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Directing Films for Netflix and Mark Duplass with Alex Lehmann

Today on the show we have returning champion director Alex Lehmann. I asked him back on the show to discuss his new Netflix film Paddleton starring indie film legend Mark Duplass and Ray Ramano. Paddleton is about an unlikely friendship between two misfit neighbors becomes an unexpectedly emotional journey when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

I know, it sounds hilarious. The film is beautiful, touching an actually pretty funny. I wanted Alex to come back on the show (Listen here to Alex’s first appearance on the show) to discuss the process of working with Mark Duplass and Ray Ramano and to breakdown how a Netflix feature film is shot using a Scriptment and not a traditional screenplay.

We also discuss his other amazing film Asperger’s Are Us and how making that passion project led to him working with Mark.

This is an inspirational talk with some knowledge bombs thrown in. Enjoy my conversation with the talented and ever humble Alex Lehmann.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Today on the show. We have returning champion Alex Lehmann who is the director of the new Netflix film Pendleton starring Mark Duplass and Ray Romano. And he's been on the show before on episode 104 actually a while ago when he directed Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson and a Netflix film called Blue J which was his first feature film, and I love to bring them back to wanting to see how his career has progressed. Obviously he's doing okay, because he has a new film out on Netflix. And also just wanted to see how the process of working with a scriptment. How do you direct a comedy legend like Ray Romano, and work in that environment, this kind of freewheeling creative environment and all while doing a Netflix show. So we really get into the weeds a little bit he dropped some really great knowledge bombs. And it's pretty inspirational to see Alex's story and how he's been able to progress from working in the camera department on the league, all the way to now directing and making a full time career of directing and creating projects, and just what he's been able to accomplish. It's very, very inspirational as well. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Alex Lehmann. I like to welcome back to the show returning champion Alex Lehmann.

Alex Lehmann 3:09
Hey, what did I win?

Alex Ferrari 3:14
Another another 45 minutes. You got a Yoda. There's a Hulk in the backs and Wolverines. Maybe an autograph Akira Kurosawa poster in the back.This is full man cave man full. Full man cave, man. Thanks for coming back. But I appreciate it.

Alex Lehmann 3:31
Thank you. I appreciate being able to talk about myself. No, I hate talking about myself. But let's talk about.

Alex Ferrari 3:38
Projects about your projects in filmmaking. So for for those who did not hear your first amazing interview was about your film, Blue Jay, with Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, which was an amazing film. I love that film when I saw it. And and it was a great interview. I'll put the I'll put that interview in the show notes as well if people want to go back and listen to that one. But for people who don't know who you are, Sir, how did the real quick like recap How did you get into the business?

Alex Lehmann 4:06
I wasn't a dp for a long time. So I got into the business as a cameraman, cinematographer. And then I actually met Mark duplass I was a cameraman on the league, which I kind of call grad school for for I mean especially for movie like Pendleton really that was grad school for mixes, working with all these really great comedians, improv comedians and improv actors. But I was just a cameraman there but I was on the side I was making this documentary called Asperger's RS that it was kind of I was itching to make something on my own and I hustled

Alex Ferrari 4:40
On brand on brand sir

Alex Lehmann 4:46
And and and yeah, and so you know, made this documentary on a credit card and just kind of flying out like on hiatus weeks filming this comedy troupe called Asperger's Ross out in Boston. has gotten the stock together and Mark kind of caught wind and he could tell it meant a lot to me. So he asked me to see it when it was done. And he said he wanted to help release it and get it out in the world. And then it wasn't you know, much later that he hit me up and said, Hey, do you want to direct this this movie? That I'm thinking of doing? a no brainer? Probably the easiest. The best open door in Hollywood, you know, history market process. Hey, come direct me and Sarah Paulson in this little two hander, like Yes, please.

Alex Ferrari 5:33
Yes, please. Gonna have another.

Alex Lehmann 5:35
Yeah, exactly. So yes, I do up to directed that one. And then here we are with palatin, which I guess is the other.

Alex Ferrari 5:42
Yeah. Now, it's an interesting, obviously, it's a very unique story. Not many people get these these kind of opportunities and look, a lot of people I know, there's no question about it. And look at the end of the day, man. I always tell people like, because there'll be people out there listening to like, Well, you know, maybe if I was on the set of League, maybe I could have meant more to players. And I you know, and like, Yeah, sure. And I could have made a $7,000 action film in Mexico and called that El Mariachi and just happened to run into the top directing agent in Hollywood in my career can take off like Robert Rodriguez. It's all about being at the right place at the right time with the right product. And if you wouldn't have had been making Asperger's Ross, maybe you wouldn't make that decision. That would have just been another gig for you. Right? in many ways.

Alex Lehmann 6:25
I would agree with that. I mean, we we shared a sensibility of the films we liked. And when we got sick of all the fart and dick jokes on onset, you know, we would usually be hanging out on a craft eat talking about feelings or life or you know, art films, films that you know, kind of inspired us. But, but yeah, if I didn't show him that I was able to craft a story on my own and kind of do do this stuff. And, and the work ethic, honestly, the thing was like, Okay, great. We're wrapping at 10 o'clock on Friday, and I'm taking a red ice I can start shooting in Boston on my little documentaries that Saturday morning and then sometimes those getting back to, to set the following Monday on the week without ever having gone home, you know. And he when he saw that he's like, dude, your boss and yours yourself for this. I think that the least I could do is, is watch it. That's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Yeah. But that but again, you you put the hustle and you put the work in? And yes, sure the opportunity might have been there but he's got to push hard man and and someone like Mark cuz I've had God now I've had everybody but mark on the damn show. Like every director who he's worked with the people on is that new seed and spark a show I had the the girl directors, not the girl, just the amazing directors that happen to be female. They are a great therapy. Yeah, they actually know you very well. They spoke very highly of you, by the way.

