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IFH 503: From The Purge to This is the Night with James DeMonaco


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The Purge franchise is one of the most iconic dystopian action horror series of all time and the man behind it, James DeMonaco is not stopping anytime soon.

James is our guest today and even though we talk a great deal about the various Purge films he’s either written or directed, which are all fan favorites, we start off with his most recently released film, This Is The Night, that was digitally released on September 21, 2021, after a prior theater release on Sep 17, 2021.

This Is The Night, drama stars Frank Grillo, Lucius Hoyos, Jonah Hauer-King, Bobby Cannavale, and Naomi Watts. It is set in the summer of 1982 Staten Island with the release of Rocky III as its backdrop.

The story tells of an average teen who embarks on a quest in his Rocky Balboa-obsessed town that swirls in his family members. Watts and Grillo will play with his parents. His family must confront its greatest challenges and the family realizes that the only way to live is like there’s no tomorrow.

I have tons of questions for James in this interview, which I am sure you, my tribe will appreciate. I have been a fan of some of his work but clueless he had written other top-ranked films on my list, it came as an exciting shock to discover more that James has written, directed, or produced.

Besides screenwriting, directing, and producing projects like the Purge movies,  he’s also written for TV and gets credit for writing The Negotiator, Staten Island, Jack, and Assault on Precinct 13.  

As a child of 5 years old, he would beg his more for a pass to watch the 4:30 ABC network movies and would visit the cinema often. At seven years old, he went to see, Apocalypse at the cinema and that changed everything for him. Leaving that theater with the desire to be part of that experience of whatever happened on the screen. 

Through screenwriting, he landed his first production gig with director Francis Coppola, for the 1996 movie, Jack, starring Robin Williams. 

The inspiration for The Purge was birthed during James’s time living in Paris and Canada. It came mainly, from his relationship against guns even though he had grown up around cops.

The experience in Europe and Canada, in general, were the complete opposites he had observed. This was around the time mass shootings in America were on the rise in the early 2000s. Combined with an aftermath dark thought from a road rage incident curious about what it would be like if we all had a day pass, turned into a masterpiece original screenplay. But dressed in a science fiction dystopian world. 

The Purge: Anarchy – A couple is driving home when their car breaks down just as the Purge commences. Meanwhile, a police sergeant goes out into the streets to get revenge on the man who killed his son, and a mother and daughter run from their home after assailants destroy it. The five people meet up as they attempt to survive the night in Los Angeles. Watch the trailer here.

It was challenging to find someone willing to finance a ‘nihilistic’ and ‘un-American movie life The Purge. James and his partners got about fifty rejections because of how dark the script seemed.   

Until finally with help from Jason Blum who said it was a great fit for his low-budget horror model on his deal with Universal Studios, to be produced by Blumhouse Productions and Platinum Dunes.

The studio took a shot at it and the first Purge movie in 2013 albeit on a $3 million budget, grossed $89.3 million. The film starred Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, and Max Burkholder as members of a wealthy family who find themselves endangered by a gang of murderers during the annual Purge, a night during which all crime, including murder, is temporarily legal.

The franchise includes The Purge: Anarchy( 2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016), a prequel, The First Purge (2018), The Purge TV series(2018 to 2019), and The Forever Purge (2021).

There is a sixth Purge movie in the works. And the franchise has grossed overall over $450 million against a combined production budget of $53 million.

We go deep in the weeds on these projects and James’s writing process.

Enjoy my conversation with James DeMonaco.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show, James DeMonaco. Man, how you doing, James?

James DeMonaco 0:25
Good, Alex,thank you for having me, man. Man. pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 0:28
Thank you. Thank you so much, man. I appreciate that. Brother. Thank you for being on the show. I've been a fan of your work for a while man. And and as I dug deeper into your IMDb, I was like, Oh, he did what? He did that to? Like, what? So I have tons of questions. And we're definitely going to get to your new film. This is the night which I've had the pleasure of watching. And we're gonna go deep in the weeds on that one because that's that's that's a it's just a it's a fun movie. And very specific as we were talking about off air, which we'll get into. But before we jump in, man, how did you how and why did you want to get into this ridiculous business?

James DeMonaco 1:05
What's the perfect word ridiculous. Oh, I think um, I think it was weird. my newest movie, I think explains it the most. I was just a movie addicted kid. I was so moved by films moved by movies that I remember seeing something on. You remember the New Yorker? Do you probably remember this? Although probably all over the country, there was something called the 430. Movie. And ABC. Yeah, yeah. I can tell you're younger than me. But so it might not have been around. When you were all age. It was before 30 movie ABC right after the soap opera Edge of Night. And they had been weeks. So you'd have Steve McQueen week, Paul Newman week, monster week, Dracula week, and I became obsessed. My mom said at the age of five with the with this 430 movie and that was that was my introduction to cinema. Just everyday so no matter what I was doing, it was kind of known a neighborhood I grew up in well, seven years in Brooklyn and moved to Staten Island. No matter what age where I was. The neighborhood would hear my mom saying James it's 425 and everybody knew we were playing wiffle ball, you know, touched before. I don't want to cut down guys. I'll see you in an hour and a half, two hours when the movies over. And I went in and that was kind of my film school. And so but it was beyond that to my dad. I joke with him. I think he took me to very inappropriate films, not x rated films. He took me to R rated films. Yes, my two. I had a very young age like I saw. I saw Apocalypse Now. I think I was seven. I should not have been sitting

Alex Ferrari 2:30
no man. I think most 20 year olds it's a rough ride for 20 year olds little seven year old. Mines was Beverly matches Beverly Hills Cop. Flashdance. Yeah, you're young. Yeah. I'm a bit younger.

James DeMonaco 2:42
Yeah. So Apocalypse Now when I was seven, but that's the movie. I think that that's the one that changed everything in that. I remember leaving the theater saying to myself, whatever just happened to me, because there's almost a traumatic experience. I have to be part of whatever just happened on that screen because I felt like I was watching and I forget the feeling. I felt like I was watching another human beings dream. And I was blown away by that. I was blown away. I was like, that's the closest I'm ever going to be inside someone else's head. The imagery that I just saw, and I've always felt that that I like films that have not that films that have a dreamlike quality but i like i like that I'm inside someone else's head. I want to be there. And the more interesting the person the more interesting the dream you're showing me so that was that? That was the movie that changed it all. I was like, I got to get inside that I got to do that.

Alex Ferrari 3:26
Yeah, and the thing with America with Apocalypse Now is a lot of people look at it as as a narrative and it is has a narrative obviously, but it doesn't it's an experiment experiencial film, like space like 2001 Space Odyssey like you experienced that film. It's not as much on a like, like 2000 was hard to get keep the story the story is it's just the experience you walk out change and Apocalypse Now is that as well let alone for Francis and the whole team at shot that and by the way, anybody who's listening you've got to watch hearts of darkness the documentary about that movie

James DeMonaco 4:03
Oh best filmmaker I'm having to be it's the best doctors we about documentary about filmmaking ever I think right hands down

Alex Ferrari 4:10
I mean he almost almost Yeah, yeah he didn't he almost he almost killed himself a couple times.

James DeMonaco 4:15
margene almost died during storms is madness like but it captures that insanity as you know like the insanity of being on set the pressure the money pressure, the creative vision all that shed we told me it's but that movie that that documentary says it all been captured all Yeah, so I worked with Francis later which was

Alex Ferrari 4:34
which, which? We're gonna get into that in a second. Absolutely. But so so you get into so you know, you you walk out and that movie like for me it was at like, I saw it and I was just like, I don't know what I just saw, but I want to be a part of it. But then I put it away to like onto the video store in high school and then then I was exposed to like hundreds if not 1000s of videos and It was it was a whole other world.

James DeMonaco 5:01
Everything but it's weird you say put it away. I don't want to babble. But yeah, I that was also something about our youth. That's so different than now I saw Apocalypse Now it changed my life. But I didn't have access to it. Right, like, seven years from when video came. So it wasn't even on TV. I don't think Francis allowed it to be on TV. So it lived in my head in a very specific way without of repeat viewing that I think it grew, it grew into this mythological beast inside my head. And I think that was wonderful that I got to live with it in a very personal way. Less I watch movies over and over again. So I'm kind of a, I go against what I'm saying there that I love watching movies over and over again. But there was something about that when we were young that we didn't get to watch it immediately. Again, we learn to live with how to live with this kind of impression.

Alex Ferrari 5:45
Oh, for me, it was Star Wars that I saw star I the first time I actually saw Star Wars was on TV on a black and white. This this inch TV is the first episode of Star Wars, which was horrible, but I had already seen Empire Strikes Back. And I had already seen return on Jedi first Why? Because I was you know i was i was young. So I didn't get to see as I saw Empire in the theater so I returned but return was the one that really blew my mind cuz I was older at that point. And then I saw star so Star Wars was this mythical thing that no one. It wasn't around. I couldn't see it everyone. Like it was insane. So but it's a weird it's a weird thing. Even Scorsese and that whole generation talks about like, you know, having to go to the arthouse cinema to watch things like of course, our retrospective or, or a Kubrick rest retrospective or something like that, that you would get to watch these films again, but then with the video stores can you get to watch it again again, now literally anything anytime, as many times you want to

James DeMonaco 6:40
watch through any moment, any moment like Ethan Hawke wrote them a buddy Ethan I made a bunch of movies when he wrote to me like he goes, You must go see out of the blue. You must see it like goes to Dennis Hopper film from 1980. And I had never seen it I heard about it well in demands. But immediately like I was able to watch out of the blue last night like I got like video. Let me search a couple of things and there's out of the blue. Okay, so the access now, the wonderful also takes away It makes everything seem somewhat normal. It's almost it takes away from the advent of film,

Alex Ferrari 7:10
it's almost disposable. It's almost disposable. Where when you went to a theater it wasn't even if you went to the video store. It wasn't it wasn't but now you're you have Apocalypse Now next to it to a $1,000 indie movie dude exactly in the same in the same queue. And and it's sometimes it kind of like dilutes get diluted that magic

James DeMonaco 7:34
content takes away from it being so special and that's what's scary that's that's one of the reasons I made this movie is to say we did something about that communal aspect of the theater the event of it all driving to the theater waiting online makes it all special. We've taken all that away now all that's gone, you know,

Alex Ferrari 7:50
literally not because of the pandemic it's like real gone.

James DeMonaco 7:53
And we celebrated what we were already hearing right before this all happened right hearing the death of the cinema and now I think COVID is accelerated I hope listen not to get into but I hope that it you know, I hope that is a fuse that people want to get out of their houses I guess reunited.

Alex Ferrari 8:09
It will it will but I think it's gonna be it's gonna be a different than what we remember it. It's definitely never going to be the 80s or the 90s or even the early 2000s it's it's just not that's why I'm really curious about avatar. When it finally does come out is everyone going to go out to see avatar again? Is it going to do what we all hope it is going to do? Is James gonna save us all

James DeMonaco 8:31
I was looking at the boxes of Titanic reasoning someone brought up to 20 mil it did do that opened at 20 mil but it held 20 mil every

Alex Ferrari 8:40
million no it did 20 then it did like 30 then it just like the 30 and then it just kept going up. And then it slowly I remember because I tracked it then it went down because it came out Christmas. Then it like for the fruit it went up up a little bit then like started holding holding then Valentine's Day came up and it jumped to 60 and then it dropped back and then it just started to drop back down again slowly like 5545 it was just an insanity in 97 money. So

James DeMonaco 9:08
right exactly, exactly. It's something like that happening again. You know what I mean? That's what's scary. I hope

Alex Ferrari 9:14
I'm the last time that happened was avatar yes I mean even even the Avengers even the Avengers all their money's up front but avatar held and people kept going because it was an experience of going TO to see it in 3d only 3d movie I've ever enjoyed his avatar.

James DeMonaco 9:30
I'm with you. Same here same was the one I enjoyed. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 9:33
And that's the only time I would watch anyway let's get back on the track. Because I know we're gonna have it's gonna be a fantastic conversation. Let's just keep talking, talking talking. So Alright, so you start you want to get to the business you start writing scripts I'm assuming you start writing a whole bunch of scripts you write a whole bunch of bad scripts. Oh god bad a bunch of bad getting thing. How do you get your your first scripts sold? And was that first script jack?

Unknown Speaker 9:57
Yes, yes, indeed. It was so I wrote I was right I started writing scripts at 12 very early like you said is bad I always tell people that write bad scripts talk bad get them out get them out of your system to very bad scripts or something called clear read slam it was flying cars bad kids in the neighborhood a lot of bad kids in the neighborhood tough guys. guy that was scared of you know, all that kind of thing. writing about you know, Staten Island Brooklyn stuff. And then yeah, so probably literally 20 scripts before anything worthwhile even to peep I look back at them now. They're almost incomprehensible, but also trying to find scripts to read back then almost impossible. Right? Like, Manhattan? No, you could walk the streets they used to be I don't remember this. dude's on corners.

Alex Ferrari 10:39
By NYU, by NYU. Oh, yeah. But they're bootleg

James DeMonaco 10:44
like this. I found young guns at the age of eight like 19 Young Guns holy shit Young Guns too. But it was first script I saw my believable john fosco great writer. Yeah, Mike This is just so what that first screenplay is so written other than I had said fellas, books I think I'm saying Yeah, screenwriting guru. That really was the way I learned about the the structure of screenwriting. But beyond that, it was no act no internet, no access to really anything. So writing bad scripts, right? So I'd go to them can't get it. I don't I don't literally have one. I don't I don't know anyone who has any connection even to Hollywood or indie film, if that even existed. And I go to NYU. I'm there for grad there for a little while not enjoying the experience. I don't want to bad mouth. It wasn't for me. A lot of guy. A lot of people there had a lot of money. To me. Everything was about your senior thesis film building to that. And a kids had a lot of money to shooting comes from 50 to $100,000. Maybe when my bartending daily money, I could scrape up two grand to shoot a film and I'm like, yeah, you know, getting actors to be in their films to like Danny DeVito and Daryl Hannah, were in some short films, and I'm like, this is insane. I'm not gonna. So long story short, I was about to quit. I met a guy who had raised money through his dad, he had no money himself, but his dad had access to some money. And he asked me to write it. He had seen something I did small man named Gary annadelle, wonderful filmmaker. And he's like, Oh, right, my short film. Could you write it? So we wrote it together. And we ended up winning what's called a student Academy Award for the short film that he directed, I wrote, co wrote and produced. And we got he got off that William Morris as the agent as his agent. And we were like, wow, this is a big step. And I met with him because I wrote it. And I had all those trunk scripts, you know, I had 20 scripts that I had written over the years, but most of them were very dark. And Gary was a more Spielberg like director Zemeckis kind of et ish kind of guy. And, and the movie we wrote the short film was also in that vein, it was called read it had it had a pre contemplated good feel to it. Long story short, they're like you need to write something's de Monaco scripts are too dark for Gary to direct write something, a feature that Gary could direct, maybe we could sell it, who the hell knows? We ended up writing this thing in 17 days based on a crazy idea. We had one night drinking tequila, right, his Manhattan apartment about a kid pages fast. And we banged out the script project very quickly. And lo and behold, we'd give it to the agent. They're like, Oh, we think there's something here and they start sending it around. We were flying out simultaneous give a crazy story. We were flying off at a student Academy Awards that Monday we gave it to them on the Friday. So over that weekend, they read it. We're on a plane, we land in LA. And the ex head of Hollywood this is like this is almost fantastical, the head of Hollywood studios, Riccardo maestros, he just left his pose to give him one of those golden parachute producing deals is in a limo waiting for us at La x, saying I want your script. This is out of a movie. I'm not kidding, dude. We're like, What? Who are you? So we want to pay phone. We don't have cell phones. We call William Morris like, yeah, there's a bidding war going on and he really wants it. But don't commit. go have a drink with him and then get the limo to take you to Willie Mars. To crazies and I'm a kid. Gary's a kid from Cleveland. I'm from Staten Island. I'm like, This is madness. We're in a limo. Big power player in Hollywood. We record Oh, he's making secret phone calls. During the meeting. We go to William Morris is a bidding war on the script and ends up Disney buys it for Ricardo and thus begins the weirdest journey of my life and inauguration into this business. JACK goes into production they fire to get rid of Gary because Robin Williams is interested and Robin wanted Francis and somehow Gary's let go. Yeah, we all understood it. Okay. I was baffled that Francis wanted to do it. It was a good movie. So

Alex Ferrari 14:26
it's not a Francis. Yeah, it's not a Coppola style film.

James DeMonaco 14:30
I didn't and he was a very sweet was, you know, was bait you know, sentimentally would not send him an emotionally It was kind of like a movie that was around that time called searching for Bobby Fischer. That was the original love Gary Nye. And it was in the world. That's what kind of filmmaker Gary was and still is. And then so Francis is just his. It wasn't his style to be just blonde. It wasn't in any way shape or form. So we were shocked by that. Luckily for me, because jack did not turn out I could be very honest about it did not turn out at all how I wanted With the experience was amazing cuz I did get to live with Francis on his at the winery for over a month which was just as and I was 24 at the time I was quite young at this moment. I luckily had taken a couple of those trunk scripts show them to William Morris and they had sold them. So I had a couple in the pipeline one being ended up being the negotiator and I had a couple I sold cold another one called fire and rain that almost got made a new line another one called jacket fools. That was all of a stones company at the time. So I started my more genre stuff that was more me I should say. Whereas I had this weird thing going with Coppola and Gary my partner into my writing partner at the time on the jack script, and then due to be quite honest, it did not end up the way we any of us. I think thought I hate saying the word misfire, but I think Francis would also call it a misfire It's a strange movie that didn't call it last appropriately.

Alex Ferrari 15:51
You know what I mean? I've always liked anything Robin Williams does always fan you know, and I I miss I miss him in a way that I that I felt like I knew him. But I didn't. But I so jack is has a very special place in my heart and then that it's so odd because it seems like a robin williams movie. Yes, but it doesn't seem like a Coppola movie. Exactly. Yeah. And there was a young Jennifer Lopez in it at the time. A very young Jennifer Lopez I remember. Right I am asked I mean, Bill Cosby. So let me ask you a question. I meant like Apocalypse Now is the movie that got you going into this like what is it like meeting co like phrases in the winery?

Unknown Speaker 16:37
I've been to the winery winery.

Alex Ferrari 16:38
I've been to the winery. I haven't been I haven't met him but I've been at the winery. Which is is insane that wineries it's insanity.

Unknown Speaker 16:45
Living so you walk in we meet Francis I flying in he wants. He specifically calls me to any school. Here's the fun part. Dude, I'm living at home at the time. I don't have a pasta person. I'm living with my parents in Staten Island. I'll never forget this. I'm playing hockey in the street, literally roller hockey with the guys from the neighborhood. My mom yelling out the window said Francis is on the phone. He's calling my house. How old are you?

Alex Ferrari 17:07
How old are you?

Unknown Speaker 17:07
I'm 24. Just 24. My kid right still playing roller hockey. Alright, and France was calling my house. My mom is like shaking. It's Francis. He's talking to me. And he was calling to tell me about some software. He wanted to email me. I didn't know what email was. He's like, you got to get email James. So we could send a script to each other. I didn't know what he was even talking about. I had no email. So it was just wonderful. I still have the message him saying Hi, Mr. Mrs. De Monaco. It's Francis Ford Coppola. I'm looking for your son. We have the message on the tape. My parents saved

Alex Ferrari 17:36
it. Oh my god. Oh, the tape of course because it was

Unknown Speaker 17:40
a tape machine. So long story short, it was a very strange so we go to Gary and I go to the winery. And I have pictures I wish I had. I don't have I should get I was gonna show you one of me on food on the Apocalypse Now boat. It's in the middle of the winery in a giant field sitting there. This boat boat from Apocalypse Now that Fishburne and sheen and bottoms were on my top five favorite film. And every night Gary and I would sneak out to the boat. He lied to us. He didn't care Francis and we just hang out on the boat drinking beers and drinking and talking and Francis would come visit us and I'm like this is this is not really happening. This is a dream. This is a dream. The dream is the dream. And so the experience was lovely. And he's a lovely man. He's a wonderful human being. And unfortunately I think for all of us it just now just didn't come together artistically the way but I'll never I wouldn't trade the experience I guess you know, I got we got ripped apart by critics. Let me gene set shallot called Gary and I villainous nincompoops when he saw the film, which is

Alex Ferrari 18:35
so easy to criticize when you're sitting on the sidelines. So easy, so easy.

Unknown Speaker 18:40
Oh boy, that's hard. I gotta get used to this business. Oh, yeah, they

Alex Ferrari 18:44
don't they don't hold punches. They don't hold. But so so then you working with Francis, what was the one lesson you took away from Francis? Because I'm assuming he just was spitting out gold left and right. As far as just story and structure and things?

Unknown Speaker 18:57
Yeah, I think it was. It was about writing. It's Don't be so don't it's not so precious. Especially if you want to direct Don't be so precious about it. It's ever changing. And he got to keep changing with it. Like be inspired by everyone around you. And don't be like no, I'm beholden to the word. Don't be that director because he thinks he thinks directors like that ultimately do fail because they're not. They're not open to the artist around them, meaning actors productive whoever's giving you that nugget that you should then change or even a studio exactly is good. There are good ones out there. Good if the notes are good, hear them absorb them and don't be just like locked in. He believes he always felt that the people who are too locked in and saying I don't change a word. Really don't get too far. You got to be open to really making better and better and better. So I always thought was kind of because back then I was I was a pain in the ass. 24 year old Mike. No, I wrote it. That's what you say.

Alex Ferrari 19:53
I have to ask you this man because I know where I was at 24 How was the ego? How How did he How was the ego during that time because you're 24 you're from Staten Island, you're flying now hanging out with Francis Ford Coppola on the Apocalypse Now Poe, like, I gotta imagine that the ego has to be out of control.

Unknown Speaker 20:13
Absolutely, dude. And I got reprimanded, you know, bullshit. I got reprimanded by I'll never forget this. So we did. So we sell the script and you know, with, uh, with the talk of the town, sharing that sale, all that bullshit, and we get sent around, they sent a huge announcement. UTA was really March at the time, sent us into, to do meetings to do just meet everybody in town. What about waterbottle? tour? Exactly. And then right after that, I sold those other two scripts and I you know, I had I was probably full of beans at the time thinking I'm hot shit at 24. And the studios I won't say who it was a couple of studios who call the agents and said, you know, your, your boy sits there with his leather jacket on thinking he's top of the world. He's got a little be a little more open to what we have to say. And it was a great lesson though, man, and we really needed it. I need a little Smackdown you know, because, uh, you know, and then listen, jack came out. I got a big smackdowns

Alex Ferrari 21:01
Oh, I can imagine. I can imagine a 24 or 24 year old James with a leather jacket from Staten Island on Main Streets jacket on. Yeah, you're sitting there going like who these frickin West Coast guys know. Exactly. That's a

Unknown Speaker 21:17
learning learning. It's a process. And I think I matured very quickly though. I was, in a way jack forced me to say okay, okay, this is much tougher.

Alex Ferrari 21:25
Because you were you were for a moment you were at the top of the town and you were going up and you're like, you couldn't get bigger than working with Francis Ford Coppola and Robin Williams. Back on your first spec script. It's pretty unprecedented. So you're on this. I mean, it's unprecedented. And then you're like, going up and then. And that's, and that's the town. And that's exactly one moment. You're the hot shit and the next. Who are you? Exactly. Who are you? You're the guy who wrote them to voicemail? Yeah. voicemail. So then So from there, how did you get involved with this assault with precision 13 which I love the remake of that. How did you get involved with that?

Unknown Speaker 22:07
Right? So I'd written the negotiator with another buddy, childhood friend. And then we weren't doing much together. We had done a TV show together. But we weren't we were kind of not wasn't real partnership. We had just written that together. And then the French guys some French guys who came very close with had loved negotiate negotiated was very beloved in France, which I didn't know. And they had bought the rights to precinct 13 for a French direct and john Francois reshade. Good French directed to remake and they just had this thing like the guy from negotiate it should write it. And they called me through it through a man named Jim Stark, wonderful indie producer produce some of the early Jarmusch films. Anyway, Jim was in New York and he knew me through a woman called me said these French guys want to meet you. They flew in I hung out with them. I'm like, this is the weirdest now connection. And they were from a very renowned, kind of what we would call art film company called wine productions. I don't know they make all the oh no depletion films, Jocko do film, rust and bone to a profit wonderful films they make over the years. They've won con many times. But they love genre movies, the French love genre movies, which is wonderful. They love crazy, beautiful, dramatic films. They love genre films, they love coffee. And they were like, let's do this together. And I said, Well, I just want to get the bless, I'll come up with a take. So I made the cops, the bad guys. That was kind of my take on changing it, like always make the cops the bad guys. And it's not the gang members. So it's cop on cop. But that was kind of subversive, but I wanted to pick to I want to John's blessing. So we met john. We all met john john love to take on He's like, that's cool. And having John's blessing. I said let me go up now. All right. And we were able to get the financing from focus. And Jonathan Swan did a pretty good job. And yeah, it was a great that's where I met Ethan and I met also met Sebastian mrca, who ended up becoming my producing partner. We started a company together. And he's now produced all the films with Jason Blom. And also my new one. This is the night and my personal Staten Island New York so

Alex Ferrari 23:58
so um, but you did right. Did you write with john on this? The gentleman with you know,

James DeMonaco 24:04
just just met him at one time do that was it? Yeah, okay.

Alex Ferrari 24:06
I was I was meeting john met.

Unknown Speaker 24:08
I was still the coolest dude, the long hair. You know, I wish I was john coffin that so

Alex Ferrari 24:14
when I grow up when I grew up, I want to be

Unknown Speaker 24:18
I saw him. My buddy Steve a local DJ here on Staten Island we went to he took me he bought me tickets to john does these concerts I know about them. We went to the one up on pier 48 here in New York. JOHN plays all the music from his films being staged most scenes from the movies sold out as many years. Three years ago. Wonderful. Wonderful. Yeah, that's good to see that look for that John's traveling music tour is great.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
So I see your your writing and you you're doing really good job the negotiator you got jack, you know you're working right or at this point, but you want to direct Yes, because everybody wants to direct everybody. Right? As my old as my old joke goes when Going into an Uber in LA I go. So how's the script?

Unknown Speaker 25:06
Every gas station attendant? Why I don't think I ever went out there. I was so intimidated by that. on Staten Island. It was kind of unique. I'm writing screenplays. Oh, you're a big fish. Oh, you're a big fish out there. Yeah. Well, on Staten Island.

Alex Ferrari 25:19
Up. I can't walk the streets of Staten Island. I mean, exactly. So, so you get your movie, little New York or Staten Island, whichever name. I don't write names on it.

James DeMonaco 25:32
On New York. I wanted Staten Island to go. Right. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 25:35
So how did you get that project off the ground? due to

Unknown Speaker 25:39
I made a deal with all the with the French guys Pascal cashto Sebastian lemercier a saying if I do write this thing for john Francois Shea, you guys have to find the money for me to direct something. They were like, okay, we'll make that deal. It was kind of a handshake deal. And then I wrote I wrote a salt for you know, john Francois vj. We had some success with that they were happy. Then I wrote a strange little. I'm a Fellini fanatic. So this was kind of my Ode to the absurdity of Fellini films that always inspired me. And I've always found my hometown to be quite an absurd kind of place in a good way. So then I wrote Staten Island New York, which they responded to and Ethan respond met Ethan and I hit it off on assault Ethan Titans you know attach himself to the project with Ethan attach we got Lucas on to read the script and Luke financed it was why he had you know, Europa Europa core films. I think they will call Yeah, Europa core and Luke financed it he was a big fan of the film so we didn't you know, it was good it was it was a great I listen, I love the film. It never found its total way in America or played overseas. We did a lot of festivals, that kind of thing. So it's a weird movie. It's absurd. I but I've learned that I have a love of absurdity that I need to keep in check. If modern audiences love uncertainty the way I do so Sebastian is constantly checking my producers constantly checking my love of absurdity. So right

Alex Ferrari 26:54
yeah, the Fellini films not so and so bought a box office friendly. Eight and a half, eight and a half not not pulling in 100 million opening weekend.

James DeMonaco 27:08
I sneak in I try to sneak in and as you saw and this is the night with the man on the roof. Yeah. What lights on I sneak in my little bits of absurdity and whenever I could, yeah, that

Alex Ferrari 27:16
makes that makes more sense. So Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Now so you're working with Luke man? What's it like working with Luke beside because I am such a huge monstrous fan of loop from from Big Blue to the professional on my subway. I mean, I mean I've been I after I saw the professional I went deep into his archive Big Blue is big booth one oh my god it's wonderful. It's always a beautiful It's a beautiful movie subway and and of course with rights and fifth element and and then his later stuff as well. But the professional is one of those films for me. Yeah, Leah early on, as it should be called Leo. I mean, that's probably one of the most brilliant films I've ever seen.

Unknown Speaker 28:01
Genre wise is one of the best she's amazing in it. Leona. Phillipe is great and Gary Oldman is hopefully ignoring What's his name? JOHN Renault genre

Alex Ferrari 28:11
john Byrne. Whoa, Natalie Portman Gary Oldman at his height of his powers. Every loves off so good. What's it like working with him as a producer, man,

Unknown Speaker 28:22
he was great. He gave me one note he came to set he gave me a great note on set though. So he came to set on Staten Island. So we have lupus on on Saturday, which was great. In and of itself came to set Oh, shoot no the denorfia scenes in the forest. And he was watching the dailies I really liked your dailies, he goes but on every fourth of fifth take whatever you're maxing out at seven, take your last couple of takes. He goes just give everyone that direction of double timing it from camera to actor, he goes you're gonna want the option of everything being a tad faster. So just give yourself the opposite. You just have the camera go faster. If you don't wanna push in, have the actors move a little faster, because your mind at points need to speed things up because it's kind of a slow film on purpose. But he's like, just and I thought it was a great piece of advice that I use to this day. And then on the movie, he gave me one note too, which To this day, I still want to talk to him about it was a very graphic sex scene between Ethan and Julianne that no one ever got to see that started the film, where they're yelling at you, instead of saying I love you, they scream in each other's faces they want to come up with and they're both completely nude and they're just yelling at each other because they want to express their love in a unique way. And their way to do it is to yell. And it's it's a very it's an odd scene, but it's very emotional or emotionally fraught with all dislike passion. And he's like, I remember he called me and then forget this. I was in Manhattan at the time. He's like, James, I love your film. He goes but I have one note. He goes you're playing you have to cut the first scene and it was my favorite scene. I'm like, Why? He goes your movies jazz and that's heavy metal. And it stayed with me. Like oh, you said it too elegantly. I can't I can't I can't come back after that. After that, and he was not wrong but I fought to keep it in for it held them over here for a year and a half years and he's like okay, you could fight all you want show me cuts because No one right. And, uh, so yeah, it was a we got the same we got the same

Alex Ferrari 30:04
you fought off a year a year you were like driving. Let me fight dude, he

Unknown Speaker 30:08
let me keep cutting to try to fit it in exactly what maybe he was responding to that it came first and the movie has a disjointed time structure. sure you're able to move it around though he never bought it. She's like, No, no, you might be right. Listen, I'm not sure. But, you know, it was it was one of those things that I'll live with. I still think about it. It's it's

Alex Ferrari 30:26
still it's Yeah, and but it you know, it's you know, when you get when you get notes from like Coppola and Busan and or Carpenter like, what, like, it's hard to, I mean, you're talking about you're, you're talking to Monet and Van Gogh.

James DeMonaco 30:40
But the Masters, the guy who grew up, I mean, who taught us how to do this,

Alex Ferrari 30:43
right? So when they give you a note, it's hard to not listen, and they might be wrong. They're human, but it'd

Unknown Speaker 30:49
be wrong. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But it's hard. Really, it sinks into your soul and makes you truly contemplate it. Like, you can't you can't dismiss it, whether they're wrong or right, it can't be dismissed. So yeah, it's tough, man. It's

Alex Ferrari 31:00
so so alright, so that that first shoot that first directing gig you got what's the toughest day in that whole shoot, the day that you fell? Because I love asking directors is because I know what it feels like, when you're on set. And you're just like, the whole world's going to come down around me. I'm this close to a panic attack because of this pressure or that pressure this actors not doing this, or that lines up or that we're losing the sun, or the rains coming or the camera blows up, or what was that day for you? And how did you handle it?

Unknown Speaker 31:33
Dude, it's a great question, man. And it's happened. Excuse me, it's happened on every movie. There's that day, right? There's always navigate every movie and every movie. Hopefully I get to make more movies. every movie will have that day or multiple days where you're like, it's not working at all. It's not working like what we're doing is not working in any way shape or form. There was a scene with an offer. Do you know Jennifer's character goes and lives in a tree? He's a mom because don't movies about Staten Island is battling their feelings of insignificance being where the Forgotten borrow so insignificance is permeating it's a triptych. So you have this crazy mobster who to become somewhat infamous in his life, he's tries many he's trying to break the underwater breathing record, and he can't do it. So he's a tries other things to do. It's very strange story. And he's right. I'm gonna take the forest that they're knocking down so he goes to live in a tree because he knows they can't knock it down if he's in the tree. But I had too much dialogue. And this was a great lesson as a whole for me as a filmmaker. He's up in the tree giving this soliloquy that went on and it was more it was it was a dialogue with a cop who's trying to get him down. The dialogue wasn't working. It was simple as that dude, I wrote bad dialogue. Vincent knew it. I knew it. The crew knew it. Everybody knew it. I'm trying to rewrite on set we're losing light it's starting to rain. We're already over budget you know oldest shits all at once, but I can't let it go I'm like I gotta fix it right now here now so I'm literally with pen and paper they got me on the what like a cherry picker running pages up to Vinson who's sitting up in the tree waiting for me harnessed and it was very high. I'm afraid of heights so I'm like having panic attacks going up and down in the Jerry Baker trying to rewrite and I don't think guys ever got it right dude i don't think i did i still to this set like I didn't get it we missed it I missed it. And so yeah, and that's that day it's and you can't foresee that is what we still try it Sebastian and I my producing partner we still try to proceed that day now in the script form like can we see that day we talked about that day on set can we you can't you can't predict what day that will become that thing because you're an actor yeah you don't know what's going

Alex Ferrari 33:29
on it could be a million did there's so many different variables when you're shooting on set it could be an actor could be the scripts not working could be the lighting is not working with the camera the lens fogs up, because he you know it starts to rain you're losing sunlight, or the location you had all of a sudden they're like no, we're not shooting here today. Yes, there's all that there's just so many variables as a director you have to hold on to but there's that one special day because there's always that every day there's a little bit of that

Unknown Speaker 33:54
right that's always there right but yeah, that one day we don't get it right that's the that's why it stands out

Alex Ferrari 33:58
I think Yeah, and I think it's when multiple of those things hit you at the same time. Exactly. It's like that's the day the producer shows up like you're you're three days back you're three pages behind you're three pages behind three days behind

James DeMonaco 34:11
Yeah exactly.

Alex Ferrari 34:12
Yes read after three days to three pages behind this is a fiasco if you don't get this taken care of we're going to shut down the production This is a small

James DeMonaco 34:18
time Heaven's Gate Get your shit together.

Alex Ferrari 34:21
You see that guy over there? That's the bonding company guy Exactly. He's gonna take over this film in two days if you don't catch up

Unknown Speaker 34:31
because you know all the stories right Coppola there was a director down the said he says waiting in a car I forgot his name oh yeah yeah, exactly father exactly even stone says on I think I just read his book man if you haven't read it

Alex Ferrari 34:42
Oh, no. Yeah. Oh, he's Oh, what a great book. Great book.

Unknown Speaker 34:46
Oh my god, but that really explains like the pressure that he was on the where I was just kind of I mean, you think these guys weren't that meaning when we look back upon these masterpieces we think they were made. Because there's so no they weren't at all. They came from like tension Anger and passion and no money and so, you know,

Alex Ferrari 35:03
when when he was on the show when he was on the show he was talking about platoon and you know he was just came from El Salvador he did Salvador which is which was the middle of which you're in the middle of war zone and he's got like government army people shoot like he'd do i don't know i think he directed two horror movies prior to that. In fact the hand and something else the hand and something are really early in his career before even when for when the Oscar for Midnight Express and when he's when he's shooting platoon in platoon was just because he only got platoon made because the producer I forgot he's like a legendary genre guys like Yes, I like your movie. Let's move he has that. He's got the cigar. He has that the accent? It's like, yeah, was it make we make your movie you get 6 million. And like, let's go to the Philippines. And we like and that's and that was it. And he was literally an award he's got. I mean, remember the cast of platoon? like Johnny, Johnny Depp was like in it for five seconds. Like, and why?

Unknown Speaker 36:03
Because Johnny Depp sitting there as the translator. It's the weirdest thing. Yeah, it's

Alex Ferrari 36:06
like, and he would and I forget who was I think it was Charlie, Charlie Sheen or somebody who's like, we're like huffing through the frickin jungle dying. And you see Oliver Stone, like a general on a Jeep just passing us while we're walking to set he's just like, rolling by a peasant. You know, it's it's fascinating. I mean, and I think this generation of filmmakers don't really get this younger, gently, younger filmmakers don't get the the battles that the 70s and 80s guys went through even the 90s to but but really, like, try to make platoon today. Oh, try to make Full Metal Jacket. No, you're not getting Apocalypse Now. frickin taxi driver. Like Can you imagine? Like the wars that these these these filmmakers went through even Spielberg with jaws? Like like, yeah, there's that they went through that stuff that the younger generation doesn't really understand. I think a lot. That's why hearts of darkness.

Unknown Speaker 37:14
Yeah, shows what he went through. And I always say that it's the biggest personal indie film most expensive indie budget or tour film ever made, right? I mean, until until his new one that he's about to make. I can't he had megalopolis no written back when I was working with him 25 years ago, and even before that, and it always broke my heart over the years. I've been talking to Laurence Fishburne about this on assault. We were brokenhearted that a man of Francis's stature couldn't get the money for megalopolis. Like doesn't, why can't someone step up and give him the 150 mil and let that man of all men who you're not going to give it? How could you not give

Alex Ferrari 37:47
him? Well? If Netflix if Netflix or Apple doesn't show up? or Amazon doesn't show up? Someone's got it? Come on, guys. Yeah, you gave Marty 200 million for Irish. Exactly. I mean, you could give him 150 for my mental ease. I mean, yeah. But I'm sorry. But I'm so happy. I just had this conversation with another guest the other day, I was like, I'm so happy that a man who's 82 years old, is an N is by all stretch, retired, more money than he ever needs in his lifetime. Finally, because he's been broke a million times. Because of his insanity. He's like, I'm gonna go back down, I'm going to throw down $100 million on his own money to think about it to do to do this store, because I think the world needs it. We need guys and gals out there. taking those swings.

Unknown Speaker 38:36
Yes, we do. And you guys who can take the swing meaning? Well, I mean, he's personally feel there's only a few of the 10 there's only a few who could take those swings, right? So we need them to do that bold work, because maybe that'll create a new era of the bold work like we had in the seven days. You know what I

Alex Ferrari 38:51
mean? Look, and we can talk about Cameron for I mean, Cameron every every time he goes up to bat, he changes the game. Absolutely every like from the Abyss to aliens determinator. To True Lies to Titanic and Avatar. He changes the game like he literally changed the industry with Avatar. And and Nolan is taking these huge swings up at bat, you know,

Unknown Speaker 39:15
just like versus the walker Nolan's doing it. Now he's taking the reins, right. He's taking those big swings. And now I love seeing Quentin take the huge swings lately. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I mean, it was a huge once upon a time, a huge fan. I can speak about that movie all day. So we have those guys, and they got to keep doing it. Because you know what, not everyone has read up this.

Alex Ferrari 39:35
But the thing is, where are the young guys doing that? You know, like,

Unknown Speaker 39:39
where we're making it too hard to do it? I don't know. You know, that's what I wonder. I don't know, dude, it's hard. I say.

Alex Ferrari 39:45
I don't think you know, I don't think God it's like the the guys and the gals who are getting these opportunities. There's very few who are going to get the same kind of shots that they did because the game has changed so much. Lately, the game the game is completely different. Like we We were talking earlier, it's like if it's not doesn't have Spider Man in it. You know, good luck trying to make $150 million movie it just doesn't make financial sense for the studio to take a risk like that

Unknown Speaker 40:10
that on anymore. Exactly. Now if you're on right, your audience has just gone so they know it's terrifying again, that's what goes back to my movie like is it going to be awesome is going to become like opera houses where we're only seeing certain kinds of films, the films, almost everything else will be relegated to strangers. That's what's terrifying to me as we move forward. Yeah, it's kind of you know, financial. I don't know. I don't

Alex Ferrari 40:32
even I don't I don't know either. I don't know where it's gonna go. But I've always said that too. I've always said that. I think that cinema is going to go the way of Broadway where it's going to be it's going to be 50 $150 tickets to go see an event film that cost $500 million. Exactly. And that's and then there'll be the arthouse films and those things that maybe go to the Alamo Drafthouse, or yes, those kind of films, but it's not the 80s 90s early 2000 it's gone. I think those days scary. Yeah, yeah, that's scary. But we'll see man like, I think we could always hope and pray and I know but and I know a lot of the younger listeners are like these two old farts talking about

James DeMonaco 41:15
Aki Ray What is he doing?

Alex Ferrari 41:17
Exactly? What is Rocky? But anyway? So I can ask him when you write Do you What's your writing process? Like? Do you outline do you start with character? Do you start with plot? How do you how do you start the process?

Unknown Speaker 41:29
Whether it's I think usually it's a some kind of conceit dude, some kind of like, oh, some world that I'd like to purge was a conceit first. You know, of this, this this crazy day, this new holiday in America. So start

Alex Ferrari 41:41
off with

Unknown Speaker 41:42
the seat like the theme, the plot, that's the theme. Yeah, it was like this, you know, yeah, they can see the theme the story usually saw, usually story based, not character based. Man, that's not true. I shouldn't say everything's different. But whatever I do start with, I just start jotting down little notes. I am an outline guy, though, I do build to an outline. So I believe in the outline process for myself. And the outline, I don't want to say is more important than the script. But it is the architecture upon which the script is built. So I take a lot of time on the outline. constantly going over that I write on little cards, I put them on a wall and person a book in the cards, and I type them up. So they're really embedded in my brain. And then once that process is done, then I'll go to script. And the script takes shorter amounts of time, I will say, if I do well, in my outline process, the script process is a tad shorter. But then my rewrite process is immense. Because I do give the script I have my readers who I love and trust, who I do believe every writer needs because I think we have to listen to people and look for patterns. I think they don't always know. But you can when talking to people, you can see the patterns of what if they're all focusing on the same area or the same character, you know, there's a problem there. So yeah, it's a hell of a process in that, yeah, the outline, the outline is actually the biggest part of my process, I'd say, I agree. outliner

Alex Ferrari 42:51
I am a huge outliner I outline my books, I outline my scripts outline everything I write I because just makes life easier. It just like you have all these, you have everything laid out like okay, now I just have to write this scene, I don't have to think about where this scene goes, at least at this price, that process. And when I'm laying it all out, it just it just the writing process is just like almost, it's just like you're just adding in stuff. But like the building of the of the foundation, you know what it is, it's like building the house, you need the frame and the foundation of the house. And then you can decorate, decorate and put the room here. Now I'm going to put the wall This color is going to be purple, I'm going to put this it's so much easier. And I know a lot of a lot of writers love to like it. They hate the concept of outline or structure. And I'm like, Guys, you can't build a house without a foundation and walls and beams. But within that structure, you could do 1000 million different variate how many houses are there in the world,

James DeMonaco 43:47
you know, architecture? Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 43:48
But you need that as opposed to just like I got a bunch of wood. I got a bunch of cement. Let's just go. Let's just let's see what happens. I need to

Unknown Speaker 43:56
know where I'm going and what I'm building to. And someone said to me, Well, don't you want to be inspired? I'm like, Fuck yeah, I'm inspired in the outline process. I'm running around my room, I got a drink some tequila, I got my head. Music is a big thing for me too. I pick a, I pick one track of a song either. It's a soundtrack, one track of a soundtrack, a song, something that represents the movie to me in one track and I put it on a loop. And I keep it on my office 24 seven during that period. So whenever I enter into the office, that song is on and it puts me right back into the movie. So that's a big part of it. That's really cool. And it's finding that song is the hard part that takes some time to like okay, what represents this movie wholly in one track that I can keep on that loop? Anything from Bjork to Hans Zimmer, you know, find something that represents that particular piece. You know, floy wrote, like, you know, purging You know, I think the third purge was to welcome to the machine by Floyd. It could be anything, you know, anything that kind of whatever the fuck I'm feeling at the time so and that that becomes incredibly helpful to find the perfect track but it takes time.

Alex Ferrari 44:59
It When I was writing a script at once I my script my music was the soundtrack of Desperado. And from Robert Robert Rodriguez Desperado and Ansar Giuliani's all of those just the whole and just and it makes that whole I do a mix I do like a mix mix a mixtape an old school mixtape, but but on my playlist, and I do that and just let that run again and again and again. Same thing while while I'm writing going right, exactly, because it just gives you the exact juice that energy. Well, I mean, I think I think was Robert said in an interview once that he was he was writing. I forgot one of his scripts. He was writing to the soundtrack of Dracula and john carpenter. Yeah. And he was just like he just had the soundtracks playing in the background as he's writing. So but I love your idea that like you leave the you have it on 24 seven so that

James DeMonaco 45:49
when I entered them for like Pavlov's dogs

Alex Ferrari 0:02
So man, the purge. What What the hell, man? I think that's, I think that should be a quote like the purge. No, I mean, when I first when I first saw it let me just write down. Sorry. So when I first saw the trailer to the purge, I'm like, first of all, that is genius. Whoever came up Why didn't I think of this? which I'm sure a lot of people thought because the concept is so it's so high concept. It's just like, there's one day all crime is legal. go at it. That's all you need. Yeah, as far as a logline is concerned, you just like shit. And you could go and you can make these movies from here in which which we've we've made a few. So how did you come up with the purge, man? How did you get into that? Dude is where I came up with?

James DeMonaco 1:02
Well, I guess the seed of it started when I was in. I was posting that Lucas on film. The first one. I'm still with the first one I directed. I was in France. They made me posted, which was wonderful. So I was living in Paris meeting for Asians and Europeans. And it was again this kid from Staten Island like this is a strange life. I've walked out with Forrest Gump. And but I noticed the relation I've never been a fan of guns I've always been very scared of guns. I grew up a lot of cops had guns I was just born naturally inclined to retreat from the the gun. I never took to it as some people do. But I noticed the relationship with guns in Europe was different than I'd seen in America. That was just something different. I don't want to get too political. But it was just different to me like this is different. We no one has a gun here. I know a lot of people with guns in New York. And in other places. I've traveled Florida and one on here in America. So that was in my head about and I would always know. shootings were beginning to happen. mass shootings in America were on the rise as they were happening in the 2000s still happening. So all these thoughts were in my head. I was living in Canada on something else for a couple of projects. And it was different there to the feeling state. They had guns but it was still different. Long story short, I was in a road rage it all coalesce together. I was in a road rage incident with my wife in Brooklyn on the BQE mother go on and sorry, guy cut us off. He was drunk as hell. He almost killed us. I got into a fight with literally fist fight with his drunken lunatic. I get back in the car with my mom, my my mom, my wife, Freudian slip on my wife. And she says something that stayed with me forever. And she's a nice woman. She's a doctor. So she didn't really mean it. But she was all passionately aggravated by this crazy person. She said, I wish we all got one free one a year. And I know what she meant, like, well, we all had one murder we can commit without going to jail. And it just stayed with me. It was this is one of those statements. It's a dark statement, babe and but I took it home. And in thinking about the lack of gun controls in America that was always bothersome to me. It all just came I woke up one day with this idea for a holiday that I thought could be a metaphorical kind of discourse on what I felt was the lack of gun controls in America, like how far can we take this? Where could this go in a very science fiction dystopian kind of world or utopian as depose pretends? And that's where it started. And then I started outlining. doing my thing, listening to whatever track I was listening to I was listening to penderecki I think at the time, that was the track that he was listening. And we right so I finished the script Sebastian was producing my producer, you know, my producing partner, I keep referencing, but we started sending it around. Even Luke was on set. It's incredibly anti American and so nihilistic and dark that I he didn't think he could finance it. And Luke wanted to make my next movie have to stand out. Nobody's like it's too dark. It's too anti American. He didn't see an audience for many people that was not just losing 50 people said that to us. Like literally we just kept getting the same anti American sentiment about the whole thing. Blom I knew blonde from 20 years but not 20 Well, at that point, it was 10 years, but I knew Jason in 9899. He he had optioned a couple of scripts for me right after he left Miramax and we hit it off he was good. We just became friendly stayed in touch he was not doing the horror thing I sent it to him. And he's like oh, this fits my my my low budget horror model we can do this in one house. It fits perfectly into the world I'm doing I have a new deal at Universal. I'd like to be this my first film at Union like Dude, I wrote this to be like a Michael hanningfield like funny games, a tiny film, we play the Angelika in New York. I don't see the mass appeal for the film because like people have been saying it's incredibly dark and anti American. And oh, Greg bump the next one, dude, we're all good. Great. All right. Well, so So long story short, Jason got it. They read it at Universal. They thought it was quite dark too. But they were like, okay, it's your your low budget model. Maybe we'll take a shot at it. Even after watching the first cut. They didn't know if it was the actual like it is quite dark and spotless. And Jason kept pushing I could Jason the credit he saw he saw the mass appeal, I guess of the

Alex Ferrari 4:48
conceit and it but it was it was the first Blum house. It was the first

James DeMonaco 4:53
blumhouse at at uni he had done I think what's the insidious but not Universal was okay. It started I think paramount. So we were the first new under his 10 years. At that point, it was a five year deal. So and yeah, and even that opening weekend was a shock. They, they told me literally the day before that tracking said, we were doing 10 mil. And I was like, Oh, that's good for $2.5 million film. Even my agent said if you do 10 that's a nice weekend, man. Because I always all I'm concerned with is I want to make another film. Of course, I don't need you know how that, you know, it's like, how do I get to do my next film? And I kept saying to my agents, what does it need to do? So that's not considered a disaster? And I'm in director hell. And they said, Well, if it does 10 that's a wonderful opening. And then we ended up doing almost 30. So I think everybody was shocked by it was a crazy weekend. It was almost like the jack sale. It was one of those very surreal, weird nights.

