You know, I remember that we one one opportunity I had that actually came out of this was I had this, I met this guy. And I've come to now think that his story is completely bullshit. But at the time, I thought it was true. Which was he told me this story about how he was like, this is really like kind of secret agent, basically just a little guy. Sure. Now a hairdresser in LA, by the way. So it says there's no honey, it's the Zohan, it's the exact as it's like, got it is really, really crazy story. And it's just like, Man, this is a great idea for a script. And if we could call it a true story, then that's great. So I had this idea I wrote, I wrote up like a sort of a pitch or whatever. And we actually went into we went into participant media. And they so and this is a thing that happens too. And I have to say, like, I was okay with it. But what happened was, we actually like went in there, and it was me and a writing partner. And we said, well, we have this idea. And they said, We like it, we're not gonna buy it or option it with you, but we'll develop it with you. And I said, All right. Like, I'm a young writer, I've got a job as an executive. So I probably shouldn't even be pitching. Right, but the opportunity and we retain the copyright. So we, you know, you guys haven't bought it, you're not paying money for it, you're helping us develop it. But we get, we made that clear, like we retain free use of the script if you guys decide not to do it. And we bought and we we spent like a couple years, like developing this script. And I'm sure it was a learning lead.

Alex Ferrari 32:30
It was just, it was just, it was cool.

Joshua Caldwell 32:32
Yeah. And that's the thing is like, you get to get in and sit in a room with an exec that knows his shit. And you're just storyboarding, and you're not storyboarding, but you're just putting down story and coming up with ideas. And then you got to go away to do the work. So it's like such a, it was such a great exercise, even though the script didn't end up selling, and they didn't end up doing it. It was such a great experience having that because you don't really get it, you know, so often writers are just there, they're off in their room, you know, doing nothing, or not doing nothing, they're off in their room alone writing. And you might get feedback, you might not get feedback, but we had, like, you know, the goal was to get it to a place where they would buy it. You know, it wasn't like, let's just get it. So it's good. It's like, let's get it so it's in a place where we can buy this. We get there. It was a challenging story. And you know, I'd probably make back my own ideas about I would change it but

Alex Ferrari 33:20
but you need to you need to call Adam Sandler's people because he obviously stole the idea with four don't mess with this. Oh,

Joshua Caldwell 33:26
it was a drama. Probably. The guy probably met Sam at some point and told him the story. And Sandra was like, we're gonna I mean,

Alex Ferrari 33:33
oh, yeah. And I'm gonna eat a lot of hummus. And that's just the way it is. Yeah. All right. So let me know.

Joshua Caldwell 33:40
But that was something that I came up with the idea. I told my manager about it. He pitched participant he got us in the room, you know. And so that's an example of something happening, but it wasn't like, Oh, they bought the script. I sold the script,

Alex Ferrari 33:51
or it's just so I mean, I just want i and that's what I try to do on the show, man. There's so many myths out there first, especially for young screenwriters, or, you know, you know, people who are new to the business, who just, they think that the business runs in a certain way, and it just doesn't and they don't understand. And I'm not trying to be a killjoy, but the difficulty of no yeah, getting something actually produced and getting credit for that. And it's just this. It's just this, it's so difficult to do. And it's not possible. And I don't want to be that guy that you were talking about, like, Oh, it's just really hard. It is. It's super hard. No question about it. It's probably one of the toughest things to do on the planet. But, but one thing I love about you is that you've been able to create your own projects, and you are able to produce your own things. Which brings me to my next question, do you recommend young screenwriters are screenwriters starting out to write a low budget option for a screenplay that they could either produce themselves as the director or partner with some One who could produce it at a budget of 10,000 15,000. right to say that they have a produce script of produced film? And is that actually have value in the marketplace as a screenwriter?

Joshua Caldwell 35:13
It's a good question because I'm, I like three things about it. And two are two sides of the same coin, which is, I think, I think that the more you as a writer can get produced. And of course, that's the goal. But I'm saying even if it's a student film, a short, anything, the more experience you have seen your work turned into a movie, the better you will be as a writer, because when you write, man falls out of a window, you have no concept of the take soul shit that is going to go into getting that on film. And, and so you have done an understanding of Oh, this one line is a million dollar stunt. Right? Like I had a great, great, great example of this was when we were doing the glory days thing, right? We had written this scene, it was a half page scene. And it was Chet was out with the friends and it was part of a montage. But the idea was they were out at a burger restaurant. They're all laughing and having fun together clearly becoming friends. Right? And I remember, I remember the producer, Todd was like, Look, man, like this. That's like a half day shooting. That's a company move. And so what is it doing? Like he wasn't being mean about it? He was just like, what is the scene contributing to the movie that we don't already know? And does it have to happen at this location? Right? Because that's a half day of shooting. That's a company move. That's this much. And you're going Oh, yeah, like, You're right. I wasn't thinking about that when I wrote it. Because you're not thinking about that stuff. Traditionally, when you're a writer, but when you have the experience of seeing what it takes to not only bring what you wrote to life, but to see the level of collaboration that ends up going into that, right, the way in which actors come in with their own ideas that might be different than when you thought the director comes in with a different idea than what what you thought, like, the understanding that you need to be not only okay with it, but work with that, you know, to get the best out of what you can, like that experience is invaluable. So that I think the more writers can see their work produced, whether it's a workshop, whether it's just like a table read, like hearing actors say their lines, seeing what it takes to bring something to life is super important. The other side of it is like, the question is, as a writer, as solely as a screenwriter, how much value do you get out of a, say sub $100,000? budget movie? I'm not, I'm not convinced there is that much. Because basically, they just tend to be small dramas, maybe if you wrote a sci fi, right? Like some people don't really want an action, or an action,

Alex Ferrari 38:05
you know, or obviously horror?

Joshua Caldwell 38:06
Yeah. It might. It's possible, I can say that if it's under $100,000 Drama, it's probably not valuable. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 38:14
no genre, if it's, if it's a $3 million drama is gonna generally not be valuable. barrels in it.

Joshua Caldwell 38:22
You know, like, I think of somebody, just some separate writer had written layover, it wouldn't have done anything for them. You know, I just don't think anybody said, Oh, this guy can write something. But because I was a writer, director, it changed the conversation. The other side of it, is that, you more than that, what you said, living in that genre world? And the idea that you also are that a produce screenwriter, right, which like is what everybody's trying to go for. And Hollywood is one of those one of those towns where people just, they want to have some comfort in knowing that, you know, what you're doing. And the easiest way for them to determine that is if somebody else has already given you money to do it. Right? Like, oh, this guy's already directed something. Okay? Good. You know, doesn't matter whether it's good or bad. It's just the fact that you've done a feature says to them, okay, this guy did a feature, he didn't collapse. He didn't freak out. He didn't go massively over budget. Like, you know, he made something pretty good. Like, let's do the next thing. That's what they're always looking for. So even with writers again, it's also not just the writing, it's like, Who are you as a person? Are you abrasive and annoying and not fun to work with? Like, nobody's gonna want to work with you? Oh, you know,

Alex Ferrari 39:41
that's that's the bottom

Joshua Caldwell 39:42
too. I mean, I've been asked in meetings about scripts thinking that I was the shit and that like, you know, what I wrote was like, you know, golden you know, the written in Golden ink. You know, and and you just very soon you get over that, you know, and you realize that no, like, you know, I always thought like with Chris McQuarrie, chris chris McQuarrie, always had that great response was like, the minute I stopped thinking about what I could get out of it, everything changed. Instead, it was how do I help you get what you want out of it. And then I'll do it the best way that I can, right, but it's not. It's not Oh, I'm the smartest guy in the room. And these are my ideas. And this is what it's going to be, especially when you're starting out. You know, but if you go in there, and your goal is to deliver something that they can sell and make money on, people are gonna want to hire you again. So I think any writing is valuable. I think, like, Look, if you've got an idea for for a low budget, genre movie, or even help low budget drama, like do it. There's no reason to stop. Stop you. But the other thing is, you got to think about well, okay, well, me as a writer, what do I want to be right? Because let's say you get that under $100,000 genre movie written? You know, no, say you have some drama that you really wanted to make. But then you've got a spec. That's 100 million. Yeah, sci fi space epic. Right? No, not gonna work. Yeah. And

Alex Ferrari 41:03
also, let's just put that on the side $100 million space epic that's not based on an IP that's existing already, or a toy, or some sort of thing is not going to get produced in today's Hollywood. It's just one.

Joshua Caldwell 41:15
I don't even know if like, I mean, I just think like, also, it's tough. Like, who's gonna buy it? You know, it's weird, because I know a couple people that have written these they've written really big budget things that everybody reading, but nobody bought it.

Alex Ferrari 41:27
Right? Because of that, because that's not the studio, right? I just can't make they're not what you're not. Right.

Joshua Caldwell 41:33
But what you're taught is Oh, right, that high concept, no script,

Alex Ferrari 41:39
from what I think the new rules are, is write a wonderful indie, or write a good series or be a good writer on a series or something like that. And then possibly, you'll get bumped up to a bigger budget situation to like, if they like your voice or something like that to to write the next Black Panther or, or that kind of scenario. But they're also looking a lot of those. I mean, have any of the Marvel's not been writer directors? Like I know, I'm sure that I don't know. But a couple of them have. But But I mean, a couple more. I'm right off the top of my head, I have not, I can't think of a director of a Marvel film, I'm going through them in my head that was not a writer on it in one of your co writers write that. So that so that

Joshua Caldwell 42:28
intro, I'm not as familiar with Marvel, but

Alex Ferrari 42:31
but any of those, any of those big, you know, epic studio projects, generally speaking as a writer, director. Yeah. It's a it's the, yeah, the big epics, especially for the studios, you know, unless you're, like, Pirates of the Caribbean or something like that, which dress is different. But that's just the world we live in. Yeah.

Joshua Caldwell 42:51
Yeah. I mean, so much has changed, you know. And there's also now opportunities in that digital in the digital world, you know, like, right, smaller, smaller stuff, you know, getting written. I mean, I don't know about with COVID. But, you know, for a while there, there was a lot of lot of opportunity, you know, in the writing, but I also think like, one of the real challenges that I see is just how tough it's got to be if you're just a writer, you know, it's just that I

Alex Ferrari 43:18
have more than ever,

Joshua Caldwell 43:20
that I'm gonna write a script. And that's all I all I want to be as a writer, that is, that is a tough world, man, I've seen a lot of people bow out, you know, a lot of people I knew, you know, for a couple years, like they just gave up, because it was just very, very challenging.

Alex Ferrari 43:34
My feeling is, this is just my opinion, I think that you if you're a writer out there, right now, try if you can't, if you don't want to direct and don't want to produce your own stuff, partner with someone who can, and make that make low budget stuff and start start small and start building up and, and all of a sudden you have 2345 of these things under your belt, then you start getting and then you all these kind of lower budget genre pictures or lower budget streaming series, they will you have an opportunity to get to get a foothold into that. If you think you're going to be making the next Marvel forget if you think you're gonna be making the big next studio movie. It's the competition for those jobs is so big. It's so competitive. And there's basically what are we talking about 100 guys, and unfortunately, they're mostly guys, you know, that are are vying for those who have $200 million plus films on their resumes. So you've got to work your way up there. I that's my I'm more of a you know, me. I'm an entrepreneurial, entrepreneurial kind of guy like you are. So we like I'd rather have control of my own property. And at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, what's the angled? Do you just want to write for the writing sake or do you want to make a living as a writer, and then there's two different approaches.

Joshua Caldwell 45:00
Yeah, and it just takes time, you know, it takes takes a lot of a lot of build scripts, a lot of starts and stops a lot of ideas that just don't pan out, you know, and sometimes you got to go down and get a script written, even if it's not the best idea, because you got to have the experience of having written it, you know, and, and, you know, and it's about getting feedback is also about being, you know, I think the other thing too, is like, you know, it's also about being in a place where you can start making connections, you know, if you don't have that agent, you don't have that manager, like, you know, it contests can only take you so far. You know? And, you know, as a writer, there's a lot of benefit to being in LA, you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:43
you have to spend your time here purely being a writer, you know, you got to spend you otherwise, you got to do time. Yeah, look, I'm not saying you can't, I've interviewed people on the show before who've made a living selling scripts that are outside of the Hollywood system. It's rare, but it does happen. But if you want to play the game, you've got to be worth what the players are, unfortunately, yeah. And I think everyone, even if they like you, you spend time here, you did your time, right? Did you get that you're sentenced to live in LA for a certain period of time. And then after that, you can either stay here for the rest of your life, or you can move to get out, or move to a more reasonable place to live. Yeah.

Joshua Caldwell 46:18
You know, I mean, it was like it, you know, and it's funny, because, like, with, with the glory days, yeah, like that. We got that to Todd, because I was in an internship. And I was just talking to the guy who was the assistant there guy named David Clark, who's a friend now. But he was like, you just talking about I was like, Ah, you know, I'm a writer, like, I want to move your word. And, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:39
I love that you just, well,

Joshua Caldwell 46:41
yeah. Right. I'm like, I'm an intern, you know, right, getting paid. Right. Right. But, um, but I was, you know, if I warmed up to the person, I would tell them otherwise, I try not to say anything. But, you know, basically, like, I just told him I was, you know, I've got a script, it's this. And he's like, Oh, that's, that's actually kind of funny. I'd like to read that. So I gave it to him. And he was the one that got it to, you know, ended up going through the rigmarole to get it to Todd, you know, and so even though it didn't lead anything, it's still like that. That's a clear example, like he could have it could have sold huge, like, I have no idea. You know, and that

Alex Ferrari 47:17
and that does happen. Yeah. And and that's also the importance of networking in this business, right. So, so, so important to build out relationships, authentic relationships with people, authentic relationships with people, I always tell people, like what Chris Macquarie said, you? How can I be of service to you? How can I help you not? I need you to do this for me. Yeah, how can I be of service to you? And

Joshua Caldwell 47:44
even he's huge, and he still takes it with that kind of thing? You know, and that kind of attitude? Without question.

Alex Ferrari 47:49
Now, how did you you've worked with a lot of studios and producers, how do you deal with notes? as a creative?

Joshua Caldwell 47:56
So you know, it's interesting, because I, how do I deal with notes, I get the notes, and then I yell and scream and pillow. Sure

Alex Ferrari 48:09
parent and

Joshua Caldwell 48:10
do some working out punch things. Right? And then I settle? No, I mean, I think that I've learned to take, I've learned to just accept that everybody's trying to make the script better, right? There might be different versions of better, but everyone's just trying to, in some cases you're trying to contribute. And it's a multi prong thing, because sometimes notes or just a note to give a note, right, and they don't care about it. Other times, they're like, super passionate about it, you know, and so what I usually do is I, the best method that I found is if you're doing a call, or whatever, just take the notes. And if they ask for your feedback during the call, just say look like, just give me the notes. Let me just absorb these. And let me think about it. And then let me come back to you. If I have any questions, right? So you take all the notes, and then you sit with them. And then you just do the notes that you agree with. You know, so you you implement those notes, and then you give it back to them. And they're like, what about this, you're like, Well, you know, I didn't feel that this one work, because then you make it a discussion right now. Because most of the time, they're not going to remember that they even gave you the note, depending on the level of investment that they have in the project, right? If it's working with a producer, then that's different than if it's working with an exact who's reading 50 scripts a night, you know, but what I found is that if you if you've shown that you can do the work that you that you've implemented notes that you've taken what they've had to say, and you've done it in a way that you can you think is best. They tend to let the stuff that you don't do go unless they feel very passionate about that. You know, and so, but really, it's it's It's kind of just going well, what's the feedback and it's different situations, are you taking notes from a group of friends that you're just trying to get feedback from, and you can blow them all off if you want to, or you being ordered to implement this set of notes, you know, and so it's a fine line, I think, like, if you if you disagree with something, you should feel free to stand up for it and explain why. You know, or you feel like, you're not going to do that no justice because of these reasons. But I think like, you know, I say this down, which is like, a good idea can come from anywhere. And I will 100% steal that idea. If it's good. Amen. Amen. Brother, preach, you know, preach. And, and there's also just, there's so many steps that you're going through, right? Like, if you're in an early stage of doing a script, you're like, this, I just don't know about this scene, whatever. But you're like, we are 20 steps away from ever filming this scene. And so much can change between now. Right? So like, if it's a short term game, right? Like, it's going to make the exec happy, it's going to make this guy happy. Nobody's to say because all they need to do is go to the director and say, What do you think about the scene, the director is probably gonna say the scenes fucking sucks. Like, we need to change it. And then the director goes to the exact we're changing this. And these echoes, okay, whatever. You know what I mean? There's always there's, there's a politicking that goes on, in film production, you know, that, that a lot of people don't have an ear for, or an eye for. And it can be really important servicing you, you know, as you go through it. But you know, it's a, it's a challenge, especially when you're really passionate about something, especially the

Alex Ferrari 51:37
less experienced you have, the more passionate you might, might be.

Joshua Caldwell 51:42
Oh, and I say all of this, having gone through that thing, where I said, like, Fuck you, like you don't know what you're talking about? Like, you know,

Alex Ferrari 51:48
I'm a genius.

Joshua Caldwell 51:49
This is a perfect, Chris, why aren't you writing me a check right now? Right, like total and total entitlement. But I think like notes are best served by just having some distance to them. And then going, like I the best example I can give because I haven't had that many situations where I've really disagreed with notes in a script stage. But I had a situation with my producer on infamous where we were in the Edit. And he was giving notes. And there were some notes that I sentimentally disagreed with, like I was like, I absolutely disagree with these notes. Upon initial reflection, right, like, literally, it was like, none of these notes are good, I'm not doing any of them. And then what I did was I just took some space, I stepped back from it, right? I put the notes down and went fishing, let it sit, I came back. And I said, Alright, I'm gonna see if I can even let me just see if I can even do them. Right. Let me see if I can even do execute the note. Because sometimes people are giving you a note, they have no idea if it's doable. And then I go, Okay, then how now? So I do them what I can, and I go, how do I feel about this? I'm like, yeah, I'm okay with that. I'm alright with that. Okay, this one I can live with, you know, and and eventually, I ended up doing in the process of the Edit, I did, like 60, I don't know, I probably did, like 80% of their notes. And then the ones that I just didn't agree with, I just didn't do. And then when they saw the next cut, there were a couple that I hadn't done, where they came back and said, We feel very strongly about this. And then we had a very, very passionate back and forth about it. And I ended up doing, I ended up executing in a way that was a compromise between him and I. But then a lot of the other ones, he just kind of let go of, you know, and I felt like we ended up getting to a good place. And what it required, though of me was stepping back and saying, Okay, let me just see if I can even do it. Because Am I am I reacting to the fact that I'm being given a note more of my reaction to the note. Right? And it's very easy to let your ego get in the way and it proved to be the first one. And not the second one. Fair enough. And and there might be some gems in there. You know, there might be some stuff that in there, like, Great example is that the so spoiler alert for those who haven't seen it, but at the end of the layover, originally, we had her give the whole speech about what's going to happen when she arrives and meets her boyfriend. And then it cuts to the next morning and the next morning is just played over music, right. And I had a buddy of mine who came to a screening, we just did a screening to see that see what it was going to turn out like. And my buddy said, you know, and he's he's an editor, but he said, You should try. You should try taking that last part, the montage of her like going onto the plane and put that under the story. And I was like,

Yeah, I don't know, like maybe, like a good idea, you know, and this guy, he was gonna like, whatever no idea, you know, but I was like, I was like, yeah, maybe I'll try it, you know, and I got I was, but originally I was like, No, like, I don't want to do that. Yeah. And then I just like, Well, let me just try it. And I did it. And I was like, ah, I kinda I kind of like that like that. That actually is really good. You know, and I could have tried it and been like, yeah, it doesn't work as well for me, you know, and then gone back to the way I had it. But the Act of just trying it opened up a whole new meaning to the movie for me. And a whole new way of ending that film that I never would have thought of on my own. You know? And so that's why I say I'll take a good idea from anywhere and and, and I'll steal it. I'll make it mine.

Alex Ferrari 55:17
Now your latest film infamous, got released during COVID. How did how did the the driving I saw some numbers on it didn't do bad. It actually did. Okay, pretty well. Yeah. Not being Yeah, we

Joshua Caldwell 55:31
end up being like number two, like, right, we were the number one new movie number two overall, you know, and it did it did pretty good business over four weeks. Like it was, you know, I think it took it over 400,000 that's, you know, that's not bad at all.

Alex Ferrari 55:46
That's awesome. Yeah,

Joshua Caldwell 55:46
it was brutalized by some of the critics. But

Alex Ferrari 55:51
well, that's just the way it is. It doesn't matter. The critics or critics. We've all taken, we've all taken our slides. Anytime. Anytime I get a bad review. I always just go to go to Google. And I type in Shawshank Redemption, bad review. And then I read those. And I go, Okay, yeah, or go just write godfather bad review. Star Wars, bad review. You know,

Joshua Caldwell 56:16
the other thing is, for me what was so perplexing about it, that's a whole other podcast, probably, but the whole idea, the whole thing that was so perplexing, was like I've had my other movies, and I know the negatives of it, right? Like, I sort of know Okay, this this is probably not going to work or I get back critique. And I look at like, I mean, I love him for this. Like, I love the work I did on it. I love the movie I made and I'm I feel like everybody that saw it that didn't. I knew people weren't gonna like it, but a lot of people that like really venomously are hate that movie. I feel like they saw a totally different movie than I saw.

Alex Ferrari 56:52
But that's the way it is with all art. And all I know is that that's just the way it is. Yeah, I mean, I mean, Kubrick every single time Kubrick put something out everybody was like, This is horror, like 2001. Horrible. Clockwork Orange, horrible. The Shining horrible Full Metal Jacket horrible Eyes Wide Shut Horeb. Like, it doesn't matter. It is you as an artist. Get it out there. And if it reaches an audience, that's all that you can do. I'm going to ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests sir. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Joshua Caldwell 57:27
Whoo. Let's see. What are some that I have? I have I have in there. I think that. I mean, I think that let me think about it. I think that Magnolia is one of them.

Alex Ferrari 57:46
I think it's it you can't go wrong with PT. Yeah, what can go wrong with PT a go wrong? Oh, no, no, he can't he

Joshua Caldwell 57:54
there's just so many rules that are broken.

Alex Ferrari 57:57
Yes. You know,

Joshua Caldwell 57:58
by his writing that I think it's worth reading that. Gosh, what else? I think that

Alex Ferrari 58:08
it's a good question.

Joshua Caldwell 58:09
I don't I don't go through and read a lot of scripts. What do I have? I have like, I'll tell you what I have. I have Mystic River, which I thought was really really good. traffic. Yes. Which is really interesting. I think, you know, people have kind of come around on it. But I think Chinatown is still a really good example of, of screenwriting.

Alex Ferrari 58:28
Yeah, of course.

Joshua Caldwell 58:30
And I, you know, it's weird, though, because I look, I like to look at specific movies like movies I really love I'll go read those scripts. Sure. Because I like to just see, you know, just how it got put down on the page. You know, like, you know, so I love reading like Oliver Stone scripts. I love reading. I mean, Chris Nolan, certainly, but like, you know, PT Anderson, I just like, I like reading so much. I like reading the scripts of movies that are not traditional. Right? They're not an obvious type of film. Because then you start to look at it and go, Well, how is this even put together? You know, and you start to see all the ways in which like the traditional screenwriting rules like mark it here, too, which I think is really exciting and really opens up really opens up new possibilities when you see that occur and other scripts and you go like, let me try that. You know, I mean, it's the same thing with layovers. Like, let's, let's, let's make a 10 minute dialogue, and you're just like, nobody wants to do that. You know, right, right. All right.

Alex Ferrari 59:31
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Joshua Caldwell 59:38
What is the lesson that took me the longest to learn, go business or in life? That is own that is really only about the work that you do? That it's not about people's reaction to it. It's not about whether people like it, it's not about whether it's solar cells, like You have to be happy with the work that you do, because that is the only thing that's in your control.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:06
And what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Joshua Caldwell 1:00:12
Biggest failure? Well, as a writer, I don't know if I have that as a writer, I would say that as a director, my biggest failure was moving away from an approach and a style that I liked and felt good about and an effort to try to. I don't want to say elevate something in an effort. It was with the serious South Beach like I tried to do something in a style that wasn't me. Right? And stetic That wasn't me because I felt I needed to try and make it feel not brighter but more I don't know like slicker more no produce and I realized after the fact that that was a mistake that I should have gone the stylistic route that I'm most comfortable with you know, and that I feel the best with because that I felt is what gets me better performances and better movies.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:08
And where can people find you and your work and all the stuff you're doing

Joshua Caldwell 1:01:13
I'm on Twitter at Joshua underscore Caldwell that's a good place to start because everything leads out from there and then my works I mean, you know, movies are now available. They're all available on iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, YouTube kind of wherever wherever movies are sold.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
Brother man I appreciate you coming on the show and and sharing your wisdom of the in the shrapnel that you have taken always. And your movie award sir.

Joshua Caldwell 1:01:42
I had to slip that in some hips.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:44
I've never actually seen so close. I've never actually seen it so close before so I appreciate that. Now listen, I I bust your balls about the movie award. I would have killed for a movie award. I would kill me for what

Joshua Caldwell 1:01:57
It was awesome is the coolest night of my life so far.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:00
Dude, I got my first award at a film festival. I still have it. It's on my shelf. It was like a bet. It was like a best picture for my short and I have a picture of me looking at it. Yeah, and I literally just like in awe of like, Oh, yeah, like they love me. They like like they really like. So a pleasure as always brother. Thanks again, man.

Joshua Caldwell 1:02:22
Dude, take care. Have a good night.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:24
I want to thank Joshua for coming on the show and dropping those indie film screenwriting knowledge bombs on the tribe today. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/082. And thank you all the tribe members who signed up for the new podcast inside the screenwriters mind, which is going to be a bi weekly podcast. And if you have not checked it out, please head over to screenwriters mind.com sign up. It is going to be the best of all of our podcasts in the indie film hustle Podcast Network so you guys can take a flavor of all of the podcasts that we have at the ifH Podcast Network. So thank you for listening guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. We'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 077: Wired for Story – How to Become a Story Genius with Lisa Cron

Do you feel like you have a screenplay inside of you but don’t know how to bring it to life? Today’s guest Lisa Cron might be able to help.

Lisa is story coach and the best-selling author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence and Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere).

Lisa has worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and CourtTV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency.

Since 2006, she’s been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and she’s on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA program in visual narrative in New York City.

Some of the things we cover in this conversation are:

  • What your audience’s brain is hardwired to crave in every story they read – and it’s not what you think.
  • Why writing a successful screenplay is not about having the innate “talent” that only a lucky few are born with, but something you can learn!
  • How to become a more confident screenwriter, and make whatever you’re writing now deeper, richer, more compelling, and able to do what all stories are meant to do: change how the audience sees the world, themselves, and what they do in the world.

Enjoy my conversation with Lisa Cron.

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Alex Ferrari 0:34
I like to welcome the show, Lisa Cron How are you doing?

Lisa Cron 3:29
I'm doing great, which I probably shouldn't say.