Alex Lehmann 7:44
Well, they don't have the Okay, sure what they don't know everything yet. Exactly. They don't know. Sweet. They're super sweet. I can't wait to see that movie

Alex Ferrari 7:53
I have not seen the movie, I'm dying to see the movie, but they were just amazing. That interview hasn't even come out yet on the podcast. But it was so so great. And it's amazing. The more people I interview who've worked with Mark, I kind of see a pattern, I kind of see a pattern of the people who likes to work with I like to see a pattern of the sensibilities but also the, the work ethic is a big, big thing as well. And that cannot be underestimated.

Alex Lehmann 8:19
Yeah, and it's still got the work ethic to and you know, he still respects you know, the demands made a lot of money. And yet you know, he still is you know, frugal and a lot of ways any any encourages forgot, I was just talking to, to film critic about this the other day who read Mark's book and really loved it was more than anything was talking about how like, how necessary it is for filmmakers to read this and realize like, don't extend yourself and your car lease, don't go out to too many expensive dinner, don't do, don't spend your mind all these things, and then feel like you need to work five jobs to support yourself. Because then you don't have any free time to, you know, go out and take the risks and make your own stuff and, and, you know, Mark still, you know, champions that idea and I think when you recognize as people who are doing that, and taking advantage of their free time and really just going out there and making things and you know, putting their free time and leftover energy to that. Then he wants to try to help them and reward them for applying themselves.

Alex Ferrari 9:24
Him and Jerry are probably to the most unique people in Hollywood. No question. Yeah, I mean, they're very unique scenarios, very unique opportunity situations, but they busted their butts to get there, man. So a lot of unique people in Hollywood, but their specific kind of flavor. Caitlyn Jenner No, no, no, there's a very unique amount of people in Hollywood, but their specific flavor of filmmakers is very unique situations.

Alex Lehmann 9:52
I'm just being a smartass. And not even funny, but yeah, for sure they're there. Yeah, they're you know, they're Dakota they've got the right vibe they they're the kind of like the indie kings, I guess. I mean, I don't want to. Sounds weird for me to say that like,

Alex Ferrari 10:07
Actually, it's actually would sound weird if they said it. So you can say it's fine.

Alex Lehmann 10:12
Say that on the interview today.

Alex Ferrari 10:13
I'm sorry.

Alex Lehmann 10:14
Mark told me to say that he said, call me whatever you say, just remember to call me the indie king of Hollywood.

Alex Ferrari 10:21
If you can, please. It's weird, but you do whatever the duplass says. Anyways, when the duplass says something you move, yes. We'll throw in the strings.

Alex Lehmann 10:34
And they're like the next Bob Weinstein, not, not, not the bad one, but a good one

Alex Ferrari 10:42
Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about Asperger's harassment, because last time we do are we really just focused on Blue Jay, but Asperger's or has Asperger's or it's kind of took on its own world, and its own kind of thing, because bluejay got a lot of the attention. But then Asperger's came in right after it was picked up by netflix as well. And I love the way and we talked a little bit about in the last interview, but I wanted you to kind of break into how you marketed this, how did you go after, you know, that audience because this film is pretty much everything I preach, it's like you identify a market, you identify a group of people who are passionate about something, and you've niched down to a point where they're gonna go after that film, and they're gonna want to watch and consume that content. So he tell us a bit about that process.

Alex Lehmann 11:26
Yeah, and that's a really great question. Um, there's a couple of things that happen. So obviously, you know, it's a pretty clear niche that we're working with here, which is anybody that that you know, is on a spectrum or as a family member on the spectrum, which is obviously, actually a lot of people that this day and age, so you know, that that's helpful. So that was like our base niche, for sure. I like to think that the movie transcends, you know, it transcends, but that base niche was was pretty easy to market to. I started working with a lot of groups when I was trying to get the movie made, I realized that like, there are a lot of autism documentaries and films and like events, and everybody's got their own thing. So at that point, I wasn't quite getting the, the juice from a lot of the organizations, once the film was, was done, and started getting a little attention in Mark's name and South by Southwest. Oh, yeah, all of a sudden, like, these people come out of the Woodworks and once you kind of prove your mettle and show that it's, you know, maybe not just, you know, a half baked idea, but there's really something there. The groups do find you to a certain extent, but then I also have to give a huge shout out to my friend, Kyle, who, and I'll send you a link to you maybe we can like plug them because he Yeah, cuz like, I met him through. He was promoting another friend's film. And it was a faith film. And, and he's really good at like doing like the online digital marketing, targeting targeted marketing, all that stuff. And I asked him like, Listen, I don't have like, budget or anything, but like I you know, got a little bit but can you kind of help me target audiences and he did it with like Facebook and Twitter and whatever and, and he was able to like, really? He did stuff with numbers and like tracking where the trailer played and like how it linked up to people. I don't know. It's like Zuckerberg level stuff.

Alex Ferrari 13:23
What's his name again? his name? His name is Kyle. And of course, Kyle was Episode Episode Number 200. Man. Are you kidding me? I had Kyle on He's amazing. That's right. I forgot he worked with you. Of course cows like a frickin genius when it comes to Facebook ads?