Alex Ferrari 5:45
Yeah, and I think it was the, you know, I think when you watch a film like the purge, it's a it's a release, the same release that you feel if there was a night that you could do anything is the feeling. So it was it was kind of like a way to release a lot of pent up, I think it still is all those movies is a way for people to kind of release in a safe

James DeMonaco 6:07
in a safe way. Right? And like a roller coaster where you get to scream and yell and live. Right is a catharsis to it, right? a societal catharsis, like we say in the movie, and you had captured something and it captured something. Yeah, it captured something. But it's still hard to define what that totally is because different people have different interpretations of the film. You know, black audiences have almost a different interpretation. We saw that a strict I want to say there's a strong racial divide. But even when I made Part Four, when I hired Dr. MacMurray, he said he was in college, they would teach the purge as a metaphor for black plight in America about how the impoverished and the blacks were treated in American society. They took the whole movie as as a metaphor for that. And I was like, wow, this is incredible how the movies being interpreted across across the country, so yeah, strange, strange. And even though European audiences, you know, what's called American nightmare in Europe. So they look at it as a very, you know, strict strong indictment of the American system of violin, you know, how we deal with guns and violence here. So, it's very, it's interpreted very differently around the globe.

Alex Ferrari 7:07
So the, you know, as a writer, as a creator as a director, there's very few times in a filmmakers career if ever, that you get to tap into the Zeitgeist. Yeah, this films taps into the Zeitgeist it is a it's it's an adjective now you know like it like people use it as like kind of just need a purge you know, are they like I just I wish I could do a purge today. Like it's it's it's something that's really within the site guys, I got to ask you, man, what does that feel like to like just be a creator of something like that, like some of the some of the greats that we've talking about? Like obviously Francis with the Godfather? It's in the xyc is obviously the person The Godfather and at the same film, but But yeah, hasn't did the psychos What does that what does that feel like as a creator?

James DeMonaco 7:56
Dude, it's, it's still, it's still strange, man. It's still weird. And I don't take any of it for granted. It's even though what sometimes I've heard fatigue. I'll be the first to say it. But I don't take that for granted that people truly seem to have loved it and adopted it. Like even my cop buddies saying all the like the Caribbean Day Parade, I think was recently they stopped the parade every year with the purge sirens. You know, I was watching. I'm a big baseball fan. I was watching I think a Tampa Ray. I think it's techniques, the Devil Rays. They use every time someone strikes out, they play the sirens as the strikeout theme. So if that happens, I see that all the time. No. sirens are like they really truly entered in and even on Halloween, the weirdest thing is seeing kids in the neighborhood in both Manhattan where I'm more in Manhattan and Staten Island, both neighborhoods you'll see totally dressed up as characters from the film. That's the one that gets me the most. I don't know, when the two young will go that you haven't seen this movie, have you? You shouldn't be watching this yet. Me they are watching films they shouldn't be watching. So man, it's weird. And it's humbling and it's still I don't take any of it for granted was so lucky that we got to make I thought it would be one film so that the fact that it's five, maybe six I wrote six. So who that you know, it's strange, man. It's strange. You

Alex Ferrari 9:04
so you've was it like you just kept writing a bunch of them? Or you're like, are you doing them one at a time?

James DeMonaco 9:09
One at a time? One at a time? I'm usually fueled by the political climate of Election Day. Yeah, Election Day. Exactly. Horn five got even more political because I think I can be very political in the directors we hired to do foreign flags. I did direct foreign five, or even more political than me. So we pushed it even further. And the studio has to keep us in check. So we don't stop proselytizing and preaching. Which we want to do. But we easily could I guess, within the format, but yeah, so no, right. Right. So the new one I wrote, I didn't think I was gonna write a new one too. That's the all honesty. I was like, I'm done with the purge five is good. It's the end of America. And purge five ends when it feels like the end of America. I woke up eight months ago, and I had a new idea and no joke. I call to action. I pitched it to him and he's like, I hate you because I like it. And he's like, okay, we're gonna have to do that. So we picked the bomb. He liked it. Peter Kramer at the studio liked it. So I wrote it. And so I have the script, everybody happy with it but I don't know. I don't know enough about the financials of the business to see if they want to I don't know yet if they know what because of COVID

Alex Ferrari 10:08
here right now maybe not but the thing is to that the that each one of them is done gangbusters. Like they just keep making money. And they're already dude. Yeah, it's they just keep me like in some go like like it keeps growing like you know, worldwide. The

James DeMonaco 10:25
third I mean, which is very rare usually they go down. Yeah. Yeah so you know this Yeah, so this one went up in four or five because of COVID we went down a little bit but I think still a very amateur business perspective. It seems like it did okay during COVID it's very hard to tell anymore Do Dorian

Alex Ferrari 10:43
on imagine and imagine on VOD, and all that they Yeah, it must do insane business.

James DeMonaco 10:48
Yeah, maybe God could. But they don't they don't get those numbers with me though. Sadly. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 10:53
What? Why would they share the numbers with the creators? That would be insane. That'd be insane. I gotta ask you, man, what's it like working inside the Blum house family man? Because I mean, he's got such a unique position in Hollywood. There's nobody else that as what he's got. It's insane.

James DeMonaco 11:10
He found some little niche man I give him. He's and what? Yeah, he founds he finds like the new Roger Coleman. You know, in some ways, but with a studio backing? Yes. We're the studio behind him. Exactly, dude. And he's got it. He's got greenlight power up to a certain point. So he's got great power. And he protects defeat, I've always he really protects me creatively, and he's not. Jason, when he hires you, when you get hired into the blumhouse. World, he kind of as the hiring is, that's the most input he has in the process, meaning He's like, I've hired you to make the movie now you go make the movie. I'm not gonna interfere with that. Yeah, he has, you know, Cooper Samuelsson who's one of his, like, right hand man over that, you know, you get some creative input from Cooper. But for the most part, you're left alone to go make your film. And that's my favorite part of working. blumhouse is his great creative control. Now I'm with the part series, there was a studio, the head of the studios, Peter Kramer, who became a great ally of the series, and we worked with him creatively. So we had Peter too. But what Jason is a great, he's a great defender, if the filmmaker wants you know, there was a lot of at the end of three was in question at point, Jason really backed me on what I wanted to do at the end. And it was it got a little tense with the studio, but they're wonderful to work with to I can't bad mouth universal, and all because I actually think what they're doing is kind of bowls, he would, you know, there was a strong political commentary within the purge that many studios, I do believe, would shy away from, and they kind of let me and my partner filmmakers explore these, potentially, you know, when you're when they're trying to appeal to the most part studios to the four quadrants, you know, this, when we start saying something about guns, even though it's metaphorical in the future, that could put off a part of the audience, we know that they let us do it. They really don't make us because I think the purge is so inherently socio political, it's impossible to not make, of course, some commentary on the state of affairs within American society. And they let us do it, man, I give them credit for letting us do it. Now. We do work on district budgets. I will say that we're not making we don't have Jurassic Park and, you know, Fast and Furious budgets at all we have, we have that catering budget, maybe? Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 13:15
You got you got. You got Vin Diesel's writer.

James DeMonaco 13:19
Budget, exactly. lunch money, so. So I think that helps us retain the freedom because if we started going higher up in budget, obviously, oh, I budget less freedom. And Jason makes us very well aware that it's hard. It's very hard to make the personal decide, you know, this to do shooting action. Shooting act like shooting horror on a low budget is one thing. Shooting action on a low budget is very, very difficult. Because you got squibs, you got stunt work. And we have, as I said, purge phones are not just horror films. To me, they're more Action, Horror, or sci fi. So they're very hard to make. And it's very hard on the cruel say that we've had some, we've had some great nervous breakdowns on set by many crew members, because we've gone to, we're just pushing them too hard, including myself. I mean, we're all in it together. But we are on a very strict parameters budgetarily, which I think allows us to have that freedom,

Alex Ferrari 14:07
right? And then if you can make it for price, you have all the freedom you want. But if you have 30 or 40 million bucks to make a purge, you're just going to be more people involved, because there's just

James DeMonaco 14:19
risk the simple bad dude, exactly. It's more of and if y'all want that with my new the new one I just wrote, it's not it's not a personal but it's just moving on to what Pete Davidson, that we know if the budgets higher. And Jason said this too, if it's higher, it might be with Jason it might not be, but it's higher, we're gonna get we're gonna have to start dealing with notes, a lot of notes. You know, if we keep it low, we're not going to get many notes. And it's a tough thing because I also want some toys on set. I want the time to build, you know, a creative vision, a directorial vision, and sometimes when you're running in gun gun, and you don't have time for that extra special shot, and that's where you get. And as I've now done so many films on that run and gun style, there was a point where you step back and say I'd like to play a little more like to have a little more freedom

Alex Ferrari 15:01
so so yeah, so a techno crane everyday

James DeMonaco 15:05
Exactly. Steady camera techno crane

Alex Ferrari 15:09
though every every day I was when I was in when I was in Florida True Lies was shooting and I went down to the set in Miami just to see James shoot and i was i don't know i was a kid I was in high school or something like that and I went there and I just had a couple of friends of mine who had people in the business who were on set I didn't get to go on set I was right outside of set and they go you see that back there? It was every single toy a filmmaker could ever ask for cranes steady cams, tech knows helicopter sitting sit no drones sitting sitting there's not just in case James wants to play with

James DeMonaco 15:55
power to me because I'm literally gun to my head to like tell us what day you need that techno crane and you got to use it that day and you never get it again and on this is the night I really wanted to techno crane in the in the theater sequence you know when they're in that theater because I thought that needed to be very operatic poetic so that was it I got my technical writing that day and God forbid like that didn't line up I don't have a technical training and that's it so and yes everybody you know he's taught I love the freedom then I'm not getting notes but then he's not looking at well then you know directorial II stylistically you're locking yourself in to just you know go in handheld and maybe on sticks and maybe a dolly but when I see the toys that you know Nolan and cam Oh all these guys have you like IMAX? Yeah Yeah exactly.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
Screen IMAX Yeah, no and for anybody anyone directing if you've had the pleasure of shooting with a tech now you'll understand why you can never go back it's so did I shot it I shot a shot something with a techno and I had it all day and I was just like oh what have I been doing my entire career I need a techno every everywhere

James DeMonaco 16:59
if people don't realize what a techno you could do more than what you think you could do with a techno meaning even standard shots you could throw the towel in the techno right you could

Alex Ferrari 17:06
you could just move that anywhere any Yeah, do do it across the table go around here even even if you just want to do setup changes you just right you could go

James DeMonaco 17:18
done simply it's like oh let's just reverse the guy the tech no

Alex Ferrari 17:22
and just move here so you don't have to move the entire crew and the dolly in the tracks and that

James DeMonaco 17:28
by exactly Oh yeah, that's freedom you start saying well maybe too I sacrifice get a bigger budget then I have to deal with node so it's you know,

Alex Ferrari 17:37
it's a balance it's it's a balancing act. And by the way, almost every filmmaker has to deal with that and exactly even at the highs even at the highest levels is level yes you know unless you're Spielberg Scorsese Nolan Fincher you know you get what you want at that at that level but at a certain point you know, you're gonna have to compromise everyone everyone's got to compromise at one point or another I

James DeMonaco 17:59
think movies all compromise and then the question is everybody's How do you compromise creatively and not lose not lose that go from 10 to five How do you maintain a 10 with the compromise that state thing to kid you can figure that out? Then your God but I've obstructions movie mc voluntario films with the five obstructions? No, I

Alex Ferrari 18:18
nursing that one. I'm gonna babble quickly. You

James DeMonaco 18:19
got to see it. It's about savaria takes his film school director. And he gives him a like an experiment he says you're going to make the biggest bunch This is the best film we ever saw was this guy's name is Jorgen length. Jorgen. Let's student film. buncher he says is the best film ever, because you're gonna make it five times each time, I'm going to give you a different parameter to work within one will be no sound. One is the actor's can't move. And wow, last parameter is no parameters. You could do whatever you want. And let says it's the hardest of all. He says every time you gave me something, I was able to figure out how to work within it. When you gave me nothing. I didn't know what to do. And it's a fascinating and it says something about the process to me that sometimes the parameters are good, because it forces us to get very creative. But sometimes they can be very bad.

Alex Ferrari 19:03
So imagine if Imagine if someone gave you $200 million for a person will be like your head would explode. What

James DeMonaco 19:09
to do. I'd be like, I don't want I got to shoot in the water. I wouldn't know what to where do I go?

Alex Ferrari 19:13
Do I need a dinosaur? Okay, I'll put a dinosaur like I mean, yeah, I mean, it's a terminator comeback. Let's just do we have the rights for that. Let's just throw the Terminator. Crazy. Now I want to talk about your newest film, man. This is the night which I absolutely adored. I watched it yesterday. It's fresh in my mind. Our friend Greg, when he pitched the story to me. I was just like, this whole the whole movie is surrounding the release of Rocky three in Staten Island. Yes. And I'm going What? First of all awesome, because I remember watching rocky three in the theater. And I saw that I saw that belt come by and the rocky three came up absolutely Yeah, I remember all of that. And I was just like, oh my god and obviously rocky three and four is you know, they're amazing all the rocky films, almost all the rocky films are amazing. Almost all almost all five we don't talk about app. We don't talk about five, right? We don't talk about five but one through four and then Bow Bow and Yeah, exactly. And even the creed. Yeah. Yeah creates a great, but um, so tell me man, first of all, how did you pitch this idea to the blue mouse and just go Hey, man, we're gonna do this movie about the opening. Surrounded around the opening of Rocky three. And if we were talking about earlier is like, it's very specific. It's like, it's like the opening of like, you know, Goonies, or the opening of Howard the Duck, like it's such a thing. But I get I mean, Staten Island and Rocky, I get it. So please, please explain it.

James DeMonaco 20:53
I think it you know, it was rocky was such an immense figure growing up here in Staten Island in Brooklyn. It gets to me it was always the Italian American thing, but I did. And speaking to people It seems to transcend the Italian American experience, but it was big here very big. I mean, to the point where people would dress up as Rambo and rocky in school. I remember the day before the rocky movies, people would hold Stallone's posters. Everybody had a stone sure everybody owned rocky like that was also like I tried to get into the bully in the film like this. Rocky is not for you is for us. Like there was an ownership of who loved rocky more who you know, but it was an immense love of the character that really just taught, you know, tore into the culture of the Italian America, especially where I live in the south shore of Staten Island, white, Italian American. So I always had this it was such a big thing. Even in my family. We had scrapbooks on rocky it meant something to us. I don't know if he was this blue collar guy who rose up you know that we just loved this idea of the American dream that Italian American could win that we really adopted this character so by rocky three that mythology had grown, and I remember waiting three and a half hours online for rocky three, and the whole island was there. I mean, it was fights on the line, people were fighting for seeds fighting for position on the line, the local mob boss and showed up there's a lot of monsters in my neighborhood. So all that stuff that's in the movie was very real. And the excitement of the movie, the building, I cut a scene out when Anthony wakes up and he's yelling into the neighborhood, like who's got the paper? What time is it starting? It was just too long the opening but so that that was all real, that's all very autobiographical. that excitement for the film and, um, and it I always wanted to capture that because also, it's not just about rocky Yes, specificities they are. And that's all I think a lot of fun. And it was a big thing here. And I think it was a big thing in the country made $100 million, the film. But for me the movies about my love of cinema and how it inspired me and how I was touched by all the still to this day, very touched by these movies, they would stay with me, inspire me, change me Give me empathy for various cultures, whatever they did to me, they taught me I always said my like, my religion was cinema. And I wanted to pay homage to that. And also specifically, I want to pay homage and really encapsulate what I think is a magical experience of being in a movie theater, which I don't think can be replicated at home No matter how hard we all try. I have a huge screen. I tried to make it at home, it just doesn't. That communal setting of us all together. And I hope it doesn't go away as I fear. So the movie was an homage to that experience and I hope people I hope people still have it I know they have it with the Marvel films. I feel like it's going away and so other aspects of of our industry, but it was so prevalent so big to me such a part of my childhood and I know other people so I know this is I think a more universal feeling. Yes, it has the specificity of Rocky three which is really fun, I think. But hopefully and is one specific scene in the movie where I show them why the family and the community watching rocky three, but I purposely don't show the film. I really don't only show it down the barrel, a little lens, and it was a big editorial decision. Everybody was kind of fighting me like you need to show rocky three. And I'm like no, it's not about rocky three. It's about the people watching it. It's about the emotional response. Even when I met sly he's like oh the movie more and he was wonderful Stallone he's like you should show movie you know show rocky three more. So we tried it it didn't work because suddenly you want to watch rocky three you actually want to start paying attention to rocky three the narrative and it changed the emotional response to what should be is about these people reacting to

Alex Ferrari 24:08
what they're watching and if I may if I may say the way you shot the experience of watching rocky three was beautiful the shots of the projector and the light bulb turning on and then you would see the upside then you see the film of the rocky three coming in and and you see the upside down rejection of rock and you would see and I found myself looking at like what's seen is that like okay, like it's like it's like almost there but it's not there. It was bright because you had me because that brings me in because you're like what's going because I have no I mean rocky three is one of those movies as if it's on just turning remote. Rocky four is on you're like watching if anything you fast forward to the to the training montage and the fight. It's just one of those those those are the kinds of movies those are the five secrets. I could watch the fight sequence a minute They tell you a factor trading secrets. And then I want to go. And I got to work out afterwards. I was like, actually, I should be working out more

James DeMonaco 25:06
raw eggs workout, right? That's what rocky does. Yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 25:11
and a lot of the stuff that's in the movie, The subplots, the the topics you tackle a wonderful and how you tackle them with kid gloves. You really did me talk about bullying and finding your own identity and the the toxic masculinity of of that era of your father's of our fathers. And it was just that generational thing where you touch you really touch upon a lot of things. And it's such a unique thing because it starts off as one thing and then it's turned into another feeling and then there's that absurdity when I see a priest or was it the priest

James DeMonaco 25:49
on a skateboard?

Alex Ferrari 25:51
Recently, the skateboard and Christmas I'm like, What is going on? But now that I spoke to you, I'm like, this makes sense. Yes. This makes perfect sense. I believe you snuck in your Fellini see and I appreciate I appreciate that, sir. But it's wonderful once once the film come out.

James DeMonaco 26:08
So coming out this Friday plane in Manhattan. So we gotta we got a very small release. But we got a release, which makes me very happy because I think how do you make a movie about the communal experience about theaters and not having at least in a theater in New York. So it's playing at the NGO village in the village East in, in Manhattan, Angelica. And yeah, we'll be there for a couple of weeks. And then we're on a p VOD video on demand and the people that buy the film next week on the 21st or the 22nd. Okay, and then eventually Netflix eventually I think that's December though, that's far away. So nice. So people will get to, you know, they'll get to see the film, which is great. And I just, I hope it drives them to the movie theater. That's the goal like see the film at home and at the same at home, but go to movie then go to a movie and see another movie. It's okay. It's okay.

Alex Ferrari 26:48
It's just that you know, it's fine. Just do it. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions I asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life

James DeMonaco 27:00
the longest to learn is to is to get out of my own way. Yeah, that makes sense. That makes

Alex Ferrari 27:10
me Oh, absolutely. Oh, no, we the roads not there's nothing in the road. Hold on. Let me throw some crap on there. Exactly. To make it a little tougher on myself. Oh, yeah.

James DeMonaco 27:19
I mean, make it all tough on myself. Get out of my own way. Get out of my own head. Get out of my own way. Yeah. Three screenplays that every screenwriter should read. Oh, Rocky, Rocky, Rocky one. Ah. I read the first draft of Benjamin Button, not the one that got made. Who's the writer, female writer. This is terrible. I wish I could remember her name. It was so beautifully written. I wish we could look that we both should look this up at some point, I'll find out and send you the so the first draft of Benjamin Button written in the 90s that it's not the one they use for the movie that we saw was the most beautiful script I'd written at the time. And then I would say any Steve's alien script any screams by Steve Zaillian is beautifully written. Oh, and one more if I could add one more Unforgiven by David Webb people.

Alex Ferrari 28:01
Given Jesus Yeah, great movie, and three of your favorite films of all time.

James DeMonaco 28:05
Oh, okay. Ah, God, it's gonna be so cliche godfather to Raging Bull. Apocalypse Now. I know it's boring. But that's that's the top three.

Alex Ferrari 28:14
I would I would say godfather one and two are just one movies for me.

James DeMonaco 28:18
We fight about that one day.

Alex Ferrari 28:20
You can sneak that you could sneak that in if you want to get to it.

James DeMonaco 28:23
Yeah. My Fellini's come right to roll my annamma cord and cuckoo's nest and Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day right after I'm gonna sneak those into the box. Yes, that's

Alex Ferrari 28:30
awesome, man. James man, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, brother. Yeah. I yeah, the show is always open and you're welcome on anytime. I know. We could talk for a good four or five hours picking out.

James DeMonaco 28:43
Let's keep in touch my friend. This is wonderful. Appreciate it, my friend. Thank you, man.

LINKS

  • James DeMonaco – IMDB
  • Watch: The Purge – Amazon
  • Watch: The Purge: Anarchy – Amazon

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IFH 502: Lighting the Biggest Films of All-Time with Dean Cundey A.S.C


Right-click here to download the MP3

Today, my guest is a prolific cinematographer, accomplished photographer, and member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Dean Cundey A.S.C.

Dean rose to fame for extraordinary cinematography in the 1980s and 1990s. His early start was working on the set of Halloween.  Dean is credited as director of photography on five Back To The Future films and Jurassic Park.

The Halloween slasher franchise consisted of eleven films and was initially released in 1978. The films primarily focus on Michael Myers, who was committed to a sanitarium as a child for the murder of his sister, Judith Myers. Fifteen years later, he escapes to stalk and kill the people of the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Michael’s killings occur on the holiday of Halloween, on which all of the films primarily take place. 

The second film, one of which Cundey served as director of photography, was based on Marty McFly, who had only just gotten back from the past when he is once again picked up by Dr. Emmett Brown and sent through time to the future. Marty’s job in the future is to pose as his son to prevent him from being thrown in prison. Unfortunately, things get worse when the future changes the present.

The three Back To The Future films Dean worked on grossed $388.8, $336, and $243 million globally, becoming all-time hits on budgets of $19, $40, and $40 million.

Cundey is cited as being amongst some of the best directors of photography. In addition to his lighting skills, particularly in the famous hallway scene where the hidden face of Michael Myers, played by writer/director Nick Castle, is slowly revealed by way of a blue light next to the mask, he was among the first cinematographers to make use of a recent invention called the Steadicam, or paraglide.

Some other shows and movies he’s worked on include, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Tales of the Unexpected, Romancing the Stone, Invitation To Hell, Big Trouble in Little China, etc.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit; A toon-hating detective is a cartoon rabbit’s only hoping to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder. Basically, ‘Toon star Roger is worried that his wife Jessica is playing pattycake with someone else, so the studio hires detective Eddie Valiant to snoop on her. But the stakes are quickly raised when Marvin Acme is found dead, and Roger is the prime suspect. Groundbreaking interaction between the live and animated characters, and lots of references to classic animation.

Dean grew up an avid reader of the American Cinematographer magazines he would buy after school from a local camera shop close by. That was how his inspiration to pursue filmmaking came about. He shifted his focus to theater history while still taking some architectural design classes at California State University before he ultimately enrolled at the University of California Los Angeles film school.

In 1993 Jurassic Park, Dean made a minor appearance as a boat crew member (Mate) while also staffed as director of photography. The film follows a pragmatic paleontologist visiting an almost complete theme park tasked with protecting a couple of kids after a power failure causes the park’s cloned dinosaurs to run loose. Huge advancements in scientific technology have enabled a mogul to create an island full of living dinosaurs. A park employee attempts to steal dinosaur embryos, critical security systems are shut down, and it now becomes a race for survival with dinosaurs roaming freely over the island.

Cundey holds over one hundred and fifty cinematography & photography credits for movies, television, and short films. That is no small feat in this business. The man has stayed busy and booked since graduation from film school. That kind of consistency in Hollywood is only doable by having extreme persistence and excellence.

One of the many things he did to stay prepared and on top of his craft was investing into building himself a ‘super van’ or one couple call it a cinematographer’s heaven that contained every equipment (cameras, editings tools, etc.) required to help him get work get and do work easily.
We talk more about Dean joining The Book of Boba and The Mandalorian crew as well. Check it all out in our chat.

Enjoy my conversation with Dean Cundey.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
I'd like to welcome to the show. Dean candy. How you doing? Dean?

Dean Cundey 0:19
Very good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:22
I'm doing very good. I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I've, I mean, you. I'm sure you hear this all the time, but you shot my childhood?

Dean Cundey 0:35
Well, yes, you know, what, it's, it's a intriguing, oh, it's off, go to a convention, or I'll meet people and they'll say, Oh, you know, I, it was the first film my father, let me watch or whatever, for Jurassic Park, for instance. Sure. And, you know, it, it kind of puts in perspective, the fact that, that I'm old, and the end, because a lot of the people who say they loved the film, say, you know, was from their childhood or something. And, and I, you know, it wasn't from my childhood, I was, I was older, by the time I was shooting those things. So right, but I'm glad glad to see that the the audience has, I don't know, spread to like three generations. So, you know, to know that I've touched in some way that many people is is very satisfying.

Alex Ferrari 1:43
Yeah, absolutely. And one film that that I'm sure you don't get talked about a lot, but it's one of I think the first time I ever saw your work was because when it when it came out, I saw it, which was a little film called DC cab. Back in the day, the the Mr. T movie, The Joe Schumacher film, I adore that film.

Dean Cundey 2:06
No one I haven't seen it in, in so long. And it was was a lot of fun working on it, because it was an interesting ensemble cast. Besides your tea, you know, there was there was Bill Maher, you know, various people. So Mara has left acting, and now is doing a major TV news show where he does a lot of acting.

Alex Ferrari 2:36
There's that. So can you tell the audience? How do you got into the business?

Dean Cundey 2:43
Well, I wanted to be in the business since I was like 10 years old. And I was fascinated by movies, fascinated by how they could take you on these journeys to places you can't go in real life, you know, but it wasn't just about stories. It wasn't just about being a fan. It was about these, the people who were making these films that would fool us that made us think we were on this journey make make us think we were visiting that place or that time. And I was I was intrigued by the fact that there were people with these skills and this artistry that that could do that. And I want to educate I was interested in magic. I used to do magic shows for kids birthday parties, and like all my relatives and friends. And and I think what intrigued me about magic was fooling people into thinking something's happening that isn't really it. And I was privileged to be behind the scenes because I was the magician. And I think I associated that kind of magic with the magic of film, The Magicians of film who were doing, you know, just regular sort of mechanical things. But when it ended up on the screen, it was a whole experience for the viewer. And I was fascinated by that aspect of the magic and the storytelling. So I I went to film school. I was fascinated all through high school. So I decided to go to film school, UCLA. And then when I graduated, I was I guess very fortunate. Because I know a lot of my friends who graduated then were scrounging and looking for work. And one of my friends at UCLA had convinced Roger Corman, the Paramus low budget filmmaker to let them Do a motorcycle gang movie. And Bruce well, who was the director, he had. He had the wisdom and the and all that to invite all of his filmmaking fellow students that he could get on the film into working on it. And one of the last jobs that was left because I was interested in cinematography, but one of the last jobs left was makeup. And I had done some makeup on a couple of their student films, which is why they may have taught me. So as a result, if I was doing makeup on the naked angels. And then after that film wrapped, Roger Corman called me up and said, he wanted me to do makeup on a film, he was directing. And I thought, wow, this is pretty cool, you get out of film school, and you immediately start working in movies. But after that film, it stopped. I faced the reality of having to get another job. And so I, I just began taking any job I could get, I did some special effects. I did some second camera operating, I did, you know, just a whole variety of things that were all all about. making contact with people and getting experience and establishing a reputation of some kind. So I, I was lucky. At first, it was very intermittent work, but I, I didn't have to go and get a job as a waiter or something like that. Because I've seen people who get diverted. You know, I know young lady who is a brilliant makeup artist who, who had to get another job because, you know, she was missing a period of time of work. And now she's been diverted down this way of working like regular people do.

I didn't want to do that. I wanted to stick it out and try to stay in the film business. And, and fortunately, I was able to scrounge enough work to get buy in, over a period of time it grew and grew. And then suddenly, I had a bunch of work.

Alex Ferrari 7:47
That that's the way Yeah, it's a normal, you just don't walk out of film school, and they just hand you jobs. Yeah. Even even in today's world, let alone back then as well. Well, you know,

Dean Cundey 7:58
and, and that's, that's one of those things that with real world people, you know, they, there's, there's not a lot of people who understand that they get out of school, and they. And they just want a job. So they go get one and they're happy. Others who are studying law and accounting, and they can do entry level jobs. Excuse me, they can do entry level jobs of just pushing paper and filing things and in their, their chosen field, accounting or law or whatever. And as a result, they can sort of work their way up a ladder, and film his film is very unusual, from that standpoint, that you never know where your next job is coming from, no matter what, what level you climbed to, you know, and same with everybody in the business. I mean, famous actors, you know, who don't know what their next film is going to be. Because even though they may have offers, who knows if the film is going to fall through, and they're not going to get paid their $20 million. So you're right. It's an unusual business

Alex Ferrari 9:21
very much. So. Now, you worked with john Carpenter on probably, I think five films. And the first one that you worked with him on which was Halloween. What did you think of the fluid prowling camera or the or as we like we call it now the steady cam. You were one of the first to really use it, especially in the way you and john envisioned using it. What was that like?

Dean Cundey 9:47
Well, I'll tell you, it was very, very intriguing, rewarding. The steady cam had sort of just been invented, right? And it was being used as, as another camera to shoot a shot of, you know, walking through a crowd or something like that. But nobody had seen it as a, an entire technique. And john and i had decided that it could become a character, it could become the eyes of the audience. creeping through this world, it could be the eyes of Michael Myers, it could be us watching Michael Myers, and moving, giving the audience more of an immersion into the story, and the movie. And then previously, you know, yeah, they've been using handheld cameras, and you put the camera on your shoulder, but as you walk, the camera moves with your body. And it it, to me, it's always sort of distracting because that's not how we see the world in real life, how our eye and our brain compensates for all of this body movement, and our impression is smooth and, you know, continuous movement through life. I like to point out the fact that our life is one long steady cam shot very much with no cuts, with the exception of when we go to sleep. But it so john, I thought what a What an interesting tool because it was not handheld, it did not call attention to the camera. It was smooth. And you really, as an audience member felt that you were, you know, a participant in the in the scene or the story.

Alex Ferrari 11:49
And it was very eerie. It was just kind of this eeriness because it's something you hadn't seen before. I think I think rocky had used it. And then obviously Stanley used it as Mr. Kubrick used it in the shining, to great avail, as well, but you were the first to kind of make it a character which was, again, very off putting, especially with his John's music.

Dean Cundey 12:10
Oh, yeah, no, it was, you know, the combination of the music, the camera, the moving the story, the you know, the lurking Michael Myers who never spoke. You didn't see him as, as a person that was a force. And so. And I think all of that newness was one of the reasons that the first week it came out, it was not like, popular because they didn't have the huge amount of publicity, they can invest in a film now. It just sort of came out in the first week there were people who came and, but not very many, and everyone thought, Well, I guess the film is not a success. But the second week, more people came third week more people and kept doubling. And, and I think that was the proof that the the audience appreciated all of this new creepiness that we were able to do with the steady cam. And you know, John's music, you know, it's off putting five four meter instead of what you were used to hearing and music. And, you know, it was a combination of all the right things at the right place at the right time.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Now, what were some of your biggest challenges or unexpected surprises when you were filming? films like The thing and Escape from New York?

Dean Cundey 13:52
Well, I I always look at Escape from New York is one of one of my most intriguing and interesting projects because it was it was it was a world that didn't exist, you know, New York is a prison and it had its own character, you know, that shabbiness the desolate, you know, feeling and the fact that the red light things with fires instead of electric lights. So it was a creating of an entire world that at the same time was feasible. It was not even though it was in the future. It could be Now it could be some parts of a town, you know, so it was identifiable in that way for an audience. And yet, it was completely, you know, bizarre world. So I think that was a lot of the interest They'll appeal to it for me, creating that dystopian world.

Alex Ferrari 15:06
Now, when you worked on what what I mean, when you've worked on Back to the Future, how did you pivot your, your, your technique, your working style when it came to, you know, visual effects, because visual effects had just started to really come into their own. And I mean, obviously the Star Wars films and, and other things like that, but Back to the Future had a good amount of visual effects. How did you approach that was that was that kind of your first big visual effects, heavy film, or was there one prior to that?

Dean Cundey 15:40
Well, visual effects were creeping in. And early on, we were lucky to do one, to have the experience of creating some kind of illusion. And then, over a period of time, they became more and more important till now the effects drives a movie all these superhero movies and stuff. But I didn't know I think that was one of the things I always felt was that I didn't want to get typed into a particular kind of movie. I didn't want to become the adventure the the romantic comedy guys, or whatever. So I deliberately would take different kinds of films, even though I was offered a better job on another horror film, I would, I would look for something different, so that I could learn, learn and experience different techniques of storytelling. So that I wouldn't be doing the same thing over and over again, darkness that is horrifying, or whatever. And so I, I've always looked for different things. And and I've always enjoyed, as I say, the magic, the creating of different worlds and stories and stuff. And, and so I've always been drawn to different kinds of films that you know, that that had interesting. potential new techniques, new visual effects, techniques, new storytelling techniques. And all of that is, it's, I think, what keeps one alive and fresh in the business as opposed to, you know, I, I know, friends who have done, oh, seven or eight years of the same TV show. And they, and they say, you know, it was it was great at first. And then and then it became the same thing over and over, but they kept offering me more money or something. And so I caved into it as a job. And I, I've always hated to be get into that position where you're doing it just as a job it has to be creatively involving.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
Now what you you had a very unique experience with Back to the Future because you got to do something that a lot of cinematographers would love to be able to do, which is sometimes go back six weeks and reshoot things, and maybe shoot things differently than you might have shot the first time. Because it's, you know, obviously the lore is not the Lord but the facts are that they shot six weeks of back the future with Eric Stoltz in the in the in the starring role, and then Robert and Steven and everyone pulled back and said, No, I think we need Michael J. Fox. So you had to go back and shoot a lot of those scenes again, did you change some of your lighting techniques or lighting style? Did you like, take that opportunity? How, what was that? First of all, when they said that to you? What did you say?

Dean Cundey 19:00
Well, you know, sometimes we'll go back and reshoot a scene chart on some movie for a particular reason. A director didn't like the performance, the special effects didn't work. It they, they changed the location, it's no longer a factory it now it's so young, you know, somebody's bedroom or whatever. So in those cases, you you do something different. But when we we looked at the first six weeks of Back to the Future, and the opportunity was there to reshoot. did much of it is I wanted, I said to Steven, whoa, what do you think? And he came to me and he said, Listen, I love the way it is and It looks don't change anything, do it exactly the same way. And we'll just improve certain aspects. So I, I was very flattered by that. And so very often we would look at a little clip, we would have these pieces of film that would be three or four frames, and a little viewer, and we could put the film in there and look at it and and then say, Yes, okay, we had a light back there. Put that over there, you know, and, and we would recreate it, you know, the same way because apparently, Steven and Bob and everybody loved it.

Alex Ferrari 20:45
That's awesome. Now I have to ask you, the the fire, the fire, the tire fire marks that are left by the DeLorean. That was practically shot and composited afterwards, correct?

Dean Cundey 21:00
Yeah, in some cases, practically shot right at the location, the, the shopping mall, the street in eduniversal, when, when the when doc is jumping around, and he's returning to the. And I think that one of the things that really, you know, those of us in the business we can look at and say, Oh, look at that they composite at the fire in there. It's not very good, or Oh, they did a great job, whatever. But what one of the things I think is anytime you can do it, practically, there's a certain feeling that the audience will have that they're seeing it actually happen, no matter how good the CG animation or whatever. And in the case of the firecracker, they had built a special device was a dolly with two nozzles spaced apart the distance of the tires, and a big tank of flammable fuel. And they would push it along, and it would lay down this these streaks of flammable liquid. And then they would pull the card out of frame light to fire and it would burn and it was bad. And it and it was it was awesome to watch. But also, we knew that it was going to look like what it was supposed to be burning fire tracks so so sometimes you don't want to do it by the so called easy way. You know, there's turning it over to some a effects guy who will work on a computer. Sometimes you want to do it as practically as you can and and devise a way to do it. And it was an ingenious solution.

Alex Ferrari 23:08
Did you speed it up in the camera?

Dean Cundey 23:11
No, we we shot it regular speed so that it looked? You know, real so the flame movement was?

Alex Ferrari 23:19
Yeah. I didn't think about I was only thinking about the really I didn't even think about the flame movement. You're absolutely right. Now, another film that you did, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Technically, must have been enormous because no one had ever done anything like that before. And not that way, at least not with that many characters and things before. How did you light for a cartoon that was just in the frame?

Dean Cundey 23:52
Well, we were concerned at first because it was cel animation that was painted on the back. So it's flat characters. And nobody had done three dimensional lighting on flat characters before that had always been there. If you look at Disney films, there's a suggestion of shadows in the paint. But it always looks flat. And for that reason, the lighting has to be very flat and even. And the camera work has to be wide and stationary. You're not in those days, you weren't able to pan and follow a composite character. And so when we were given those rules, we said whoa, those are the rules we're going to break. And we we devised ways and ILM, Ken Ralston was was great in coming up with a technique where they could take the flat enemy And then add highlights and shadows that matched the lighting. So I was not restricted to flat lighting, but could do it just in a way that looked, you know, normal, so to speak. And it it made it much easier to to create this world and then not knowing that they were going to add these characters and so that they, they would blend in and it it worked very well. One of my favorite projects ever.

Alex Ferrari 25:35
Yeah, I wish they would have made the sequel. wish they would have made this.

Dean Cundey 25:40
You know, they had tried the ideas for for the sequel, but they could never get everyone to, to agree. Unfortunately.

Alex Ferrari 25:51
Yeah, that was a I mean, for everyone listening, if you haven't seen Roger Rabbit, you have to watch it because it's, it's unheard of. I mean, Disney Warner Brothers and a million other companies gave license to their best characters all for one movie. And that's just Yeah, it's a miracle that even came that even happened?

Dean Cundey 26:08
Well, that famous standing shot where they all burst in from Toontown into the factory. You look there, and there's almost any character that's ever been in an animated cartoon or world with the exception of one character, Coco, pop by you, right?

Alex Ferrari 26:31
I wasn't in that she,

Dean Cundey 26:35
what's her name? Fleischer. Anyway, she wouldn't allow Popeye to be used in this movie with all these other people. And as a result, everybody else is famous, and Maurice Popeye, you know, kind of an oversight in my estimation. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 26:54
Now, when you when you approach working with a director, what is what is how do you approach pre production with a director? And how should a cinematographer approach pre production with the director in your opinion? Well,

Dean Cundey 27:13
I think it all starts with, of course, reading the script, visualizing in my mind, which is separate from anybody else at that point. visualizing what that story looks like, a location can be described on the other page, but may not at all be where you're actually going to shoot it, or what the production designer comes up with, or how the director visualizes it. So I know that early on in my career, when I was doing these low budget shows, I would take the script and I would, you know, make notes on it. And I and the opposite the facing page, the back of the previous page, which is all blank, I would go a little sketches of how the camera could move or where the light might come from or something. And then I would be discouraged. Because as we would then begin pre production we would find out that we were being driven to look at the location that was a factory. And I'm going to say well, that's that's odd here in this script, it says restaurant and I had seen it in the kitchen. Oh, no, no, no, they couldn't get the restaurant but also they thought it would be scarier in the factory and oh, okay, so all my thought process and work and lead was all for not so I began to less and less make notes beforehand and learn to absorb you go to the director and say how do you see this scene or this whole movie? Is it bright and cheery is a dark and gloomy is it whatever. And then we would go to locations and and as we found out which location we were actually going to shoot in then I could start to visualize the camera and lighting and all that kind of stuff. So it's it was an evolving process. And it still is I still I like to give the production designer and freedom to create, you know, and not go and say make sure that this place has plenty of windows for lighting. Right. So now you're imposing something on his creativity. So I A lot of times, I will. I will wait to see what's happening. Look at the production designers plans. Then on bigger shows they'll build a model of the set You know, out of cardboard, but just so you can see the space and so forth. And, and I'd look at that and say, you know, it'd be good as we could put one more window over here, because then that would light it for because the scene is that he goes over to the safe and opens it up, and we can light. Okay, that's a good idea. So you hope that that everybody will respond to your wishes to the same way that I would respond to everybody else's desires and creative instinct.

Alex Ferrari 30:41
Now you were able to shoot two films with Mr. Steven Spielberg. The first one, still one of my favorite films of the 90s. Again, one of those films I grew up with, and absolutely adored a hook that came out, it was so beautiful, you know, you go into the world of hook and you just are lost in this rabbit hole that you kind of go down? How did you? First of all know, that was Alice in Wonderland, though? I know. I know. I know, I know. I know, I'm mixing I'm mixing my my

Dean Cundey 31:22
metaphors. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 31:24
But how did you approach lighting, such a massive set? Because it was like, I remember seeing the behind the scenes. And I talked to Jim Hart, who's been on the show, and everybody was visiting that set. It was like what it was the place to visit. It was like the tourist attraction of Hollywood. At the time, everybody wanted to see this massive set, how did you approach these large wide shot, you know, action sequences with that massive set?

Dean Cundey 31:52
Well, you know what, it was one of those things because I had people come to this Ted dp who looked at and said, Oh, my gosh, you would have no idea how to light this. I'm only the data. But I didn't want I didn't want anyone to know that. Because you know, you it's like painting, you know, painting with light is the cliche metaphor. And so you say, Well, okay, here's the big giant set with the, the pirate ship and the towel and everything. How would I light it? And you don't look at it from an overall standpoint, you say, Well, okay, so overall, like to, from the overhead, but that surface back there looks really interesting work. And I put a light out of frame that will light that all those windows are really interesting. So it's a bit some pieces, your bits and pieces, and I would go and look at the set. And make note, you know, before it was finished, so that when it came time to rig the lighting, you know, there was at least some kind of a plan. But and, and a lot of it was stylistic from the standpoint of what Stephen wanted. Originally, Neverland and the island was supposed to be shot. There. We're thinking in the Caribbean somewhere. Real Island, or maybe Hawaii. But then Stephen started to think no, the film really could be more theatrical. It shouldn't look too real. If it looks real, it's going to take away from the imagination. So he opted to do everything on sets that were constructed. Some of them at MGM or Sony, some universal. And the, the thing that came out of that was how to, you know, give us a sense of reality, but also a little bit of a theatrical feeling, and then met imagination. And so he and I began looking at various movies that were jungles that were lit locations that were artificial. And as we looked, there were particular ones. I think it was Tarzan, the early version of version one where it was obvious that there was lip and he said notice how it's all hot backlight just hitting the leaves, but the front is always no matter which way you look, the front is always pleasant. So maybe we can do something I said, Yes, perfect. So that's what we did, we would, you know, create over expose the light so that it didn't look to control on the on the jungle, but then properly light are our heroes, and it gave that theatrical sort of feeling to that.

Alex Ferrari 35:31
Now I have to ask you, what is it like collaborating with Steven Spielberg as a director and director of photography, because I know you'd worked with him on on other projects that he'd produced, like Back to the Future and so on. But this was your first time working with him in that creative relationship? What was that like?

Dean Cundey 35:50
Well, I know it was appreciated, Steven from the first things we saw jaws and so forth, the fact that he was a great and still is a great visual storyteller, he knows how to, to use the camera, but also stage actors stage action, so that it tells you exactly what you want to know, or need to feel at any particular moment in the film. So I had always appreciated that about him, and was just delighted when I had the opportunity to work with him and experience firsthand his his amazing talent for, for doing that visual storytelling. And so in, in hook I, because I think that was always my approach, even from low budget days, I would try to talk directors into some kind of interesting angle that would combine elements of action or whatever. And it was frustrating, because many of them thought of, of the camera as a device for recording actors talking, and then the exposure. And, and it was good, because of that frustration that I you know, I was delighted when I had a chance to work with, with Steven and, and had a chance to work with Steven then the experience his creativity, but also realized that I was encouraged that add to a suggestion, an embellishment, you know, a little different something. And so I very much appreciated that opportunity to work with him, and was delighted when I was invited to do Jurassic Park, which is one of the one of the, you know, his most successful movies, but also one of the most visually stimulating, I think,

Alex Ferrari 38:16
yeah, and it wasn't without question I was going to get to next was going to be Jurassic Park. I mean, there's, you know, the story goes that Phil Tippett was going to do stop motion originally for the dinosaurs. And they had gone down that path quite a bit until ILM, some ruffians over and ILM said, Hey, wait a minute, we could do something. And they showed it. And then Stephen said, we're, we're gonna go this way, when he had that comic, because this is such a pivotal moment in film history. This is the first time a digital character is, is inserted into a film in a massive way. Not one little character like they did in young Sherlock Holmes, I remember very realistic

Dean Cundey 38:59
way. Yeah, it was the challenge, obviously, really, ashore, all of our images of, of dinosaurs are, you know, skeletons in museums and artists. Right. So the fact that we were going to try to create these dinosaurs that that that had a realistic look, that you could believe they were actually existing in the world of the characters. So that was, that was a great deal of challenge but satisfaction. And, and it was, was fascinating because I had started on their film, prepping, when when I was going to be the stop motion, right? And then at a meeting right in the beginning, and then prep, Dennis mirror and from ILM came to the meeting and said, you know, we think we can create these creatures in the computer. And Steven said, fabulous slavery, show me Show me what you got. And they said, Well, we don't have anything yet. But we're working on it. I'll be right back. And he came back a week later, and said, Well, here's what we have, and showed the famous walking T rex skeleton. That was very convincing, because it has a sense of weight, you know, because of Phil Tippett's great animation, the tail movement, the way their head, barbed, all of that was was something that was a result of the work you could do on the computer, you want to stop motion, you have to photograph it. And then you look at the film and say, Oh, the head didn't Bob right? Or look jerky, or turn too quickly, or it doesn't look like it has weight. And, you know, with a computer, you can do the animation and then look at it immediately and say, Oh, yeah, the head movement is too fast. And you can go back and slow it down. And then you can face the way the tail is moving. And then the way the body moves up and down, and you know, and it's a process of being able to develop and refine the animation as it's being done. And it's, it's been one of the greatest sort of unseen aspects of computer animation is, you know, as an audience, you see it when it's finished. But when you are, you know, making it you look at the shots and scenes and say, Oh, yeah, that works. Oh, that doesn't. And, and you can fix

Alex Ferrari 41:57
it. How did you how did Were you a part of lighting it digitally, because that was the first time you were there was even digital lighting, like when they were lighting. So because the T rex has to match your lighting on set and so on.

Dean Cundey 42:10
Right. lighting in the computer is a completely different technology technique. We deal with physical lights that produce a certain amount of light, and then certain spread and distance and, and the they can create light that doesn't doesn't obey the rules of physics. So what what I did was, any time there's going to be a computer animated dinosaur, we took one of the animatronic ones, one of the puppets, and put it in that place, and I would light it. And then they would replicate that look in the computer. So I was lighting the computer stuff practically on the set. And they were, you know, making that happen in the computer.

Alex Ferrari 43:13
were they using the reflector balls at that point yet, like that big ball that reflects all the lights so they can have kind of a reference of where the lights are coming from, at that point or not yet.

Dean Cundey 43:24
It was sort of being developed at the time. And, you know, when they first brought it out, I thought What's this all about? And then it became evident? Yo, yes, I see. They're using a way to capture the information about where the lights are coming from and so forth, not just the intensity and they're not just painting with the, with the light, like you might do in Photoshop or something. They were in fact, finding where to put their lights, even though their digital lights and don't exist, finding ways to replicate what we were doing.

Alex Ferrari 44:12
Now, you also shot a film called Apollo 13, which is another one of my favorites Ron Howard's masterpiece film, some very interesting cinematography techniques in that film because you guys were wanting to get weightlessness in a way that no one had ever shot it before. And from what I seen and unseen behind the scenes, there was something called the vomit comet, where they would take the the actors they built a set on on inside of an aeroplane that will go up and down. And that little moment when they would drop, you would have like 45 seconds or a minute or something like that of weightlessness where you

Dean Cundey 44:48
wanted. 23 seconds.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
23 So were you were you on that vomit comet?

