IFH 193: How to Create Suspense Like Hitchcock



Top Apple Filmmaking Podcast

20+ Million Downloads

Right-click here to download the MP3

Have you ever wanted to know how Alfred Hitchcock became the master of suspense? How Hitch used the camera and lens to create terror in the audience? Well, you can watch all 52 films Hitchcock directed or if you want to get a head start on you Hitchcock education you should listen to today’s guest, Jeffery Michael Bays, the author of the new book Suspense with a Camera: A Filmmaker’s Guide to Hitchcock’s Techniques.

Jeffery shares his knowledge and love for Alfred Hitchcock as well as the tricks and techniques that made Hitchcock the master of suspense. If Hitchcock is your thing then also watch Jeffery’s amazing series Hitch 20. He breaks down every episode of television Alfred Hitchcock ever directed. Check out the video below.

WATCH Hitch20: Exploring Hitchcock’s 20 Works of TV on Indie Film Hustle TV

Docu-series bringing the forgotten skills of Alfred Hitchcock to today’s pro filmmakers, film students, and the wannabe videographer. Experts examine each of the 20 episodes of television that Hitchcock himself directed.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeffery Michael Bays.

Alex Ferrari 1:10
And today's guest is Jeffery Michael Bays. And he wrote a book called suspense with the camera, the filmmakers guide to Hitchcock's techniques. And I actually wrote a quote for the book, which is on the back cover, because I love the book, I am a huge Hitchcock fan, and what Alfred Hitchcock did, he's a master and especially a master of suspense, as his moniker states, but to create suspense to create thrills, excitement with camera movement is something that I think is a lost art in a lot of today's films. And a lot of filmmakers in today's world doesn't they don't take the time to learn that craft. And Jeffrey has done us a favor, to put all of Hitchcock's techniques in this amazing book. And I wanted to have him on the show, to talk about how Hitchcock does what he did, and really dive deep into creating suspense in your movies. And that could be suspense in a comedy. It could be suspense in a thriller, a whore, an action movie, whatever, as a as a director, as a filmmaker. Understanding how to create suspense in a scene is crucial. And Hitchcock, in many ways, did it on low budgets, he was able to create suspense, without showing a lot he created more with not showing. And that technique is super valuable, not only in the storytelling process, but in the indie film world where a lot of times we don't have the money to show the monster. And it's much more effective not to show the monster until the very, very end, or not at all. It's like some movies. But, but without any further ado, let's dive into it. Enjoy my conversation with Jeffery Michael Bays. I like to welcome to the show, Jeffrey Michael Bays How you doing, brother?

Jeffery Michael Bays 3:29
I'm doing good. Thanks.

Alex Ferrari 3:31
Thanks for being on the show man and hopefully teaching us how to scare the crap out of people.

Jeffery Michael Bays 3:36
Yeah. Well, thanks for having me on. I'm big fan.

Alex Ferrari 3:38
I thank you, man. Thank you. And you're I'm a big fan of yours as well your book suspends with a camera, the filmmakers guide to Hitchcock's techniques. It just resonates with me because I'm such a huge Hitchcock fan. He's probably one of my top five directors of all time. And I think a lot of the newer generation of filmmakers has doing themselves a disservice by not studying Hitchcock and his techniques. And he is a master.

Jeffery Michael Bays 4:06
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, you know, he started in the 1920s. And that's when it was like right before the transition to sound. And so he learned with a lot of visual filmmakers, you know, silent film days. And so a lot of those techniques that he developed over the years, they actually came from the silent film era, which, you know, it's kind of a lost star.

Alex Ferrari 4:33
Right! Because he didn't really he didn't really care much about dialogue. It was it wasn't like a thing for him. He was all about the visuals. And in the old silent in silent times, silent era, there was no dialogue. So you had to tell your story visually. And that's kind of he started that way and kind of developed that same technique over the years. So if you can combine good dialogue with his technique, I mean, you got an amazing movie.

Jeffery Michael Bays 4:56
That's true. And you know, the funny thing about that is that he actually started it out as a title designer, because they, they did, they did have dialogue actually in silent films, it was actually text on the Scripture, of course. So and and nobody liked that, you know, that was just it was really inconvenience. And it was just as annoying then as it would have been today. The you know, the idea was to tell the story with the least amount of those interruptions with the title cards. So the fact that he started out designing title cards kind of tells you everything about why he when he started directing, that he didn't want to use any dialog, because it was just a pain.

Alex Ferrari 5:41
It's a pain in the butt. Exactly. Now, why did you decide to go down the rabbit hole on Hitchcock as opposed to any other of the amazing directors in cinema history?

Jeffery Michael Bays 5:50
Well, I guess it's always just been around with me since I was a kid, you know, I, I started watching Hitchcock, when I was 15. I was actually forced to watch rear window. I wasn't expecting anything, you know, because you know, 15 year old movie, you know, this is gonna be boring. This is good. There's nothing you know, I'm going to be, you know, tortured by watching this. And then, you know, as it went on, I started to realize, wait, there's something different about this. It's actually it's pulled me in somehow that there's a feeling of you feel present in the moment. There's there's something live about it. So there's just something different about what Hitchcock was doing. And that caught my attention as a 15 year old. And so I think that kind of started my interest. And then as I got into filmmaking, went to college, I just kept learning more and more about his techniques. And I guess I'm still at it.