Alex Lehmann 13:39
Yeah, yeah. So I'll give you Yeah, we should plug him because he's really great at all that stuff. And um, anyways, he helped us get it. So before it came out on Netflix, it actually we got like a month release. Part of our deal with Netflix was like, Hey, we can put it out on iTunes, Amazon, DVD, whatever. And we like rose up. We were like a number two documentary on iTunes for like a week. And it was all because like, Kyle was like tweaking these numbers. So everybody's got to find their Kyle is what I'm saying.

Alex Ferrari 14:08
Or you could just call Kyle Kyle's available.

Alex Lehmann 14:13
And he's a great filmmaker as well. Yeah, he is. And he's been producing some stuff. But he's really good at the targeting stuff. And I don't know much about it. I can't speak to the specifics of it. All I know is this guy who uses buddy of ours and had done my buddy's faith film, he got it. And by the way, he connected with the film, so that helps also, he said, he saw it was like, I see a lot of myself in this and my friends in this and I get it and I want to help you. And so again, he just knobs, numbers, algorithms, whatever special sauce. And before you know it, you know, he's just basically connected the film with its base audience through the internet, which I don't know much about. I'm not even on social media. I'm a Luddite. Why am I telling you this is really important? And a great question. And I know that it was,

Alex Ferrari 15:05
It means something

Alex Lehmann 15:06
I know it happened, but I don't know how it happened. But then you look at Netflix, and it's the same thing. I mean, like, they're obviously the reason they're they're so successful is because they know how to connect audiences with material. So if you make a niche film, they go, we can target those people, because algorithms and AI learning habits and all that stuff. Sure. Yeah, I'm really scared of that stuff like that. Either Amazon or Netflix is going to be the cause of Terminator actually happening. Like, it's frightening. It's frightening. I went to when I went to a meeting with them for the pre release of Talton. They were in this like big conference room. It feels like very Dr. Strangelove already. There's

Alex Ferrari 15:54
no fighting in the war room.

Alex Lehmann 15:55
There's like a little camera that's like under the monitor. And it's like, sometimes it's like turning but like, Oh, yeah, it's some of the other executives that are watching the meeting. And, like,

Alex Ferrari 16:04
big brother.

Alex Lehmann 16:05
Exactly, very big brother. And then there's this map is a map that fills up the screen. And it is a world map to enter the lines that are going from like, every country, almost every car is literally Dr. Strangelove. Yeah. And, and I was like, this is how the world is gonna end because like, it's the first Netflix figures out what movies we like. And then they kind of figure out what our tendencies are as humans, and then they, you know, they enslave us, they'll do something to make it so that we don't leave our homes away. That already happens. Exactly. And then you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:37
and we pay for the privilege and we pay for the privilege.

Alex Lehmann 16:40
That's right. That's all launches. It's gonna it's all gonna happen. I'm really, I'm afraid but you know, until then, watch Poulton, but

Alex Ferrari 16:50
we're gonna get we're gonna get to battletech in a minute, because I'd love the film, and we're gonna talk about it, but I want to touch real quick upon bluejay How was that film was received? I mean, obviously, I mean, it has an amazing cast with with, with Sarah and mark. It was a black and white. Kind of just love story. You know, very beautiful kind of

Alex Lehmann 17:09
quiet quiet to person black and white. Yeah. Like no plot, and by selling it right now.

Alex Ferrari 17:16
You're doing fantastic jobs. Leave it to Kyle, me to market you, sir. Because obviously you're not that's not your wheelbarrow,

Alex Lehmann 17:22
not a poem guy. I'm not I guy. It was it was well received by the people who who saw it. And that's a niche phone, for sure. I mean, think about how many, you know, how much of a Netflix audience is gonna see it and immediately turn it off just because it's black and white, and I get it, that's fine. Then there's, you know, other people that are gonna be like, well, it's a love story. And like, not that much happens in it. And you know, and if they don't know, one of the only two actors, even though like Sarah Paulson and Mark duplass, were big stars. If you don't know who those two people are, you might turn it off just because of that. That's how the business works. There's all these things that we do to try to make a movie. Hook someone from the very beginning. And it's, you know, look, stars can see, you know, but if none of those things work, and when and when all your things are, you know, black and white to actors. Very simple love story. A lot of people aren't gonna watch it, but the people that watch it, love it. I think more people have watched it than I expected. And that excites me. And I hope even more people will watch it now that you know, palatin comes out because I think that's kind of getting a broader audience. It seems like it's being targeted to a broader audience.

Alex Ferrari 18:32
What does that come about? By the way? I'm sorry, what does panel think about again? Friday,

Alex Lehmann 18:37
this Friday, the 22nd? So probably, by the time this airs last Friday, the 22nd, maybe

Alex Ferrari 18:43
last Friday, something like that. Yeah, that's I think so. I think something like that. Alright, so what was the biggest lesson you learned? directing bluejay? Since it was really a first big narrative?