Dean Cundey 44:54
No sadly, I I went on another one later, yesterday. I've experienced weightlessness without spending a billion dollars Jeff Bezos has, yes. For his four minutes of weightless I've, I've made it for free, too. But but it was I, I look at Apollo 13 as an opportunity, because Ron Howard came to me and said, You know, I've never done special effects. So I'll be looking for guidance and stuff. And so we, we watched actual weightless footage that had been done in the early moon attempts. And instead, what is what are the characteristics that, that make it look real. And it was things like they, the capsule would always rotate in space, slowly, so that the sunlight wasn't always on one side, it would evenly heat and, and cool because the extremes from one side to the shadow side were extreme. And so there would be this capsule rotation. The there was the waitlist, the fact that our perception of people watching on TV, was the fact that the camera, we preserve video camera was really just floating itself. And there was a little movement in it. And so we look for those kinds of, of artifacts, you might say. And then I said, Well, how can I replicate that. So the capsule we had was stationary on a stage. So I devised this way with a moving light on the end of a crane arm, and it would move slowly around the capital, but we would always keep the light aimed into the window. We're using this rock and roll light. And in that way, the lighting inside the capsule was always sort of moving. And you know, it was a case of trying to coordinate that with with each setup so that it kind of matched. But it was a subtle, subtle way of saying this capsule was you know, somewhere else. And the same with, you know, various other things we we we created what we call teeter totters, that were a seat on this arm that would move just like a teeter tottering kids playground thing. And then I had them build the Capitol. So it could be rotated and hung in any position. So the bottom where the floor was on the bottom, then the floor would be on the top and then so what that did was it gave us a chance to move people on these teeter totters in in amongst the seats and they could you know rise up to the ceiling touch it and push themselves down and you know, subtle subtle things like that that you know we're not big story moments but they were just the ways the guys had to react and then we shot a lot of that then with the full figure weightless stuff that they shot going through the tunnel you know, various little things like that. And the the fact that the there's a sequence where they broadcast back to Earth all of the things that they're doing and the problems are confronting and on and that was a way of creating this full figured weightlessness and and artifacts and the moving light and all that just became secondary second nature to all of the story and the characters later in in a way that you know the audience believe they saw weightless all the time.

Alex Ferrari 49:40
Yeah, it was it was a wonderful trick like you said you were a magician and you Enron working together got that I didn't think I didn't know about the teeter totter that teeter totter it because he I just thought everything was shot in the vomit comment on like, My God, those poor guys

Dean Cundey 49:56
would have been very aptly named. For all of the crews reaction vomiting all the time.

Alex Ferrari 50:04
Now you you recently worked on a new show that's coming out in I guess I think it's coming out in December sometime, which is the book of Boba Fett. And I know you can you can't say anything about story of course but you got to shoot very quiet I know that everyone dies at the end I understand. But how did you approach lighting in the volume because that's such a new technology. I haven't had a chance to speak to anyone who's who's actually lit in that volume in where they shot Mandalorian and things how do you approach lighting in that world?

Dean Cundey 50:40
So Well, I'm going back Monday to the next season of the Mandalorian nice and and I guess I guess I'll find out how I did it. But it's it's interesting because the volume is this stage that has a giant die or Rama all around it have LED screen the giant TV screen that's 25 feet high by 775 feet across and it wraps around completely and so there it brings its own rules how close you can get to camera how you how you can move it No. So you have to learn those rules and then the lighting you know you're typically you're lighting a small area in the middle of the stage that is the set that is the the fire lit desert that they're sitting in and talking or the only the one desk inside the giant palace that surrounds you and it's on the screen so it it takes a it takes him real good thought and I was fortunate to have a crew that had been doing that for a little while who point out you know Hanson techniques and pre light things and but they were good because if you go into a situation like that the high tech you know you immediately started looking for how to use it but how to embellish it how to find a new technique you know and that was that was one of my great challenges was finding ways to use this technology and push it you know the next step or next quarter of a step because they're always baby steps and this kind of thing

Alex Ferrari 52:47
but so so you lighting basically the center of this of the scene but when you're so do you get your lighting from the actual volume itself the the environment like if there's a sunlight there is in the background in the in the volume there is light coming off there's that you get those reflections on the helmets and and things like that correct

Dean Cundey 53:09
exactly and then then you find ways to embellish that add a little more sunlight overall and on the particular this particular volume you can go up into the rafters the attic of the stage and add lights that will light down and you know you can put lights off to the side out of frame when the of the camera and use that to light the character so it's a very much this jigsaw puzzle of of every every shot is complicated by the the technology

Alex Ferrari 53:55
Did you enjoy shooting it? Did you enjoy shooting in the volume?

Dean Cundey 53:59
Yeah, absolutely and which is one of the reasons I'm going back is to you know experience and and follow along as they embellish and improve the system.

Alex Ferrari 54:14
Yeah cuz it's it's from from season one to Mandalorian to now season two and then now a book Ababa and now they're going into a third season I'm assuming that technology is getting better and better and they're learning new things because it's literally at the it's an infancy essentially.

Dean Cundey 54:31
It is you know, they they started realizing with the big LCD screens that they had been developing for like billboards and displays and rock and roll shows. That you know, there was a use in film. And you know, a lot of car driving sequences now are, are done that by putting a car on a trailer and driving through town. But by putting LED screens, even small portable ones around the stage where the car is and, and projecting or rear projecting the moving environment. So we're now taking it to the big giant leap quite literally into a full stage of that, and, and finding ways to do it and I, every time I come back I and I visited recently the, the guys are very excited, they come up and said, Look what what we can do now. You know, no demonstrate some new, amazing technique because their their world is all about, you know, using and embellishing and improving this, this technique of the volume, as it's called. So that there's always something new that can be done. So we're always challenged to learn what it is these guys are developing.

Alex Ferrari 56:15
Now, is there a piece of business advice that you wish that you would give up and coming cinematographers that you wish you would have heard early in your career?

Dean Cundey 56:28
Yes, take up the law.

Alex Ferrari 56:31
Interesting. Because

Dean Cundey 56:35
it's easier? It's I don't know, I don't know if it's easier. Yeah, you know, what I, the advice I give a lot of young filmmakers and film students and odd is that, that there's, there's kind of two layers of what we do. You know, people look at the cinematographer, the director of photography as a, as the person who uses all this technology to create visual imagery on the screen that moves an audience to emotional things and blah, blah, blah. But there's also the, the other side of it, which is the what would you call it the management running a crew? How do you get the best out of out of a crew? How do you involve them? How do you make them feel that they're contributing so that they don't just say, Oh, well, he didn't like that idea. So I'm, I'm just gonna sit here and wait until he tells me what to do. You know, what you want is people involved in the, in the process, so that they bring the best of their talents and skills to attend? You can I always say that, that one of the things that I tried to do is I listen to all of these comments, I'll solicit ideas from the crew members, and then I just steal the best ones. And then that way, you know, you can you can get credit for being brilliant, but no, of course, kidding. Maybe, that, you know, it's such a creative process, and there's so many skills, unique skills that don't exist in, in the real world of working in factories, and, and, and being an accountant and, or whatever. Very unique skills that the grips have in the lighting people have, and no special effects people have and all that are very unique to the film industry. And they are always taking ideas from the outside in adapting them to our very unique needs. So one of my bits of advices is to learn to learn to help the project by listening to all of the experts who have these skills, who have ideas, creative solutions, and present them in a way that they can they can become involved, you know, say you know what, what I was hoping to do is get the camera to do this. And the guy moves through this shadow, but I see that area where the light would be what should we do? And, you know, it starts somebody thinking well, I guess maybe we could hide it. Light, you know, or maybe about a few turns here, you know, and it becomes a process of finding the best solution to the storytelling, you know, it's always about the audience, you can't lose sight of that it can't be about, you know, I'm going to do the coolest thing ever that nobody has ever seen before, which might intrigue some of the crew around you. But is it the best thing for the story? We're telling the audience? Is it the best thing for the director? Is it going to inspire him to do something? Or will it restrict him from doing something or, you know, so it's, it's about soliciting contribution being a manager, of, of not just people, but ideas and inspiration and manage creativity, and, and all of that, and being able to

being able to interpret the story, interpret what the audience needs to see at any particular moment? And how do you give that to them? And, you know, a lot of times, the director becomes a great source of that. But I've also worked on shows where, you know, the director wants to dumb it down, because they understand it easier that way. And the challenge then becomes, how do you? How do you talk the director tend to do something that's better for him or her? How do you convince the actor by standing over here, you're not restricting his performance, you're giving his character, a certain, you know, whatever it's needed. So it's, it's, it's about? It's about learning how to coordinate so much of the stuff towards, you know, it's easy to look at cinematography, the way I heard a universal executive one day describing someone said, Whoa, what's the cinematographer? What's he do? And the executive said, Well, he's the guy who likes to set. Well, that's like, a fraction of it, because you have crew people who like to set. So many of the some of the gaffers I worked with them, in particular, on the Mandalorian are brilliant at lighting the set, I could just describe sort of what it should look like and walk away and come back. And that's what it'll look like. So it's, it's not just about blading, the set, or the guy who operates the camera, because we actually have camera operators. So it's not not about you know, any number of these technical things. It's, it's really about storytelling, and how do you capture the story on film, in the old days, data and video now, so that the audience can experience the story properly?

Alex Ferrari 1:03:33
That's an amazing answer to that question, sir. Thank you. And I just have a few questions. I asked all of my guests, what is the most fun you've ever had on set?

Dean Cundey 1:03:42
Oh, I try to have fun all the time. I try to keep it light, you know, if it's it sort of paraphrasing that old adage, that this spirit, this business is too serious to be taken seriously. And, and so a lot of it is this, finding the fun, wherever you are. Sometimes it's because you're lucky and have a fun crew. And you can all enjoy doing something exceptional. Other times, it's, you have to try to create the fun because everybody is being beaten down by a director or producer or someone who takes it too seriously. Because they think that's what it should be and makes them more important. And so, it's all about trying to have fun. So finding a particular film, that was you know, Roger Rabbit had a great deal of that because it was First of all a fun movie. Bob Hoskins, the actor was exceptionally fun. The Mexican and all the people are fun. And that all enterpriser creating new technology, new storytelling was a great deal. And so I look at Roger Rabbit has been or something then. And I was in London for a year. My favorite city in the world of the environment, because it was like we were in the sticky jungles with miski. Just

Alex Ferrari 1:05:45
like in Jurassic Park. Now, now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Dean Cundey 1:06:02
I don't know if it took me long. I was fortunate when I was a kid raised by parents who who are all about find the fun. And then I don't know, I think finding the fun in what we do is they can you know, I mean through this life once so why make measurable and why miserable people try to you know, something which can be are contrary by finding funding.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:52
That sounds good. Dean, thank you so much for coming on the show. I truly appreciate you taking the time and and thank you for for shooting my childhood. I truly appreciate everything you've done my friend. Can you hear me?

Dean Cundey 1:07:08
No. It's been my pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:12
Thank you again, my thank you again, my friend.

Dean Cundey 1:07:15
Thank you very much.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
taking the time out to do this man, I really do appreciate it. And again, thank you for for shooting such amazing films over the course of your career.

Dean Cundey 0:09
Well, you know what I, I've always felt anytime I can pass it on or be part of passing it on. Good. So talking to your, you know your participants and providing them with insights has been something that's always been very important to me.

Alex Ferrari 0:31
Well, my friend, I truly appreciate you and I cannot wait to see the book of bubble fat. And now now that I know that you're doing the Mandalorian I can't wait to see that sees it as well. So thank you again, my friend and safe travels.

Dean Cundey 0:45
Thank you very much Same to you. All right.

Alex Ferrari 0:47
Bye bye. You bye

LINKS

  • Dean Cundey – IMDB
  • Watch: Jurassic Park – Amazon
  • Watch: Halloween – Amazon

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IFH 501: We Flipped The Script on Alex Ferrari with Guest Host


Right-click here to download the MP3

After 500 episodes I need a break. To celebrate this insane milestone we are flipping the script. Many of you in the IFH Tribe has asked me to have someone interview me on the show.

So I asked my long-time friend and current IFH Show appearance record holder (he’s been on the show 13 times) writer, producer, actor, and [REDACTED] to come in and take hosting duties for me. [REDACTED] and I sit down to look back at 500 episodes of Indie Film Hustle.

[REDACTED] asks deep questions about my journey with Indie Film Hustle and the podcast. If you have heard any other episodes with [REDACTED] you’ll know that they were EPIC and this episode was no exception. [REDACTED] digs deep so I really think you will enjoy this episode.

I also reveal some BIG NEWS. Indie Film Hustle has relocated cross-country to a new company location. I get into why I decided to move out of Los Angeles and much more. Here’s to another 500 episodes of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast. Thank you all for continue to allow me to serve you and do what I love.

Thanks to my friend, [REDACTED] for interviewing me.

Not to give too much away, let’s dig into my interview with our incredible and inspiring guest, Neill Blomkamp.

RB Botto 0:56
Welcome to the indie film hustle podcast episode 501. I am Alex Ferrari with the new voice. I've had a transplant. That is a lie. I am your guest host RB Botto. CEO Stage 32 and Creative. To be the guest posts or a retrospective on indie film hustle. I'm going to be interviewing your favorite indie filmmaking guru, the God of indie film, podcasting. The master of hustle himself. He's wearing a hustle hat as you can see in front of you. It is the Alex Ferrari. Which by the way, I have to say most people they would do a retrospective and honor themselves they would do it on like the even episode like 500 we're doing 501 because that's all you need to know about today's guest.

Alex Ferrari 2:25
I like to you know, I like to be a maverick sir. Normally would be an episode 500 but I I said no. Let's do Episode 501.

RB Botto 2:34
And here we are. It's not quite these go to 11 it's not quite spinal tap. Like you turned it on one louder, right? Just decided what the hell you know, we've been at big celebration for 500 everybody's gonna be riding a high let's bring them all the way the fuck down on 501 by honoring my style honoring me

Alex Ferrari 2:56
honoring the I just It's okay, let's just clarify that I don't want it this is not about honoring me. It's about doing a retrospective on the show and what we've been able to do with the show and and that kind of stuff and and I thought there would be nobody better to do this guest hosting jobs or than you because you were you were very close. Very closely there at the beginning of indie film hustle if I'm not mistaken our episode was the first time we've spoke was Episode 29. I think that's the number and that was probably what to cut like three months four months in to indie film hustle. So you know you you came down from Mount Hollywood, and graced graced my show with your presence. And Abby's obviously after after Episode 29 that exploded and obviously that's all you all you're doing, sir.

RB Botto 3:51
Yes, I showed up. I came down from Mount Hollywood with my my flowing robes, my staff and grace to my presence and I think what I how many shows right done with you know, 11 Oh, no, it's

Alex Ferrari 4:06
it's something between all the interviews and the stuff that we've recorded. I don't know probably 11 1213 something around that and something.

RB Botto 4:13
I'm very proud to be the old time record holder guests of the indie film hustle podcast. So yes, to be sitting here before you today. With your smiling face, and that beautifully decorated room that y'all

Alex Ferrari 4:31
stop.

RB Botto 4:33
Can't I just tell you the honor? No, seriously, I'm very, very excited to be here. And if you're wondering why I'm doing this, it's first and foremost because I love Alex. He's a dear friend of mine like a brother. Second of all, we have an unbelievable relationship. He asked me to do this. I was very very honored. If you don't know who I am really, really quickly I run stitch 32 which is a social network of people in the film industry education platform. 800,000 people Worldwide get on stage stage calm, it's free. Think Facebook, LinkedIn for the industry. But also, I'm a writer, and I'm a director. I'm a writer, producer, and started acts as an actor. But the only thing I've really act in activism recently was a small little bit in one of Alex's films. So that'll tell you even a little bit more about how much I love.

Alex Ferrari 5:20
And we can and we, and we've had, we've had episodes about on the corner of ego and desire, and your amazing performance in that. And we could we could talk a little bit about that later. But, but yeah, it's good.

RB Botto 5:36
So let's talk let's talk. So obviously, if you're new to the show, we've already said Alex's has this is 501. freakin episodes. 501. All right, and let me tell you, it doesn't go like 10 minutes, the man can talk. When he has me on forget, I think our episodes like four hours. So it's like it's it gets a little crazy. But he's done 500 of these shows, he has been an eye he's written a couple of books, advocate to everybody in the industry clearly has helped so many people. So today, what we're gonna do is we're gonna, we're turning the mics around, so to speak, or, as Alex said earlier, flipping the script. And I'm going to do the interviewing and talk to Alex about how this all came to be. And I think, you know, I actually would love because when we first met, I actually believe you came over the Hollywood Hill, I think you came down to Manhattan Beach, we were on the Raleigh studios lobbies have an office there and you came to visit us I'm almost positive and you broke up with you. Which I thought was really really cool. A couple of bottles of vinegar.

Alex Ferrari 6:39
Yes. Right.

RB Botto 6:40
And you said to me, You were like, this is what I was doing for a little while. And now I'm in back in the film business and I'm getting go and I was like, well, then you're gonna film this is pretty amazing. So tell me what tell the audience what brought you back what you know what you were doing, what the vinegar business was, and how that all led to you saying, Okay, I'm putting a flag in the ground. That flag isn't before muscle.

Alex Ferrari 7:06
So, in 2015, not 2015 2012 and 2012. My wife and I decided to open up olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting shop, in Ventura Boulevard, and on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. And within, I don't know, three months of the idea we were already in. Like, that's crazy. And by the way, I had no retail experience. Neither of us did. I just I olive oil and vinegar. Like why why that specifically? So the story is, my wife and I went on our babymoon when my twins were still on born to Napa. And since I don't drink wine, even though I've tried a million times, and I know it's your life's journey to get me to drink. I I've tried things. We went and we discovered olive oil and vinegar there. And it was just very romantic. It was Napa and Sonoma. And we did olive oil tastings and 25 year aged balsamic, and we're like, oh my god. So we came back and my daughters were born. And you know, I'm just sitting there. And I just, I got I was really burned out at the time of the film industry, I was doing a lot of post on very kind of like low budget, you know, video, straight to video kind of films. And you know, I was chasing money from horrible distributors who weren't going to pay me and all this kind of stuff. And I just got burnt out. It was just like a year prior to that was just getting burned out of this post, just kind of like constant work. And I wasn't happy. I just wasn't happy doing that kind of work. And I direct every once in a while. But you know, it was few and far between it was mostly post that was keeping me alive. So I had the bright idea of saying, Hey, I'm gonna open up an olive oil and vinegar shop and my wife who normally is the is the she comes, she brings you back to Earth. Like I'm in the I'm always in the cloud. She's down to earth. She said must have been the hormones kicking. Hey, let's do it. And that's all I needed in the gate open that I just went when crazy. So we opened up this store. It was the largest olive oil and vinegar tasting shop in LA. And that's not something to be proud of, because the rent was obscene because we were in Ventura, but because we were stupid. We had no idea. And it was the three of the toughest years of my entire life. It was devastating. It was ballbusting work. It was just manual labor at I mean, in your everyone's like what are you talking about manual labor. In order to keep the shop open. We had to go and open up farmers but we did farmers markets. So I did at the peak of our of our business we were doing 20 to 25 Farmers Markets a week. So I had a lot of employees running and I was I was the best sales guys. So I was always I was I was doing, I don't know, five or six farmers markets a week myself. Wow. And so it was basically Tuesday through Sunday. I only had Monday's off because there was no farmers markets open on Sunday on Mondays and I would work all the big all the big markets from Calabasas to Pacific Palisades to Beverly Glen to you know, hollywood I'm like I worked all the big markets. And I also I have tons of stories about celebrities that bought my olive oil and I hung out and talk to celebrities and shit. It's hilarious stories. But anyway, but it was just like waking up at four o'clock in the morning, loading up my you know, my small car with you know, I don't know 400 pounds of olive oils in vinegar and stuff.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
All right, where was it?

RB Botto 0:02
You're in the middle of schlepping the olive oil around, right and

Alex Ferrari 0:08
so loading up loading up my car with 400 pounds of olive oil and vinegar, which it's not, you know, it's not light. So physically, I've been literally breaking my back, you know, I would get I get injuries at my hands would be fully calloused up. I like I went to the doctor one day, I'm like, what's going on with my hands. He's like, dude, you've got workman's hands. Now I'm like, holy cow. Like I've been, I've been a post guy all my life. So I didn't really didn't know this kind of labor before. So I did that for three years. And we worked all the big, all the big events, I mean, 60,000 people at bikini, that big festival, all I mean, we did everything. So we did all this, but it was just so ballbusting work, the amount of work that we were putting out didn't make sense for the amount of money that we were getting in. And then I never left the business. 100% I always did a job here or there. But you know, I was I wasn't focused, my energy wasn't on it. But jobs would come in, and I would do a job here and there. But you know, as well as I do can't leave this business. He just can't. It's just it's always gonna be in you in one way, shape, or form. And, and then, about a year before indie film hustle, I picked up a book that had been in my list on Amazon forever, called the four hour workweek. With Tim Ferriss. Yeah, you know, the very influential book. And I picked it up. And it was the first time I realized, I guess it's not the first time but it's the first time I realized again, that I can make money online. And because I had an I had an online business in the late 90s, I had websites, and I was selling ads, and I did a whole bunch of stuff back in the 90s. I just didn't stick with it. It was a little bit different back then. But then afterwards, I read this book, and I was like, You know what, I think I might be able to do something with this. And I was thinking about what niche Should I go after? And how can I be of service to people? And then my wife's like, Why are you being an idiot? Just do film. I'm like, I don't want to film again. And and then after a while, it's like, you know what, maybe I can actually I started looking at what was out there. I was like, you know, there's not a lot of I everything I'm seeing doesn't have any real street credibility, in my opinion. Like a lot of these podcasts. And a lot of these websites that were out there, they were all talking from theory. But I got the shrapnel. I'm like there's no one telling it how it is. So let me throw my hat in the ring. And that's when I launched indie film hustles the blog came up first. Three weeks later, the podcast came out, which was always part of the process, and then YouTube and everything else came after that. But that's how, that's how it all came about. And then I just went at it with an insane amount of hustle like an obscene amount. Like I said, everyone's doing one episode a week, I'm gonna do two, I am still doing two. I don't need to do any more. I still don't need to do to have this one show, not the other six that I write

RB Botto 3:06
everything else you got going on? Right? Well, I'm gonna first of all, I'm just gonna attest to the fact that the olive oil and vinegar were fucking delicious. They went through it rather quickly. You know, I am an olive oil, obviously, being Italian olive oil and balsamic kind of sorts. So you did a fantastic job. But you know not retails not easy. I find it fascinating that anyone could leave film and to go to do something else and say it was harder work.

Alex Ferrari 3:36
It was backing. It was physically physically harder. Yeah, exactly. Right. Like I love. That's how brutal this was for me that I was like, You know what, I need to go back and do I need to go back to the film industry. It's so much easier.

RB Botto 3:51
Like I left the verbally abusive relationship to go into a fiscally abusive relationship, or verbally abusive relationship,

Alex Ferrari 3:57
I think, pretty much pretty much.

RB Botto 4:01
Unbelievable. So you get started I when we met you were just kicking everything off. We actually hit it off immediately. I think we were sitting in my office. I think we did like a three hour Oscar thing.

Alex Ferrari 4:13
So we did. Originally we did ours, because I know you're up there in age. So I'll remind you. So we originally I originally recorded you on Skype, and it took us like, I don't know, we were going back and forth. And then your connection went bad. And then we had to like I'll just call you back at home. And then you went we finished the interview at your house when the interview it was it was a weird thing. But we finished that interview up and that was like an hour and a half back then when we first met. Then after that, I think maybe I don't know how long later we did the Oscar thing at the office where I went down to Manhattan Beach, and it's Manhattan Beach or, well, yeah, it was my beach. So we went down my head beach, went to the studio and then we sat there for three and a half hours during the two and a half hours. Almost three hours talking about all the Oscar, all the Oscar stuff that day and they we live streamed it, and then I put it on my podcast. And that's, I think that was the second time we did it. And then then the rest is is a is history

RB Botto 5:14
and been rolling ever since. So okay, you you put your, like I said, you put the flag in the ground, you're starting the podcast. Now, you know, of course, you got to go out and get guests and everything like that where, you know, what were the challenges early on, I mean to because, you know, credibility matters in this business, maybe a little bit less now than it did when you started. But but it certainly matters to an extent, and anybody with you know, anybody that knows how to operate, as my mother would call to Google machine could figure out pretty quickly whether somebody is, you know, real or not. So how did you get with no audience at the beginning or very little audience? How did you start to land those guests that made a difference and move the needle with your audience.

Alex Ferrari 5:57
I just started reaching out to authors and filmmakers and screenwriters, and just, it was 2015. So podcasts were even still a little bit more new. So they weren't being hit up constantly by this stuff. And when they went to my website, the website looked professional. So the website look professional, it looked like I knew what I was doing. I've been faking it till I make it made it all my life. So I was able to present a very polished look. And then I remember when I landed Duff, Simmons, Duff Simmons back in the day, the two day all around, baby Oh, no. Oh, no, he's still kicking Duff Simmons. I was like, blown away that I got dog. He was like episode eight. And I was like, Oh my god, I got Duff Simmons. Was it a two day film school as today film school? Yeah, and I took that course helped me make my first short film and you know and all this stuff. So he was I was like, super excited. I got dove and and then just started landing other guests little by little and just one grows. When you get one, you start landing the other asset land the other and, and it's sooner or later, it just starts, you know, after 30 or something like that. You just do it. And and then I got you to come on. I don't know how I even reached out. I found out about you. I think I heard you on another somebody else's podcast. And I was like, Well, if he did that guy's podcast, I'll do mine. I don't remember what I don't remember who it was. But I just emailed you. And you're like, sure i'll come on. So it was a different time. Now. Everybody has a podcast now. It's just like, Oh, God, right? Why am I wasting my time, but back then, you could reach out to, you know, certain directors and certain screenwriters and certain producers. And it was still a novel idea. I mean, don't get me wrong. podcasts have been around, but they're not as popular in 2015 as they are now. Like they now it's right now. It's a completely different world Six years later, is a completely different world. But that's how I that's how I started grabbing guests. And, and Bill and I think the biggest thing is, and this is what they've told me, you've told me this in the past too, is when I talk to my guests, I talk to them, like their colleagues, I don't talk to them, like I'm a journalist, because I'm not a journalist. So I talk to them at a level that is, you know, I might be talking to a huge Oscar winning director. But at the end of the day, filmmaking is filmmaking, we and we still, we still cross over the same dead bodies, your bodies might be a lot bigger than mine and you might be dealing with things that I definitely don't understand it and as an independent, but there's a camera there's a you know, a set as a set, you know, try drama, drama on a set is drama set, getting money for a film and get all that stuff is the same and you know, directing is directing, if he's directing a $20 million star, you're directing a newbie that just came off of, you know, just came into the business, it's still the same issues you have to deal with no matter what you do, like if you paint there's no matter if you're Picasso, or someone who just you know, picked up a glass of wine and just started painting. Paint still has to hit the canvas, how you do it, the struggles there's still that same kind of stroke so that's the connection I'm able to do with my guests that I really didn't realize I had until years later Honestly, I was just talking like, like you and I talk but it was something that I guess was a little bit more special than the way other film other podcasts might approach the approach their guest

RB Botto 9:18
Yeah, yeah, well I would say as somebody that's done some of those painting on wine nights the paint doesn't always hit the campus I'm just I'm just saying

Alex Ferrari 9:28
sometimes you drink the pain sometimes you drink the

RB Botto 9:32
think I've ever gotten some pain in the wine that's the one thing you said that they connected with me because I want to I want to talk about this cuz I think it'd be interesting to the audience just said, you know, you've been faking it till you make it your entire life. Now, I just First of all, I'm going to tell you why I disagree with your assessment of yourself. And then tell you like the I'm not a big fan of the fake it till you make it.

RB Botto 0:00
So I want to touch touch on something you said during that last answer, which is you said, you know, fake it till you make it. And I think it'd be interesting for the audience to hear this. Because I do believe that there are a lot of people in the filmmaking world, and I see this advice, you know, on Twitter and some places, and it drives me a little bit nuts, and I'll get to why. But I'm also I want to get to why I think that that's not true about you, personally, from my perspective, through my lens, but the whole thing of, you know, faking it till you make it. I think it's easier than ever to expose people. And I think it's easier, you know, with if you have any sort of online footprint, you know, like I said, it's pretty easy to figure out who is doing, what the same they're doing and who, you know, as accomplished, whatever. I think if you're standing in front of your own name, you're standing in front of your own credits, and you're standing in front of your own content, I think it's pretty easy to figure out. I don't believe that you fake it till you make it you I but first of all, I don't love that. Like I said, I don't love it, because I think you want to do it. The way you get around it, in my opinion, is knowledge and action, right? And that's why I don't think do you think you made it because you came into this, and you immediately went about learning everything you needed to learn, and then applying it taking action and applying it. So you know, you build the website, you learn how to do SEO, you learned you may have had the experience, right. But you've learned further how to do it in this day and age, and you probably still are in the month a month, because it changes all the time, you learned how to record a podcast you learn what mattered where it needs to go, how to do it, all these different things. So to me, that's not faking it till you make it I To me, that's just making it happened to me, that's, you know, saying I'm going to take action on the thing that I want to do, and to be able to take action on the thing I want to do, I need to have a knowledge base, and I need to understand how things operate. And then like you said, the biggest thing, the biggest asset that you had, that you brought to the party, is you had a knowledge base of the industry so that when you did speak to gas, they knew that you weren't faking it till you make it, they knew that you knew what the fuck you were talking about. And that matters. You know what I mean? Because that that's where integrity comes from. So I don't know, I disagree with you, I don't think that you faked anything.

Alex Ferrari 2:24
Well, I thank you so much for that, when I sit when I mean, fake it till you make it in not in the sense of what I was doing as far as the content I was doing, or the podcast or the show, but presenting an image that is maybe larger than what it is.

RB Botto 2:41
But that's branding, that's marketing. And you know what I mean? Like, that's confidence to look, everybody pushes themselves, everybody pushes their brand, even online, this should apply to different types of people online, really on social media, that are sort of the extroverted, right, there are those who have created a complete fake tapestry of what their lives are on Instagram, you know, who go to some exotic place, change clothes, 550 times, and then post a picture a day for the next, you know, looking like they hear looking like they're there or whatever, right? And then there are those that are actually living that kind of life, and they're just showing you the best parts of it. Right? They're not showing you when they wake up in the morning, but they're showing you that the standing in front of the loop, right, you know, I mean, like, it's that kind of thing. And you So to me, those people are just showing you the real, and they're gonna show you the heightened aspects of it. I think that's true of any marketing or any business, you know, you're going to show, you're going to put the best foot forward, you're going to show the glossy website, you're going to show the gluten, your best gas, you're going to show that you have you know, and if you have to play up that knowledge a little bit, I don't think that's faking it. I basically saying i don't i don't think i branched out.

Alex Ferrari 3:55
no I agree with you, then I guess the faking to make it I guess is not. I think just my definition is a little different, different than yours. But I agree with what you're saying that, that Yeah. If you're telling people that you know about the film industry, and you don't, and you just graduated from college and you're just like, yeah, I'm an interesting industry vet and you've got a bunch of fake you know, fake credits on IMDB. The second that you are meet speaks to them that will go Oh, God, we can smell them out in a heartbeat. Especially and then let alone professional screenwriters, professional directors who've been around the net who've got tons of shrapnel. They smell it, they smell it pretty quickly. And I think that's the thing that set sets the show apart. You know, all the shows that I do apart that I connect with are with my guests at that level, which is not something they're used to. Most guests don't connect that that most guests when they do a show. It's just like very, you know, kind of, you know, not not fake but like one dimensional very surface. It's very on the surface where I dig deep deep in and I asked questions that, that I just truly want to know as a filmmaker, you know, like, when you're talking to a big director, I'm like, Dude, what was it like getting that first job? You know? Yeah, I know you want the Oscar, we'll talk about your Oscar in a minute, man. But like that first job, what was that like?

RB Botto 5:17
Well, and that's, that's, that's interesting, too, because that means that you and this, I think you do do this very well. That means you also know your audience, right? Because it's true. It's anybody could watch. You know, I hate to put it this way. But anybody could watch a masterclass and listen to three hours of masturbatory conversation a half hour of Yeah, you could do it in 30 minutes of worksheets, okay. Anybody could do that. But nobody is going to not everybody is going to get down to the root of how'd you do it? Why did you do it? You know, what, what were the sacrifices? What were the things? So really, that brings me to the audience? How did you know early on, without any sort of audience response yet? Because the podcast was just starting? What your audience would want to hear? Did you kind of make it for yourself? Did you kind of say like, this is the information, I'd want to hear

Alex Ferrari 6:07
this, though, it's still to the show. All the questions I asked are questions that I want to know. So I, I know that my audience wants to know this because I'm a filmmaker. So I just put myself in the shoes of the people listening, and I've gone through all the troubles that they've gone through, I've gone through other troubles that they will never go through. Like, you're almost making a $20 million movie for them up.

And many others still gonna happen. You know, so so

all of the so I've gone through every every pain point that my audience has gone through, because I've been living it and to a lesser extent in the screenwriting space, you know, I'm no screenwriting guru by any stretch. But for whatever reason, my screenwriting podcast is one of the most popular ones out there. So it's because I'm asking questions as

RB Botto 6:59
screenwriters focus the screenwriter, lazy as fuck, and they procrastinate all day long. And they want to listen to podcasts. They want it, they want it, they want to hear other people pitch about the fact that nothing's working. And it's getting sold today than ever. How do you crack that character arc? Like, you know?

Alex Ferrari 7:17
So but that's the but that's the approach I do all my shows is, it's me, I want to know these questions. I truly, like when I sit down with, you know, some of the guests I've sat down with, you know, I truly wanted to just go like, how to do it. How did you get to that point? What did it feel like when you got called by Sundance? What did you feel like when you got up there and accepted the Oscar? Like, these are questions that I truly just want to know from a human being to a human being like, and a filmmaker, to filmmaker, filmmaker, screenwriter, just going? How did that work? Like, you know, when you wrote that first script, and you sold it? What was that like? And then how did the town treat you? And oh, when you dropped off, because you're not the hot shit anymore? How did you recover? How did you break out of that box? These are all questions I want to I wanted to, I truly just want to know. So asking questions is really easy for me. Because these are all just questions I want to know about. And that's what I think the audience responds to. But there was no, there was no market research, the only market research I did was in 2005. When I released that first movie, my first short film broken, and I said, Hey, I'm going to create a DVD with three and a half hours of how I made it, because I think there's no other information out there about this, and I think it'll sell. And I was right. It is pre YouTube, pre everything. So I just like I'm a filmmaker, I can't find any information about how to make an independent filmmaker independent film with shake and Final Cut Pro and a dv x 100. A mini DV 24 p camera. I can't find it anywhere. So guess what, I'm pretty sure that some other filmmakers out there want to know about it. So that's what I did. And boom. And if anyone goes back to the archives of indie film, hustle, most of my initial content was based off of that TVD I would be releasing videos of that, because that's all I had. I was like, well, I got three and a half hours of something that's 10 years old. Let's get that ball rolling. But there's still good information I still get people are still watching that stuff. And people are still buying that. That package, even to this day, even though it's some stuff is outdated, but a lot of stuff is still very, very solid. So that's how I did my market research. Honestly, it's just like, what do I want

RB Botto 9:28
to cool man to cool. So let's get to just in case, anybody just jumping in at this exact moment in the podcast and haven't listened to anything else. We'll catch you up. So Alex is through breastfeeding, he's started to watch teenage years. He's vinegars and olive oils. And then he's launched this podcast and so tell me when you knew. Tell me you know, I think you said I was Episode 29. So I'm sure I'm pretty sure that it was probably immediately after that, but When did you know? You know, you had something when did you know you had sort of the tiger by the tail? The audience was there and the audience was coming with you. Oh, I

Alex Ferrari 10:09
knew that. God episode eight or nine honestly 10 because I saw the numbers. I mean, look, I'm marketed the show and I still market obscene Lee like it. I mean it I the brand, and it just, it's everywhere. And at those days, all I did was just pounded and pounded and pounded, and I was still doing post at the time. So indie film hustle was a side hustle for me. It wasn't my full time gig at that point. Yeah, it took me a few years before I could get it into full time, full time world. But I was I was I had a mastermind with a bunch of other podcast hosts at the time, and they were all buddies of mine. Because all of them reached out to me like Who the hell are you? Where did you come? I came in like a like a complete like a bull. It just it was just like, Who are you where you're everywhere now? Like, I can't go on Facebook without seeing one of your posts. Like, what are you doing? And we created a mastermind with a bunch of other podcasters and blog blog, bloggers as well. And we started talking and one day one of the guys said, Hey, man, do you know you're number one on iTunes? I'm like, What do you mean, you could go to iTunes, and type up the word filmmaking and all that shit. I'm number one. And then, within 15 minutes,

everybody on the planet knew that I was number number one filmmaking podcast. And to this day, you still see it everywhere, which is true. So it but my and my buddy, who was a competitive podcast at the time, he's like, I should have never said a word to God. So funny. But

that's when I didn't. That's when I knew I knew about three months in, but three months, and I was like, Oh, I'm obviously there's something here.

RB Botto 11:50
That's awesome. So all right, she had three months in, you get nine some big guests. That Well, you're banging the bang in the well. I mean, it's not you get? Yeah, well, yeah. Well, in Episode 29. But now, you know, so you, obviously you I did designs? on bigger, right, you had your designs on building this brand. So when, you know, when does the book come into play? The first book, like when does you know? Well, I mean, that book, you know, clearly was a slice of your life. But was also a guide was you know, it was it was a hybrid, which is a really interesting concept. So when did that become sort of a reality for you? When did you kind of sit there and say, Okay, I'm gonna make this war. This brand is gonna there's gonna be extensions to this brand, right?

Alex Ferrari 12:42
Well, for me, it was first things up was this is mag, which was my first feature. So I knew I needed to break through my fear of doing my first feature I, I had the technical capabilities 15 years earlier, to make a feature film. And I also had, I could have made 115 years ago, but I was scared. I wouldn't say what scared I think it was this subconscious thing about what happened with me with the mobster that associated feature film with pain. So I would constantly sabotage myself or give myself excuses and things like that. And finally, I decided to break through that and indie film, hustle. And the tribe were the ones that gave me the strength to go out and do my first feature film, which I shot and I think 30 days after I decided to do it, we were shooting. And, and we went to shoot it. And then, I mean, I crowdfunded it, as I was shooting it, you know, because I was like, it was so inexpensive. And then the crowdfunding, you know, paid for a lot of stuff. And it completely paid for everything. So I was in the black by the time I released it, and then, and then we sold it to Hulu, and that whole that whole thing, so it was a really interesting world. But my thing was, I'm like, I'm, I'm okay, if it doesn't work out, I was gonna go back to my podcast. That's the way that was, that was the excuse that I had in the back,

RB Botto 14:02
but they had to do right, you set expectations for yourself. There's a lesson in that. But you know what I mean, you said, I'm gonna do whatever I can do, but I'm going to have a fallback. That's where there's a lot of lessons in all this, which I want to get to in a minute. But, but this that took place, just not to interrupt you. But I feel like that is the lesson that's great for you know, for the for the audience, which is I think a lot of people just don't, they don't plan in the way that you know, I know you said you were doing it within 30 days, but that doesn't mean that you didn't put significant planning and thought into doing it and of course you are right, and then you thinking through what's it going to be? How is it going to be? You're still recording to podcasts, we're still doing all this stuff. So you know, maybe for the sake of the audience, cuz I wanted to definitely get some audience questions and get that stuff that's gonna, you know, let them gain some of your knowledge, course knowledge based on what you did. How did you manage, to time to be able to be running this thing, putting together the plan for a film because we all know putting together a film and And crowdfunding alone. It could be a full time job. We all know this. Or if you don't know you should know it. So how are you? How are you juggling all that? You know your family life and everything? How did you kind of say, this is how I'm going to put this together and not run into traffic.

Alex Ferrari 15:19
I just ran into traffic. I, I just look, I wish I could tell you that I had this amazing calendar that I spread everything out in and everything was, you know, minute, Li micromanage to us, I just did it. The shooting of the shoot of shooting, the film was spread out over three or four weeks, eight days. So Oh God, because it was spread because it was I was doing it like when people were available, and we just go out and shoot and things like that. So we'd shoot some stuff, then I started crowdfunding and then so it wasn't like I was shooting every day directly while I was crowdfunding, it was kind of like, shooting on and off. So I'd shoot then I come back and edit, shoot, come back and edit. But it all happened within a three week period. And it was about eight full days of shooting. And and then just I just wasn't I just as a machine man, I just because of all my technical knowledge over the years I picked up and post. podcasts are very easy for me to produce. And I was just like pumping everything out and pumping out all the content pumping out all the marketing for many people listening. For the last five years, I've done everything myself. Yep, every like literally every edit every output every everything was being done by myself only recently that I finally put a team together. And now I'm like, I can't believe I did all this stuff by myself. It's insanity. But it was doing all of that. So it was doing the movie during the crowdfunding during the podcast, and also doing post when post jobs come up because I still had to, you know, feed the family, and then also doing the family as well. And it was it wasn't easy, but I just there was so much energy that I just love doing it. I just realized I realized how much i'd love doing what I was doing. I was like, Oh, I found I found my happy place. I've been waiting a long time to find this happy place. I've been miserable. I was that angry, bitter filmmaker that I joke about? so much. And I decided to go this is I'm happy here. Let me let me let me keep going. So I just did it. Man. I wish I wish I had a fancier answer for you. But I just did it. It was just pure. brute brute strength. A brute, brute brute force. It was just brute force. What I liked a little fancier.

I'll send you my calendar. So it's micromanage to the minute.

RB Botto 17:42
Right. You know, I asked you a question. Actually, I was thinking as I'm sitting listening to you, I'm thinking that you know, if you want to expand your team, I actually have a really good idea for you. So you saw Breaking Bad, right? Know where this is going? And you remember the character you'll right? Yeah, of course, you're the best. Yeah, your next hire needs to be somebody, you know, like, you're somebody like that, to just sit in that chair behind you, with your arms crossed while you're doing the interviews.

Alex Ferrari 18:14
Okay, look. Alright, so and we're gonna, okay, we're going to look, I've been known for having a very nice background, when I record my shows. And there is a reason why I am in this void with the chair in the background. Mind you, my team is annoyed as hell with the chair, they've actually put stormtroopers in post in that chair, they've put other things in there cuz they just like, move the chair. I'm like, No, I just leave the chair there. We will get into why I'm in this void a little further down the line in this interview. But that is, but that is, but I like your idea. I like your idea. Yeah, I think you're solid, you know.

RB Botto 18:57
I think he'd be more than happy, just, you know, but probably be happy to feed him in zt. And he probably would sit back there. And yeah, you probably get any answer you want out of anybody.

Alex Ferrari 19:07
But to answer your first question, which was about the book. So the movie came first. Then in 2018. I said, and I told you, I think at Sundance, that year, I told you the idea for the book at that party that we were at, in Adam's House, the one that we actually shot the movie in a year later. I told you, I'm like, Hey, I'm thinking of writing this book. And here's the story. And I hadn't told that story to anybody. I mean, it is. So it's like a dark place. I don't want to I don't want like to go there. But I threw it at you. And you're like, that's a pretty cool story. It's a pretty cool idea. I'm like, yeah, I'm thinking about writing. I'm thinking about writing the book for that. I don't know if it was the book or the movie. I think we were still in the movie states. I was going to write a screenplay or something like that. And then a few months later, my my friend Boris, who will still be known as Boris told me will write a book. If you can't write the screenplay, write the book. I'm like, son of a bitch, I can write the book. And then I went down the path of writing this book, which I said, you know, if I'm going to write this book, I want to create an, a, a blueprint of what not to do when you're chasing your filmmaking dream, or your screenwriting dream or any dream for that matter. And it was, it wasn't just to tell my story, it was truly to help people who read it, to give them options, and to tell them to let people know that you can leave a bad situation if you can't. But that was part of everything I was building with indie film, hustle, and I told them, I told my audience, when I released the first two chapters on and released the whole book, I told them, hey, if you want to know what the origin story of this, you know, voices on this podcast, here it is. This is this is the beginning, the true beginning of shrapnel, I had a couple of you know, a little bit of hits here and there. But this was the beginning of the onslaught that the industry has done to me over the years. And this was a very big amount of shrapnel that I carried around. So that's why when I started the show, I was like, these guys have no idea what they're talking about, I gotta throw my hat in the ring, I got to tell people what it's really like out here, because it's not peaches and cream and, and it's a lens here and like, look at the cool new red and like, that's all cool, that's part of it. But if you walk in thinking, that's it, you're gonna get destroyed. And I want and I wanted, I wanted to let people know the truth. So that was, that's how that the book came about. And it took me a year to write. And I cried right, while writing certain chapters, it was just very difficult to go down that road again. And then it took me about like, another six months to record the the audio book because I was like, Oh, God, I want to read this again. I don't read it. I actually wrote my second book, did the audio book for the second book, and then went back and recorded the audio of shooting for the mob, because it's just so painful to do. But yeah, then that's kind of grew everything from there.

RB Botto 22:04
It's a great book, it's a lot of fun. If you haven't checked it out, you need to check it out shooting for the mob, if you like, you know, the gangster genre, but also learning about film along the way. That's a it's actually a it's a great game. It's a tremendous hybrid of that. I mean, you tell the story really, really well. It is a movie, I don't know why it hasn't gotten made yet. What's going on, I thought the financing was coming in. I was already I was doing acting lessons. I've been practicing my Italian as you can tell, you know, my accent you are when we make the movie, you have a part Eric, right. I'm actually in character speak. So you're very method. You're very method, very method. So I mean, what's that? Why, why is this that we're always getting?

Alex Ferrari 22:48
Well, right now that I'm in some major transitions, which we'll discuss in a bit. You know, we have, we have some potentials for writers who are interested in writing the the script, I don't want to write it, I have a feeling going to have to write the first draft, just to get the ball rolling on this. But I rather have someone else write it from a second perspective, not just mine. And so we have some people and then we've got some interest in some interested parties. But you know how it is, man unless you got it. You need a minimum is you need a script. The book is nice, but they need a script. Once you have a script, then there's a conversation then there's like, Oh, I can send a script to an actor. You could send a book to an actor, but then it's just like, by the time the script comes around, they might not be available anymore. And it's like, it's a whole thing. So you know, like I've told you before I want the movie to be made one day I think it will be made I think that'll probably be the next thing I direct and the only two only two caveats I have with anyone who gets involved. The project is I direct and my cinematographers, Boris and that's it. Open to almost anything else.

RB Botto 24:01
Almost anything else? Almost anonymous.
RB Botto 0:09
So yeah. All right so the two stipulations for the film of course there's the third one which is that you know I am featured prominently

Alex Ferrari 0:18
you'll play me and I get you

RB Botto 0:20
and I get to drink. I don't want to play you man, I want to mobsters. I get to bring my own teamsters with me that those, That's it?

Alex Ferrari 0:29
That's fair enough. Fair enough.

RB Botto 0:31
I just my my only my acting writers is basically, you know, bourbon and the dressing room at espresso. espresso I and my team. My guys,

Alex Ferrari 0:42
fair enough, fair enough. Hey, listen, we just need I think at the end of the day, maybe next year, I'll start writing something. And before I can, I think I'll be able to write us a first draft of that scripts before I'll be able to afford to hire one of the amazing writers that I have access to who want to write it, because I just can't afford paying, paying them at the moment. What

RB Botto 1:07
kind of brings it a good question into play so well, for one, I think that's a great idea. I mean, because nobody's gonna know the story to uh, you know, I mean, that's one thing. But it brings up another interesting idea, which is, you said that while you were filming this as Meg, you were crowdfunding during it? I find interesting. And because crowdfunding is not easy, and people don't realize that you need to really needs to crowdsource months before you crowdfund. Right. So my question to you is, how that early on, you know, obviously, you would establish the camaraderie or you know, in a community, a closeness with your community, let's say that, okay, and intimacy with your community, not for So, so many years at that point, but for quite a few, right? And you went to them to say, help me. Okay, first of all, was that easy. Second wall, what were some of the challenges that you faced? What were the responses to response? I'm curious about that. Because it's going to lead into the question of why not crowdfund? Not the whole movie, why not crowd fund the fee for one of these writers who I'm sure you have negotiated a lower fee for two, two, for all the value you for them, to help you finance, the scream, the writing of the screenplay. Because you've gone you've done it before, and you bring tremendous value and 99% of crowdfunding is the value you bring other people right then and ask them to bring you value back, you know?

Alex Ferrari 2:42
So I, when I crowdfunded mag, I promised myself, I'd never do it again, because it was so painful. And I don't particularly like asking for money in that way. I just just me personally, I'm a guy who just, I look, I never asked my parents for money, I went out and did garage sales to get extra spending money, so I can go buy my Garbage Pail Kids, and my baseball cards and my comic books. So I'm just not that I just don't like doing it. I did it for make, because I wanted to go through the process. I also wanted to teach my audience what I learned. But I learned it's really difficult. And really, if there's no other option, great. Right now, I don't know, maybe that's something I'll play with in the future. But I would just, I don't know, I wouldn't, I don't know, maybe I would just rather build a course and sell it and then use the proceeds from that. To help me fund it. I don't know. And I don't know.