Alex Ferrari 3:33
You know what, whenever we have a great moment, in this time period that we're living in now, just just own it, own it. Because it could last for a second. It could last for a day. Just take it when it comes. You have a point?

Lisa Cron 3:45
Yes, I'm doing great at this particular moment.

Alex Ferrari 3:48
Yes, because it could it could go downhill very quickly, Lisa. And I think we thought about a year ago. So I completely agree. I mean, we were talking OFF AIR a little bit of how crazy Our world is right now. And I you know, like I was I was telling you like, I feel like I was driving around and I saw this testing station. And I just and just you look around the world, and I just literally physically just look around your neighborhood just like, what is what is going on? Like, are we in a dystopian, like, you know, spin off of the Hunger Games slash blog Blade Runner, like, I don't know, it's just such a weird place to be in our world today. I truly believe that we are living in an alternative universe. Like

Lisa Cron 4:33
right I mean, I'll tell you I, you know, I've spent more more decades than I want to admit to reading you know, manuscripts, you know, novels or or scripts or memoir, and especially with scripts and with the with the novels, there will always be that sort of, you know, strange dystopian thing going on, and I would kind of think, a bet that somewhere in the world, this is actually happening. It actually is Reality is almost out just opening dystopian novels and scripts. It's very strange.

Alex Ferrari 5:06
It's a very strange world we live in. And we as storytellers have, I think, a bigger responsibility to help heal the world and help the world through this because it is through story that we process, the everything, the experience, that is life without story, we we really don't have a way to, to process it. It really does help dramatically. Would you agree?

Lisa Cron 5:35
Oh, yeah. I mean, the truth is, we think in story, it's hardwired into our brains. I mean, we don't need a story, to translate it, we automatically translate everything that happens to us into story into narrative, you know, everything we evaluate everything that happens to us, based on you know, one thing and one thing only, and that is, how is this going to affect me, given my agenda. And and I don't mean that just in a, you know, transactional way, but just literally in, I need to feel safe. I've got what I need to do what I want to do, what my agenda is going forward? And is this going to get me there? Or is this going to stop me from getting there. And and that doesn't necessarily, again, mean, my agenda is here to make a million dollars and to you know, to be powerful, but just even, you know, my agenda is to try to make a more equitable world. So is this going to help me do that? Or is this going to hurt me to do that, and everything we make sense of we make sense of in our lives, via story, because that's what contextualizes it, that's what gives it meaning nothing has meaning outside of the meaning that we project onto it, besides be our own individual story. And that's why when we're lost in a story, we're in someone else's head, and we're processing information in the same way that they do if that story is successful.

Alex Ferrari 6:52
We are all the heroes in our in our story.

Lisa Cron 6:55
Oh, absolutely. We have to be. I mean, it's like, it's like that old thing of, you know, back back in the old days, when we would actually fly on actual airplanes. And they'd have that, you know, put your oxygen mask on first. You may remember that back in the olden days. Yeah, that doesn't make us bad. It doesn't make us feel like we're the hero. But it's that in order for us to literally survive to see tomorrow, we have to come first. And we're biologically wired to come first in that way. And I think one of the scary things is that we're wired to live in a world we don't live in and so that sometimes some of that gets in our way.

Alex Ferrari 7:36
Right? I've talked a lot about the the reptilian brain and that kind of that thing in the back of your head that is, is there just to protect you. I've said many times on the show that that your brain doesn't care about your dreams, doesn't care about what you want, or want to have love or anything. It cares about one thing and one thing only protecting you.

Lisa Cron 8:00
That's the only thing i would i would say to that is they've kind of debunked the whole reptilian brain notion. It's one thing, it's not that's the old part. And this is the new part. Is that Is it the way that we're wired? Yeah, is your brain when it's in fact, that's the really sad thing for writers, you know, when you when you read something, and I think we've all had this experience as writers, you know, you're writing it, you think it's great. And then you read it the next morning, and you go, Oh, my God, what am I seeing this? You know? And that is that part of and you think that voice? Right? We've all got that voice? And the ironic thing is, that voice is trying to protect us. It's like, yeah, if you put that out there, but the thing is you and you don't want to be laughed at. So be careful. And that voice is often wrong is the point.

Alex Ferrari 8:51
The point is, as well that that it's all about perspective. So your perspective of writing, this piece that you're writing is either to get it sold, get it move your career forward, tell the story that you always wanted to tell, put it out there help other people with your story. There's multiple different perspectives, or yearnings, if you will of the writer and why they're doing what they're doing. But the brain is there for one thing and one thing only, it's to protect you from not only yourself, but from the danger that it doesn't know about. So I always tell people like well, when when you were wondering back in the day, if you went around that corner, and you've never been around that corner, before you turn that corner, your brain is going to go Don't go down that corner because there could be a tiger there and it could eat you. So we're always avoiding the tiger, that the potential tiger, whatever that Tiger might be, could be, you know, maybe make a fool of people rejecting you. And then if you go into rejection that goes into a whole tribal thing in our brain as well. That's why rejection is so difficult. That's why people think that speaking in public is it's they're more fear of speaking in public and they are of death. Because if you speak in public and you're ousted by the audience, which is almost a tribe, then without the tribe, you couldn't survive alone as a human being back in the day, there's so many different layers of things that our brain is built to do for us. But it's built for an old time, like you said, it's not built for the current world,

Lisa Cron 10:22
right? No, because our biggest fear is, you know, as you're saying, turning that corner, our biggest fears, the unknown and the unexpected. And we're wired to, to have, you know, what they call homeostasis, meaning, it's a biological term. And it means once you feel sick, you know, for any for any, like biological creature, once, once they're safe, you know, the temperatures, right, they've got the food they've got, you know, the space, it's not just that they want to maintain balance, but they want to maintain that balance. So anything that threatens it terrifying. And that's, you know, that the sort of colloquial term we have for that is our comfort zone. But the thing that sort of kills me is that we tend to think of these things as if we have a choice is if, you know, our desire to stay in the comfort zone is because we're kind of weak. And if we were stronger, tougher, or whatever, we would be able to go out there into the unknown. And the truth is, it is our biology that keeps us there. So it isn't to say that we can't overcome it, or we can't see it for what it is. But the fact that it's difficult isn't a feeling or a weakness, it's biology, the same thing, just to go a little bit deeper to what you were just saying about belonging to a tribe, which talk about something that we're seeing,

Alex Ferrari 11:34
you think you think there's some tribalism going on right now.

Lisa Cron 11:38
But the reason is, is that they feel that, you know, when our brains had, you know, last big gross for about 100,000 years ago, and, you know, scientists thought for a long time that that was at the time, and the reason for it was that we, you know, got critical thinking, you know, we can analyze things at a political thought rational thought came in at that point. And what they realized now is that the real reason for that big change is because at that time, we had kind of, you know, obviously a very, very, very minor, you know, basic degree, learned to navigate successfully in the physical world. And now, if we were going to do you know, basically what we've since done, which is, you know, take over the world, we need to learn to work together well with others. And that's where the need to belong to a group became, it's hardwired, you know, people go, I'm a lone wolf, I always want to go, dude, there are no lone wolves, even in the wolf community. In the wolf community is a wolf that's been ostracized from the back and is left to die, wolf traveling pack, there's no such thing as a lone wolf. But at that time, and here's the really interesting thing to go to your point. At that time, because we already had the neural pathways for physical pain, they feel that because to be ostracized from your, you know, your pack your tribe, which at that time was obviously much smaller thinking of Dunbar's number, probably not any bigger than 150. To be ostracized, meant death. So it's isolation. Instead of your brain, like creating other neural pathways for that pain, it just traveled the same pathways as regular pain, travel, meaning physical pain, so that that's why when you come up to someone, and which I think a lot of us are having this experience now, and the facts wrong, and you think I'll just correct them, I'll just tell them what the correct facts are. And then they'll understand that we'll be on the same page, and you, you try to correct them. And often you get a screed back. And you think, Oh my god, what's wrong with you? You're such an idiot. And the truth is, because when you merely question their beliefs, it comes across as fighting words, you've questioned their identity, and you've questioned their place within their tribe. And for them to even consider what you're saying risks that kind of social ostrich never say this word. Austria is a Austria to the asterisks. Essentially, I

Alex Ferrari 13:55
can solve either, but yeah, I get you.

Lisa Cron 13:57
For some reason. But but so. So that comes across as fighting words. So it's really interesting, how deeply hardwired it is, and I think it can, understanding that can help give us empathy for other people, and let us know, okay, they're not they don't believe those ridiculous things they believe. Because they're stubborn or stupid, or, you know, or or just haven't done the work. It's because everything in their life has taught them that those things are true. That's what their tribe believes. So to even consider something else, it takes a massive amount of

Alex Ferrari 14:29
courage. No, absolutely. If you're in, you know, if you're in a family that is super religious, and you come out to be gay, in a community that doesn't like you know, doesn't approve of that, that becomes an issue. And you have to become so strong to break free from that tribe. And just stand on your own two feet. And that could be as simple as, hey, I'm going to go be a writer and you're your parents or a lawyer and a doctor like, no, you're not you're you're going to last Cool. You're like no. And it's like that's, that's another example of it. And to go back to what we were talking about earlier, as far as the unknown, a lot of times people think well around the corner, there's that tiger, that Tiger could be positive or negative, it doesn't have to be danger, it could be something it's not accustomed to. So if you and I've had this experience myself, when you if you have, and this is a great character, by the way, this is a free character trait that you can use for your characters guys listening, when you when you have a character, who meets someone who's obviously, like, if you have a girl who meets the good guy, then that good guy who treats her well and treats her nice, and he's a good looking dude, everything. If she's never been treated, right, or for like, if he has never been treated, right, in a relationship, it will be completely scary to be with someone like that. Either way opposite or or, you know, for someone who takes care of you or abuses you. That's and a lot of times they self sabotage a relationship because things are too good here. I don't like this, this is completely unknown territory. I'm going to sabotage it and it does it. They do it on a subconscious level. It's not like they sit there and go, Oh, I'm going to sabotage this relationship. They just start doing things to know, they know that they'll sabotage Would you agree?

Lisa Cron 16:18
Oh, yeah, I mean, I mean, 100%. That's what people don't realize is that all change is hard and good changes as hard as bad change. And we don't necessarily assume that. And when we stick with our comfort zone, what that really means is the familiar. And you're right, I mean, there are a lot of people who would rather be with someone who is very difficult to be with, because they know how to do that. It's reliably it's

Alex Ferrari 16:40
it's, it's the known, it's the it's like they say the devil, you know,

Lisa Cron 16:44
that's why we stick stick with the devil, you know, but I would say that in a story, if somebody is going to do that, that's a what, you know, any kind of a trait is a what? And what you want to get to in order to earn that trait and give it meaning is the why. In other words, what happened in that person's life probably early on, that caused them to miss read, when you know when someone is is nice to them. For instance, can I give you a quick for instance, sure, of course, sample I use a lot because what I call this, the misbelief, that characters come into a story with a misbelief something that they believe about human nature that they learned when they were very young, that's kept them from getting what they want, probably from an early age, up until the moment we're gonna shove them onto the screen. And now they're going to have to go after what they want, but overcome this misbelief in order to get it. So let's imagine that because I use that example a lot it the example of an i would say i would i would sum up what you said is that somebody's misbelief might be the nicer someone is to me, and the more they want to get to know me, the more they really only want to use and abuse and manipulate me. That's why they're doing it. And so something like that might come in, I'll give you a very quick example. Like imagine that protagonist, let's say is going to be a 29 year old woman. But when she's nine years old, she comes from a very dysfunctional family. I don't know what a functional family is, if there are any,

Alex Ferrari 18:08
but there might be there's a couple I mean, we're all listen, I'm trying to create a functional family. But obviously, in my perspective, I'm the hero, dad. So you know, my daughters will probably tell me something differently in 20 years, I don't know.

Lisa Cron 18:21
There's always something it's always like, I never said that.

Alex Ferrari 18:27
I didn't mean that horse

Lisa Cron 18:29
Exactly. mentioned this girl, she's nine, she's you know, she comes from as a single mom, she has a feral sister. And she's nine years old. And she feels like no one ever pays any attention to her like she's just lost. And so it's school, all the girls have decided to get together and form this club around this little Japanese anime character. And to get into the club, which they're about to form, you have to have a doll of this character. And she thinks, okay, great. I can save up my money, I can save up my allowance, I can get it. These, these girls are my people, I will be able to do it. So she saves her money. And she finally has enough the day before they're about to do it. The next day, she opens her bank. And malls come out with nothing. It's gone. And she's be wrapped. It's like, it's all is lost. There's no way out at all. She's sobbing. And about an hour later, her older sister comes in and says, You know, I know we don't talk but but seeing you so sad. I've asked around I know what's going on. I know about that club at school and you saved all your money. And you know, it's somehow it's gone and it broke my I broke my heart. I couldn't stand to see you sobbing like that. So I took my money. And I went out and got a bigger version of the doll. Now at this point, you know, our protagonist is thinking, like, I don't need those girls anymore. This is great. She saw me. I didn't have to even ask she got to know me. She knew what I wanted. She went and got it for me without asking. And I mean, truly isn't that what we on one level all want more than anything is somebody to anticipate what we need and give it to us? Before we even have to ask. I mean that's just

Alex Ferrari 19:59
yeah Very Genie like,

Lisa Cron 20:01
Yes, exactly. So, so but at that point, the sister goes, but you know, I used all my money to buy it. And I'm going out with Ralph tonight. And if I don't pay, he's gonna dump me and mom hasn't given me my allowance since I crashed the car. And no, that's not my fault. And she's got that $100 bill in her purse. And if you could just distract her. You're so cute. All I want you to do that. I know that the money's for food, but I'm not hungry for you. I'll just take it in. And in that moment, that character has an aha moment, which is, wait. She's thinking, you didn't do that to be kind to me. You probably in fact, stole my money. And you're just doing because you want me to help you steal? You're trying to use me now in that moment. That belief is true. That is probably what she was doing. And in fact, our protagonist could look back to other things earlier and go, Oh, yeah, I know that I'll make. And so that belief, the nicer she is, to me, the more she seems to want to get to know me, the more she's only going to use and abuse me. That was adaptive in that moment, it probably helped her survive in that family. The reason these kind of misbeliefs tend to come in when we're young, is because when we're older, if someone came up and you know, similar thing where you meet someone and they're finishing, you're finishing each other's sentences soon, and you feel like, Oh, this person knows me, we've got such simpatico. And then they go, you know what money you've got? I'm starting this Ponzi scheme, oh, would you like to invest. And at that moment, you go, Oh, my God, this person is a jerk. I know a lot of other nice people, I'm just going to get this person out of my life. When you're nine, it's not my sister's a jerk. It's Oh, this is how people are. I have to be careful. And so that misbelief would have grown escalated and complicated up to the point in exactly to us, it's amazing that you use that example, because it just matches exactly, you know, this the story that I just happen to have on the tip of my tongue, because I use it all the time. But that would explain and so that's why when you're thinking of, you know, what your character might do your protagonist, what kind of, you know, quirk or belief or desire misbelief they've got, it really pays to go back and, and not just get the what, but the why. Because the Y is what your story is, is going to be about your y is about. That's what stories are about. My son actually is a producer, we're talking about a movie that they were that they were giving notes on to the writer about a year or so ago, making movies. And, you know, he said, Yeah, she said, because the the story present is what makes the unconscious conscious. And that's the whole point. By the time the story starts, this misbelief has become the lens through which the character is evaluating everything that's happening, just like we all do does is make me safer, doesn't it? And so what happens in the story, forces that character to reevaluate that brings it back to the surface, not that they're thinking it, you know, like a bumper sticker, but because it's been incorporated into how they're making the decisions that they're making. And that's what we're watching.

Alex Ferrari 23:03
I did an episode A while ago called why we're why screenwriters are programmed to fail. And it was an entire episode, basically discussing similar concepts of what we're talking about now. And I use an example of why why the rich get rich, it's a rich and the poor, stay poor and stay poor. And it's because of, and I've studied this, to my knowledge, I'd love to hear your your thoughts on it. When when how many rich people have you met in your life? You're going peace guys aren't absolute, it's got some idiot? How has he failed up? How is? How is it? How is this possible? How does he keep making money when he has no foreseeable skill? And he's, he's a moron in so many other places, but yet he keeps able to make money. And it's not because daddy or mommy is helping him. It's just because he's kind of programmed to know what to do. And then why is this person who was born into a poor scenario, who's really smart, but yet has blocks where they can't generate more revenue or more money in their life. And I'm using money as an example here. Then, then their parents did. And is because that we as as children, we absorb it like you were just saying, it's not just my sister did that. It's all people did that, right. So when you're a child and you're born into a millionaire family or something or billionaire family, everyone just does what they start absorbing everything that they see their parents do on a subconscious level. So when they get to the, to the age of to generate revenue, they just already kind of know what to do because they've been doing it. It's the same thing for a family who was born into a family of acrobats, or a circus or circus folk or filmmakers. I mean, look how many Bryce Bryce Dallas Howard is becoming a director now. I wonder how that happened. Yeah. I mean, she's Ron Howard's kid. I mean, she was on sets all the time when they were growing up. So they kind of absorbed these things. Do you? Do you feel that, um, and again, going back to character, that's a really interesting kind of way to look at a character as well, because depends on what their what their upbringing is. And based on that upbringing, they have certain blocks that they just can't get through, until they consciously break through. So, you know, like, I've heard poor people mentality, which I've found, fortunately, I'm a card carrying member many times of thinking, like, you got to do this, you got to do that. And, and you got to do this. And that where someone who was, who was raised in a different environment, has completely different beliefs about money, where I might have had beliefs about money, because that's the way my grandpa worked hard all his life. And his his definition of success is getting a job and working hard, as opposed to someone raising another scenario is like, no, it's about money working hard for you, and you're not working that hard. It's, you know, it's different. So I just let them hear what you think about that.

Lisa Cron 26:08
Yeah, I mean, I mean, I the only thing I would say about that particular analogy, and it's close to, you know, creating characters as well, is that, you know, so often, I mean, I guess, you know, part of it, it's like so on all of our minds right now, is that there's also, I mean, if you're, if you're born into a wealthy white family, particular person at the moment, you know, you have when it's not just what your parents, you know, the way that they saw things, but it's also that you're that you're white. Oh, there's privilege. Absolutely. There's provision. Yeah. So So for a lot of people who are poor, it doesn't, it doesn't matter. I mean, I think the best example of that is the fourth season of the wire, I think, more or less a job. Yeah, it was, it was so good. But it did an amazing job of really showing if you're born into poverty, and you're born into, you know, systemic racism, which is what we're talking about a lot. Now, no matter what you do, it is just impossible. Just there are no other options. And I think that, that that's what can make a much more interesting story than somebody just, you know, suddenly finding, you know, rags to riches because they've got the gumption or whatever to do it. But more what happens to people who would have had had that would have no matter what they do the opportunity either slammed in their face or turns for something that you know, is of no fault of their own. But yeah, I completely agree. I mean, I think that's what all stories are about. All stories are about an internal change the big mistake that the big mistake that writers may and screenwriters it kind of in particular? I can tell you when I was reading screenplays, and I spent decades reading screenplays, I guess, it was almost like every screenplay I read, I would think, Okay, wait a minute. No, this is the person who's never seen a movie.

Alex Ferrari 27:57
No, no, it's this person was

Lisa Cron 27:59
other people. But if this one because it looks easy, you know, like 120 pages and all that whitespace How hard could it be?

Alex Ferrari 28:06
Super and I've seen movies so I mean, I should be able to write one that's kind of like I listen to Mozart, I should should be able to write a song

Lisa Cron 28:15
You know, it's so hard but it's not about any story. It's not about the plot. It's not about the things that happen it's about how the things that happen affect someone and affect an internal change that is what stories are about that's what routes us what routes us isn't big giant things blowing up one way or another it's what those things blowing up what how and what that's going to affect someone and not just affect them in general like we have your building blows up in your insight that you're in trouble that's what there's there's that right there is that but it's it's why things matter. It's like to give you a very quick example it's like the movie diehard which which I have

Alex Ferrari 28:56
I did an entire episode Christmas explaining why it's the greatest Christmas we'll move on so we were on the same page there it's it's arguably one of my top five it's on my top five action films of all time.

Lisa Cron 29:09
I agree. I could not agree with you more. But but but but what my heart is about it's not about you know is Bruce Willis going to kill the pseudo bad guys that are terrorists. It's about is Bruce Willis. And it's not even about people go well, it's about is Bruce Willis going to save his wife and it's not about that either. It's about is Bruce Willis gonna be able to win his wife back, she's left him. Is he going to be able to win her now? Of course. I mean, obviously, he's got it. He wants to save her as well because he doesn't want to win her back in a body bag. That would be a Pyrrhic victory if ever there was but that's what and that's why we care. That's what's pulling us all the way through. It's not just you know, is he going to kill Hans Gruber? Which I mean Alan Rickman a moment of silence for his passing

Alex Ferrari 29:51
recipes, my friend Oh what such so he's such a great actor but that character a lot for people listening like you have to understand I heard in the theater when I was a teenager. And can you imagine walking into like, Oh, isn't that that guy from moonlighting? Let me go, let me go watch this. There's something blowing up. Let me go watch and you walk out going, what did I just see? Perfect movie. It's so perfect. But the thing that's amazing for people that don't understand it created a genre of film, it's Die Hard on a boat, Die Hard on train, Die Hard in an arena. That hard everywhere because it was, but the difference between all of those movies and diehard is exactly what you're saying. Is this. It's not about what's on the surface. Yes, that's all cool. And yes, that he's very vulnerable. He's wearing no shoes. You know, he's the every man there's like, there's so many things that make McLane such a wonderful character. But you're right, it's about is there our thinking to get back together? And it's, it's subtle, it's not, it's not heavy handed.

Lisa Cron 30:54
It's subtle. I mean, in the same way that in the same way that the Hunger Games trilogy is about our Katniss and Peeta going to get together? I mean, in the beginning, is she gonna realize he likes her? And is she gonna have to kill him? And that's what really is pulling us through all three books, which I think are fabulous. I think even the movies were good. I, I, I devoured those. But yeah, it's a human story. That's what we care about. We don't care about the other. And we'll help that you just have what what most what most screenplays and most, you know, novel with manuscripts are, is honestly nothing but a bunch of things that happen. That's, that's Damn.

Alex Ferrari 31:35
Yeah, it's very, it's very superficial. Without questions, so like a movie like lethal weapon, which is also on my top five of all time. You know? Do we care? Why'd Why do you care about Murdock and Riggs? It's like, well, his rigs gonna be his he can not kill himself. End of this thing. Like you're you're holding on to, to that and then and then combination of those two together? It's just such a magical thing. What is your What is your What is your take on the the reason why Lethal Weapon if you watch it and chain blacks, a lot of shame black scripts have this have this this kind of underlining emotional tug.

Lisa Cron 32:15
I mean, I can't I saw it. I saw it when it came out so long ago, that I couldn't talk to it other than to agree with you that, you know, any movie we're pulled into, that we care about, it's because we care about the characters, but not just care about them in the situation that they find themselves in. But what being in that situation is going to mean to them, given what they walked onto the, you know, onto into scene one already wanting? I mean, and that goes to what you just said, Yeah. Is he going to kill himself? Well, that was something if he is or isn't, that was something he already wanted to do before he walked on to the screen. So it always I mean, I mean, what I am always saying to writers is, is that all stories begin in media stress. And I don't mean it, it's funny, the first time I heard that term was as a screenwriting term, and it which means it's a lot, it's Latin, and it means in the middle of the thing, and, and in screenwriting, it tended to be meant, you know, if you're going to start a scene start in the middle, right, you start at that moment, where if you wait one more minute, it'll be too late. If you start too early, people are going to get bored. But that's not what it really means. What it really means is all stories beginning this resonating, literally, the first scene of the movie, or the first page of the novel is the first scene or page of the second half of the story. The backstory is the most crucial and important layer of story. Without it, you have no story. And I think the biggest problem that writers have is that they'll start on page one, and think they have to read forward or and I'm going to say something now that probably especially in the film community, who sounds really, really incendiary, and it isn't literally and figuratively, if it was up to me, I would burn every copy of the hero's journey, or the Vogler book or save the cat or any of those books, because they claim to be about story structure. And that's a misnomer. They're about plot structure. And the story is not about the plot and the line in those books besides the fact that things don't always happen in the order that they do. or God forbid, with the hero's journey, which I particularly detest, you know, we have to have the temptress, it just, I just like what is boiling, I've got to take a deep breath. But it's not about the plot. And the line. The book is when they give you examples, they give you examples of movies and books you are familiar with. And so when you think of those plots, you're already supplying that that emotional internal tug of the struggle that the character is going through. So you go Okay, yeah, this has to happen at the end of Act One. And now here's the actual climax. And now, here's the So writers are writing things from the outside in. And story structure is organic, it's inside out story structure is, is the byproduct of a story well told, not something you can plan as you begin to write the story, and I think that's what tanks, so many scripts in so many manuscripts is that they're looking at, well, knowing the character who's going to be the one who's going to mention what the character needs to do. So we put that in there and knowing something really big to happen here, because that's the mid at climax, and then they'll turn and they'll reach into this external grab bag of, of supposedly dramatic things, and throw something in, as opposed to no story is a complete cause and effect trajectory that began usually with what I call the protagonist origin story, the moment where that misbelief was born. And it's cause and effect from beginning to end if you can do one of those, those card things, you know, where the where you go, you know, write these things on cards and move them around, if you round you don't have a story, it's cause and effect, you can't move them around story is, again 100% cause and effect this happened Wait, therefore that this happened, but that

Alex Ferrari 36:09
anyway, so we were talking a little bit by the way, I it's it I love bringing people on the show that have different perspectives, because I've had every one of those people that you've talked that had them on on the show, and they all have different perspectives on story. And

Lisa Cron 36:24
I think I'm gonna interrupt you there one second, and this is where I do not play well with others. I think they're wrong.

Alex Ferrari 36:29
And that's fine. And that's fine and you're completely and there's points that you've made that make absolutely all the sense of the world and nor will I try to debate you on it because I I don't have a strong that I don't have a strong affiliation either way. But I always love bringing different perspectives of story because you never know what what is gonna click with a certain writer. It's, you know, like I, I believe, you know, like, early on in my in my in my writing career, you know, the hero's journey and and that whole process, and then I had john Truby on. And then john Truby goes, you can throw the hero's journey on a detective story, let me know how that works out for you. And my mind exploded. I was like, what, wait a minute, but all stories are the hero's journey. Like No, no, no, not all of them. And you were like, oh, okay, that's, that's okay. All right, then. And then it just starts changing the way you look at things. So I completely I completely understand your point of view, no question about it. Now what the one thing that we were talking about earlier about the, the the the backstory of the character, isn't it interesting that a character who was in cinema for forever, named James Bond, who basically didn't have a true backstory, he was just kind of like, he was very one dimensional, he never changed. He, he was not a character that changed from beginning to end of every story. He was basically James Bond at the beginning at the end. But when Casino Royale showed up, and they gave him backstory, and they gave him all these other things that drove him to be who he is. It became honestly the best Bond film ever made, in my opinion, would you agree?

