IFH 332: Is Artificial Intelligence Putting Screenwriters Out of Work?

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Today on the show we have filmmaker Andrew Kortschak. In today’s digital age, where ‘releasing’ a film involves putting it on Vimeo, new filmmakers often struggle to rise above the noise and break into the exclusive industry.

Andrew has a unique approach to this problem and in fact joined forces with a Silicon Valley venture capitalist to build End Cue like a tech startup: via a bi-coastal incubator model where directors cut their teeth and build their portfolios doing commercial work. On such alum of this approach is Jon Watts  – Andrew co-produced his NBR award-winning film Cop Car Spiderman: Homecoming.

To further address the pain points of young producers, End Cue even sprouted groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to save time during the scriptwriting process. This was a fascinating conversation. Enjoy my talk with Andrew Kortschak.

Alex Ferrari 0:28
Today on the show, we have Andrew Kortschak, who is going to be talking about AI in the world of cinema and how AI is possibly going to take over the screenwriting process. I don't know we're gonna talk about it. He is the co founder of n q, a production company behind the indie films, cop car, which was a big hit in the box office and print the legend. Now when Andrew co founded mq, he kind of saw that there was a really tough time for new filmmakers to break into the business and kind of like rise above all the noise. So his approach was very unique. He joined forces with a Silicon Valley venture capitalists to build and queue like a tech startup by a by Coastal incubator model where directors could cut their teeth and build their portfolios doing commercial work. One of his alumni is john watts, who directed the award winning film cop car before he headed over to direct the small little Marvel movie called spider man homecoming. And then it can he figured out that there was more pain points for young producer. So at mq II actually sprouted groundbreaking AI technology to save time during the screenwriting process. Andrew is a fascinating guy, and it was a great great conversation. So I want to dig into this because AI has been the news of you know, we've seen AI cut a trailer, ai write a screenplay, edit together movies like it's it's a thing guys I know for us right now thinking, Oh, AI will never take over the creative process. Maybe? Maybe not. We don't know we're in the infancy of this new technology. So I wanted to see how it really affects not only filmmakers, but indie filmmakers moving forward. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Andrew Kortschak. I'd like to welcome the show Andrew Kortschak how you doing, brother?

Andrew Kortschak 4:42
Good, man. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 4:43
I'm good, man. Thanks for being on the show. I appreciate it.

Andrew Kortschak 4:46
Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 4:47
So first off, man, how did you get into the film business?

Andrew Kortschak 4:52
I got into the film business based on I have no childhood love of film. And, you know, slowly building towards making myself an invaluable part of the process or at least striving to be one. That's kind of you know, it's been a long path, but have had a great time doing it.

Alex Ferrari 5:18
Very cool. Now you also went to USC, right?

Andrew Kortschak 5:20
I did, yes. But I really got kind of kicked into gear.

Alex Ferrari 5:24
Yeah. How did you How was your USC experience? I've spoken to USC many times, and I know a lot of USC grad. So I've heard, you know, many different experiences outside of a USC, out of the bubble of USC, can you tell us what that experience was like, and how it was for you?

Andrew Kortschak 5:41
Sure. I mean, I really enjoyed it. I, I also timed things quite well, and that I got to take advantage of the new facilities donated, graciously donated by George Lucas and several others. So it was always nice, you know, walking into something that felt like a real film studio is it as a 18 year old, but, um, you know, I can only speak from my own personal experience, I was a little bit of an odd bird there, because I was very, very focused on animation and documentary work at the time. And I think USC has a reputation for developing great studio filmmakers, studio executives and representatives. And I personally struggled a little bit with having to wear every hat. And you know, I by then I knew I was not interested in directing, personally. But you know, you have to go through the process. And I do absolutely see the value in that.

Alex Ferrari 6:41
No, did you you, when you got out of school, you had your first internship at Pixar, if I'm not mistaken, right? Actually, I took some time off of school to go do that. Even better back in 2010. Even better I was, I used to joke I used to jump off and go to Universal Studios, and do my internships there and not go to class. Do you find it so invaluable to learn you learn so much more doing internships? I feel so much than you do in film school sometimes?

Andrew Kortschak 7:08
Absolutely. And that's how I would kind of sum up film school. I mean, there's absolute value in going and I think, you know, across the board I've worked with down to people who have gone to a variety of different schools, some more liberal arts focused, you know, others that are these kind of, you know, classic, you know, film schools like NYU, UCLA, or USC. But really, I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head that the the best way to get your hands on material and kind of see how things are done in the real world is to get these kind of early internship experiences.

Alex Ferrari 7:43
Now what was it like working at Pixar? I've never had the pleasure of walking into that magical factory that I've seen so many times on behind the scene videos, what is it like working there?