RB Botto 3:34
Yeah, but I mean, you're putting so much value out there I think I mean, again, I think there's a lesson here too, is that I you know what we see what I see every day on stage 32 and when I've spoken to you about a million times on the show and privately and more on panels together and everything like that is that a lot of people don't understand that the reason why then maybe they're not getting the reach if you are putting yourself out there maybe the reason why you're not getting a response is because you're not bringing any value. You just think the thing that you have this value of the screenplay your talent or whatever, but you don't recognize the fact that the person you're trying to bring that to they want value brought to them they're human beings they just like you right just like you said earlier I talked about you know Oscar winning directors like to human beings just they are and they have feelings just like you and they went through a lot of shit just like you would if you made that movie, right? So you if you're not bringing value, that's probably why one of the reasons why you're not getting a response and then you have people that don't put themselves out there at all which I totally get like I get that your your mentality is I don't want to go hand in hand. And I think a lot of people feel that way about just like I don't have the knowledge base is a little different. Obviously, I don't have the knowledge base. I don't have this. I don't I don't know how to bring value. But at the end of the day, this world operates on the value you bring other people, your relationships grow from the value you bring other people and what you've done with this podcast and with this brand has been To bring tremendous value to everyone, and you, and you bought much of that value, certainly the podcast for free. I know you sell courses, I know you do things and everything like that, and God bless you, you should and people should pay you for it. But you bring so much value for free. I'm curious why you would think that you wouldn't get a response?

Alex Ferrari 5:23
No, no, I don't think I wouldn't get a response. I don't think that's the case. I you know, I think I would if we did crowdfund for shooting for the mob. I just know what's entailed. I know what's entailed in doing that. And I don't, it's kind of like, I know, the mountain I got to climb. Because I've climbed it before, and I don't want to go back down that mountain, I might be able to get, I might be able to get the money that I need to get the first draft done. But I don't know I just a lot of time and and time is something very valuable right now, for me, it's a lot of time and effort. And I would much rather focus my energies elsewhere, and more

RB Botto 6:00
time and more time and effort than it would take to write the first graph yourself.

Alex Ferrari 6:05
You see, that's different conversation, because the time and effort to write a draft yourself is, you know, for me personally, on a writing standpoint, I've written a handful of screenplays in my life. And I've always written both films, as far as stories are concerned, had wonderful help from my actors on ego and desire on dialogue. We could talk about that later. This is true. So, um, but I feel that, you know, I've been talking to some of the greatest minds in story for the last six years. And I think I've picked a couple of things up. So on another level, I just want to kind of go at it and say, like, I know, I'm not I'm not a professional screenwriter, nor do I want to be a professional screenwriter. It's not one of my goals in life. But do I have enough to get this over the over the the starting line? Not the finish line? Can I get it over the starting line? Can I present something, can I write something that is at a at a place where I send it to you, you read an NGO? You know, what I think we can, this is something we can work with is a good starting place. I don't have any illusions, or delusions, that I'm able to I'm going to be able to do the full thing myself. But you're still gonna have to raise the finance afterwards. But yeah, but but the difference is a rewrites cheaper second, and and also, I'll have something to show people. So I can then maybe package it, and maybe we can go into another we can have another conversation, then I can talk to a producer like yourself, and go, Hey, here's the script. What do you think, what can we do with this? Is this something we can go out with? Can we maybe get some some attachments to this? Can we have a conversation about it? I don't know. And then I become my listener, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, I'm back to the same place that everyone listening to that to bulletproof screenwriting is that well, like I got a script in hand, what can I do with it. And that's another journey now that I go on. And that's another journey that I share with my audience. So I think that for me, I would much rather go up the hill of writing a screenplay, than to crowdfund for someone else to do it. That's me talking right now, in six months, I'd be like, screw it. I'm gonna, I just, I just want to get this thing going.

RB Botto 8:27
Yeah, I think my concern would be, and I know, we have the benefit over the audience, because you and I have had many private conversations about this. So like, we get to talk, like, you know, like, you know, show to the mobster stroking into the hands.

Alex Ferrari 8:43
While the radios while the while the radio is playing loud, like showers on Oh,

RB Botto 8:47
yeah, like the NFL coaches that, you know, go like this with their plays, you know, I, my concern would be, and the only reason we're talking this through is not to put the audience through the paces of how the hell we're going to do your movie and how we're going to get this done. But for just kind of almost like a knowledge basis know coming from producers angle, or even from a screenwriters angle, you know, knowing some of the screenwriters that you've spoken with, and knowing how I would operate and things that have been brought to me in the past that I've read where people like maybe you could do the rewrite will pay you there. There are times you read those scripts, and you go, this is a page one rewrite like this is a total rewrite. So brings me back to square one because then then the rewrites not cheaper. And a lot of ways to rewrite could even become more expensive because it's, you know, you're really coming up with a whole totally new concept. I've seen this. It's funny because I've seen this from the producer side of things where we are I was producing the movie, we had three producers on it and one of them was the main money guy. And the two other producers me and the other guy liked the liked it well enough. We thought we thought it was good, but it needed a little polishing, whatever, but the guy with the money was like, Nope, I don't like any of it, and then go into another writer and the concept stayed. So the original writer got like a story by, but the script change dramatically and, and and what much more positive way I might add, because they brought in somebody that was, you know, pretty top drawer that, of course included the money and everything like that. But that was just a producer's way of looking at it was like, Well, you know, we this is the way we want to get it done. So I don't know something to think something to mall, my friend because again, among other things value to this community. Yeah. You know what I mean? I think that the community would get behind you.

Alex Ferrari 10:40
Yeah, I, I look, look everyone listening, if anybody's interested in if you think this is going to be a thing that you want me to crowdfund the beginnings of, you know, trying to get the money to get a writer to write shooting for the mob with me, then, let me know, you could email me you can text me, you know, not text me, but you can email me, you can message me, hit me up on social media. I'm curious, because I haven't even I just, it's just it's just, I just don't like doing it. But if the audience is like, Look, man, if you got we want to see this movie made, I'm sure I could do it. I'm sure we could raise the financing for it. It's just it's a hill right now that at the moment where I'm sitting right now, I can't even think about going up. I would much I would much. And also don't forget to that, like the story is the story. Like, yeah, we're gonna change a few things to make it for the move, you know, make it more, more adaptable to the cinema. But no one's coming in and changing this to like, you know what, maybe we should make Alex a girl. I'm like, No, it's not gonna happen. Like, there's certain things that have to stick within it open in certain areas to kind of make it more cinematic because the book is just biography, which is not as exciting as cinema could be. So it will change but I don't think it's a page one. You know what I mean? Like, I don't think the concept the concept is the concept, the concept is not going to change, we're not going to completely derail from where we went in the book. So I don't think it I don't think I have a fear of that. But I do think that like there could be 30% 40% shifted around as far as arcs and maybe adding in characters or combining characters or things like that. Yeah, but the general where we're going is where we're going. It's like there's a mobster as a filmmaker, you know, and how we get to the end and how he gets out and all that kind of stuff and everything all the mayhem that happens within I mean, some of the stuff that's in that book, you can't write you can't write it. Like I said in the beginning of the book as like if you guys believe this is this is this is based on a true story. And if you believe this is fiction, I should get a fucking Award for Fiction because it they who make this shit up.

RB Botto 12:46
Well, look, man, you know, if you decide to go down the crowdfunding bad, there's the extra added bonus that you could get rid of the extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar inventory that could go for like five or $5 donation that you could get one of those.

Alex Ferrari 12:58
It's all it's all. It's all gone. I think we have. I think we have a handful of the vinegar left only a few bottles left. Honestly, olive oil doesn't go You can't it doesn't age. Well. I'll have all these the difference. But vinegar does. So there might be a couple of vinegar bottles left over, but I shine those motherfuckers Limited Edition. What? Number? There's only three or four left. That's it. 10 grand each. We're out the door.

RB Botto 13:28
I freaking love it. I love it. All right, she did the book. Life is moving on. Things are happening. Yeah, you're doing some education, things like that are going on. So now. Talk to me a little bit about you know, you started it. Again, we started talking about extensions of the brand. And I think that this is fascinating. I actually would like to even talk a little bit about that, because I think that creatives don't understand in 2021 I think we're in now I don't know this pandemic, it could be 2040 I have zero idea. But branding in this era, your personal brand is so important. Now you have built the brand on being you know, like you said sort of the regular guy, the everyman doing this thing, okay, knowing it, and being there with everybody else and the person that's going to talk with people not at them not down, not up to them. Okay. And you built this really nice tribe. How do you what how did you see your brand as this book is coming out and as everything is growing? How did you see your personal brand and where did you want to take it at that point?

Alex Ferrari 14:40
Well, right now my personal brand is really attached to indie film, hustle, and and bulletproof screenwriting and film shoprunner and all the other entities that I have around indie film hustle. So you know, recently I opened up a new company in a new weapon new podcast and you everything that's aimed more at asking the bigger questions about life and digging a lot deeper in to why we're here. And, you know, what are we doing? And what's the purpose of all of this? These are like very large questions. And I wanted to kind of dig deep into that stuff. And that company is called next level soul. And that company and that podcast I'm interviewing, I've had the pleasure of interviewing some very big people already that they want, they reached out to me wanting to be on the show. And I'm asking them questions that they don't get asked normally. So for me as a brand to answer your question. I'm a little bit of everything so I'll you know, for for a large part of my tribe. I'm the screenwriting guy, you know,

RB Botto 15:43
yeah, let you get away. I can't let you get away with it. Alright, so I'm gonna go back. I'm gonna, I'm gonna zone in. Tell me tell me. So. Alright, so like that's like me saying, Okay, my brand is stage 32 Yes, I'm the face of the brand. Surely completely got it. What else do I do? I'm an actor producer. Yeah, okay, right. Right. But if you asked me and I hope that you know if you go audition is what I think if you went to my social media and you didn't know me, okay, and you just started scrolling through I would want you to see what why I feel my brand is is or tries to be which is inspiration aspiration, motivation. And by the way, if you're not following me on freakin Instagram, right. Now put in rb, my initials, walks into a bar, and click that follow button. I bring a lot of value. But seriously, that's my brand, my brand. I always love it in spurts. So plug, man, I gotta plug it up. inspiration, aspiration motivation, because that's really what I want to bring to people, I want people to understand that I am just like them. Okay, I am scratching and clawing just like them. There is no straight line in this business. It doesn't matter even if you have accomplished something. You know, people think there's such a thing as a meritocracy in this business. And in small tiny pockets that might exist. But the reality is you're jumping through hoops every day. And sometimes those hoops are on fire. And sometimes they're five freakin floors of the ground on fire. And you got to get through them. Okay, but the point of the matter is, is that it can be done. Right now I feel like you bring a lot of the same things to the table, you bring inspiration, aspiration motivation. So I look at myself that way that if I had a branding exercise, if I was sitting down and doing you know, one of those insane type of things where you're really kind of self evaluating yourself, that would be what I would put down for my brand. So we know the brand, we know you're synonymous with indie film, hustle, and I get that and all the other ones bulletproof and everything like that. But how do you see? How do you think this you? How do you how do you see yourself? What what's the brand of Alex Ferrari?

Alex Ferrari 17:50
For me, I think I think other people see me as someone who wants to help, help, not only filmmakers, but people in general, but I'm known more for filmmakers and screenwriters, giving them the straight truth. There's integrity within the brand that I've created for myself. In many ways, I've become a defender of the little guy, you know, with, you know, breaking the story on distribuir, and all of that whole thing that happened and fighting, you know, predatory distributors, and, you know, and creating the things I've created to help filmmakers, avoid being taken advantage of all that kind of stuff. So I think, as a brand, my personal brand, I think it's that as someone who's trying to help, trying to inspire trying to help people get through the through the own blockages, help guide them through, you know, the paths of not only the industry, but also life in many ways. Because a lot of the stuff that we talk about, I mean, I created a podcast is all about motivation. The filmmaking motivation podcast was just me talking for three to five minutes about motivating you to get off your ass and do it or think about things a little bit differently. It's about that for me, it's always been about being of service to the audience and being service to people. And when I discovered that, that's when I became happy. I was miserable for most of my life, being honest, like, I mean, look, I mean, of course, that's like, like, No, it wasn't like a troll or anything. But no offense to all the trolls out there. Please don't tweet me. But But, but generally speaking, I was extremely unsatisfied with my professional life. And in the moment I launched indie film, hustle, I was happy. And then I started getting addicted to helping people. And then now the different brands I've created. I've just kind of branched out into trying to help more people and guide people in whatever way I can. If I can help you. Avoid a predatory distributor if I can help you Get off your ass and work out if I can help you, you know, in any way, shape or form, I think that's the brand that I've created in a way of, you know, being raw, but being loving at the same time. And that's a very, that's not a very easy balance to do, because a lot of people are raw and brutal. But I'm raw and I am encouraging so I like my, the, you know, the saying I always say is, follow your dream, but Don't be an idiot. And that's basically sums me up pretty, pretty much like follow your dream, but like, do it right. Think about it, you know, you know, don't just think pie in the sky. Because I've been that guy. I've been delusional guy. I've been bitter guy I've been I've been everybody listening, I've been on everything you guys have been. I've been out of the business. I've been, you know, in a small market. Looking in from the outside, I've been in the business, looking in out. You know, I've been I've done a lot of stuff. So if I can help in my journey, and I'm learning new stuff every day, but if I can help people on their journeys by either digging into other people's, like my guest journey or my own, that's kind of what I do with everything I do, including my new my new show and everything I do with indie film hustle. Yeah, that's a better answer, by the way. All right.

RB Botto 21:19
Now, you know, you got to trim it down to like two or three words for the story personal brand. Seriously?

Alex Ferrari 21:25
Yeah. It's, it's, it's a lengthy it's a lengthy answer. Yeah,

RB Botto 21:29
yeah. Yeah. Some people might go, you know, for like, like coffee or something and come back, but but you know, although most will be riveted. Now, you said a lot of things. You said, you said a lot of things in there that I actually think are really cool and worth unpacking, because it is part of your persona. And part of it really is a lesson like you said, you know, Don't be an idiot. Of course, I have the one that says rule number one, don't be a dick. Rule number two, see rule number one, right? But the thing is that there is really a second rule to that, obviously, don't be a dick, but the way the United deck, and sometimes you don't know that you're being one, right? Sometimes you don't realize you're being one because you're just saying like, Oh, look at my look at my look at mine. And again, we talked earlier about the value, you bring the other person's human being right. So the other part of it is the knowledge base. And the other part of it is understanding how the course operates, right? You just said, I'm learning every day. I love that, because that is a life mission of mine, I want to learn, I'm a sponge, I want to learn everything. And if I'm really excited about something to get it, you can't, you know, there's not enough that you can put in front of me. But the point of the matter is, is that I also recognize the fact that when I walk into a different industry, or a different arena, okay, that they're the people I'm going to be meeting along the way, and certainly the people I do want to surround myself with to be successful, I need to understand their business and how it operates. So I don't look like an amateur. Right, right. So I don't come across as somebody that has know what to do so that they don't look at me, like we were saying earlier where we go, we can tell five minutes. And I'm like, Yeah, I don't want to be that guy. Right. So there's a great lesson for the audience in there in the fact that and the second is one other one where you said I'm happy. So you know, kind of unpacking everything you just said in a lot of ways you have done something where you feel you are giving tremendous value to other people. And that brings you happiness, and within that you are on a constant quest to knowledge that you could be better and better with each episode and each thing and that you can be more and you can inform and you can know your guests and bring better interviews and bring better value. That's a lesson to everybody listening, because that's exactly how you should be running your life. Whether you're a screenwriter and actor or filmmaker, a producer, or you're not even in this business, and you happen to stumble upon this podcast somehow. That is exactly where you got to be you got to know the industry. So people don't look at you like you're an amateur, you have to be on a constant, you know, a constant quest to learn. And you got to get rid of the idea of balance and embrace the idea of happiness of all pursuits. So that means you know, when people say like, wow, you work 80 hours a week, some weeks. Wow, like, that must be like, I'm like, that's your choice. Some time and I actually know some weeks I enjoyed some things I want to kill myself. So yeah, but it's it's happiness in all pursuits. So it's interesting to hear you say that you had been unhappy for so long. And then you started doing this and you got the reaction you got and the happiness and everything came with it.

Alex Ferrari 24:39
It's because you find Look, it takes it takes Everyone has their own path and their own journey and in for, for me, it took me 3839 years, something like that, to find this. And I tell I teased it in 10 years earlier, and I rejected it which was I thought I got The exact same feeling when I released my when I released my my broken DVD when I was helping filmmakers. And I got that feeling. And I still get people talking to me about that. But like, I still get people who tweet me the big like, I found my DVD like, it's still a thing, which is so cool. But I rejected it. Why did I reject it in 2005 is because that my ego was still going, I'm not, I'm not an educator, I'm a filmmaker, I'm, you know, I'm the next this or the next that that's where the ego was at that point in my life. I think everybody who gets into the game, all wants to be the greatest. They want to be Kubrick, they want to be Spielberg, they want to be Nolan. If you're a writer, you want to be William Goldman, you know, you want to be the greatest screenwriter of you know, you want to be that everyone gets into the game for that. But the truth and the honesty is that there's only one Stanley Kubrick, there's only one Steven Spielberg, and they'll never be another one like him. But you can do what you can do, at your level, the best you can and what makes you happy. And, you know, any delusions I might have had of being the next quitting Tarantino, which, by the way, I'm sure everyone listening here, I'm sure there's hundreds, if not 1000s, who like the next this or the next that you can't be the next somebody else, you got to be the first view. And that's right. And that's what I came to grips with. I was like, you know what I'm gonna do me and my path is not like anybody else's. Look, dude, I've been I've opened up a podcast in 2015. And all the doors that I was trying to get in and talking to people and building relationships with people that I've wanted to build up in those 40 years prior, have swung open for me. I'm building relationships and friendships with people like yourself and other people that would have not been able to get access to if I was just outside the door knocking going, Hey, Help me Help me Help me. Right. But so there isn't really like, and I want, this is what I want to happen I want when shooting for the mob gets made. I want major people that I work with on the project to have come from the podcast connections that I've made, or relationships that I've built, whether that be screenwriters, producers, actors, who ever, I think that's an amazing story, because there's just nothing no one's ever walked that path. I'm walking, that there is nobody who's used a podcast to leverage a podcast, to make their movie in the way, the way I'm doing. And by the way, not my intention. It's a it's a, I think going 2015 you know what I'm going to do, I'm gonna open up our podcast, which is going to that's going to open up all these doors. No, it's just happened over the years organically and naturally. So that is that for me is that's for me is what I found when I when I discovered my thing, the thing I'm good at the thing I want to do, and that still includes making movies, and that still includes writing and but now it's not just making movies. making movies is one aspect of many things I want to do like writing a book, doing a podcast, doing a show, creating education, speaking, all those things hold a space on that, on that shelf, where used to be only directing. And now directing is one of many things, which makes me so much happier, because because most directors are miserable because they don't get the direct very often. They're always hunting to look honestly, directing is one of the toughest art forms to do. I'm not saying all directors are miserable. But but it's a it's a very difficult thing where I trust me if I know the directors listening at the highest levels, or the lowest levels, much rather be directing, then finding money dealing with politics, casting people, they wouldn't, they would just rather just show up to a set and go, action and cut. Let me create a need. It's a brutal, brutal business. And one thing I came one thing I discovered, and it just just makes the most sense. It's a little bit morbid, but it's true. In 50 years, in 100 years, no one's gonna give a shit about what you did. And 500 years, absolutely, they're not going to give a shit about what you did. And if in 1000 years, they're still talking about your your one in your one in the billion. Because who are we talking about from 1000 years ago, Jesus? Buddha, you know, Ganga is Khan. there's very few Socrates. There's handful of people that hold throughout history, which is a short history, by the way, we're only talking about a few 1000 years that we've been recording it. So if you think that a movie that you make, or a screenplay that you write now is going to be talked about for millennia, you know, possibly, but that's very rare. You know, and look, look at and I always go back and like Clark Gable, one of the biggest movie stars in his day. If you ask anybody on the street today, how many people who know car Gable is that number starting to drop more More and more and more and more and more, like, you know, and in about 20 years 30 more years, other than Gone with the Wind, what other Clark Gable movies are there? Unless you're a cinephile, no one cares. Do you see what I'm saying? So it keeps you present gives you a perspective on life. And like, why chase for something that like, Oh, it's gonna this and this, No, man, just do stuff that makes you happy to stuff that you're helping other people in one way, shape, or form, whether that be through art or through it something else?

RB Botto 30:27
Yeah well, you know, now that I feel like we're through the most depressive part. Which, which ended with you know, you just got to be happy. They're completely irrelevant. And then like, but be happy, like your work?

Alex Ferrari 30:43
I mean, your your work, but your work means nothing on it.

RB Botto 30:50
So really, I mean, where can we go from here? I say that, like, we could pick any topic and move off. Look, look,

Alex Ferrari 30:59
listen, listen. Listen, the reason why I said that is that I don't say it to be like, no, whatever you do here doesn't matter. It actually does a lot. But when we are chasing all these dragons, that really don't matter. At the end of the day, do something that makes you happy. Because all you have is your life here, while we're here, and create things that make you happy, and do things that make you happy and things work out. You know, it just does, like, trust me from someone who had to do I mean, you can go look at my IMDb, man, I did a lot of post man, I worked on a live pipe, I probably finished 60 or 70 features in my day. And three of them, I enjoyed four of them, I enjoy the rest of them were for $1 for a check. And I'm grateful for the work when I got it. But I wish I would have figured this out earlier, not the podcast thing, but just big figuring out I gotta make myself happy. It took me a long time to figure that out. So that's all I'm saying is find that bliss, do that what Joseph Campbell says, find your bliss. Do that. Because all this ego, all this stuff that like I'm going to be the next great thing, I'm going to get that shit out of the way. Just do stuff that makes you happy. And other people will feel that energy. And I think you could agree with that. If you are enjoying what you're doing. If you're writing, if you're directing that energy is addictive for people working with you, and also people watching or consuming your content.

RB Botto 32:26
Yeah, yeah. So I'm just I'm curious of what year Zoloft became the main sponsor.

Alex Ferrari 32:36
I mean, listen, pharmaceuticals, man, it's the wave of the future. I'm just saying. I'm not on any antidepressants. But I want to pop like a couple shots of bourbon. So after after,

RB Botto 32:51
I can imagine

Alex Ferrari 32:52
I could hear Amanda what happened to rb, he just doesn't want to do anything anymore. And I just did this podcast with Alex to fuck me up really bad.

RB Botto 33:03
Listen, I get what you're saying. You do have to find your bliss. I do. I will say this man. I think that people when they're unhappy in this business, it's for a lot of people. I think it's self inflicted from the standpoint that it comes back to what I said earlier about knowing the industry and knowing how it operates. Like when you are just blind emailing somebody, this is my script. This is my logline or writing, if you are so unaware that you're targeting somebody who's super busy, and you write them a blind eight, paragraph dm on Instagram, then the first thing that person is going to think is this person doesn't know how the industry operates. I have no relationship with this person. This person wants something from me without offering me any value. And then they don't get a response. And then they wonder why they don't get a response. And then they get depressed. They get they get beaten down and everything like that. What they don't realize is that if you don't, this business is hard enough. And it is a very, very difficult business to break through in achieving too difficult even when you do break through. It's a difficult business to stay in. Okay, tastes change all the time. Things change all the time. And you look at the moment we're in right now, two years ago, you can sell a romantic comedy today. It's like they can't get it's like, Hey, I got an idea guide me to grow the like sold. Fantastic. Place doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Just Yeah, we'll take it like they everybody wants romantic comedies. Right? So but you got to know that and you got to know the business and you got to know how it operates and how it works. And that's where I feel people lose their bliss because everybody comes in, as you said, not very eloquently in the way that maybe you want to stab myself in the heart. You can you basically said that. Everybody comes in from places like energy and they're all excited and they want to create and we do everybody comes in, they want to succeed. They want to be artists, and then what they would they find out the hard way sometimes, but if you're open hearted and open mind this it becomes easier. They, they find out that this is a business. Okay? And you could write the most beautiful script in the world by the way you could be the next Spielberg or better everybody than what you'd be more talented than Spielberg. And the reality of the situation is, if nobody knows you don't put yourself in the right positions. You don't have the right contacts, right? Or if the moment isn't the moment where Spielberg in type movies are being made, right? You may not succeed, you may have all the young you can win the most prestigious, prestigious screenwriting contests in the world which I don't even know what the hell that is anymore. And don't tell me it's the nickel, but stone and but just to say like, you know, there is prestigious distribuye Award contest number seven, and you want it, the reality is situation is it may be that unbelievable piece of writing that makes people go, Oh my God, you are brilliant. And this still might not be a market or an audience or the time it could be wrong for that thing. And that's what Keynes me and what I have, I have empathy. I have empathy in spades. I know you do, too. And running a platform like Stitcher, where you hear these stories every day, you build up and you pulled up and the answers become natural, just like the way we talk about. And like you said, it's not harsh, it's truthful, okay, it's totally true. The contemplation, honesty, and, but, um, it kills me when I see like a writer, say, like, I don't understand, like, I'm getting all this great feedback, I got it, I got a no script request, I got a double recommend, I got this, I got that. And nobody's buying it. And then you look at what, you know, go tell me what the screenplay is about. And they tell you it's like this dystopian, you know, crazy. I'm like, okay, that's $120 million movie, your nobody knows you. It's not based on IP, there's a million, there's a million reasons why. But it's up to you to know those reasons why and then go to the place, go to the place where you have the best chance of success with that, so that you're not getting beat up by 1000 knows that, almost rhetorical, they're going to happen. Because it's not a fit for those people, you got to go for where it's a fit. But to do that, you have to have that knowledge. And if you don't have that knowledge, and all you have is the excitement of creating the work, the bliss is going to go away, because you're not going to recognize how the business operates. And you need and once you understand both of those avenues, the bliss comes back, because then it becomes hunger man. Like, how am I going to do this? Where all luck? Yeah, Netflix bought 50 romantic comedies, how do I get there? What production company sold those scripts? How do I get to a production company? What manager rep those writers? How do I get a manager? Like that's the way your mind starts thinking, not like, Oh my god, I got such great

coverage on this thing. And it's where do I go? How do I get there, what relationships and naturally you were talking about, about knocking down the doors, opening those doors. And again, creating a situation where you are talking to people that can help you in your career. But your first move is to give them value to let them come on their show, come on your show and promote what they're doing. Talk about themselves a little bit, talk about what's coming up. And you know, and that's what it's all about. Right? So that kind of logic and understanding I hope for people that are listening is is a lesson I hope, you know, I hope that I have talked you off the 5050 to a balcony that Alex put you on and made you realize that there is actually a path and a life beyond. You know who you are.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
Oh my god, you've made me you. You've made me feel bad about what I said, sir. For the tour, you're still listening. Thank you. I got everything I said I come from a good hug from a good place. I'm just trying to present perspective

RB Botto 39:04
on on Sky agree and you always do and you always do that was you know, that was a little cyanide ish, but it was. It was fantastic. So tell me a little bit more about who who have been actually I'm actually gonna ask. I'm gonna ask you a two parter. Tell me some of your favorite guests that you've had so far. But I but even more so. I'd love to hear like pieces of advice. You've heard from people that may you go like, wow, like that actually stopped you in your tracks. Like, you know.

Alex Ferrari 39:38
Some of my favorite conversations have been recent because in late last year, I got I had a kind of run of amazing guests, starting with Alex prayas, who was the director of the CRO and iRobot. And then Oliver Stone showed up and Oliver was a great conversation. It's just you know, when you're talking to an icon, it's very difficult to, to accept what's going on. You know? So if you go back and look at that conversation, I'm just so happy to be talking to them. And I'm just asking them questions that he was even just like, wow, you did your homework. I'm like, Yeah, man, I know. You started off in horror man. Like you started off your first two features were horror films. So how did that go? And like, how did you go from there to platoon and then and then the run to hand?

RB Botto 40:28
You do the hand? He did the hand? Yeah, he

Alex Ferrari 40:30
did that I was a second. All right. with Mike. Okay. It was a Michael Caine, right? Yeah. So he did. He did the second he did the hand. And then he did him. I think years earlier. He did that. But then he won the Oscar for Midnight Express. And then. And then he told me the realities of that when in the Oscars, like, Yeah, that's great. But everyone thought I was an idiot. And I couldn't get work. And I had to go off and do Salvador by myself. So he goes on this, this, this run of like, and he did, actually, he did a movie a year for like, a decade. And every movie was just like, what the hell like it was everything was just being hit out of the park, boom, boom, boom, boom, it was a run like no other really. It was pretty remarkable to I saw talking to Oliver, it was pretty interesting. It talking to him was humbling, not because of who he was. But understanding that he is still dealing with the same crap that every independent filmmaker is because he's an independent, essentially, you know, he doesn't he does do do movies, every you know, but he's raising financing. He's like, yeah, I can't get financing for my next film. And I'm like, her Oliver Stone man. Like if you can't get much access to the rest of us app, on certain extent. So Oliver was really interesting. I think Rick Linkletter gave was a great piece of advice. And his advice was, however long you think it's going to take is going to be twice as long and be twice as hard.

RB Botto 41:53
That's a great buy is an excellent quote. And I mean, that kind of perspective, right? So much of life. I know you're on this journey, as well. I mean, we talk a lot, but so much of life is perspective. Like if you could understand, and we talked about this a million interviews, but the long game, like if you can embrace the long game, and that means that's not an invitation to be lazy. You know, that's not an invitation, but it's but it but it is an invitation to not to distress yourself, it's an invitation to take care of yourself. Because things don't happen overnight in this business. That's why I love that quote, twice as long. I, I would argue me five times as long to

Alex Ferrari 42:35
know exactly, but it's gonna, it's gonna take a lot longer than you think it's gonna be, and it's going to be twice a lot harder than you think it's going to be and it's so true. Because when you walk into this business, you're like, oh, wow, five years, I'll do this, like, now. It's gonna probably take you 10 or 15. And it's just the way the game is. Rick was Rick was an amazing conversation, Ed Burns was great. Because it was, it was a fan of the show, which blew my mind. And he's like, I read your book. And I've been listening about distribution. And because it's one of those guys who just he's still hustling. And he's at burns. But the way he makes his movies to have the control that he does, he's still, he's still brothers mulling it. And the way he makes this movie, so he was a really amazing conversation, Barry sonnenfeld he's a great guy, I

RB Botto 43:25
was just gonna say Ed burns is a great burns a perfect example and dropped you I actually got to meet him back in like 2003. When I was running raise, we threw a party for a movie called confidence that he was in with Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weiss. And I, you know, an East Coast guy, you know, sat down and did a whole East Coast vibe. And he's one of these guys. I remember him saying back then, because he didn't really, you know, for him to get like starring roles. He had to write his own shit and raise his own money. He did it on his own. This was the first time Well, one of the first times that he was actually being handed a, you know, a leading role, you know, co starring against Weiss And I'm Hoffman. And you know, we sit at the after party, and he's like, goes, you know, my biggest fear. I remember him saying to me, because my biggest fear, he goes that this movie flops, and everybody says, This guy can carry a movie, and I have to go back and start raising money for my own stuff again. And that's pretty much what happened. We threw the party at the after party at Sundance, the movie played well at Sundance and they did fine and meet your soul. They got a got to release everything like that. But to shoot you know, these are the things that you control. The studio didn't know how to market it, didn't know whether to market it as like a comedy drama. They didn't know he was perfectly fine in it. But here he is, all these years later, and he scratches and clawing, still auslin. And that's the lesson that till so I didn't mean to abuse.

Alex Ferrari 44:50
Barry sonnenfeld is one of the funniest conversations I've ever had in my life is money. Oh my god is he got started off in porn. And his story about his first set porn. When he shot his the first six, he shot 30 porns in six days to pay off is to help pay off a 16 millimeter camera. If you want to hear the if you want to, if you want to hear the the insane story is in the first 1015 minutes of that episode, you should definitely listen to it. But those and I've been so blessed I mean Edwards a wick. It was like sitting. Edwards a wick was talking to Edwards a wick was like talking, like I was in the church of cinema. It was I was an all the his his energy, his presence. And the way he spoke about cinema was unlike anything I spoke spoken to anybody about it was just like this reverence for for cinema and the way he approached because I mean, I'm such a big fan. I mean, Jesus Christ, such a big fan of his films, but you could tell that that filmmaker made glory and Last Samurai and, and all the movies that he's made in his career, those kind of guys, man, you know, talking Oh, Kevin Rannells frickin love talking to Kevin Rose just like Dude, Robin Hood, and you start talking to some of these, some of these directors who directed some of the movies that you grew up with. I mean, you know, Nick castle with Last Starfighter, and like, you start hearing all these stories and the more you start talking to these, these, you know, some of them legends in the film industry, you start realizing that everyone's got the same hustle, man. we all we all got to walk. Some people just get better opportunities, some paces right place right time. You know, I keep talking about how Hollywood takes away the keys from some directors. You know, like, I want to see another Wolfgang Petersen movie, I want to see another Peter werum film, I want to see another Brian De Palma film with a budget, hollywood budget again, you know, I want to see, but the Hollywood take, and it's a shame and I'm talking to a lot of directors, not of those know that the keys have been taken away from but like Taylor Hackford man, frickin gap. I mean, and the list goes on. And I've been so blessed to talk to them these amazing, these amazing directors. But that perspective, that's the one thing I love about talking to people like them, is that and Eddie Eddie said this the best Eddie Byrne said this the best. He's like, Alex, you're creating a service that you don't understand what you're doing. And I go, What do you mean, he goes, when I just got finished with brothers macmullan I was walking in New York on this somewhere in Broadway. And I'm just walking and all of a sudden spike lee jumps out like 20 feet ahead of me, and just starts walking towards something. And all I want to do is run up the spike and go spike, she's gotta have it. School Days, do the right thing. How'd you do it? Boom, boom, boom, but I didn't have the balls to do it. He got in his car, and he left. And you ask those questions of people's idols. And they understand like, you know, and like it was like a 30 or 40 minute conversation about brothers with molan. He told me every speck every little part of it Troy Duffy, oh god, that was a hell of a conversation about boondock saints, what a great conversation hours and talking to them. But you He goes, you do that service for people who like I guess I do, because he goes, now you have that private conversation with someone, you record it and now everybody in the world can have access to that kind of information. Like what was it like shooting the crow? You know, when you know, when the things happen on the set of the crow like and you ask Alex and he tells you you know what happened with Troy Duffy and the whole explosion of his documentary of how he got screwed over and you know, Harvey Weinstein those are those are conversations that you have a party you've had these parties with these with these people, but you don't record them generally. And some stuff is informed for public air but some stuff is and those stories really are, it was trying to say is the the perspective of these guys and these gals that I talked to, especially the ones who aren't at higher level in our industry, it just gives you a perspective on the journey. Because you realize that they are human. They started like you did you know I had Russell Carpenter the DP of Titanic and the new avatars if they ever get released James and I asked him first question out of my out of my mouth is like I'm gonna talk about Titanic and True Lies and Ant Man and all the other things you've done in your life Russell but how'd you get ghouls to? And he was floored by that but that's the kind of that's the kind of thing that humanizes like they have

RB Botto 49:44
parcel that's exactly yeah do you in this nation have it all I mean, like that's people don't realize that human beings just like and even so the people that you've mentioned that have been put either put in directed jail, you know, or you know, are deemed too old or too dusty. Like You know, people like Taylor Hackford have found ways in projects and people, you know, and all that. But I'm saying, but there are still a lot of people and what I, what I think the general public doesn't realize maybe other creatives don't realize, for the purposes of this show, is everyone has peaks and valleys. Everyone, and everyone is a human being and everyone has emotions. And even though it might seem on the surface that, you know, wow, what a career, there have been a million projects that got away a million things that were going to go didn't go a million things they've lost out to a million times, they were told that they weren't the right person, the job got fired off there before it ever got going, you know, whether you're a writer or an actor, it doesn't matter happens all the time. You know, the, the, the the mission is survival, and advancement, right. It's to keep going and to keep learning from it.

Alex Ferrari 50:54
Yeah, I mean, the one guy I forgot to mention is Joe Carnahan. And Joe Joe's interview I had with Joe one of my favorite conversations I've ever had on the show. And he's telling me stories about like, how the, the investors of narc are like, not paying people while they're shooting it, you know, and he's telling Ray Liotta and, and Jason Patric, I would walk if I were you, because if this guy doesn't pay you and all this kind of stuff, and and how no one Leo don't we I'm actually shocked he didn't win how he and how he walked away from Mission Impossible three, you know, like, he got stuck into the studio system. And he you know, Tom, it may work with Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible three, and you'd like walk away. That's, that's pretty damaging to your career. Like, I mean, wait, I mean, if he can't, if he got that opportunity, like so then he goes off and make smoking aces. He's like, and that was basically smokin aces was a big fu to, to Hollywood that was like, it's a Hollywood It was a studio film. But it was just like this explosion of anger that he had. And you watch that movie, it's just full kinetic. And he's one of the I my opinion, one of the most underrated writers of his generation. In my my personal opinion, he's, he's got films, I wanted to see Pablo kill for killing Pablo. I would love to have seen that movie narc did it really well. But that would have been great. But all these and you start hearing stories like that, like I talked to Joe, the other day, and and, you know, he's still hustling man. He's still going through stuff. Like, it's not like a magical door that's opened up and like, Oh, well, you're this guy down, you could do whatever you want. You just call up somebody and someone gives you a check.

RB Botto 52:25
Then work that way. He's still the biggest of the big, the biggest, the big. So that's the pitch. And you know, people are like, you know, like, how do I get to Netflix? How do I get to Netflix? What you don't realize that a lot of these shows that are showing up with Star attachments, of course have been packaged, but there are plenty of shows that I know of personally by big people that have been pitched that have been turned down everywhere. Um, there's a couple of big ones that are out there right now that you know, and a couple couple of motors that are running around town right now I can tell you, I'm not gonna say who it is. But I mean, big name talent attached to it. And it's being rejected everywhere. And you would think in a second like you would, most of us would say, this person, whatever. He wants to pitch somebody, somebody is getting in the business of this person, and it's being rejected all over the place. It happens all the time. People don't realize even like, you know, you look at manque like the David Fincher, you know, project that went last year. That script his father wrote that script in 1993 or 1997. And he's been trying to get that done made favour and it was just a Netflix decided they wanted to be in the David Fincher business. And that's how that got made. So this stuff happens all the time. I want to ask you, though, is you know, when you talk to Ed Zwick, did you tell him that he's about 10 to 20 years from his his life's work being completely irrelevant and obsolete?

Why do you say that, sir? Well, because you know, as time goes on, all of our work is completely nobody cares anymore. I hate. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

Alex Ferrari 53:55
But let's look at a grand scale dude in 1000 years,

RB Botto 53:58
could you tell him that 99% of people walking down the street would know who he is? Did you tell him that?

Alex Ferrari 54:04
I mean, I'm gonna I'm gonna argue that 99% of the people walk in I don't know who it is only filmmakers do. That's just that's just, that's okay. Listen, listen, Rob. Hey, we're all gonna die one day.

RB Botto 54:22
So funny. All right. So let's talk a little bit about Alright, so you know, you're you're crushing it, you got all these? You got the podcast going, you got the other podcast go on. You started the new podcast. And then a couple of months ago, you've just you decided that you were going to go into the witness protection program and now you're in a room in some undisclosed location correct. And, and this is uh, this was as you would say, in on the corner of ego and desire, a bold choice. Witness program. So first of all, what are you running for? And you know,

Alex Ferrari 55:01
well, it's an obvious the mob, obviously, I finally found me. And I had to I had to go into witness relocation. That's why I have a nondescript background with the chair and the chair.

RB Botto 55:13
Which by the veto is sitting there right now with that lighting, it will be even more menacing as the day goes on. He would look even more if you put a little front light coming down. Like kind of Oh, yeah. Demon or an angel. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 55:30
So yeah. If people in the tribe might have noticed that my background has changed yodas missing. People don't know where Yoda is. No, that's very important. And all my kind of cool stuff that I have in the background. Normally, I, by the way, Yoda is 1000s of years old, he's not irrelevant. Yoda will be around in 1000 years, I promise you. I promise you listen, listen, I'm gonna tell you. I'm gonna I'm gonna tell you this in 1000 years to probably be a Jedi religion, and Superman will be considered a real person in history. Well, not so there's hope, everybody. Hey, let's bring it back. I'm just bringing it I'm just bringing it together. Like everybody, you can remove your lips from the exhaust pipe. Oh, God, you're killing. You're killing me. No pun intended. So anyway, all seriousness though, you move or you want to tell the story? Do you want me to tell people what you've done? Well, I'll tell the story. I'll tell the story a few years Oh, story, I sit back here enjoying my coffee. Okay, so a year or a year or two ago, I started thinking about moving out of LA. And, and many people are like, wait a minute, LA is the place to be if you're in the film industry, all this kind of stuff. And you know, you can't do why if you're there, and you've made it and you know, I purchased a home there. And you know, so many of my friends are like, dude, you've made it, you bought a home in LA, like, in a good neighborhood and all this kind of stuff. And you're all everything. And I've been I was in LA for 13 years. And I started thinking about moving and then the pandemic happened and then kind of delayed everything. But a few months ago, I finally did the move sold my house left Los Angeles. And I have now set up shop in Austin, Texas. And I am not alone in that. There's a lot of my brethren from California coming out here because I see California plates everywhere. And I decided to move out here because for many reasons, but I felt that for me, my business is not determined on being in Los Angeles. I, everyone I talked to you is on Skype, it's on zoom. I don't I see you only at events and or festivals or AFM or those places because you live in, you know, bfhi I'm not driving over to Manhattan Beach. That's insanity. From the valley, that's just like, it's essentially me driving, I should just drive to San Francisco at that point. It's about the same amount of time. So I have so many, I have so many responses to that. So I decided like you know what, where is where's my company going to be able to grow faster? Where's where am I going to be able to get more bang for my buck? Where am I going to be able to upgrade my lifestyle for my family. And Austin was the place I chose you know, we looked at a few different cities and fell in love with Austin and the quirkiness and the weirdness of Austin is very, very interesting place I love it. And, and me finding it out here. I I we bought we bought a house, we're building everything up new corporate headquarters are being built out here for indie film, hustle, and bulletproof screenwriting next level soul, everything that I'm doing is going to be based out of Austin. So my corporate headquarters will be here. And we're going to be moving on from there. So I'm really happy. As of this recording, I have not moved into my house yet. When you see a new background that I'm going to be building on building new sets. There'll be different sets for indie film hustle and for next level soul so there'll be different sets and different everything in the background for that new new studio for educational products that I'll be creating and, and YouTube videos and things like that. So I'm able to grow here a little bit faster than I can in LA. And you know this as well as I do. Taxes are a bitch.

RB Botto 59:42
I feel like you my family. I feel like you've left at the most stable time in Las history. I mean, politically, everything is fantastic. Really under control, taxes. Everything is

Alex Ferrari 59:52
there's no fun. There's no fires, there's no fires,

RB Botto 59:54
it's no I just can't understand why you would would go at this particular time. seems strange to me. Well, I so so what we can expect what you're telling us is, we probably can expect a new background and maybe two chairs,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:11
no chairs actually, there'll be a full Yoda might be my god will probably be back. Yoda is in a container right now using using the force to keep keep up anybody. But no I have big plans for what I want to do with indie film hustle with bulletproof screenwriting next level soul and all my other companies that I run underneath these brands, and I think I'll be able to do it here faster and bigger than I can they're like you can't bought it's very difficult to buy a studio in you know, and by, you know, by Studio by land in LA, it's just too expensive. You know, I'm not rolling like you just yet so. So I can't, I mean, I don't got credit. I don't have crazy states 32 money. So but so he's, he's quiet now guys. No, but, but seriously, so I just felt that it was the best move for my company, best move for my family, as well. And just an upgrade in lifestyle and, and cost of living and everything like that. I mean, I mean, it's just a lot cheaper to live here. It's still expensive in a lot of people's eyes, but coming from LA it's extremely portable here. And there's a thriving film community. You know, Rick's out here, Rick Linklaters out here. I have I've had the pleasure of hanging out with him a little bit. And and Roberts out here, Mr. Rodriguez, which is my goal to get Robert I've said it, I'm putting it out to the universe, Robert will be on the show. I'm not sure at the end of this year, but by next year for sure. I'm gonna get Robert on the show. He's one of my number one. He's actually the number one guests that want to get on the show out of everybody on the planet I want to talk to, it's Robert because Robert for me, as a Latino filmmaker is the guy who kind of opened up opened the doors and, and inspired I mean, he's still inspiring people to this day. I mean, we still talk about El Mariachi, for God's sakes as the myth that it is it's almost almost he's he's almost a mythical being in the in the in the indie film space, you know, so, so there's a thriving film community here. I mean, it's not LA, not making any illusions of that. But there is a tremendous amount of tech coming here, which is another reason there's a ton of tech coming out here and we're where my company is going, I want to start, we're going to be working into that world as well, as far as you know, building things in the tech space as well. And, and also, there was another little known podcast and moved out here, Mr. Mr. Joe Rogan. And a lot of podcasters are flying out here as well, because of that, and by the way, Joe saved $17 million by moving out here from that 100 million dollar deal that he got from Spotify. He's like, you know what, I don't like la $17 million worth I'm just gonna

RB Botto 1:03:05
can't blame them. It's a great city. I'm I love Austin, I spent a lot of time down there and it's it is a thriving scene. And you know, it's a it's everything that you kind of want out of a small city. Like it's got everything, it's got that vibe, it's got the personality, it's got the artistry. It's got that independent feel to it, which is really, really cool. So, you know, I have no doubt that that will, you will thrive there. I still think you need your veto. For sure. Can you T's Can you tease anything that you are going to be working on? Can you give your audience your fan base? The people that have suffered through you telling them they're irrelevant? Can you give them Jesus crap,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:51
you're never gonna let that go? You're never I will never ever live next five to 10 years. Jesus Christ I can't believe it. I'm when I have the editing power, I'm gonna edit that whole piece out you'll no one will ever hear it. I will I will make sure that I recreate it playing both roles. That I would like to see that I would like to say no, um, so no, um, as far as teasing is concerned, I am I am actively rebuilding indie film hustle from scratch. So there's gonna be a brand new, a brand new website is going to be coming out which is not an easy feat, but that's something that I want to I'm currently actively working on. And there'll be a revamping of about a bunch of that stuff. There's going to be new, new courses that I'll be creating myself. There's going to be a lot more video content, there's going to be a lot there's gonna be a lot more stuff that I'll be able to do here that I wasn't able to do there in in the way that I want to do it. So you know, obviously could have rebuilt the site there, but It's just different. It's kind of like a fresh change, everything has to be changed over. So over the next three or four months, it's going to be a big a lot of transitions, a lot of things happening at indie film hustle, that will be changing and for the better hopefully in providing more value to my audience, and, and to the community into the tribe. So that's, that's what I hope I can provide them. From my new base in Austin, Texas. That's pretty freakin awesome, my friend. Thank you, Mario. Awesome.

RB Botto 1:05:30
What happened? We touched on what happened we touched upon on this illustrious journey of grind and hustle and indie film, what happened? We touched on

Alex Ferrari 1:05:44
the only thing eating out anything else you want to share? The only thing I can think of is that a lot of a lot of people specifically podcasters even you ask, how are you doing this? Like how like 500 episodes Jesus Christ. There isn't any one which is

RB Botto 1:06:03
still completely obviously not to me that we're celebrating you on the 501st podcast, but by all means, get on with

Alex Ferrari 1:06:11
my, my five, my 500th episode was pretty cool. Well, we had Neil Blomkamp on it, the director of director of directing district night, so I wanted to kind of give him a highlighted episode because he's a he's an inspirational figure. Now, of course, this art is his art still relevant to a few people. Just a couple. Not many, though. I mean, soon, it's gonna be gone. It's gonna be gone. It's like a material. No, I can see this. I can see this on. It's like a deteriorating option in stock market. I can see this at panels and events for years to come. Yeah, just better hope that COVID rages again. So you don't have to sit together on a panel. I've given you some ammo that you will use now for the rest. Like, we'll be on the set shooting shooting for the mob. And you're like, you know, why are we even doing this? I mean, if 50? Like no one

RB Botto 1:07:05
Yeah, like, Can I get another take? And I'll be like, fucking doesn't matter. Doesn't matter, Alex Really? In the grand scheme of things? Do you really need another fucking tape?