Lisa Cron 38:12
Yeah. 100% I mean, 100 I think the reason though, yes. 100%. I think without backstory, it's very easy for something to become a bunch of things that happened. I think, things like James Bond, the world was changing, then cinema movie was were changing at that point. And so we were seeing things that were new anyway, so people could get away with other stuff and not go as deep as as they can now not be willing to do it. And I think that with mysteries because people will say the same thing about well, what about Sherlock Holmes? Or, you know, other detectives? What about perot? Or what about? You know, Philip Marlowe? And I think that the answer there is that mysteries themselves are always about not just who done it, but in order to know who you got to know why. And we come to story. I mean, I think I think we come to story for exactly the reasons that in the beginning of Citizen Kane, you know, where you've got the the newsreel director going, Nothing's more interesting than finding out what makes people tick. It's like, yeah, that's what we come for. So if we're going to get a detective isn't going to change. That person is looking at evaluating what's going on based on trying to figure out what made you know the murderer or whatever whoever the person is, do what they do, and then the cleverness of trying to figure out okay, here's a really hard thing. How could you possibly make that happen? And if you notice, and I can't give you an example of this, because we're just I'm just talking off the top of my head, but it's something I say to writers all the time is that it's never just some logistic, cleverness. There must be blood and I'm not talking about the movie must be blood, in other words, whatever is happening, whatever the person believes, whatever Doing, it isn't just a factual thing, it's something that is going to in some very human way, hurt or help someone else, in terms of getting something that they really, really want or are afraid of, it always comes back to that meaning always comes back to how it's going to affect someone emotionally. And I don't mean that in a pejorative sense at all, I think as a, as I was saying to you, before we started, I mean, emotion is such a deeply misunderstood biological system. I think we purposely misunderstand that not just in our culture, but around the world. Because every decision we ever make, is driven by emotion. And that's positive. If we didn't feel emotion, we couldn't make a single rational decision. emotion. It's not just emotion, it's obviously emotion. And, and reason we've been taught that they're their opposite. There's our binary, right? Either emotion or reason. And the truth is, they work together. And the truth is the driver is emotion, not reason. No matter no matter how we always think I'm a master of my own ship, it makes you feel so safe, it makes you feel so secure. But whatever decision you make, you don't make, because it's the rational argument, you make that decision because of how the rational argument makes you feel. It always comes back to feeling and so in a story if there isn't that, in other words, if we're not in the character's skin as they're feeling something, we jump ship. Yeah, no,

Alex Ferrari 41:32
no, I've seen movies as well that I call it kind of intellectual writing versus emotional writing, where you could just see that the writer is trying to be cool. And trying to be it trying to be clever. And look how, look how much promise I have over the craft that I can do this, this and this, but you feel nothing.

Lisa Cron 41:53
And it's annoying to Yes, yes. So what did the writer you think you think you're so full of yourself? It's like hot, you're annoying. Go away? Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Alex Ferrari 42:01
It's like, look how cool I am. Look. It's like kinda like writing. When you have your I'm sure you've read a screenplay that has 75 cent words in it? Oh, yeah. Oh, oh, yeah.

Lisa Cron 42:09
I worked once with a lawyer who was writing a novel. And he said, he's a trial. My career, the bigger the word, the less emotion it conveys. Yeah, correct. Yep. Last thing, you want to use our $25 words, let alone $75 words, the simplest words are usually the most powerful. If there's meaning behind words, in cells or nothing. It's the meaning they're conveying. And that's what comes from the story. And that almost always comes from from backstory, because backstory is what is what is what creates, again, the lens and the meaning that your protagonist is reading into it. It's just one thing really quickly, I just finished reading a book. It literally called your brain as a time machine by a neuroscience. I think he's, I think he's out of LA. And he says, basically, and of course, all of the research, you can find this all over, but he's here, the sole purpose of your brain is to record past memories in order to predict the future. So in other words, if you have no backstory, how can they? What do they have at stake? Well, that's

Alex Ferrari 43:12
powerful. That's what's so powerful.

Lisa Cron 43:15
Yeah, I mean, and again, when you're writing a character, a character is a person, like you or me, and that's what we do. And that's me, I could go into the whole neuroscience behind it, but

Alex Ferrari 43:25
which we might in a second because I'm a neuroscience nerd, as well, but I'm gonna my name and I neuroscience now is already I just lost my train of thought.

Lisa Cron 43:37
All the time. It's so funny when you do it in the middle of talking. I've done that. Where was I going?

Alex Ferrari 43:43
What was that guy's like? No, there's too many ideas flying into my head right now. That I know we're going to talk about something I want to talk about something really quickly that I know is going to divide our audience, which is great. It's the Marvel movies. You were talking about emotion. And you watch a movie like Avengers endgame. And generally what Marvel has done throughout their 10 years of putting what they've done is unprecedented how they've created so much. And by the way, I think those whole all those movies are emotion delivery systems. I don't know if you like them or not. And you could tell me in a second, I'm going to tell you from my point of view, who is a fan have been a comic book fan for a long time. And when you get to endgame, by the way, spoiler alert, guys, if you haven't seen endgame, it's not my fault. Made it made like $3 billion. I'm sorry, if you haven't seen it, you can't blame me. But at the end, when Iron Man does that ultimate sacrifice, and you see him go, there's so much emotion. And if you want and you watch like when they're like at that moment where they're about to the Thanos is about to destroy them, and like it's only like We have them as Iron Man, Thor and, and Captain America. Then everybody starts coming out of those, you know, magical Doctor Strange circles. I've heard the reaction I was in the theater, but I also watched them online, the people lost their mind. And the reason why they lost their mind was because it was 10 years of emotional, emotional context or connection with all of these characters coming out and you're like, all of them are coming out at once together, it was just such an emotional thing for me watching it, and I've seen it, obviously, it hit a chord with somebody, because if it was just blowing stuff up, then you would have the DC Universe, which is the Justice League and how that was a complete failure. We'll see what the Snyder cut says when it comes out on HBO Max, but it was a complete failure because there was no backstory, there was no emotion at all. What do you I don't know how much you know about our into the comic book films, but I think it's that since they are the most popular form of entertainment right now in the Indian in the industry. It's not a bad conversation to have.

Lisa Cron 46:14
Yeah, no. And, and I to be completely honest, I am not a I'm not a fan. So I've seen I've not seen I've not seen any of them. I mean, maybe one or two. But I mean, just comment. I mean, just even when you're invested in characters, like you said, 10 years of them. And and I mean, you know, their backstory at that point, whether, you know, whether it's ever been been stated on the screen or not, because you watched it. You have that. I mean, it's funny, you know, I said before about the fourth season of the wire, the fifth season of the wire, which was I think only a half a season it was dreadful. Didn't matter. They watched every minute of it because I loved the characters. I wouldn't watch anything. You know, at that point, you're so deeply invested that it's like Yes, just keep going. I mean it you know, just just I just want to watch them getting into character I'll watch anything it doesn't matter because

Alex Ferrari 47:05
you love because you love those characters like that and but that's the that's kind of something very interesting with with them with television now because now we binge so much like when I saw that I binge the wire watch the whole series. And once you go down the road, you're in three four seasons unless they do something super crazy. You're pretty much in Yeah, big you know like I was when I watched The Walking Dead probably about six seasons in maybe. And then the when it turned for me I don't know if you've ever watched a walking dead but when it turned to me is they had this one villain that came in and he was so abusive to my characters that I loved. And they never gave those characters a moment of victory. Like there was the whole season. It was just like someone was beating up on my characters constantly. It was never going back and forth kind of fight it was just kind of like a pummeling. And that's the problem with like, when you have a villain it's so overpowering. It's not fun anymore. I don't want to see my characters my favorite characters get beat up. I stopped watching because they just went too far. They could have still had a very powerful protagonist, but yet give give some victories small victories something Yeah. And by the time that victory came it was too late. I was really lost.

Lisa Cron 48:28
Yeah, I agree. I stopped I've watched I think the first three seasons of it. And I can't remember why I think I just failed because I guess it was just I just got tired of watching people eat people or

Alex Ferrari 48:39
if you don't like the eating it's probably not a good thing

Lisa Cron 48:42
to not being either a horror fan either so it was like I am surprised and it's a testament to the show that I lasted that long because it isn't you know usually what I like but for something to be a horror it's got to be something like get out or something that's just so good that you know I'm completely willing to stay to stay hooked and you know, I mean everybody's got their I guess their preference again. Probably comes back to for me. I tell you this literally, I don't understand. I don't understand why people love watching horror movies. Because I can't imagine getting off watching somebody get hurt I have a hard time with things some things I'm never going to watch again. I did not watch Bosh when all this happened it's like I'm never watching another cop show ever again but Bosh

Alex Ferrari 49:27
is so good.

Lisa Cron 49:29
I yeah. Season went You know, when the majority boy died and it's like okay, I'm I've just I couldn't live it's interesting. I literally you know, we watched one one at one episode after it was like I absolute can't do this. I just can't do this.

Alex Ferrari 49:46
I mean, like the canceled cops for God's sakes. And and I started two years and all I mean and how many cop shows are on television like Blue Bloods and, and, you know, law and order. You can kind of it's more of a But yeah, but law and order and SBU unit like there's everything's a cop show.

Lisa Cron 50:05
So, drama, you know, by definition

Alex Ferrari 50:07
it's automatically built in drama so like Chicago PD and all of those things. How is it? How are they going to come back? Like I'm assuming of it? Look, we're gonna see a cop show again. We're gonna see cops on the movies again. I just don't know. Different hopefully it'll be different. Like you can't release Lethal Weapon today. No. Laser, like, you know, the rogue the rogue cop doing it playing by their own rules. That's pretty much the 80s

Lisa Cron 50:33
Yeah. Oh, well, even with I mean, you know, talking about the way things change moving away from cop movies for me. Try watching old john Hughes movies. You can't there's there's massagin is the racist

Alex Ferrari 50:47
like there's there's definitely some rough there's some rough stuff in the old I haven't watched. I haven't watched the jaunty I mean, other than home alone. But like if you watch him I haven't seen Breakfast Club. I

Lisa Cron 50:58
don't remember there being love isn't so bad. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 51:01
was gonna say I don't remember Breakfast Club. I know. Like Pretty in Pink. Yeah.

Lisa Cron 51:07
16 candles. Forget it.

Alex Ferrari 51:09
Oh my god. It's that I remember. Like, even then I was like, Dude, that that seems a little it was just it was it's it's a weird, like, Yeah, but and now they were pulling movies off like they pulled off when they pulled off Gone with the Wind, obviously, for obvious reasons. But there was they made a disclaimer on aliens on aliens because of Okay, what's her name isn't Marquez, what's her name? The the actress who played the Latina Marine, but she was but she's not Latina. She's She also played like, you know, an Irish, Irish peasant in Titanic. So. And they were like, they had to warn about that. I was like, Well, you know, at a certain point, like, I don't know, I don't want to stand on one side or the other or something like that. But it's getting to that place now that we're, we're going back and there has to be some social context. Because the things some things do not eat. I hate to say a Birth of a Nation does not age well.

Lisa Cron 52:10
Age. Well, oh, my God, Jesus Christ. You know? Well,

Alex Ferrari 52:15
it was it didn't age well when it came out. But but there's, I mean, remember, john, remember john wayne, you know, what was this famous line? A good Indian is a dead end. Like that's can't say things like that anymore?

Lisa Cron 52:29
And we never should have been? It is hard, though. I mean, I think that we'll have a reckoning going forward. Because I mean, I yes, it is really, really hard. Because I think part of it, part of it. I mean, think about it for one second. I mean, I mean, first of all, as we can see the world has changed in 200 years, massively. So that if this was if we didn't have film, and or social media or the internet, right, it was just even books, whatever was done or written before, would be pretty much forgotten. But because we have film and social media, is gonna pull up anything anybody said 30 years ago, and suddenly, here it is. It old, everything always stays current. And so it's hard. And I'll tell you, I had my own. When I wrote the first book, I wrote wired for story. And I wanted to give an example of, Okay, here's a story, here's going to show a word I would never use, again, theme, I don't believe in theme at all anymore. But theme and plot and I forget what the third thing was. And I wanted to find an example I could give that that I thought, okay, everybody's gonna know this, I can't pick something that I've read, but no one else has. And so I did research. And I picked it on with a wind. And so I talked about Gone with the Wind just solely about, you know, the plot, what's about etc. And about two or three pages. And I've gotten I got an email yesterday from someone saying, you need to pull that out, you know, you're promoting white supremacy, how can you do that? And it's like, I want to go I, if I could, if I pull the whole chapter, I'd actually because I would rewrite it. But what you don't know, it's, it's hard to say it. I'm stuttering right now. Yeah, I didn't think of that. It didn't occur to what

Alex Ferrari 54:17
it wasn't. But it wasn't something that was, you know, no, surely there was no, it wasn't culturally there. And it's,

Lisa Cron 54:25
but it's so hard, but it was, so it never occurred to me and going back to the

Alex Ferrari 54:30
Yeah, you know, hurt anybody. I mean, it's very,

Lisa Cron 54:34
unless you were black, and then it probably did. That's the point.

Alex Ferrari 54:37
Right? Exactly. And that's the problem that, that everyone's protesting and walking the streets about.

Lisa Cron 54:44
I mean, we're all you know, I'm just reading now how to be an anti racist. It's, there's, I mean, again, the same thing is true of the one that I happen to think is the last although we have been talking about in big ways in the past couple years, but the last acceptable bias Which is misogyny? Um, you know, I think I think that that that's,

Alex Ferrari 55:05
um, I had I had, um, Naomi McDougal Jones who wrote this amazing book. She's a female filmmaker, and writer and she wrote this amazing book, I forgot the name of the book cuz I haven't released the episode yet. But it's about how, how Hollywood is completely screwed over women. Basically, in the end, she talks about the entire history of Hollywood. And she lays out like, every female director, who's been who's won an Oscar or been nominated for an Oscar is either and I couldn't believe this is either married or was married to a powerful man, and or was a father was a sibling, a sibling, or child or a child of a powerful male. So we were just talking about Bryce Dallas Howard. Sophia Coppola. Oh, God, what's her name? Oh, God, Director Point Break. Zero Dark 30?

Lisa Cron 56:07
Oh, oh, I can't I can't get it.

Alex Ferrari 56:09
But she was she's, I can't believe I can't read Kathryn Bigelow. Thank you. Kathryn Bigelow was the ex of James Cameron. You know, and, you know, I heard I heard, you know, would have, she would have never been able to get a movie like Point Break off the ground without James Cameron as a co producer back in the late 80s, early 90s. You know, she was more than talented enough to do it. So it was fascinating to watch. And then she starts going into, which is so fascinating. And you start thinking about it, like, how many characters are on screen, a female characters who don't talk about men who don't talk about sex, who don't show themselves as sexual objects, like and you start dwindling down those things to the point where like, it's a it's like, 3% of females talking to other females about things that are other than men and sex.

Lisa Cron 56:57
The big tell rule? I think it's called. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 57:00
think she mentioned that. Yeah.

Lisa Cron 57:02
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I'll be honest with you, I think nothing to say here, I suppose. I literally stopped watching most movies, I won't watch a movie. If it's just about men, I just won't. It's like, I don't care that I don't want to see things from the male gaze, I don't want to see I just, I've got I've spent my entire life I'm filled to the brim with it. You know, it's just enough. So,

Alex Ferrari 57:26
you know, I I completely understand. I think that's why it's so important for writers and filmmakers, of different backgrounds of different ethnicities, of different sexes, to come out and tell their stories from their point of view. It's so so so important to have that, because it has been, you know, for lack of a better word has been white dominated white male dominated for the history of Hollywood. And it's not Hollywood that did that. That's just a reflection of society. Right?

Lisa Cron 57:56
Exactly. Yes, no, everything is just a reflection of what there is. That is the whole point, as we were saying before, to take it back to a granular level. Each of us reflects where we came from, and the culture from which we came in. That's our tribe. And we tend to think the problem is, we tend to think, well, that's the way the world is. And that's the way the world's always been without going, No, wait a minute, that's just the way my family is or my world is and then we reflect it back. So it makes total sense. Yeah, it's not Hollywood didn't get together and conspire on that level. That's the way the world was. And they were just presenting it as it was an acting as it was. And there's so many, let's see, one real interesting, just a quick little tidbit, that just goes back to just even technically how it is, wait, I'm gonna Mangle this because the one thing I sort of suck at is getting, like technical details exactly right. But I was listening to a podcast talking about the beginning of radio, like literally when they could first transmit anything in radio, and the pitch that they the bandwidth that they used, was what reflected the male voice. And the female voice, which had a different pitch came across very shrill, and that had a lot to it, it was purposeful, actually, and it had a lot to do with why the male voice once we could hear a male voice or any voice, you know, other than just somebody standing in front of you talking, you know, became the voice of reason and the voice that we that we pay attention to and listen to because we're wired, you know, we're wired to hear a voice and to feel like that voice is talking to us, even if it's talking to everybody. And you know, I mean, it's just it's just fascinating, so many different pieces that went into, you know, that that were put together to create this again, this reality that hopefully now, you know, we're breaking out of a little bit, you know, booked with me too and now with with with black lives matter.

Alex Ferrari 59:52
I mean, it's since you brought up Me too. I mean, I mean, I remember it's something that was a joke as far as like, oh, the casting couch. Right? Yeah, that was that was just a way it was in movies. Yeah, it was it was just a way of doing business that no one ever even thought twice about, like, you know, as I was coming up, you know, I'm a man, but I'm a Latino man. So I have a different perspective. But generally speaking, I heard those stories of the casting couch. I heard about those things. And it's just like, you know, every time I ever do a casting, I was always very, very careful. And always very courteous to everybody who walked in actors just get destroyed on these casting calls. Sometimes. It's horrible. The abuse that they take, not me to abuse, but just verbal abuse as well. But it was just part of the culture was ingrained systemic inside of Hollywood, until finally, the dam broke. Thank God.

Lisa Cron 1:00:53
Right. Well, that's exactly right. I mean, you need somebody as just blatantly awful as Harvey Weinstein to be the one that's gonna. I mean, I mean, there were so many others. I mean, Les Moonves, I mean, we could go, we I'm sure I'll delete this for now. But But it took the same way as a horrible way to put it, but the same way with George Floyd. You know, it just took this moment as Will Smith or who said, it's not like, it's only there's more, it's not like, there's more racism. It's at the more filming of it. You know, it hasn't got Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
it's not Yeah, it hasn't gotten worse. It's just this. There's more cameras, there's more eyeballs on it is.

Lisa Cron 1:01:28
I think that that's another words, when something breaks in a big way, that way, it's never that's the thing that that did it by itself. It's that that's the last straw. Right? There were 1000s and millions of other straws. That one's just the last one. Because in both cases, they're so incendiary that, you know, you can't you can't look away. And and I guess, you know, the George Floyd coming. In the midst of the pandemic,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:55
it was a perfect storm.

Lisa Cron 1:01:57
Right, right. I mean, it was a perfect storm. We're all enclosed. And I think also there's a there's a point as well, where we're all in quarantine, and and many, many of many Americans specifically have lost their jobs. And they, a lot of times, we think as a country that we're invincible. But the second that this happened, we realized that we weren't. And they're like, oh, wait a minute, and we're also a couple of paychecks away from being on the street. So that combination with those images of George Floyd, I think it was just this perfect storm of stuff going on in the world that just exploded. And I think you're right, because it put the pandemic, put everything on pause, all the like, we talk about all the different, all the different problems that come together to create something seamlessly like, you know, the way Hollywood was, okay, that's not didn't create it, it's a microcosm of it, and it was created, but all these other things with the radio and the way women, you know, just even their voices and the way women are dressed and the way, you know, politicians come in and away religions are all you know, definitely women are always second class citizens. And they were like, all of that came together. But before the pandemic, to deal with any one of them felt like, Yeah, but I got to do this. And there are so many bright you having things continually coming at us, but nobody could ever as a whole function on any of it. Now, everything's like on pause, and it's right there in front of us. And it's we're going Okay, wait a minute. We're seeing the effects of it, and what can we do about it? And I think if anything, possibly good comes out of this. It will come from that.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:39
Yeah, I agree. I mean, this conversation is definitely taking a turn. And I think it's actually this, this entire episode has been, I had a list of about 20 questions, I've asked two of them. And it's, it's, it's fine. Because I think, you know, we've kind of gone in sections of this interview, we've kind of gone inside the writers brain, and what and what makes characters and what motivates us. So it's a kind of like, it's almost a therapy session, I think. I think this episode is is semi therapy for everyone listening to it to kind of just kind of process their own their own world, but also maybe understand, and hopefully, I'll put a list of books in the show notes of neuro neuroscience books that I've read, that are amazing and really understand why we do what we do. But because writing and storytelling is just a reflection of life, and us trying to process what living is. If you understand more about who you are as a human being, you'll be able to write more engaging characters and be more emotional characters. Would you agree with that?

Lisa Cron 1:04:46
Yeah, I mean, I think that I think that the key thing when you're writing anything, you know, as you were saying before, we want to get a message out and the point of stories isn't just to feel emotion per se, but It's feeling emotion as you're making a particular point. And I think that's what makes storytellers so powerful, whether they're aware of it or not. Because, you know, we're affected by stories every minute of every day, whether we know it or not. And usually we don't stories change us, because stories when you're just talking about this movie, but when you're when you're watching the story, it's like a Vulcan mind meld between you and that protagonist. It's like they're your avatar within the story. And they go through this internal change that we're talking about, in other words, a change in in them seeing what makes people tick, you know, a point you're making about human nature, when they have that big aha moment toward the end, again, that your character characters are protagonists by all characters, but particularly the protagonists will have a small aha moment, every scene because in every scene, they're trying to move that agenda forward. And in every scene, they're going to learn something that's going to change it not just logistically what they have to do, but sort of internally as to why it matters, or why someone's doing what they're doing, perhaps forces them to reevaluate their plan or change it. So they have a small aha moment, a small change in everything. But when they get to that big one at the end, and now suddenly, they look back to the beginning. And they see things differently. Again, like we're saying before, story makes the unconscious conscious. And at the end, you're questioning a misbelief. And at the end, that misbelief comes up, and you realize it for what it is because misbeliefs, we don't think they're misbeliefs, we think they're true, and we were very happy to alert them at a very early age. But at the end of the story, you're realizing Wait a minute, you know, as the end of diehard he realizes how much he means to him, he realizes that you just have to be this macho guy, and you know, wherever you go, there you are, doesn't have to even necessarily stay in New York could have come out to LA with her. And when he realizes that that's what gives him the courage to then go. And, you know, because it's right before that scene where he's talking to Rachel Bill Johnson, I got a bad got a bad feeling, I don't think I'm going to make it you know, he goes, when all this is over, I want you to find my wife. Don't ask me how by then you'll know, tell her, you know, you heard me say I love you 1000 times, you never heard me say I'm sorry. And like, at that moment, we've watched him build to that. And that's what gives him again, the the courage to go forward. And to, you know, to kill all the bad guys, of course, because we're all so excited about that. But it's that change that we come for. And when you're writing, that's where your power is, how do you want to change how your viewer sees the world because you will, whether you want to or not, even if you're writing, you know, and even I don't mean to even bring an action movie, they're gonna come out change, they're gonna commit to seeing the world a little bit differently. And that's what gives you that's, that's why writers are the most powerful people on the planet.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
Do you agree with when with villains that have, like, I think all great villains have a particular perspective on on life in the sense that the mustache twisting villain is so one dimensional, and it doesn't, it doesn't work. But when you have a villain who has, he has a point of view, his point of view could be so off Park like, you know, perfect example. And I know you haven't seen the Avengers, but Thanos Thanos is, you know, this monstrous, you know, foe, but just so you know, his perspective is that he wants to when he was younger, there was a lot of famine. And, and he had a lot of issues on his planet, where he didn't have enough. So he came up with the idea of what Well, the only way we're going to survive, this plant is going to survive, is if half of us are killed off. And it's a very scientific way of looking at things just a very pragmatic, like, Look, if this planet can support all of us, so half of us have to go. And because he was ostracized for that, for obvious reasons, he went off, came back did it anyway. And his goal to get the gauntlet of power is to be able to snap his fingers and do it to the entire universe.

Lisa Cron 1:08:59
Yes. 100%.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
Yeah, that's his perspective. So it's a horrible perspective. Right. But he's actually trying to do

Lisa Cron 1:09:07
good in some way, even though it's horrible. Exactly, because everybody thinks they're doing something for the good. I mean, and also, also, if you just have a what, and you don't have a why, then the only way you can fight something is just like a zombie. Right? You can just kill it because there's nothing behind the zombie other than it's going to come at you. And either it's killer be killed. villains are not the least bit interesting if they're just snidely whiplash, you know, black and white at the end of the day, if you look even at Darth Vader, you know, I mean, his what he wanted at the end in the, you know, the second movie, I mean, he's standing up to the actual whoever can remember the main bad guy who

Alex Ferrari 1:09:50
rarely saw that would be the Emperor.

Lisa Cron 1:09:53
Right? The Emperor wants him to kill Luke Skywalker, and he's like, No, no, I can convince him not to and the reason he wants to convince him is because he's his son. Sure he can kind of bring him over to the dark side. That's why we care, you know, on that on that level. And also if there isn't some reason why, because we come for what I mean, again, biggest point is, we don't come for what someone does we come for why they do. It doesn't mean what they're doing, like you said is right. But we go, Oh, it's not just that they're an evil person who wants to kill people for the pleasure of killing people. There's, there's a reason behind it. That's really and also, if there's a reason behind it with some villains, it means they're capable of change. They might not be capable of it, but but you could see how you could change them. You could see maybe there is some hope. Because again, with a snidely whiplash, you know, just completely black, you know, I think he's like, completely bad guy. Who's got no, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:48
if you just think about the mustache, yeah,

Lisa Cron 1:10:49
yeah, exactly. There's, there's no way that you can, there's nothing there's, you've got no hope. It's just it just killed him. Or, you know, or that's the end of it. Way more interesting. If there's some more if there's some the other good part about that, is that if you give them some humanity, like what you were saying about Santos, you know, if for instance, we'd seen a moment where he, you know, then maybe we did I don't know you can do? You did, but you know when he's a kid, yep. And he and he wants to and he wholeheartedly believes it's good, and he gets slammed, you can have empathy for him. I mean, you're gonna go oh, my God, that poor kid he didn't mean to. He didn't know it was that and look, now he's being treated so horribly. I feel bad too. And well,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:31
yeah, so it's the whole Loki Thor scenario where Loki was the main villain of the first Avengers. And it's he's he just wants his father's love, because Thor took all that love and he was his favorite. So that's why he wants to bring pain to Thor. But yet he still loves Thor because he's his brother in some weird way. But he's always trying to, to kill him or screw him over. But yet, when when the fit hits the Shan he's there for him like, oh, wait a minute, I'm the only one that is allowed to kill my brother, no one else is allowed to kill me.