Alex Lehmann 18:55
Yeah, directing bluejay the lesson I learned is that I'm going to give you two. So back to answering questions I'm going to give you two. One is you don't have to have all the answers. I mean, should be prepared, you should be prepared with, you know, your plan and all the answers you can think of. But when new things come up, you don't have to have all the answers because you're probably working with some really talented people a great producers great dp great, you know, actors great. First ad sound, you don't know who's going to maybe come up with that answer. So don't try to do you know, try to try to you know, don't be lazy and rely on other people. But at the same time, don't be closed off to the fact that someone else in this collaborative process might bring a great idea to you and don't be threatened by that, because that's just the nature of filmmaking. It's a process. So it was both hard and a complete relief, to realize that I didn't have to do everything myself, because that's what I kind of did do with my documentary, shooting editing sound or just every, you know, until Cairo came along. But yeah, so that was a really great lesson to learn. And it made me feel more excited about making movies in the future and think about like, gosh, if I can hire this girl, or this guy, whatever, like I loved, you know, the way she shot this, and I love the way you know, this ad works on set, and like, Oh my gosh, my movie would be even better if I get to have all these people around me. So like, you know, realize that like it is about surrounding yourself with talented people, and getting everything out of them, and then taking credit for it later and never admitting any of the ideas. But until, until then, just soak up all those great ideas. Yeah, obviously, I'm kidding. Give them all the credit, you can

Alex Ferrari 20:54
Absolutely, absolutely. But at the end of the day, you know, whether you like it or not, a lot of times they do give you the directors and they give you the credit, even if it was a PA Who gave you the idea on set that day. You know, it is weird, man it is

Alex Lehmann 21:05
because especially at like Film Festival, I'd like the director come up and present the film. And so at some festivals, they only want the director and the stars to come up for the q&a. And it's like, you know, there are a lot of talented people that had something to do with, you know, maybe the thing you liked best about my movie wasn't even my idea. You know, I hope it was natural. It doesn't matter, like but like, you want to get all those people on stage. And you want to remind people like, hey, that's it. But it's the great thing about directing, it's also that it can be the really crappy thing about directing. And once you're doing that collaborative thing, because, you know, actors are going to make choices and producers and editors, editors and studios are going to say, well, we don't want the film to go in this direction. And you have to take the good with the bad. And it mostly is good. But you got to take the good and the bad realizing that like, there's, you know, if you want, if you want to be an otter, you know, write a novel. Exactly. Right.

Alex Ferrari 22:08
Yeah. Or make or make like a $3,000 feature film or something like that. It's something that you can completely do yourself and control yourself.

Alex Lehmann 22:15
You got to start it yourself. I mean, if you really want you know, exactly what we just

Alex Ferrari 22:20
you like it's there has been this has been those movies. I mean, it's called the room. But yeah, worked out great. Hey, you know what he's doing? All right. He's doing all right. Now, real quick, Asperger's are us actually taking a new life. Right?

Alex Lehmann 22:36
Yes. But the other lesson real quickly, is that, um, you know, when you start working, and I think this applies to your audience a lot. When you start working with actors who are maybe better known or have like, bigger careers or a lot more credits under their belt, you might assume that it's not hard for them, or it's not terrifying. But the thing to realize is, whether it's a first time actor, or a 100th time actor, if they're a professional, if they're a true craftsperson, they're going to be a little bit terrified to be completely vulnerable and reveal themselves on screen in front of a camera just as a performance even theatrically, and you have to always be be there for them. And that was, that was a lesson for me. Because, you know, I'm working with Mark duplass. And Sarah Paulson thinking like, well, they don't need positive reinforcement. These guys don't have to know how great they are. And I really quickly learned that, like, they still need to hear. And it's not because they had, you know, like crazy egos or anything. It's just because they're putting themselves out there in a real difficult way, as actors do. As good actors do, you have to let them know like, you're good. Okay, you're doing you're doing a good job. Even if I have a note for you, I'm going to first let you know what's working. And I'm going to thank you, I'm going to find intelligent and honest ways to thank you for for being so vulnerable. On screen for the story that I want to tell is very important.

Alex Ferrari 24:07
And also just to keep a safe space for them create a space environment for them as a director, the thing is a huge deal as well as they if they don't feel comfortable that you've got their back. They're not going to give you the best. They're gonna hold back and they're just gonna protect they're gonna protect themselves. Yep. Now you Asperger's are us actually taking a new life, hasn't it?

Alex Lehmann 24:26
Yeah, so this is exciting. We shot a docu series A while ago. We put the guys is the same guys from the original documentary, we put them in an RV, an old RV that maybe had a few mechanical issues or I'll get 6000 mile journey across the United States, booked them some really cool venues and they performed for all sorts of different audiences that they really hadn't performed for before and to comedy and there's still you know, a lot of a lot of heart to it. As these guys kind of revealed them. ourselves, you know, similarly to our films, you know, a good documentary you make your documentary subject you'll save. It's coming out on HBO at the end of April, little companies a

Alex Ferrari 25:09
little known company. It's just you know, that just turned a little comedy issue, since streaming service is nice.

Alex Lehmann 25:16
So bad promoting stuff. It's a six part series. It's their half hours. And you know, super proud of them. Cool. And, yeah, so it's been kind of nice. And I was through to do class again. I mean, does the doc did well, and Mark just kind of said, like, you want to look theories with them? And I said, Yeah, so I feel very lucky. I feel very, very lucky. I know, these opportunities don't always know for us. And in fairness, like there were a couple of times in my career where I thought like, Oh, this is the thing this is the door anyways, I am in my nose or like, or like, doorknob would hit me in the crotch when it slammed. You know, like, there were plenty of times where I thought that there was going to be that moment where my you know, career would change. That didn't happen. And all I can say is just keep going those irons in the fire and were a couple

Alex Ferrari 26:06
that's a you know, that should be a T shirt. What's the biggest advice? Yeah, the film industry. Were cup. Just wait Just wear up. That's the best advice. I I'm gonna steal that Alex. I'm sorry. I'm gonna steal that one.