Alex Ferrari 1:07:16
Oh, my God, oh, my god. Anyway, um, what was I saying? I forgot what I was saying. If we ask how are you doing at all, you're really talking about how you be. The thing is that, and I know you'll agree with this is the consistency. And so many other podcasts, and so many other blogs and websites and people in the space that you and I both know that consistency is tough to keep going this is not an easy thing to do. to consist consistently put out content being a value, day in, day out week in week out. It's not easy to do. I do it at a high level as far as output is concerned. Honestly, I wish I could go back to one I did. I did want an episode a week of indie film hustle for eight or nine months, but then I got so backed up by all these interviews that I was recording, I was like, these poor guys are waiting six months to get out. I gotta because I want to talk to people. I like talking to people I like you know, having guests on. So it's just continuously doing it one page at a time, every day. Go, you know, do one little thing every day that keeps you moving forward. And then you turn around, you're like shit, I got 500 episodes 501 episodes today. And it's insane. Like I was like, as we were getting closer to it, I was like, Well, shit, this is pretty insane. You know, and I can look at it at bulletproof screenwriting, and that's at 140 or something like that now. And that's like, I just started that like a year or two ago, like I like how is that? Like, how it's insane that it just keeps going and keeps going like that. But it's that consistency and what you've done with states 32 I mean, I mean, you I think you were at three years old, four years old when we met, I think, yeah, probably about that. Yeah, yeah, about that, going into our 10th year, which is insane. Right. So yeah, it's about four years, because I just got through my sixth anniversary. So you know, doing that for a decade is a lot of work. It's a lot, it's a lot of work. So everyone listening, you have to understand that it is going to be a lot of work, but you got to enjoy the journey. And get to you know, do what you can while you're here and make yourself happy while you're here and and be of service to other people while you're here. And that could be through your art and could not be three art. But regardless, I'm going to go right back around to this regardless in 500 years and no one's going to know who you are the people who were here and you affected their lives will know. And that's the goal of what we do is not to affect 500 years ago from now. It's to affect the people that are here now enjoying your movies, enjoying your art. That's all that really The matters is today and now, whatever happens, history will take care of it. But right now you can control what happens in your world here. Yeah, I don't know if that was a total stick save, but it was close. You got a piece of the puzzle. I tried to bring it back. I tried to bring it back a little bit. It's

RB Botto 1:10:20
true, but it's true. I tried to do their Chairman cards gives it a six points, right. Oh, my God, you said what you said is absolutely true. And I hope that, you know, hopefully, today, we gave people a lot of laughs and, you know, an insight into the man who has value to you and everything that he has done. But I also hope that you kind of took away the, what you said there at the end, they think is probably one of the most important things and there were a lot of them over the last, you know, two and a half hours, almost the, the, the idea that you you know, for a lot of people, it's a struggle right now, you know, between COVID, and between everything going on mental health is a big thing, mental health, you know, begins with you taking care of yourself. And you know, and it doesn't matter, if you see other people doing it every day, and you know, it matters what you can do when you can do it, and how you can do it. And that begins really with surrounding yourself with really great people. And that's something I know you do very, very well to surround yourself with great people. And that, you know, clearly inspires you and keeps you going and gives you you know, that sort of window back. And I think for a lot of people right now, you know, understand that it is one game, do you said, You know, I did a podcast and one day I woke up and had 500 of them? Well, that's it, you didn't do 500 in a day, and you're not going to write a screenplay in a day and you're not going to land 20 acting gigs in the day, and you're not gonna it doesn't happen like that. It's a body of work over a lifetime of effort. And the whole idea is that, you know, you get up, and you take a little step every single day for yourself, not for anyone else, not because people on Twitter are telling you that you're an asshole, if you don't do it or anything like that. It's because you're doing it for yourself. And that all begins with taking care of your own mental health and your own and surrounding yourself with positive people and cutting out the negative people. And I think that, you know, I'd be curious to ask you this, because you said, you know, earlier that for a lot of your life, a lot of the things you were doing didn't make you happy? Would you attribute the fact that one of the reasons why you're happy, so happy doing this is the fact that you are surrounded by positive minded people and creative people and people that are out there doing it, and sharing the struggle with you and sharing the real with you. And that that is you know, that humanity gives you sort of you know, that that feeling of happiness.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:47
I think the thing that gives me the feeling of happiness is being of service to other people. And doing what everything you said talking to people and doing the work that I do. I think that being of service really helps because the the first 40 years first 39 years of my life, it was a struggle because I was trying to reach a dream. It's not that it was unobtainable, but the way I was trying to achieve it was not the right way. I did all the mistakes that we've talked about, I've been the you know, the needy guy, I've, I've hit up the wrong people, I've had my ego out of control, I thought I was the next this or I tried to emulate that. And, and I was in then, then I would go back into my post suite and my company. And then I would have, you know, a 21 year old director who just got $3 million to make an independent film. And who's never seen Blade Runner, when I'm telling them like, hey, do you want to be color? This look like a little bit like Blade Runner and like what's Blade Runner? And I'm like, I want to smack you. And that kind of anger of like, why them not me? Why did they get the chance? Not me? I mean, I'm I have more than enough skills. I have more than enough talent, why the hell am I not getting a shot, because this guy, you know, this guy got shot. And they obviously don't know what they're doing. Because I'm literally looking at the film. And I'm working on and I'm fixing their mistakes, and I'm doing all that stuff. So there's so much bitter and anger that I had for most of my career. I was very angry and bitter. And the moment that I you know, I got to kind of a cleansing in the olive oil and vinegar fires. That really woke me up a lot because I was like, Oh, this is what I've been doing is I mean it's real work, but it's not this kind of work. And this is brutal physical labor and I needed that beating the universe said no, no, you really don't understand what you've got. Let me let me beat you down and also gonna make it to the point that it was your idea.

Like you chose this path, No one forced this on top of me like No one forced me to do a manual labor job. It was my idea was self inflicted, and to go down that road, so and then when I left that, that's when I came back almost cleansed. And said, you know, let me open up this online business, which is as far away from manual labor as you can get is online, where it becomes passive, and this, there's a lot of work, don't get me wrong, but it's that that kind of work. And then I discovered my happiness along the way. First, it was the happiness of creating content and creating the business and, and that aspect, I always got my juices flowing, but it was more about, I'm like, wait a minute, I really am enjoying people helping people, you look when you and you hear this, I'm sure. When people walk up to you in an event and like, Man, you know that one episode, or the one thing that you put out really changed my life or helped me or saved me, millions or things like that. That is, that's very powerful stuff. It's it's value, a bringing value to you, that's value, it's a feedback and that kind of come that's valued. People don't realize that that's value. And it's addictive, it is addictive, it's real, it's like that kind of that kind of juice that you kind of get stuck on, it's a drug. And there's a reason why that there's been scientific research that like, you know, you you get an endorphin rush more from getting than taking, you know, they could give you 100 bucks, or you can give you 100 bucks to give to someone else, you'll feel better giving the 100 bucks to somebody else. It's weird thing. But it's something that because we as a species are built, to give to cooperate, that's how we been able to do what we do. And we actually have an endorphin, wired we have our brains are wired to enjoy giving of ourselves, and it's so amazing. So I do it in this way. Because I get to mix my passion, my love with being able to give, and I'm also benefiting from it. Because when I have a conversation with these guests that I'm able to talk to, it's I mean, they're answering my questions, you know, so I get, I get to ask, you know, Oliver Stone, whatever the hell I want for an hour, I saw a lot of people in the world that would love that opportunity. And I don't take it for granted. You know what I mean? So I but I at the same point, I'm also helping other people along their journey, and also providing value to Oliver or whoever else, the guest is to promote their book, but to promote this or promote their film or something like that. But at the end of the day, it always is about being of service. And I think that's what's made my mind my mental health better, because people knew me before in different muscle, especially like my wife who saw me through the whole, she's been with me for years, she seen me change. She's like, you seem so happy now, I've never seen you this happy. I'm like, Yeah, I know, I kind of realized that. And I'm like, I'm gonna, I think I found what I want to do. And, and then when I was able to do it full time, which happened about three, three and a half years ago, then it all changed and was like, Oh, my God, I get to wake up every morning and do what I love to do. That is a feeling that I know, you know, and that many people in this world get that. And that's what our goal is to try to help people get to that place where they are able to do what they love to do, and get money and we get paid to do it so they can survive as an artist,

RB Botto 1:17:57
right? Well, I gotta say, Man, I think that that would probably be a good place to leave this because went from, you know, people on the balcony to giving loving and endorphins and all that. So I feel like that is where we want to leave people. But yeah, I just want to say, Man, this. First of all, I'm honored that you asked me to do this to you know, to be a guest host for you. And to celebrate everything that you've accomplished, everything you've done with this amazing podcast and with the brand itself. 500 episodes 501 now is is remarkable. And then when you add in all the rest of it, it's you know, the another 140 and then the new one you have and then all the education, all the other videos and all the other stuff that you do, it's an amazing amount of content, and incredibly value valuable, the amount of value you bring to people is just off the charts. And for me, it's been an absolute pleasure to be with you all these times. And to call you my friend and do have done you know, a million panels would do I have a million laughs at you mostly at your expense, which I really enjoy. But, no, but yeah, I'm just thrilled for you. And you deserve every accolade. And I do hope that if you are listening to this right now, I do hope that you will let Alex know very, very simply that you know, each bring value to you that that matters. That's how you can that's how you can bring value to other people you get people say a lot often like how do I bring value to somebody that where I feel like they've accomplished so much more than me? And the answer to that question is you recognize the fact that they're human beings just like you they have emotions just like you they get up in the morning like you to get a bed like you and they have struggles in between just like you and they may be having a bad day too and may not want to go out there and create and do that thing and everything like that. If you bring them value, you're going to lift them up, and that's how you bring them value. So I hope you will do that for Alex. And I'm looking forward to 500 more shows and if I'd been on 13 times I expect to be on 14 in the next 500 at least

Alex Ferrari 1:20:01
Man, I appreciate you, you coming on man, I don't think there was anybody else I could have gotten to do this show this episode specifically, because you've been, you've been there at the beginning with me and kind of seeing what I've gone through and seeing the company grows in the show grow. And I'm, I'm proud to call you my friend as well. And in all the good times we have, I can't wait for you to fly down to Austin, when hopefully, it'll be the Austin Film Festival, if not, hopefully be south by. So you can show me around as far as I've been to either of those festivals, as you could show me, you can show me what it's all like. And I told you, I told you this, when you do move here, and you will eventually I told you, I would take a shot. So that that's incentive and so when you eventually decide to stop paying this ridiculous tax, you'll, you'll come out here and when you do, I will take a shot, it will be tequila. Not the keynote won't be rum, it will be rum, preferably Cuban rum, if we can get that that's the only alcohol I've ever drank. And it's usually because I had a sore throat. But that's the old Cuban thing, like take a little bit of ROM, Lola and lohani. And you're done. But Ron would be the only thing I would drink. But you need to be moved here not hanging out, not just at the festival. I have a stipulation, I have moved here and set up shop here. So if you ever do that, I publicly said it, I will take a shot with you even though I don't drink. That is a wild wild. He said that goes into the column of reasons to move. And I think at that point, we should star wipe out of this. And if I said I've said this before, as well, man, thank you for being in my movie, you brought so much wonderful energy and ego and desire. I still remember when you came over and watched it with Amanda and how you guys pissed yourselves watching it. And when we saw it at the Chinese theatre. It was, it was just a great time. And so I appreciate you trusting me with the insanity that that movie was, was so much fun. It was so much fun, I want to do it again, we got to get this other one off the ground. So to see, so the sequel will be so this is the thing. So we're going to do three we're going to do a three parter, it's going to be like Rick's before sunset before sunrise. And before midnight, we're going to do every five or 10 years, we're going to go back with these characters and we're going to be at a different Film Festival. So we did one at Sundance and they're going to meet up again at South by and then and then the last one will be a can so that will be over the course of 10 years to see what happens

RB Botto 1:22:42
so that then we should do it. And then we should just do a spin off of just my character where I recollect my entire producing career and everybody tells me how irrelevant it is.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:52
Obviously, obviously it's obsolete it's absolutely except for the people here in present time sir. Man it has been it's thank you so much for doing this brother. I appreciate it. And thank you for all the work that you do with states 32 and all the help the service you provide to the community as well and I wish there was there's more guys like you and me out there bringing good good quality value to people and creators out there and I hope everyone listening follow that bliss. Take it one day at a time and here's to another 500 or 10,000 who knows right that I do these things.

RB Botto 1:23:35
And listen again the value comes in you know follow Alex on Instagram frog throw your shit you never throw your because

Alex Ferrari 1:23:42
everyone knows it already but yeah indie film hustle at indie film hustle is where everything is on all the social medias except for Instagram which is I film hustle and then all the other you guys all know my stuff you know I don't have to tell you all my stuff and indie film hustle but really any film also.com bulletproof screenwriting.tv film entrepreneur.com indie film hustle TV that TV and I Fh academy.com for education and there's a bunch of other stuff as well but that's that'll

RB Botto 1:24:16
make mine really simple man. I'll leave out my only fans one because I don't want to complicate matters stage 32 days 30 three.com profile get on there it's free join the community and instagram and twitter just Are you my initials walks into a bar RB walks into a bar and that's how you bring value follow the people you know like this shit told me doing a good day they know that you've gotten value out of it I just think that's wildly important.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:45
And are you Is it that is that the website the other website besides only fans cameo? Is that the one that you like you can I don't know that one How do I get on that? Isn't isn't cameo the one where you can get celebrities to like give you like Happy Birthday shout outs. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Aren't you on that? I mean I would make keep they keep wooing me but I'm holding out for Betty White money. Or, or Rudy Giuliani money, either one. You know, listen man. I want that Betty White coin. Come on. How much is he charging? I have no idea but if I had to guess knowing how she's probably getting paid in crypto, she probably is rightfully inflating crypto. But my friend thank you again so much for doing this brother. I appreciate it. Thank

RB Botto 1:25:30
you. Man. I guess just I hosted I hosted I get to sign it out. Right. So you have been listening to the 500 and first episode of indie film hustle with my special guest. Alex Ferrari, the rich bado RBU. And we'll see you down the road. I'm sure I'm sure. The 502

Alex Ferrari 1:25:53
I'm sure I'm sure you'll be back on sir. No doubt. I don't think I could get rid of you, sir.

RB Botto 1:25:59
You cannot get rid of me.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:01
Thank you again, my friend.

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IFH 499: From Sundance Sleeper Hit To Blockbuster Career


Right-click here to download the MP3

It’s always way fun to have a guest who is also a fan of the show. This week’s guest is definitely a member of the tribe. We chatted up pre-interview about some of his favorite IFH podcast episodes like Ed Burns and Joe Carnahan and I knew front hen on we were on for a treat. My guest today is award-winning writer, director, and producer, Chris Sparling.

Chris has written some of Hollywood’s most original and fascinating screenplays like Buried, Greenland, Mercy, Down A Dark Hall, Reincarnate (featuring Leonardo DiCaprio), The Sea of Trees with Matthew McConaughey, etc.

One of his latest films, Greenland, which premiered in 2020 started streaming on Amazon prime this February.

The disaster thriller film starring Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin follows a family who must fight for survival as planet-destroying comet races to Earth. Butler’s family struggles for survival in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster as the planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary.

Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.

With its reception and regardless of the COVID 19 Pandemic, the film grossed $52.3 million at the Box Office and was announced that the sequel, Greenland: Migration is already in the works. The continuation of the story will center around the Garritys’ journey across a frozen European wasteland to find a new home. STX has already acquired the worldwide distribution rights for the film at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival for the sequel with a $65 million budget.

Chris’s path to becoming a renowned Hollywood blockbuster writer begun on the actor’s path. He was inspired to take up writing after the 1997 hit psychological drama film, Goodwill Hunting which was directed by Gus Van Sant and starred Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and others.

He left Los Angeles on a home (Rhodes Island) bound to recalibrate and focus on completing college and writing because it was a challenge juggling that and acting auditions. After completing college, Sparling returned to Los Angeles. With no connections or leads, he returned to Rhodes Island with the plan to make a movie of one of the many scripts he had written by then. Though he had no formal film production experience at this point, Sparling wrote, directed, and produced An Uzi at the Alamo which is about a young writer in search of his identity, pledges to his dysfunctional family that he will commit suicide on his 25th birthday. As the fateful day approaches, he stumbles upon love and a new sense of self. Fearing family humiliation if he backs out of his pledge, he prepares for his last birthday with the feigned support of his family.

Of course, the film did not do well, but this is when things became interesting for Chris’s writing career. He dusted up and sent out about one hundred specs to studios, managers, producers, literally anyone he could contact. He received back, only three responses and one of which was from a manager who became his manager and still is till this day. That was his first open door.

When I saw the trailer for Chris’s 2010 film, Buried, and the success of it, as an independent filmmaker, I was in awe and slightly jealous of how easy (cost, and production-wise), revolutionary the film is. Buried is a brilliantly twisted suspense and original screenplay that is a nightmare for claustrophobes. 

Sparling found mainstream success when his feature-length screenplay Buried was purchased by producer Peter Safran starring Ryan Reynolds.

Ryan plays Paul, an Iraq-based American civilian truck drive. After an attack by a group of Iraqis, he Wakes up groggy in pitch darkness, to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glowsticks, pen, pencil, and a mobile phone.

It’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap. He is left to rely on his cell phone to contact the outside world. But the outside world proves not to be very helpful at finding a man buried in a box in the middle of the Iraqi desert. Paul must rely on his best resource–himself.

The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was sold to Lionsgate Films. Buried was shown at several major European and North American film festivals. It was nominated for and won a plethora of European films awards because it was produced in Barcelona by Barcelona-based Versus Entertainment, in association with The Safran Company and Dark Trick Films.

Some of the awards included the Goya Award, for Best Original Screenplay, a Gaudi Award in the same category, and the best European feature film of the year award at the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival in September 2010. This $2 million budget indie film made a gross splash of $21.3 million worldwide. 

Sparling had an immediate success from Buried; between the script going out in March of 2009 and the movie premiering at Sundance in 2010, and he suddenly needed an agent, an attorney, and everything legit in between. 

Intrusion, Sparling’s latest film will be streaming on Netflix in just one week (September 22, 2021), starring Freida Pinto and Logan Marshall-Green

It is about a husband and wife who move to a small town. A deadly home invasion leaves the wife traumatized and suspicious that those around her might not be who they seem. Even though it was self-defense, it was still a homicide. However, it turns out that the home invasion was not a one-off, and there are many other missing person cases in which the invaders may be involved. Meera falls into a rabbit hole as she takes it upon herself to find out the truth.

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Chris Sparling.

Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome to the show Chris Sparling, man. How you doing, Chris?

Chris Sparling 0:15
I'm good. I'm good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:16
Good, man. Good. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I appreciate you reaching out and wanting to come on the show that you you've been listening to the show a bit and been our fan and you heard a couple of your friends on the show. You're like, hey, I want to jump in on this action.

Chris Sparling 0:31
Yeah, yeah, I heard I heard Eddie Burns on and he was talking about him and Aaron Lubin who I know. And I was like, man, it sounds fun. I want to do this. And so yeah, you're right.

Alex Ferrari 0:42
Yeah. And we were talking about one of one of your favorite episodes, Joe Carnahan, who's a friend friend of the show, and one of the easily one of the most entertaining episodes I've ever had.

Chris Sparling 0:53
Without question, well, it's easy. I don't I don't know Joe is easily one of the most entertaining episodes I listened to for sure. That guy was like, I'm like, that guy's fucking cool, man. I don't meet that guy.

Alex Ferrari 1:02
Joe is arguably one of the coolest filmmakers I know and I've ever met. He is he is definitely a force of nature without question. Now, before we jump in, man, how did you get started in the business?

Chris Sparling 1:14
So my thing was, I started as an actor, like eons ago by this point. And so I did the struggling actor thing and, and I was gonna stay in Rhode Island. That's where I'm from in LA for a couple years. And I mean, that's a tough, tough racket, man. I don't I mean, a lot of credit, people do that and stick to it long term. I did it for about two years. And it was during that time that goodwill hunting came up. And so between like anyone honestly talking about it like that, I think macmullan had come out a few years prior and everything. So it's like, between that, and then Good Will Hunting come out came out. It was like the worst thing in the world. And best thing in the world that could have happened to an actor, because all of us started to think we could write our own shit. And so, you know, thinking would be that easy. Okay, so that's what I did. I started writing when I was, you know, as trying to go on auditions and etc, etc. And so after about two years, I headed back home to to Rhode Island, which is where I was from, because I had left I would not tell us, I was really fucking young. I was like, 20 years old. So I left college midway through, to do this to chase the dream, as it were. And I was kind of, like, Man, I'm doing too much. Like I was taking acting classes I was working. I was, I was taking school classes, you know, and doing all these things. I'm like, I'm not really excelling at any of these things. Because I'm doing all of them. Let me just focus on getting school done at least, kind of recalibrate, regroup, see where I'm at, you know, with the plan of going back to LA, which is exactly what I did. So I went back to the east coast, finished my degree, and then spent the summer here, then drove cross country back to to LA and arrived the night before September 11. So, yeah, so I mean, it was like, as you probably remember, I mean, you know, as it pertains to our business, here, we're not doing for like months and months. Because this is the part I think a lot of people forget about that time is that's also when the anthrax scare happened. It was right in that same window. So it's not like now where I would imagine everything is you know, it is everything's digital, you know, just you've had shots or whatever else all gets all reels or all digit back, then you were sending a hard copy headshots. And during the anthrax scare, no one was opening mail, because they were afraid to. So I mean, if that's the way you get auditions is you know, by your headshot resume going out and no one's open. So I was like, I'm doing nothing out here. So four months passed. And I was like this, this ain't it. This is I just felt completely had no control no agency in my own life. So I'd started by that point, I'd written more. I was like, You know what, I'm going to move home. I'm going to write a movie that I'm going to direct produce star in. I've no idea how to do any of those things, really. But even with the only way I can see this working, and that's what and that's what I did. Frankly, that's that's what happened.

Alex Ferrari 4:18
And that movie was the is that the one that Uzi at the Alamo? Yeah,

Chris Sparling 4:22
yeah. Which is a total fucking shit show. It's like, I mean, it's, it's like looking back to your high school. Like ninth grade High School picture and going cheese. I thought I was alright looking. I was like, No, you are not. You are not at all good looking.

Alex Ferrari 4:40
You know, listen, I have to interrupt for a second on the side. But I just went back to visit my mom and then in my mom's house. As my high school picture in a giant frame in the front, circa 1992 blue like glamorous Shot picture like your blue like stripes in the neon stripes in the back and you had the whole Oh my God, my daughters are like, Daddy, what? What is it? Man? I have no idea you know, right? The cavalry cheese all day all day. Every guard Absolutely.

Chris Sparling 5:24
So anyway, that movie, you know, I'm gonna I'm gonna add context in just a second. But I mean I had never made a movie I had no business making a movie. I barely I didn't even know how to write a movie. Honestly, I at least written at least one or two screenplays by that point. But I still didn't know what the hell I was doing. And it's a mini miracle the movie even got finished. It really is. And so that's why I'm saying on add some context. So I imagine you and I are roughly the same age. So like you and I kind of straddle the analog and digital world. We were there when it all started to change. Right. So this was at a time when the digital world started to kind of become a thing. But it still was expensive to make a movie. You know what I mean? It wasn't expensive. Maybe it was to shoot on on film. But it still was expensive. Oh, right. And so I think I made that movie all in for like, $20,000 which, nowadays, if you say that to someone, they're like, $20,000 that you made this free piece of shit for $20,000? Like, what? Just you, that's all you can do.

Alex Ferrari 6:34
And when did you shoot out

Chris Sparling 6:35
on the GTX? 100? So dv x what was the 100?

Alex Ferrari 6:38
Acer or the 100? Because obviously there's a difference. You know,

Chris Sparling 6:42
it wasn't in the a it was the GTX 100

Alex Ferrari 6:44
all you got the first gen you got the first gen I got my. Yeah, my first film was on the 180. Which, by the way, arguably best little independent film camera ever. It was. It was gorgeous looking. Yeah, it was the first 24 P. And of course, and when we saw we're like this is looks just like film.

Chris Sparling 7:02
No, it looks like a movie is amazing, right? But it still wasn't cheap.

Alex Ferrari 7:08
It was not it was not.

Chris Sparling 7:10
So it took me about two and a half years to finish the movie, because I shot it in about two weeks. Again, I had no business making a movie. I mean, I'm I don't know how people just didn't leave. organized, it was organized enough to happen, right? And I obviously were treated well. And people were paid a little amount of money. But I mean to ask people to show up day after day. And these are again, I'm shooting this in Rhode Island. The people that are actors, but they're not. They're not full time actors. They are people that maybe do like community theater, or this this is like kind of a hobby or maybe a little more than that for them. Anyway, it it's a fucking shit show. But I love it for what it was at the time. I would not have a career had I not done it.

Alex Ferrari 8:00
Right? What how so what did that do for your career? Because as you're just saying, it's like, it's I can't believe anyone even looked at that thing. What did that do for your career as a writer and and or director.

Chris Sparling 8:12
So it was, again, going back to the time it was, you know, back in the day, it was like, Well, if you had if you wanted to contact anyone who's like the Hollywood representation directory, big book, you know, just scouring those books, trying to find representation, trying to find basically just querying everyone under the sun that I think is right for this, say, will you watch my movie? That's, that's really what I was doing. And I guess the benefit of the time was that unlike now, because it's so easy to create content, the barriers of entry are basically gone. There wasn't as much content. So to reach out to someone, if you had a film that actually was meant something.

Alex Ferrari 8:50
It's like I've been saying to people a long time, like in the 80s All you had to do was finish a movie and it was sold, it was sold. And you made money the Toxic Avenger got made during that time. I mean, it just it was theatrically run, there's the 90s was a watered down version of that. Now, the the waiter or the Uber driver has a feature.

Chris Sparling 9:10
Right? No, so true, but it and so, you know, I don't know how many queries I sent out. Maybe 100. I have no idea. But I think I heard back from maybe like five people that said, Yeah, sure. Send me your movie. And of course, in the meantime is doing trying to get in this festival. But of the five I heard back from maybe three and of the three I think two said they liked it and all the two. One said it was a manager and he said he goes I liked it man. I laughed out loud. And then the word you always want to hear it what else you're working there right and so that was it. I mean, I was a kid from Rhode Island man. I didn't know anybody. I didn't know anyone in business. I didn't have any connections. So, so that was my first open door. And it was like that's it. I'm fucking going that's it. I'm this door which will open the door. Excellent. And now just fast forward. That's my manager. He's my manager still, to this day still.

Alex Ferrari 10:06
That's awesome. That's great. All right, so then, you made you wrote a film in 2000. We came out in 2010, called buried. Now, I was telling you before we can afford, it's like when I saw that trailer, and saw the success of that film, and everything. As an independent filmmaker, I was like, God dammit, why didn't I think of that? That's like, the easiest, cheapest thing you could shoot like, it's a dude in a box. Oh, my God, why didn't I think about? And it was it was, I mean, it was kind of revolutionary when it came out, especially for for Indian, and that you got Ryan Reynolds and all that stuff. But how did you come up with an original concept of yours?

Chris Sparling 10:50
Yeah. So that was a basically, the lesson learned from that feature that I make Where's. So I made that and that movie had all these locations of all these actors. And it's like, things you don't I didn't know, man, I didn't know like that stuff. Like, I shouldn't be doing that on the budget and all the time for all that stuff. I just didn't know any better. And like I said, thankfully, no one just left the project, which could have happened. But anyway, so this time around, I'd made a shorter to be in between. And I mean, I think it's worth pointing out I didn't go to film school. So I had, like, I had no other practical knowledge of how to do this. But the thing I learned from making that first feature was like, Man, this time around, I can't do it that way. Like, I can't have all these locations. I can't have all these actors because a that shit cost so much money and time. And and on top of that, it's like, again, I could run the risk of people just not showing up for work. So I was like, Alright, well, I have about at this point, I was working like a regular job again. And I'm like, I have like five grand that I can save. What movie Can I make for five grand? That's it. And I made the conscious decision by that point, Paranormal Activity come out. You know, I toyed for a minute about like, well, the found footage thing seems like that's an affordable way to make a movie. As I don't really think I want to do that right now. And so then it just really became what movie Can you make for five grand, so naturally, it gets smaller and smaller, and literally, your people. And I was like, I was left with a guy in a box on the phone. And I was like, fucking man, if I need to do half of the voices that on the phone, I'll do half of the voices. And then who was going to start it? I don't know. You know, here's something that I'm talking about buried is at one point. So like, this is like very early on. You know, I've written a script, and I'm thinking I'm gonna shoot it in my apartment for five grand. And I'm like, Well, I want to try at least to get some food and some semblance of a name. Right? In this movie. I'll try. I don't know if it'll work. And I was thinking like, I was actually thinking like, maybe like, thinking about the some dude from days of our lives. The guy that plays bow, I don't know why. Maybe I can get him I mean, not to not like, disparage him as if he's like, I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel but I'm thinking like, I'm not gonna get a movie star there's we're just gonna face a face somebody Yes. Somebody right, just to kind of just add some sort of credibility to me, I'm a nobody, you don't mind. And, and long story short, so I talked earlier about how my other thing opened the door with that manager. And kind of what happened in the time in between is after that, I send them an I'd write a new script, I would send it to him. He would like it, but wouldn't set the world on fire for him. So he'd be like, well, I liked it. But let's keep talking. And that went on for like, three, three and a half years, Alex, where you know, and I made it made a couple more smaller contacts and then contacts in the meantime. So hustling, hustling, hustling. And so finally, it's like six months into pre production, or at least me figuring out how I'm gonna make my $5,000 version of buried in my apartment. And, and I didn't send him this script is the only script I'd never sent it. Because my thinking is, he's like this big Hollywood manager, like, why is he gonna? Why is he gonna care about my guy in a box won't be like, I don't want to risk destroying the relationship. I've now spent three years cultivating right? And you do these things. We've all been there Everyone listen to you. Like, it's like, that's been part of the struggle. You're questioning every move, like yanking everything cuz you think Oh, is this gonna be the landmine I step in? Oh, I don't know if I should do that. Right. And it's just it's, it's such an excruciating process. But anyway, one night, I was caught, like, it was like the Jerry Maguire moment where I was looking at my career. You know, I was like, What is going on? Is this ever going to happen? Is this movie gonna happen? Is my career gonna happen? And I was like, You know what, fuck it. I'm gonna send it to him. And I did. And he flipped for it. He's like, Oh, my God. Like this script is amazing, dude, like, what are you doing? What are your plans like? What my Mine was to make it. And these are our that's cool. He's like, what? I think this can be a spec that we can go around would you be? Would you be willing long short, would you be willing to step back from directing it? If we can go out with it as a spec? And macro? I was like, Yeah, man. I'm just trying to break into the business any way I can. So long story short, that's what we went out with it. And this is this is the crazy thing. So I went from being I'm sorry for being so long winded. You know, I went from being a guy from Rhode Island that had no contacts that was you know, banging his head hustling, trying, trying trying for years, maybe little progress. That script went out. I remember correctly. It was like march of 2009. The movie was in Sundance. 2010

Alex Ferrari 15:47
Yeah, I know. That's insanely fast. Yes. So Alright, so you went out and didn't get Did you get the director attached? First? Did you get a producer attached first.

Chris Sparling 15:58
So it all came like I mean, it's crazy. Like that's why I drive home the point that it was like almost like a just an overnight sort of flip where I went from being someone who tried for years to get representation tried all the different things that we do, to all of a sudden now I have a manager who gets me an agent, UTA, who gets me a high powered attorney. But the overnight success, if you want to call it that was like it, like they say is like 10 years in the making,

Alex Ferrari 16:24
right? But he's like, boom, boom, and all of a sudden, there was a switch and, and that's what the power of good content will do a good piece of material. We'll, we'll do that for you. So it goes out. You get a producer you get until At what point did Ryan Reynolds get involved cuz Ryan Reynolds was yet I mean, he was Ryan, he was a star, but he wasn't Ryan Reynolds. Yeah, he's not dead. He's definitely not Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds.

Chris Sparling 16:44
No, no, no, he his big thing. At that point, he had done the proposal when he said that it really kind of elevated him, right. And I remembered so I again, I didn't go to film school, my I my degrees in criminal justice. So I at the time, I was working, doing fraud investigation, which is a boring fucking job, it sounds. And so I remember like, by this point, I had my team around me, I knew we were you know, things were happening with my career for the first time, but you know, it, that's also a weird phase to be in your career where it's like things change, but yet they have changed, because it seems like something's gonna happen. But you're, you're still, I'm still working a regular job. And I remember I was doing a case. And I'm in my car, like you spent a lot of your time in your car and that you're watching. It's a boring job. Anyway, long story short, this is before cell phones, smartphones. So I have my I have my laptop, and I'm picking up a Wi Fi signal from some random person's house, whatever, I'm just using their Wi Fi. And I remember getting an email with a link to a variety article saying that Ryan Reynolds was on the project that he had signed on to the project. And I was like, holy shit, I'm like, This is crazy. And I remember like, the next day or so. And here's a little cautionary tale is that I remember, I put in my two weeks notice, because I'm like, I made it. I made it. I made it. Right. And thank God and like, if they got it actually happened, because it's I was so green at the time. Like, I didn't realize how many 1000s of things could have gone wrong. At that point for not to happen. I think God,

Alex Ferrari 18:19
that's, that's that's to say, I mean, I feel you because when I was coming up as well, I would have a meeting with a star for a project that was trying to get off the ground. And then I'm like, I had to go back and you know, doing my day job. And just like, there's such a disc, there's such a weird disconnect. Like, you're talking to a producer, you're flying out to LA or doing something and then you get back home and you're just like, oh my god, how am I gonna pay the rent this week? Like

Chris Sparling 18:46
that weird Limbo phase? You're still in it? He's like, you feel like, Oh, right, I finally broke in. But your life hasn't changed at all. Good. It was like that in that sort of limbo phase until the movie finally got made. And thankfully, happened fast.

Alex Ferrari 19:03
And the thing is, I've had I've had guests on the show, too, that they'd like literally, their movie was, like just released and they're still in their day job like the money has kicked in yet. Like, haven't really, you know, hasn't really started yet. But, but I do remember that when Barry came out it was kind of like an indie film. Like a little indie film phenomenon because of the writing the directing. The director did a fantastic job because how many how can you make a box interesting visually like at a certain point? He did it was it was brilliantly shot. But the story did you conceive it always as a real time movie? Like 90 minutes? Yeah.

Chris Sparling 19:44
Yeah, yeah. never leaving the box. I mean, again, but that was born out of and I always wish I had a cooler answer. People ask me a lot. Like why did you make this move? Why'd you write it this way? Because I couldn't afford to get them out of the box. Getting out of the box is expensive. Like then you have to see the desert and all this other stuff. Like, I can't afford that. So, you know, it's one of those cases where, you know, where you you have, again, I was going to direct a movie. So I vision for what this movie was going to be. And Rodrigo Cortez came in and just I was like, holy shit. Like, I would have made a decent movie out of this, I think because it does a pretty cool idea. But I'm like, he made it into something truly cinematic. And it was just like, wow, I was also as blown away as everyone

Alex Ferrari 20:26
else was thought. And that movie, and then it did did gangbusters at the box office. For the budget that it had. It was it was a really, really well received.

Chris Sparling 20:35
International Yes, it didn't, it didn't get a big release here in the US but internationally made like 20 million off like a $3 million budget.

Alex Ferrari 20:41
Wow, that's crazy. And then just continue to grow Ryan, Ryan's ya know, profile up more and more. So let me ask you that after after buried. I always love asking because you have a hit now under your belt now Now you've got a bonafide hit and you're the writer of it. And there wasn't to my understanding, there wasn't like four other 15 other writers on it that tweaked it and script doctor did or anything like that. Right. So. So the town knows that you? It's not you know, it's not a script doctor or anything like that. That's come in. How does the town treat you? What's the next step? Do you do do the water bottle tour? Like what happened?

Chris Sparling 21:18
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that was happening. Again, it's been a long time now. But that was happening before the movie even came up. That stuff was and that was that Limbo phase again, where it's like, Yeah, right. You're like going to these meetings and meeting all these people, as producers and at the studios, and then you're like, let's go back to your normal life at home. So that stuff was happening prior to. And then after you get on, you know, the lists, everybody you know, the list you want to beyond and kind of like the incoming call business, which is great. And that was the case for a while. And so yeah, I mean, that's, that's the nature of I think that's what, you know, that's I think you learn with your maturity and just doing this for now. I've been doing this for over 12 years, I think professionally, and it's like, you learn how like people are the toast of the town, and they're the new hot, cool thing. And then it's somebody else's turn. And then maybe you it's your turn again, down the line. But in a weird way, Alex, it's the kind of thing like if I had found success, when I first started out doing this, like all of this, it may sound cliche to say, but I think it is true. It's like I don't know if I would have been mature enough to handle it. Because especially when I wasn't the flavor of the moment anymore, because it is a very fleeting moment. We're kind of within like, Oh, well, I was like, You guys made me think I was like, cool. And I was the shit. And all of a sudden I'm like, you know, come that doesn't feel like as much anymore. And, you know, I think I was settled enough in my normal life. And sure enough, those older to be like, I'm just gonna keep working. You know, I'm just gonna keep hustling and working, that's not going to change and then come with me.

Alex Ferrari 22:49
Yeah, like, like, I had Troy Duffy on the show who's obviously infamous for boondock saints. And he had all that success at the beginning of his career. And I told him straight up like, man, I don't know if I would have made a whole lot of maybe slightly different decisions than you would have made during that time. But I imagine if you had that kind of success at 2425 you'd self implode? Yeah, you'd self implode, it's it takes a strong, mature 25 year old not that there isn't any obviously. But I wasn't that guy that's for damn sure i would i would have been eaten alive myself.

Chris Sparling 23:25
Yeah, I'm sure I would have to that the fall would have was what would have hurt me because I was used to the client, like, like the trying to climb better, you know that pushing the boulder up the hill as it were like, I was used to that, and I was fine with that. But when all of a sudden you get to the party, you know? And then like, oh, what happened? You know that like that would have been tough to kind of deal with as a younger guy.

Alex Ferrari 23:49
Yeah, and there's a lot of screenwriters and filmmakers coming up, they don't understand that they if they're lucky enough to get that moment. And it doesn't have to be huge. You don't have to be like blown away at your paranormal activity. You can have slight smaller victories get into Sundance or, or you know, something along those lines that you get a little bit of attention on you. That moment is very quick, especially in today's world. I mean, it was a little longer when you happen like you know, 12 years ago that window was open a little longer because there was less competition and the world was a lot different right out now. It's your it's so short and if you don't hit when that door is open when you if you don't crash in with something. Did you have other scripts? Is that the I mean, obviously had other scripts ready, right or? No?

Chris Sparling 24:33
Yeah, I did it. I mean, my next movie, the one that came on after the one I did is called ATM which did not turn out well. I mean, it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't reviewed. Well, it was it came together fast to kind of came together in the course of kind of a follow up to bury another contained little movie. And, you know, you kind of you know hindsight being what it is you look back and say I probably should have waited instead of rushing into my sophomore effort as it were. I should have waited too. To do something a little stronger, I guess, you know, because after that, that I saw the kind of the fall off. That movie was like, all of a sudden the poster said from the writer of barity. So it was like, Whoa, like, this means it's, it's, you know, there's value there, then all of a sudden that movie didn't do well. That means like, it was, it was me that really took the hit. You know, I feel and, and I blame myself. I mean, the script I thought was okay, it was good. But again, it was, you have like this, this energy because you finally get there and you want to, you know, you want to like keep it going, because you worked so hard to get there everything else. But then, you know, after that, though, but what you realize too is the work matters, like the struggle matters. It does. Because you I always look at it this way. I don't know how you feel I was looking at as I started off with nobody in this industry, right? Like a lot of people I'm not unique in that way. It's like a lot of people. And even even up till now frankly, we're on like women now I know. Like I've been doing this for 12 years. I know all these friggin people, like why am I going to stop stop working as hard? It's like, No, I'm gonna work just as hard if not harder, because now I have more like all the sources world like I can. Yeah. And so, I mean, it's that's kind of what happened after I think my second old ATM where it's kind of like, the phone stopped ringing as much, you know, and it was like, what's going on, dude, like, What is going on? I'm not the belle of the ball anymore. And it had the struggle, I feel like the culmination of all those years are what made me realize, Oh, dude, you have to fucking get back to work, you have to create more content, you have to make turn this around. And, and frankly, it was I had now done two of these very, very small contain movies, I was like, I at least need to think bigger, I need to change the industry's perception of me. And that's what led me to write the sea of trees prize like, this is going to be you know, because no one's gonna do it for me. You know, I I've got a I've got to change the narrative here.

Alex Ferrari 27:06
Yeah, and that, and that's the thing. It's a lot of writers and filmmakers coming up don't understand that, that that Hollywood is they love to put people in boxes, because it just makes it easier to categorize and be like, Okay, he's the, oh, he's the guy who does the contained movies, if we have a contained idea, we'll call him. Or, you know, he just does action. Or he's just a comedy writer. He's a, he's a he's a Polish guy or gal who just does polishes for comedy or joke write dialogue writing or you know, things like that. And it's your job to break out of that. And it's some people love staying in their box, and they build an entire career out of their box. But it's hard. Especially if you've been in a box for a while you weren't in a box for a while. But it's hard once you're in that box, to change perceptions, and see if trees argument is a little bit different than buried.

Chris Sparling 27:56
Yeah, it is. I mean, I will I will actually push back a little bit on what you're saying. I'm in even to this day, I still find myself. People who have that perception of me are like, Oh, you write these small containers? Really? Yeah, yeah. And I mean, that's me. We'll get to Greenland, I'm sure. But that's largely where green was born. I've worked like a really? I'll show you. I've been I've been a stubborn bass. Not stubborn in a mean way. But like, if you grow like if someone told me when I was younger, like Oh, dude, you can't like playing basketball, dude. You know, you can't shoot. That's it. Fucking next day. I'm out there in the snow shooting all day long. Yeah, I mean, it's gonna go through my head over and over again. I early on. I'm sure we all have these stories. I remember very early on I talked about that. No, I call it a movie I made the first one. I remember going to a small again, this is a sign of the times to get a replication done of the of the DVD. I do that myself.

Alex Ferrari 28:57
Right. There's not duplication, a replication which is a different Yeah, you went to go get the class master made back in the day. Yes. So

Chris Sparling 29:04
so so I and I go to this, like this small little video place here in Rhode Island. Right? That I don't even know what they specialize in. But whatever, there they are. Currently, the only place I can find that does it. And there are a couple guys are, you know, they're probably honestly, they're probably my age now. But back then. And like really just kind of like, it's sort of, like cynical. And, and so I was like, you know, a young kid. I'm like, you know, I'd love to you know, this is what I hope you guys could do here. You know, I need this done. And kind of looking at me with this. Tim was like sneering sort of look like Well, so what do you want to do? And and I told him I was like, I want to make features. And they kind of looked at it. It was almost like a bad movie. See like a scene from a bad movie. Like they look at each other roll their eyes. And the guy says something to the effect of Yeah, kid we all we all like, is it to say like, it's not gonna happen. This is what you're gonna do. You're gonna be doing We're doing Right, right. And like, I clearly remember that to this day cuz I was like, fuck you motherfucker, that's not gonna be me. Because that's not you're not I mean, and, and that shit to me is like fuel, right? You know that sort of stuff people say, I can't do something and and, you know, it's I've never you know, again like a lot of people I'm not unique in this way they I've never I didn't you know things never really came easy to me like I'm not I'm not I was not a gifted writer, I was a pretty good writer growing up I, whatever, whatever it is, you know, and so this stuff has taken me a long time we're resolving people, half the time. Where was I going with this? But anyway, so So, so with when when ATM comes out again on the you take you take a few hits, because you're like, oh, man, no phones aren't ringing anymore. I was like, no one's gonna do it for me, like I have to get I have to go again and show that I can do something different and see trees was a drama, you know, I was like, I'm gonna go not at all what I've done,

Alex Ferrari 31:01
right. And it's, it's a, it's a completely different kind of drama than what you would with anything else that you've done. One thing I wanted to kind of touch on about that, that kind of, not to, not to demean it. But the spunky attitude of the East coaster. There's an there's, there's, we have chips on our shoulders I'm from I'm the I'm an East coaster, too. I was raised in New York, but but then, you know, spent most of my time down in South Florida. And when you're coming up as a filmmaker on the East Coast, or arguably not only East Coast, but arguably outside of LA, you've got a chip, because you got to struggle that much harder to get anything going like that you made a move in the 90s on a dv x 108 in Rhode Island, right? For 20 grand. That's a like you said it's a miracle. You know, I did something, I did something similar in 2005 with the dv x. And it was just like, I can't believe I look back at it. I'm like, how God's green earth did I do that? Like it's but there's a thing. And now you've lived in LA, obviously, and I've I live in LA, for 13 years. When you get out to LA, you realize it's just it's everywhere. It's everywhere. Every Starbucks you walk down to has final draft on all the laptops. You know, I always did I always say the joke when I walk into it when I get an Uber, pre pandemic, what I used to jump into when I used to world Yeah, in a different world. I used to jump into Uber and I would say how the audition go, or how's the script going? Like without even saying hello. And then like, how do you know I'm like? I mean, I don't know if this has ever happened to you in an Uber I actually had a composer like bust open, like music This time, because I told him, what do you do? I'm like, oh my god. I'm a director and like, Well, I have some music. I'm a composer here. And they would like play them. And it was so bad. I was like I didn't. And he's like, Can you give me the honest truth? I'm like, do you want to meet you want me to be honest. And I, I'll be constructive. But I'll be honest, and I gave him the honest review. And you could just see. Just deflated. I'm like, I rather you hear from me, man than if you go into a room somewhere. When if you if you get into the room somewhere, and you play that it's not ready.

Chris Sparling 33:18
Yeah, but that's the sort of stuff honestly, like, hear that you get deflated. But then you go one of two ways. Either you're like, I just you stay I guess stay deflated. Or you're like, later on that you're that guy, you're talking guy. I'm gonna make myself better. But you take the lesson, you're like, there's something to be taken from that I had that. Again, I'm talking way too much about movie that I'd rather not talk about at all. But nonetheless, that same movie, I remember showing it to some like filmmaker in Boston again, I was, I don't mean to keep using the word hustle. Because it sounds like I'm just sucking up to you. It's fun.

Alex Ferrari 33:55
It's fun. Once you send me a dime every time you say the word though, but that's

Chris Sparling 34:02
what's like in the course of that struggle, that hustle like I remember finding about finding this filmmaker in Boston. I was like, again, well, there's a filmmaker, I've tried to reach out to them. I just talked to him. And I remember I sent him the movie. And I was like, oh God, like you might like my movie this guy. And, and he I remember getting an email back. And it was something to the effect of like, I tried, like, I tried watching it, but I turned it off after half an hour. And I was just like, oh my god, like, Oh, you know, and what do you do at that point? Either you just go I guess one of three things. You say well, I'm just not cut out for this. And that's the end of it. Or you just I guess stay you accept the fact that you're not good at and continue to be not good. Or you recognize there's constructive criticism in there and and then you get better. You know, you have to keep working till you're better.

Alex Ferrari 34:52
So,

Chris Sparling 34:53
so yeah, that's, yeah. There was something else I was going to tell you. Well,

Alex Ferrari 34:58
I wasn't okay. We'll get to it. So I, I, I don't mean to sound like I was being addicted, that poor guy in the that was in my Uber driver who was selling me the composer. But the thing is that the you and I got hit card Jesus with my films. I mean, I would send them out and I would get just, you know, people wouldn't like it, but then some people would love it. And it's like, Am I pled out for this is is this the thing, at a certain point, the universe is going to continuously throw punches at you constantly, they're going to be throwing crap at you thinking it's going to test you all the time. Because arguably, this is one of the most difficult businesses in the world to break into. Sure. It's just, it's just a very brutal business to break into. And the universe continuously is going to test you and test you to see if you've got the metal to make it happen. There's always the there's always the Robert Rodriguez story. Everyone always talks about the Robert Rodriguez story, or, or the paranormal activity or these kind of lottery ticket. Even Eddie, you know, when I talked to Adam, like a year, you earned a lottery ticket he goes, but then when you hear the story of how you got brothers with bolaven I'm like, Dude, that was brutal. as well. But you got it. I think the universe tested us like, do you have the metal to keep going? Because the people who actually make it in our business and and you know, you have you've been in the business and have had a lot of successes and know a lot of people arguably, it's not always the most talented. It's not the nicest, no,

Chris Sparling 36:27
no, it's not. Um, you know, yeah, it's not, I mean, on both sides on our side and say, the executive side, all all

Alex Ferrari 36:36
sides of all the business, but it's like, but it's about who stuck in there who write it and give up and they're the ones that make it. And there's I know some I know, some talented screenwriters man, whoever reads the scripts, I'm like, why hasn't this been produced?

Chris Sparling 36:51
Sure.

Alex Ferrari 36:52
Yeah, this is great. And you just like, sometimes it pops. Sometimes it doesn't like the way the world works. I don't understand it. But like you got

Chris Sparling 37:01
talented Pete a lot of talented people that are truly waiting to be quote, unquote, discovered there. There are a lot of people out there that are, you know, they've made a career. And then you wonder how sometimes and that's, like I said, on the, on the executive side, I've met some really, really great executives. They're like, these are brilliant men and women that you're like, you know, it makes perfect sense why you're successful as you are. And occasionally though, you come across someone and you ask yourself, like, how did you even get your job? Like, how did you, you know, last this long, I mean, because it's shocking. Sometimes it is, Oh, God, I've

Alex Ferrari 37:35
seen them. Oh, god, oh, no. My post days, when I had my post house, I would get these guys come in. And it's like, you know, some 24 year old who got three or $4 million to make their first feature. And I'm sitting there like stewing as I'm color grading or editing the project. And I'm like, Yeah, do you want me to make this look like a little Blade Runner esque. And they're like, I've never seen Blade Runner. I'm like, get out of my sweet. What is wrong with you? Like, like, how did someone give you 3 million? Why did I get that 3 million God?