Lisa Cron 1:12:02
And here's one other thing that writers really think about, which is things only have meaning in life. And life isn't literature. If they cost something? Yes. And what you just outlined was the cost. I want to kill this guy, but he's my brother. I love him. What am I going to do? You know, I mean, when you think about the Godfather, it's exactly that coming in. You're the original. The first Godfather, there's Michael who's like, I want to leave the family business, you know, and meaning he wants to do something good. He's idealistic. It's not like he wants to, you know, leave the Corleone to start the sopranos. He wants to do something like that. But his loyalty to the family, but what's gone on with the family? What's he going to do? And that's the cost you're looking for, as I call it, I don't like using this word cuz it sounds the word being moral. Like the moral Crux, here's what I want. Here's what it's going to cost me. And that's with every character, this is what I want. This is what it's going to cost me. Can I get it? Can I give this thing up in order to get this other thing that I want and want to watch that struggle all the way through? Otherwise, it's flattened cardboard, they're just going to do what they're gonna do. And you don't need to watch anymore, because there's nothing that can surprise you. snidely whiplash is always going to do what he's going to do. So, you know, what difference does it make? You got nothing to learn there?

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
And yeah, if he's a bad guy who's just doing bad things, for the sake of being the bad guy, then who cares?

Lisa Cron 1:13:20
Anyway, there is no such thing as that. There's always a reason

Alex Ferrari 1:13:24
that you're absolutely right there. If you're a human being and you're doing bad, it's because something happened to you in, in your past that yeah, that is spawned this in one way, shape or form. You know,

Lisa Cron 1:13:37
even psychopaths, in the sense that they say there are a lot of people who are, I guess, you know, if you did a brain scan or whatever, have whatever have it makes you a psychopath, but not all of them turn into, you know, killers, something needs to happen that triggers that part of it.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:53
Right? They're not born, they're not born. You know, you're not there. psychopaths aren't born. They're made.

Lisa Cron 1:13:59
Right. Well, but but there is, yes. psychopathic behavior. I think on that level, yes. Right. But take a psychopath he is a is a you know, is a brain anomaly.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:09
Correct. But there's something that triggers that could I guess you could kind of it's, it's it's the degree of psychopath. So you could I love this conversation. This is fantastic. So if you only kill one person, or you can kill a million people, that's a different level of psychopath.

Lisa Cron 1:14:27
Very true, very true.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:30
This is horrible. Please forgive me everyone listening, but it was just an example. But this at least we can keep talking for at least another two hours, I'm sure. But I'm gonna I'm now going to ask you questions that I asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read? Oh,

Lisa Cron 1:14:49
tough one. No. I don't know that I could. I'm really bad at answering stuff off the top of my head. I don't think I can could answer because I would have to go back and think, what movies do I love? And then why? And then

Alex Ferrari 1:15:07
three films that just popped into your head.

Lisa Cron 1:15:09
Well, the movies that I love I mean in most of the movies that I love, I think are current off the top of my head. Okay, I love I love the apartment, the, you know, Jackson MacLaine movie, I think that is absolutely positively one of my favorite movies of all time. God and other movies, I'm trying to get movies, I love that I wouldn't really recommend writing the screenplays because they're just weird. movies on one level, um, a screenplay? I can't shoot. It's fine. It's fine. I'll be able to be a part of

Alex Ferrari 1:15:46
the apartment it is. Um, now what advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Lisa Cron 1:15:55
That's a really hard one. Cuz it's hard. I mean, those sugar coated Lisa? Yeah, it's so hard. I think just just read a lot, write a lot. You know, watch the movies that you like, really dive into I would say do not use the story structure books, like really do not, I think really dive into story. I think any kind of any kind of job you could get. If there's anything you can, at any to know people, because I think that it that, you know, this is a business where to, you know, in a big way, if you can get a job as a reader anywhere, if you can read for anybody, if you can offer to read for someone, I think that really, really helps, because then you'll be able to see what's out there. Um, yeah, I mean, I would think it was that and just, you know, just just just keep writing.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:48
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the in the industry or in life?

Lisa Cron 1:16:59
Lesson? I don't? I don't know, longest to learn? Hmm. I don't know. I mean, I don't know. Because it sounds like I mean, there are two different ways to answer that question. One would be, like some some personal thing that you've gone through so much experience, and you try and get it. And that might be for me, for me, it might be setting up boundaries. I'm really bad at that. It's not like I'm learning to actual set up time boundaries, and value, what I do. And that's a strange thing, when you do something like what I do, because what I do is I work with writers I spend, it's part of the reason why the you know, being locked down is my normal life, because I literally probably spend somewhere between four and seven hours a day, on the phone with writers. That's what I do, and I love it. But, but it could be it could be hard to go, Okay, you've sent me too much. You've sent me too much for what we've contracted for. So So putting up boundaries like that, or keeping the phone calls to an normal speed, which is my fault, not anybody else's. Because right, love to talk. So it's that both setting up boundaries with other people and, and setting them up for myself, which is way harder.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:16
Fair enough. Fair enough. And you also wrote a couple of great books story genius and wired for story, which I highly recommend for people to to pick up, I'll have those links in the show notes. Where else can people find you and if they want to get in contact with you and and work with you?

Lisa Cron 1:18:35
Yeah, you can find you want to work with me personally, my website which is wired for story.com. I also have several classes on Creative live, which is a an education platform. And I actually also have a class on lynda.com, which I think is now LinkedIn learning. But anyway, I'm all over the place.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:55
Lisa, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. I really it took the conversation has gone into directions I did not anticipate, which is always a great, great interview when I am able to not see what's coming. I actually like the unknown when I do interviews

Lisa Cron 1:19:12
Corners and no lions ate us

Alex Ferrari 1:19:14
No lions ate us we are all still here. Thank God. So Lisa, thank you so much for being on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe. So thank you.

Lisa Cron 1:19:22
My pleasure, take care.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:24
I want to thank Lisa for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe. Thank you so much Lisa, for your insight into the ever complicated and deep subject of story. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including links to her courses, and her books, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/077. And guys, if you haven't already and you are capable of doing so, I have set up a link to help people struggling with food insecurity due to the Coronavirus at indie film hustle.com forward slash help, and whatever you can give, can help a lot of people out there struggling right now because of this COVID-19 pandemic. And the link goes to feed America. So again once more time that link is indie film, hustle comm forward slash help. Thank you guys for listening. I hope you guys are doing very well hanging in there in this crazy upside down world that we're living in right now. And I hope you're writing a lot. So as always, keep on writing, no matter what, be safe, and I'll talk to you soon.

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BPS 076: Screenwriting a Multi-Million Dollar Movie Franchise with Aaron Mendelsohn

Today’s guest is a screenwriter, director, professor, and Secretary-Treasurer of the Writers Guild of America West Aaron Mendelsohn.  He is best known for co-creating and co-writing the successful AIR BUD family film franchise, which sired eleven sequels and generated millions of dollars over the years. If you have kids then you probably already have seen an Air Bud spin-off film.

Aaron has a number of projects in development including the drama pilot BAD MEDICINE with ITV America and the action-comedy ARMOR HERO with Alpha Pictures.  His romantic comedy LIKE CATS & DOGS aired recently on the Hallmark Channel.  He recently wrote the animated feature PRINCES for Warner Bros, the drama pilot THE ASSOCIATE for Sony, and the animated pilot HOODS for Cartoon Network.

Other produced projects include the perennial ABC Family holiday movie THE 12 DATES OF CHRISTMAS, the Lifetime TV movie CHANGE OF HEART, the Fox TV series KINDRED: THE EMBRACED, the kid’s TV pilot THE ADVENTURES OF TAXI DOG, the family feature THE THREE INVESTIGATORS: THE SECRET OF TERROR CASTLE, and the independent feature CHAPTER ZERO, which he also directed.  Aaron has also written film and TV projects for Fox, New Line, Showtime, Paramount, the Spike Network, New Regency, Hasbro Studios, Bob Yari, Lightstorm, and Arnold Kopelson.

Twenty years into a successful screenwriting career and he still loses his way in the thickets of story-breaking and script-writing. Aaron assembled The 11 Fundamental Questions: A Guide to a Better Screenplay to help guide his path, and they’ve been his road map ever since.

“This is a VERY smart way to deconstruct and demystify the job of screenwriting.”
– Billy Ray, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Captain Phillips”

Starting out as a personal story-breaking method and evolving into a masterclass that Aaron has taught around the world, THE 11 FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS is now an ebook (newly revised and expanded for Amazon/Kindle) that shares the secrets of his successful technique. Simple and intuitive, each question in the book is strategically designed to elicit key story points, challenge lazy writing, and stimulate ideas.

Wherever you are in the writing process, and whether you’re writing for film, television, new media, or books, asking yourself the 11 FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS is a great way to enhance your creative process and sell more projects.

This is a fun episode. Get ready to take some notes. Enjoy my conversation with Aaron Mendelsohn.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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

Alex Ferrari 2:02
I like to welcome the show Aaron Mendelsohn man, how you doing?

Aaron Mendelsohn 4:12
I'm good. How are you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 4:14
I'm good, man. I'm good. Just you know hanging in here in this this crazy, wacky world that we're living in?

Aaron Mendelsohn 4:20
Yeah, likewise, where are you? You're based

Alex Ferrari 4:23
I'm in L.A I'm in Burbank.

Aaron Mendelsohn 4:25
On Burbank. All right, so if I threw a rock really hard from city to city, I might, it might land in Toluca Lake,

Alex Ferrari 4:32
It might it might land in Toluca Lake and ripples might splash on to me. Yes. Exactly. Yeah, it is a crazy time. I can't even I've talked about it so much as far as the the the COVID thing, but you know, we're doing what we can and the industry is changing on a daily basis. Nobody knows where the hell anything is going.

Aaron Mendelsohn 4:53
Oh, whenever did by the way.

Alex Ferrari 4:55
This is obviously obviously, but now even more so like before, there was some sort Have some sort of guidance, like, you knew that on Friday there was going to be released a blockbuster movie in the summer, and it was going to generate X amount of dollars more unlikely we had that certainty. Yes, we don't have that now.

Aaron Mendelsohn 5:16
Now it's true. It is. But it makes it interesting. I think it it kind of it was good for the world and Hollywood to kind of have a reset have a little bit of a pause button. You know, it's interesting that the, the Black Lives Matter issue has really risen to the forefront during this time of reflection and reset, because, boy, I'm hearing a lot in the writers community. how, you know, we think we're this progressive, liberal, egalitarian community and new probably compared to a lot of others we are, but there's so much even systemic racism, and bias that happens in the writing community in the screenwriting community and television writing, that this has given us a opportunity to kind of reflect, yeah, reset and see how we can do things differently going forward. There's,

Alex Ferrari 6:11
there's, there's no question about it. Um, I mean, I mean, I growing up I remember watching, you know, I'm a Latino man, have been all my life. And, and I remember watching Looney Tunes, and watching Speedy Gonzales, and I'd be just like, and I never thinking twice about it, but like, as I got older, like, Whoa, that's pretty messed up. Yeah, it's fairly, like, Okay, all right. So look, it's it's, it's something that's in Britain, and I'm bred in this, but it's ingrained in the in the fabric and fortunately, and something hopefully, we'll be able to do. And we, as filmmakers, and writers have the power to really do some change because filmmaking, movies, television, storytelling is the most powerful medium to start that change, without questions. So we started off heavy, so we're gonna go a little lighter now. So how did you get started in the business?

Aaron Mendelsohn 7:16
I got started, I knew I was going to be a screenwriter since I was five years old living in Anchorage, Alaska. And I knew I was going to go to UCLA and I was going to be a screenwriter. Even when I was in kindergarten and Mr. And Mrs. McKinnon's class, obviously, I knew it. And I made it happen. I went to UCLA, I studied screenwriting at UCLA, and then emerging into Hollywood with a script under my arm that everyone passed on. Everyone's shot has died. It was it was a terrible script. So it's not surprising. And then I wrote another one and I wrote another one I got over this sort of illusion that you write one screenplay And the world's gonna be the path to your doorstep, it really was an iterative process. For me, and and my screenplays got better. But what was interesting is the thing that really broke through for me is that I wrote a script about my family. I wrote a script about how my dad came out of the closet, after 27 years of marriage, and how, you know, obviously, that threw something of a hand grenade into the family, I mean, ultimately a good one because he needed to be himself. But it was something of a disruptive event. So I wrote a movie about that in the early 90s. And everyone passed on, it

Alex Ferrari 8:35
wasn't the right time.

Aaron Mendelsohn 8:36
It was not the right time, they were just not doing it. And finally, lifetime, the lifetime network stepped up. And we made the movie with Jean smart playing my mom, and john Terry, who you may remember from last play, playing my dad. And it was something of a little groundbreaking film. And so that was sort of my, that was one of my first projects. And it really took kind of like stepping back and writing something that was kind of highly personal. That that broke me through.

Alex Ferrari 9:12
So it's the opposite of everything that everyone tells you. It's not to write something personal. Like don't get yet don't write a movie about your family that's never going to sell is basically the the advice I've heard 1000 times.

Aaron Mendelsohn 9:24
I know it depends on the family. True. Families are interesting. You know, I have my aunt Dina, let me tell you her stories. No. And Tina's not interesting. You know, your dad coming out of the closet and and marriage, you know, kind of breaking up because of it. That's a little more interesting, although even now, that's passe.

Alex Ferrari 9:47
Yeah, well, I mean, Grace and Frankie alone. I mean, they built the series based on that concept. That's right. And they took the whole thing and added a bunch of a bunch of spice to it. If you as they say, Yeah, but it and that's another thing really interesting to talk about is timing. Because sometimes they're the certain script or certain movies, certain filmmaker all everything has to come together kind of like in this vortex and hit all at the same time for certain projects to go. We're five years earlier 10 years earlier, it doesn't happen as like the script like you were walking around with a script that you remember. I remember what Unforgiven was bouncing around Hollywood for like, 2030 your bodyguard was bouncing around Hollywood for like, 30 years.

Aaron Mendelsohn 10:33
Yeah, well, they're gonna make westerns until finally, you know, Clint Eastwood stepped up and said, you know, hey, I'm the western guy. Let's let's make this Western bodyguard, you know, they had to get Whitney Houston, you know, a big kind of iconic celebrity to do it. So yeah, a lot of it's timing, luck. It's just courage. You know, someone, a producer, a studio has the balls to say, yeah, I'll take a chance with this. It's not it's not a superhero film. It's, you know, a strange social commentary with a black lead in a white liberal neighborhood. And it's a horror film. I'll take a chance on that. And, and then they're surprised when people are like, God, I've really wanted to see that. I've never seen that before. But there's just not a lot of courage in this town. To know that it's, you know, they wanted to have some precedent.

Alex Ferrari 11:28
But isn't, but I mean, even it's, I've said this before, in the show, man, this whole town is run on fear. I mean, the entire town is run on fear, and, and, and mitigating a loss, not gain, taking risks for gains, but mitigating loss. Because if you lose, you lose your job, you lose your reputation. And it's like one, it's like before, I remember back in the even in the 80s, in the 90s, where studios would take multiple swings at the Bat every year with their films, they do 3040 movies that take some risky stuff, they do some study stuff. But now it's like, every single one has to be a homerun or people get fired. Studios might even go down depending on the size of the budget.

Aaron Mendelsohn 12:09
Yeah, it's a shame. It's sort of a Reggie Jackson approach. You know, it's all homeruns are nothing like you said there has to be those. They were happy to have singles and doubles with these kind of lower budgeted dramas, the 70s were filled with film, you know that we're, you know, the conversation and you know, these great blow up and these great taxi driver, taxi driver. I mean, imagine it had you have to turn taxi driver into a superhero or supervillain movie, in order to get it made today and

Alex Ferrari 12:44
what they did they did the job.

Aaron Mendelsohn 12:47
That's the only way they'll do it. If we could put the Joker in it, then maybe we'll give you 20 million bucks to make this film.

Alex Ferrari 12:54
How much was the Joker make? It wasn't that

Aaron Mendelsohn 12:56
Joker was probably 80 or 90.

Alex Ferrari 12:58
Yeah, but that's and that's still pretty low in it. Cuz it's not a it's a character piece. It's not a special effects movie. This

Aaron Mendelsohn 13:04
is the King of Comedy, but with a guy with makeup on his face. And it's funny because Robert De Niro and Scorsese was attached as a producer at one point. So

Alex Ferrari 13:12
it's just it just comes full circle.

Aaron Mendelsohn 13:14
See, you could see what's his name Todd. Who did? He probably said, Okay, guys, I know it seems like an art film. But the reality is this film has been made before and it did well is can you comedy taxi drivers. So you know, and we add the superhero thing. So it's a hit.

Alex Ferrari 13:32
If I get some money, and they made a lot of money with that film.

Aaron Mendelsohn 13:36
A shift out of money was a trick question the other day that said the Joker was the largest the highest grossing R rated film in history worldwide.

Alex Ferrari 13:43
It did it finally did it break that? Indeed, yeah, that's and that says something to Hollywood that we want this kind of storytelling, we want this kind of story to our our are not pG 13 are tough, tough, tough themes. I mean, that's a disturbing Joker's a disturbing film.

Aaron Mendelsohn 14:05
Yeah, it is.

Alex Ferrari 14:05
I mean, it's a disturbing film, and his performance is so just really busy. And I knew this is going to happen here and I knew this was gonna happen. We're just gonna keep going. We digress. Um, so with all of this, we were talking about great Cinema of the past. You have to tell me a little bit about your time at the Criterion Collection sir.

Aaron Mendelsohn 14:25
Criterion Collection was a dream job. So when I was at UCLA, I saw I answered an ad to go work for a company called the voyage.

Alex Ferrari 14:34
composure forge a company major boy

Aaron Mendelsohn 14:38
wager company got I forgot. And they were doing the early days of the Criterion Collection in these movies on LaserDisc they had just come out with Citizen Kane and and did their first few films on LaserDisc and C A, B, or C lb. lb. C. So

Alex Ferrari 14:53
now you see you're talking a completely different language than most people listening. I understood everything you said. So I know What a CSV is, I know what a CSV is. And I also know what a LaserDisc is. So for the kids listening a LaserDisc is imagine a DVD, but the size of a record. And then you would have to flip it. You have to flip it

Aaron Mendelsohn 15:16
as a cat's ass

Alex Ferrari 15:18
is in the shot.

Aaron Mendelsohn 15:20
I'll just do this.

Alex Ferrari 15:24
I don't have the rights to his ass. So if we can move him along, that'd be great.

Aaron Mendelsohn 15:29
I think he popped by the way. He's a punk punk.

Alex Ferrari 15:33
So a laser This is imagine a DVD that's a much bigger, but then the quality is still standard definition. So it's very still, but better than VHS. Bye. Bye, bye miles. But you would have to midway through the movie, get up and flip it. Flip it like a pancake, and then put it back in and continue watching it. Now that on CLV. is now we're doing a LaserDisc tutorial. On CLV you would have lesser quality but more time on the side of the disc. I don't remember what the timing was. I know, on ca beats

Aaron Mendelsohn 16:09
per side.

Alex Ferrari 16:11
I thought I thought ca v was half hour per site. I think you might

Aaron Mendelsohn 16:13
have been an hour out CLB was one hour and ca B also gave you the opportunity to interact more you could you could do more interaction with the CA v LaserDisc. And so the Criterion Collection as you may remember, would always have special edition. You know, a supplemental material at the end of the LaserDisc. So you're not the Civ version of of a 2001 A Space Odyssey which I produced. We had a whole side filled with extra goodies straight from Stanley Kubrick's estate that we added on to the to the end of the film so you can take a real deep dive into the the library materials went into it. Did you speak to Mr. Cooper cuddle?

Alex Ferrari 16:59
Are you in touch contact with

Aaron Mendelsohn 17:01
our my boss did. He was you know he never left England, Brett sent to a new cut though he sent us like a two inch. He did a new transfer for the crew. He was a big fan of the Criterion Collection. So we did a new transfer of his film and fixed a couple of things. And so we got a really pristine, beautiful print on two inch to strike the sounds. I'm not sure that means but

Alex Ferrari 17:30
it was a two inch tape. It was like a mastering tape back in the day. It was in two inches, like you know, pro pro you're at

Aaron Mendelsohn 17:38
now it's probably like 80 inches. But now it's all digital but but the greatest pleasure I had was that I got to produce a special edition laser disruptive graduate which is my favorite film it's and so much fun. We got a second audio track from this UCLA Professor Howard I can't remember his name. But he did this amazing second I Oh, he new film like the back of his hand.

Alex Ferrari 18:04
I got it. I was telling you off off air that the graduate is one of my favorite LaserDisc because when I was in high school, when I saw it, I was collecting criterions back in the day. And it was the first kind of experience to like film theory like real, real film theory. And I mean, he analyzed every frickin frame of that it was just magical to listen. And for people listen, for people that are listening, you have to understand that they think criterion was the one that came up with the concept of director commentary. I don't think it was a director commentary prior to that.

Aaron Mendelsohn 18:43
There may have been one or two special editions here or there. But it really became our whole mudiay. And and the supplemental materials and it really became Criterion Collection became the, you know, kind of dependent while the senate fireplace kind of files. Exactly. And I think they still, you know, they have a criterion channel, they still come out DVDs. So it's but that was really you know, for someone who was in film school at UCLA at the time, it was a dream job. And it taught me a lot about storytelling.

Alex Ferrari 19:15
So yeah, and we could talk about criterion for about another hour, but we will we shall move on. And now I'm going to pitch you a movie. It's about a dog who plays basketball for a high school as I think high school team. Would that pitch work?

Aaron Mendelsohn 19:35
No. That's a terrible idea.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
It's a horrible, horrible, absurd

Aaron Mendelsohn 19:42
it's absurd, silly idea. And by the way, we did pitch it like that we we pitched Air Bud and everyone said That's ridiculous. So we ended up my old writing partner Paul Thomas. He and I SPECT the script for Air Bud and We didn't just, you know, think of this, that that ridiculous idea and then write it and then go find a dog. We met the dog first. Obviously, there, you know, there was a we were with the Broadway Danny Rose of agents. Back then he represented us he represented dogs he represented, you know, one legged bearded ladies got it fair enough.

Alex Ferrari 20:25
So hot, like the operacional got it,

Aaron Mendelsohn 20:27
upper echelon of agents. And so we came in the office one day and and there was buddy, sitting there, and our agents like guide guide, you gotta check out this dog. This dog's remarkable. He's obsessed with balls. We're like, Ah, that doesn't sound like no, no, you gotta. And he started throwing balls at this dog. And, you know, and the dog would, you know, bounce them back to us and catch baseballs and hockey pucks. And he's like, you got to write a movie for this dog. He's David Letterman's favorite, stupid pet trick. And we're like, okay, it's not exactly what we envisioned for ourselves. When we got out of film, school. Writing, we're gonna write taxi driver and stuff.

Alex Ferrari 21:09
And we all are

Aaron Mendelsohn 21:10
obviously, gay, my gay father story. By we saw that this was a pretty remarkable dog when we realized, okay, it's a pretty stupid pet trick really, that this dog can do. We'd be doing halftime shows and stuff like that. But we realized that really, at the core, if we wrote a movie, that's a really a love story between a boy and a dog. And that the reason that the dog plays basketball, is because he realizes the boy loves basketball. And the boy is lonely, he just moved to this new town. While he sees like playing basketball with this boy would actually, you know, awaken this boy and enliven him and and empower him. And then we knew we knew when we had that little post it note of, of kind of what I call the the central idea, which is everything that dog does, he does for the boy, once we knew we had that emotional through line. That Foundation, we knew that we could prop up this move we could build a movie on on this kind of silly gimmick. And, and the movie just kind of flowed from us at that point. And we we wrote it. And but then all the studios passed on the script. They're like, this is ridiculous. You know, dog doesn't play basketball. We're like, well, we have one that does. They cannot be bothered. Yeah, right. Really, you know, talking about courage. This little Canadian production company, Keystone productions had made one or two, like erotic thrillers at the time. skinemax gonna make style match films. They saw the they saw the promise in this film.

Alex Ferrari 22:55
This should be this should be a script on how

Aaron Mendelsohn 23:00
the making of the start off with softcore porn. Yeah, I wouldn't even tell you about the strip club. They took me to when they were shooting this film, because this is a family,

Alex Ferrari 23:11
obviously, obviously, obviously.

Aaron Mendelsohn 23:13
So I resisted existed, you know. So we wrote the Dave love the script. They optioned it. And then they brought on Charlie Martin Smith to direct Charlie Martin Smith, you may remember was an actor in American Graffiti and a lot of other films never cried wolf. He was kind of that Toad toady character.

Alex Ferrari 23:34
Yeah, I remember him.

Aaron Mendelsohn 23:36
So he worked with Carol Ballard. On never cry wolf. Carol Ballard did the Black Stallion. Yes, his most beautiful moving films ever, and a boy in a horse. And so Charlie brought that kind of ethos to the film, kind of a carol Ballard s gentle moving, not a ton of dialogue. I mean, he really kind of like, in our rewrite encouraged us to really kind of make it more moving and more emotional and quiet and more like Old Yeller, and all these films. And so I think that he did a beautiful job of conducting this film directing this film, and making something that you know, we thought was just as kind of little a little silly film, right? And it's kind of become, it's become a thing.

Alex Ferrari 24:25
Oh, no, it's, I mean, I remember when Air Bud came out, and I was like, like anybody else who saw the poster? It's this ridiculous, by the way. Yeah, they're right. Yeah, they're right there. They're behind you. It's really it's a dog play basketball, like double HUBZone play basketball, but also for everyone listening while Disney picked it up to distribute it

Aaron Mendelsohn 24:48
yourself from the grave came out said to them and but we actually we were at AFM in 97 or whatever. After we shot the film. The film was even finished. There was a, a promo reel at Keystone made. And there was a bidding war over the film just based on the promo reel, because they saw the dog was actually doing this and that ends a good film.

Alex Ferrari 25:13
And they bought it so and so Disney bought it at a like hit Disney heard about it at AFM and there's like, No, no, no, we need I mean, it is a Disney film, if you're gonna do it, that's that's a that's a good route to go back then even Disney would never release that a million years today. But again, it's about timing. Right? It's about that Disney plus would release it. But Disney's twice.

Aaron Mendelsohn 25:35
Yeah, it's too small. I mean, it's a $4 million film, it looks like a little tiny character. It sort of has a as a very low budget of vibe to it. But you but they recognize the sweetness of it. They also recognize there was a 10 film franchise in this thing. And they're like, a minute.

Alex Ferrari 25:55
Well, I mean, so you got Air Bud going. So now it gets released. And it does it does fairly well. Yeah, it does. How much it didn't Did you remember how much it made?

Aaron Mendelsohn 26:05
I think it you know, it made like 30 million at the box office, which is not a ton but for $4 million dollar film was great hearing. But on.

Alex Ferrari 26:14
But video It must have just sold

Aaron Mendelsohn 26:18
hundreds of like on DVD outs my house in Studio City I bought from the first residual check I got from the release of the bill.