Alex Lehmann 26:22
I think honestly, you should. You should brand you should just get cups and brand them. How do you get the hustle?

Alex Ferrari 26:32
Sir, what are you talking about? You are a marketing genius. That right there. It's called the bum. It's merchandising. It's all about merchandising. indie film hustle. The flame throwers coming out soon. Let's talk about palatin man. And it is it I saw it. I was lucky enough to see an early screening of it. I loved it. I really it is a it is a I can't say it's a it's a feel good film. But kind of but you know, there's things that happen. It's a I loved it because you hate it as far as I know. No, no, no, I don't. I actually love that. I love the performances of it. I was watching it just not only for the story, but how I mean obviously I'm watching how you made the film what what's the style like why you're doing certain things. But the performances are great stars, Ray Romano little an up and coming guy. And and Mark duplass again.

Alex Lehmann 27:26
I think Ray's brother actually put it best. You know, Ray Ray told me recently his brother watch it was not in the in the business. But he's like, he was like, Listen, my brother doesn't like anything I do. And don't expect my movie. But he goes, Yeah, it was it was really good. I mean, it was sad. But it was really good. And it's like yeah, like I don't know, I think I'm afraid to tell people watch it because you're gonna laugh for a while and you probably gonna be sad. You're gonna

Alex Ferrari 27:56
probably cry a little bit. No, it is. It is sad. But yeah, I love the characters. I love the way they interact with each other. Ray and Mark are wonderful together. Like that's a match made in heaven. I'm imagining working with someone like Ray, who is you know, I mean, he's a legend in the comedy world. And, you know, what was that? Like? Like, how do you? He's a wonderful human being. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Lehmann 28:20
Just, he's, he's, I mean, he's super. You know, he's really neurotic. He's right. Like, he's Raymond. He's ready. You see a sitcom. Like, it's, it's who he is, you know, it's a version of who he is. And it's obviously like, all that stuff is heightened for the comedy of it. But like, there's a lot of Ray and what he does, everything he does is really genuine. And he's, you know, he's just really funny, but he's a strong dramatic actor. We're doing improv. So, you know, having mark and Ray do improv is kind of amazing. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 28:52
I was gonna ask you this, how much of this film was kind of that whole duplass improv II style? Like, I mean, you had a script, obviously, but then you rolled off of it, or did you have a script meant out of that

Alex Lehmann 29:01
work that script man? Yeah. So we have like, 30 page, you know, treatment.

Alex Ferrari 29:06
It's so brilliant that you that you made a movie with Ray and mark for Netflix. It's a script meant.

Alex Lehmann 29:13
I mean, it's true. It's a it's, it's not it's not always that you can make tell people like, well, we have this out rocketing for a movie, but trust us. And that, you know, but that speaks to, you know, Netflix trust and that speaks to, to, you know, raise trust.

Alex Ferrari 29:29
Yeah, raise it raise new to this

Alex Lehmann 29:31
gang rate stress for sure. But But, you know, it's Netflix's respect for Mark and what he does, and it's raised respect for Mark and what he does, because Mark's been doing it forever. It's his you know, it's it's his brand it's his career and so he's basically this. This, you know, creative safety net or backstop or whatever you want to say where people go, I'm willing to believe that this will work out well, because I can look at togetherness I can look at all these movies. He's done. I can look at all these things that that Marcus succeeded with and In a similar fashion, and I think that these guys can pull it together. And bluejay

Alex Ferrari 30:03
was like that as well.

Alex Lehmann 30:05
And booj was like that to go. So we basically we went to Netflix and said, We want to kind of do another bluejay is a little bit more outlined because it's a little bit more plot and stuff.

Alex Ferrari 30:13
And it's called and its color. And its color, color this time. So you know, we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Exactly. Now, the one thing I did notice about the film was, it has a very indie vibe to it. I mean, it's literally almost 95% of the movies to guys on screen, which is magnetic and it's wonderful the banter and the way they they come back and forth and raise his raise neurotic energy and marks energy just to just work so well together. You kept it very indie, and I'm assuming the budget and we won't talk the numbers, but but generally, the budget I'm assuming is less than 25 mil.

Alex Lehmann 31:06
Okay, very, like, if you give Ray and Mark superpowers, we'll give you 50 mil. But if aka, exactly. They don't have superpowers, in case, you're gonna have to make it for under 25. No,

Alex Ferrari 31:19
exactly. But it does have a very indie vibe to it the way you see the style of it that you shot it. I mean, if you replace the two main movie stars with just two unknown actors, you've got like an indie Sundance in the kind of movie even though this, this this play at Sundance. But you know what I mean, it just, it was wonderfully done. And you could and I think a lot of filmmakers, in your position, would when you had, you know, had success with your documentary, you had success with Blue Jay, this next and mark two for that matter. They could ask for more money, they could ask for a much larger budget make bigger spectacle, even if it's a small story. But yeah, you guys chose to keep it No, let's let's just keep it down exactly where it needs to be for this story, correct?