Chris Sparling 38:04
And it's looking, it's just how it works out for everybody, you know? Yeah. And the thing like no one listening to this is gonna say, Oh, that's what Chris farlington said, that's what I should do. No, don't like don't because it's not going to your way is going to be your way and not to sound like an old man. But it's the truth. It's like, this is this isn't, you know, this isn't. These aren't the hard sciences. Like if that's what you're looking for, if you're looking for a profession where you get concrete answers. Go become a mathematician, I guess you're you're a scientist, where you could say this is the this is the fact like, I know this for a fact that I accomplished this, and this is what it is, is settled. This is the kind of thing we're we're all doing our best and and hoping that the stars align when they do. They're certainly tried and more tried and true, I guess, approaches for sure. But at the end of the day, I think it really just comes down to kind of, you know, the amount of effort you're putting in.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
Did you make the same mistake? I did, because I when I was coming up, I you know, Robert, Robert, Eddie, Rick, Linkletter all these guys, you, you know, Kevin Smith, you I just kept looking at all their paths. I'm like, Well, I'm going to do what Robert did, or I'm going to do what Kevin did, or I'm going to do, thinking that I was trying to hack the system. And I was trying to figure out a way like, how can I get in? Okay, well, they snuck into the party this way, maybe I can go down that road. And the thing is that every one of those, the door slammed behind them. Because it just was there time with their project at that moment. You know, when I had Rick on the show, and I even I think I even asked Eddie this I go, do you think brothers Macmillan would make it today? And I think Eddie said probably not like just just too much. This is not the time for that film. It was at that moment, you know, so did you make that mistake?

Chris Sparling 39:48
Yeah, I think all of us do. No, it's like that we it's it's part of the process, right? Even say just finding your voice like at first. We're all like, we're all like cover bands, right? Like that's the way we learn to play is that we play couple songs at first. And so like, that's a great analogy. It's like you have to create eventually you want to kind of do your own thing. And so you learn to and and but what I think the takeaway is what what you can emulate or copy even what they did is that they did it. Like they went out and did it you don't you don't want to copy what they did you want to copy the fact that they actually got off their ass and did it. And I, you know, I have to imagine this is your experience as well. There's something so interesting about this business, because there are so many people that are in so many of us are always talking about the things we're going to do and going to make and that's our side, on the executive side is right, like all these projects in development and etc, etc. And it's all it's not to say that it's it's just bullshit. Sometimes I suppose it is. But like, it's these are all like desires like we want. And it's amazing thing when you are making something. It's amazing how people just lean in. And they're like, well, what, and I had that experience, I had that experience. When I did, I did a small movie called The Atticus Institute with Peter Safran. And, and so, I made that movie, there's like a $200,000 movie that we did. And there's a good movie, my opinion, but anyway, you know, I'm in post on it in LA, meanwhile, doing some meetings, etc, etc. And I wasn't really mentioning it. You know, like, they just came also, when you come in Delhi, just for the meetings, I'm like, Well, usually that's what I'll do. But I'm here because I'm in Poland. I was like, I'm and post on a movie I do. And you watch it. They're like, What movie is that? And the converse, like the, like the blinders they could put on because I think there's just something and it happens to me, a buddy of mine just made a movie. I'm so proud of them. He's been in LA and actor friend of mine. Like he, he's been in LA for 20 something years, or whatever it's been. And he just he went out and produced and wrote and produced his own movie. And I was like, Yeah, and I was like, and I find myself I'm like, holy shit. And

Alex Ferrari 42:02
Can I see it?

Chris Sparling 42:04
Yes, because it's real. Like, it's what separates you from a lot of people who in our business, just talk about making movies, or talking about making district that. And I don't know, that's what I think that's what I think you can take from people like Robert Rodriguez and Eddie Edwards. And I said this. I've actually spoken to Aaron, Eddie producing partners since hearing them on the podcast. I told him, I was like, Yeah, I was I reached out like, Hey, I heard it on the podcast, etc, etc. And I told them, you know, those guys, that story inspires me all over again, every time, you know, where I hear what they did and what they're doing currently. Because, believe me, I'm not I'm not I'm not dumb. I recognize that I'm talking from a pretty privileged position now where I am a morning writer, I get, you know, hired to write and rewrite stuff, etc, etc. So it's easy for me to kind of make this Cavalier statement of like, fucking man, I was inspired. I'm gonna go make something my own. Well, it's Yeah, it's like, Yeah, dude, you because you're already making money. You're lucky, right? But, you know, to be fair to myself, I was the guy on the other side for a long time, a very long time. You know, just trying to hustle trying to whatever my point is. I heard them like, what would they always call me Marlin? 2.0. Yeah, right. Yeah. Yeah. And, and it's just inspiring every time I hear them where it's like, you know, and I've talked to him over and over about it to where it's like, man, tell me about Tell me about how you guys go out and you're making movies or whatever else for very little money all you know, relatively speaking and, and, and, you know, something they said early on, which I thought was really, really interesting is like, just like, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter ultimately, how many people are in front of I'm sorry, behind the camera. People don't know. They if it looks you know, you want to make something professional but they don't know they see what's in front of the camera. So don't get caught based. Don't be caught up in missiles that maybe we now know, it's like you need this you need that it was like remember, go back to the beginning. No, you didn't. And and you end up not doing stuff because you think you need all these extra things. And the same thing with you know, we were talking before about like maturity and certainly what happens if we were successful? Or look look at a night like m night was she called the next Spielberg and like, what 26 years old or whatever it was. Now I did I know night fairly well I did a project with him. And I got to know him and I got to know like his producing partner cousin Ashwin, they're just fucking great people you know without you know, like I was working remember that project the movie devil that he did? Okay, so that was part of something called a Chronicles that night was going to be kind of godfather three projects that he wasn't he was going to produce but he wasn't writing or directing. But they were his ideas. samples. The first I was brought on to do the second one it just ended up Never happening. Long story short, it was this was all occurring like he brought me out to his chicken ranch in, in, in Pennsylvania. Whatever it's occurring at a time when he was like I think he had done last airbender. He was about to do After Earth, it was a tough time in the night sucks. And so like, I saw that and I saw him just on a human level kind of being like, you know, this is kind of the shit we're talking about now. It's like the same conversation of like, fuck man, like what's going on? Like, how do I? How do I get, you know, get the engine going again? And what my point is like, what fast forward a few years after that, he puts up a visit, where it's like a self funded found footage movie. Now, to do that, to step back from being the next Spielberg, right, who made arguably one of the best movies at least of our generation with the success and breakable right? to step back, check your ego. And say, I'm going to make a small found footage horror movie for like, whatever amount of money, no one full Well, people are going to be like, what this is what you've become like you've been reduced to this. Because it's like, he's like, No, I'm a filmmaker. So this is what I'm going to do. And I don't know I give the guy all the credit in the world. I'm so glad that it worked. Because now his career is where it is again. I don't know I guess I'm just saying like, I'm so endlessly impressed by the an Aaron doing it by night doing it. And it's just so inspiring of a thing.

Alex Ferrari 46:19
I mean, I'll tell you when I I've been a fan of night since since success, like everybody who saw success was just like, you know, unbreakable, arguably one of the best superhero movies of all time, as well. And I saw I saw the decline, you know, with Last Airbender, and then after Earth, you know, where we're, everyone's like, he's done. It's over. It's over. And what he is, but he is single handedly reconstructed his career to the place where it is today. And it is a success story that is not spoken about enough. Because people love to crap, everyone loves to see, the Giants fall, they all love to see that. I was you know, I remember, you know, in 9091 90, after hook Spielberg is over, it's done. He's good. He had a great run. It's over. I'd love hook, by the way, but you know, it didn't it didn't perform as well as everyone wanted it to perform and all this kind of stuff. And he's like, Oh, really? Okay, I'm gonna do the dinosaur movie. And I'm gonna do Schindler's List on the same year. And then, as Spielberg showed up, but I'm not I mean, now like his new movie old, which looks, you know, terrifying. It's like he's again, he's again tapped into a fear that every human being on the planet as you know, it's it's it's amazing to see what he's been able to do with his career. But it is that thing that you were saying. It's like the, you know, Edie is is a filmmaker Rick is a filmmaker Roberts, a filmmaker, at the at their core, and they're indie filmmakers, no less. They come from a generation. They're like, they're their indie guys. And I love like when I used to watch at nights, behind the scenes and special features on his movies, he always put short films is like high school short films on duty. Yeah, you would see him like acting out in his own little short films. I'm like, he's a filmmaker, man. Like, right? He's a filmmaker, you edit. And no matter who you are, and I've had the pleasure of speaking to amazing people on my show. At the end of the day, I don't care if you've made $200 billion, or you've made $2 filmmakers, a filmmaker, and it's and you connect at that level, even if it's Spielberg, or if it's a new film student that just came out of out of film school. It's, it's the same thing. And is that hustle no pun intended? Is that hustle that you can't you can't let go. So I wanted to go back to see a trees mad because people who don't know about see of trees, it was directed by a young up and coming director. Gus Van Sant, dude, what is it like writing for Gus Van Sant like, if you like we're referring to Goodwill hunting. Like, right?

Chris Sparling 48:54
I know. What's that like deal in that way? Because it started, like I said, it started me off as a writer was Google hunting is you know, that had movie. And so I remember. I remember telling him that and Gus is Gus is a very nice guy, you know, but he's Gus Van Sant. He's kind of eccentric, eccentric. You know, not no crazy way. But like, you know, and I remember telling him I was told that story. You know, it's, you know, you're not doing this right now as you're going through the script, etc. I'm like, it was your movie that inspired me to become a writer. I think it's kind of cool that you know, he already kind of looked at me He's like, why didn't write it? I was like, Yeah, dude, I know that. When you when you cool? movie.

Alex Ferrari 49:37
Like Gus Crockett, whatever, man. Let's just talk about the scripts. I guess I i understand that Gus. Because I saw the Oscars like everybody else did. And and Matt and Ben and Ben Ben wrote it. We know that. But you were a big part of that film, which inspired me to become a writer, sir. Because without you, Ben and Matt. God knows what would have happened to them. Right. Right. So

Chris Sparling 49:59
So I mean, that was Wild that project was a wild ride because, again, kind of what like, prompted me to write it was again trying to break myself out of this box, no pun intended. And, and, you know, and then it got into Cannes and it was a, I was like, holy shit like I have a project going to can That's amazing. And this is obviously after the movie, you know, shot with Connie and Naomi and Gus and Ken Watson episodes like, and as a producer on it. So it was like, Wow, this is amazing. And then it got to can and they did the they did the I don't know why they do it this way. But they do it can they do with the press screenings before the like the real screening like red carpet screening whatever, in the press fucking destroyed it. They booed it they like and so I met my wife and I. And again, this is still fairly early in my career. I mean, it's like, you know, I had done very, and I didn't especially, you know, this was like a big thing, you know, to go to can with a big movie star. Big director. Yeah, right. Like, so I'm like, I'm like, wow, this is fucking cool. And I remember being out to dinner and a friend of mine, producer friend that got prepared actually one of the producers. He's sitting at dinner, any Spanish and he just kind of, he's just not having to look in his phone. And he just looks at me goes all preseason. I am so sorry. And I was like, what, what are you sorry for talking about? And he just showed me the phone and it was just said, like, buried gets booed at can screaming. And I was like, Oh, my God, like, No, No, this can't be happening. And, and, and that night was tough. It was kind of like I remembered going for a walk and, you know, um, it's it's the sort of thing and maybe this is like, a, an East Coast thing. And like, I mean, look, I grew up working class, and you're used to kind of taking your hits, it's just the way it is my friends and I, to this day joke about it's like The Clash of the Titans. That's what we call it. It's like, Clash of the Titans bends like your little figurines that the gods played with. They see you doing a little too good. They have to knock you down, like and I like and it felt like that more than like, I told my buddy, Clash of the Titans, man. You know, it's like, I got to I can but they fucking said nope, nope, you're not gonna you're not gonna get that far. We're gonna knock you down. And you know, so it sucked in that way. But thankfully, I think it was the next night or two nights after was the the screening screening. And I mean, we got a we did a four minute standing ovation. And it was nice. And did the movie deserve a four minute standing ovation? I don't think so. I think some people I think it was kind of like, it definitely didn't deserve to be booed. So we'll give you I think it was a little bit of that built into it. You know, but the movie, I think the movie turned out fine. There were, you know, it's interesting to see it now. Because it's found a new life in recent years on amazon prime, where it seems like it's found its audience. But if people like there's a certain audience that loves love that that movie, you know, and I think, again, there are, let's be honest, there are certain there are definitely like critics, like high minded critics that, you know, they just oh, you know, like, it doesn't meet their, their, their, I don't know, whatever it is their threshold for them or doesn't cross that threshold, or it doesn't reach a certain level for them. And so they're gonna have to just destroy it. I think there were those people for sure. And I think maybe people who just appreciate the movie for the movie, and the message and the themes, etc, etc. I think it's like, and the filmmaking Don't get me wrong, but filmmaking as well, I'm not discounting that. I think it's been a nice journey. It's kind of by this point.

Alex Ferrari 53:36
So yeah, and it and don't feel too bad. I mean, the press the press account is infamous of being just brutal. Like they, they those press screenings, I've heard legendary stories of them just destroying things. And yeah, it is what it is, man. Like, if it was me, if it was me, dude, I'd be like, EFF you guys. I'm in cash. That's it. I'm happy. No, I did a movie with Gus Van set, starring Matthew McConaughey. Go zombie. And you're just like, still, it's not for everybody. But I'm having a I, uh, you might be like you had sent yet Sundance with Bert buried. So you hit like, you know, double, basically at Sundance at can. And not only a can but with, right, with an amazing cast. A legendary director. It's got to care what anyone says at that point. I'm, I've already I'm just happy to be nominated. Yeah.

Chris Sparling 54:31
Like I said, it was another instance Alex of where like, it's the gut punch. Yeah. I take it No, but then you have to decide what you're going to do. Do you know what I mean? Are you going to say that's it? This was my Big Shot, let's just say, Yeah. Or, you know, or you're gonna say, fuck you.

Alex Ferrari 54:50
I'm gonna get better. I'm gonna at least try to get better. I'm gonna do you know, maybe the next one you won't hate. And though and that is that's that. I hate to say it. That's it. That's an East Coast mentality. That really kind of like a working class East Coast mentality. You know, because, you know, it's just the way it is, especially when you're working class and you're coming up, you know, I was definitely the same as you. I mean, I was, you know, I was I was raised in Jamaica, Queens, you know, lived in an apartment, it was probably, I think, 500 square feet, you know, and, you know, you just take, you get used to getting hit, not physically but like the world just pounce on you. And that's just, that's, that's your your path in life. And that's nothing wrong with that. But you get stronger, your skin gets harder, you get more shrapnel on you, from the stuff that you go through. And those are the people that make it in this business. Not the walk right, this this way, Mr. spurlin. Come right on. And how much do you pay for your project? Oh, 100 million, here's 100 mil rat, that kind of scenario, if it does happen, and that's the only thing you know, the second you get tapped, you get flicked, you're, you're on the floor. Not now. Yeah, you're fragile. You're very fragile. And I think that's, I personally, as a filmmaker I've enjoyed, I can't say I've enjoyed the struggle. But I appreciate the struggle that I've gone through throughout my career throughout my life throughout everything I've done, because it has made me who I am today. And arguably, when I do get punched, which I've said this 1000 times on the show, we all get punched, I don't care who you are, how big you are, you're gonna get punched by this business. You learn how to take it, and you just keep going like insane people that we are. This is insanity.

Chris Sparling 56:35
Because we like you were saying before, it's like because we love it. We love doing it. It's like if it were something we hated, we'd be like, Fuck this. Why? Why am I going to keep taking these hits?

Alex Ferrari 56:45
Did you ever try? Did you ever try quitting? No,

Chris Sparling 56:48
when buried when buried happened, though, I was approaching kind of that turning point where I was getting to be a certain age, my wife and I were shoes, my shoes, my actually the girlfriend becoming fiance at that stage. You know that it's that's all part of life, you know, where you kind of re evaluate where you are. It's easy when I was a 20 something real kid living in LA by myself with roommates as an actor, it's like, you know, and then and then even to say, you know, I I just like who you know, your friends and family around you like life changes always changing. They can find yourself in different circumstances. And I think that really does your decisions. And that being one of them. Where I was at a stage I was like, man, is this time to throw in the towel? Like I've given this a go? Like I can't, I can barely say to myself I that I've tried, right? He's it would be one thing if I was like, and I kind of have fasted, and I was like, No, I've tried, I've really worked at this. I guess the difference is I was like, well, as a writer, there's really no reason to stop, I can continue to write, you know what I mean? It's like, if that, you know, the acting thing is, as I said that almost the outset of this, that's what makes it a particularly difficult struggle is like, there's really no other version of it. It's like, you have to be there, it's you. It's like, that's your are the professional you want. And it's a it's a very inconsistent profession, and so on and so forth. Like, as a writer, even though I was at that crossroads, I was kind of like, I don't know, if this is going to happen, I don't know if I can continue with the level of output that I've been trying, you know, at for the past X number of years at that point. But I think I can continue to write because I like doing it. And I still think maybe there is a glimmer of hope in there for me somewhere. You know, and it's interesting, because I look back at when varied happened. And, you know, it's easy to add add meaning and symbolism to shit, you know, you know, like, it's it really, if I can, there's, you know, in a way, I felt like trapped in a way I felt like I needed to break out in a way I felt like time was running out all of those things, and whether it's subconscious or not, or whether again, I'm just like retrofitting it to make it sound cool. I don't know. But it's all it's definitely true. All of those things are what I felt at the time I was writing it. And, you know, when we talked before about the stars aligning right at a certain time now. I don't I personally, I don't believe in fate, or deterministic or determinism sort of thing. I don't teach there. Oh, that's not what I'm saying. What but what did certainly happen is that this was around 2008 that this all kind of started this process was buried, you know, I mean, between starting to write the script and figure out how it's gonna make it, etc, etc. That was around the time. That was the financial crisis. That was right after the, you know, 2008 when the the world was,

Alex Ferrari 59:39
yeah, the world's upside down.

Chris Sparling 59:41
Yeah. So that I think, factored into, you know, talking about the stars aligning, all of a sudden people were crunched for cash, you know, and I don't mean just people I mean, companies and you know, studios and this, so all of a sudden it wasn't, you know, it was like the heyday of writing checks and big make it wasn't happening as well. Because people were really, you know, paying attention, their bottom line and their Ledger's. And along comes a movie, where it's like, fuck this movie could be made for like next to nothing. And I think that helped. I think the timing of it helped it, because, and it happened again, during the pandemic for me, where I can get to a project called Lakewood later, but again, I didn't set out for it to happen for it to be, and I hate the term but a COVID friendly movie. But it turned out to be in this, you know, just happened to be in it. The stars aligned again, in this case for, you know, particularly bad reasons. But, again, that's not that's stuff that's out of your control. I don't know if buried if I had come along with Barry even a year earlier, people might have said how to what my thinking was at the time is that no one's gonna give a shit about my guy in a box movie. Why are people in Hollywood in the care about that?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:50
Right? And I'll tell you what, I feel you 100% in regards to symbolism in your script, at the time and you feel trapped and all that stuff. I wrote a script that literally you it was a revenge movie. And it's you I I think I almost it was the DNA of that film is my anger towards the industry. The anger towards not being able to make it and I'm like, I'm seeking revenge and the bad guys the industry for not giving me a shot because God dammit, I you know, I might not be the next Spielberg. But I could definitely roll you know, I could definitely Exeter movies, I can definitely I proven myself why like God dammit, Evan, I got in the whole script. And that energy was in the script. And I've gone back and read it a while ago. And it's just like, you can just sense the anger in it. It's really weird. But it was cathartic to get it out there. And I think you know, sometimes that works well like you with bear in mind. My script didn't get made, but it's still like, it was just really interesting. And I think writers sometimes have to pour that energy into you. You have to switch between anger and bitterness and I think there's a little bit of bitterness I think you've heard me say this on the show it everybody knows an angry bitter filmmaker screenwriter. And if you don't know an angry or bitter screenwriter, you are the angry one that everybody else knows. So you you were talking about being in a box again, this is coming back around to this box. No pun intended, but you weren't a boxy energetic. Okay, so you're the, the the small location, you know, one location kind of writer, okay, now, you've done sea of trees, and I knew the drama writer, but you really is still small. It's a small movie. You're not big and you're like, Oh, yeah, well, then I'm gonna make a big movie. And then you wrote Greenland. And tell me how that came about? And what how that whole project came to be because I just recently saw it. Because I've been dying. I was dying to see it. When I saw the trailer. I was like, I love those kind of disaster. disaster movies. And I loved Jerry, I love Jerry Butler. And I wanted to see it. So I was like, when I found out you wrote it, I was like, Oh, God, I left I want to get the story behind it. How did I get it done? Because it was it's a it's, it was a runaway hit for what it was.

Chris Sparling 1:03:12
Right? Yeah, it was, it was the purpose of it. Really. I mean, I should I should back up. So I try to write at least one if not two specs a year still. And, you know, it's To me, it's just, it's just the stuff I like doing more because it's, you know, they're my, they're like my babies as opposed to me taking care of somebody else's baby which, again, I, I, I'm endlessly grateful for being able to do that for a living to write screenplays for a living and, you know, people hired me to do that. But at the end of the day, I just do like writing my own stuff, too. So, um, so I was like, Alright, how do I really kind of really just convinced the town frankly, that it's like, I don't just write small and not even contained, but just like small. I'd gone from being the guy that for the very small, small movies, right? Yes. to like, I write these kind of smaller in scope

Alex Ferrari 1:04:10
character character pieces. Yeah. characters. Yeah. Right. Character pieces,

Chris Sparling 1:04:13
right. And, and so are what end of the world moving really. And so I came up with the idea. I was like, you know, what did then at that point, and because you can't help but go back to when you hear things like an asteroid or comet hitting the earth, or then it's like, Alright, well, there's Armageddon, and there's you can't help it do. It's like jaws anytime you mention a shark movie can help compare, but I was like, What didn't been long enough. I feel since that kind of that movie, those movies has come out. And so, but I wanted to approach it in a way that still felt like my, for lack of a better word brand. And someone recently talked about Greenland to me in a way and they they use the term that I'm totally going to steal going forward and I will right now called a keyhole epic. And I was like, I was like, Yes. That's like that. What I wanted to do, and that is, you know, effectively having, you know, this epic thing happening in this case at the end of the world. So this, whatever it is, but in this case that, but we're seeing it through the keyhole, we're seeing it through a very specific lens. In the case of this movie, it's just we're following this one family, as opposed to checking on the president and checking on this, these people that people like the rolling average version, again, which I find interesting and fun, but it's a different movie than than Greenland. And so what I tried to do in writing Greenland, I like, I was like, No, I want to write the impossible. Like, what is the more fun version of the impossible? were fun. It was a great movie. I loved it.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
Oh, God. Yeah.

Chris Sparling 1:05:44
So like, you know, what is the more entertainment I guess, base version of that. And without going too far in the other direction, either though, like, I didn't want it to become ridiculous and over the top, but I wanted to, so I kind of just stuck to what I felt like by this stage in my career, I'm pretty good at which is again, just focusing more on like, the characters seem very specific lens, and through a specific lens. And, yeah, and that was it. And then it was just a matter of like, what is going to make this different or potentially unique? And, and, you know, Greenland's like, why not that you're asked the question, but you know, I'm sometimes hesitant to say it, because it's weird how these days everything can be spun out, like, become either political or like this or that, or whatever, you know. But the truth is the like, this isn't why I wrote the movie, but it's the the, what's the word? I'm looking for? The allegory, the allegory that's built into that movie? is about it's about climate change. Yeah. And that's why I named it Why is why it's named Greenland, why they should go to Greenland is not by accident. That's where I chose of all the places on the planet. Because I wanted to basically say, look, you know, with climate change, this is happening, this is happening, especially now as we say this, is we have this conversation like this is happening fast. But just because if it were an asteroid that was coming in like five days, we would be reacting accordingly, we would be, you know, we would be meeting what as best we can the moment to save ourselves. But because it's not happening that fast, we kind of act like we have all the time in the world, even though we know we don't even without even without an asteroid or climate change or whatever else. Our lives are finite. And for some reason, I know if it's a defense mechanism as a species, but like, we generally don't think about that, and we just go about our day, probably to keep us from going crazy. But But the reality is, we don't have all the time in the world, and we do know it. It's only when kind of your world gets rocked by something. No pun intended. That, that like sometimes you wake up and you realize that you know, and that's not to go on to on a tangent or try to sound too fancy. But like, that's the beauty of cinema at the end of the day, is that movies take us to a place where we feel something, and we walk out of it. And we have the lived experience that we would have had if it actually happened was real life. Right. But we don't have to suffer the negative consequences of it happening in real life. We still get the message, we still get the wake up call.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:13
Right? If it's if it's done if it's done. Right. If it's done, right. I think the I think a good analogy would be what smokers do, or what people who eat fast food everyday do. You know, it's killing you, you know, in 510 years, 20 years, you're gonna have problems if you keep down this road. But you just Oh, it's it's so far down the line. And that's what's going on with climate change right now until you either have that moment, which is heart attacks, heart attack, you're like, Oh, I better stuck, or, you know, one of the lungs collapses or, or something like that drag attic. And he name your analogy. But that's where we're at right now, as opposed to, you're gonna die in five days. You need to do something. And that's basically what Greenland is. And you're absolutely right. If there was a comet coming, we would react to save ourselves. But yeah, because it's so far down the line in our minds, even though we literally see the world burning around us. Sure, literally, you're seeing the world burning around us right now with egg freezing around us like that freeze of last year. sanity sucks. 60% of the country was frozen. You know, right. And then and no one's like, and no one's like, that's okay. No, it's not man. I don't remember that. I don't remember. I don't remember growing up when it hit over 100 anywhere. Other than like, Death Valley. It was it was a rarity. Now it's like that's a common place over 100 is common. I was in Palm Springs. I was in Palm Springs in the day was 117. I don't know if you've been in 117 270 117 is literally like walking out into into an oven to hell. I had like I think I even got a little heat stroke because it was just it was insane. So hot. And people in Palm Springs are walking around like it was 90. I'm like you all savages, your animals, I

Chris Sparling 1:10:06
have no doubt you do this. I don't know about you. And that's not to hijack this and make this about climate change. Also, just one quick thing. Since you grew up in the East Coast as well, the thing the indicator for me over the years has been when I was a kid, I remember going on Halloween, it was always freezing out the whole guild cold on Halloween, right? you'd end up with all the best intentions of wearing your cool costume. But you'd end up wearing like a winter jacket and on top of it right and ruin the whole thing. Sure. In the I just in the past 10 years, and again, this is just just anecdotal, obviously. But in the past 10 years, man, Halloween, it's been like you walk around and like kind of like what I'm wearing now. Yeah, where it's like, this is just

Alex Ferrari 1:10:51
7580 Yeah, so yeah,

Chris Sparling 1:10:52
it's like, it's a nice night, you know, it's like, you know, whatever it is comfortable. Like that. That was not the case when I was a kid. And again, merely anecdotal doesn't actually mean a thing. It's just something that I picked up on personally. book to your to your thing about like saying, What would we do with if we knew in five days that you know, it was all going to end? Like, yeah, I mean, there's the version, obviously, not only would be trying to scramble to save our lives, but we'd be trying to do it, we'd be doing what we need to do to settle our to settle our kind of emotional debts, if you will, like we would, we would tell the people that you've been wanting to tell that you love them, and you have it for whatever reason, because we all do it, you know? And then or you would tell someone you're sorry, all those things like you would recognize, I can't keep kicking the can down the road. I can't do it. I have to do it now. And that's what I'm saying like that is and I'm not talking about Greenland here. I'm talking about all movies. It's like when they when they they do it, right. Great Ones do is that you walk out of that movie theater and you end and you remember that stuff like that. I'm saying like you it happens, it feels like it happened in real life to you. But the benefit is it. You don't have to suffer the consequences of it actually happening to you in real life.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
Right. And that's Yeah, and if Yeah, absolutely. There's no question. And before we move on, we can we just Can we just touch upon how wonderful Armageddon is in the cheesiest? Wonderful, goddamn wherever, oh, my God, it is a god. It's like I love Armageddon. so far. It's like one of my guilty pleasures. It makes no sense. I think I remember I remember listening to the commentary, where Ben Affleck asked Michael Bay like, hey, wouldn't it be easier to teach astronauts how to drill than teaching to learn how to be astronauts? And it's like, right, and Michael Bay's like, shut the fuck up bet. And at that point, I just kept quiet for the rest of this. But no, if you guys haven't seen Greenland, you absolutely have to watch. What are you working on? Now? What are your next projects? Isn't there a sequel to Greenland? I saw someone I'm doing it,

Chris Sparling 1:12:56
there's a sequel. Yeah, so so that was announced it can screw up the market this year. So that's happening, which is super exciting. So I've already written the first draft of that. So I'm sure in the next kind of at least the next month is probably going to be a lot of doing the rewrite on that. And then I have two projects, you know, is weird, like this is obviously it's been a weird year and a half for everybody. Just speaking only for myself here. It's been we've been pretty locked down at my house. Up until you know, we get vaccinated my wife and I it cetera, et cetera, kind of ease back a bit, but prior to that, we were very locked down. And, and so but thankfully, during that time, I've managed to have two movies. Well, both of which I wrote produced. And so one is it is a smaller movie, and that's okay. called intrusion the sets in Netflix original was free to Pinto. So that's coming and I think September, I sold but don't don't quote me on that just yet. And then I did a movie called Lakewood with Naomi Watts. And that was the one I referenced earlier where it was a movie we're setting out to make. And it just the way it was written it was it's very much in that very model where it's like, you know, kind of one person more or less, the movie occupies and you know, shoulders the movie. And, and then COVID happened. And it just became like, well, this is still a very magical movie, given what COVID restrictions are. And so the movie still got made, and it just was surreal. Because these things are happening. I'm watching live feeds from the monitor as if I was in video village, but I'm watching them from my home office here. And so it's you know, my kids are running around in the background, etc, etc.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:35
That's awesome.

Chris Sparling 1:14:36
Yeah. And I'm just and you know, I'd be calling the director on my phone we could to communicate and, and seeing it, you know, just the COVID protocols in and of themselves are just like at the time especially, you know, fully mass full peepee with some people to gowns on some face shields and just watching it from the somewhat voyeuristic perspective. It's like if someone walked in and saw that they were like, what the hell is this? Is it No, no, this is a movie being made. But what? Like, yeah, this is it looked like I don't know, like is if you were in a hazmat tent somewhere or if you were,

Alex Ferrari 1:15:10
you were an outbreak and you were an outbreak,

Chris Sparling 1:15:12
you were an outbreak, right? But this was a movie, this was just what it looks like behind the scene making these movies. It's a it's a huge, huge credit to the people that were there physically on the ground, and I was getting intimate. So my wife is high risk so going to set which is simply not an option for me. And, and so it was just, it was just amazing to see happen. So those that's what's next those two projects and then

Alex Ferrari 1:15:36
well, so I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests are. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read?

Chris Sparling 1:15:46
Can I say Michael Clayton three times? That's a good script. It is the best. It was a great script. Let me see. That one for sure. That's just to give it the universe as far as I'm concerned. I'm trying to think of things I've read recently. I remember I read the screenplay for the post, which I thought was really great. Oh, yeah, I was trying to think what else? I like the screenplay from mud. I mean, I'm not saying these are like the end all be all screenplays people must read, but they're just ones I remember reading big. Really good. I thought I thought the screenplay for what the fuck was named in the movie. Let's try the book that he wrote. Oh, honey, boy, boy. Yeah, yeah, I was I was blown away by that script. I was like, you know, because again, you think like, Alright, so child about decided he wanted to write a screenplay. We'll see how this is. And I hadn't seen the movie at that point, or whatever else. And, you know, in the script came in during award season, I was like, let me and I was hooked on like, like this good script, man. This guy is good. He can write. So again, I'm not saying those two are necessarily the ones that everyone must read. I'm just they come to mind is really great scripts. But Michael Clayton, and

Alex Ferrari 1:16:58
what advice would you give a screenwriter or filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Chris Sparling 1:17:02
The same advice, you know, like, it's the, again, the cliche things thing of saying what would you say to your younger self? If you could? I would say yet, and this is gonna sound weird. At first I'll explain. Get a job that pays you well. Okay, now, if that's in the industry, great. But if it's not like it, probably as for people like me in Rhode Island at the time, you know, I early on, had far more success, when you know, in that in those incremental ways, when I had a good paying job, because we I especially I think, because I started as an actor. So there was like, a fear of this was before you could work as Uber driver and stuff like, you know, it was like you were waiting tables, and like, God forbid, you had to have, you had to go to an audition. It's like, Well, shit, I might have to end the boss isn't gonna let me go. Well, audition or waiting job waiting table job, I guess I have to quit my waiting table job and then go to the audition. Hope I get it. And But either way, I'm out trying to find a new job again. And it's like you're barely scraping by barely scraping by. And so, you know, I think early on when I transitioned to kind of just say, I guess I'm a screenwriter now is that I still had that mentality of like, I need to be available. And I would take, you know, I would take just jobs to pay the bills, right? Because I was like, and I would say, unless the job is completely occupying your time where you can't write, that's not great. But if you find a job where you can make a good living, we have money in your pocket. Because then you can do stuff, then you can go make shit you can go like, you know what, like, like I was saying, I was able because I had a pretty good job was nothing a great job probably make at the time, like $30,000 $35,000 a year was enough to pay my bills and put a little bit extra money for me to save. To say, I'm gonna make a $5,000 movie, I'm gonna save up for it and make it because if you if you don't have anything, if everything is like hand to mouth and you're struggling, it's tough, man. It's tough to think creatively. It's tough to get it so. It may sound like yeah, no shit dude, that that's what kind of advice is that? But if you can, but but some where if you're like to not only can you get a job that pays you what, what did you get paid right now all of a sudden, man, you have a lot of options. You can you know, we all know that. That rich Dude, that fucking decided they wanted to be in the movie business and sit inside they want to be a producer. It's like, well, no shit. You can write a check for a million bucks. You know, it's like, what's what's stopping you? You know? I mean, so I'm not saying like fines paid like that. My point is more. It's especially when you're young. You think like the struggling actor or the struggling performer or the struggling this this struggling artist. I don't I don't know. I don't I don't know if it's a good thing. I mean, it's not hungry.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:50
No, yeah, no, no, no, no, I got an I was lucky enough and smart enough, young enough when I was young to get into post and I was I was an editor. I just was an editor and I just big and that helped me become a filmmaker. Because then I had always had post production when I went out for commercial shoots or something like that I would throw in post production. But that's how I made a living. I never had an outside job ever. I always had a job in the business always had a job in the business. But the problem was, and this is the only kind of pitfall of having a good paying job in the business even is that you're focusing so much energy on the good paying job sometimes that you don't have enough energy or time to chase the real dream. Because my dream wasn't to be an editor, that's I just did that to make a living. And I loved it. But I wasn't going to just be an editor for the rest of my life. Not that there's anything wrong with it just wasn't my path. And I literally had to break, I had literally had to just retire from editing, just because at a certain point, like even when you're, when you're making money, like, you know, someone shows up, like 30 grand for you to post my film, you got to be in a special place in your life to just turn around, turn off, turn off 30 grand, you know, just like, I don't want that. He started grants or grants. But if you have kids and a family and all this stuff, but at a certain point, you just like either I keep going down this road. Or I start following where I need to go and be intelligent about it. But that's exactly what I did until I finally closed down my post house. And I haven't done post since after indie film muscle and all that stuff, you know, took off. But there's that, but I was 20 years doing that.

Chris Sparling 1:21:24
So it's it took me a long time to get to that place. Yeah, but the thing you did clearly is that it afforded you the opportunity to, you know, maybe it kind of at times was like causing mental burnout and created an obstacle there. But at least a forgery the opportunity to do stuff you want to do short. Again. Yeah, yes. Right. I mean, right, we all have, but it's a different world. Now, obviously, the technology is there, you can do stuff very, very inexpensively now, which is great. Which is even more the reason why people shouldn't could be doing it. But what I would add to on top of the hopefully worthwhile thing I just said about the job is I if you if you get a job in the industry great. And I think there's obviously 1000 great reasons why you should. If you don't if that's not the path you take, I would have told myself again, my degrees in criminal justice. I've yet to really use them in a meaningful way. I would have, I could go back, I would say Chris, alright, tell me what you want to do. I want to be a filmmaker. Okay. At the time film, school wasn't an option for me. Okay. Well, then what I would say is, go major in business. Go learn how business Oh, God bless. Yes. Yes. And, and go and then take take, what courses you can take and film, whatever ones are available, go take filmmaking content. But if if you can get an understanding of how business works, it won't just be you just map that understanding on to this business, because that's what it is. And it'll just kind of like create this. Almost like a it's like, it decodes it for you, in a way I feel. Because if you don't, if you look at it strictly from the view of the artists, and you look at it strictly from the view of like the why, like the pie or wide eyed kid that wants to get in the candy shop, but you don't recognize that there's a that candy shop is a business and the people that run that candy shop want to make a profit. And it's not just about you know what I mean? So it's like it's not to to pop the balloon for people and to take away the the Hooray for Hollywood stuff. That's, that's what makes it a cool business. Right? But it's still a business, it's still a job. And I think I would have to do it all over again, that I think would have helped me immensely, and probably would have shortened the journey if it will that if you will, like it would shorten the time it took to finally get there.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:51
And last question, What lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? This is no this is exactly is that I forever did not

Chris Sparling 1:24:03
read screenplays. So like, I'm talking like maybe five years into thinking I'm a screenwriter, where I you know, I, I would once in a great while, open up someone else's screenplay. You know, and read the books, etc, etc. But it wasn't until I remember I was I got a job. Working at a production company in New York. I was living in Connecticut briefly at the time and as a reader, you know, I get paid like nothing and then I did for a screenplay competition at certain point. And so now all of a sudden is my job. Like I had to read screenplays and read screenplays. And I was like, you could just start to see why something works and why it doesn't. And it just I feel just took my writing from wherever it capped out at to somewhere new. And I mean, to be fair to myself when I again, starting out probably presumably around the same time. It's not like today where you can just find any scripts you want like that online. You know Like you had to actually go find physical scripts somehow someway in being in Rhode Island's like, how do you do that?

Alex Ferrari 1:25:05
Right?

Chris Sparling 1:25:07
So, so again, people listening to this now might be like, yeah, no shit dude, why would I but at the same time, I still find it's amazing to me where I talk to a lot of writers young or old with kind of coming up. And I can't impress upon that enough upon them because it's amazing how many times people don't where it's still like, Oh yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 1:25:28
do once in a while. It's like no man, read like one a week, at least, at least at least. And read and read and read the Masters you know, Shane Black and Sorkin and Tarantino and watch what these guys do and how they, like I've said so many times the Haiku of writing a screenplay, screenplay writing, because you got to do so much in such a little amount of space. And see how they describe a scene in a movie, watch the movie and see how they wrote it. And, and you Okay, so I don't need to tell you about the cover of the book on the shelf in the back. And the description.

Chris Sparling 1:26:03
Because you don't you don't know. I mean, it's like you don't write that shit. You just think all right, I just have to describe what's going on. So I'm going to write everything and new Yeah, that is the lesson for sure thing or whatever the question was that

Alex Ferrari 1:26:16
lesson. And I have to ask you, this is out of morbid curiosity, three of your favorite films of all time

Chris Sparling 1:26:23
to graduate. Excellent. Predator. Oh, God. Amazing. And probably Star Wars fan of the day.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:33
I can we can we just take a moment to appreciate how predators arguably one of the best action movies ever written and never shot ever shot. Just hold it holds today. You can watch it and it's not dated. Because it's basically all in the jungles, even though it took place in the 80s. Yeah, that's true. It's still guns and a bunch of muscle bound dudes just and the predator still looks good. There's nothing janky about it.

Chris Sparling 1:26:57
Nope. No, it is the movie that anytime. If you catch it on, I'm watching it. It's like what it's no matter what I'm watching that movie. It's Yeah, it's phenomenal. I mean, it's in the graduate. For me, though, I may kind of just elaborate a little bit. I remember when. So my very, very first year of college, I went to Providence College part time because I didn't know I'm giving you more efficient use asked me but I was like, I love like the question. I wanted to be a filmmaker or this or that. And I didn't want to do that. And I looked at Rhode Island School design at the time, which is afterward government school, but there really weren't many film classes there yet. And they were kind of art school film classes, which I'm not knocking but they weren't like, how do you make a movie film class? And I saw the Providence College had a film, I think like film theory class, or whatever it was. And, you know, up in that point, I was like a typical 18 year old kid and you know, like most kids, like I'd watched movies like predator those like the movies. That's what I watched all the time. had no real film literacy beyond that. And, and we had to, you know, that's not obviously what we were watching in this movie. We were watching like black narcissists. And the quiet man and right, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:28:13
Raphael red shoes, red shoes. Yeah.

Chris Sparling 1:28:18
So, I'd like doubling down today, like, cracking up my world a little bit, but none of those movies. Even Citizen Kane, honestly, none of those. Did it for me, like watching the graduate were changed my rock my world as an as like an 18 year old kid watching this sitting there in this classroom, and it was night classes with all adults. Right? And I'm like this kid. And I'm like, Oh, my God, like, I've never seen a movie like this before. Really like this, to me was where, you know, I was never a fan. And again, teach there when I was never a fan of older, older Hollywood films, where the acting is so stilted, and it felt so unreal. utricle Yeah, right. Yeah. I felt like booth. But seeing the graduate even though it's, it was like, Whoa, what is this what was going on in this era? And that kind of cracked open my world and then wanting to see all the great 70s thrillers then and then like then getting close to like French New Wave, which would follow and Godard and like, it just kind of changed the game for me. So I'm sorry, really, really going on with a long winded

Alex Ferrari 1:29:22
answer. But Well, two things one, I remember watching the graduate on LaserDisc Criterion Collection. And I remember because it was before. There's no film school for me at the time. I was listening to a college professor who was on the commentary track explaining and analyzing graduate which is one of the best commentaries I've ever heard. It was brilliant. It was such a brilliant film. And for me, that film was Seven Samurai. I saw seven. Yeah, I saw some Samurai I was like, what what's going on here? Like how is this how I still argue that No one could frame an image just frame. Nothing as a camera movement, just the composition was at a level that you just can't grasp. That's why Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola all stole from tours, because they all like bow down. Of course I was feet because you just look at Seven Samurai and high and low and you know, and Rashomon and you're just sitting there going, what's going on? It's just it was it was, oh my god it was we can geek out for at least another four or five hours. I'm sure it is. But man, listen, bro, thank you so much for coming on the show. It has been awesome talking to you. And I hope this I hope this out this conversation inspires and terrifies people all at the same time. In a good way. So thank you so much.

Chris Sparling 1:30:51
Thank you

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IFH 498: The Making of Small Engine Repair with John Pollono


Right-click here to download the MP3

This week I brought on the show, playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor, John Pollono.  I wanted to go down the road a little bit about his remarkable journey in the business which expands across theatre and short films

John is one of the founders of the Jabberwocky Theatre Company in 2004 which became the Rogue Machine Theatre in 2008 where he produced his earlier plays. His big break came with his screenplay for the acclaimed biographical drama film, Stronger which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

The screenplay, based on Bauman’s memoir Stronger, was number two on the Black List (most-liked “motion picture screenplays not yet produced) in 2016.

Stronger, starring multiple award-winning actors, Jake Gyllenhaal, is the inspiring real-life story of Jeff Bauman — an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving but losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and must adjust to his new life.

This project came along for John right after signing with Los Angelos – based Creative Artists AgencyProducers, Alex Young and Todd Lieberman were already familiar with Pollono’s work. And they were on the hunt for something. That was when adapting Stronger became a prospect. At the time, the book was not yet published so he had a chance to review the unpublished book. 

Producer Scott Silver was looking to mentor a more junior writer for the Stronger film and fortuitously, John was a good fit having grown up 20 minutes from where the characters take place, he was the best candidate for the job. So, with a follow-up pitch, the book’s film adaptation screenplay was sold to Lionsgate.

Writing Stronger (the film) was a double success for Pollono. Not only was he mentored directly by the incredible Scott Silver and receiving writing directions about theme, structure, etc, but the project brought him some notoriety as well by topping number two on the blacklist a year before production. That script made a big enough splash for his career.

Besides Stronger, Pollono is known for writing Small Engine Repair (the play and its film adaptation), Lost Girls (2013 and 2015) Off-Broadway release, Second Of Rules (the play), Lost and Found (2006), Razorback (play, staged in 2008) and his one-act Illuminati play which won Best Play at the 2010 Network One-Act Festival in New York City.  

In his career in front of the camera, Pollono made appearances on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, recurring roles on Mob City and NBC’s This Is Us TV series, and have worked professionally in entertainment Public Relations

Pollono’s love for stories and movies dates back to being a kid who was also a voracious reader — reading every Stephen King book there is. He picked up short story writing at a pretty young age. Obviously, he had a sort of knack for storytelling and started pursuing that path and passion to become a filmmaker and has been fortunate to shadow so many directors who I really admire in the business.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1994 from the University of New Hampshire and did two semesters of film school at NYU on an exchange. His experience in New York City, being surrounded by such a diverse group of artists was the biggest epiphany of his life that helped him decide his filmmaking career.

He’s guest-starred in the television series, How I Met Your Mother and has had smaller acting credits on film and stage.

In 2021 he wrote and directed the black comedy-drama, Small Engine Repair which will premiere this September. The film is based on Pollono’s play of the same name. I can not recommend this film enough. It is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in 2021. 

Events spin wildly out of control when three lifelong friends agree to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore. It follows lifelong friends Frank (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frank’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Bravo). But when Frank invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control in this exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.

This interview was a pretty cool conversation and I did not hold back getting John to share all the gems of the business he’s learned and fun questions like what it’s like working with Frank Darabont and working on the new Hulk Hogan movie currently in production.

Enjoy my conversation with John Pollono.

Alex Ferrari 0:20
I'd like to welcome to the show, John Pollono. How you doing, john?

John Pollono 0:23
I'm doing all right. How you doing, man?

Alex Ferrari 0:24
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing great. It's any day above of the ground nowadays?

John Pollono 0:31
I know. Right. With the we've lowered the bar. Pretty much.

Alex Ferrari 0:35
All the bar has been lowered since 2019. that's for damn. that's for damn sure.

John Pollono 0:39
Yeah

Alex Ferrari 0:40
But thanks for coming on the show, man. We're gonna talk later.

John Pollono 0:43
I'm a big fan of the podcast. Thanks.

Alex Ferrari 0:45
Oh, thanks, man. I appreciate it. You know, we were going to go down the road a little bit about your your remarkable journey in the business. And in your you're an East coaster.

John Pollono 0:56
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 0:57
So I always love talking to East coasters. Because I mean, being an East Coast. There's a different energy with these coasters. Even though you're even though you're West Coast now as I was. But

John Pollono 1:07
it's where you spent the formative years I think is

Alex Ferrari 1:09
I think it is. And it never leaves you. And never never know. If you can live in LA for the next 50 years. I had a I had a good friend of mine, who was a first ad worked on every big movie you can imagine. 20 years he raised in New York, but until he was seven, he was still talking like, you know, when I go to the door, it had the accent he had the

John Pollono 1:27
It's comfort. It's it's what you're used to you do it? You know, I mean, I've been here about 20 years. And I, you know, it kept me at, you know, the first like five or six. I was like, you know, I'm not, I'm not really here. And then you kind of like I kind of love it. I mean, California is great. But California is like a melting pot. It's like people from all over. And I mean, like most of my friends are from the northeast from New York and Boston. And I mean, it's just happened to gravitate towards that. I mean, like I said, My wife's in Dallas. But you know, when we first were dating and stuff, she'd be like, we stopped yelling, and I'm like, I'm not yelling.

Alex Ferrari 1:59
That's love.

John Pollono 2:01
That's how we Communicate, and then realize when you're from people back home, you're all like that, you know, so it's just that you attract birds of a feather, I guess.

Alex Ferrari 2:08
And then eventually all all East coasters go down to Miami to to retire. So that's Yes, that's it. Isn't that the law? I think that's the law. The law. So, so man, how did you get into the business? How did you get started?

John Pollono 2:24
Like how back do you want to go? I mean, so

Alex Ferrari 2:27
not the womb, but right.