Andrew Kortschak 7:52
It was a life changing and some somewhat scary experience on my first day, I don't think I'd ever filled out a W nine before. So I think I claimed 99 dependence or something insane like that. So they obviously could tell I wasn't very good at paperwork back then. But I, you know, I was so fortunate in that I had known Corey Ray and Darla Anderson, two amazing producers there. And they had, you know, kind of slowly mentored me as I, you know, come out of high school and, you know, specifically, you know, decided to focus on, on animation. And I was there the summer they were releasing Toy Story three. So I walked in and was greeted by a I would say 40 foot tall. lifesize recreation of Ken's dream house with Barbie in tow and all the costumes. And then I can't remember the name of the day, the pink bear. But Rob Aires and was about eight feet tall and imposing. So it was, you know, that was that made a major impression on me. And I'd obviously grown up, you know, on their movies, I'd also been the same age as Andy and every toys to her movies to Toy Story movie as they've been released. So it felt personal, but I was lucky enough to get to work on Monsters University, which was in its early stages. At that point,

Alex Ferrari 9:17
What is the process? Like? I mean, I've heard the stories of how they actually go through the process of making these films that that takes years and years and years of like development in their different floors that you can't get to and search, things like that, depending on where the all the cool ideas are at. Is that is that true?

Andrew Kortschak 9:36
Yeah, it is, you know, it is fairly segmented in a way. I mean, there's a great alleyway of animators who, based on the, you know, breadth of work that they're asked to do, you know, on a daily basis, they are, you know, allowed to build out their offices in whatever way they desire. I mean, I saw Hidden whiskey rooms and Tiki bars and wasn't all, you know, drinking establishments, but, you know, all kinds of different, you know, cool stuff to kind of make it personal because, you know, that's it, they're the best of the best, and it's a demanding environment. You know, I, I was very fortunate in that the folks who were in charge of my time at Pixar, you know, very graciously understood that, you know, if I wasn't able to be a value add on the day, on Monsters University, just based on, you know, kind of where the story reels were at, they would allow me to go, you know, sit in and take notes on, you know, other mediums who seen, you know, story, and shot finally meetings for cars to brave was in production at the time, it was just an amazing time to be there and really know, was just, as I said, before, I'm deeply formative experience in terms of, you know, what I was able to, you know, kind of grab from it,

Alex Ferrari 11:03
What was the biggest lesson you learned from working there?

Andrew Kortschak 11:06
I think that story is king. And I'm also just solving problems on paper, I think, you know, and the last thing I would add, is, you know, having patience, I think, as you alluded to these, these movies do take a long time, and they have a whole process, and you know, they do have it down to a bit of a science, but I think at the same time, you know, allowing stories to ebb and flow and breathe and get different opinions and take it to the brain trust process, you know, I think all of those things work in conjunction to, you know, support the filmmakers voice there, and also keep it, you know, a democratic process within reason, and I'm certainly just having patience, especially as a developer, you know, kind of a producer who works most heavily in development was just, it took me a couple years to realize it, but I think just having patience for letting something you know, kind of slowly unfurl without pressuring the process or different stakeholders was was hugely formative for me.

Alex Ferrari 12:12
Now, what is NQ.

Andrew Kortschak 12:15
NQis a film production firm based in Culver City, we harness all kinds from Silicon Valley originally. So I definitely grew up, you know, in and around the tech scene. And so, um, you know, as I alluded to, before, we work most often in the development space, I love, you know, touching material as early as I can, whether it's finding books, you know, pre release galleys, articles from years ago, you know, kind of things that have been picked over by others, you know, we just love, you know, getting our hands on material, and either placing it with filmmakers or working to help shape it, you know, in support of, you know, a filmmakers vision. And, you know, while in that process, you know, we've built several tools driven by AI to, you know, support filmmakers, you know, when they raise their hand, or, you know, inform the process. And as I alluded to, before, you know, solve problems on paper.

Alex Ferrari 13:17
Now, what are some of these Silicon Valley principles that you bring, that helped create mq and makes it a little bit different than other production companies in town.

Andrew Kortschak 13:29
I think having a more progressive and calm working atmosphere, I was exposed to I don't want to incriminate anybody, but you know, the story, the horror stories I've heard or experiences I had, you know, coming up in the business, I think, you know, one thing that's important to me is supporting folks throughout the process, not just hiring the best of the best, and, you know, compounding, you know, people on top of one another, I think, you know, I just like I enjoy working with young filmmakers, I like, you know, the opportunity to mentor my, you know, kind of young colleagues as well and, you know, give them maybe more responsibility than they were expecting, and, you know, kind of allow them to learn lessons on their own. So, that's certainly one thing that I was exposed to, you know, just growing up in the era of Google and I guess I shouldn't be talking about Facebook as a, as an as a reference point. But, you know, Silicon Valley, especially during the tech bubble in early 2000s, was just a fascinating place to just to grow up and to kind of hear different opinions and how people from all around the world kind of came together to, you know, build these new tools that had the had the possibility of, you know, kind of really changing the landscape of the planet and how people interact with one another. So, I mean, I tried to distill that down in my own way whilst running a you know, kind of lean and mean production company.