Alex Lehmann 32:04
Yeah, I mean, I would say, part of that has to do with with what the story is, I mean, it's a story about two guys that live in these pretty crummy little apartments, you know, they don't have anything, they don't have many material possessions, they don't have, you know, friends outside of each other, they don't have big lives outside of each other. They live a really simple life. And that's a lot of the beauty of the film is it's just, you know, showing how what they have their personal connection is, is enough for them and and is really you know, as a life well lived, and it's a really satisfying and, and full life without material possessions. So I mean, it would be kind of weird to make this like gigantic cinematic universe for for what is essentially just a couple guys in these apartments who go on a little road trip and say in a cheap motel and you know, like the biggest thing the biggest thing in the movies that drive in movie theater, the wall that they play the the Palestinian and we actually tried to make sure to show like how friggin big this is and when they go on the road trip a couple times we try to have like a shot that shows like how little their car is and how big the rest of the world is. Just for a second. You know, to kind of remind everybody that like these guys live in a small simple world So yeah, I mean, we we wanted to make this film look a little a little more polished or a little more big than than bluejay but we didn't want the world to feel big. So

Alex Ferrari 33:33
yeah, without question and you of course visited one of my favorite towns in California and Sylvain which was when I saw it I was like oh my god I can't believe I'm sure someone is shot there but I haven't seen it

Alex Lehmann 33:46
people don't really and I that was weird because I've always wanted to make a movie there since the first time I of course we can vacation there and

Alex Ferrari 33:54
tell it by the way can you tell everybody what because you and I know what it is but can you tell everybody what it is

Alex Lehmann 33:57
we're getting is this like it's just like weird little it's up in wine country it's it's next ascending as it's like right by where they shot sideways. It was like wine country in Southern California. But there's all these Yeah, towns of vineyards and restaurants and whatever and farms and then there's this one town solving that looks like it was airdrop This is it's like out of Denmark, just like one town like a claw came down, grab the whole little town and then like helicoptered it over the United States and just air dropped it in Southern California. Yeah. All the all the you know the windmills. Like it's a windmills and like these tile facades and it's the Hans Christian Andersen museum. It's a weird fish out of water town. Yeah, you gotta love and at the same time, you're like, What is this place? And even when we're scouting it, I kept going, I kept like, on my phone, I'd like scout on Wikipedia just anywhere. I'd be like, I'd be like looking at the web, looking at the web going like, how did nobody make a movie here? It's close enough to LA Yeah. Nope. No one's made a movie there. It's been like an episode of like one or two random TV shows that shot there for like a tiny bit and then sideways basically shot there, but they didn't use that town. They use the stuff around that town. So no, it was absurd to me. Yeah, it was like, you know, finding you know a little

Alex Ferrari 35:16
Yeah, cuz I never remember I mean I've been to that town I've done at times since I've lived in Los Angeles and, and I've I've always like, Oh, they must have shot something here. I mean, they have to have it because it's just such a unique location There is nothing like the on the entire state all so much production value. And then of course, you shot I'm sorry. And great pancakes. Fantastic pancakes. During Christmas time. It is fantastic. They're like it's beautiful during Christmas time. But you also shout out one of my other favorite landmarks in California, Austria Joanne which is down the street resolving and it's just, I saw that scene that you have in there with it for everybody Listen, there's literally a it's kind of like and I don't want to call it like a tourist trap. But it because it lends itself to being like a little tourist trap a little side road thing. But you walk in and it seems tourist trap because you like walk in and there's like ostrich feathers and ostrich eggs for sale and all this little thing and you got to walk through the the the gift shop to get to the ostriches. And when you walk outside. There's hundreds of hostages all around and it's just like something you again, where where else are you going to see that and you get to feed them and all that kind of stuff.

Alex Lehmann 36:32
It's me honestly, that that place is so peaceful for me. And remember, we were filming. I mean, when we're finally filming the movie, like by the time we got to that scene, it was like the end of like a pretty intense week stressful shooting a lot of other stuff, you know, we were down during the day. So it's just kind of like trying to find that moment of calm as you do as a director. We're like, oh God, like, you know, emotions, anxiety, everything. And we just step onto the ostrich farm that we'd scattered a few times. And I felt that peace these these birds are like, it feels like you're with these dinosaurs, you know, connected to like, just just nature, billions of nature and millions of years. It's just all there. And like they're kind of peaceful animals and kind of not peaceful animals.

Alex Ferrari 37:18
You pull out you pull out one of those bowls, you'll see how unpeaceful they are. Yeah, I wanted to go ride one there like you can now there's no writing of the ostriches, where we're not in the 1700s sorry. Yeah,

Alex Lehmann 37:31
it made me happy. It was like this weird place as like, I never. I always thought ostriches were kind of weird and, and like I didn't quite get them and then spending a little time with them. I realized that I love them and that they were like, kind of sweet and beautiful and, and just peaceful and meant a lot. Kinda like our characters. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 37:52
No, they're very Yeah, I saw the I saw that kind of mirror image of these characters. They if they were animals, I think hostages would be a good, a good power animal for them. Now, what is the process of writing with with mark on something like that? What like, how is the process of coming up with something like this? Did you come up with the idea? Did he come up with the idea? Did you guys come together? Like we're gonna write something? Or how did that whole process work? I'm curious.