Alex Ferrari 26:28
Oh, my God. Yeah. Yeah. And I can only imagine so. So how did the town treat you as a screenwriter? Because you're the Air Bud guy now like air bug guy can't he can't write taxi driver? That's just not it? Yeah, right. Taxi Driver. So how did the town treat you what doors opened up, because I always love when I have someone on the show who's had not only success, but phenomenal success in a in a small in a way in an area of our business. You know, I'm always fascinated to see how that took you to the next place or what opportunities presented itself or how the town treat you. Because a lot of times there's this, this kind of myth of like, Oh, they just must have just pulled up the truck and just dumped money on him. And he could do whatever he wants. I'm like, man, something.

Aaron Mendelsohn 27:15
It's an interesting line, you know, writing a film that was very specific like that, and very, very genre sub genre like that. It did open up some opportunities. My partner and I sold a couple of pitches. After that we were hired on a couple of things. They're always family films, you know, so we definitely got pigeon holed family comedy, that kind of thing. But we also, you know, because Air Bud was so so narrow that it wasn't like we were suddenly on the a list. It was very small bucket. However, what's happened since is that ever since is that whenever we would try to or I we broke up a couple years later, and I went off on my own. Whenever I tried to do something, which is really my forte, which is character driven drama. They're like they look at 13 films on my you know, I get credit on all the Air Bud movies, I only wrote the first two. But they see this huge IMDB page filled with Air Bud credits, and then a couple of other family films that I've done. And they don't believe that I can do drama. Right. So I've had to try to reinvent myself by specking Drama scripts drama pilots to really to show and prove that I'm more than just kind of a one. A one trick dog.

Alex Ferrari 28:36
As like you said that that franchise went on to spawn with 12 other movies don't sequels? I think, because my daughters have seen all of them. I'm sure. It's the space buddies, the spooky buddies, the treasure buddies, the and I can imagine, I can imagine they're just sitting around because I know you don't have anything to do with these. So but I'm sure there's some executive somewhere sitting around like Alright, what can we do? It's got a bunch of puppies and put them on a treasure hunt. Oh, then now they're in a haunted house. Oh, now

Aaron Mendelsohn 29:07
let's put them in space. Yeah, sure.

Alex Ferrari 29:09
Like a superhero. There was a superhero one too. I mean, they all got superpowers as dogs like it. And they talk now where Air Bud didn't talk. No other dogs.

Aaron Mendelsohn 29:20
It's become something of a twisted. There. There are a lot of negative words I can say. But at the same time. They you know, they would send us a check every year when they would make these things so I can't complain. You know, we originally envisioned maybe three buddy films because the original dog, the trilogy, basketball trilogy, he could play basketball, which was remarkable. He could play football, which became the second film because he could catch these huge spirals. He also could play soccer. So we envisioned three maybe four because of hockey and you know, volleyball. I

Alex Ferrari 29:55
mean, maybe Yeah,

Aaron Mendelsohn 29:56
well they did. I think they ended up doing volleyball. You know, I mean, we I envisioned at least it's sort of staying within sports and we wanted to stay real, where it really felt like this was a dog and a human world. And, you know, but then eventually, the sports movie started running out of steam and the Keystone people came up with the quite brilliant idea to base it on the puppies. And those puppy videos made a fortune. They made a fortune they just kept they make them for like, you know, three or $4 million every year. And they would sell like hotcakes. And because kids love they're talking puppies.

Alex Ferrari 30:32
I mean, it's it's talking puppies. I mean, it's not a it's it's not hard. Like, I always tell people like if you want to write you want to make a successful movie, have a dog save Christmas, like that's, yeah, you got a dog saving Christmas. You're good.

Aaron Mendelsohn 30:48
When you should say that.

Alex Ferrari 30:50
Because my next film, sir, is about talking puppies who save Christmas. And I think that's already been done.

Aaron Mendelsohn 30:55
They're fully grown dogs. But they do say Christmas. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 31:00
So what I'm hearing from you is that you're very upset that these This company has not taken the true essence of what you had in mind the seriousness of what art is the art of the basketball, playing dog in the original film and have bastardized it for money.

Aaron Mendelsohn 31:18
For money, of all things. I mean, we saw Hollywood by business, we went into the earbud business for the art of it for the artistry. And, you know, we wanted to make the Joker of of dog

Alex Ferrari 31:34
of basketball playing dog movies. Alright. And

Aaron Mendelsohn 31:36
he went off to make the Green Lantern. You know,

Alex Ferrari 31:39
I mean, the the horror, sir, the horror. And I'm assuming that you're so again, you're so upset about this, that every time they send you that residual check, you just rip it up.

Aaron Mendelsohn 31:49
I just give it to charity. Give it to dog rescue. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 31:54
Fair enough. Fair enough. So it's very interesting, very interesting. The whole Air Bud saga

Aaron Mendelsohn 32:01
in its you know, you mentioned the I I teach. I teach a couple of classes at Loyola Marymount, I've been teaching there for a few years and a big conversation we always have is do you brand yourself as a certain kind of writer? Or do you follow your Muse because you may want to write a whole bunch of different things. And it really is a dilemma. Because if you do brand yourself, you actually can be at the top of or you can be on the lists, as you know, like Zack Penn, very early on branded himself as a great action writer, action adventure kind of writer. And he's formulated a tremendous successful career out of this, you look at Jordan Peele and these other guys that are, you know, are kind of sticking in their lane in terms of the kind of things they write and they have a lot of success. But as writers, we often you know, we want to write different things. But then the problem is then the town doesn't know what kind of writer you are. So here I am the earbud guy, they're like, Oh, we bought a dog I get approached with every dog movie Lassie, you know, Rin Tin, tin, every dog movie, or TV show comes my way, which is great. However, I'm really interested in writing, you know, more like the taxi driver. I'm really interested in true stories. So it's, it is hard. It's a bit of a dilemma. I almost feel like, because I did fall on my muse into independent film. Shortly after I did Air Bud. I went off to Florida and shot of our rated independent character drama. And it did nothing for my career. It set me back. It's a matter of fact, right? Because I came back and they're like, wait, aren't you the Arab guy? What is this?

Alex Ferrari 33:48
Well, this is very interesting conversation because the town in general, they need to put you in a box that they can't comprehend someone who's multifaceted that could do multiple kinds of storytelling. I mean, we all don't have the privilege of of Tarantino's career, who jumps genre and does whatever the hell he wants. But that's a that's an anomaly. He's an anomaly in the writing space. Sorkin even Sorkin stays kind of in his lane?

Aaron Mendelsohn 34:14
Yeah. Well, even you know, Tarantino stylistically, the style of writing his films is kind of the same. You could say the same thing about Shane Black, Shane Black or a Wes Anderson. You know, a lot of these guys they do move around into different genres, but the style is the same. But this town does want to put you in a box, then that's so so the question is do you like like your students saying,

Alex Ferrari 34:42
Do you brand yourself because like, when you were saying you like I got niched, down to this little bucket. I but when you were saying that in my mind, I'm like, Yeah, but you were at the top of that bucket. Middle, middle button. No, but the point is like every dog movie in the dog, dog family little space, which is like a niche of a niche of a niche of a niche. You're the top dog, oh guy had to say it Oh, so bad. But you're but you, but you're, you know, you're getting those phone calls. So as a working writer, it is it is a good thing to kind of niche yourself down and create this kind of brand for yourself. But as a creator, you might want to go out somewhere and do other things. Has there ever been in in Hollywood? I know there has to have been, but there's been like a, you know, let's say you know that the Air Bud guy, which is you, decides to write taxi driver, but sends it out under a pseudonym. And then it gets a whole lot of heat. And then who is this? Who is this writer, and then your agents like nice. He's like very Charlie Kaufman style you He doesn't even want to talk to anybody. And they're like, and that just builds up the hype even more to the point where they're spending millions of dollars. But who's the guy? I'm like, I can't tell you. I can't tell you. He's my client. client privilege. I can't Can you imagine you should do that?

Aaron Mendelsohn 36:01
I'm saying that's a brilliant idea. I should have done that. I should have done that. Yeah, I still can. That's right.

Alex Ferrari 36:09
Absolutely could because by the time that they've already sent you the checkout Oh, here we're gonna give this guy $2 million. For this this script. We need to know who he is. And like after the check clears, we'll tell you who he

Aaron Mendelsohn 36:21
review it

Alex Ferrari 36:22
will reveal. So imagine if they've got you've got Shawshank Redemption in their hands that they just bought. And they're like, well, who wrote is like what's the airbag guy? What? The reveal

Aaron Mendelsohn 36:34
blood draining from their faces. What have we done?

Alex Ferrari 36:39
It was like when Peter Jackson got Where? What's this guy that I use when I used to run on new new line. He hired Peter Jackson off the pitch for the Lord of the Rings films. And Peter had done The Frighteners and a couple other films. Suddenly Creek and heavenly which was a fantastic film Heavenly Creatures and and and Frighteners, which is also great. But look, he's not Cameron. I mean, he didn't have a snuff. Spielberg didn't have a history of like, massive films. And then they saw one of his first films, I forgot the name of it, but it's like this really bad. I think it's called Bad, something bad. It's literally called something bad, or like, the word and then Bad, bad, bad taste. I think it's called bad taste. And it's like this. corpsman style heads exploding horror, comedy ish thing, like really bad. And then they said, Oh my god, we've just given this guy $200 million dollars. Like, what are we doing?

Aaron Mendelsohn 37:44
Well, and that's a shame because that was early on in his career. Right. It was a certain type of film. Yeah, they, you know, he proven himself since and but yet,

Alex Ferrari 37:53
they they still scared. They were still scared. Fear here. Like you said, fear, fear, fear fear. So let's talk about your book. You have a book called the 11. fundament? Well, first of all, it's it's called the 11. fundamental

Aaron Mendelsohn 38:08
questions, questions, questions, a guide to a better screenplay. Right? So

Alex Ferrari 38:13
what, um, so let's talk about that. What are these questions, and you have to give you the whole kit and caboodle away now,

Aaron Mendelsohn 38:19
but you have to buy the book,

Alex Ferrari 38:21
obviously, but let's talk about a couple of questions.

Aaron Mendelsohn 38:24
Well, first, you know, the, the inspiration for the book, I've, I've had a story breaking technique for probably 15 years now. Where I would ask myself, a series of questions that were meant is kind of like a stress test, to test the story, the storytelling, and, and then I started teaching that technique in seminars. And then people started saying you should you should put it into a book. And so finally, I wrote a book, it was actually 10 questions, initially, and then Billy Ray, who, who I sat on the board of directors of the Writers Guild with for many years is a fellow Bruin, like me. He suggested in 11th question, which became question number three. And so I added that because you know, when Billy Ray suggests things, you just you

Alex Ferrari 39:21
I'm telling you 10 fundamental questions doesn't work as well as 11. There are actual there is science behind the number 11. The number seven and the number nine, on on the psychology of like, if you if you ever looking you'll never see a top four. List.

Aaron Mendelsohn 39:39
Yeah, never.

Alex Ferrari 39:40
You'll never see a top four, you'll see a top five, you'll see a top 10 and maybe a top three, maybe, but never like a top six or eight. But you will see a top but you will see a top seven every once in a while. Yeah, what are the seven best or something like that? So there's something to do. would not like if you said 12 fundamental questions, doesn't it doesn't ring. Oh, isn't

Aaron Mendelsohn 40:05
it? It's weird, right? It's weird. And 11 I get to say that my book goes to 11

Alex Ferrari 40:12
are all for all those Spinal Tap fans out there?

Aaron Mendelsohn 40:17
You know, it's funny as another digression speaking of those numbers, one of the things I did at the Writers Guild was start the 101 best screenplays greatest screenplays list. That was a project of mine. And we got the, you know, the membership of the Writers Guild west and east to vote on it. And we decided it should be 100. But really, no, it's still 100. Why? Because that's kind of interesting. It's like what just missed? Well, let's add that to the list. But what? So interestingly, when we did the 101 funniest screenplays list, and had it voted on, you know, we have had the votes come in from you know, our 10,000 members. I swear to god number 11. On the funniest screenplays list was no,

Alex Ferrari 41:01
no, no,

Aaron Mendelsohn 41:03
we did not make it happened. It landed on number 11. It was so perfect. And everyone thought, Oh, this is rigged. You rigged it like no, it was number 11 I swear to God. And you know, the

Alex Ferrari 41:14
funny thing is with that movie, I saw the other day that I saw, it was flying by my feet or I saw Rob Reiner. Come on. He's like, Yeah, when the movie first came out, people were like, why did you make this movie about this horrible band? Like this is Cisco like, these guys are horrible. Like they truly thought it was a documentary. Like they had no understanding that it was a mockumentary. That's the success. You've like Blair Witch like it, you you hit it, you've hit you've hit exactly the the bullseye of that.

Aaron Mendelsohn 41:42
The dog show people are like, you know, I thought you were funny. You were doing a very straight documentary on dogs show people.

Alex Ferrari 41:51
Exactly. No. So. So let's take the top three, the top three questions you would like to discuss in out of your 11? What would be?

Aaron Mendelsohn 42:00
Well, the first question is seems like the easiest and most obvious, but it's actually really important. The first question is, what is my story about? And what's interesting about that one, is it it forces the writer to distill their story into I have it broken down into one sentence, and then a four sentence log line. And you'd be surprised at how hard it is for us. We writers we, for we us writers, to often distill our stories into a simple into like a simple one sentence log line that tells the story and that often tells us that our story is too complicated or it's unformed. So like I have an example here of what I think is a really good one sentence log line. You'll you'll figure out the movie here real quick. Hold on. Let me find it.

a good hearted but insecure king who suffers from a debilitating stutter? It's worse to work with an eccentric speech therapist to deliver the speech that will save his kingdom

Alex Ferrari 43:19
print. It's clear as day that's a wonderful logline for obviously, that's air but to actually think it was air but to the electric air but to the Electric Boogaloo.

Aaron Mendelsohn 43:30
What's good about that logline is not only describes the central character, his best his best attribute as well as his fatal flaw, which by the way is not his stutter, but is actually his insecurity. The his stutter is an antagonistic force, we get the context, he's a king, and is forced to work with an eccentric speech therapist that tells us really the whole spine of the film, the whole second act of the film is him having to work with an eccentric speech therapist, we know there's conflict there because he's eccentric. And this king is insecure to deliver the speech that will save his kingdom is the third act climax of the film. It's also the stakes of the film. So all of those really, key story elements are baked into that one sentence. And if you can't do that, with your film, you may have a film or a story that's overly complicated. So I always start there. I do a one sentence log line, and then I'll do a four sentence log line.

Alex Ferrari 44:31
Yeah, and that's one thing I found even when I did my writing, and I've in all the scripts of stuff of groups that I've read over the years is that sometimes writers, they the stories, they think they're so cool, and they're so complex, that it's not about being the most complex script. It's about being the simplest getting the message across because you have 90 minutes you have 90 pages to tell. You've got this much to do. That's right. And that's it. And

Aaron Mendelsohn 45:02
you can have a really complicated story. But there has to be going back to Billy Ray, he likes to say, what is the simple emotional journey? What is the simple, which is goes to your point? It can't be the basic story can be an emotional journey, what's the emotional element that's going to really hook your audience? You notice, even in some of the best action films, there's always this emotional undercurrent of family. It's about brothers. It's a mother, daughter of you know, or father daughter story of my cats knocking my computer on. There's always some kind of, you know, it's a family, like, you know, in the Fast and Furious movies, there's always an emotional story that winds through what could be the biggest twist is Mission Impossible movie ever. So what is the simple emotional journey is another good way of sort of summing up question number one, which is, what is your story about? So that's an important one, I would say. Question four, which is kind of two questions is very important. I'm just looking at it here to get it right. Who is the central character? And what is their conscious and unconscious desire? So obviously, who is the central character? It's good to really kind of hone in on is this a, you know, who's who's the one who is really the hero of the story that that has the biggest art? Or is it a two hander? Or is it not humble, but more importantly, what is their unconscious, their conscious and unconscious desire. And this is something after studying many, many films, that that really kind of formulated in my mind, invariably, your character, your heroes, sets out with a want a conscious desire, I want this, I need this money, because I'm broken, they're gonna break my legs, if I don't pay off the debt, or I'm in love with this girl, or, you know, they want something, their conscious desire, they go on a journey to get it, they have a flaw that's inhibiting them from a fatal flaw, which is another question that's inhibiting them from being able to get to it. You know, they're fearful, they're insecure, they're greedy, they're whatever they are, or they're even too Noble. However, during the course of the film, they often start to see that there's something else that they really want an unconscious desire. And so then you get that tension between what they thought they wanted, and what they discovered that they really want. So if like in the matrix, if Neo, where he really wants at the beginning of the film is just find out the truth about the matrix. Find out the truth about the matrix. But he never imagined in a million years that he would have anything to do with his unconscious desire, which is to be the one to acknowledge that he's the one. And you know, and bring down the matrix. He is so far from that at the beginning of the film. He just wants to know the truth. He's a cog. And his fatal flaw is his belief that all he is, is really a cog in the machine that he is too weak of a human to be the one. And so are you low point of the film, which is when he says to the, the Oracle, I am not the one because he's given into his fatal flaw.

Alex Ferrari 48:28
Right now. I want to I want to take a character and put this on to the test a character we all know. And I'd love you to analyze Rocky. So, okay, so Rocky, we all have seen Rocky, it's one of the most enduring characters of all time as the 150 movies. He's catching up to Air Bud in the amount of sequels. But Stallone is getting up there. So I don't know how many more of these we can.

Aaron Mendelsohn 48:56
Well, yeah, he's had puppies and Apollo Creed had puppies. Right? Exactly. Oh, it's kind of the same. They've stole our thunder.

Alex Ferrari 49:06
Oh, sure. That's exactly what's the load thought when he was making the next ones. Alright, so Rocky, so what is his his external goal? And what's his subconscious goal? Yeah. So

Aaron Mendelsohn 49:17
there are some movies where you have a noble character, a character who does have a noble conscious desire, but it's an impossible journey. So I always say either you have a character who is flawed and they have kind of this conscious desire, which is a selfish desire. But then along the way, they kind of fix themselves and find a selfless desire that that we as an audience want them to attain. However, there are movies like Rocky, where you have a character who does have a noble conscious desire, he wants to be taken seriously as a boxer. He wants to be taken seriously as a boxer. He really feels like that. He He's contender he's he should be taken seriously and no one's taking him seriously. That is a noble conscious desire. However, in his case, he has an impossible journey. He has an impossible journey where the entire world is basically against him achieving his conscious desire, which is to be taken seriously. In this case, the you know, inciting incident is that he gets plucked, he gets plucked by God to, to fight in this championship fight, but it's a gimmick. You know,

Alex Ferrari 50:33
right. And he and he turns and he completely turns it down. Yeah, he sees he knows he's like, No, no, no, this is I'm gonna get my ass killed. I'm not ready for you, champ.

Aaron Mendelsohn 50:43
Right. So that's a that's a case where he actually, you know, he's a reluctant hero. He saw something that an opportunity that was brought to him, but he knew at that place in the movie, in the first act of the film, he's in no place, no condition to be able to go after that particular golden ring. But then with the, you know, the encouragement of this, of his brother in law, and this girl, you know, when Mickey, his old trainer, you know, people who used to believe in Him or the girl down the block, who has Ryan, you, usually it's love, it's family that sort of encourages the hero to overcome their trepidation, and go on the journey. And so he does. And he's able to actually achieve even though he doesn't when he achieves his conscious desire, which is to be very much taken seriously, as a fighter. By the end of the film, he also achieved something of an emotional goal, which is he finds love, which is a nice again, whether Stallone knew about great storytelling, or he just kind of instinctually stumbled into it. He had this great plot, which is the boxing plot, and the training to become a fighter plot. But he also had this wonderful couple of emotional subplots, one involving Adrian, one involving Adrian's brother, another one involving Mickey, he was kind of the Father mentor figure. And it created this emotional journey that was under the boxing journey. And, you know, but that's, that's one where the conscious desire actually is the same as the unconscious desire, but the journey that is the impossible

Alex Ferrari 52:26
journey, and the vignettes. And I think that that little vein that he tapped into, with the emotion of Rocky, because prior to Rocky, there were some boxing movies. But nothing, nothing of that stat of that. Not winning the Oscar and all that kind of stuff. But to sustain that character, who is absolutely loved throughout the world and made but he made six rocky movies and to Apollo Creed movie a Korean movies. And yet, we're still on that journey. And we're actually going on that journey with him as he ages. And he's not hiding it anymore. He did I think in five I think he I think well, five. We just went from Florida to six. Let's just yeah, we'll

Aaron Mendelsohn 53:18
forget five we'll forget five thanks, man for Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 53:22
yeah, the quest for peace, obviously. But But there's something about that character. And I think you're right. It's not just the boxing, because if it's just about boxing, who cares? Like if it's just about a dude wanting it because you can only see that movie. So many times about him going to get the championship or losing the champion. Like there's only so many of those stories you can do. But it's that emotion. It's Adrian. It's it's Mickey like when Mickey was spoiler alert when Mickey got killed in Rocky three. Or when Apollo, you know that that emotion is what kept kept going. Because it's not about you know, it's not about boxing, kind of like Air Bud is not about a dog who plays basketball.

Aaron Mendelsohn 54:02
actly Exactly. And the word the films that fail are the ones that lean too heavily on their main plot, which is usually kind of an intellectual exercise, whether it's an action film or you know, that kind of three thing it's it's the films that really go back and forth between or really more more effectively unite the emotional plot with the main sort of intellectual plot and have them bump into each other and we see how you know Rocky's pursuit of the of the crown is filtering into his relationships with Adrian and Mickey and, and Bert. His name was not bird but bird, brother.

Alex Ferrari 54:45
Yeah, I know. Oh, my God. It's gonna drive me nuts. Now I can't believe I can't remember what his

Aaron Mendelsohn 54:51
was an Italian name. Was it like, Saul? No,

Alex Ferrari 54:55
no. Okay, hold on. Okay, keep while while you're while you're Discussing the next, the last question, we will go over in this episode

Aaron Mendelsohn 55:04
I will look at. Okay, so I'm gonna say that, although now you're distracted, so

Alex Ferrari 55:09
I'm not gonna know. But the audience is listening.

Aaron Mendelsohn 55:13
Oh, good. I think you'll ask questions that have nothing to do with the thing I'm saying. You will look it up the third. I'm gonna go back to question three and this is actually the

Alex Ferrari 55:24
poly poly poly, sir. Let's move on. Let's now we can move on properly, sir, it's polyphonic.

Aaron Mendelsohn 55:32
These are the important things. Yes, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 55:35
And third of the of the 11 questions you would like to discuss.

Aaron Mendelsohn 55:39
Okay, so the third of the 11 questions I'd like to discuss is actually question number three. A lot of my initial questions in the 11 questions are kind of foundational first act backstory kind of questions. And then you know, the later ones address low points and all that stuff. This question number three is the one that Billy Ray suggested to me, which is what is the central idea? So this is an important one because it's not to be confused with the logline is different from the logline. The central idea, as I say, in my book is the overarching notion or a theme that drives the story forward and is tested in every scene. It's it's like the thesis of your story. Okay. So, and the question that it poses is often finally addressed by the critical test at the end of the story. So an example might be well, When Harry Met Sally is interesting, because Nora Ephron I'm pretty convinced thought of this central idea. before she even came up or wrote the script, which is can men and women be friends without getting in the way, that thesis, so she's like, I want to test that thesis. And so she, you know, introduces this woman who's coming off to this relationship, and this man who just seems to be it's all about getting laid, and he throws them together, where they form, they start to form this friendship. That's this awkward friendship that starts to really grow over the course of the second act. But as it grows, there starts to become this sexual tension between them. And we, as an audience start to wonder and worry, are they we want them to hook up. And yet, we're worried that if they do, run it, it'll ruin it. And in fact, you get the low point of the film that wonderful shot after they've been in bed together. And you start on Sally, and she's smiling, you know, because she's happy. And she thinks that you know, and then you pull out you see Billy Crystal with this look of horror. So in that respect, is central the question posed by the central idea? Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way? The answer is no.

Alex Ferrari 57:47
According to Nora, sir, according to Nora,

Aaron Mendelsohn 57:49
according to Nora, but however they work it out, because you know what they do by Act Three, they go back to the foundation of their friendship and realize that actually, what makes a relationship so successful is having a foundation of friendship. So in a way, they turned that fatal flaw, they turn that, that tension into actually something that made them grow as human beings, and able to come together and have a permanent relationship. So that's a key if you can turn the low point into what I call critical test, which is then drawing from your failure and realizing what you need to do to overcome your fatal flaw. And actually, you know, self actualized as a character, in that case, Harry and Sally needed to realize that, oh, we can actually combine the two are the friendship that we formulated over several months is actually the key to having a successful relationship. Once you're able to acknowledge that rather than run the other direction. That's when they were able to come together and have a you know, successful climax as it were.

Alex Ferrari 58:55
And anyone anyone listening to this as has not has thought of even thinking about writing a romantic comedy has not watched When Harry Met Sally, shame on you and stop listening to this right now and go watch it. I mean, Jesus,

Aaron Mendelsohn 59:07
When Harry Met Sally was I think, if not the highest one of the highest rated ranked films in the 101 funniest screenplays list exceptional script by Norris.

Alex Ferrari 59:18
And I mean, I'm assuming I think any Hall is any one. Yeah, that's it. It honestly should be I mean, it is a masterpiece.

Aaron Mendelsohn 59:31
masterpiece. It's

Alex Ferrari 59:33
a masterpiece.