Alex Ferrari 14:58
Now when you are hiring People are bringing people in what are you looking for as part of a team building situation, because, you know, from my understanding of Silicon Valley principles from what I've studied, it is quite different than your general old school production company here where, like, you were just saying, you just kind of like, build up this kind of like, either competitive situation or there's like, you know, the hierarchies, it's not as not as a, it's very much like the what Pixar did with the brain trust, like that concept was completely alien to anything, anybody here and in Hollywood before it became popular before they popularize it. So who are you looking for? What kind of parts are you looking for when building a team, because the thing that's important for the audience to kind of understand when they're hiring crew, it's not always the most talented, it's not only the most experienced and the biggest star that you want to hire, if I'm not mistaken, correct?

Andrew Kortschak 15:57
Yeah, absolutely, I would say, you know, several of the things I really look for, obviously, passion, and energy. And then I also put a, you know, huge emphasis on Creative taste. I, you know, in terms of, you know, working with, you know, different filmmakers, and, you know, directors, writers, other producers, etc. You know, at the end of the day, I think all people really have is their taste, experience is one thing, but every movie is a different beast, as you know. So I, you know, you kind of learn on the fly. And that's, you know, I think what you were alluding to about, you know, getting, you know, hands on experience as an intern, or PA, what have you. So, I, you know, I do plays a big part of my interview process really is talking about movies and TV shows that people enjoy what they enjoy about them. And, you know, helping to understand, you know, kind of how that taste profile fits in to a company like n q, and also challenges, you know, those that are already there.

Alex Ferrari 17:05
Now, can you tell me a little bit about the script writing AI that you created that your company created, which I find fairly scary and fascinating, both at the same time?

Andrew Kortschak 17:14
Sure, it's not meant to be it's not meant to be scary. So this actually originated with a filmmaker named Oscar Sharpe, who teamed up with a AI researcher named Ross Goodwin, I was not involved in the early days of there, you know, of them kind of philosophically, you know, putting this stuff together. But that resulted in a project called sun spring that we submitted to the ability of London for an eight hour Film Festival. And, you know, I was kind of caught hook line and sinker by them and their pitch, you know, in terms of getting involved, and the opportunity to just shoot over a weekend and be done was also very attractive. So, you know, that was a fascinating experience. We were good Thomas middleditch on it, who did an amazing job of kind of selling the technology, even though narratively it didn't, you know, make a ton of sense, if you will. So from there, you know, it was clear that the response that I felt I would get, and just person in terms of my personal philosophy was that replacing screenwriters was not something I was interested in. screenwriters are some of the, you know, people I enjoy working with most. And so we then, you know, took a step back and tried to figure out, you know, a way in which, you know, we were able to support folks, and really, you know, arm them with tools that, you know, as I said, to aid their aid, their process, you know, kind of from script to screen, so, you know, whether it's, you know, helping with, you know, story breakdowns, giving, you know, some perspective and advice on structure, or at least tracking structural changes, especially for more complicated, you know, kind of structural situations. I think that's been, you know, a very helpful tool. And specifically, that's one word, you know, john watts has been an amazing resource as a, you know, kind of admitted structure nerd. And, you know, selfishly for my purposes, one of the things that's been amazing, you know, in terms of harnessing AI has been, specifically applying that technology to the budgeting and scheduling process, which is something that, you know, I am not a wine producer, I work with lots of amazing line producers who make my life far easier than it should be. However, it is a process working with them, and it, you know, scripts evolve all this kind of stuff. And, you know, I get sent a variety of different, you know, material where, you know, people are kind of ballparking numbers over the phone, and I've worked my lessons in the past about, you know, specific numbers. And so building a tool where I'm just at least able to kind of drag and drop a PDF and get a, you know, kind of budget top sheet, just as a ballpark for my own internal purposes has been as proven totally invaluable.

Alex Ferrari 20:17
So stop right there. So you actually have a, you have a program that does that, like, literally, you drop a screenplay on there, and it will give you a rough estimate of what this thing is going to cost.

Andrew Kortschak 20:26
We do. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 20:27
That's insane.

Andrew Kortschak 20:29
It's been a lot, it's been a lot of fun to develop, I'm very fortunate to work with some incredibly smart folks who, you know, took a major interest in applying their problem solving skills from a totally different discipline and have, you know, attempted to kind of make my life easier. And it's

Alex Ferrari 20:53
Something that's just internally used, or do you actually have it out for sale? Or is that now it is it's not?