Alex Ferrari 6:56
I mean, his he's, he's, I mean, he's made he made, like, how many films that total? I think, like he was a lot

Jeffery Michael Bays 7:03
About 50. Yeah, 52, I think the exact number, there's one that's missing, I think that's no longer in existence,

Alex Ferrari 7:12
That we know of, hopefully, it will be found in a vault somewhere. Exactly. Now, his first was the larger if I'm not mistaken, right?

Jeffery Michael Bays 7:19
Um, that was one of the first there was it actually came out about the same time that here's the thing about his first three films is that they were actually filmed in a different sequence than they were released. Because his first film, which I forgotten the name of it already, but it wasn't released until like a year after Production The next film, because I guess the producers didn't like it. And then they realize, Oh, wait a minute, it actually is pretty good.

Alex Ferrari 7:53
He was doing some amazing stuff, even back then, like seeing through floors. And that was like, that was very revolutionary at the time, like so you could actually see the footsteps above you and things like that he was already thinking at such a different level than the rest of the filmmakers at the time. That was pretty amazing. Now, can you answer this very basic question, what is suspense?

Jeffery Michael Bays 8:17
Well, you know, nobody really knows nobody can agree on the answer. In fact, film theorists and psychologists don't agree. So, right. You know, psychologists think that it's that it's about uncertainty, that you're uncertain about the outcome. You want the good thing to happen, but you're afraid the bad things gonna happen. But film theorists have kind of turned that on its head. And there's this thing called the paradox of suspense. Okay, so they get a little bit of science here. What they found is that if you watch a film The second time, the suspense is even greater in some cases. So how does that make sense? If you know what's going to happen, then there really is no uncertainty the second time you watch it, right, right. It's not really about uncertainty at all. It's more just about setting up these situations of fear in which a secret is about to be released to the other characters or something bad is going to happen. But it's that moment, where you provoke the audience into wanting to reach into the screen, and, and fix things to prevent a tragedy. And it's that audience provocation. That's what suspense is.

Alex Ferrari 9:33
Now, if I remember correctly, and you can definitely correct me on this. The I saw an interview with Hitchcock before and his definition of of suspense was, if you're sitting at that table, in the middle of like a restaurant somewhere, and two people are talking about nothing. You're just talking about their daily life and all of a sudden, an explosion happens and everyone dies in the building. There's no suspense there but at the beginning, if you feed it The audience just as they're sitting down talking, that there's a bomb underneath, and now they're talking about baseball, everyone in the audience, like stop talking about baseball. And that's, that creates this kind of suspense. But he said, the one rule that you can never break is you can never let the bomb go off. Because if the audience will be very good, and he did it in one movie, and he says, and the audience was very square with me. Is that have you heard that story?

Jeffery Michael Bays 10:25
Yeah, yeah, that's, that's his bomb theory. And basically, that's just about giving the audience more information and the characters have so that so that you know what's going to happen or you think you know, what's going to happen? See, that's the key is that you build the audience up to think they know what's happening, or what's about to happen. And then you pull the rug out at the last minute, and something else happens instead. And that twist is what makes the suspense enjoyable. Because if you just let the bomb go off, you know, after five minutes of suspense, then it's like, okay, the bomb went off, and that's kind of boring.

Alex Ferrari 11:03
But if they escaped, the danger becomes a little bit a little bit better. Yeah, exactly. Now, what can you tell the audience what a MacGuffin is. Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. That's I know, that's a tough question sometimes.

Jeffery Michael Bays 11:17
But he's throwing curveballs here. Oh. Yeah. So a MacGuffin is? Well, it's been around for centuries in storytelling, it's kind of like a plot device. It's, you know, the things that they the villains are after, it's like the secret plans that, that, you know, they have to try to get and, you know, it's kind of it's a it's a reason for the story to happen. But with Hitchcock, it's more about, it's a reason that doesn't matter.

Alex Ferrari 11:50
Right, he doesn't care. He doesn't really care about if it's it's microfilm or plans for a nuclear bomb or some sort of chemical. He doesn't care.

Jeffery Michael Bays 12:00
It just right. It's, it's almost like x in an algebraic equation. Right now. It could be anything. It's a variable, you know, you change it to something else. The story stays the same, right?

Alex Ferrari 12:10
Because all the action was everyone's still trying to protect that or get that. So the actual thing doesn't really matter as much for him.

Jeffery Michael Bays 12:17
Exactly. So even in a psychological film, where, like, for instance, Marnie, which is one of his later films, the MacGuffin, and Marni is the color red because that's the thing that freaks her out. She's got this kind of psychological hang up about every time she sees red. Then she freaks out. That's the MacGuffin. It could be anything, right. If she can freak out about bunny rabbits or, you know, anything. It's still the same story because the story is actually about the other guy blackmailing her, you know, to control her. Right? Right.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
Yeah, cuz a lot of people don't understand what the MacGuffin is. So hopefully, the audience has a little bit better understanding what that is now.