John Pollono 2:30
I mean, look, I always loved stories and movies. And as a kid, I was a voracious reader. And I started writing, you know, short stories a pretty young, I was obsessed with Stephen King. I like read everything he wrote. And I don't know, I just sort of had a knack for it. And then, you know, started doing that kind of thing. And then I wanted to be a director. I wanted to make movies and I, you know, it was a dream of mine. Then I went to university New Hampshire was pretty much all I could afford. But I didn't exchange to NYU. And you do you for a whole summer. It's like two semesters worth of filmmaking classes. And I was just like, it was the biggest epiphany of my life. Being in the city being surrounded by such a diverse group of artists. For the first time in my life, I was around people I could just sit down with and we could talk about movies and stuff for hours, like endlessly. So I was no longer the sort of having to convince my peer group to go watch a movie with me or talk about it. I was just with people and living and breathing. And I was like, This is what I want to do, you know, for the rest of my life. And, you know, I went a very circuitous way. I graduated from college, I lived in Colorado for a couple of years with with a girl we lived in a trailer park and I wrote a bunch of terrible screenplays. And then I moved out to LA with those and you know, in my backpack, and, you know, they sucked, I was writing movies that were derivative of movies, so I didn't quite, you know, like, here's my Indiana Jones, here's my you know, whatever weapon exactly for weapon type stuff. And, and so then I started to take acting classes, and I got more involved in theater and I've been a, you know, in a playwright for, you know, 15, about 1015 years now. And theater was really what, how I discovered my voice, and it's sort of amplified all of that stuff. And, and then in theater and working as a playwright having play after play produced and sort of living in that world. I just, yeah, I've developed my voice as a writer. So then when I started to write screenplays, I had that sort of skill set that wasn't derivative of other movies. It was based on the lessons I'd learned in theater, which were, you know, character and drama and conflict and, you know, provoking an audience and really going to these daring, scary places. And so when I started to use that, in screenwriting, my you know, screenwriting career sort of took off, and then I've just sort of been juggling the two ever since,

Alex Ferrari 4:59
but You but you started but you started acting a little bit before. I mean, you were you your big break wasn't your big break or your first notable role with Frank Darabont and mob city?

John Pollono 5:09
Yeah, that was coincidentally, he saw me in small engine repair of the play in 2011. And I had known Frank, when I first moved to LA, I worked at the mailroom, Castle Rock entertainment. And then, which was really cool. I mean, look, I'm like, in my mid 20s, I'm like, this is great, I made wonderful friends. And then a friend of mine in the mailroom, this guy, filson tanny, who's a great guy, I'm still friends with him, he was taking acting classes at this place. And I, you know, I had acted in NYU and done and I kind of had, like, you know, the bug, but I kind of was too, you know, so much of my life and sort of my upbringing was being sort of closeted about my artistic side, and being afraid to sort of in the culture that I was in, or I was subscribed to the, like, I was too vulnerable. And I just didn't have feel like I had that support system, I had to kind of keep it very down. So that was, I was still in I probably the last 10 years of my career by being too much of a chicken shit to just say, you know what, this is what I am, I am an artist, you know what it is like, you're from Queens, like that tough guy. Like,

Alex Ferrari 6:14
my father was like, you're gonna do what? Like, what's kind of where you gonna make money like they had, he was a factory where

John Pollono 6:21
he just 100% exact same thing, exact same thing. And I had, you know, I've had, you know, 100 jobs in my life, manual labor, construction, irrigate, you know, everything, landscaping, you name it, because that I was afraid to say, hey, look, this is what I want to do. So I took those acting classes. That's sort of how I met it. And then I, but then I became an assistant to the head of PR. And it was like this beautiful family to be part of. I'm still friends with all those people and I so in the PR department, Frank Darabont made a bunch of movies at Castle Rock. So I just got to know him as like, you know, the 27 year old guy who parks his car and talks about movies, he was awesome. He was, you know, one of those filmmakers who you could just talk to, and, you know, I just got to know him through there. So then when I was in this play, and he was obviously new, Jon bernthal, from walking dead, he came and saw it. And he was like, I didn't know you're an actor. And you know, I'm such, you know, I love your that you wrote it. I love it. And yeah, and they brought me in on that pilot. And, yeah, I just got cast in that I think someone else got cast over me, this Irish actor, and he, like, couldn't get his green card. It was like I was pinned for it. And then they let me go, they cast this guy. And then they called and they're like, hey, you're in and I was like, This is amazing. So we shot that pilot, but it kind of sat there for a long time. And then we shot those other episodes. I mean, that was such an amazing experience. And I just adore Frankie. So great.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
So how did you have connections in the Lisa department to get that actor kicked off? Right. Let me say, you know, what, what is it? I have to ask? Because I'm such a huge Frank Darabont fan. I mean, sure. I mean, everyone. This is the show understands my obsession with Shawshank Redemption, considering it's one of the greatest cinematic experiences I've ever had, and continue to have one of the best screenplays ever written. What is it like working with, like, you know, I guess you already knew them a bit, because you'd been working with them. And, you know, as the 27 year old has parked his car, but yeah, it's another thing had been directed by by giant like that,

John Pollono 8:15
well, you know, there's different directors have different ways of doing it. That was one of the things I learned that it's like, what kind of director are you and you know, Frank, he does the work on the page. And he worked, you know, in the case of mob city was written by a bunch of different people, but it was like, his vision, and he was very visual. And so performance wise, you know, he kind of let you do your thing. Like, I feel like I'm a different director than that. I like to get in the weeds with the actors more, but he's not intimidating. He's a super cool guy. He fucking loves film. Like you're saying, he's a student of it. And that really interesting about Frank, which isn't like a lot of directors I've worked with is that if you're like, Hey, you know, my cousin's in from out of town, he wants to see other movies like bring them in. Like I was working as like a freelance PR guy at the time still to pay the bills because I had a child. And you know, we were making shit work I like I said at that was a period of my life where I had like four jobs. One of them was mob city, but you know, and it paid good, but not enough to raise a family in LA. You know, you're always waiting for that bigger break. So but I was I brought all of the PR guys I was working with and gals like these, this another group of friends I had, and he's like, Yeah, he brought them all around the monitor. They're all like, I can't believe this. He completely is disarming. He loves to show you this and ask people questions. Like he loves the process so much. He's very inviting. So you whenever if he has a minute, you can always ask him questions about the camera lenses and this and that, you know, at mob city, he was starting to go more digital, which he didn't think he would and he would talk endlessly about that. I mean, the guy is just like so open about all that and eager to share.

Alex Ferrari 9:53
That's awesome, man. That's all yeah, it

John Pollono 9:56
exceeds your expectations on how cool he is with that particular person. You

Alex Ferrari 10:01
know, I've heard he's been I heard from other people who've worked with him. He's very cool, but it's nice to continuously hear that he is awesome.

John Pollono 10:09
Yeah, now he totally, you know, I think he's very visual and that sort of his lane. You know, I think if you're an actor who likes to be super collaborative in terms of your ideas of the characters, and the performance, and, you know, high of this idea about the scene, and you know, he's not necessarily that director, but he's painting beautiful pictures, and he knows the story, and he knows it. So it's like, you gotta you got to go with the flow. That means all different kinds, you know,

Alex Ferrari 10:35
right. Like, yeah, if you're working with Clint Eastwood, are you working with Tarantino? They're very different flavors of director.

John Pollono 10:40
Right?

Alex Ferrari 10:41
Very, very different.

John Pollono 10:42
Yeah, no, totally. And, you know, again, that was sort of I was very intimidated to direct a movie. And one of my things was, like, I was fortunately able to shadow so many directors that I that I really admire. And I saw, well, I had the opportunity of being the actor with them and saying, oh, okay, how can I communicate that and, and additionally, some incredible theater directors as well. So I felt like, you know, it's such a godsend to be able to see someone like, you're saying Frank Darabont work, and sort of cherry pick some of the stuff he does, they'll be like, yeah, I think I want to try that. And some of the stuff you're like, Okay, that's not the director. I am. But, you know, Frank, I think his direction starts on the page. You know, so right. There. Yeah, he's a writer. And I mean, there's so you know, there's so Connect interconnected in many ways, but you know, read his script, you kind of know what he wants from that character.

Alex Ferrari 11:34
Now, when you were, you know, you're hustling as an actor. And then you're writing some screenplays, I'm assuming you haven't written Lethal Weapon seven at this point, you've gone past that. I would write that I was about to say, I would enjoy having you writes. That would be interesting to say the least. But so you start writing. Can you tell me a little bit about how stronger came to be?

John Pollono 11:58
Yeah. So you know, smaller repair at that time as a play was like my writing sample, you know, what they used to get you in the door. And I had just signed with CAA. And they were like, you know, I had written some screenplays. And at that point, I had had some legit screenwriting jobs, but the door wasn't sort of kicked open, so stronger. I had known the Mandeville guys especially this guy, Alex young Todd Lieberman producers over there. They were familiar with my work, I had had enough plays going on that they got to know you, you know, you have a general meeting. And you say, hey, look, you know, I have a play running with you. We want to check it out. So they go see it. So they were like, especially Alex, who was the junior sort of producer at the time, he kind of knew my voice and he was looking for something so stronger came by the book sample they had hadn't been published yet. They were trying to find a writer. It was a it was a really, fortuitous situation. Because just coincidentally, one of my favorite all time screenwriters, Scott silver was a producer on it. And his role was he was going to they were going to hire somebody a little more junior. And Scott was going to kind of, as sometimes happens in these things to kind of oversee it. Like, we like this guy's voice. He's never necessarily written a studio movie of this size, we're going to kind of help mentor him a little bit, which Scott does a lot. And he's amazing at that. So, you know, look, I grew up 20 minutes from where the characters take place. So, you know, I think it was a shoo in and enough of my plays, which had taken place in that sort of those neighborhoods. It was just a really good fit. So I read the book, I had my take on it. And then, you know, I came up with my pitch. And I had never done that quite thing before. But like, these guys were incredible. You know, we sold it to Lionsgate and then, you know, I spent a ton of time with, with Jeff Bowman and his friends and everything. And then you know, and then I wrote it, and then I wrote a first draft that I think really captured, like the rough, scruffy heart of the story that it ends up being and, and then you know, working close with the producers, and more importantly with Scott relief, saying, Okay, well, this is, you know, this seems working, this is not so, structure theme, really nailing down on that writing, writing, writing, and then eventually, you know, it just kind of clicked and it became, you know, that script then being on the blacklist and all that stuff, even before the movie was produced. That script made a big enough splash. I mean, look, sometimes you write a screenplay, and the producer takes it and it's under lock and key. And they they, you know, give it out to a director reading but like, you know, I mean, I have scripts, scripts, I'm certain I've written that maybe, you know, 15 people I've read outside of the company, I wrote it for stronger was one of those that it just went out on the circuit. Interesting. So that's how

Alex Ferrari 14:41
and that's and that's how I got involved with blacklist.

John Pollono 14:44
Yeah, because blacklist is like, you know, Junior execs, assistance, everybody like reading and it was just a caught fire that year. And you know, that he was like I said, before I was made I started to have buzz and people wanted to hire me because they read this script and then like holy shit. And then you know, obviously when you make a movie brings you to a whole nother level. But you know, that's sort of how that that took fire. But just as importantly, from that relationship with Scott, he and I just really clicked and he's from Worcester, Massachusetts. And we've gone on to write a whole bunch of scripts together. And you know, that was as important in terms of my education as being a studio screenwriter is anything is like getting to work with him on all this stuff. And you know, how I like to approach it, how he does, and again, just like working with a director, you kind of cherry pick, I've always tried to be humble and open to that. And, you know, Scott is like, you know, he's one of a kind, and he has his way of doing it. And then when we do it together, so I've really, you know, gotten so much out of that. approach as many of these sort of collaborations as possible.

Alex Ferrari 15:50
Let me ask you, what's the when you were working with Scott, when you were just brought in on stronger? What's the biggest lesson you learned from him as far as either structure or character or approach to the craft? Because you were still, you've been writing for a long time, but this was kind of like you were starting to get into deeper waters here in Hollywood?

John Pollono 16:05
Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, when you write a play, there is, you know, you're, you're in a good way, you're limited by the constraints of theater, right? You know, whereas a movie, you can do anything, you can do exterior, the universe, whatever, there's like too many options. So sometimes, initially, that's intimidating. So theater by nature of it, you're a little bit more contained. I would say the thing that Scott initially, even having written a draft, and knowing like what it's about was the specificity of theme, really being disciplined in being like, he's like, you know, what, what is this about? You know, and using that theme, as sort of a prism to inform the rewrites the structures, what scenes stay, what doesn't like to really be disciplined about about that. And that was something I think I was doing to some extent, subconsciously, some way consciously, but it was always easy to be like, Oh, this is a really cool tangent, which, you know, my whole thing in theater was always like, is it? Is it deepening the character? Is it really funny? Is it thematic? Is it moving the plot? is it doing all those things, but in especially in a film, it's like, really, the economy of making sure it's all cohesive and one vision. And although you may not know, my theme, reading something, or anyone's theme, it's clear when there's sort of an intelligent design behind that, and I felt, maybe that doesn't work for everybody. You know, certainly I grew up listening to, you know, being obsessed with Tarantino and Scorsese and hearing their work process, especially Tarantino saying, like, you know, there's that famous quote he has when he's writing Reservoir Dogs that he's like, Mr. Blonde, took that straight razor out of his thing while I was writing, and he surprised me, I didn't do that. So I still like to create, especially in theater, or I want the characters and situations to surprise me, but it has to be like, let's not go off the reservation. Let's continue saying what we need to say. And that served me very well and continues to,

Alex Ferrari 18:00
I always find it fascinating. And I know, you know, in my own writing over the years, and with with writers I speak to I always, always am fascinated when they say something like Tarantino just said, like, oh, all of a sudden, the, you know, the, and when I was first writing first coming up with stories and things like that, it would be so difficult. I'm like, when when I hear things like that, I'm like, What are you talking about? I don't like they're not talking. These characters aren't? I'm not I'm not just writing down what someone's saying in my head like, and then later, and I don't know what it is that maybe it's being open. Maybe, you know, wherever this magic dust comes in, from our creativity flows through us. I don't know, I opened the door. And all of a sudden, when I did start writing, I was like, oh, oh, I kind of see, I get glimpses of it. I'm not nearly obviously it's as open as Tarantino is, right? I don't think anybody has. But is that kind of the process with you to like, did you? I mean, do you see this actors talk to you?

John Pollono 18:57
Absolutely. I mean, look, I think taking a deep dive in theater, being an actor, being on stage, performing other people's words, my own words, was instrumental in the sort of progression of an artist. So when I write, I know how to write for actors. I know, as an actor, I just know that I know how to, like I'm in the bath water, you know, so you know, there are acceptable characters. And then there are characters that are just servicing the plot. So really sort of interesting analogy when I first started to write plays, for my friends and for you know, my wife, who was a my, my future wife, who was in my acting class, we started a theater company we did this, like theater has brought me pretty much all my core relationships, but you'd be writing something and you know, in the back of your mind, I'm like, Okay, I'm writing this play. Is this character significant enough that I'm going to be able to get my friend to commit to it, work for free, carry equipment around, take work off, do all this shit and If it's not valuable to them as an actor, they're not going to do it. And I found that sort of philosophy works, meaning every character I try to write, you know, sometimes there's like day players, they just got to say a little things, basically extras, but you want them to have some meat, because I know how actors are in terms of give them juicy subtext. And they will bring it to a whole other level. If you don't give them subtext, I don't care how good of an actor there is, they are, they're just gonna invent something or just kind of float. So I do think I specially in my early theatre writing, I would experiment with having characters one way, and then suddenly, yeah, if you write a character who has like, they take a joint out of their pocket, and they start smoking, but they're, you know, but if you set that character up as like a 55 year old, you know, school teacher, whatever, well, that's surprising. But that actor will then stitch that into the entirety of their performance, you know, so you're like, creating these moments that will be organic to it, but it better suit a better damn well suit the story and suit other things, but I like stories in which the characters can continue to surprise me and continue to do things within the reality of what they are. Do you know what I mean? But I like I, I mean, I love how I like my favorite stories have characters where you're a little bit unsure of what are they going to do so so I like building that in and interesting that an actor is going to going to pull it off and have fun pulling it off. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 21:30
right. I mean, Mr. blondes a perfect example of that, like you have no idea where Mr. blondes going. Yeah, it's a great a great, great analogy.

John Pollono 21:37
Well, I mean, look, I I love talentino. But I think Tarantino, I don't necessarily always get the sense, and I'm not shitting on him in any way. But I think his sort of type of movies and it feels like, in a way, only He can do it.

Alex Ferrari 21:52
There's no question. He's just the only thing. Just gonna direct Inglorious Basterds? Like,

John Pollono 21:58
no, I know that. I mean, that's one of my favorite movies. But I don't necessarily get that these his movies have like a theme. In the end along the way of like, where my work is, and where I come from, I don't know if that's dictating him, although I feel deep resonance, and I love his movies and watch them over and over again, because I love the characters and the camerawork, and I get emotionally involved. But whereas if I see like a Scorsese movie, or some other newer directors that I love, like, I really, you know, man, it's, it's so funny. I, I never watched Little Women, the Greta gerwig movie, and my daughter was like, you got to see you got to see it. And I saw it, I was blown away. I was like, I couldn't believe how much I love that movie. I mean, I've watched it multiple times. And, you know, you just never know So, but I watched her movie and I'm like, Oh, she there's clear what she's having to say with this. And it's all cohesive and it all works. And, and again, not that he doesn't do that. But you know, I can I can clearly see a Scorsese movie and say that there's like a dark thematic idea he's working out of it. But you know, whatever, it it's all different. I just think if someone I don't know who else but Tarantino can engage me to that degree without having some sort of more, you know, commentary on the human condition. But but he does,

Alex Ferrari 23:09
but him and he's also just on a whole other level, his own level. And there's just nobody else that that that works the way he does. Like I was, like you were saying like, okay, let's give Nolan Inglorious Basterds, let's give Fincher Django Unchained like that's, I mean, I'd be interested to see those films by the way, I would, surely would be, but they're not. He writes so perfectly. For one I,

John Pollono 23:33
I think, to your point, I think Tarantino's directing starts when he writes, and it's all fluid. So it's not someone taking a script, which, by the way, I mean, I love that process. As a playwright, that's the bread and butter of what playwriting is, is you create something and then you have the the chemical reaction of having a director have their interpretation of that text. That's the beauty of it. Whereas Tarantino, it's like from start to end. It's It's his sort of singular vision, which is really cool. I mean, it's amazing. Everything he does opening night,

Alex Ferrari 24:04
and very few, and very few artists can do it at that level, within a studio system. Like there's not, there's just that there's just not many, that list is very, very short. Now, when you're writing either plays or scripts, do you start with character or plot?

John Pollono 24:21
I mean, or theme? Yeah, no, it depends. I mean, to me, look, honestly, it's different in each situation. Yeah, it's just different in each situation. I think usually, you know, you read that book on writing by Stephen King. Yeah. Such. Yeah, so great. But I think what he said, I think he said, and it's been a while, that clicked so much as he's like, Look, you have this little bubble here, a great idea of a character or a sketch or a scene. And you have this little bubble here and might be a theme and might be this and that and they're kind of all floating around and then suddenly, they click and you're like, holy shit, that's what it is. So to me, it's always been at least two pieces clicking you know, like, first Small Engine Repair it was this I dia of the themes being a father, all that messiness kind of floating there. And then the composites of the character hits all I kind of ragged. And then suddenly they click, and they just stick together. And you're like, Okay, that's it. Now we're off, you know, but all I try to say and try to do is like, if I'm gonna sit there and write about it, it has to be compelling to me, to make it work, to put the time and to really make my work, shine, I have to be compelled by it, I have to be moved deeply by something in it in order to do it. So that's, you know, that's part of that of that whole process. But yeah, sometimes it's Yeah, I think it is like a real interesting character. I mean, certainly with the case of stronger the book was not a great I don't think it was, it was not a deep book. It was he wrote it really quick. It was like an airport book. And in reading that I was like, compelled by what wasn't said, as much as what was said, and knowing the truth of the neighborhoods and talking to him a little bit. I was like, Oh, the story here is like, the subtext of that whole book is what I made that movie about, which is, he feels pressured to be this hero. And we are so much more comfortable when he is in that struggle, that the book is like, hey, rah, rah, everything's good. But then meeting him, you're like, things aren't good. He's really struggling. Let's peel that back. So you know, that was a case of that like an investigative thing. But you know, it's different in every in every situation.

Alex Ferrari 26:33
But now I know a lot of screenwriters listening, dream of being having one of their scripts on blacklist? Can you talk a little bit about what it's like to go down that journey? Because you you kind of skimmed over it a little bit, but like you I think it was number two on the blacklist that year, something like that. Yeah. What is how is the town treat you what was that whole kind of world? And because at that, at that point, you're the belle of the ball. And so many people are,

John Pollono 26:58
you know, look, I when I found out I was in the office with Alex and Todd and and Jake Gyllenhaal and we had Scott silver on the phone, and we were all talking so kind of things were already in motion at that point. And I

Alex Ferrari 27:12
made that project for that project. Yeah,

John Pollono 27:13
just so it was like, I mean, look, I had an early agent. This guy, Ron was the ad Abrams, and he was primarily my theater agent, but he was great. And one thing he said to me a word of advice, which I think is unbelievably difficult to follow. But super healthy. He's like, just be pleasantly surprised when things work out. That's just conduct yourself like, you know, I mean, that's the guy did not I was pleasantly surprised. But look, it didn't change your life. It didn't make things easier. It definitely look I think all of these sort of accolades and stuff. They make things a little easier to do what you want to do but at the end of the day, you're still looking at a blank page, you're still want to create something that you're like you're proud of, and you want to do and those things are nice. I'm always like cautious because if you believe the hype, you also have to believe it when people don't get it and it's a very tricky thing. And you know, I've been doing it long enough to know that things that are trendy or whatever don't that they don't necessarily like you have to believe in a more absolute purpose I think of what is it what is your artistic journey and um, you know, I always go back to punk rock you look at punk rock back then and you're like, you know the shit that you look at and you're like, God Damn, that is like the real deal. Didn't know it's to have those Pat's on the backs then you know what I mean? Like they just didn't mean why was find it funny as I as I started to come and get more serious about film that I would think about, like my favorite movies, my favorite plays, and then you go back and you look and a lot of them got destroyed in either reviews or box office. I mean, look at Shawshank Redemption, it just don't even know. I mean, that's maybe a lot of people's top 10 lists to this day. But to be fair, that

Alex Ferrari 28:57
it's a horrible title. I'd be one of the worst titles of all time, but I don't even know. I don't know what what note Sydney can call that what was it? What was the

John Pollono 29:09
title was Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption? was the name of his like, novella that it was basically Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 29:13
I don't know what I'd call it either. I mean, it's it's a tough thing. But it's like, how do you how do you mark because how do you market that film? Like I didn't even know it's so hard to market it but arguably, what was

John Pollono 29:26
the thing is like, you know, the some of the hardest things to market are that I certainly experienced that a lot with our movie is like, it's tricky. Some things that are super easy to market are not necessarily good. Some things are harder. I mean, that's just the nature of it, and then it comes up and it's there. I mean, you know, this is why, you know, the movies that stand the test of time, they just find their own path, but it doesn't always happen, you know, immediately.

Alex Ferrari 29:49
No, I always love I always love seeing that picture of George Lucas with a T shirt that had a bad review of Star Wars on it. And he just walked out on set with this bad review of Star Wars. Some, I think some guy in variety or something just rip Star Wars apart in 77.

John Pollono 30:04
I mean, you know, I've, it's it's a very complicated thing, the review system may mean, look, I think reviews, reviews exist. I've certainly got some incredible reviews. I've gotten some bad reviews. I've, I've learned from reviews, I've also had been, like, deeply emotionally affected by them. And that's obviously on me. I mean, I think the purpose of reviews is simply like, Hey, this is one person's opinion. Let me see. And by the way, I have reviewers in the theater world that I will read the reviews, and if they love something, I'll be like, I'm not gonna love it, because I know this person's aesthetic. Conversely, if they like shit all over it, I'm like, you know what, there's something going on here. But you know, that's the purpose of it. And you know, God loves people who dedicate their lives to the arts, in any way, shape, or form. But it's just difficult. When you've worked so hard on something to have people. The hardest thing for me is always like, if they don't get it, you don't have to like something. But if they don't get it, you know, I had plays written when I had reviews who were like, they literally didn't get certain plot twists that or machinations to the plot that they didn't get. And that was led to confusion or whatever. And I'm like, I don't know what to do. You know, like, it's there. So those things bother me worse. But you know, what are you gonna do? I don't think I'd ever get a T shirt and wear I mean, maybe if I made Star Wars I would,

Alex Ferrari 31:21
that will again another another person on a very short list.

John Pollono 31:26
Sure enough, my god, did he take a drubbing with those those prequels that he did? I mean that,

Alex Ferrari 31:32
you know, but the funny thing about the prequels is I agree. I don't I don't particularly like them. I enjoy them when I came out. But I was younger. And then I came back and I watched I watched Phantom minutes with my daughter the other day, I'm like, Oh, my God, other than the action sequence with Darth Maul. I mean, it's Yes. It's just not well, I didn't like the way it was written. Forgive me, George. But there's a generation. That's there. Star Wars films.

John Pollono 31:54
No, they love it. I mean, like, the memes are all over the place, they defend it to the end. And, you know, look, man, look, there's a there's a cop, you know, there's a form of art where I don't necessarily subscribe to it. But like, you know, you look at a painting of a stop sign. And people will stare at it for four hours, and it has deep resonance. And it's, that's great. So sometimes the creativity is in is in the reception of it as well as it is in the actual thing. But I just don't think those the prequels were not my favorite Star Wars. And I'm not gonna change my mind on that.

Alex Ferrari 32:27
I mean, we're, we're of similar vintage, sir. So I think we both grew up with the same stuff.

John Pollono 32:34
At so excited, I saw that Ziegfeld theater. I mean, I was so excited to see that I was like, but before the internet really was was going on, like so you read a review in the paper, and the paper was like, Yeah, I don't know about this. And I was like, I don't know what they're talking about. And then you saw it, and you're just like, Huh, okay, this maybe wasn't worth the way but whatever. But like you said, It stood the test of time people thought I have to ask,

Alex Ferrari 32:55
I have to ask you, since you know you enjoy Star Wars, the Mandalorian. I mean, yeah, that's cool, man. They're just they're hitting on all cylinders, man, as well. You know, it

John Pollono 33:04
took me a couple episodes to sort of figure out what it is. And then I was like, Oh, cool. It's kind of like an old 70s spaghetti western, like kung fu type thing. And then I was super, super fun. It's super enjoyable. Yeah, yeah, I really do. I really dig it. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 33:18
Now let's talk about small engine repair, which, you know, tell me how, how, what is it about? And how did it How did it even come to be?

John Pollono 33:26
So small repair started its life as a late night play at a theater company that I was a co founder at, in Los Angeles. And we my wife was a producer of the late night series at that time. And what it was is you have a main stage play. And we had a big like 100 seat theater and then like a 50 seat theater. So in the 50 seat theater, they were doing Sunset Limited with Cormac McCarthy. So to your previous point is how does ideas germinate? So I sat and I watched that play, it was great, it was getting tons of people in there. And the late night plays you just when they walk off, you got to go on, but you need to have a set that can easily function with their set, you need to not reinvent their sort of lighting scheme. Got to make it simple. You know, I mean, I have a lower budget and and you you know, everybody leaves and then you do it. So what that does give you creative licenses to write whatever the hell you want. And to not worry about the pressures of being like a commercial mainstream play. Which theatre especially at that time was always like, the more provocative it was. So we were doing like plays or readings of like Adam Rapp, Sarah Kane, the lebua like really cool, edgy, provocative stuff. So I was looking at the set and I had that like, idea of these characters and sort of the what if scenario for myself was always like, Okay, what if I didn't go to college? What if I stayed and went, you know, became more of the kind of archetypes of some people I knew growing up, you know, in particular, the was like a guy, I had a Harley. And there was a guy who ran a shop at the end of the street on South Willow. And I used to go there and hang out while he do it. And I was just like, oh, that guy's cool. It's like a single set, guy holds chord. He's got his Pitbull on the thing. And he's got the friends keep coming and go, and hey, you want a beer and just doing that. And I was like, Oh, this is a cool set. So then I looked at the current McCarthy's, then I was like, okay, you could turn this into a shot. And, you know, the whole lawn mower kind of thing seemed interesting to me. And then I just started to populate it. And then it was like, thematically what was going on having a daughter, you know, in sort of the environment like you grew up with, to where it's like, you know, what it's like to be like in the tough guy circuit posturing, or whatever, and how you gain status from talking in a certain way. But like how coded that is, but like, I just knew that I've always had a knack for dialogue, and especially that sort of the rhythms of that sort of neighborhood, working class neighborhood. I'm like, I got that. And then well, how do I incorporate what's personal to me, which is like having a foot in both of those worlds, being I consider myself a feminist and having a daughter and being so deeply have the, the, the visceral emotion of that with also knowing I can walk into, you know, the locker room or anything, and I could trade barbs with anybody and talk shit with anybody. And a lot of times, it's about women, and it's misogynistic, sort of the world. So I put those two together and sort of saw the chemicals would go off. And then it was also like, Look, this is the sort of tool set that you have on a play, and again, put up the set, lights come up, do your play, lights go down, like the simpler, the easier it is, so that I knew I was like, I'm going to do a master scene. And I had written other plays that sort of toyed with that formula, I had written a play with a whole second act as one scene and I just really liked that idea of just, you know, drawing the tension out in a one act continuous thing felt that would be very immersive. So that kind of all informed this sort of idea of getting these guys the structure of what it would be, you know, sort of slowly chipping away at an audience's resolve and starting to feel like they're the guys and starting to see through that, you know, the triggering words and start just feeling like you're in a garage, and then have that stuff happen. But and to be you know, the the prerequisite of late night is like, you have to provoke, you have to like, feel something, you don't want to go and sit and watch a play, that just reinforces everything you already believe, like let's emerge from this unsettled or provoked and have a roller coaster. Because it's 1030 people binge drinking, you know, you want to gauge and so all of that stuff was in it. And that sort of birthed the play, which we did very low stakes late night, and it just kind of caught fire. And then it went to mainstage. And it kept moving. You know, Jon bernthal, who was a part of that it was always like, Hey, we're really onto something, sometimes you just have something that in particular, this material. Look, we had a theater lovers there who had seen every play in LA for the past, you know, 20 years, loving it, we had, like, you know, bernthal has a bunch of friends fighters and cops who would sit there never been to a play, and they loved it. So we created this community of you know, gay, straight, you know, working man, you know, working class artists, everything, and it was just great, because everyone was in it and got it, you know, got what the piece was trying to say there. The the the play is in northern movie is written, it's not pandering, it's really like, keep up with us. And you have to use your head to really understand what this is about. At the end of the day. It's like, hit no one's saying the theme. You know, the theme that I was working with, no one sits down and says, Wow, this is a lesson I learned. It's not that, you know, and, and people were getting it and loving it and it kept moving. So john and i were always like, this would be a good movie. Also, as you know, in the independent film world, the more contained your story is, the better it is to keep it at a certain budget. And it was like, Well, shit, that's all it is. And I had to open it up, obviously, to make it a movie. But I tried to be really strategic about that thematic making sure that it's cohesive, but still the majority of the movie, you know, the four weeks we shot three weeks were in the shop, right? And that's where the majority the activity happens. And that keep that kept it, you know, doable. It made it so that we could make the movie for that. So all of the play really informed the movie and that's sort of how it happened. And john and i our relationship and work our careers went and finally having the time and him certainly having the ability to get people really excited to put money into it and you know, make it happen. And then you know, it just kind of clicked we really got lucky until we got incredibly unlucky with the pandemic.

Alex Ferrari 39:46
You're not the only one that's been hit by that, sir.

John Pollono 39:50
People are suffering a lot worse, but I'm just like, and by the way, we were like the pandemic hit and then vertical films bought the film and they're so excited about doing this big theatrical release and we're like awesome because People's masks are off. And then now we're back with a delta. Look, as to what we were saying about before, hey, we made a movie, it's a miracle you put it out, I believe that this movie will find an audience. It just might take longer. And like, I think about myself is like I saw Reservoir Dogs. I didn't see in the movie theater. I caught it on VHS afterwards. And it's like, oh, you know how enjoyable that is? And how many times I watch it. So I mean, I'm hoping for something like that. I just because I mean, I don't know, none of us know, when the movies are gonna come back to normal. Man,

Alex Ferrari 40:31
I don't know, either. I'm looking forward to it. I was able to watch one movie, in that window, where everything is good. And you're like, oh, everyone's back. So everyone could go in. And I watched the movie. I was just like, I'd forgotten. It's been a year since I've been into a movie theater. I was like, oh, man, this is so much fun. And it's the packed house that has everything. And then one.

John Pollono 40:52
Look, man, I'll wear a mask. I'll go to a movie I'll do you know, I'll go see small engine repair in the theater with an audience which is like, you know, that's the hardest thing is like this material is Oh, I've been able to battle tested over and over again with with,

Alex Ferrari 41:05
yeah.

John Pollono 41:07
You know, man, it's like, it didn't really happen to me until I can have that. So.

Alex Ferrari 41:11
And by the way, john, for my, for my money, one of the best actors working today. He's absolutely remarkable. I mean, I can list off 1000 things that he's done, but I just love his I think that's I think one of the things I liked about both your performance and his in the film is the rawness. there's a there's a, there's a thing about when you have a masculine, like, you know, that and that term, toxic masculinity. But But you know, in the performances, to be a tough guy, but a vulnerable tough guy is not easy. And to pull off both is not easy within within a character and within a performance. And that's what

John Pollono 41:52
No, I mean, that that's him. And I mean, look, I had the advantage of knowing him. And he's one of my closest friends, and really shaping the character in a way that I felt accessed his tool set as an actor in a way, you know, he's played a variety of these characters, but I was like, you can, he can get away with murder, so you could craft his character to be like, his sueno is like, really a study and contradictions in so many things that you say, but uh, beneath at all, john is a human being, but as a performer has a huge heart. And he's tough as hell, and he's got all that stuff. But also, he was fearless in creating this version that sort of subverted a lot of his persona and being, you know, kind of very vulnerable and very sort of submissive in a way that he certainly isn't as a real person, but he has the capacity to do that. I mean, look, that's ultimately, and again, I never want to tell people what the movie is about, I want people to always, you know, come to their own conclusions, but it's certainly a study in I wouldn't even necessarily say toxic masculine, I would say modern masculinity, but in particular, you know, the struggle that we have, like, you can say, coming from a neighborhood where you have your masculine and your feminine, and then you know, and how do those two coexist and really, the movie is looking at the places where they, they bounce up against each other, there's places like I wanted to create, you know, these guys who you wouldn't ordinarily see being so intimate with each other and loving with each other, but then the violence and the undercurrents and just kind of creating a very raw real way now, I love john is one of my favorite actors as well, and but he's like a real guy, like he doesn't have to act or research what that guy is, he has those tool set within him. And it's just effortless. So then you can go a whole other level and start deconstructing it.

Alex Ferrari 43:43
And I don't know if it's the same case in where you came up when you came up from but when I came up in my culture, you know, women, you know, very much East I mean, Latinos are very much east. And you know, and my God, my father was one of the things the first generation that didn't cheat on his on his mom, my grandfather had, like, you know, nomina kids and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. But the women in the side of our, of my family and of all my family throughout my family, close and far, are very strong women, like you didn't disrespect a woman in the family, you might disrespect. You might say some shit about somebody else. And you might say something wrong about the girl around the corner. But you would never disrespect. And so I think that, for me, at least always really guided my path in regards to how I treat women in general because of that, just like you don't do that you were raised not to do that. I was raised by women basically. So I'm yeah, I'm surrounded by women now. Yeah.

John Pollono 44:42
You and I are similar in that sense. And I think that was a saving grace for me is like, you know, I have my sisters and how influential they were to me and not having that, you know, it's funny, man. Later in life. I started to have friends and stuff who had trouble with women and I was like, Oh, wait, you don't have a sister. You know what I mean? Like, I've shared my deepest. See grunts with, uh, with my sisters my whole life. So it was it was very easy to have that that relationship. But you know, and again to back to back up a little bit the play was all men, it was the three guys and then the and then the college guy shows up. And all of the women in the movie were referred to, but they weren't ever seen. So the movie did give a great opportunity in terms of, obviously the power of cinema to punch in on someone's face like Sierra, who's the heart of the movie and the heart of the play her character, even though she's not on stage, it just amplifies all of those emotions that you and I are talking about, where it just further complicates it. And it's not, you know, it's not like a simple cinematic cheat. It's like you they're flesh and blood characters, and they're involved in the in the movie thematically and plot wise, you know, the movie doesn't exist without them. It's not, you know, just lip service. Now, I

Alex Ferrari 45:54
have to ask you the question, man. Sure. Did your first film? So you're directing? You wrote it, and you're acting in it? Are you nuts? Well, it's, it's tough to do one of those things, brother, instead of you did all three?

John Pollono 46:11
Well, look, I mean, here's the truth is, it's hard to take a chunk of time out of your life to pursue a passion project. So to some extent, I was like, if I'm going to do that, I'm going to be all in. Now, I knew I was gonna write in directed, I had played that character, for so long, so many different directors with, you know, Andrew block with Giovanni in New York. And it just, I just understood it inside and out. And I felt this is a very unique once in a lifetime opportunity to play a character whose emotional state mirrors that of a first time director, which is terror, stress, trying to keep all that anger in at any given moment, then I'm on camera, but the character is just manipulating it subtly. The whole fucking movie, he's just pushing it slowly. He's the least flashy of all the things, but he's just sitting there, and he has a check. And he's making sure all the chess pieces click. And that's what it just clicked like that. You know, and I mean, I couldn't have done it without john and Shea. And the key in this particular thing was, I mean, look, it's one of those things, they say that you when you're naive, you you don't realize the challenges ahead. But it was it was very much in having, you know, very, very seasoned producers who had my back. You know, Rick Rosenthal, who's a very seasoned director, Peter has done a bunch of movies, Noah, who was my manager, but he also did that everyone had my back, and the DP and I, Matt Mitchell laying out every single shot. So there were no surprises, we all knew everything ahead of time, and it was all there. And look, in theory, I feel, if you do your pre production really, really well, on the day, you can kind of almost just sit back and let everything click into place. It was all pre production, it was table work, it was knowing every little thing so that in the moment when we had those discoveries. And look, you know how this goes to we didn't have a budget that after every take, we like Frank Darabont did, you know pause it do a playback, look at it, make sure okay, move the briefcase a little bit, that way move that you sent out that time, so you trust your dp that it's going to look good. And then like, instead of doing that, let's just roll again, these are, these are, you know, the best actors that you could get, you know, so then create a system around it, where they can really do their thing. And that's, it was all around that apparatus. So I mean, look, I and again, the script was my direction, like, here's what it is. And look, we improvise, we found a lot of new stuff. But we kept going back to that, that roadmap and all those things and discovering stuff. So it's terrifying as it was, I knew I had done so much prep, that it just sort of had a life of its own and it kind of, you know, it was just happening before my eyes and you can feel it when you're there. This is the muscles you learn in theatre. When you're on stage with someone and something is happening. You can't deny that the air changes. So I just kind of looked for that. And if it felt that way, in the moment, even if I'm on camera or whatever, then I'm like okay, we have captured something is the story beat or whatever. Let's just keep going. And then look, the Edit was an embarrassment of riches. We had the performances when there was nothing, you never had to like, edit around the performance. It was like it was all there. Oh, I'm gonna give him

Alex Ferrari 49:35
Oh, no, I've had that. I've had the pleasure of directing newbie actors and Oscar winning actors and in between the two men. I take the the seasoned actors everyday because if they make your life so easy, a good actor, it just like you don't even as a director just makes you look good as a director when you have that kind of talent in front of the lens and you're not forcing and pulling and tugging. Perform? Well, look,

John Pollono 50:00
I think I think just some great advice I got early on, which is like, hire the best and then get out of the way. And I think that's accurate for, you know, I'm here to support and I would talk and you have character, you have actors like Shea whigham, who's brilliant. And, you know, we sat at the table for months really answering questions and working through it. And then you had, you know, actors like Sierra, who I met a couple of times, we worked a lot talked, and then she showed up, and she had it all worked on, and it was just little adjustments, but I'm not a control freak, I like want to create, which again, I learned a lot of working with David Gordon green and sort of shadowing him on stronger. It's like, he sets the table. And then he lets you go. And it's like, it's it's invigorating, making a movie with him. And I wanted to create that. I mean, we worked our asses off, but everyone was empowered. It's like, every single person contributed to that project, everyone who was there, and, and it was just sort of a communal art project.

Alex Ferrari 50:54
You know, now there's, you know, when when someone's on, when a director is on a project, there's always that one day, at least for me, I'm not sure if it's for you. But that day that everything feels like it's falling apart that like, Oh, my God, this, I don't know, if I'm gonna make it over this day or something happened, what was the toughest day in the production for you? And what did you learn? And what did you learn from it? Well,

John Pollono 51:18
great, great question. So I would say there were a couple of dark moments. That you're just like, the hole opens up on the floor, and you're like, holy shit. And I mean, what it taught me was just take a deep breath, and you'll get through. So I'll tell you one example that ended out being a gift. And then I'll tell you one example, which was a massive challenge. And we had to make it work. So the gift was the opening scene of the movie, or you saw the movie? I'm assuming?

Alex Ferrari 51:46
I have not. I've not yet I didn't get a chance to see it yet. I'm dying to see it. I'm dying to see it.

John Pollono 51:50
No worries, you'll, you'll follow up, let me know what you think afterwards. So the opening scene, as it was constructed, was the sort of no dialogue version that we cut out. So it sort of takes place slightly in the past. So most of the movie takes place in the shop. So we dress the shop to be like it's for sale. It's like the first day at the shop. Frank, the character I play comes back. He's served a couple of days in prison for fighting, you know, his daughters. He hasn't seen his daughter in a little video and seen his friends. He shows up in the front, he's kind of cut up, he's gonna cast it's like telling all the story like no dialogue. And we have the dolly shot, and we had to move it in this cinematic and move it around. And it was a very one of the three or four just really complicated cinematic shots that wasn't necessarily about the acting, it was about the shot, the fluidity, like maybe the credits come in, and all that stuff, like really, like storyboarded mapped out, which we did on like, two things. And, you know, we have the dolly tracks, we have the extra crew, we had all that stuff. And again, the art department dressed the outside of the shop on that day. So like, we can't shoot anything else until that stuff is stripped. And it was, you know, john Byrne fall and Shea whigham show up. And the the younger vert, the four year old version of the crystal character who Sierra plays, is played by John's daughter, Addie, who I know. But, you know, I know we're pretty well known her through the years, but she's there with her dad, and they want to come up, put her down, she runs up to my character, we hug. Look at everybody, and we're like we're going to do and it's like setting up the story. So it's supposed to snow, but not till about one o'clock. So they shot my coverage with the dolly or whatever, coming out of the truck and doing all that stuff. And then they turn it around and it starts to snow. And it's like early, but you're like okay, we can make it work. Dude, it started to snow is strong. As you can imagine, to the point that you can't go in a dolly, they're covered. You can't keep sweeping it. So we lost the dolly. And then the equipment started effect and you're like, holy shit, what are we going to do? And then we did one reverse take with with Addy. And she's freezing when she comes to me because she knows me but she's like, I don't want to go to this asshole is I'm gonna go with my dad. I'm cold. She's four. And you're like Jesus. So that was a dark moment. Because what are you going to do? So then, in the moment, you know, we the priests gather around? What footage do we have? What do we need to retake? and john was like, working on it. And it became like, what moment are we have like, don't invent it. Don't deny it. Let's see what happens. So we have maybe two more takes as the snow was gathering before the equipment was damaged. She comes up, you know, my character Frank reaches out for her and she's gonna go to me. She's like, I want to stay with my dad. I don't want to do it. So I get her and it's heartbreaking. She's crying. She goes back to that. And then I'm like, just being emotive about like, I'm feeling we're all feeling that stress and the tension of it. And then at the end of the day, it's like, you know, Hey, stay with him. It's okay, honey. We did. So we shot you know, without our sort of choreograph, we shot a whole bunch of angles, and we did it and we had it in the can and I was like, Alright, either we're just gonna start later. And I when we were in the house, I shot some pickup stuff, but it's So we had all that footage and like, what is it, it's not going to be what I thought it was. It's not what it was in the script. But it ended up being a gift because now we created the sequence that opens it where my character gets out of jail, he sees his daughter, he reaches out for her, and she hasn't seen him in a little bit. So she's like, Who is this guy, she's upset. And she goes to john, who's the, you know, the surrogate uncle and the other one and into Shay. And then my characters dis distraught by it, and then we go into the shop, and we used like, 90% of the footage that we shot, the editors put together a beautiful, heartbreaking sequence that was darker, and and less fun, but it was so much more deeply resonant thematically, that it informed the whole movie and it it made the movie darker and more beautiful and tougher and way harder. And like I said that was a gift because all of everything feeling on that in the in Addy field she's like, fortunate what's going on all of that tension,

Alex Ferrari 56:01
right on the screen.

John Pollono 56:02
And when you think about that, when you see it, and and how again, that was a you know, it's tough to find every little make sure we had coverage and everything. And we had to digitally add snow on like one shot or whatever, to make it all match. But it's like, I'm like, I can't believe we had that gift.

Alex Ferrari 56:18
Yeah, so that was the that was the gift. What was the Oh my god.

John Pollono 56:22
Well, the the the hardest day without a doubt was the day we shot at a big bar fight. And the our fight choreographers were the coordinator was Eric Linden, who did the Punisher all the fights. The Mark is a big Marvel guy, like he's doubles as Captain American shit, like he is the man. And obviously he knows john. And you know, John's, that kind of guy that everything he works on people, like I'll do anything you work for, because he is that guy. He's so real and amazing. I mean, that's how I, you know, got to know. And so share the script with Eric was like, hey, you're gonna do this, but he was like, hell yeah. And you know, a lot of the Marvel choreography, which is super fun to watch, it's like it. It's not porn, but it's like, pause the story. Let's do this kick ass, exciting fight sequence. Sometimes it moves the plot, sometimes it doesn't. It's thrilling. And it's its own specific thing. This was like, the fights and the violence have to fit thematically and in the tone, and in the world of it. And he was really eager about that challenge. But we had a lot to shoot in that bar. And then this fight, and it was chaotic. And, you know, the DP hadn't really shot a fight scene to that extent. And then we ended up having to reinvent a lot of stuff. And it was, you know, but the guys, we were beating up, I mean, you have john who was an expert at that, I mean, I'd done some of that stuff, but not to that extent, Shea was really comfortable with it. But the, the the the stuff, man, we had were like, you know, just hit me like pretty much just like just really do it. They're all padded up. So we just beat the shit out of each other quite a bit. And it was like, shooting from this angle from this angle. And it was the terror of I don't know, like, unlike other things, you have to get enough coverage on those physical things. Otherwise, they're just not going to cut. Right. Right. So it was chaotic. We shot which I think Eric Linden was like, Alright, here's the solution. Let's shoot one master tracking, that's all the right angles. And and then once you have that, and it took a lot, we're eating time getting that one. But once you have that you can always cut back and forth to it. So this was all like new information and like my plan and with the DP, like all that stuff. It was like, What are you going to do? Like, you can't This is the only day we have on this set. And so we just shot it. And you know, I was terrified the whole time. And having to be physical and doing all that stuff. And I mean, the fight is incredible on I mean, like, I'm blown away about how good it looks, because it has all that shit. But on that day, I mean, I was like, why do I make this movie? What am I doing?

Alex Ferrari 58:59
What am I playing here? I was.

John Pollono 59:03
I literally was like, there's a hole opened up behind me and I'm like sinking and I like what am I doing? I'm sweating in the back of it. Like, this is a disaster. Yeah, but that was the that was the most sort of terrifying moment of me just because it was all of the things clicking together. You had all the extras you had all this stuff. And then I forgot what happened. Like there was a big bus of extras that weren't there on time or something. I mean, it was just like all the problems happening at once.

Alex Ferrari 59:27
Hey, no, no, that's in Martin Martin Scorsese says it very best because if you look at your film, and you don't think it's an absolute disaster, you're not doing something right. There's always a moment there's always a moment that you're like this is a fiasco I'll never work in this I'll never work again. This is the last time you get you get that you get that feeling I had a fight sequence a fight sequences are I mean, unless you're Michael Bay, or or Tony Scott, cameras and money to shoot over 100 cameras in a giant transforming robot. That's a whole other conversation. Yeah, but we I was shooting a fight sequence one day and I had the greatest stunt team and from Kill Bill in the matrix and this insane stunt coordinator from 24. And they they've been working on this fight sequence. And I just but the team I had a couldn't catch up on the day on the on the I was just I was getting my pages. So when we finally got to the fight sequence, they had wirework setup. They had wire work setup, they had rigging setup, and they're like, I'm like, we got to rework this man, we got sorry, we can't, we don't have time for the rigging. So and they, they rework the entire fight sequence just from like, we got two hours, what can we do in two hours?