Andrew Kortschak 20:57
It's not for sale? yet? We, you know, this, as I'm sure you, you're aware, you know, this industry, especially from the studio level down is fairly tech averse, yes. Why is that? You know, what I people are set in their ways. And I think, you know, what I hear time and time, again, is that movies have been made the same way for 100 plus years? And why change it now?

Alex Ferrari 21:19
That's what Netflix said.

Andrew Kortschak 21:21
Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I think, you know, for now, it's been the kind of thing that I've, you know, shared with friends and other wine producers. And again, we're very early days in this, you know, kind of stuff. And so I would kind of characterize us as an experimental software still, but, you know, still one that informs our process, and that is just constantly, you know, fun to interact with. Now,

Alex Ferrari 21:45
Where do you see AI playing a part in the film business moving forward,

Andrew Kortschak 21:51
I'm going to likely get in trouble for saying this, but I would say that we are probably 20 years away from a convincing AI, screenplay. Um, you know, that would trick a normal audience. That again, this is my personal opinion. So and also, you know, I don't want to subjugate writers, and I want to support them, and, you know, give them more tools, you know, to kind of extend, you know, what, folks like myself, and you know, my collaborators and colleagues are able to kind of, you know, help help them do. So, you know, in terms of, you know, ai applications, I would say, certainly, you know, in the budgeting and scheduling software, which is an art in and of itself. And, you know, talented ad is, and wine producers are just invaluable allies to have, you know, heading into, you know, differently sized movies, or when you start to get out of your comfort zone. And I would also say, you know, other people have dabbled with this as well, but just using, you know, with all of this, Siri, and Alexa and Google Voice, you know, technology that's being harnessed, you know, finding a way, one thing that I was interested in, as well as, you know, building the kind of virtual table read, um, so with the same drag and drop kind of software, allowing writers or directors to basically be able to bring their script to life, just in a, you know, kind of preliminary sense in advance of sharing it with other human beings in case they were, you know, too modest or unwilling to do so at that stage. I think, you know, just like a writer often read things out loud as they're writing. Inviting in, you know, the table read process, which is something that, you know, kind of permeates all other levels of filmmaking, and certainly is, you know, a mandate at many levels, I think is something that is massively helpful in, you know, helping to, you know, kind of diagnose where a script is at and what could improve.

Alex Ferrari 23:55
Now, I have to ask you, because you made a very bold statement, I know you're gonna get in trouble for but I just want to dig into it a little bit deeper with the 20 years in the script writing, how would AI because I mean, I have to, I want to get I want to understand it from your point of view. I mean, I'm a writer, I mean, and I've worked with many writers, and I've spoken to some of the biggest writers in Hollywood, their process is so organic. So you know, the algorithm in their mind, if you will, to create what they create comes from life experience comes from so many different influences. How can an AI even come close to that? Or how would it just work in your opinion, like, how would an AI create? I'm not saying it's not possible? I'm just curious on the process, if there is an answer to that question.

Andrew Kortschak 24:44
I absolutely hear where you're coming from. And that's, you know, that I would echo the same sentiments. I, you know, I think that, you know, it is I mean, it's an art form, and it's one that no matter how many scripts you train an AI on would is really the kind of foundation of the process I, as I understand it, you know, it, in many ways is still parroting things that it was fed. And we were able to harness that for some spring in a way that, you know, we had a fun sci fi, short film that emerged from training in AI on X Files, Star Trek and Star Wars scripts, which is amazing, but you've got a specific kind of movie out of it.

Alex Ferrari 25:30
And that's so scary for Hollywood, can you imagine them just dumping in a whole bunch of Marvel movies and Star Wars movies and Pixar movies? And like, seeing what they could spit out the other end?

Andrew Kortschak 25:40
Yeah, I mean, I would hope that that movie would make an enormous amount of money. Because otherwise, you know, why would you feel it? But? Um, yeah, you know, I think that, you know, again, I mean, I think we're in agreement that, you know, I'm most interested in, you know, tools that supplement and extend people's abilities rather than replacing them.

Alex Ferrari 26:03
Yeah, and I think that's, I personally think that's where AI will come in to play where they will make life a lot easier. But I think even like, on the budgeting, and the scheduling side of things, in might give you a good head start on a process, but then you would need an, you know, a, you know, a line producer to come in, or a first ad to come in, to kind of tweak it, but it might be able to give you a hell of a head start. Would that make sense?

Andrew Kortschak 26:27
Absolutely, absolutely. And we're seeing this every day in, you know, with companies, like final draft and writer do Ed, you know, every few months, they're rolling out new, you know, feature sets, you know, that are additive to the process and do help organize things. And I think that's great. And so if those, if that's the easiest point of adoption for, you know, writers and directors, you know, to kind of find and discover this technology. That's, that's awesome. And in many ways, how it should be.