Jeffery Michael Bays 13:01
Now, in the book, I kind of break that down into some different ways you can use it. So I yeah, it's it's one of those things that I think it's, it's the reason that Hitchcock it became prevalent in his works is because he was, he was such a visual storyteller. And there's something about when you're using the camera to tell a story, you're able to move the camera around the scene, and give the audience different perspectives. You bring the audience into the character in such an intimate level that a lot of the story doesn't, isn't really quite as prominent anymore. And what I mean by that is on the stage, it's mostly dialogue. Right? The actors are speaking dialogue, and that is dramatics of, you know, talking back and forth. And you have the same perspective all the way through the play. Unless you move to a different seat,

Alex Ferrari 14:02
Right! arguably, you're in the same perspective in theater.

Jeffery Michael Bays 14:06
But film is more abbreviated in its way of storytelling. So that some of these plot elements kind of just kind of fall to the wayside and aren't really quite as important because you're you're, you're the audience's is more interested in the reaction shots. And you know, the secrets and you know, the emotional world. So, yeah, that's that's kind of why a MacGuffin is so important in a suspense film is because it's just, it's kind of a throwaway, one of those things that don't matter.

Alex Ferrari 14:40
Right, exactly. Now, there's a lot of suspense myths out there. Can you discuss what suspenseful lighting is and isn't?

Jeffery Michael Bays 14:50
Okay, well, yeah, and these myths that I have other things that you shouldn't do, or you don't need to do if you want suspense, and it's Kind of misconceptions that if you know you want suspense, then it has to be dark. Right? You have to have shadows you have to have, you know, it has to be nighttime. And that's not that's not really true. In fact, Hitchcock set out to prove that many times he put most of his suspense in the sunshine, right on the crop, the crop duster scene in North by Northwest. So good. It's in the middle of the afternoon, right. And, you know, the suspense is in the middle of an open field as a plane, you know, tries to kill Cary Grant. So, lighting, it really doesn't matter. So much.

Alex Ferrari 15:48
It's all about the technique is as of creating the suspense,

Jeffery Michael Bays 15:52
And it's about the setup, you know, it has nothing to do with being dark and spooky. I mean, you know, you can you can make a dark, but it's not necessary.

Alex Ferrari 16:03
Now, what are some tips you have for creating suspense with a camera? I know, there's that's a loaded question. There's 1000s of them, but just a couple?

Jeffery Michael Bays 16:14
Um, well, okay, with a camera. I mean, that kind of brings up the whole secrets aspect, because that's, that's what I kind of outline in the book is that the easiest way for a filmmaker to set up a suspense scenario is to have a secret that the protagonist knows. And none of the other characters know the secret. And you bring the audience into that secret? And then you set up suspense around? Is that secret going to get out? And so you create these scenes where it almost gets out? Okay, and the secret can be anything it can be, you know, a dead body, which Hitchcock did a lot.

Alex Ferrari 17:00
There's a few dead bodies that his movies, yes, yeah.

Jeffery Michael Bays 17:05
But it could be, you know, something, I like a pregnancy that happens in soap operas a lot. In fact, soap operas, use suspense quite often. Because these are things you know, that one character can hide, and then when they're, you know, confronted by another character, the secret could almost get out, and they have to lie about it. And when the protagonist lies about it, then the audience kind of feels privileged, then they no secret information. And it's, it forms a bond with the audience. And it also provokes the audience into thinking. He just lied. That's, that's not right. And so it gets us you know, involved, and it's kind of like, we're, we're getting we're involved in kind of, and the reason the reason this, we started out talking about the camera, is because the camera is the way to bring the audience into the secret. Right, um, so that you pan into an object, or you pan into or you zoom into a face, or during a conversation, two people are talking. And the camera focuses on one of the characters hiding something. So that's how the camera comes into play.

Alex Ferrari 18:30
There's not a lot of that anymore. I don't see it as much as I used to. With with current day films. Is that a fair statement?

Jeffery Michael Bays 18:38
Oh, sure. Yeah, I think that's fair. I think there's a lot of over the shoulder shots. Mm hmm. And Hitchcock didn't use over the shoulder shots.

Alex Ferrari 18:49
Any specific reason?

Jeffery Michael Bays 18:51
You know, I think it's probably because it's, well, what I like to think about it is that if is that the camera is actually the audience sitting in the room. And so when you when you, when you're doing the over shoulder kind of editing, you're flipping back and forth, right, so that, you know, the camera is not in one spot. So it's kind of disorienting, and it kind of brings you out of the moment. But if you have the camera in one place, and the people that Sue people are talking then the way you move the camera, it makes you feel more like you're standing there watching them.