Alex Lehmann 38:18
Well, yeah, it was, I mean, it was this, this, we kind of knew what characters we've been chasing a few ideas. And there are a couple things that we've kind of written and thought maybe we're gonna make, and then it just was never quite feeling right. But we knew we wanted to make and we like similar characters. And we obviously like character driven stuff. But we we wanted to kind of explore these guys that are maybe often overlooked, who are, you know, maybe for lack of a better word, and I hate to use the word about people, but like, but weird, you go like, you see this guy walk into the grocery store or whatever. And you go, yeah, that's guy with the fanny pack and the weird shoes, and like the mustache or whatever, and we judge them, like, we don't want to judge him, but we do we judge them a little bit. And we think this person's probably a little strange. And I don't want to start a conversation with them. I don't know how to start a conversation with them. And I don't know if this person is, you know, a serial killer or a creep or whatever. But we do judge ourselves, we judge them. And their, their, their people, their people and they don't get their stories all very much. And so we're like, let's tell a story about those guys. And like, let's, let's, let's tell a story about like how there's two of them, and they found each other, and they get each other. And like, even if most people don't get them and even if they are kind of like a little afraid of the rest of the world or like just don't feel like they need the rest of the world. They don't need social media, they don't need clubs and parties and stuff. They don't need big groups of friends. They need each other and they get each other in a way that makes life feel complete. And then obviously you got to take that away from them or threaten to take it away from them so that there's drama. So that's kind of that's kind of how we developed the idea. And then, you know, the process, you know, I'd write a draft, send it to mark, he would, you know, take a pass on it, and we'd kind of built it out and got bigger and bigger. And then, and then we made it a little bit smaller. Before we send it out to Ray, we took out some of the character stuff to really make sure because it's kind of unique the way we you know, we make films like bluejay, where it's like, it's so character driven. And when you're going out to Sarah Paulson, or Ray Romano, you want to give them something that's really exciting, like, the opportunity to stretch your own character stretch and make their make their own thing. And so, um, I guess, I guess, basically, we stripped out some of the Andy character, send it to, you know, some, just some of the color and we send it to Ray and go, like, here's the story, here's a sense of what these guys are, what the relationship is, and, you know, and then he says, I want to do and then he starts building out Andy's character. In fact, he, you know, at that point, he emailed us like, this whole backstory of Andy, like a long beautiful backstory, his childhood, his parents, all that stuff, and it fits perfectly into who this character and he would be now. And, you know, at that point, Mark, and I know that Ray gets the character and he's gonna bring all sorts of stuff to it, and you rock and roll, rock and roll. And then there's like bits like the ostrich, like the the ostrich bid and the halftime speech, there's stuff like that we're re you know, while we're in prep, still, Ray goes like, Oh, I got this halftime speech idea. And, and I go like, okay, like that's, that makes sense that embodies what our film is. So like, let's find a place for it. We'll put it at the bar, and then we'll kind of build up to get into the bar, and then maybe there'll be a payoff like later on. The ostrich thing. I'm like, Listen, we Scout, we were scouting, and we realize there's an ostrich farm right down the street. I feel like that should be a stop on the road trip. And then, you know, he says, like, I got a couple of bits for it. We'll try it. And it's kind of this organic thing. We're, we're,

Alex Ferrari 42:07
That's awesome.

Alex Lehmann 42:08
We're improving where we shoot. And then you know, and then post, we're basically hoping that our editors that genius and helps us figure out what to use. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 42:18
I've shot two films like that. Now, you know, being inspired by Mark and tell you it is a wonderfully freeing experience as a filmmaker to do these kinds of films. It's just kind of like, let's see what happens. It's just like you're playing like you're playing. But you get to play in a larger sandbox with larger, you know, Barbie dolls. I hate to call mark and Mary Barbie doll, you know what I mean? with larger with larger set pieces, but yet still the same that you just get up there to go out and play. And I think it's a wonderful way of, you know, wonderful way of making films. Now, I want to ask you a question. I didn't ask you this last time, but I want to see what you what you say. Did you ever have to break through a fear? When you were trying to get into filmmaking? Or, you know, I'm assuming when Mark called you and said, Hey, you want to go make this movie? I gotta believe there must have been. Am I ready? Can I like if I fail? It's over. Like, if I fail at this kind of level. It's over. Like, that's what would go through my head. Like, you know, if, if all of a sudden Martin Scorsese calls me, he's like, hey, I want to produce a movie with you. And we're gonna give you 20 million or $50 million with Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not throwing this all out there. But at certain point, you're like, I know that we should actually, but you know, but like, you have to break through that hole like am I am I ready? Am I good enough? I got to believe you had to go through something like that. It's terrifying. I love that. I love that delivery, by the way is terrifying. It's terrifying.

Alex Lehmann 43:49
Yeah, it's a horrible feeling. It's a horrible it's a horrible feeling. You're like, yeah, you get the ask or you get your thing greenlit or sudden or it's like I Netflix duplass Romano we're doing it again. It's gonna be bigger. You go like, this is awesome. How are we gonna make this

Alex Ferrari 44:06
Question so even even after bluejay

Alex Lehmann 44:08
Like now that we got Ray, I feel like I should help them find a better director somebody who's done it. I don't know.

Alex Ferrari 44:17
There has to be more qualified people than me.

Alex Lehmann 44:19
I mean, I made I made it's all joking obviously to reflect the very real steers that we have. And to be honest, when market asked me to do Blue Jay, emailed me He's like, I'm looking for like a director slash dp who could you know, home This here's the out, you know, he was like a two page outline. This one kind of thing, doing great email. I almost wrote him back and said, and I actually had the email written at the time. I was like, I don't I email was you. Yeah, I can. I can recommend a few people for you. Like, don't make that joke. I was like, but it's funny. She's like, Yeah, but it's dumb because you might be passing up you Opposite like don't even make that joke, but obviously, it's coming from a place of. Yeah, I don't know why you're asking me, but I feel lucky that you're asking me, but it's gonna take a while for me to feel like I belong here. And I might never completely feel like I belong here. But that goes back to like telling you that, you know, when Sarah Paulson or Ray Romano Tell me like, they're a little afraid of doing this improv thing. And I look at their credit service and like, why are you afraid of anything? I have to remember that we're all human. And like, we're all constantly trying to find things that that are challenging. If not, you know, I mean, it's cheesy saying, but you're either growing or you're dying. And so, if you're not, if you're not doing things that are challenging you, you're going to get complacent real quickly, and you're not going to your work is going to be stale. And it's going to be, you know, at best derivative. There won't be any heart in it, and you're not going to be doing good work. You might just be possibly faking, you know, faking emotion and, and getting craft out there at best. Right? So yeah, you got to push yourself and that means doing things that scare you. So yeah, I was I was absolutely scared. I'm scared on most of the things I do.