Alex Ferrari 26:55
Now, do you believe that, because I agree with you, the studio is, so the studios are so stuck in their ways, that it's extremely difficult for them to even move an inch, let alone like, you know, when Netflix showed up, everyone was laughing at them, but then they literally become one of the biggest studios in town, doing it in a completely different way, and delivering content a completely different way. Do you believe that a lot of this kind of technology or AI, kind of tech would make its way down in more into the indie film world, more and more of these lower budget films, where then it slowly will go up up the ladder?

Andrew Kortschak 27:36
I certainly hope so. I mean, um, you know, being a young guy, myself, I hope that other you know, kind of young and up and coming filmmakers I work with, you know, warn the value of these kind of tools, you know, in a way that is additive, and not a crutch. And, you know, can, as you would, as you had alluded to, you know, really kind of grow with this, and, you know, when they're major forces of nature, within the industry, you know, kind of make this a mandate as part of their process. So I think just interjecting as early as possible, in whatever way is supportive if somebody is interested in harnessing this kind of tack. You know, I think that's, that's always been our strategy in terms of, you know, adoption.

Alex Ferrari 28:21
Do you see an AI directing a film?

Andrew Kortschak 28:25
You know, it's funny, you mentioned, I saw, I believe, I can't remember what studio put it together. But there was an very interesting AI edited trailer about a year and a half ago. And, you know, it was a little bit, you know, kind of rinse and repeat, in a way, but it was still very cool to see a polished trailer for popular consumption, you know, kind of cut by I believe, may have been, you know, hard to say, IBM Watson technology. You know, in terms of directing. Again, there's so many points of stimuli, and parts of the directing processes, you know, that are just meant to be, you know, kind of gut decisions, you know, it's, it's hard to come on and on a, you know, moment to moment basis that, you know, I have to admit, a computer may be a faster decision maker, then, you know, a human being, but I can't say it will be as informed, you know, keeping keeping track of, you know, the artistic goal, you know, dealing with personnel continuing a vision for, you know, for a project overseas, the big scene, that's a lot of different stuff to be juggling, and so I, I hope that it's something that develops but I remain skeptical for the time being

Alex Ferrari 29:52
Now and I'm just going to get a little sci fi here, but wouldn't it be amazing that in I don't know when but at a moment a time where you can literally download your mind to an AI or a computer in the whole consciousness. Could you imagine like downloading James Cameron and Steven Spielberg and Chris Nolan eventually, where their, their their creative essence continues in a non traditional or non organic way I get I'm going very sitefire. Wouldn't that be an insane thing? Because Wouldn't it be cool to see what Hitchcock would be doing today, with this technology or Kubrick doing in today's technology? You know, what, I'm just curious what your thoughts about that is, again, going super sci fi. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Andrew Kortschak 30:48
I think that could be cool. I mean, you know, it's a good AI extension of masterclass, you know, really getting into the mind, you know, kind of a, you know, a enormously, you know, talented and, you know, special, you know, kind of group of filmmakers, and I could, I could see that being a very cool, you know, thing just as long as it doesn't, you know, create a ceiling for other filmmakers in terms of, you know, how they want to innovate and, you know, build their own art form.

Alex Ferrari 31:19
Now, do you think filmmakers today need to be entrepreneurs, in the film business, especially independent filmmakers?

Andrew Kortschak 31:27
I think I think there's certainly aspects of entrepreneurship that are important, I think, just self advocacy is one of the most important things and that took me personally a little time to, you know, understand, and then, you know, everyone had to start somewhere, I remember someone taking me aside and just saying, stop, you know, acting like you're, this is your first rodeo, or stop telling people that, you know, like, everyone has a rookie season, and, you know, you have to build from there, like, everyone started not having any idea what they're doing. So, I think, you know, finding a balance between, you know, self confidence, and, you know, also, you know, humility, in terms of, you know, being open to learning the process from people more experienced than you and kind of taking their lessons and making it work for yourself personally, I think is, is important, but, you know, in terms of, you know, classic entrepreneurship, you know, I think, you know, building some sort of presence, and bringing groups of people together, in a way is likely the most important thing, I think, in terms of, you know, making your new staking your claim and, you know, kind of making your first steps in the industry, it's really important to have a group

Alex Ferrari 32:41
And can you talk a little bit about the emphasis of marketing and branding, because I think that kind of leads into what you are kind of takes what you just said, as far as self advocacy, is that branding yourself, and, and understanding marketing and that aspect of things, which they don't teach you in film school. But it's so important in today's world, especially in today's world of social media, and, and also just rising above the noise. Would you agree?