Alex Ferrari 19:43
Got it. Now, that makes sense. It makes perfect sense. No, no, no, it makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense. Me the camera you can use the camera in so many different ways. But I think again, a lot of especially indie filmmakers don't use the camera to tell their story. A lot of times they use either they will By so much heavily on dialogue, or, or, or, you know, this situation to tell the story as opposed to really crafting and using the camera as a paintbrush for your, for your masterpiece or for your painting that you're painting. And that's what Hitchcock did, arguably better than anybody else, especially in his genre, that he was able to just jump in, and go out and completely get like that shot in a tortoise is one of my favorite shots of it all of Hitchcockian film, that one shot at the top of the stairs, and he just cranes forever, all the way down to finally to you see, you have no idea where the cameras gonna go until you finally go into that real close up of the back of a ignorant egg Marburg man's hand, where she has a key, which is obviously a part of the plot. And it's such an amazing shot, but you don't see that anymore. That's like, that's bold, in today's world. Is that is that fair?

Jeffery Michael Bays 21:00
Yeah. And that's not just some kind of random, you know, establishing shot. Because it's telling a story, it's visually, it's like a visual sentence, the director is saying, okay, here's a, here's a roomful of people. And here's a woman, and she's holding a key. And this key is really important to this woman. And nobody else knows about it. So you've, you've told that story, just in that one long shot. And you would know that I made it important, no dialogue.

Alex Ferrari 21:35
Now, in your book, you do discuss the concept of visual visual sentence? Can you elaborate a bit on that?

Jeffery Michael Bays 21:41
Well, yeah, I mean, this is it's basically it's shot by shot, what story are you telling. And the visual sentence is ideas created by putting shots together. So that if you, you know, you put together a close up of a person looking, and then you cut to something they're looking at, and then you cut back to the reaction? That is a visual sentence, because you're showing what they're looking at. And with that, as an idea, the example I use in the book is that a man is looking at a burlap sack. Okay, and then then he looks down at a dead body. Okay, again, with the dead bodies? And, of course, yeah. And so when you cut back and forth from him looking to the sack, and then looking at the body, then you kind of you've processed this idea that, okay, maybe he can put the body into the sack. Right, right. So just by visual, you know, putting these shots together, you're, you're, you're getting the audience involved in the thought process of the protagonist, and how they're processing, you know, what they can do in this world? You know, what can you do with the sack, he goes over, he gets a shovel, he gets a rope. So you kind of put these objects together. And that's your story. You know, that's your storytelling. And, you know, you don't need dialogue for that. And this, you know, the visual sentences, it gets more elaborate, you can add more things to it. In fact, you know, the entire film of rear window is Jimmy Stewart looking out the window and then reacting to what he sees. You know, so it's all visual sentences.

Alex Ferrari 23:33
There's not a lot of dialogue in a window is there? Well, yeah, there is dialogue, but like, I remember it. What I remember is not the dialogue, all I do is remember is the visuals of that movie. Yeah. Now what is it Hitchcockian open.

Jeffery Michael Bays 23:50
Okay, well, that's that's kind of like the notorious thing. It's the camera pulling the audience into a secretive world. So often, he would start out in a public space, like a crowd of people, and then the camera would you know, kind of pick a person and start following that person. Or you would pan the camera across some buildings, and then you, you pan into a window, you pick out a window to look into, and then you go into the, to the house and you see what's inside. So it's kind of it's it's bringing the audience from a public space into a private world, private, secretive world. And, and the other thing about Hitchcock is that he always opened his films, as comedies. And that kind of sounds counterintuitive, right? They would, if you want to build suspense, why are you opening a film with as a comedy, and he did that almost exclusively throughout his career. Even North by Northwest has kind of comic music in the opening. Um, and that's because he thought that first you want the audience to start to like the characters and to have fun with. And so if they're having fun, if they're, you know, if it's comedic, then you care about them more before something bad happens. And it also creates kind of a really strong contrast, when something bad does happen, then it's a sudden shift to the dramatic,

Alex Ferrari 25:33
right? You he lures you in a little bit, and then then he spanks you. But he was he was he was the genius of that he always said that he wanted to play the audience, like a piano. Like, if I hit this note, you're going to do this, if I hit that note, you're going to do that. And that's kind of what he wanted to do with all his movies.

Jeffery Michael Bays 25:53
Yeah, exactly. And, you know, he said that the camera is like a musical instrument. In that the close ups, you know, are the most important notes, and then the, the wide shots or other notes, and it's it's all about emphasis, and rhythms and so that every, every moment, carries with it a certain emphasis, and that all of your close ups are, are your emotional story. And all the wide shots are more objective. And so that's why he was able to storyboard all of his films beforehand. And the editors would have no choice, you know, follow exactly what I did, right? There's only one way to cut it, because he would only shoot exactly what was needed in terms of close up here, wide shot here, medium shot here.

Alex Ferrari 26:55
And so that was all part of his plan going in was that orchestration of the camera. He never it was it was never found in the Edit, like many like most movies are, it's never found in the Edit, or re cut in the Edit, he had such a clear vision of what he was attempting to do. I'm sure at one point or another, he must have run into some trouble. But maybe he didn't. Maybe he was such a master that he just always got it exactly the way he had it on paper. Which, which is insane.