Aaron Mendelsohn 59:34
What one thinks of Woody Allen aside that at all is a is truly was a was a masterful film. And I guess that would be that would be considered romantic comedy, too. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 59:47
I mean, they are absolutely I mean, it's just with with his his wonderful writing. in it. I always I always put up certain films of a certain time period in my life, if they were really good. Good, because if I watched something from 1988 to 9394, which is my video store years, my high school years, where I thought john Claude Van Damme was the greatest actor of all time and Steven Seagal should have won an Oscar in that time period of my life. If I watched a movie like and I remember vividly watching Annie Hall like God, that was good. You know? And and watching Shawshank Jesus, that was good, you know, and it didn't have anyone you know, breaking a leg. It was amazing. That's just amazing story and When Harry Met Sally, obviously, and that's just amazing, really well crafted story. And like we were talking about King's speech earlier. You know, on paper. I don't want to watch a movie about a prince who's got a stutter. Yeah, he's gonna and he's gonna learn he's gonna have this guy teach him how to speak for a speech like that. That's That does not sound good. But you watch it did when the one best picture that year as Picture and Best Screenplay for David Seidler and that was a spec script that that no one would take a chance on.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:01:04
It he he likes literally stuck it in in either the actor's mailbox or the director's mailbox. Got it to you know, because no one had read it didn't have an agent. But he believed and it was because even though it seemed like a ridiculous idea, there was such a strong emotional story underneath it and so much at stake for delivering this speech. And you know, and it was a family his story of two guys that become sort of brothers and you know, a relationship story and his family and he was in the shadow of his of his brother who abdicated who was supposed to be the king. And he was never supposed to be the king. If you if you

Alex Ferrari 1:01:43
as a screenwriter can connect emotionally. Genre goes out the window. Like the main plot almost a lot of times but I'm like, if you can connect with the audience, on an emotional level, all the addressing of plot and structure and character. I mean, obviously all that's needed to connect emotionally without it you can't. But like, I mean, I've seen it look of sometimes I've watched a movie with my daughters and it's like something on Disney plus or something, you know, like it's something that I would have never in a million years watched by myself. And but they have this little nugget just to slip in. It's not it's not King speech. It's not going to be something that's long it's not a meal, it's a snack, but that little snack of emotion holds me just a little bit and it just goes you know that got me just and it might just be me because it was a daughter story or, or something that happened to me in my past that connected with me, but it connects when it connects even on these like like lifetime like look at lifetime I mean and Hallmark. I mean, they made a living at doing nugget, nugget, I'm coining a phrase nugget screenwriting sir nugget emotional nugget screenwriting but it's but it's true like if you can connect emotionally how many people watched earbud and cried, cried, cried balled because of the dog just because of the dog and the boy relationship which is completely fabricated because that's obviously a dog doesn't think this way. This is the suspense of disbelief here. But emotionally like I remember watching what's Marlene? Me? Oh, Jesus. Oh, two killer. Oh,

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:03:31
cried Marley and me and dad. The film in the with the dog waiting at the train station.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:41
Oh, oh, Hidalgo or something like that? height. Yeah, that one. Archie.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:03:50
Kids to this day make fun of me because I had to leave the room.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:55
Right now in the grand scope of things. Hitachi. I've seen that

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:04:00
film. And it's all different things. Archie,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:03
Hachi, Hachi. Hachi, Hachi. But I saw that film. And I had similar feelings towards that film, there might have been a tear to the busted through my eyeball at that time. But in the grand scheme of cinema, not something that's on the list. Or that story, not an important story, not something that's studied. But when you watch it if you've had a dog, connect, and that's what that's why that's why the dog that saves Christmas movie, or the dog that does anything kind of movie. If you can connect to the emotion of having a dog anybody who's ever had a dog will connect to emotionally

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:04:46
even if it's a project, so much purity to our dogs, so much purity, their motives, their loyalty, their love is so pure, that we project all these kind of human qualities on onto them. So when they're distressed or when they're going off after some, you know, impossible quest or whatever it is, we get pulled in emotionally. But it's the same with brothers, sisters, fathers, children, whales,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:14
Free Willy wait. Free Willies were there there was like five of those.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:05:22
I don't really well you know, but again it goes to the best friend the whale is the best friend that hits emotional. Og is the best friend. It's all about these emotional connections. And this is why when my students, they turn in their scripts, and they're really the, you know, complex action or horror or comedy silly comedies. You know, they're just so I'm like, I read three pages, and I'm zoning out because there's nothing pulling me in. And I just drill into them. Every day, every class, you've got to insert them even in the silliest comedy scariest horror film, you have to insert these emotional elements, family elements, friends, mentors, Dumb and Dumber

Alex Ferrari 1:06:05
got Dumb and Dumber, like the original Dumb and Dumber? absolutely absurd. Like it's absurd. absurd. The whole the humor is absurd. I love it. By the way, it's crazy. But there's so much emotion and purity to their not only their friendship, but their journey because he wants to, he saw this girl and like you're saying there's a chance and that that's what drives the story. But there's emotion.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:06:30
It's not just two dudes just walking around doing fart jokes all day. Right? And it'll go emotional and their relationship is emotional. Right? So it's, you know, so a lot of times, but going back to the question, what is the central idea? A lot of times, what I'll do is try to think about the arc of the character and the emotional journey of the character and bake it into the central idea. So for instance, the matrix, which is a very heady, but it really is about self discovery. And certainly ultimately Love is the thing that convinces him that he is the one, you know, because she's whispering in his ear. Right? I knew that up because I said, you know, the Oracle.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:13
That's not a very good impression of Carrie and masum. Just say,

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:07:18
I feel much better. Larry Fishburne the Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:23
Neo Neo, exactly.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:07:26
So the central idea for for the matrix is Neo can only get over his sense of being a cog in the wheel. And accepted he should be the one is when he accepts that he is the one when he believes that he's the one. So if you think of the shape of like the ark of Neo over that film, he wants to know what what the matrix is he wants to know the truth. After he learns the truth, he's kind of happy to be a foot soldier in, in morbius, his little army, but God forbid, he doesn't want the responsibility on his shoulders, he's resisting, he still believes he's a cog. Hmm. Like we all kind of do that we're powerless. It's only when he gets over his belief that he's a cog, and believes that he is the one when he is able to to be the one. And that is really the central idea of the film. And it really that notion is tested in almost every scene in the movie in one way or the other, that thesis neocon only one when he believes he's the one is tested in every scene in the movie in some form or another. So that's why it's really important to have a central idea, because what it does is create something of an emotional spine that ties your story together. Otherwise, you might have something that kind of meanders, or feels episodic, and and isn't cohesive.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:55
And that's why that film, and that franchise, specifically that film, though, has has aged so well. And people look at it as it's a masterpiece, it really is truly a masterpiece of its time. There's a lot of films that came out in that era that were visual effects, heavy an action and all that stuff. But we don't speak about that. But because they're not held at the same level as the matrix is why because of that emotion, that that because at a little philosophical here, we all have to once we believe we can do we do you know,

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:09:33
is it a movie about faith? It is not fake,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:37
right? And generally in our industry as a whole and I'm really going to go deep here. We won't achieve what we want to achieve until we believe we can achieve it. And if that's the starting point, like if you can't believe you're going to write a screenplay. You're not going to write a screenplay. As like as Henry Ford was at Henry Ford. I think he said like, if you believe that you can or you can't. You're right.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:09:59

Alex Ferrari 1:10:01
I mean, if that's your absolute if you really can't or you really can't, you're right. So it's up to you to believe to move forward. I do want to ask one more question. Before I ask you my series of questions asked all my guests, because we could talk for hours. I know. Can we put it? Can we put the test to the three questions we've just talked about? to one film that I'm I'm just beating it up in my head. And I haven't seen in a while and actually have to watch it again. Are you ready? You ready? See, we could test this one. All right. airplane. Airplane airplane. So yes, so

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:10:34
I remember it. You tell me what what is the emotion simple emotional journey of airplane?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:42
Well, obviously to survive the plane. It Well, I mean, there's that there's that the plot, the plot is the land. But if I remember, it happened again, I haven't seen it probably in like 10 years, other than like, in a sitting, I've seen clips of it over over the last 10 years. But if I remember correctly, the main character, who was the pilot, there was an emotional, there was some sort of emotional attachment to the stewardess. Stewardess, flight attendant, sorry, they call their students back then a flight attendant. And there was that kind of there was something drawing those two together. And there was a love story at the end of the day, if I'm not if I just remember all the funny parts. I don't.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:11:21
Because it's funny. If you remember the Robert, what's his name? Robert. Robert Hayes. Yeah. He was a broken broken guy with a drinking problem. You know? Yeah, he drink frozen his eye. He had a drinking problem because he led a mission. Yes, yes. George zipper or whatever. crash. Right. So it was funny, but at the same time, it's it's a true emotional thing. He led a failed journey as a pilot. He people died under his watch. It's led to him having a broken kind of life, where he could love or be loved. And he is stuck on this plane and he gets pulled reluctantly into the pilot's seat and he's able to do it by virtue of Julie Haggerty. She's kind of see love for him.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:12
Yeah. Oh, now I remember at night I thought y'all came coming back. But that's right. So you so that's the driving force of it. I mean, the movie is remembered because it's just so damn funny.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:12:25
It's still add an emotional story. But

Alex Ferrari 1:12:29
But without but listen again without that emotion. You don't the story can't move. The reason it's just a bunch of gangs. It just then it just gets comedy at that point. You know what sketch comedy get out after one sketch comedy kit and there's no emotional throughput or line or foundation. So I just wanted to bring our planet because it's a it's a unique because that's a slapstick comedy. And well, yeah, this

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:12:54
is why those those slapstick spoofs and you know, the scary movies and things they get God's word most of them get terrible reviews, a lot of them fail. They have to be under 90 minutes because they just cannot sustain airplane is kind of considered a classic because not only are they Is it funny as hell and the jokes really work and most of them some of them some of them wouldn't play so well today

Alex Ferrari 1:13:22
right well Blazing Saddles the same thing I mean Jesus I doubt right

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:13:27
but they had but even blazing trails to there's no strong optional there Oh, root interest in that we it's a friendship between a broken you know, shooter who was shot you know, Gene Wilder and cleavon little who's a a hero who happens to be black at a time where you cannot be a hero and a black and black right so and they formed this friendship this this was love story between these two guys suck you rooting for them? All right.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:57
I'm just I'm play as we're talking a playing back scenes in my head. I'm just laughing because I mean Blazing Saddles. Just Oh, my God is so good.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:14:06
It's, it's I'm not sure if Blazing Saddles would work today or not. But it's, you know, time racing racist film.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:14
No, Mel actually talked about that he did the Hitler like, was that Hitler movie?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:14:22
This is

Alex Ferrari 1:14:23
not silent movie. But the. Yeah. History of the World. Part Two. Yeah. Then well, history the world Part Two had like, Hitler, one of the producers, the

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:14:36
producers, for God's sakes. It's a producer's one of the greatest

Alex Ferrari 1:14:39
I mean, it's a it's about a play. Yeah. So but I actually I actually just saw a recent interview with Mel. Mel Brooks, the writer of Blazing Saddles, who said that it is today It wouldn't get produced. There's no way a studio It would produce that from today. But if you look at it, it is an it's an anti racist. It's completely making fun of it. And you when you make fun of things like that those image, that imagery, that that kind of toxic stuff that they're talking about, it just brings them down, it takes them off their pedestal. And I can't learn like I you know, obviously like, you know, springtime for Hitler. I mean, he destroyed him. Chaplin did it. Chaplin did it as well in the in the dictator and the Great Dictator. So there is a there's a place for that. Now will offend people, obviously it's gonna offend somebody because that's the world we live in. But, again, Aaron, we could talk for at least another two hours about story and this is fantastic. I love this interview. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:15:56
Whoo. Okay. I would say when it caught me off guard. I would say Shawshank Redemption.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:07
Yes. And after my own heart.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:16:09
I love that one. I would say I love network. I love the screenplay for network, a written by what's his name? You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:16:21
the guy with the dude in this stuff?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:16:23
Yeah, got that guy I'm doing I'm really bad at names. And it's bad. Because, you know, screenwriters are always forgotten. They've like who who wrote

Alex Ferrari 1:16:31
that? Yeah, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. who's who's the DP. Yeah.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:16:42
And so I would say network in terms of really great sort of, like societal, societal, kind of like being able to tell a story that really holds a mirror up to society's foibles, and, and all of that,

Alex Ferrari 1:16:57
and I think you could release it in theaters today, and it would probably get the same reaction. You know, it might even be more relevant.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:17:06
What else I actually really liked, I would say get out would be a good one to study. That's a really great script. Because it's, it's a great script, it works as a pure genre film, it works as a great character story, it kind of is it follows the formula of the eight sequences, which I teach in my three x eight sequences, you know, first act second act, midpoint, it has a low point. So it follows a lot of the sort of the formula of good writing, or typical writing, but it also then, also kind of like has this undercurrent of satire to it. That's very kind of put

Alex Ferrari 1:17:49
it in there in horror, and I mean, there is satire or like, Oh, God, George Romero did a night of living dead but Day of the Dead. Was it day to day was the one the

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:18:01
Dawn of the Dead? Yeah. In a mall.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:03
Yeah, the mall one that was completely satirical about everything he was trying to say there. Right, horror can do that. Yeah. Okay. So that's it. Those are very three good choices. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:18:19
Okay, so this kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier. I know that what people the inclination might be that I need to write my Avengers or I need to write something that is like, you know, a home run big box office film, but what people are really looking for are unique voices. And they're looking for disruptive stories. So and this today, better than any time in history is a great time to tell a story from a point of view that has not been told before. Whether it's LG LGBTQ stories, you know, of African American stories, Latino, Asian stories, it's time it's a good time now to, to tell stories that are not just white male heroes stories. You know, and you don't have to be. And that's the other thing is that I often my writers of color that are in my class, the women, you know, they feel this pressure to write stories about women and writers of color, and they really want to write something else and like do it write something else, there's no better time than right now, to write something write the story that you want to write even though it seems fringe or weird or, or plays with structure. agents, producers, they are looking for fresh voices, wild stories, you know, stories told from the fringes. But again, even in those kind of stories, as long as there's an undercurrent of human emotion that we all can relate to. This is Why parasite did so well, parasite is really a story of a family who is aspiring to be greater than they were. And they kind of went the wrong route to do it and slightly paid the price. But, you know, it's a family story, but it was twisted as hell. So I would say the advice is to write something disruptive write something that's going to surprise, not something that people are going to expect.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:29
Fair enough. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:20:35
You know, it really is about character. And this is such an I tell my students is to I used to come up with these really big gimmick, great high concept movies. And I would just sort of like, you know, pour everything into the concept and not think enough about the character. You know, this character, what is, what's their what's their central major flaw? What, what do they want? What do they think they want? Who are they? What are their? What's their personality? What's their backstory? Where do they come from? So now I really forced myself to think a lot about my character. How can I make my heroes different? Than you know, usually, you make the supporting characters really interesting, but the hero is really vanilla and generic. How can I make my you know, maybe instead of a, you know, white male lead in this horror film, I'll make it a diminutive, mute cleaning lady of a woman. And maybe my film will be more interesting. With a character like that, who I've really thought about her backstory that she's you and yet, she's also full of Spitfire and spunky. She loves watching, dancing. You know, she believes in you know that monsters are not necessarily monsters, she yearns for love, but also knows when to let it go. You know, think about all those character traits. Before I actually write sounds familiar.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:57
Sounds familiar?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:21:58
I don't. It should be a movie, I think

Alex Ferrari 1:22:00
I think it should write down to a movie. Absolutely. When you were saying that there was a character that I was remembering, that is such a wonderful character Leon from the from the professional or Leon, john Renault, he loved watching old, like, you know, he took care of a plant. Like that was a thing. You were used to me. I'm assuming you see that movie, right? Here's, yeah, he took care of the plan he used to watch. I think Charlie Chaplin or no dancing he Fred Astaire. So he, he was an innocent child, like that's so different of a hitman, than a hitman would have been, like, imagine if that would have been just a gruff Dude, that was a war that appreciate, right? But he's completely different, and that he has to take a girl and then he has to teach a girl How to be a hitman. That's, that's interesting,

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:22:50
Far more interesting, far, far more. And that's true. And if you take the time, and sometimes it takes half a day, you know, or a day to really think about your character without like, you know, getting into the script and the plot. Think about the character, and how to make your character actually my question to in my thing is, how are you honoring and disrupting your genre? You want to do the same thing with your central character? How is your central care? How are you honoring your genre with your central character? But how are you also disrupting the genre with your central character? You know, how can you make them different, something that makes them pop that makes him interesting? You know, Cameron Crowe is really good at creating characters like that, you know, as good as it gets, and no, that's James. James L. Brooks. Yeah. James Brooks and Cameron Crowe, they spent a lot of time thinking about their characters, gretta Gurwitch, before they actually even think about what the plot is.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:48
Now, what is what was the biggest fear you had to overcome to write your first screenplay?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:23:56
That I would be exposed as a fraud? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:01
You know, I don't think we'll get that answer.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:24:03
Yeah, it's just, you know, my concern that I would write this thing, and it would suck and people would hate it. And you know, what, my first screenplay, probably half the people did hate it. And the other half of the people said, You got promised, but Call me later kid. And it was them. It was the positive constructive encouragement that I got from the handful of people that saw that in my first script, that I had some promise that I was I was going for something that encouraged me to write the second one and do it better. But boy, getting over the fear of failure and rejection. It's a big one.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:43
And then what is and what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:24:48
The character thing, okay. You know, one of the first films that my old partner and I wrote was some kind of jack in the beanstalk story, and it was just filled with joy. MX, and we just didn't spend any time really thinking about Jack's character. And it was this huge It was like it went out to the town it was going to be this auction, the agency was all thought this was gonna this was like, I think right after Air Bud was getting made, and we were, you know, kind of hot. And, or after Disney bought it, but it hadn't come come out or something. And it just everyone passed. And it's because they just emotional thing. They were pulled in emotionally with this character, his journey. And, and that's when I realized I have to spend more time thinking about character and emotion.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:38
Now, where can people find out about the book about your work and and find out more about you?

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:25:44
Well, you can go to my website, Aaron mendelsohn.com. And that's Mendelssohn Soh n.com. Or you can also find my book the 11 fundamental questions on Amazon. But on my website, there's a link to the Amazon page through through the website, you can also sign up, you know, to be on my mailing list and get updates and that kind of thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:07
Very cool. Aaron, thank you. It's like I said, Well, we can keep talking for at least another two or three hours. So I do appreciate you taking the time out to talk to the tribe and hopefully help them along their screenwriting path. So thank you so much, brother. I appreciate it.

Aaron Mendelsohn 1:26:20
It's been my pleasure. Thank you, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:22
I want to thank Aaron for coming on the show and sharing his knowledge and experience with dog to play basketball as well. So thank you, Aaron. If you want to get a copy of his book, or reach out to Aaron, please head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/076. And if you haven't already, please head over to screenwriting podcast.com and leave a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you guys for listening. And as always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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X-Men Movies Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

X-men is the film that launched the superhero centric Holywood we all know today. With X-men, there would be no Marvel Cinematic Universe (read those scripts here). The screenplays below are the only ones that are available online. If you find any of his missing screenplays please leave the link int he comment section.

When you are done reading take a listen to Apple’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, with guest like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.

Click below to download (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).

Wolverine and the X-Men

by Gary Goldman


by Andrew Kevin Walker


By Ed Solomon & Christopher McQuarrie


by Ed Solomon, Christopher McQuarrie, Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer

X-Men 2

by David Hayter (story by Bryan Singer and David Hayter) Current revisions by Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

by David Benioff & Skip Woods

X-Men Origins: Magneto


X-Men: Fear the Beast

Written by Byron Burton (UNPRODUCED)

The Wolverine

by Christopher McQuarrie

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Written by Simon Kinberg


Written by James Mangold


BPS 070: The Secrets of Story with Matt Bird

You’ve just boarded a plane. You’ve loaded your phone with your favorite podcasts, but before you can pop in your earbuds, disaster strikes: The guy in the next seat starts telling you all about something crazy that happened to him–in great detail. This is the unwelcome storyteller, trying to convince a reluctant audience to care about his story.

We all hate that guy, right? But when you tell a story (any kind of story: a novel, a memoir, a screenplay, a stage play, a comic, or even a cover letter), you become the unwelcome storyteller.

So how can you write a story that audiences will embrace? The answer is simple: Remember what it feels like to be that jaded audience. Tell the story that would win you over, even if you didn’t want to hear it.

Today’s guest Matt Bird can help you. He is a screenwriter and the author of the best-selling book The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

The Secrets of Story provides comprehensive, audience-focused strategies for becoming a master storyteller. Armed with the Ultimate Story Checklist, you can improve every aspect of your fiction writing with incisive questions like these:

• Concept: Is the one-sentence description of your story uniquely appealing?
• Character: Can your audience identify with your hero?
• Structure and Plot: Is your story ruled by human nature?
• Scene Work: Does each scene advance the plot and reveal character through emotional reactions?
• Dialogue: Is your characters’ dialogue infused with distinct personality traits and speech patterns based on their lives and backgrounds?
• Tone: Are you subtly setting, resetting, and upsetting expectations?
• Theme: Are you using multiple ironies throughout the story to create meaning?

To succeed in the world of fiction and film, you have to work on every aspect of your craft and satisfy your audience. Do both–and so much more–with The Secrets of Story.

I dig into Matt’s story system and breakdown the secrets of story. Enjoy my conversation with Matt Bird.

Right-click here to download the MP3


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

Alex Ferrari 0:09
I'd like to welcome to the show Matthew bird Matt. How you doing my friend?

Matt Bird 3:33
I'm fine. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 3:34
I'm good man. Just live in the quarantine life, sir. Live in the quarantine life.

Matt Bird 3:39
It is crazy. This is absolutely insane. It's it's hard to read. You have to remind you every will every morning. I've always had sort of apocalyptic dreams. And then I wake up in the morning and I'm like, oh, it's apocalypse. The apocalypse. I'm like, Oh no, it was a dream. I was just dreaming. It's my normal life. And now I've been waking up every morning going like, oh, it's the apocalypse apocalypse. Like no, that's just a dream. I'm like, no, no, it's not. It's not a dream. This is the apocalypse is happening. I can't shake this one off.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
No, I heard the other days like can we put 2020 in a bowl of rice to see if it could fix it or something? Because it's I mean, this is an insane insane year and we're not even halfway through yet. So as of this recording, so buckle in, see what happens but but we're here today to talk about story and I wanted to first before we get into your book and and your concepts and what you teach. How did you get started in the film industry? Because I think you had your origins in the film industry.

Matt Bird 4:41
Yeah, sure. I was always making films and I was I considered myself sort of like a punk DIY filmmaker back in the day like and I was always like working with the stuff that had just come out so I worked with a little bit with to braid and then when DV when mini DV came out, I was like this is great. I can make my own movie I made a feature film. What at first That's not that's not even true for me to feature film. That was the thing. I was always I love features I never, I was like I forget shorts, I'm gonna put in the work, I made a feature on sbhs when I was in high school, or when I was in college, and then when I was out of college, I made a feature on mini DV. And I shot it having no idea how I was going to edit it, because there was no editing software at the time, right. And then right as I finished production that came up with Final Cut Pro 1.0. And I was like, I'm gonna buy it, the first day it hits the store, and I was first community who had figured out this program, which was insane program. And then I've made a feature there. And I was just doing, I was doing whatever I could and then eventually I was like, Okay, it's time to get serious. I went to film school, I went to Columbia University, film school, and I spent a fortune that I did not have a fortune that I may never have, I'm still paying off my loans. But I went ahead and I mean, sometimes there, I shifted my focus there to screenwriting, which I think was wise, I won some awards, I was, you know, they, they basically announced at the end of every year at Columbia, we are going to pick 10 students who we are going to push as you know, people who we're gonna try to help get representation and sales and everything and the other 70 Kids are cut loose. We're not gonna help you guys, but we're gonna help you send kids. So thankfully, I was one of the 10 they, you know, I took a bunch of meetings, New York, and La got a very big deal manager was, you know, got just a few gigs. I was hired to do an adaptation of novel and that went, Okay, I was I set up, you know, I, in screenwriting, it's all about setting up, like, Oh, my God, I've had such a test. As a screenwriter, I've set up this project here, and I've set up this project here. And I've set up this project here. And I'm working with this person, and this person and this person, give her like, oh, how much did you make? Oh, nothing. Like, oh, no, no, the money, the money. That's all that's a bank account, that money is being always money is being held back by a dam, right in front of me. And but it set up. So that means that there's cracks in the dam, and the whole thing is about to flood. And don't you worry. And then eventually, I decided, you know, it wasn't the unsuccessful projects that killed me it was the successful projects, it was the ones where I got paid. And I was like, I can't stand being treated the way I'm being treated. And I can't stand, you know, just, I've just wasn't built for it. I just wasn't built for it. And then I started and then I got really sick. So that didn't help. And by the time I was better than all my heat was off me I was no longer getting meetings, and I started a blog. And at first it was just a rewatching movies blog, or an underrated movies blog. And then I couldn't, I eventually got to a point where it's like I was, you know, this isn't the heyday of blogging in 2010. So it's like, I have to watch a movie and blog about it every day. And I'm like, this is gonna kill me. And so I should start just giving writing advice as an excuse to give myself a day off. Like, instead of doing something hard today, I'll just write some writing advice. And soon that just that just built up and built up and built up. And people were like, Matt, all the stuff you've done your life. This is, this is your passion. This is what you're really good at, you're really good at giving writing advice, and you're into a book and you should do this and that. So soon I turned into a book, it was the secret, some story published by Writer's Digest. I started doing manuscript consultation, I started doing all that. And it became very big, you know, the book became an Amazon bestseller. It was, you know, I've now got the secret straight podcast of the Secret Story YouTube channel. And it's been wonderful. It's, you know, you never end up where you think you're going to end up. But this is turned out to be my passion. It's turned out to be what I'm good at. And it's been great.

Alex Ferrari 8:48
It's been your your own hero's journey, if you will, sir.

Matt Bird 8:52
It's been pretty much my hero's journey. I mean, if you in my book I talk about, you know, the great talking about stories about when I got sick, and when, you know, it was I found myself ironically living out these heroic narratives that I was learning about and trying to write about, and it'll end up being deeply ironic, but I wound up coming out on top. So maybe not on top. I can't, you know, somewhere

Alex Ferrari 9:17
above water, above a water above the water, the water. Now in your book, you talk about the 13 laws of writing for strangers, which is a just a great writing for strangers is a great idea because that's what we do. Basically screenwriters you write for strangers, generally speaking a lesser, Chris Nolan. And even then you're still writing for strangers because someone else is financing it. So you have 13 laws. Can you talk a little bit about a few of them?

Matt Bird 9:43
Yeah. Let me see. How I go. You know, I wrote this book five years ago, who knows what the rules were. Okay. So the number one was screenwriting. Well, I should say no, the number one wants story. This is for all kinds of story writers. You must write for an audience, not just yourself. Because I think a lot of people, I think the worst piece of advice people get is like, oh, you know, tell a story that you love. And then it'll be a great story. It's like, I don't know about you. But when I was a screenwriter, I loved all my stories, like it was, that was a very low bar, trying to get a write a story that I love, I would write it, I would love it, I would send it out into the world. And a vision, everybody's like, Oh, right, I'm not just writing for myself. I'm writing for other people. I am writing for strangers. And I have to figure out what a stranger wants. And guess what strangers have a lot higher standards than you have for yourself. And some people are really, really hard on themselves. And they're like, you know, you know, like, Miles Davis had a quote something like, you know, like, I, I'm the toughest audience there could possibly be, so I can please myself, I know, it must be great. But I'm not Miles Davis. And I was that hard on myself. And it was only when I realized, okay, I'm writing for strangers. I'm writing an audience writing for an audience, not just for myself. Why? Number two is audiences purchase your work based on the concept, but they embrace it, because of your characters. I think this is, you know, we tend to overvalue a concept. Concept. We're like, Oh, my God concept, it's gonna sell itself, it's gonna write itself. Like, no, it never writes itself. And it's probably not going to sell itself either. Like, yes, people are gonna want to hear you have a haircut. So if they're like, they're like, that's great concept. Now, have you read it. And then as soon as they read it, they do not care about the high concept. They do not care about any of your big ideas about your big concept. All people care about, and they're going to give you five pages. And they're going to read five pages, which road and then like, do I fall in love with this character. And if you do follow the character, and then you never get around to delivering that high concept you promise, they won't even notice. They're like, Oh, I don't really have that concept anymore. Give me a character I love. I'll go anywhere with him. Give me a character I don't love. Forget it. Even if it's the best, hottest, most wonderful idea in the world. Forget it, I'm not going to read it. So that's one, number two. Number three, audiences will always choose one character to be their hero. I feel like this is people a lot of times are like, well, you know, do you think one person see her for the first 10 pages, and then I kill him off. And then you're gonna think that someone else is there for the next 30 pages. And then you realize, now now, it's really that person in the background. Now, of course, you can always think of exceptions. Alien is the ultimate exception. You have no idea who the hero of alien is, until you're about 40 minutes into that movie. And suddenly, you're like, wait a second, that woman in the background. She's the hero of the story. Like I thought the hero was Tom Skerritt who just got killed off. But that is a huge exception. And usually, you're gonna want to convince you know, your the hardest part of writing is getting people to go like, I am invested in this character. And I'm going to follow this character through the whole story. And if you want to write in, that's fine. If you want to convince people to invest in one character, and then kill like a drug, and then go like, no, no, no, I'm gonna convince you to care about a whole nother character. You can try it, but doesn't tend to work.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
It's funny. It's funny, when you were saying when you're talking about like going with a character on a ride, you read, you watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. And you're introduced to indie. And if I remember, there was no dialogue or like a minimal dialogue, all throughout that first part up all up until almost none, I think he had maybe one or two lines. And that was it. Until the until the boulder came down. And after that sequence, you you were in like, you have no idea his backstory, you have no idea what he like, all you know is like, I wherever he goes, I want to follow him. Because this is awesome.