Andrew Kortschak 33:05
Absolutely. I mean, I would say that, you know, it's important to be honest with yourself in terms of the kind of movie you're interested in making, especially in your first couple of hits at bat. I would also say, yeah, I mean, I would extend that to say, General self awareness, you know, and, you know, people, you know, people put a lot of emphasis on loglines, for writers, all this kind of stuff, I think, as a young director, or Writer Director, you know, you should have, you know, instant recall, as if it's an elevator pitch of, you know, the kind of movies and tones that you want to be exploring. I think that makes a huge, that makes a huge impact, and shows me that, you know, just as a as a producer, you know, that, you know, somebody is really thought, a couple of steps ahead of the process. And, you know, simultaneously as as a producer, you know, one of the things that became clear to me when I entered the industry, which was around the same time that, you know, Netflix started buying original content and creating that themselves was the producers in today's world, and really any stakeholder, you have to be able to see the movie poster in your head from the earliest stages of the script. And I don't mean that cynically and that, you know, what actor and, you know, all this stuff, but you have to know what kind of movie you're making, and why you're making it why it's personal to you and important to be shared with an audience. And is it just an, you know, exercise for you? No, one's out ego. And, you know, I'm really trying to this goes back to kind of solving things on paper, I think just building a game plan, from a 30,000 foot view in terms of what you're trying to accomplish and why. I think that all plays into, you know, a level that may not be classic entrepreneurship, but that he gives the air of, you know, being an entrepreneur I play

Alex Ferrari 34:59
Now. How do you choose your projects to produce?

Andrew Kortschak 35:04
Great question. Um, you know, some things come up organically from material that I've read or that colleagues have read and wanted to bring, you know, inside the company, and we will place it with a filmmaker, that we like, you know, other things are brought to us by by folks that, you know, have made movies that we're fans of, you know, occasionally, you know, we find amazing material through, you know, different outlets, whether it's, you know, shorter the week Vimeo, staff pics, stuff that's graduated from the Sundance labs, the blacklist, you know, all those kind of tools, we really try to keep our ear to the ground, especially at the level that we're working in terms of discovering new talent there. And, you know, also the odd pitch you don't want, we're, we're totally open to, you know, kind of hearing pitches, and, you know, just kind of reacting to people's excitement and then finding a way to, you know, support them.

Alex Ferrari 35:59
And you worked with john watts, right on the the director of Spider Man, I did, yeah, I've made I made that car with him. So that was his first film, right. And then

Andrew Kortschak 36:07
It was actually a second, um, he had made a great, great movie up in Canada called clown. And because of the idiosyncrasies of the distribution process, actually, clown was released after car. Um, so Shawn, I was very, I mean, I was incredibly spoiled is that he's an amazingly talented guy, and just a nice person to boot. In that, you know, I was very spoiled, and that he had gotten his first time director jitters, which manifests themselves in a variety of different ways with people. But he had really, he knew exactly what kind of movie he was trying to make. It was incredibly lean. We'd about a 15 person crew. And, you know, it was a very fast moving train that I was very fortunate to jump on, because, you know, it opened up a, you know, enormous network of collaborators that I, you know, continue to work with to this day.

Alex Ferrari 37:10
And you also have Kevin Bacon, and that if I'm not mistaken. We did, yes. And the Kevin Bacon,

Andrew Kortschak 37:17
I'm only Yeah, I'm one degrees, zero degrees. I do know Kevin Bacon, he was enormously talented. So I mean, just the guy could not have been nicer or more humble. And, you know, I would also say, you know, Cameron, Mannheim and, and Shea whigham. In addition to the boys, you know, it was just a very tight knit, you know, community and I'm just, I, it's been really fun seeing all the coolest stuff that she's been doing these days. I love seeing them in homecoming. And yeah, Kevin's been working with a couple of my other collaborators on a new Showtime show.

Alex Ferrari 37:51
Now, where do you see independent film going? In your, from your perspective?

Andrew Kortschak 37:59
You know, it's, it's hard, it's obviously hard to guess.