Jeffery Michael Bays 27:23
Now his producers didn't like that either. Because you know, especially back in the 40s, and 50s. producers were all about, you know, controlling and changing the Edit. And they couldn't do it with his films, because there was no other way to cut it. There was no other footage to use in the in the scenes,

Alex Ferrari 27:42
That's a smart way to get to maintain Director's Cut, I guess. Exactly. Now, can you discuss in the book you discuss a little bit about the syntax of eyes, hands and feet? Can you elaborate a bit?

Jeffery Michael Bays 27:54
Yeah, basically, this is all about telling the story. Those are those your Those are the words that you have in the visual sentence. So if you're crafting a visual sentence, you have eyes, hands and feet, and objects, which the hands can manipulate. So it's, I compare it to a computer game. There's a type of computer game. I don't know if it's still out there. But in the 90s, there was a type of computer game where you it's like, where you have, you're in a room, and there's objects and you have to you tell the character to you know, look at this objects, grab this object. And, and by putting two objects together, you create a tool that you can escape the room, you know, so that's, that's kind of, and that's the way of bringing the you know, the player into the world and to manipulate the story of the game is through objects. It's the same way in a suspense film, because by focusing on objects, and by telling the story through objects, that's how you bring the audience in. It makes them feel like they're they're a part of the story and that they can if they could reach in then they could manipulate the the film in the same way.

Alex Ferrari 29:22
Now, Hitchcock was a master of building danger off screen can you share a few tips on how Hitchcock did it so well? Off screen so basically be what you don't show because that what's your Yeah, yeah, basically like when you like, you know, instead of showing the murder, you hear the murder?

Jeffery Michael Bays 29:46
Oh, yeah. So you know, that's the thing. Once you build up the suspense, you really don't have to show it because the audience is already so involved and you By not showing it, like for instance, there's a, there's an episode of his TV show called revenge where he actually has a murder that takes place off screen, a guy walks into a hotel room, and the camera stays on the door of the hotel. And you see the man walk in and walk off camera, and then you hear him stabbing the guy and killing him. But you don't see it. But you know what's happening, and the camera doesn't move. So all you have is this empty shot of this doorway. And that is, it's more, you know, scary than showing it because it's in your head. Because you've evoked the imagination. And it happens in your head. It's not on the screen.

Alex Ferrari 30:55
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So like the perfect example is the psycho shower sequence, which is probably one of the most studied sequences in film history. The knife, never penetrator and never caught her at all, in the entire sequence, but yet the mind connects all of those images was I think, was like, What? 78 shots, 98 shots, something like that, and a 45 seconds, or 30 seconds, I don't even remember exactly the numbers. But all of those shots connected into a murder sequence. But you never actually see an actual murder, arguably, you know, you don't ever see that knife penetrate her skin. So that is the master. I mean, he took I think it was took three days to shoot that two and a half, three days to shoot like 90 seconds. Yeah. Must be nice to be to be the boss back.

Jeffery Michael Bays 32:01
Yeah, and that's all about montage. And the brain finds its own continuity. You know,

Alex Ferrari 32:09
it was it was just as a I actually worked at Universal Studios, Florida, back in the day in the 90s. And they had the Hitchcock ride, which I literally would just sit and just stay in there forever. And they had a whole live presentation of the shower sequence they brought, they brought the set out the way the the you know, the walls would fall away. And in all this kind of stuff. It was just fascinating to watch. So can you talk a little bit about the Hitchcock brand? And how hitch was the first director to really brand himself?

Jeffery Michael Bays 32:44
Yeah, and you know, this started, you know, he actually, when he was a teenager, he was actually in marketing. He works at a company that made telegraph cable. And so he was in the marketing departments of, I guess he designed the catalog or something, the product catalog. And he also designed, you know, advertisements that they would publish elsewhere. And so he, he was involved in marketing and publicity early on. So by the time he became a director, like in his mid 20s, he already had this background, this intimate kind of knowledge of the underpinnings of advertising. And so he knew how to promote himself. And he would actually, that's, that's part of why he kept putting cameos of himself in his films, because he realized that the newspapers would talk about it. In fact, they would talk about more about him than the actors. And that was, that was kind of unheard of

Alex Ferrari 33:53
At the time. It's still on, it's still actually unheard of. There's not many directors that get more of a spotlight than the the actors in their movies or the movies themselves.