Matt Bird 13:37
Because he's doing awesome stuff. He's got a whip. I mean, he has a whip, the whip for all kinds of stuff. And then he gets, he does awesome stuff. But he fails and he gets humiliated. It's not about him being an awesome badass, you know, it's not like, hey, you know, here I am with the idol. And that proves how awesome I am. I just recovered this idol. Now we love Him because He does all this awesome stuff, get the idol and then fails to get the idol. And he fails in a way that prefigures the whole movie. What I mean? First one was how does he really fail? He fails because he's like, Well, I've got an idol. And I've got a bag of sand and a bag of sand in the idle way, the exact same amount. So if I switch out the handle for the bag of sand, they're the same thing. And of course, what's he doing is he does not realize the power of faith. He does not realize that, you know, there is a religious value to this idol that the bag of sand does not have. And because he is blind to the religious value, he almost gets killed. He almost gets run over by a boulder because he cannot tell the difference between a religious I don't want a bag of sand and then that takes you right through the end of the movie where it's like he finally at the end of the movie. He says close your eyes Marian because he realizes that you know Oh, this isn't just the ark. It's not just a bag of sand. The Ark is a religious thing and now God is going to rain vengeance down and melt that guy's skin and turned into milk. And that is that is it's one of the most brilliant openings movie ever. Yes, without question, but see. So it seems small. Number four, audiences don't care about stories, they only hear about characters. What number five, the best way to introduce every element of your story is from your heroes point of view. Again, lots of exceptions. I love the exceptions, some of my favorite movies or exceptions. But man, if you can just get people to care about your hero, then we'll care about what your hero cares about. And if we don't care about your hero, or if your hero doesn't care about the story, that's one of the worst mistakes you can make is like, oh, you know, my hero has a lot of onwy. And he is not invested in the story. The story is sort of going on over his shoulder, we're sort of peeking around his head going like, hey, heroes, there's a whole story going on back there, pay attention to it, and the hero doesn't care. It's the worst one. And it's very hard to get audiences to care about any hero because they're afraid of getting hurt. I think this is this was one of the big ones for me, when I realized this, it's that audiences, if you were writing the very first story anyone had ever written if you're a caveman, and you're like, I've just invented this concept of storytelling. People are like, Oh, well, that's fascinating. Tell me more. But as it is, people have spent their whole lives reading books, watching movies, and most of them have been bad. And every time people read a bad book, or watch a bad movie, then it hurts, it's painful to read a bad book, it's painful to watch a bad movie. Because though a story asks you to care, a three asks you to invest your emotion, Noah's story is not just something that you passively stare at, you're not just sitting in the theater going like, well, I could look at any one of these four walls, but I'm gonna have a look at the wall that has the pictures moving on it, you are getting sucked in, you are being asked to care. And usually you're being asked to care about a useless hero going on an uninteresting story. And you know, I wouldn't say most of the time, but a tremendous amount. A tremendous amount of stories are bad. And what do you say, when you see a bad movie or read a bad book, you say, Well, I'm never doing that, again, you say I was tricked into caring about this hero, and then he turned out not to be worth caring about. So I'm not going to care again. So every time you write a book, or you write a screenplay, or you make a movie, then your audience is people going to be like, first of all, I know, this is all wise, you're not going to trick me into thinking this is a real person, right? And then you're not going to get me to care. There's no way I'm gonna care about this person, because you're just going to hurt me, I don't wanna be hurt again. And so that is a huge hurdle you have to overcome is realizing that getting the audience to care is going to be the hardest thing in the world. Or number seven is, your audience need not always sympathize with your hero, but they must always empathize with your hero. So I talked about how like, you know, we, when we were in film school, it was like the heyday of Mad Men and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. And they were like, Oh, these heroes aren't sympathetic. So that means these are successful here with neon sympathetic semi Do you no longer have to write sympathetic heroes anymore. So that means you can just write about anybody, and you can write any story you want to do, and they can just be the most loathsome hero in the world. And people have no choice. Now they have to care about it, though the whole rules have been thrown out the window, we did not realize how hard these writers were working. First of all, we didn't realize that all of these writers had gotten their starts on shows where you cared very much where the hero was very sympathetic. So for instance, did you know

David Chase, who created the sopranos, he had gotten a start as a writer on The Rockford Files. There has never been a more lovable hero in the history of TV than Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files. And so he knew he was not somebody coming along going, like, Gee, I don't know how to create a synthetic hero. So I'd better create a yeah, I'd better create Tony Soprano instead and create an unsympathetic hero. And, you know, hopefully people will like him. No, he knew how to create sympathetic heroes, and he knew how to get us to love Tony Soprano, even though he was an awful guy. And he knew it was because we wouldn't sympathize with them, but we would empathize with him, we deeply empathize with him. And that's why your story about a sympathetic ear. That's why people are saying, Oh, I hate your story. Because it's an unsympathetic hero and you're like, but But what about all these unsympathetic heroes out there who are great heroes, when they're really mean to say is not that they can sympathize with the hero, they're saying, I can't empathize with your hero. And that is death. That is you can have the least sympathetic ear on the world, but if we can't empathize with him or her, forget it.

Alex Ferrari 19:21
So then you look at a character, which arguably, I think is arguably one of the best television shows of all time is Breaking Bad with Walter White. I mean, his transformation from like, like, I'm gonna Gillean Vince Gilligan said he's like, Mr. Chips turns into Scarface, and, and you know, when I started watching that show, it's it just, you see him slowly turn into a monster, but yet he turned into a monster for the like when he started the journey. It was for kind of the right reasons. Kind of it's a gray area. Have you want to say the cell math, but I get it, I get it. But then afterwards, it stopped being about that. And it was all about his own ego and he literally turned into a monster. But yet you still were empathetic with him. Like it was so brilliantly written and performed as well.

Matt Bird 20:17
Yeah, if they had, I don't I don't know if they had gotten they originally offered the show to both Matthew Broderick and John CUSEC. And I don't know if Broderick in case I could have pulled it off. I don't know if we would have you know, we would have cared as much about Matthew Broderick or junkies, I could say had gone on that journey. It was really it was all about, you know, don't get me wrong. Vince Gilligan scripts were amazing. They were insane. They were brilliant. And Better Call Saul is still brilliant. I'm I'm watching the most recent season that right now. But, you know, Bryan Cranston, come on? I mean, so good on that show, he made that show. He was amazing on that show. And it was so good. But no, I mean, you know, I mean, if what might have happened sick, you know, if he had not been, you know, it was so important that he had been sick, it was so important that he had been screwed out of his previous job. I think that, you know, the best motivation. It's like, how, first of all, once you got to the point where Walter White had made an insane amount of money. And, you know, obviously, it got harder to empathize with him as the show went on. Because he had was, he was no longer sick. First of all, he had, he was no longer conceivably doing this for his family, because his family now was, you know, his wife had found out and hated him for doing it. So, you know, in order to make his wife happy, that was it. But the real, I think the hidden motivation on that show that made it that didn't justify but strongly motivated all his actions, is that he felt he had been cheated out of a billion dollars. He felt that when he had been forced out of this company, right, that he had, I think greymatter was the name of the company. And he, he felt like he had this burning resentment inside him from feeling like I was part of a billion dollar startup. And then I was forced out. And I was cheated out of this money. And so that gave him the bottomless pit. Because, you know, in the end, the illness wasn't abundant was paid for, you know, trying to trying to satisfy his family wasn't one was bad. It was that resentment of feeling like I and I think so many of us feel that way. So many of us have, like, you know, like, that was my fortune, you've got my fortune. We all have that person. We know, who made it when we didn't make it, and who she was out of the thing. And it was, I think that is one of the most underrated or underrecognized elements of that show of why people love that show so much.

Alex Ferrari 22:37
Yeah, and it's still it's still going. It's still going and it'll go on and it ended. It had a beautiful one of the most beautiful endings to a show ever. So brilliantly, brilliantly done. Did you happen to see the Colombian version of Breaking Bad?

Matt Bird 22:54
No, there's the Colombian version there is that they literally took

Alex Ferrari 22:57
the scripts and test translated them into Spanish. And then they licensed it. And they licensed it to a Colombian set of actors, and they did everything down there in Colombia, and it's a telenovela. Basically, they made it into a telenovela. If you want, if you can get just a few if anyone out there, if you can send it to us somewhere online. Right, Bradbury. He saw one of

Matt Bird 23:22
my favorite TV shows, one of my favorite TV shows of all time is slings and arrows about life in a Canadian Shakespeare Festival, which doesn't sound like it would be a great show. But and then I found out that the director of City of God, yeah, made and, and oh, and he just made another film that was really great. But the director of city Oh, God made a Brazilian version of slings and arrows. So in this case, it was my life in a Brazilian Shakespeare Festival. And that's like my holy grail of stuff I want to find. I want to find the Brazilian version of Oh, and he just made the two pups. Oh, I was watching the two pups and two pups was brilliant. I loved that movie. And I was like, Man, this guy made its own version of slings and arrows. That's what I really want to. I don't know if anybody has even dubbed it and I do not speak Portuguese.

Alex Ferrari 24:10
Right. So how committed are you sir? Will you learn Portuguese just to watch?

Matt Bird 24:17
Well, that's what Pete Buddha judge did. Right? Pete Buddha judge taught himself Norwegian because the he was reading a book series that was translated from Norwegian. And then the final books were not translated from Norwegian. So he taught himself Norwegian just to read the book series.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
God bless him. God bless.

Matt Bird 24:34
See where he ends up?

Alex Ferrari 24:35
Yeah, exactly. So let me ask you a question. So yeah, I don't want you to give all your 13 laws away. I want to be somebody who can actually buy the book. But yes, what is your process for coming up for an intriguing concept for our story?

Matt Bird 24:52
Well, I think that, you know, I don't always agree with like, Senator, but I think Blake Snyder, you know, was right on the money when he talked about the importance of irony that You know, it's gonna be, you know, a schoolteacher cooks math, you know, not a drug lord cooks math, you know, not the son of a drug lord cooks math solver, Adobo cooks met Montessori, school teacher cooks MEB. That's the story. There's got to be an ironic element to it. I talked about on my blog, I've got a whole series of how to generate a story idea. And, you know, I talk about, for instance, there's all sorts of ways into it. Like one way, you know, one of the ways to generate your idea is, you've always thought she, the thing you've always wanted to do, but you know, you would never do so it can be the the science fiction version of that is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Like, gee, I wouldn't you know, I've gone through a bad breakup, I would really love to, if I could just have a machine that would wipe out all memories of this relationship from my head, then that would make me happy. And anyway, would that make me happy, and then boom, that's the story. You're off to the races. That's a great story. But it can also be a way to get a non science fiction story. Like, you know, I've just gone through another bad breakup. Some stories begin with bad breakups. I've just been through a bad breakup. And what if I tracked down every girl who's ever come to me, since elementary school, and tracked debt and made a list of the top five girls who've ever done and track them down one by one and interview them about why they dominate? Well, again, that's something that Nick Hornby did not do. I promise you he did not do that. I promise you that no one has ever actually done that. But it's something we've all thought about doing. Like oh, wouldn't that be, and boom, that's a story that got turned into the novel, high fidelity, and then the movie high fidelity, and then the TV series, high fidelity. And that's, you know, that's essentially he's doing the same thing, that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had going, like, you know, what's, what's an idea I had, of course, I feel like, the best way to probably create a story these days, if you want to create something big, if you want to create a big sale, I talked about the Hunger Games, how she was reading about the legend of PCs, and all of it, all of the Hunger Games in the legend, PCs, so that they were like, you know, oh, we've got an empire, we're rolling over all these kingdoms. Once a year, we're going to have all the kingdoms and, you know, they're beautiful young people too. And then we're going to put them in this labyrinth, and we're going to force them to compete. And this will be a way to, you know, to show them that we have conquered them. And that, you know, we could kill them on a times, but instead, we'll just kill their two most beautiful kids, and force them to fight to the death just to show our power. And she was like, well, she could have done three things. She could have said, Okay, well, let me just, you know, this is IP, a PCS is IP, why don't I just go back? And it's, it's the best kind of IP, it's IP that's in the public domain. I just read a book about Theseus, but then she was like, but you know, then first of all, you shouldn't really own it, because anyone can write a book about PCs. So she's like, well, what's a version of PCs I can own? And I could sell it in modern day, but that would be kind of a stretch. She's like,

Alex Ferrari 27:54
you know what, you know what? We're not too far away. I would have said that. Yes, you borrow it. I would have said I would have said that a few years ago. But now what what you thought was impossible is not possible, sir. So don't don't authority.

Matt Bird 28:06
But then she was like, why don't I make this the post apocalyptic version? And all she did was take an existing story. All she did was take existing IP. And she was able to make that into a billion dollar franchise herself. I don't know. Does Susan Collins have a billion dollars? She spent a billion dollars find out right?

Alex Ferrari 28:29
Between a couple of them shirts. I think she's she's done. Okay. So basically, she just took she just basically took Hamlet, let's say, and made it into a long sea or something that's completely in the public domain. And just made an entire IP out of it.

Matt Bird 28:42
Yeah, she she took she took free IP is what Disney spamming him with. That's my endgame. Yeah, with Disney has been doing for a long time is taking free IP and, and turning it into something they can been owned and try to, you know, force everybody else to, you know, try to, they like to pluck things out of the public domain and then suddenly claim to own them, which is a neat trick. But she that's what she did. She she took something in the public domain, plucked it out, made it hers and made a fortune. You know, I talked about but I talk about other things that aren't necessarily sci fi related. I talk about the importance of a unique relationship. I talked about how, you know, you kind of bully and a boy, a boy who's being bullied. Well, that is a story we've seen a million times, but then the bully hires, but then the boy hires the meanest body to protect him from the other bullies. Then that's the movie my bodyguard. That is a unique relationship. We've never thought

Alex Ferrari 29:38
I love that movie. I love that movie. So I can't believe you refer to that. That's it was released in 1980. I remember watching it as a kid, and I thought it was the most awesome frickin movie with Matt Dillon. Is it Matt Dillon? Adam Baldwin, yeah, Adam Baldwin and Matt Dillon with the two picks. They weren't big Stars then but those are the stars. Oh god, I can't believe you made a reference to that movie. It's like one of my favorite movies of all time. I love that movie.

Matt Bird 30:05
But that's, you know, we've seen both those characters many times. These aren't unique characters, but it's a unique relationship we've never seen you know, the week kid hired the bullied to be as bodyguard before, or you know, work at another high school movie like election, you know, about a war between a girl running for student body president and her civics teacher. And it's like, okay, we, you know, we've seen characters like this before, but man, that's a unique relationship. We have never seen that relationship before. Or, you know, I talked about paper, Moon, you know, a con man and his 11 year old accomplice who may or may not be his daughter. And it's like, okay, this is if you can, you know, you don't have to be science fiction, obviously, one of my ideas, you know, it's like, okay, I mean, these days, gentlemen, people talk about high concept. They talk about science fiction, they're talking about like, okay, you know, here's a high concept idea. It's, you know, we've got it's 1000 years into the future. And it's like, well, what's up there? You can, you know, the simplest high concept idea out there the simplest type concept. You know, the, if a pure high concept is something where you put together two words, and you sell it for a million dollars, and to me, the ultimate example of that is Wedding Crashers. Two words. Wedding Crashers, boom, done sale. Make a movie. It's a funny idea. It makes you laugh, like, oh, people are graduating and you're like, oh, you know, you just you're instantly like, I can't wait to meet these guys. I can't wait to meet these guys who crush other people's weddings. Or what if not big budget. Easy and easiest thing in the world to make?

Alex Ferrari 31:35
Yes. Like what if? What if dinosaurs came back? We can bring the answers back. That's done. Yeah. And we opened the park but

Matt Bird 31:44
it's so funny that they've never really there's never really been a dinosaurs rampaging through Manhattan movie. Isn't that strange?

Alex Ferrari 31:53
I mean, last world. They did do not in Manhattan, but they did he they did come towards

Matt Bird 31:57
Spielberg. Spielberg loves the suburbs. So you know, Spielberg is like if I'm gonna have a T Rex going through America, I'm gonna put them out in the suburbs, but it's really weird. I was working in idea for a while I never kind of done you know, obviously, that may be one reason why it's harder right than you think. But you know, it always struck me in the Thor movies. We've never really had a like frost giants attack downtown Manhattan moment.

Alex Ferrari 32:24
But you know, a lot of things if attacks Manhattan over the years, I mean, we were we're good if it's between a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Godzilla. I mean, Manhattan's had its day don't get there's no lack of things attacking Manhattan over the course of movie history. I think we're okay. But yes, I've never personally seen a dinosaurs I think shark NATO I'd never seen any the movies. I'm assuming there must have been a shark NATO in Manhattan at one point or, like, that's a perfect thing. Shark NATO that sold. So, I love this. There's one little meme that's on around going on social media is like remember when you think you had a bad idea? Remember that one day once there was a guy in a room who said let's put sharks in tornadoes? You know, I mean,

Matt Bird 33:15
that's, that's and then and then seven movies later how many of those movies that they made my

Alex Ferrari 33:19
god so much money they've made? It's ridiculous. So then how do you so we would talk a little bit about characters with like Indiana Jones and, and Walter White, let's say how do you write that enduring character? That character that that just sticks with you like like an indie like, I mean, we can we can analyze indie we can and a lot analyze Han Solo if there's two to Harrison Ford characters

Matt Bird 33:46
to George Lucas, there's unfortunately no

Alex Ferrari 33:48
Yeah, or, or any of these characters that you just like, oh, like forever I will be with this character, James Bond is another one of those characters that endures, regardless of how he's transformed, transformed over the course of his journey in history of filmmaking. So what do you how do you do it? How do you write an enduring character?

Matt Bird 34:09
Well, when I talk about in the, I think the title of my next book, depending on how the publisher actually feels, but will be believed care, invest. And I talked about how like, you know, again, you've got they're going to give you five pages, maybe 10 pages when they read it, and what they're gonna want to do it and those five pages are going to want to believe, care and invest. And they're going to want to say, You know what, I was just talking on the next episode of my podcast about this. How, you know, Ray in Star Wars ray in The Force Awakens is a classic example of like, right away, we're seeing her and her wife is so strange. If it's so filled with like, she makes that bread, that spherical machine she's got wherever that was awesome. Yeah, that causes you to totally believe in this world because you're like, Okay, that's so weird. You couldn't make it up. You know, like, Okay, this must be real. This must be a real world like so any thought I had going on? have like, Okay, this is all going to be wise this is going to be fake button pushing manipulating character, like, okay, no, this, this feels real. And then they get you to care because the characters suffering the characters being embarrassed. You know, in this case, she's living hand to mouth, she's living this very hardscrabble life and then they get you to invest because she's taking care of herself and she is taking care of herself wonderfully. First they show you that she is doing all she can to make all this money, she's doing all she can, could work very hard. And you know, is like doing going to, you know, we see a rappelling down into a destroyed Star Destroyer, we see Oh, see, you're going to do current length, and then you get the point 10 minutes and where we've already seen her desperately trying to get money from the pawnbroker or from the scrap dealer, and she'll do anything to get this money. And then she gets destroyed. And the droid says, And finally, the scrap dealer who she's always been trying to make this money off of. So that'll pay a fortune for I'll pay a fortune for eBay. And she says, and then suddenly, she says, I'm not selling, I'm not gonna set one. And oh, my God, we love this character five now, because we've seen that she's, we believe in her, we care about her, we've invested in her, and we desperately want her to make that money. We at this point, we want her to make that money, we want her to be successful. And then she gets a higher calling. She says, No, this is about more than me, this is about bigger than me. This is about BPA, I am going to not sell him. And like what better example this could be where we talk about, you know, The Hunger Games, Why can the Hunger Games, you know, we talked about save the cat. And, oh, it's so important. It's so important. You kind of have your character save the cat right away. And it almost, it's almost always a mistake to have your character save a cat. Because we don't identify that we, I've never saved a cat, you have never saved a cat. It is a very rare thing to actually save a cat. That's not the sort of thing we see. And it's like, oh, that's just like me, I save cats all the time. What is what is the first page of The Hunger Games, I think the second paragraph of the Hunger Games, she wakes up in the morning, and she sees the family cat. And she thinks, you know, I really want to kill that cat. I almost killed that cat before I tried to kill that cat before I didn't succeed. I really want to kill the family cat today. And then she decides not to kill it. So she sort of saves the cat, right? Because she almost kills it and then decides not to kill it. So that's one version of saving a cat. But then she leaves the house and she kills a different cat. Within five pages later, she sees a noble mountain lion and she concerns landing. And it's like, no, I'm gonna kill it and cook it. And she does. So it's like, this is the ultimate opposite of Save the cat. This is like literally she almost kills the family cat and then does kill another cat. But we believe we care. We invest we believe in her life because it's filled with, you know, even just her story of almost going to family cat. It's like, oh, that doesn't sound fake. Because that sounds like because no one would make that up to manipulate me because that makes me not like her like, Okay, this must be real. And then we care so much because oh my god, she's poor enough where, you know, she would even consider that. And then we've asked because what's the next thing she does, she goes up, there's an electric fence, I'm gonna slip through the electric fence. I'm gonna take out my bow and arrow, and then I'm gonna go hunt. And oh my god, like we love her. But then so we believe in her. We cared about her, we invest in her. And then what happens on page 10, or page ad or no 25 or so is she is so good at looking out for number one and taking care of number one and making sure that she survives, she'll do anything to survive. And then she volunteers for The Hunger Games to save her sister. And she rises up above it. So we totally believe in her world. And then she rises up above it. And oh my god, we absolutely love her now. And now you're in. Now you're in

you know, it's James Bond is the perpetual exception. I just rewatched I was all prepared. The new James Bond movie was supposed to come out. And I watched all 25 James Bond movies. Wow. And then I was all set up. I was timing it exactly. To the moment the movie came out. And then the movie was cancelled. But James Bond is the perpetual exception. You know, certainly before Daniel credit comes in, he never changes. He never learns he never grows. He doesn't. He doesn't really get humiliated. He does though. Like that's such a key Amen is your hero getting humiliated? And there are key moments, you know, if you look at Gold finger, you know, he's, he's, you know, could not be more suave. And when he blows up the tanker, and then you know, takes off his wetsuit and he's got on a tux underneath and then But then he goes to the woman's house to have sex with her. And then it's it's the most ludicrous thing that he sees in reflected in the iris of her eyes. Someone coming up to kill him. And then that's a little bit of a moment of humiliation. You get just enough in the Bond movies. Okay, I I definitely you mentioned some he's getting a little bit of humiliation here. And then of course, he turns the girls so that she gets knocked on the head instead of himself, because he's despicable. Don't get me wrong. He has a despicable human being. And but he's the exception. You know, certainly you look at Indy, you look at Indiana Jones and, you know, instantly right away he misjudges the whole bag Same situation, he gets betrayed by his assistant, Alfred Molina, he then has to run through the forest. And then he gets forced on his knees to hand over the idol to duck and then add on of course, he's also he's free to snake. He hate snakes, and he gets away and there is a snake in there. So this guy who was seemingly not afraid of anything, is somebody terrified of snakes. And, you know, he can do it. He's got the skills, he does amazing work, and yet he horses and he gets humiliated. And yet he gets knocked down in a way that speaks not just to his interpersonal failings, but to his inner his intrapersonal failings into what is really wrong with his character. What is his deep personal flaw? It all speaks to it. We love him. We love him so much. That's what it's all about is you know, you you believe care, invest. And then, you know, and then suddenly, there's a moment where it kicks in. Suddenly, there's a moment where you're like, wow, okay, now I'm really on board with this person.

Alex Ferrari 41:00
Well, you look at you look to characters like the like bond pre Daniel Craig, because I think I think still Casino Royale is the best Bond movie ever. In my opinion. There's just it's, it's It's a masterpiece of the whole canon of James Bond. But you look at characters like bond or Sherlock Holmes. And they're both basically superheroes in many ways. They are godlike, and they generally didn't change. Like, you know, Sherlock generally never changed that people that change the people around him, like, Watson is kind of like the person who's learning the lessons along the way. And we kind of identify with Watson, in that sense, but Sherlock never sure looks the same violin playing dude, from the beginning to the end. And same thing with the older bonds. So there are those kind of and that's why I think it was so difficult to make a good Superman movie, other than the original Donner movies, because you can't write for a guide. It's hard. It's hard. That's why the mountain lip is all of them were human. Basically, all of them were even though there were gods, they all had the same failings of humanity. So

Matt Bird 42:11
what's interesting, both Sherlock Holmes and James Bond are addicts, you know, like James Bond, they talked about in the original movies, they talk about, you know, like, oh, you know, you've got liver problems, right, from right from the opening movies. And, you know, they talk about, you know, people always act like, oh, you know, the Bond movies were set back in a time when it was great to be, you know, this swaggering dude who had all these things. It's like, he gets criticized right away, you know, like, he was seen as sort of a monster like, Sean Connery was perceived by the people around him in those early movies, as being this sort of Monster is dude, and who had serious flaws who had serious problems. Yeah. And you know, we go today like, oh, he was a womanizer. And he was he drank too much and he smoked too much and Oh, of course back then when they made movies they didn't even realize that was problem like no they did they realize that was from and of course Sherlock Holmes was addicted to opium he would inject himself I mean, I opium he would cocaine, you wouldn't have to myself with liquid cocaine, and, you know, with a very troubled person, and in the in the stories, and I think that we tend to, we tend to women, we tend to think like, oh, they're the past, where heroes were allowed to be perfect. But as he said, even with the gods, the cons were, you know, in the Greek gods, the gods were very flawed. I mean, I think the oldest piece of literature that is still with us is Gilgamesh and Gilgamesh you know, could not you, you I dare you to find a screenwriting gurus book where anything in it does not apply to Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh could not be a more perfectly fine hero, his journey cannot fit modern story structures better. So you've read Gilgamesh, and you're like, wow, nothing has changed, like nothing has changed. And the reason why nothing has changed is because good storytelling it rise is based on human nature is based on what is the fundamental truth about what it's like to be a human because that's what stories are about stories are about what is the fundamental truth about what does it mean to be a human in this world? And even if you go back to ancient Mesopotamia, even if you go back to the, you know, 3500 years BCE, it's human nature was the same. And you read Gilgamesh, and you're like, Oh, my God, it's, it's, I it may be my favorite book. And it's the oldest book we've had.