Alex Ferrari 38:05
Of course,

Andrew Kortschak 38:06
It would say, you know, as I've, as I've grown up a little bit, it's easy to get discouraged by, you know, kind of people who are tracking various film markets. A lot of independent film is obviously, you know, driven by, you know, that process. It's, it's weird, because, you know, as I was coming, one thing I did wasn't taught in film school, that would have been helpful was, you know, the process of foreign sales. And, you know, that I was entering, you know, in 2013, I was entering the industry at a time where that was, you know, still very foreign sales driven in the process. And, you know, folks like Kevin Bacon got movies like cop car made. And, um, you know, just like any experience, if you don't, you know, be honest about what you don't know, and somebody will hopefully explain it to you or just hang up. And I would say, you know, I've cautiously watched as companies have kind of moved away from foreign sales where, you know, actor value isn't the first part of the conversation and never really sat well with me, you know, as a producer, you know, as somebody who's kind of putting all the pieces together, you know, that a director would be forced to work with an actor because of some perceived value and Azerbaijan, but this is, this is the business I chose to work in. You know, anyway, I mentioned this because things are obviously evolving. And we have, you know, many of my friends are traveling to Cannes right now and likely sell in Florida and some of their movies, so Best of luck. But I, you know, that's a definite turn. And I would also say from the way that somebody streaming companies approach, acquiring finished films in you know, their preference for worldwide deals, you know, creates a little bit more of a complicated situation if a producer has kind of syndicated out You know, some level of foreign sales, you know, they often have to kind of unwind some of those deals, you know, sell or, you know, carve out, you know, specific territories that ultimately, you know, affect the, you know, the sale price of the movie. But, you know, this is that's all very cynical stuff, I would say, you know, in terms of indie film, it's, this is an amazing time to be kind of breaking into the industry, because there's, I think, information has been democratized in such a way that, you know, you know, you're able to learn how to make a movie, basically, from YouTube, and with resources, like you run and, you know, have, you know, perspective that you share? You know, so I think, you know, Gone are the days of, you know, people like James Cameron, going to the USC library and reading every book on filmmaking, I think you can kind of you have everything at your fingertips, and you know, you have the ability to kind of create or join a community, you know, of people who, you know, want to support each other and are able to do so because, I mean, at the end of the day, this is a team sport. You know, despite the many way they many organic ways that projects began, so kind of a roundabout answer, honestly. But, you know, I, I remain very excited about the independent film space. And, you know, I think there's more buyers than ever, as well, that what that will drive, I think that's a good thing for everybody. And everyone has a different mandate, everyone has a different level of reach and a different platform for getting to their audience. And I think just having flexibility in terms of, you know, knowing where some of these movies if they may be, quote, unquote, less commercial, or, you know, more art house, but what have you, you know, having an outlet to sell these movies can be seen, in a way, or shared in a way, other than word of mouth is good for everybody.

Alex Ferrari 42:01
Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions to ask all of my guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?

Andrew Kortschak 42:08
Watch a ton of movies. And if you like the movie, watch it again. And then maybe one more time, really try to crawl into the inside material you enjoy. I would say, Make as many short films as you can, you know, try to work in the commercial space, if you're struggling to pay the bills. Or if you want to, you know, all this stuff, every every piece of the process in filmmaking seems to, you know, occurs to me to be, you know, kind of like flexing a muscle. So why not, you know, exercise it. And, you know, I would, as I alluded to before, I think, you know, over the years, I've learned just the value of having, you know, a network and community and it's okay to come to LA or New York, or wherever you live, and not know anybody. That's what the internet is for. That's what you know, going to the movies is about, you know, I think trying to find people were interested in telling similar stories to you, or wildly different, will inform your process and allow you to support one another.

Alex Ferrari 43:12
Can you tell me the book that had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Andrew Kortschak 43:18
Well, I'm biased, I mean, Ed, camels, creativity and love was a bit of a Bible. To me. That is a great read. I would say the savage detectives by Roberto belanja made a major impression on me, I tend to read almost everything that New York Review of Books puts out, I mean, all these things kind of informed my process. And I always make a point, you know, despite the fact that a lot of my day is taken up reading, which I enjoy. And it's kind of integral to my been, I would say, I do make a point to also read for pleasure, and not only read things that, you know, can easily be set up as movies, which is a goal that several.

Alex Ferrari 44:03
Right, you can't just can't just read a book anymore without thinking, Oh, can I option this?

Andrew Kortschak 44:08
Yeah, we're feeling like, it's a waste of time. If you continue, you know, I think I try to just put that you take that hat off for a second, just enjoy something, especially if it's a different discipline that I'm you know, aware of already.

Alex Ferrari 44:21
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether the film business or in life?

Andrew Kortschak 44:27
Wow, um, you know, I would say, you know, it's back to, you know, the value of, of a network. One of my one of my criticisms with USC, and this may have been just what I took from it, or I maybe missed that day of class was, you know, the importance of building the network. And that's kind of the point of going to film school in a way because you can, you know, as you had said earlier, you can kind of learn many of these lessons in a, you know, equally stressful environment professionally. You're being paid to do it. And I'm so I would say, you know, it was really the it was really the process of making cop car where I got to see folks like Chris Ford and john watts work together, you know Andrew hassy, who you know, co edited the film. All these guys have known each other since freshman year of college and NYU and it kind of stuck together and they're part of an amazing collective of filmmakers called Waverly. That includes Duncan Skiles, and Ben Dickinson and Jake Schreier, among others. And, you know, that was a really sobering lesson, because I basically, um, you know, I started NQ, while I was in my last year of college, and, um, you know, because of my interests, you know, animation and documentary work, as I had, you know, outlined before, I didn't necessarily find my tribe at USC. And so, you know, I was lucky in that I lived in LA for a little while, I had some, you know, I had a few random personal connections to people who seem to know what they were doing. But really, I think the importance of, you know, surrounding yourself with great people, people, you want to collaborate with people who have approached things differently than you, and you could run challenge your material. Often, it's my closest friends who give the harshest notes and that there is a time and place for that. You know, I can't stress that stuff enough. And I just, you know, completely totally, selfishly benefited from, you know, following in with these groups of, you know, talented filmmakers who take care of one another, you know, just like our sister company, greencard pictures in New York.