Jeffery Michael Bays 34:02
Yeah, and so and so he would do that he would manipulate the press like that, in fact, he would actually plant stories about his weight. And getting the press to talk about the fact you know, he lost 20 pounds last week. And here's how he did it. So he's, he's getting people to think about his image, because part of his brand is that profile, that unique profile of his face. And so any way he could get the press to talk about it, then that was publicity for him. And so what you see in his films, is that he his brand, and his persona, is so interweaved into his style, into his camera moves and everything about his films, so that even today, 40 years later, you still feel his presence. Do you do now it's good. Yeah. Yeah, so you you feel this director telling a story and you feel like he's still there. And there's not many guys

Alex Ferrari 35:08
From his time. That that still has that resonance. You know, that just sits there and it just, you know, everybody knows that profile. You know, anyone who's watched movies have heard of ich Kok. You know, he's just one of those directors. And he's he's a just a masterful, he was Matt, you're right. He was masterful and branding. And I think that's something that's so missing today in cinema, in general is and for specifically in the filmmakers, is the branding aspect of things, the marketing aspects of things, and he was a master, not only of suspense, but of marketing. I remember, remember the the psycho release, what a masterful marketing campaign that was, that he would shut the door at a certain time and not let anybody else in? And he asked, make sure don't ruin it for anybody. And it's pretty masterful back then. And how much control do you think he had over the marketing of his films?

Jeffery Michael Bays 36:05
You know, that's a good question. Um, you know, I'm not sure. I'm sure he has, you know, quite a bit of inputs

Alex Ferrari 36:13
More than most.

Jeffery Michael Bays 36:15
Yeah, yeah. Especially during the 60s because by you know, by 1960, he was like, the biggest director ever. So,

Alex Ferrari 36:23
Yeah, there was a golden pretty much get anything you wanted. Yeah. There was a golden age of his work, which started with which with film did you think it would be would be like that, because there's that group of like, six or seven movies, that he was just at the top of his game, the vertigo, the rear window, psycho, North by Northwest that, that that period? What do you know what the years were by any chance?

Jeffery Michael Bays 36:46
Yeah, so pretty much, you know, 1950s, up to 1960s, psycho was 1960, which is kind of the end of that kind of golden era. Because after that, after psycho, he kind of went a different direction that he started.

Alex Ferrari 37:00
He was already he already had his TV show at that point.

Jeffery Michael Bays 37:03
Right. And the TV show started in 55. Right. And I think that would be the year that he was probably at his peak. Because he was he was making like three or four films a year at that point. I mean, within a very short span of time, he had rear window, and North by Northwest and vertigo and all these films, you know, and all masterpieces, all masterpieces at that time. Yeah, without question he was hitting. He was hitting home run after home run during that period. And and I don't remember. All right. And he was about 55 at the time. So you know, because he was born in 1899. So you can easily figure out his age. So it's just, you know, if, if you're not 55 yet, as a filmmaker, there's still hope.

Alex Ferrari 37:56
Right, right. Right. Without without questions. Yeah, because he took a while it took Yeah, it took him Yeah, but he worked. He worked. But it took him a while before he hit his stride. And, and I do remember the story of psycho that he actually the studio didn't want to give him the money, or they gave him a really low budget. So he took his TV crew. And that's who made the movie, which was unheard of, at the time, a television crew doing a feature film for a studio. Yeah. And he did that. And that's how he was able to move so quickly, and so on. Like I said, I'm a little bit of a Hitchcock fan. I like to I like to geek out with some Hitchcock every once in a while. Now, what are some current day films that Hitchcock would be proud of, in your opinion?

Jeffery Michael Bays 38:43
I think 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the ones that comes to mind recently. Dan Trachtenberg, I actually have a an interview with him in the book. That I think is very Hitchcock. A lot of the Coen Brothers work is very, very Hitchcock, I think the reason the similarity there is because of the humor, the use of comedy, which was really important to Hitchcock's work, as well, because Hitchcock, he said that, you know, it's entertainment, you don't want to depress the audience. So you have to keep things light and fun. So even in the darkest scenarios, he would always find a way to make it funny. And insert a little bit of humor or irony, and make

Alex Ferrari 39:37
Your men mccobb as well.

Jeffery Michael Bays 39:39
Exactly. So that you're always kind of on the edge between laughs and screams. So it's just kind of teetering back and forth between those two. And so you know, that's what the Coen brothers do. And, you know, David Fincher obviously does a lot Hitchcockian type of work. And you know, I like to compare the Bourne Identity of films to Hitchcock. Very similar, especially the first one. Because, you know, it's a similar type of character, like being chased through geographic space, and kind of hiding and, you know, uncovering information. And so that's very similar to what Hitchcock would do. So yeah. Oh, and also the new series on HBO, called room 104.

Alex Ferrari 40:38
Yes, the duplass brothers.

Jeffery Michael Bays 40:41
Yeah, a lot of Hitchcockian type of work there that there's some episodes that are just really, really awesome suspense.

Alex Ferrari 40:50
I mean, would you agree that I think that indie filmmakers have a tremendous opportunity on a lower budget, to really tell some fascinating stories if they're able to employ some of Hitchcock's techniques. And not only in the horror or thriller. But just as it's suspenseful telling a good story, but using the camera. And that using a lot of dialogue, which I know that that's a hamper. It hampers a lot of filmmakers who are not writers to try to tell that story visually. Would you agree with that?

Jeffery Michael Bays 41:22
Yeah, absolutely. You don't need a lot of money for this. And, you know, I think that if Hitchcock were alive today, he would be you know, he would have a web series. He would have a YouTube channel, you know, it'd be a hell of a YouTube channel. He was always about experimenting with new things, you know, new formats. And that was, you know, that was a big deal when he went to television in the 50s, because nobody else was doing that.