Alex Ferrari 46:09
And what are the what do you do to break through that? Like, what what are the what is there any specific thing you just go? Like? I just gotta go.

Alex Lehmann 46:15
Just do it. Yeah. In fact, to be completely honest, there's this new thing I've been, you know, writing a couple things. But one, one thing I've been writing is like, basically the opposite of a two hander. It's like a, you know, a apocalypse level scenario. It just involves like so many characters and so much in the world. And I'm looking at this going like, I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to do this at all. This is terrifying. And I asked I've got this, you know, really great writing mentor through DGA? And I call them up and, you know, he's written like, huge movies, and he's super nice, but he just goes, why are you afraid? Just write like, just just write just do it just

Alex Ferrari 46:56
The papers not gonna bite you just do it.

Alex Lehmann 46:58
Yeah, exactly. And so obviously, you know, writing a little less scary than being on set, but like, being on set is less scary than, I don't know, performing heart surgery or brain surgery. Like, at the end of the day, you have to look around and appreciate that you aren't there by yourself that you are there with, you know, I can go well, I don't know, if I deserve to be on a Ray Romano movie. Like that's kind of a big deal. And then I realized, like, but it's a big deal, because Ray Romano is here to be Ray Romano. Also, and so like, he's gonna carry some of that weight, I don't have to make Ray Ray Ray's already Ray, I just have to do my thing. And remember to appreciate all the great things that Ray does Remember to appreciate all the great things that mark does. And by not, this goes back to to what I was telling you earlier, which is like you don't have to have all the answers. You don't have to do all the things, you get to kind of celebrate the creativity and talent around you. And then all of a sudden, some of that pressure goes away. And if it's like the right amount of pressure that's off of you. But if it's the right amount of challenge that's on you, that makes you feel fresh in my kind of alive and you know, driven excited, then it's I think it's that perfect little formula of, you know, I'm going to do something special. I'm at least gonna give it everything I got. I'm not gonna get my own way. So,

Alex Ferrari 48:25
Now And lastly, last question, man. What? What did you learn with with writing and director Pendleton? What was the lesson you learned? The biggest lesson?

Alex Lehmann 48:37
The biggest lesson I learned on peloton. Beware of the ostrich, beware. I don't know I got so many directions. I could like make another dumb joke. But I think you've got enough of those for me today. You know, and I don't want to repeat the lessons I learned on DJ because then it makes it sound like I'm

Alex Ferrari 49:01
Not growing. You're dying. You die you die.

Alex Lehmann 49:06
Yeah, I would say be you know, both, both on the process of the film and the subject matter of the film. You know, letting go is terrifying and control. Letting go of control is terrifying. But when you love things, and when you love people, you have to you know, understand how to celebrate them and appreciate them and do the most with what you've got. But be able to you know, let go at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 49:44
Awesome, awesome, man. And I normally ask a whole bunch of questions, but I've already asked all those questions of you before. So what does let's talk about which is green and Nirvana and an oak tree. What kind of tree would you be if you would be a tree I'm the working people. So the movie could be on that it's on Netflix, and it comes out February 22. Okay, and I would ask where people could find you, but you're not on social media or rarely, if any, at all. So, there's that.

Alex Lehmann 50:15
If they really want to find me, they can, they can do some digging. They can do some deep digging, and I'm sure they'll find my email address somewhere, but, uh,

Alex Ferrari 50:25
Or call Kyle or just call Kyle call. I don't like giving anybody's like, you know, whatever. No, Kyle already gave me all his information. I'll put it in the show notes. So it's all good

Alex Lehmann 50:35
And then Kyle will forward it to me. Great.

Alex Ferrari 50:39
Man, Listen, man, congratulations on all your success, man. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. really, truly. And keep making these cool films, man. Honestly, keep making some good stuff. And so alright. Yeah. Honestly, man, you're an inspiration to a lot of filmmakers out there. I know our first our first episode that we did together did really well. And people were really inspired by it. So keep up the good work, brother. Thanks for thanks for dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe today.

Alex Lehmann 51:03
Thank you. Good luck with everything you thank you for everything you're doing. And most importantly, good luck with the hustle cups.

Alex Ferrari 51:12
Thanks. I want to thank Alex for coming on the show and dropping some awesome knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you Alex and continued success. On your career man, you are an inspiration. So thanks again for coming by. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/327. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave a good review for the show. It really really helps us out a lot. I want to get this information out to as many filmmakers and screenwriters as humanly possible. And that's the end of another episode of the indie film hustle podcast. Thank you guys so much for listening. I hope it was a value to you. Have a great weekend. And as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



If you liked Directing Films for Netflix and Mark Duplass with Alex Lehmann, then you’ll love:

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Duplass Brothers, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, The Puffy Chair, Like Brothers, Baghead

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