Alex Ferrari 46:40
Now, what is the biggest fear you had to overcome in making your first few films,

Andrew Kortschak 46:46
I think being exposed as somebody who didn't know what they were doing, um, one thing that became clear after a little while was that no one really knew what they were doing. Amen. That that's part of a process. And one of the things that I've definitely articulated, you know, to other folks I've spoken to in the past is that, you know, for the first couple of years, I was waking up sick to my stomach every single day, and I was afraid of virtually every different situation, the first time I went through it, and that feels natural, you know, and I think that was a symptom of, you know, pushing myself, you know, very, very hard and kind of jumping in with both feet. So, I would say, you know, being exposed as somebody who didn't know what they were doing, or, you know, making a mistake, and, you know, holding up the process or making things more difficult for other people, that doesn't really feel like it's in the job description for a producer. And so I was constantly, you know, worried about, you know, causing unintended consequences, but you learn to, you know, get over that, and, you know, Own your process,

Alex Ferrari 47:54
And three of your favorite films of all time?

Andrew Kortschak 47:58
Apocalypse Now, definitely, number one. Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Alex Ferrari 48:03
Hmm, good choice,

Andrew Kortschak 48:04
and maybe a tie between clueless and let's see, nightrain to Munich,

Alex Ferrari 48:14
You know, that, you know, out of out of all four of those one of those films doesn't belong with the others. I don't know why. I've never heard I've got over 300 and odd number interviews here. And I've asked that question. I've never heard Apocalypse Now. Good, the Bad and the Ugly and clueless all this same. grouping. Includes I personally enjoy and love, but I've just never heard that combination. So very, very interesting. combo. Good, good. Now, where can people find where can people find you and more information about what you're doing?

Andrew Kortschak 48:49
On our website, nq.com. In addition, you know, there's other I alluded to them before, but greencard new york.com also has some resources, and information about some of the filmmakers that we work with and support in the commercial production space, which, as I said before, is an amazing way to make a living and, you know, learn the different, you know, processes that go into making, you know, movies, commercials, shorts, TV shows, all of that. I do not have a large social media presence. So you'll have to dig to find me. I am on the screenwriting, Reddit. So I will hopefully pop in and out with some, hopefully helpful advice from time design. And, you know, otherwise, you know, I think using the contact form on our website to, you know, to reach out i think is always a helpful, you know, way to get in touch.

Alex Ferrari 49:43
And you man, thank you so much for being on the show. It's been an eye opening experience talking to you about technology and about your perspective on the business. So thank you for dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe today.

Andrew Kortschak 49:54
No, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 49:57
So what did we learn today that we should all Just forget about being in the film business and forget about writing screenplays because AI is gonna take over. I mean, obviously. Well, guys, I mean, it was a great first of all, I want to thank Andrew for coming on the show and and helping us go into a deep dive into AI and what it can actually do for this business, I think there is a place for AI, I think there is going to be a place for AI in multiple industries around the world. And I don't think the film industry is going to be much different, there's going to be ways that AI is going to be incorporated into our industry and into our business into our day to day life. As filmmakers and screenwriters for that matter, it will happen. I mean, it is happening in many ways today. So just keep an eye out, it's always good to keep your ear to the grindstone to see what's coming around the corner, because that's where the opportunities lie. That's where, you know, people who are afraid of new technology, people are want to stick to the old way of doing things. They're the ones that get left behind the first people on YouTube, the first people to shoot with a red camera, the first people to edit digitally as opposed to on a flatbed, the first people to go on a streaming service and start releasing their film streaming. All of these innovators, the ones that jump out front of things. They're the ones that take over the industry. And they're the big boys, or big girls are the big dogs in that space. And that's what you always got to look for you don't look at what's going on. Now you look at what's coming around the corner and try to anticipate as much as you can to jump in on a new platform, a new technology before anybody else does. Sometimes it pops, sometimes it doesn't. But I truly do believe that AI will have a place in our business in a very significant place in the years to come. Now if you guys live in the LA area tomorrow, July 18 at 7pm at the parlor, I will be doing a q&a at the I S a network event. It's already a packed house already from what I hear that has sold over 100 tickets already, which is great. So I'm hoping a lot of people will show up. So I will be there and I will put links to i'll put the address and links to that event in the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/332. I hope to see you guys out there. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com. Leave us a five star review. Subscribe to the show. It really helps us out a lot. It really does. So thank you for listening. That's the end of another episode of the indie film hustle podcast as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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