Alex Ferrari 41:52
That's right. Oh, that was the anti that Hollywood aided television when it first came out. So yeah, you can you know, anybody can do it. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my all my guests. Can you tell me? What book had the biggest impact on your life or career besides your own book? Of course?

Jeffery Michael Bays 42:16
Um, well, I think, um, with Hitchcock, it would have to go back to the Francois Truffaut interview.

Alex Ferrari 42:24
I knew you were gonna say that.

Jeffery Michael Bays 42:25
Yeah, I think that's, that's kind of that, you know, it took me about three years to actually read that book. Because I was like, reading parts of it, you know, off and on. But yeah, that was so inspiring.

Alex Ferrari 42:39
God, it was the first time ciuffo who was considered on a tour, interviewed Hitchcock, which at the time, Hitchcock was kind of considered just kind of like a, oh, he just makes popular movies. He's not to be taken too seriously. And Truffaut was the one that brought him into the spotlight, and oh, my God, this guy's really has some thought behind what he's doing. And there is technique and there is art, with what Hitchcock was doing, and it was it's if anyone listening has not read the Hitchcock Truffaut book, it's it's required reading for all filmmakers, as well as the documentary, Hitchcock Truffaut, which I just saw recently, which, which is amazing. Yeah, yeah. Now on the book is the book is a lot. Oh, of course, no, look, it's a lot denser. But the doc, the doc really talked a lot about how they put it together. And, and just how funny Hitchcock was, like the pictures they took, and why they took the pictures and all that kind of good stuff. Now, what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Jeffery Michael Bays 43:42
These are the what what lesson took me the longest to learn? Well, the one thing that that I think is important is to always impose limitations onto yourself and onto your work. And that's where the most creativity comes from. So that if you if you start out a film and you, you say, okay, it's just going to be handheld camera shots, we're not going to use a tripod, and we're just going to use natural lighting. Okay, if you decide that's how you're going to do it, stick with it. Because what can happen is that, you know, you can be pushed into, you know, expanding and doing bigger things, and then the film might become too much of a monster to handle. Right? So always. You want creative limitations. I think that's an important thing.

Alex Ferrari 44:43
So low budgets actually make you a better filmmaker. Yeah, I would say so. I preach that all the time. If you if you're given $100 million, you have no idea and you just throw the money hose at problems you never learned. But if you haven't, you can't figure it out. That Then you have to try to figure it out because there's no other option. It's kind of like burning the boats once you get to the shore like there's no going back. Now, what are three of your favorite Hitchcockian films of all time?

Jeffery Michael Bays 45:13
Um, Hitchcockian. You mean the Hitchcock film early Hitchcock,

Alex Ferrari 45:16
No Hitchcock, Hitchcock films?

Jeffery Michael Bays 45:18
Um, well, you know, that always changes for me because there's so many. And each time I see one, it's it's different than, you know, it kind of changes as today. Well, I recently saw, I confess, which is an early black and white Hitchcock film, and I really liked that. I was surprised by it. It's one of the lesser known films. Also, I like Strangers on a Train.

Alex Ferrari 45:51
Which one because there's two strangers on the train, if I remember correctly. It's the black and white white. The first one. Okay. Okay. Yeah. Not the remake, because he remade his own movie a couple decades later. Um, if I'm not mistaken, right. That was man who knew too much. I think it was two. There's two men who knew too much. Yeah, yes. That's the one Excuse me. Thank you for correcting me.

Jeffery Michael Bays 46:15
Yes. Yeah. Cuz that's the film. He remade it up his earlier British version.

Alex Ferrari 46:19
Got it. Oh, strangers on the train is great. Actually. I love strangers on the train.

Jeffery Michael Bays 46:24
That's a good film, too, by the way. And I also like rope. You said, You said you're getting rejected.

Alex Ferrari 46:31
We can't talk about I can't talk about it.

Jeffery Michael Bays 46:34
Talk about it. But the style the style of you know, a single shots. That's camera orchestration right there if you want to learn about orchestration, yeah. watch that movie.

Alex Ferrari 46:46
He did what seven takes in that whole movie?

Jeffery Michael Bays 46:49
Yeah. Yeah. It's all as if one take, right. There's a couple of cuts, but you know, they're dramatic cuts. Right, but exactly. But it's all about, you know, $1 yen on an important moments, you know, it's all the, you know, it's all the shots are there, but you just don't cut you move the camera instead of cutting this?

Alex Ferrari 47:13
Yeah, he um, he I read somewhere that he was not years later, he felt that he felt kind of discouraged by rope. Because he felt that it wasn't his best work. And it was just an experiment gone wrong, in his opinion, is what I read, which I disagree with Mr. Hitchcock, which actually, I think rope is it's a masterpiece as well. But I guess at the time, it was not well received only years later, but that's a lot of great art is not well received. We look at Kubrick. Yeah, I mean, every Kubrick movie that came out everyone was like, and then 10 years later masterpiece.