Alex Ferrari 44:23
Yeah, and it's just you know, it's, it's, it's similar to what we're dealing with today is the human condition just with less iPhones. Essentially, exactly. Now, structure is something that is talked at nauseum about in storytelling, and specifically in screenwriting, is like you need to follow this formula, the hero's journey, the three act structure, at page this you have to have that happen a page that that happens. What is your take on story structure in general?

Matt Bird 44:56
Well, you know, at first I was like, oh, all this The writing gurus have taken that have covered that it's fine. Everybody has their structure, I don't need my own structure. And then of course, inevitably, you start giving writing advice. And everybody, you always end up with your own structure. And every, you know, I sort of ended up with sort of 14 points where I started out, what I realized about structure is that, you know, you have people you have people like Robert McKee, who are saying, well, you know, I, here's pharmakeia, you were on a cruise, you have paid for the Robert McKee cruise, and I'm going to tell you what all good stories are like, and then somebody stands up in the back and they go, my stories don't like that. And then Robert McKee can tell them, Okay, leave the boat swim home. My, my, my structure doesn't apply to you, he has to claim that all structures apply to him. So he talks about like the micro pod and the mini pot, and things like that. And that's what gurus tend to do is they drive themselves crazy trying to cover all the exceptions, I realized right away, I'm not going to try to cover all the exceptions, my structure only applies to stories about the solving of a large problem.

Alex Ferrari 46:08
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Matt Bird 46:18
So, I mean, the biggest problem you can have when you're trying to structure is like, okay, all good movies are like this. And then someone says, Pulp Fiction. And you're like, exactly, both fiction does not have a modern structure. And Polk fiction does not have a structure that matches the structure of any other movie. And because Pulp Fiction is not about the solving of a large problem, it is an ensemble film, it is about several different stories, it is they overlap, the time is crazy, but if you're going to write, but I'm like, Okay, you be you, you go off and be Pulp Fiction, you're brilliant, don't change, never change. But most stories are about an invoke an individual solving a large problem, my structure only applies to those stories, not gonna apply those others. And then I realized what story structure really is, is it is not a set of rules for that Aristotle, or Mickey, or that anybody else has said, I'm going to dictate to you what the rules of story should be. It is merely an attempt to list the steps and missteps that people go through when solving a large problem in real life. So in human nature, we tend to go through a series of steps and miss steps on the way to solving a large problem. And when you see a story, and when somebody says, Oh, the structure is not good on your story. They're not saying, oh, you know, you didn't read Blake Snyder and hit all his beats. What they're saying is that this story does not ring true to me, this story does not ring true to human nature. To me, this does not feel like an identify for believable journey from becoming aware of a problem to solving that problem. Or to succumbing to the problem if the movie ends tragically. And that's what they really mean. So you can't just go like, well, I don't believe in your stupid structures guy, I don't, you know, I'm

Alex Ferrari 48:10
an artist. I'm an artist,

Matt Bird 48:12
I'm an artist, I don't do paint by numbers, man, then you're like, Okay, that's fine. That's great. You're an artist. And that's wonderful. But your story is not ringing true. And if you want to say, okay, you know, if you're writing, there will be blood or something, if you're writing something where it's like, okay, this is about a strange person who is not interested in being your hero, who is not interested in doing that, that's fine. You know, if this is not something where it's like, I'm going to invest in this person, I hope this person solves all their problems, then that's fine. But if you are, and you probably are, then you will need to follow the steps and missteps that most people will tend to follow in real life when solving large problems. And that was how I generate my structure now. It's funny. So 13 of my 14 main steps in my structure, applied event, there's one that doesn't, and it's the one that was it's necessary to solve a paradox of storytelling. And that paradox is the break into act three, I don't refer to x one, two and three, I talk about the four corners of your story, but the move from the third quarter your story to the fourth quarter your story, or as it's usually referred to by screenwriters, the break from act two and act three, then we all know that the hero is supposed to be proactive at that point, right? supposed to have a proactive hero, the hero has realized what his problem is realized what the problem in his world is. He's confronted his flaw, and now he's ready to take on the world. He's ready to bring the fight to the bad guy. But do we actually want in the final quarter of the story? Do we actually want the hero to just show up to the bad guy's house and beat him up? No, we don't want that. So this is a paradox. Like if we want the hero to take the fight to the if we want the hero to have changed enough as a person and to have gone through the personal transformation necessary to now say I'm ready to show up at the heroes house and beat him up. But then we don't actually want to see that happen. So what happens? Why, why is the hero giving the writer conflict? Why is the audience giving the writer conflicting signals here. And of course, it all comes down to Star Wars, and even my mind in the original kind of Star Wars, that's exactly what happened at the end is they're like, we have the plants of the Death Star. And we're gonna just show up at the heroes front door and beat a pup, we're gonna find the Death Star, wherever it is, in the middle of the galaxy. We're gonna fly there, we're gonna shoot, we're gonna shoot it the fawn the Death Star, and we're gonna blow it up. And nobody likes the movie. George Lucas was showing this movie to people and they were ashamed. They were like, Oh, George, I'm so sorry. Well, you know, maybe the next one will work out for you. You know, this one's just, it's not working. And George did the number one thing that everybody should do, he went back to his wife. And he said, Honey, why isn't this working? And she said, Let me fix it for you. And she said, Well, duh, your problem is, it's good that your heroes now have the information they need. They've got what they need to defeat the bad guys. But then the bad guys show up on their doorstep. And she just we ended the movie and redubbed the movie, and shot new insert shots to create an entire storyline that was not there in the original film of, okay, yes, we know, have the plans with the desktop, but then the desktop shows up to blow us up before we can go there to blow them up. And they are about to blow us up. And, you know, you look at this in suddenly, once you see this, you see it everywhere. So that is you see it everywhere. That, oh, you know, I have personally transformed it become a productive person. But then the timeline gets unexpectedly moved up. And suddenly they're here. So it's the one step in my structure where it's like, Okay, that one is there to address the paradox that is, you know, because in, but it doesn't happen in real life anyway. Yeah.

Does, it doesn't happen that time, like, does tend to get moved up. But it doesn't. But that's not necessarily something that's based on real life, it's not that the timeline always gets moved and always gets moved up in real life, although that does tend to happen. You know, I talk about my structure, how, you know, I would, I would sit there and I'd be like, Okay, I need to master this structure. And I need to do this, you know, this writing job that I've just gotten. And I would go like, okay, so I think I've messaged the structure, I'm gonna do the writing job. Okay, first thing I'm gonna do, when I do the right job is I'm gonna, I'm gonna sell them a pitch, they're gonna like the pitch, you know, for how I'm gonna adapt their novel. And then I'm gonna come up with my beat sheet, I've got the beat sheet, and I'm going to pitch it to them. And they like the beat sheet, they go, that's good. Write it exactly the way it is on your beat sheet, and you'll make a million bucks, we'll make a million bucks, we're all gonna get rich. And then you sit down, and you're like, and they tell you, Okay, you have to determine the screenplay in six weeks. And you're like, This is fine. That means I just have to write like three pages a day, it's gonna be beautiful. And then you're writing your pages every day, you're writing your scenes. And then you get halfway through, and you realize this beat sheet that I sold them that they love, it sucks. Like it is, you know, I have my plans have unraveled. And I now realized that this beautiful plan I have, I have to throw out the window. And I have to start over even though I this is what they told me to do. Even though this is the approved plan, I have to repeat this thing. against the rules, an outward repeat that I have to do in order to actually write something that's going to be good. And then I'm gonna have to sell this to them that sell them the thing they don't want. And it's going to work and I realize like, Okay, this is what happens when I would get hired to write screenplays. And it's also what happens in screenplays because this is proof of what I was saying that the story structure is the structure of how you solve problems in real life. The when you're writing your story structure and you're creating a btw story structure, you will end up following the same storyline where you will end up having to in any good movie, they throw out the map halfway through, they get to the halfway point and they're like, Okay, crumple up these plans, throw them out. We're proactive now we're improving. We're having to solve this problem from scratch. And this exact same thing will happen to you Ironically, when you're trying to write it, you will get halfway through and you're crumple up your beachy, throw it out. You're like oh my God, I am winging it from now on. I'm running. Gotcha. And if you don't do that, it's gonna be terrible. If you just write the exact pitch that you sold them Yeah, it's gonna be terrible.

Alex Ferrari 54:41
Now one one thing I wanted to ask you is something that I guess does not get talked about very much in in screenwriting in general and I'd love to hear your take on it tone. Can you discuss tone because tone is so so important. You know if it It's just so important, especially to all the great movies have good tone, or have appropriate tone.

Matt Bird 55:07
And if and if you can master tone, then you're set. Because if you can, you know, tone is about setting expectation. And if you can set the audience's expectations, if you can tell them like, Okay, here's what to expect from me, here's what I think you should expect, here's what I think you should want, then, and then they want it and then you give it to them, then they will have no idea that you are a master manipulator, who has tricked them into liking this story that they would not actually have liked, that they would have had, you know, I always say the ultimate example of challenge is go back, I'm going to re edit Star Wars, and I'm just going to change one thing, I'm going to take off the opening frames of the movie. And so now instead of saying, Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, no, I'm sorry, what does it say

Alex Ferrari 55:54
a long time, a long time ago, in a galaxy far,

Matt Bird 55:56
far away, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. And I'm going to take that title card off the front of the movie, and instead, I'm going to put a title card that says it is the year 25,193. And then boom, and then you have the whole rest of the movie, the movie would suck. That would suck if Star Wars was not set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but it was set in the year 25,193, then we would go okay, so this is a science fiction movie. And this is going to follow the rules of a science fiction movie. So they are going to we're going to be dealing with explosive decompression every time that an airlock is opened, we're going to be dealing with supercomputers that have been programmed to take over the world.

Alex Ferrari 56:41
No sound, no sound, no sound in space. No sound

Matt Bird 56:44
in space, of course, no sound in space. Close. And then you're going to be watching this movie. And you're going like this is not the or 25,000. We've got wizards. We've got princesses. We've got you know, we've got storming the castle, we've got all these things. And this is a fairy tale. This is a story that should be said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And you you have not delivered the story that you promised to deliver. And that is tone. You know, I think that 90 If you're not a screenwriter and you're watching that movie, you're like, oh, that's sort of funny that it says it said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. And you won't realize what that is doing for you that that is solving the movies problems by establishing that tone. That that is saying like, nope, not, it's not what you think it is. It's something else. It's my thing. Let me tell you what my thing is going to be. And I talked about, you know, I when I break up tone I talked about with tone, you know? So the first part tone is genre, establishing your genre establishing your sub genre, that was what that's title card was all about establishing like, no, no, no, no, no, this isn't what you're expecting sci fi. This is a sub genre. I talked about how satisfying genre expectations how you've got to satisfy some genre expectations, but not a lot of genre crustaceans. I talk a lot about on my blog about Game of Thrones, and about Game of Thrones, you know, they satisfy just enough genre expectations. And then they just didn't satisfy so many of them. First of all, they kept killing off the hero. They're like, Oh, by the way, Ned Stark's the hero. No, no, wait, he's dead. Okay, now Rob serves the hero. No, no, no way. He's dead. So that was all about upsetting expectations. But man, if you love fantasy, you still love that series. And it's, it's if you don't want to fail, I mean that that's the dream is Game of Thrones. Because if you love fantasy, you'll love that series. And if you don't want fantasy, you'll love that series. And that if you can satisfy the fans of the genre enough so that they're the ones who want that book for the first 10 years of Game of Thrones existing only Fantasy fans, only Fantasy fans barn and read it. And I don't know if you knew any of these people, but these people kept going to people who work fancy fans going like, Oh my God, you have to read these books. They're amazing. And the manager like Gone, forget it. I'm not gonna read these big, thick fantasy books. Like I am a serious human being I am an adult. I do not read big, thick fancy books, and all the fantasy fans that was driving them crazy, cuz they're like, No, you will love it. It is literature. It is great. It is entertainment and literature and everything. And so that is such a big part of it. I talked about framing I talked about obviously, the dramatic question is something that screenwriting people talk about a lot. How, you know, establishing what Frank question is establishing what the what, what you're going to address at the end and what you're not going to dress and when it's going to be over and when it's not going to be over. You know, Star Wars is not about toppling the Empire. And if you get to the end of Star Wars, and you're like, what the Empire still standing, you know, this movie sucked. That would be that would be bad. They have to you know, they establish the drain question right away and always go like We have to get we have to get these plans to the rebels in order to because we have a plan for how to blow up the destiny. We got to plan for birth or we have to get it to the rebels. And then we're going to bought the Deathstar. And that's what this movie is about. And yes, you know, they don't even kill off Darth Vader. They leave it on unclear about whether he's dead, but they don't even clear up Darth Vader, and they don't. They certainly don't, you know, conquer the galaxy. And they have to establish their dramatic question right away. I talked about framing sequences I talked about parallel characters are great if you every time your character meets. And you know, your character should be constantly meeting characters that are like, Oh, I could end up like that. I could. This is the extreme version of what I'm thinking about being like, Oh, my God, this this person I'm on the verge of becoming, do I really want to become like that, look, this other character? Or if I don't do it, look at this other character who ended up dead. And that is a great way of establishing expectations. If you establish like, Oh my God, look at all these people. I could be this person. I want to be this person. I don't want to be this person who, you know, who tragically ended up dead because they didn't do the right thing. Or because they didn't do the right thing. What am I going to be? What is that?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:12
So it's like, are you going to be Darth Vader? Are you going to be Obi Wan? If you're Luke? That's the That's the question. Because you can go either way

Matt Bird 1:01:19
towards you're gonna be hot. Are you gonna? Or you're gonna reject the force? Yeah, does

Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
exactly. So there's, there's that as opposed to the the prequels, you know, which have their place. But anagen had the choice of becoming Yoda. Or, or, or becoming who he or becoming the Emperor, essentially. And he chose poorly. If I may use Indiana Jones. He chose poorly.

Matt Bird 1:01:49
But we can see now

Alex Ferrari 1:01:51
there's a whole there's a whole episode that you and I could sit down and just deconstruct the the prequels

Matt Bird 1:01:59
for the rest of this because nobody's done that.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:04
I'm sure no one. No, no, Georgia. People, I think, I think genius character. What are you talking about? Oh, I'm sorry. But this was awkward. Like, you know what, but with all that said, when you saw the trailer for Phantom Menace, oh, my God. Don't tell me you didn't.

Matt Bird 1:02:23
I worked in a movie theater. I and we could watch it over and over. And we did it. Trust

Alex Ferrari 1:02:28
me. i We all drank that Kool Aid. And when we walked in, I promise you when you walked out a Phantom Menace? Because you're you're of the similar generation as I was. You're close to my vintage, sir. You walked out a fan of minutes and said, Oh my god. That was amazing. The pod right? I mean, I did. I did.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:50
And then I did not. You did not. You did not like it. You did like it like I did not like

Alex Ferrari 1:02:55
so you didn't talk. I drank full kool aid on that one. But then I watched it. I watched it with my daughter a year or two ago. Just to introduce her. She's like, well, let me see that. You know, Anna, and I'm like, All right. Well, Jana, so we watched Phantom Menace, and I could barely watch it. It was so bad. It was so so I mean, great action sequences, great lightsaber battle, great pod raise. That was fun. But it was mind numbing. He was he was really bad.

Matt Bird 1:03:31
But anyway, really bad.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
I like I said, Well, like you said earlier. It's like you said earlier, we're not the first to discuss the prequels on the internet. Now, before we go, I'm gonna ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests. What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?

Matt Bird 1:03:46
Oh, man, see, I listened to some of your old episodes. And I remember hearing us at and I thought, oh, okay, I shouldn't I shouldn't make sure that I that I answered it. And I don't, you know, a really underrated screenplay. When I was in film school. At one point they were throwing out a bunch of old issues of screenplay magazine. And that would always print for screenplays in the back. And I grabbed one I'm like, hey, that's good screenplay. I'll pick it up and read it. And I thought just on the page, one of my all time favorite screenplays is Donnie Brasco by Paul snazzy. Oh, no, it's great. It's great. Great movie and just brilliantly written on the page. And there's never been a better monologue in film history than the forget about it. monologue where they're talking about all the different all the different meanings of the phrase forget about it. I think that that is an absolutely brilliant screenplay. You know, if you're talking about my all time favorite movie, you know, that's Harold and Maude. And I feel like that is a perfect screenplay as well. And an absolutely absolutely brilliant absolutely heartbreaking. You know, there is no better ending, I think in film than the ending in that film. Um, let's see what I would say hard to choose. It's so hard to choose.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:01
I mean Spaceballs. Spaceballs obviously. Well,

Matt Bird 1:05:04
obviously, oh my god. On my own podcast, I just found out that my my, my co host has never seen Blazing Saddles. Oh, oh, it's just assumed it's bad and it's never seen it. So I'm gonna say so in honor of him. I'm gonna say Blazing Saddles for the third month, although, of course, let me tell you all right now, don't write Blazing Saddles. Today. You were never there amount of trouble or trying to do that.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:29
I when I saw I saw Blazing Saddles. When I was in the video working at the video store in high school, I saw Blazing Saddles. And at that point, I said, in the late 80s, early 90s, like, how did this movie get made? Like, even then, I was like, it was not nearly as taboo as it is today. And you watch it, and you just like, I can't believe you got away with it. And I'm like, they'll never be another movie to do something like this. And then bore out came out. I was like, okay. All right. That was and that was the last one and nothing like Bora has has has ever come back on screen since that. But those two specifically, they just pushed that envelope. So good, good. Good choices, good choices. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Matt Bird 1:06:14
Well, hear is, you know, let me can I just, you know, I was thinking like, Oh, he's gonna ask me about business stuff. And that's not really my, my brand. But that's like you I do, because it's not my brand. I do have say about business that I haven't said a million times before and a million other podcast. Can I talk about the number one thing I wish that I had heard before, I had my heat and I was selling? Yeah, and that is what happens in a meeting. Okay? If you're on the counter and water tour, if you're going around, it's good. Bottles, couches, you're getting them you're getting the water. Here are the things I understand. The first thing I didn't understand is that this meeting is a consolation prize. You are getting this meeting because your manager agent sent you sent them your screenplay. They loved it. But they decided not to buy it. And they said, as a consolation prize, we're gonna meet with the guy. So if they had watched your screenplay, I always thought in like, oh, they asked me what you mean. That means like, what my screenplay, that means they're gonna buy it. And I would go in like, oh, I would go in there like, hey, you know, we're here to talk about how you're buying my screenplay. I would have this heartbreak every time of like, you're not even Why are you meeting with me if you're not even gonna buy it, because this is a consolation prize. So that's the first thing and is that they've read it. They loved it, but they decided not to buy it, they asked to meet with you instead. And then as a result, there's three phases to a meeting. And this took me forever to learn. And that's the first faces you talked about the thing that they read appears and they loved and they decided not to buy, and you maybe can talk them into buying in any way. But you've got to be very clear that that's not what you're doing. Like you understand that they loved it, that they're not going to buy it, and that you're not doing but you know, you're suddenly going like, maybe you should have bought it, maybe it shouldn't be your manager. So that's phase one. So there's three phases of beating. Phase one is talk about the thing that they read of yours that they liked, and maybe try to convince them by afterall. Phase two is open assignments. Hopefully, your HR manager has asked them in advance. What open assignments does this production company have? That that they are looking to hire writers for? What novels have the option that then they couldn't get anybody to crack? What what you know, idea, crazy ideas this producer have that he's trying to hire some screenwriter to do that. You want to find out what are your open assignments and you want to pitch them on what the open assignments are. Hopefully you found that advance with the open seminar and you prepare to pitch in advance. And then step three, is you're going to pitch them on your new one. And you're going to pitch them like then they're going to ask so what are you working on? And you're going to say Oh, I'm working on you know, it's about a cow who goes back to ancient France, you're working on whatever you're working on and you're gonna pitch them but that's the least likely thing that's going to come out of it is they're just going to buy a wild pitch from you. And because here is the number one thing I learned from selling and more importantly from not selling, and I have never gotten into reading a bunch of sales books and I'm sure there are sales books out there that say this but I've never encountered one. And to me, this is the number one lesson of sales. And then is that do not sell them what you came to Sell. Sell them with they came to buy. Oh when you were meeting with that's good when you were meeting with a buyer. They the only reason anybody ever meets with a salesman and that's what you are. You're a salesman. The only reason why anybody ever meets with a salesman is if they have to buy is if they are in trouble and they are out of product and they need new product and they're going to get fired if they don't buy new products. That's their whole job is to gather up new product and they're out of product. They're running out there in a panic they need to buy but they're not going to buy what you came to sell. They're going to buy what they came to buy, and they know that dynamic you don't you If you're just a young screenwriter, you don't know that yet. But once you have figured that out, then the game begins, you're playing a game, you're playing cat and mouse, where you are trying to trick them into telling you what they came to buy. And they are trying to hold their cards close to the vest. And they're, they want to hear your pitch and see if it's what they came to buy, they don't want to accidentally reveal to you the secret of what they have come to buy, because then you will pounce and pitch that to them. And this is true of if you're writing, you know, if you're writing specs, this is true. If you're writing, this is true, if you are doing adaptations, if you're pitching your take on a novel so that you can get hired to do the adaptation. Here's the biggest occasion I ever get hired to write, here's how I get cuz I'd worn this at this point. And I said, Oh, you know, this is an amazing novel. And it's going to be so tricky to adapt, because you can either go this way with it, or you could go this way with it. And then I shut up. And I said, Oh, it's so tricky. You can go this way, or this way or that. silence, awkward silence. Awkward silence. And they're like, Yeah, well, obviously, yeah, you got to do a, and I'm like, exactly.

I pitched them option A. Now I if they had said option fee, I would have pitched them option B. But you have to treat them that's into telling you what they came to buy. You know, the same thing is true. You know, there's a great story that Simon Kinberg told me at Columbia, because he went to Columbia. And then he came back to talk to some of the people there. And he talks about how, you know, his agent was like, I'm going to sit you get you set up, you're going to be pitching to universal. They want to hear horror pitches. And he of course is first thinking I'm going to sell them when I came to sell. I've got great horror movie. It's great. I know. It's great. They're gonna love it. I'm gonna I've got a half hour pitch for this great horror movie goes in pitches that they're like, no. It's like, Oh, crap, says, Well, I've got in the back of my head. I've got some 10 minute pitches for other good horror movies, pitches, 310 minute pitches, they're like, no, he's like, Well, I've got some five minute pitches. I'll try some of those. No, shut them all down. He's like, Well, this brings me down to I've got six different one line pitches, you know, or just titles, and he starts pitching those. And then he gets to his final pitch. He says, I just got to words, Ghost Town, and they say sold a million dollars, boom, here's the check. And he and then he said, and of course it's never got paid. And then of course after he had cashed the check, and he was like, you know, ci, you know, the other things I pitched you were so developed and they had these brilliant you know, twists and characters and, and everything that a story is supposed to have goes down, didn't have any of that watch by goes down. They're like, Well, what we really wanted is we won a horror movie that could be turned into a attraction at Universal Studios, Hollywood, and Universal Studios, Ryan, oh, and all your other movies you pitched us couldn't be turned into attractions at Universal Orlando. But as soon as you said Ghost Town, oh, it's a movie about an evil ghost town. It's about a haunted ghost town. And boom, we know how to do that we know how to build a ghost town at Universal Studios. And they and they did not tell him that at the beginning of the meeting, they did not tell him what they had to modify, because they know they are more specific than you are. They know that. If you are sophisticated, that if they tell you what they came to buy, then you're going to go well, what a coincidence. That's what I came to sell. So they know not to tell you what they came to buy. But they know in their heads, they they have come because they need to buy universal. That executive at Universal was told you have to do what nobody likes to do, which is you have to meet with sales. Nobody in the world wants to meet with a salesman. Alright, but you have to go out and meet with a bunch of salesman. Because we're out of material we don't, we need to build a new attraction at Universal Studios theme park. It's got to be based on one of our movies, none of our movies can be turned into attractions, Universal Studios in Bern, we've got to meet with some people, but let's not tell them what we want. Let's not tell them what we came to buy. And let's hope that they have something to sell. That happens to be what we want to buy. And your job as a screenwriter is to figure out what they came to buy and sell it to them.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:14
That is one of the best answers to that question ever. Now where can people find out about you and your work what you're doing?

Matt Bird 1:14:27
So, first and foremost, you can buy my book, The secrets of story, innovative tools for protecting your fiction and captivating readers. You can listen to my podcast secrets or podcasts, you can watch my youtube channel on the secrets of three YouTube channel. You can hire me to do manuscript consultation, go to the secrets of story.com I should say you could read my blog at the secrets of story.com and you could click on the top button on the upper right and click on manuscript consultation and you can hire me to do that. And also if you want to come homeschool my kids, then you could trade services then I can trade services with you. And you're just gonna have to wear a hazmat suit and homeschool my kids, and then I'll do anything for you. I'll paint your house.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:09
Fair enough, Matt, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on your show. Man, thank you so much for being on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe today, man, thank you so much.

Matt Bird 1:15:17
Thank you so much for having me. This has been a lot of fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:20
I want to thank Matthew for coming on the show and dropping major major knowledge bombs on the bulletproof screenwriting tribe today. Thank you. Again, Matthew. If you want to read his book, or check out his work, head over to the show notes at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash 070. And guys, I have a special treat for you. If you are interested in getting a three part video series on screenwriting and how to write blockbusters in Hollywood today. Buy some Oscar winners, so multibillion dollar screenwriters, all you got to do is head over to bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash free video series. Sign up for it there and you will get three amazing videos almost an hour in length total in your inbox. So just head over to bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash free video series. I hope you and your family are safe and doing well during this crazy crazy time. Thank you again for listening. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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Quentin Tarantino Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

What can be said about Quentin Tarantino the screenwriter that hasn’t been said before? QT has, easily, one of the most unique and singular voice in the history of cinema. You may love him or hate him but you will remember him. Reading his screenplays is a masterclass in dialog, structure, and rhythm.

When you are done reading take a listen to Apple’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, with guest like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.

(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino & Craig Hamann – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


**Won the Oscar** Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, A. Anders, A. Rockwell – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


**Won the Oscar** Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the screenplay!


**Won the Oscar** Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino – Read the Dialog Transcript!

Breaking Bad TV Scripts Collection: Screenplays Download

Below you’ll find a collection of Breaking Bad scripts, including the final episode “Felina.” Take a watch of series creator Vince Gilligan discussing his process below. The scripts below are the only ones that are available online. If you find any of his missing screenplays please leave the link in the comment section.

When you are done reading take a listen to Apple’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, with guest like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone and more.

(NOTE: For educational and research purposes only).