Jeffery Michael Bays 47:48
Now he tried it again with under Capricorn, and work. So it may be the failure of that second try that caused him to give up on the whole idea. But But yeah, it's still

Alex Ferrari 48:03
I would like to see him with a digit. I still like to see him with a digital camera today. And he could just choose forever and not have to worry about it. I always wondered, I always wonder like, what would Kubrick what would Hitchcock and some of these great directors, Kurosawa, all these great directors of the of yesteryear with today's technology, what they would do, and what, what amazing art that would be created today. Now where can people find you online? And where can people get the book?

Jeffery Michael Bays 48:30
Okay, well, the book is available, most major booksellers it's in Barnes and Noble. It's on Amazon. You can get it from the publisher at m WP comm Mike luisi Productions calm. And My website is bourgas comm b o RG West comm you can Google my name, you'll find things

Alex Ferrari 48:53
You do you have an amazing YouTube channel as well. Oh, thank you. Yes, I'm saying is a statement and please tell people about it.

Jeffery Michael Bays 49:02
Well, okay, it's it's bourgas film on YouTube. And we have our hitch 20 series, which it's three hours of detailed analysis of Hitchcock's 20 episodes of television. It's insane. And that, that is definitely something to check out.

Alex Ferrari 49:21
Yeah, I actually, when I was doing research on Hitchcock, I came across your site. And I think that's how we kind of ran into each other eventually, was I started posting some of your stuff as well, because it was just such good stuff. And there's just nothing out there like it. So if you guys are interested in Hitchcock at all, I'll put his I'll put all this in the show notes, so you guys can go check it out. But the the videos are a great companion to his book. And the book, again, is called suspense with a camera, the filmmakers guide to Hitchcock's techniques. Jeffrey, thank you so much for being on the show. Man. It has been an absolute pleasure geeking out with with Hitchcock and yourself.

Jeffery Michael Bays 49:56
Great. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 49:58
Hitchcock was the The Master, he's arguably one of my top five directors of all time. And if you are a filmmaker, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not study Mr. Hitchcock's work. And in all honesty, if you guys are going down the rabbit hole on on Alfred, please check out Jeffrey's amazing 20 episode series on every episode he ever directed on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents show, and they break down everything about those episodes, and really gives you an insight on what hitch was doing during those years. And I'll have all the links to everything from Jeffrey's book, to his video series. And everything he does at our Show Notes for this episode at indiefilmhustle.com/193. And I want to thank you for all the emails and all the questions I've been getting from the tribe. For the new show, ask Alex. I really appreciate it. And please, it's not too late. Please send more questions. I'm still picking and choosing which ones I'm going to use. Just email me at [email protected]. Leave me your question. And I will take a read of it and see if it gets on the show. But please send the questions. I want to read them. I want to answer them as best I can. So thank you guys. And tomorrow we will be releasing the next installment of the director series on our YouTube channel. This week is Christopher Nolan. And breaking down Batman Begins. Definitely it's it's just such a geek fest. I love that episode. So so much. If you're a Nolan fan, please check it out at indiefilmhustle.com/YouTube. And you can subscribe on our YouTube channel. And guys, we're almost at 10,000 I think by tomorrow we might break 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. so grateful. so humbled and growing, and and also our Facebook page. If you haven't been to our Facebook page, definitely check it out. We're almost at 50,000 likes on our Facebook page. So the audience is growing, the tribe is growing. So please keep spreading the word as much as you can to everybody you know and try to help. I'm trying to help as many filmmakers as we can out there around the world. So for all of my listeners in the US Happy Halloween. Don't eat too much candy scare the hell out of people. Oh, and by the way, I just have done a side note. If you guys any of you guys out there have Netflix. You need to watch Stranger Things. For God's sakes please watch Stranger Things. I just finished bingeing it on Saturday. And it was amazing. If you'd like the first season the second season is great. No spoilers, I promise. But just watch it. It's so great. It's such a wonderful study in nostalgia. And how the duffer brothers duffer brothers put together these amazing stories we actually released a whole bunch of articles last week about exactly how they do character and breakdown character and all that kind of good stuff but finally saw it definitely check it out on Netflix guys. And as always keep that also going keep the dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.




  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)



Where Hollywood Comes to Talk

Oliver Stone

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)

Edward Burns

(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)

Richard Linklater

Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)

Eric Roth

Oscar® Winning Screenwriter
(Forrest Gump, Dune)

Oscar® Winning Writers/Directors
(Everything, Everywhere, All At Once)

Jason Blum

(Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver)

Oscar® Nominated Producer
(Get Out, Whiplash)

Chris Moore sml

Oscar® Nominated Producer
(Good Will Hunting, American Pie)

(Menace II Society, Book of Eli)

Marta Kauffman sml

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Last Samurai, Blood Diamond)

Emmy® Winning Writer & Showrunner
(Friends, Grace and Frankie)

Free Training of The Week


How to Direct Big Action Sequences on a Micro-Budget

By Gil Bettman

Join veteran director Gil Bettman as he shares the secrets to directing big budget action on a micro budget.