John Pollono 1:00:36
And did you lose your mind? Or do you just take a deep breath? Or do you Kevin?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:40
No, I know that whole shoot that whole shoot, I lost my mind because the weirdness about that film was that I had some amazing talent, probably some of the best time I've ever worked with. And it was like, the first thing I'd done in Hollywood really, with like, some amazing technicians, some really accomplished actors. And then the support team was not accomplished. And that was the thing so the support team did not stay up at the same level as the rest of them. So the head was great, but the rest of the team wasn't

John Pollono 1:01:13
I mean, isn't it remarkable how it's like you know, it's that analogy they say it's like a it's like a stereo equipment your your stereo is only as good as its weakest component. And I mean, I feel beyond blast at everybody I had but you're like, in retrospect, you're like, wow, with that one? Oh, he's, oh, you're screwed. Meryl Streep there but if your ad sucks, like you're screwed,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:35
I did a whole movie where my audio guy saved me my location audio guys. He was like, it was a completely on location all the time actors running around. In public we were doing kind of like this, you know, let's just running around and kept you know, capturing stuff. And everyone's like, I don't know how the sounds gonna be on like, I here's a here it's fine. I got into post my post sound guys like Who the hell was your location sound guy? Like, Oh, no, you were in the snow. You had 50,000 people running around and all this stuff and it sounds crystal clear man.

John Pollono 1:02:08
And meanwhile on the day everyone's furious at the sound guy cuz he's like way do all this like there's always Oh, it's we had an incredible Wow, just like you but so often people like would be like, waiting on waiting on sound playing like fuck it. You can't make it you know? I mean, and it's waiting on sound. Oh, you're like, Dear God, you say big.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:28
Thank God. He did what he did because it just without it. There's no movie. So it's

John Pollono 1:02:32
Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:33
it's it's fascinating, man. Um, now I have to ask you. You're working on the new Hulk Hogan movie. Right? Yes. With with Todd Phillips. Is there any spot? Silver's right. Is there anything you can say about it? Cuz I'm a huge fan. And I can't wait to see it.

John Pollono 1:02:49
I definitely can't say stuff on the air. I'm like terrified to I've never I've never worked on anything that was so under lock and key.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:57
How's it how's it off? Okay. All right. Sorry, guys off off air. But, but how's it working with Todd and these great, you know,

John Pollono 1:03:05
I had met him you know, as like a general meeting years ago. And I was like, Oh my god, like we talked. We talked for like an hour. And then his next meeting didn't show up. We just hung out twice. And I was just like, He's such a cool guy. Like, he's so easy to talk to. Very disarming. Just like a cool dude. Like, I mean, you'd love that guy. And then you know, working with him on this now Tom Scott had made the Joker with him Joker movie with him. Obviously, so you can see the kind of people I get to work with, which is so awesome. Yeah. So the guys are obviously have a great you know, shorthand a working relationship. So when, when I'm in the room with the two of them, first of all, it's funny watching them bust each other's balls, but like, you know, because Scott and I have a certain dynamic and then when Todd comes in, it's like, all different. It's really fun. But he's great man. He's a fearless. He's like an artist. He's like, got really, really smart notes. And, you know, Scott's super smart. It's just, it's, you know, this is what I always wanted was to work with people who like really lift you up in your game and help you do things, you know, bring out the best in you. And, you know, I can't speak highly enough about those two guys. And you know, I'm really excited to make that movie and I think it's gonna be awesome.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:17
And it's someone Chris Wright.

John Pollono 1:04:20
really hung out with him. I only hear him through the through the grapevine of every you know, everybody else but I'm a huge fan of Chris Hemsworth. I mean, he's like, just having him in my head as you write called Cogan dialogue is just really fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:31
I cannot I'm just I'm a huge help. I mean, I was a wrestling fan and all that stuff. And as you will love the movie, I can't wait. I cannot wait. I'm gonna ask the last two questions. I asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

John Pollono 1:04:50
Well, I think, Wow, that's a deep question. I think the thing that that took me the longest to learn was to because of the way I was raised And where I came from, I think it was having enough confidence to say and do what I wanted. And to not look too outward permission to do what I wanted to do. And as an artist, primarily, I mean, I've, I, like you were talking about is like, I'm really blessed that I've had some really caring people in my life, whether it was the teacher when you needed it. And I mean, quite profoundly, was when I met my wife in that acting class. And I, she's such an incredible actress, she's actually in the movie. And she was just like, sitting down with her. And having her breakdown my early plays in doing it, it was like, do you should do this, like, you're really good at this, it was like I am, you know what I mean? And then have that at that moment in my life, you know, when when you're you don't and then like I said, my biggest regret was always not figuring out earlier to be like, this is, this is what I want to do. And I don't care if you get it or not, I get it, you know what I mean? And then and then do it and, and being comfortable with being vulnerable like that. And, look, it's still not completely easy. I'm putting out this movie, it's the first thing I made. It's, it's, it's latching into all of those things I've worked so hard to get past and you just got to be healthy about it. But you have to find that, that strength to just, you know, be confident enough in who you are.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:19
Very cool. Time, it's still a work in progress. We are all a work in progress. And this is for you. I would like to ask what are three screenplays that every screenwriter and filmmaker should read?

John Pollono 1:06:32
Wow. That's a good really good question. I think one of my favorite screenplays is Chinatown. I think just in terms of being a classically structured, incredible thing. That's so resonant. I love that. I would say the fighter, the original draft, Scotts original draft, which is different than the movie has an entirely different first act. It's such a joy to read. And it's really interesting to read that and then see the movie and see what they kept in and what they change. What what how much that would have changed. It's like a masterclass and that I mean, I think his script would have been equally as brilliant, if not, maybe better, but the movie they had and seeing that I think that that's, that's phenomenal. And then the third, you know, one, look, it sounds corny, but I took that Robert McKee class when I was in my 20s I just had him

Alex Ferrari 1:07:22
on, I just had him on the show. No, I

John Pollono 1:07:24
mean, I picked up at the airport and drove him I like got to because I was there for some Film Festival and we chatted and I was like, fuck is this guy. And, you know, so much of his stuff was like so resonant, but when he really broke down Casa Blanca, you know, I mean, I was like, Oh my god, I had no idea. And reading that screenplay and seeing that movie in also having the Robert McKee sort of book to follow through. That was like a masterclass for me to do that. So I would say those three in terms of my personal like growth as a writer, or were very, very influential scripts,

Alex Ferrari 1:08:00
and when and where can people see small engine repair?

John Pollono 1:08:04
So it comes out in theaters in September 10 and then it's on video on demand and I think early October

Alex Ferrari 1:08:14
Okay, cool. So it'll be it'll be available everywhere

John Pollono 1:08:18
the video on demand Yes, like you know, I guess you know, Apple and all that stuff. I've never really gone through this process but it's like you know, Amazon whatever wherever you get video on demand. Got it there really will be everywhere, which is I mean, I watch a lot more video on demand now obviously. Yeah, but uh and I would just say with the movie to people who your listeners and stuff which sounds like you have a really cool film fans is like you know, try to see it with a group of people that's how it was intended to be it'd be really fun to see it with that and everyone's different reactions and stuff like that. It's definitely a roller coaster I think the movie is more in line of like we're talking about you know, those films that like a Reservoir Dogs or Goodfellas or something you saw and it had that tension that humor but you really enjoyed seeing it with with

Alex Ferrari 1:09:01
people. Gentlemen, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you brother. I wish you continued success on your on your Hollywood journey and storytelling journey, man. So thank you again for making this film and for doing what you do, brother Thank you.

John Pollono 1:09:15
Alright, thanks man you to keep at it and I look forward to the next time.

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IFH 497: Raiders! Making the Greatest Fan Film of All Time


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Back in 1981, the classic action-adventure movie Raiders Lost Ark was a fan favorite for many. The film went on to become one of the most beloved mimetic treasures of all time. But the ultimate fans were a teenage trio who kind of took it a little bit further and created the greatest fan film of all time.

At age 12 and 11, in the summer of 1981, our guest today, director, Eric Zala, and friends devoted what turned out to be seven years of their childhood to shooting a shot-by-shot adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

This ultimate love letter to Indiana Jones was shot over the course of seven summers. The cast all grew up in front of our eyes. During the film production they did stunts, dangerously I might add, almost burned down their mother’s house and much more. 

Driven only by their fandom with no idea about editing, sound, or movie making, Eric, Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb finished the film (except for the blown-up plane scene) and even had a hometown premiere.

Years later, after studying at NYU film school, Eli Roth got a hold of a copy of the film, showed it to Steven Spielberg, and the rest is history. 

The guys decided to finalize the project with their new recognition by shooting the final scene they had abandoned.

Director Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen joined them to document their adventure. In 2015, The Raider! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Made documentary was released. It is currently playing on Hulu. 

Eric has credits on other films like An Early Twilight (1993) and Medal of Honor: Rising Sun (2003). After all these years, Eric’s start to indie filmmaking remains a fascinating dream-coming-through story. It was hilarious hearing about the making Raiders adaptation and their parents’ reactions. 

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Eric Zala.

Alex Ferrari 0:08
I'd like to welcome to the show Eric Zala. How you doing, Eric?

Eric Zala 0:14
Oh, I'm doing great. Thank you for having me on the show.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thanks for thanks for being on the show. Man. You know, you're you have I have a lot of independent filmmakers on the show. I've had big and small, but you have a such a unique story about how, how you made your not only your first film when you were 12. Also, you know, afterwards making being part of another film, documenting the making of the first one is such a unique story. So for everybody who doesn't know your story, can you talk a little bit about Raiders of the Lost Ark and what you what you guys did in a nutshell in a nutshell, because we'll go deep into it.

Eric Zala 0:59
Sure. So back in 1981, like a lot of kids loved Raiders Lost Ark but and a lot of kids played Indiana Jones in the backyard we kind of took it a little bit further. We from age 12 to 19 seven summers we devote our entire childhood to the idea this wacky i doing idea of doing a shot for shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Just kids we had no camera no clue, no idea what we're doing no money. Had no idea of what we're getting into. But we stuck with it and managed to finish and have a hometown premiere and sat on our bookshelf for 14 years and we went off to college in life thinking finishing all but one scene the airplane scene, you know cuz move airplane blows up?

Alex Ferrari 1:52
Sure.

Eric Zala 1:53
We we then were reunited when it was accidently discovered by Eli Roth, who got a copy to the director of the original,

Alex Ferrari 2:07
but we've sat up there for a second How did he get a copy of it? It's been on your shelf like where did it live in the ether that he could even see a copy of this thing.

Eric Zala 2:15
You know, bit of serendipity Alex? six degrees of separation. I went to NYU film school and then after graduation, I'm rooming with a fellow alum who made a copy of my film after I showed it to him. He was a working editor great guy passed on to a friend pass on to a friend. I was working at trauma in New York. Nice red Raskin got it to Eli Roth, I'm told and Eli, he he grew up doing a shot for shot remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and saw our story and this and managed to bring this battered VHS bootleg tape to his own pitch meeting slid across the conference room table and got it so Steven Spielberg, who loved it, and said I want to write these guys a letter. What's their addresses them? Eli doesn't know he's never met us. But thankfully, it's 2002 at this point. And so he looks tracks down one of us through the internet, and gets our addresses we get a letter from Mr. Spielberg, thanking us for a very loving and detailed tribute, and then met the man himself about a year later. That's led to a 10,000 word article in Vanity Fair to our story being told in a book by Alan eyes and stock in St. Martin's Press, called Raiders, the story of the greatest fan film ever made. And then then we decided to reunite the cast after 25 years and do the one scene that we couldn't do as kids the airplane scene. And a documentary crew followed us and doing that. So now there's a documentary about these wacky Mississippi kids doing the shot for shot remake of Raiders Lost Ark in the 80s. So I keep expecting to close the book on this Raiders thing and it keeps

Alex Ferrari 4:13
popping up. It keeps popping up. So I have to ask. Okay, so let's let's take it back for a minute. So it's 1981. Like we were talking before, before we got on the air where if similar vintage, you're you're a few years ahead of me. I remember at I remember at 182 because that's when VHS is and VHS video stores, at least where I lived in New York started to show up. Yeah. And I'm not even sure if Raiders was out yet because it was such a new thing that they didn't want to release it. So how could you even conceive of doing a shot from memory?

Eric Zala 4:51
Great question. Yeah. So Raiders of course came out in summer of 81. We got the idea in 82. Thankfully, They used to do theatrical re releases of really popular films.

Alex Ferrari 5:05
Sure

Eric Zala 5:05
Raiders came out at this time. And you're right video stores were around, but they were in their infancy and you could not yet read graders. So, after Chris and I decided to embark on this endeavor, we snuck in a audio tape cassette recorder into the movie theater playing Raiders to amazing serendipity, you know, to surreptitiously record the soundtrack at the thinking as naive and foolish as we were, we were 12 we're going to use capture the sound effects. Oh yeah. And no concept of like

Alex Ferrari 5:43
editing, sound recording entity quality.

Eric Zala 5:48
We're fumbling around in the dark on how to do it. But the idea was that it did wind up being helpful, I'm sure even though you know the tears were were visible. You could hear it sounded terrible. But I what I did was I used it as a memory jogger later on. I got Raiders, the storybook Raiders, the movie on record, Raiders, you know, the trading cards, every thing Raiders like allowance could support and cobbled it all together and spread it all across a dining room table. And I spent a whole summer. Yeah, drawing the storyboards from memory, using my visual memory jobs and the soundtrack. And it took me a whole summer 602, storyboards and all but finished. And I finally felt like I'd lived in that world for a while. And I think it prepared me for directing. We wouldn't, we wouldn't shoot until the following summer. But it provided a homemade blueprint for the film.

Alex Ferrari 6:52
That's absolutely ridiculous and amazing all at the same time.

Eric Zala 6:56
And of course, of course, a mere year or two after that Raiders comes out at your local blockbuster. And we're like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, we

Alex Ferrari 7:03
go on. And just watch a friend literally. Then at that point, you can finally and blockbuster wasn't around yet. So it was probably your mom and pop in at three because blockbuster hadn't come around. Just I used to work in a video store. This is why I know these things. Yeah. But yeah, so it was like your mom and pop and it was you couldn't purchase it because purchasing it at that time would cost you. I don't think it didn't come through sell through. Not yet. So it was still 125 bucks to buy it. If I was

Eric Zala 7:29
saying was he a man figured it out yet? Yeah, it was by her alibi. Tom Selleck movie for 50 bucks.

Alex Ferrari 7:36
I mean, yeah. So I mean, it was insane. Until I think he didn't come out until like 8788. I think 80 came up. And that was the first big sell through other than Disney. Disney is going at 2499 for a while. But the big studios haven't got an 80 showed up and then everyone's like, wait a minute, we can make money with this VHS stuff. And then everything and then everything became sell through and then so you had it. You had it and you rent it so you would rent it and then watch it rent it and watch it. Well, I our dog dubbed it or dubbed it. Well,

Eric Zala 8:11
Chris, when Chris's mom remarried. The owner of the local TV station Chris was in. He was in a rich house so they could afford a laser desk.

Alex Ferrari 8:24
Oh, yeah. Yeah,

Eric Zala 8:28
very. So we studied it like a friend that you could do frame collars. frame by frame that. Yeah, the Dead Sea Scrolls. Exactly. And I mean, to this day, every note of the soundtrack every line of dialogue is permanently indelibly etched in my brain. You know, and of course, I tried to like commit as much to memory in that theater in 82. But But yeah, as it turns out, my storyboards were pretty accurate there were a couple compositions flipped but for the most part a fairly faithful rendition.

Alex Ferrari 9:04
Now when you watch Raiders for the first time I want people to understand this who are might be younger didn't have the opportunity to watch Raiders when when they when it came out the theaters. What was that thing that what was that magical thing that when you saw it, it just it because I've had so many big guests on the show. And Raiders always pops up as their top three and their top there's one of those films that just like change cinema and then Spielberg just was changing cinema like almost every picture he made was changing cinema. But Raiders was just like, what did it do it for you what it can what it How did it connect to you in that way that caused you to do this?

Eric Zala 9:43
I do remember this. You know, it was a side and Ocean Springs cinema with a buddy of mine. I actually wasn't looking forward to seeing it that much. You know, like man, he's like great. Why? cowboy chasing after Noah's Ark? What was his thing? All right. Critics seem to like it. Right. And you know, the dark, you know, we see the man with the hat moving through the the forest. By the time we get to the boulder scene, and I see the boulder barreling down on Indy I split my brain open, I did not know that. Movies could do that, that they could be that exciting. I mean, I love Star Wars, but, you know, grounded in our own reality set in a time when Raiders you know, the 30s pockets of mystery still existed throughout the world. It I think maybe that's why it resonated. Especially, but what a thrill ride what a utter roller coaster and I I wanted to someway inhabit that world. And so when Chris, later on, you know, about half a year later, looks me up in the white pages, and calls me and says, Hey, I'm that kid from the bus. I'm doing a shot for shot remake a rage laughs dark Do you want to help? I thought for all of five seconds, you know, imagining that all the sets were built and I just kind of walk on and help. But the movie was so amazing. I think had Chris chosen smoking the bandit. As great as that Burt Reynolds flick is I don't think it would have endured because yeah, it lit the fire. You know? I think it was the you know if I had to pinpoint it it was the the boulder scene that in the truck scene that just absolutely captivated me. Yeah. Yeah. And movies would never be the same after that. How could they be was lightning in a bottle?

Alex Ferrari 11:46
I remember they released the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark on VHS and on this was a two parter. It was a two parter. And the second part was like the history of stuntman. Yeah, great movie stuff like the history of stunt men or something like that. And I've had that I watched that because in for everyone Listen, you have to understand in the 80s there was no information about making movies anywhere other than some making of books, or the occasional like Star Wars making off or Raiders making of and then in VHS like that wasn't there was no DVD special extras there was laser discs. Exactly the Criterion Collection. That's when I caught all that

Eric Zala 12:26
extra stuff. If you are a real geek you subscribe maybe to starlog or got center or center

Alex Ferrari 12:32
or center or center whatever I want to call them. Not Yeah, but one of those Yeah, that the VFX book Yeah. All of those Yeah. starlog those kinds of things. That's super geeky. I never got to that geek. I didn't know that existed. I didn't know it existed or else I would have order would have ordered it I was in my I was in like Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was like there's nothing even remotely close to filmmaking anyway. So I was like not in that world at all. But um but yeah, so everybody understand that like that's why I can pinpoint that making of that making of and the making of of Dracula co couple of dragging those two making offs changed like it really changed the way I looked at filmmaking.

Eric Zala 13:13
I I held up my same audio tape cassette recorder to the TV when it came on when the making of came on PBS.

Alex Ferrari 13:21
Yeah,

Eric Zala 13:22
You know that song. Memories friends and eight by 10s.

Alex Ferrari 13:27
You Yes, I do. While we're on Eric, we're old Eric we are on now. We are older sir. So I have to ask you, so I mean, obviously you're 1213 you guys, you obviously don't have a plan with this. This is just a sec. This is just a crazy fan. This is before fan films. Yeah, well,

Eric Zala 13:48
before they were well known. We can't claim to be the first but certainly pre internet as far as we knew we were the only ones in the world doing this.

Alex Ferrari 13:57
Right? Yeah, I mean in 80 I was in 8889 my co like my co worker at the video store was doing Back to the Future to fan films like with the hoverboard and everything I remember them in making those things. So they were always there especially because the VHS or the high eight and higher cameras were out and you can shoot you shot with this with eight right? No, no Betamax originally and then VHS and then VHS so you just jumped right into both Jesus.

Eric Zala 14:27
That's amazing. What was so you had no end game to this. So you were just doing it for the fun of it. You didn't think you were gonna make money with this? We had no more ambitious goal than to just finish the damn thing. And that as simple as it is seems after like oh five years then you really start to wonder

Alex Ferrari 14:45
well, I mean, listen to you guys kept going like it was this the summers like seven summers. And you kept going and you like you would go through the year and I'm sure I'm assuming there was some planning and like, Hey, I can go get this. I go go. Did you guys kept is up for seven years at that age where? Between 12 and whatever 19 changed a little bit. Yeah, change a bit. You're things that were cool at 12 aren't cool at 19 at any strain, so that you kept this all going really serves as a testament to the love of Raiders and, and of Indian and everything that they did. And what Steven and George put together with with the story and even to this day, I mean, right now as we're talking, Harrison's doing another indie. I believe it's his last one. I can't I can't I mean, I think he just got hurt on this one. Like, Harrison, I know you want to pay Chiclets, it's your ad. But you know, what, you you earned the right to do what ever the hell you so knock yourself out. But I so what was the toughest part of making this thing?

Eric Zala 15:52
I think, you know, it is ultimately the Battle of the Spirit, you know, as as challenging as the logistics of, you know, how are we going to make the boulder you know, how are we going to find a location suitable location for the Sahara Desert in on the Mississippi Gulf Coast? You know, in the 80s? You know, there's those challenges. But, you know, since your question is what's the hardest part? It's that, you know, battle of the Spirit thing in keeping going or keeping going exactly, and, and pushing through those moments of doubt, you know, where, you know, seven years, that's a long time, there's plenty of time, opportunity for conflict for as you say, disillusionment or, or whatnot, or other interests. So that and, well, people, you know, there's process and then there's people film, as you well know, is the collaborative art, right? You and you can create something together bigger and more spectacular than you could by yourself. But the rub is it's also can be the greatest source of stress and conflict. And that was the case in our, our journey to ego. Don't forget ego. Right? You know, we nearly split up over a girl and then there was conflict near the end on how much work to give the sound in the editing room, which split us up near as we were almost over the finish line. This is when you're still

Alex Ferrari 17:31
kids or towards

Eric Zala 17:33
towards the end at this point. Yeah, yeah, I I started my first year at NYU film school, the finish the film undone and us not talking to each other, truly and utterly done with each other. So, but we met it, things came together. And and so that's that's the toughest part, I think.

Alex Ferrari 17:57
Especially when you're doing indies or I mean, at this point, it's not even an indie it's, it's a completely there. It's a fan film. It's definitely an indie film, meaning independent, but not in any traditional finish it because you can't make money with it. There's no, there's no investors, none of that stuff. But when anytime you're doing things at that level, you're dealing with amateurs, I mean, you you guys literally were amateurs, you're all 12 year olds, with a camera and stuff. So you're, you're you're still figuring out who the hell you are, let alone trying to build art together and but the only thing that held this whole thing together was the love of of Indiana.

Eric Zala 18:36
That you know, and one thing that also worked, you know, one strength of collaboration is the sense of accounting inter accountability, you know, Yeah, all right, you know, my buddies are working on this you know, can't can't give up I think that helped you know, kind of keep the cast and the crew you know, the core together throughout all those years. That and some luck you know, like when our Marian when I approached pretty girl after church in the parish hall and said, hey, my buddy is an iron or making a movie. Do you want to be in it? You know, we didn't know many girls need an American so it would have been sunk. He said no. So she said yes. Having no idea she was making a multi year commitment. But they're too lucky. Oh, yeah. There's

Alex Ferrari 19:24
no there's no question and also that I read somewhere that this was kind of like a boy a DIY filmmaking boyhood. Because you guys grow up on screen. So like, like, how did you even think like, and it's, I'm assuming you shout out did you shoot in sequence, right, a sequence

Eric Zala 19:39
I don't know. completely out of sequence.

Alex Ferrari 19:41
Right. So you like when you're 12 when you're 17? Like that's amazing.

Eric Zala 19:46
There it is true when we started shooting. To simulate India's trademark stubble Chris got Vaseline and ash from the fireplace and you know, smeared it on his and by the end it's I just get to shaving for a day, you know? So yeah, it's true. There's one part in our college scene in which we cut away to a cutaway taken three years later after Chris's voice broke. And it's kind of obvious.

Alex Ferrari 20:16
Oh my God, that's amazing. Now, I said, See in the film, you guys did some fairly dangerous stuff. Say that? What is the most dangerous thing that you guys did that looking back as a grown man today would go? Oh, my God, if my kids were down there doing that, I would lose my mind.

Eric Zala 20:36
Yes, yes. And it's the the only solemn moment when I give q&a is after screenings is to, you know, for all the young people in the audience Don't do this. You know, whatever you take from this, don't don't set yourself on fire. Don't you know, please be safe, we're young, we're dumb, we could have very easily been killed.

Alex Ferrari 20:56
And it was the 80s. And it was the 80s. And in the 80s, how we survived the 80s is a general statement as as human beings, because the safety protocols, the stuff that we're being fed. Exactly, we could survive anything.

Eric Zala 21:11
It's been observed that our movie probably couldn't be made today. And that's probably one aspect. You're right. Yeah. You know, from from being there. It was the, you know, the wild 80s where you, you don't have an understanding of the basic fragility of the human body yet.

Alex Ferrari 21:27
So basically, just for everyone listening when you are in an airplane, the smoking section was parted by a drape. So they thought that the drape would stop the smoke from circulating inside of the cylinder, a cylinder tube that's flying up in the air. This is what you had to deal with as a babies were their babies. I mean, you'd be smoking next Oh, baby. It didn't that Right. Right.

Eric Zala 21:51
Yeah, that was a different time. That's, that's for sure. But But to answer your question, I mean, there's so many I mean probably setting myself on fire. It ranks even higher than duct taping Roman candles to my arms and shooting them out of my arms to simulate the the power of God Sure. The Ark of the Covenant shooting through my my body character Belloc at the end, even more than the Roman candles. Yeah. You see, I stunt double for the character of the ratty Nepalese there was a neighborhood kid doing it but I wasn't gonna ask some kid to do that so I thought I'll do it and plus I know the block and so my costume was this think Chris's grandmother's shawl that we like stole out of the closet we raided parents closets underneath that a fire retardant raincoat, you know safety first. And we were in this we're shooting the the Nepalese saloon in the basement underneath the kitchen. And we were for the most part using ice propyl alcohol both bought from the local Kmart but for whatever reason that day I asked the guys to douse my back with gasoline, thinking it would not gasoline, not lighter fluid. I'm embarrassed to say

Alex Ferrari 23:17
gasoline. Got it. Okay. So high octane at least was a good octane was at premium

okay.

Eric Zala 23:29
So I I take my mark and and, and call action and stand up and hit my mark and scream and and the kid with the lit torch just out of frame rushes forth and lights me and I go up and I feel the flame It feels like an electric blanket on my back then turned up highs that's the best. But the guys are supposed to run forth with a smothering blanket. Finally they do. And the neighborhood kid throws it on my back and he's eager to see if he's successful. So he pulls it off sees Oh Eric still on fire back on, off on fanning the flames higher. Meanwhile, the small basement rooms filled with the stench of burnt hair and flyers that starting to lick the back of my hair and catch Chris Meanwhile, in the foreground, there's this kid with the fire extinguisher our plan B reading the instructions pole pan. I'm still on fire. Chris grabs the smelling blanket runs forward and knocks me down and push in. Smells mother's smothers Jeeva Yeah, yeah. The real heat came later when your parents found that mom's spotted me with my background fire and for some reason I had a problem with this.

Alex Ferrari 24:57
Right yeah,

Eric Zala 24:59
yeah. were shut down for the rest of the summer told no more fire. Chris's mom suggested Why can't indie just hit the bad guy with a big sack of leaves? Big sack of leaves mommy don't understand. Anyway, the summer things that cooled off metaphorically speaking. And I had a plan to sell the moms on approving continued fire to words adult chaperone found an adult even less responsible than we were Peter Kiefer. God loved them who drank beer and gave us good instruction where to put the fire. And so, the fire the pyrotechnics continued unabated. And no one got hurt. No one got hurt. No one got hurt. And amazingly, I can show you a piece of charred wire that I was given by my parents years later. Turns out we had no idea how lucky we were. The heat from that day was so bad that it melted the plastic insulation off the the wires running along the ceiling beams exposing bare copper wire years later, the house could have gone up like that through an electrical short again, so so very lucky. So So yeah, that was probably that more than anything I went is not the closest I came to death, but it is probably the most. Which brings me to my next question.

Alex Ferrari 26:38
sponsz Indy is known for stunts. It's considered one of the greatest movies of what they did is legendary. They did a whole movie behind the scenes of it all that guy, the truck scene and the boulder scene. And I actually went to Disney MGM Studios in Florida, where they have the indie adventure. And I was called up to be one of the participants. I was lucky. I was when I went to college, and I got called up and I was part of the behind the scenes of all that was the most exciting. And I was like one of the Yeah, one of the villagers or whatever I was. And there was you see everything for hours. And it was it was it was so awesome. That sounds great. So you have all of this the stance, how do you approach some of the greatest stunts in movie history when you're 1213 1415? Well, that

Eric Zala 27:34
depends on Yeah, when you're 12 you know, like, as I said, just well Okay, it's time to drag behind the truck. So Alright, let's drag behind the truck. We Chris when he did that stunt elbow pads and knee pads underneath, safety first safety first. But, and actually going underneath and leaping off of moving vehicles driven by kids who may or may not have had their driver's permit at the time. big contrast with later which, you know, are you know, in doing the airplane scene, the only the main most top budget item was hiring a pyrotechnic expert so it would be safe we told her wives you know, Alright, we're gonna do this right $25,000 for make sure that that is done right. It was like

Alex Ferrari 28:33
it was a big it's a big explosion raise Yeah, Kickstarter. Yeah, it's a big explosion and stuff. So yeah, I mean, I get that Yeah.

Eric Zala 28:39
But so you know what could go wrong? And of course if seeing the documentary, you know, that best laid plans but but you know, I I would, it's something that you know, back then. We did our best to be careful. But I can't believe on how lucky we were you know, we built a we had this The truck was this abandoned truck and we built all these safety things on to it like jutting from the the front of the hood was this big wooden scoop that would catch Indy when he's thrown through the the sergeant which we used, right of course, it's still not probably as safe as it could be. But we tried and, and nobody actually was actually hurt. Amazingly, during the entire seven years. We had some close calls. Ironically, Chris was Indiana Jones did his own stunts as noted I was the director and played belt but I was the one who kept getting hurt the close to my arm at one point. I nearly got burnt up hair cinch and of course the the plaster event which you know from the documentary

Alex Ferrari 30:00
Can you tell people about the cluster event?

Eric Zala 30:02
Sure, sure. How? So? My character of course is Belloc and of course everyone knows that the end of Raiders no spoiler real spoilers here yeah

Alex Ferrari 30:13
like at this point if you don't know what Raiders that's that's not awesome it's not on us. Exactly.

Eric Zala 30:18
Well, my character doesn't melt my my character blows up. So we're going to do the three imploding, exploding and melting heads the same way that Spielberg and makeup man chris wallace did it. Make a gelatin mold of the actors plaster molded the actress head, fill it with gelatin painted flesh colored and when it comes time to shoot it, get a heat gun which is like a super hairdryer, turn it on, melt in the case of tote or in my case, blow it up. That's the plan. I volunteer to go first. So Jason has done research on how to make a plaster mold. So we're on the back porch of my mom's house in Mississippi, Chris Jason and I and my little brother Kurt, mix up this concoction. I've got a a shower cap on my head to cut straw stuffed up my nose and a pair wedged in my mouth so I can breathe and hold the screaming position. You know because of course screaming for the requisite 20 minutes it's going to take two for the plaster to harden. World disappears from you as they lop it on my head and a cool it dries and all of a sudden I feel this tremendous building heat. Almost like someone stuck my head in the oven. So j come to find out made a small air is supposed to get dental plaster instead of plaster. Industrial PLAs

Alex Ferrari 31:52
Oh,

Eric Zala 31:54
yeah, to speed the drawing. So it felt like my head was being baked. A guy's told me he was too hot to touch at the time. It's like, must have been nice to choose. But you know, but I felt like alright, pain is temporary film is forever. It's insanity of filmmakers. It cools and, you know, three inches thick. It's hard as concrete it's ready to pry off my face. So the guys reach around to pry the husk off my head. And all of a sudden I'm in this excruciating pain around my eyes and eyelids. Turns out Jason made a second mistake that day you always want to put Vaseline on her eyelashes and eyebrows. Jay didn't do that in mind were embedded in the plaster and they were not coming out for anything. Compounding this AI problem I have no way of telling Chris or Jason any of this you know just what Eric what's wrong. I make a motion and you know do this I you know I think it's Chris and they figure it out. So they get this hammer and chisel alright Eric leaned back on managed to and yeah. managed to break a hole in and not drive the screwdriver into my eye socket and into my brain. Thanks Jesus Christ. I know. cool air rushes in at that point around my nose. I know I'm not gonna suffocate but it's still not coming off. So I make a motion to for a patent paper and I write hospital. And so they call 911 my mom's in the front of the house. She has no idea any of this is going on. But she sees the squad car pulling into the driveway. I hear this cup damn boy. What do you got on your head? I feel my help myself being helped in the backseat of my mom's car and driven a distance to the emergency room where they they take this salt that they used to bus casts off

Alex Ferrari 33:57
Yeah,

Eric Zala 33:59
take all of it off except for a little area around my eyes and for that surgeon comes in and takes a scalpel and saws away at the infinitesimally small space which my eyelids and eyebrows and I had no eyelashes half one eyebrow and was missing the other and, you know, borrowed my mom's eyebrow pencil fill it in. Before returning to high school. They've grown back now.

Alex Ferrari 34:25
Obviously obviously. They look fantastic, sir. They look fantastic. They look fantastic. Now, I as I'm hearing this story. I've said this many times. What we have is a disease. filmmaking is a disease. It is an absolute disease. It is something that once you get bitten by that bug, it is yours for life. You can't get rid of it. There's no vaccination for it. It can go dormant for decades, decades, but it will always rear its ugly head at one ugly or beautiful head depending how you look at it. Sure, but that is in Saying, and I'm thinking of like self like, and I'm thinking in the back of my head, like, Where are their parents? And then I'm thinking to myself, my parents would have done the exact same. It was a different time. It's a different time. It's just, they would be like, Oh, yeah, the kids are out there like me, we used to, like, go in the morning, we leave all day. And then when the lights came on off the headlight, or that the street lights went on, got to be back in the house. And that was it. There's no cell phones. There's no way if you had no idea where your child was, I can't even comprehend that with my kids.

Eric Zala 35:37
Exactly. I'm a parent now myself, right. And I mom set the bar high that way. But how do you recreate that I struggle now? Because I want that same freedom that same glorious freedom that you it's easy to wax nostalgic and poetic about it because yeah, it's I'm so grateful for it sounds like you were too. Oh, it was it was a wonderful,

Alex Ferrari 35:59
I love the time that I grew up. And I love the I mean, the 80s always hold a very special time in my life. Because that's when you know, I was when I discovered movies. And it was just a very unique time and life. kind of the way like Tarantino looks at the late 60s and 70s. I look at the 80s because I just I love all about the movies. And now I get to talk to filmmakers of that time, which is like you just geek out about Sure. What was it? What was it like, you know, writing this movie? I guess I have to ask you, man, what was it like? Like, tell me the whole story. I'm assuming you met him? Did you meet him in amblin? And universe race? So the whole story like when you did you take the golf cart up? Or did you part like, I want the we want to hear the journal live through it. So. So we

Eric Zala 36:50
after getting the letter, which my wife photographed me in various stages of opening, you know, thinking, My God, it can't possibly get any better than this. Spielberg like it's, you know, what we this film that we did? Unbelievable. Jump to about a year later. Chris and I are in Los Angeles, we're in town, the vanity fair articles just come out. And we actually have an agent who gives us a call and says, Hey, Spielberg wants to meet you tomorrow at noon at amblin on the universal lot and what? It's almost too much, but can you imagine so? So the next day, of course, we're there. And we drive up and first on the universal lot. And then back to amblin. And you know, the big gates part we drive through to this compound sort of set and sort of kind of Santa Fe se in architecture, you know it Yeah. And I say to the receptionist, the most absurd words I've ever uttered my life. Hi, we're here to see Mr. Steven Spielberg and have it not be a joke. But you can wait over there so so we, we sit, they assure us and we walk up through a courtyard upstairs to wait in a conference room. And we're jumping our fingers on the conference room table, Chris, Jason, I waiting, seeing these honorary degrees on the wall for Spielberg and also in behind the door approaching we hear that familiar voice you've seen in the making Raiders Lost Ark, you know that voice? It's the man himself. And door flings open Hey, boys, and inbox, Steven Spielberg, the man himself, as he calls us boys. I remember. We're like 30 something at this point. But we're the, your your voice, your voice certainly feeling like it? Absolutely. So we sit and I'm sitting, uh, you know, Spielberg, Chris, me, Jason, and, and talking. We talked about 45 minutes about movies about Raiders. about life. He He gave us really great advice. He, you know, he said, pick a great story and tell it really well. That was I mean, it's, it's simple, but back to basics. That's, that's that and he talked about what he was doing Raiders had lots of questions, one of which was, you know, the box that had just come out. And I was hoping that certain deleted scenes that I'd read about and you know, in what research we could do, as you know, back in the day, and I knew that they were you know, nd tied to the periscope shop selling getting shot by the German soldier. And I i lament that you know, one wish could have seen this and he said, Well, I've got those the outtakes on a tape in my office. Do you want to see like you Yeah. So five minutes later sitting on a couch in Spielberg's office, watching the outtakes from Raiders and Temple of Doom with a sense that we're seeing something that only the crew had seen. It was the most surreal, amazing thing. After that, he even granted our requests for a photo. And then we, we stumbled out into the sunlight. What just happened? I'll never forget that day.

Alex Ferrari 40:30
I'm sure. Like, it's it's kind of like, I always tell people, you know, it's Spielberg is like our Steven, this is like, he lives on Mount Hollywood. He is one of the gods. He's Zeus, if you will, and we're just mortals. And then every once in a while he comes down and he's like, come visit, or, or he'll touch you and go, you shall direct. Or you shall right. And he has that power to do that. And, you know, I've been blessed to talk to so many amazing filmmakers on my show. I'm never, it never surprises me the amount of people he has touched behind the scenes, people who have no direct public relationship with him out front, but that he's like, yeah, you know, I was Stephens, the one who got me that meeting with Clint. And then that's how I got my first writing job. And then fast forward later, I won the Oscar, like things like that. And you're just like, it's amazing. And it's, I hear his name again, and again and again. And he's one of the most from my understanding the most giving people in the business and one of the most generous people in the business. He helped so many careers and continues up so many careers, get off the ground. It is remarkable. And it doesn't surprise me at all, he would do something like he's as busy as is

Eric Zala 41:54
certainly fortunate. And you're right. I mean, being a movie lover as I am, of course, I've read about all my heroes, and Spielberg proves nice guys don't finish last, you know, the, he's a good person, you know, and like you said, the impact of of his touching people, inspiring people taking the time to write he didn't still blows my mind that he sent Chris Jason I those letters, and, and others too. I feel I love many directors, but I feel like he's our greatest living director right now. And that's saying a lot.

Alex Ferrari 42:31
Yeah. He's just, I don't think there's ever been any, any filmmaker in the history of our business that has done what he's done. You could I mean, there's other great artists. There's other great filmmakers Scorsese and Kubrick and lower Sala and a million other amazing and living to like Nolan and Fincher and and you know, and all these Coen Brothers, I mean, it just the list goes on. There's no lack of amazing filmmakers. But the bill the his ability to not only change film history multiple times, multiple times, he changed it film history from, from Jaws, creating the blockbuster to close encounters to Raiders, then to et. And then I, you know, I had the pleasure of having Jim Hart on who wrote hook. And I remember in 91, I was working at the video store was in high school and the rumors of like, oh, ESP ever flashed up, you know, he hasn't had a hit in a while. And, you know, he's not, he's not what it was before. I think it's over for Steven. And I remember that, that Neil and the media, people would share that chatter. And I'm like, it's no, it's Steven Spielberg no kind of man. And I love how I love hope. By the way, it's just absolutely adore hook. But it wasn't as successful as they all wanted it to be. Then it comes out two years later, and has the biggest movie of all time, and wins every single Oscar with Schindler's List and Jurassic Park. And, and you just India cements himself as like, Jeff. Oh, and also changes cinema forever with Jurassic Park. Right? Because it's, it brings in digital filmmaking, which now is just filmmaking. Oh, and also made a black and white movie about the Holocaust that also was very successful. Financially, like it's

Eric Zala 44:20
insanity what he did, right, right. You shouldn't be able to do that. And yet he pulled it off in one year, in one year release. Yeah. And I can't imagine what it would be like to shoot Schindler's List while editing Jurassic Park, can you

Alex Ferrari 44:35
with the visual effects with visual effects that have never been created before?

Eric Zala 44:39
Right, right. It's like, I mean, I'm a Kubrick fan. I love how he had special lenses created for shots. Oh, yeah. You know, there's so many other things. But, you know, but Spielberg, like you said before he pioneered CGI, which of course is now the thing. Of course, jaws was original blockbuster. Right. It's he and I are going back and repeating repeat viewing movies. It's can't underestimate the impact of that. So I can't I can't believe that we, while I wish that he were directing Indy five, James Mangold, you know, he's an awesome director we're in, we're in good hands. But I'm I count myself lucky. We've got another indie film coming out, and there's Spielberg films coming out still that West,

Alex Ferrari 45:35
West, West Side Story coming out this this this fall. And if there's anyone who could tackle what side story, it's Spielberg, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, like, how do you remake West Side Story, but it's Steven Spielberg, you do whatever. You know, it's just, there's very few filmmakers out there that you could just trust that whatever they're going to do, is going to be at a level that I mean, and his movies have changed a lot since the 80s. Because he's matured as a filmmaker. So he's, you know, now we get a much more mature Steven, as opposed to him being whimsical and the Poltergeist and that's sure your voice has matured without question, but that's why I love the writer play Ready Player One, it was kind of like a heart back to that, which was

Eric Zala 46:24
yes, I know what you mean. It is, it is a I had did have that effect. He I remember, you know, being asked about Spielberg, and I think I can most amount by saying it's it's amazing thing to meet your childhood hero. But it's, it's also great to discover that you chosen your heroes. Well, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:52
and can you imagine for Steven, every day of his life, he does what he did for you guys, with somebody, whether it be a crew member that he's working with a collaborator, someone on the street, every day of his life, he's meeting someone who he is like that his world has changed somebody else's, like he made the tea. That was the very first time I ever thought of being a filmmaker. Before I even I even knew what a filmmaker was. I saw et I walked out and I wrote my first screenplay, which was about five sentences long as it was basically a boy befriends an alien. And that was the end of my story. But it was the film inspired you, but it was the first time that thought ever crossed my mind. And, and he's done that for millions 10s of millions, if not hundreds of millions of people around the world. I mean, he is, you know, it's a love fest right now with Steve in it, but it's true and he deserved and not only the movies he's directed, but the movies he's produced Back to the Future and all these in the shows he's done it there's just nobody ever. I mean, I can't I can't pinpoint any director in history director, producer in history, who's had the impact on the world as much as Steven Spielberg. I really I'm with you. The you could

Eric Zala 48:14
Yeah, it's a it's a tough one. I mean, and Lucas Of course. Well, obviously, he is, you know, the brain that invented Star Wars and Indiana Jones amazing too. And and I think maybe that alchemy of Lucas and Spielberg coming together that perfect thing, those two bearded men on the beach that day, you know,

Alex Ferrari 48:35
I mean, and Lucas is at a whole nother conversation but George I mean, Star Wars has impacted so many people but he did it with basically one or two or three things where Spielberg it's just all the time with so many different films so many different stories so many different genres and and television and movies and also how many other filmmakers he helped push out there just this nobody like him ever

Eric Zala 49:01
even my in my own journeys the people that I've crossed paths with along the way who are like have a share that that love. They've shown me a letter with that that stationery that I recognized was Steven Spielberg Ross is like, he inspired me to he wrote me too. So I actually independently so it's it's amazing. So fully deserving of all the commercial and creative success. He's

Alex Ferrari 49:31
had a member that Amen. Now, one thing I wanted to talk to you about was the documentary and now that you know you, it seems like you have a very film entrepreneurial approach to selling the documentary and the movie and all this kind of stuff, which is unusual for a fan film. fan films generally don't have the freedom to do things like this you'd like because they're afraid and there's been stories about it and all that kind of stuff especially I think that starts Trek movie raised like a million dollars. And at that point, Paramount was like, oh, okay, guys, let's calm the hell down. Right. But you've gotten, you've gotten kind of a pass, whether it be unofficial or official, you got to pass, but I do as far as copyright and all that kind of stuff. But I do think that, you know, you're definitely not taking anybody away from Steven Spielberg or or paramount. At that point, you have anything you're helping, but how did you approach the whole, you know, entrepreneurial aspect of things, because you selling different products? And you've got a book? Can you get this in that?

Eric Zala 50:37
Well, it wasn't like, like, the success of the film itself, we never could have imagined that. And that's something that is only a fairly recent development, obviously, back when we were 12, we certainly weren't thinking about copyright. And we had no no greater ambition than to just finish it,

Alex Ferrari 51:00
and show it to your friends enough goal. And just to show it to your friends and family, basically, exactly. You know, when

Eric Zala 51:06
25 years after we finished, we and we decided, you know, there were approached, you know, to have a book about our story we said yes, you know, and and it's a warts and all, you know, we didn't weren't interested in a fluff piece. So we wanted, we open up to the author, Alan nice and stock, he did a amazing job. That and people tracking us down and inviting us to screen around the world, from Sydney, Australia, to Sitka Alaska. We, Chris and I toured for about 13 years, if you can imagine screening of hundreds of screenings, just because we're working on a screenplay at the time, but it was really inspiring to see, you know, the the folks but we weren't selling it. Then we documented rolls around, we do the airplane scene, we raise $50,000 on Kickstarter, to complete the airplane scene because you know, alright, well, we don't have the excuse of being kids, where we got to deliver was was kind of my ethos, ethos was always have it be as cool as we can, can get it. So we completed and we make good on Kickstarter and send out 1000s of copies. And after that, you know, to in an effort to pay down the $17,000 that I personally put into the airplane scene. We started we began a website in order to keep in touch with folks after that. And folks kept saying you to get a love to get a copy. So we made it available on the website. And yeah, I think we seem to be operating operating under the good graces of Lucasfilm and Spielberg and all who has Spielberg termed it are very loving and detailed tributes. I think if I had to surmise, while there's never been a formal conversation about it, I think, I think perhaps they recognize that if anything, we help put money in the coffers of the copyrights holders, if anything. Back when we toured video stores would rent out all copies of Raiders for weeks before and after I'm told. And when we're in Omaha, Nebraska, actually during the Raiders tour, where there's this spectacular lobby display, recreation of the Emperor's chair and the Death Star and, and also without official approval, and the manager told me a story. Someone from Lucasfilm came out to check it out and said, Alright, good job. You're good. Interestingly, the concern me, okay, if you're going, you know, if you're going to do an Amash to our copyright, benefit, good, do it well, and the fact that maybe we worked so hard, and and perhaps it's good, and hopefully Does, does, right, but I'd like to think that that may play into the fact that they've allowed us to continue as we have. Yeah, well, I

Alex Ferrari 54:31
mean, it's through markable and you get it that's the one thing we didn't talk about, you guys went back and finish this thing. And you raised like you spent close to 100,000 or something like that on it, too. I mean, how was that going back and with Chris because I know you guys had a falling out. And you know, and you know, I understand that completely because I had similar issues early on in my career with a good friend and, and, you know, you learn as you get older, like it's ego wars, this or that, and whatever. But how was that like getting back together and then like, Hey, we're gonna make we're gonna shoot this scene.

Eric Zala 55:06
You know, documentary guys, they decided to do a documentary and and we Chris resurrected the idea of doing the airplane scene. We were asked in Q and A's when we're touring before, hey, you know, we used to joke Hey, we should do this right and get the, the cast back together and do this. You think anybody notice the age difference? Hahaha. But I dismissed the idea because I didn't want people to think, Okay, well, you know, people don't know I'm an award winning filmmaker apart from Raiders. We do this airplane scene. All people are gonna think is is that we can do is do Raiders. And then of course, Jason, in the documentary, of course, put articulate, you know, my worst fear exactly, but, but for that reason, I said no, initially, and my wife reminded me at the time, back when we were kids, we weren't really concerned with what the world thought, you know, we just did this for ourselves because we needed to do it and that was enough and good things come from that when you operate from a place of passion and, and so I said, Alright, yeah, let's do it. And I can't do you know, anything half assed so we're decided no, no cardboard plane shot on VHS weren't going to be cutesy. Same ethos, as before, raise $50,000 and reenact the cast. And everyone says, yes, even Angela, who's are married, she's living in Minnesota now. And Kurt, my little brother reprises his role of gobbler and, and I wound up getting up, I'm working full time in Las Vegas at this time, and sure, it would have been makes sense to shoot a desert airfield in the desert, but we wanted to be true kind of to the spirit. So we decided to shoot it back in Mississippi, where we shot this back in the day as kids logistically challenging since I live in Vegas and get up at 330 in the morning to get in some time each day to to work on it. Chris flies down and we're doing logistics early morning phone calls, and the process it is, in some ways, it is similar and different. The nice thing now, back when we were kids, you know, I was like painting hieroglyphics on my mom's basement wall on Friday nights, while my peers were having keggers you know, thinking my loser. But now as kit has adults, we've got the entire town has kind of come out to support free hotel room, you know, free food people donating to become part of the story. It's it's overwhelming. So we have more resource and support than we ever had before. But Gone are the days of Endless Summer, right? I've got I've got five days during the slowest time and bracketed by two weekends, nine days to do 128 shots. All right, and it's an immovable thing. So that is that was different and presented a new challenge counterbalancing the greater resources higher pressure, less time lot more at stake. And yet we we did manage to finish one thing that didn't change his throughout his you know, that we talked about Battle of a spirit, you know, is really what it comes down to. And at the heart of that is that inner voice that of doubt that says, You know what? You're never gonna finish or it's not gonna be good, right? Right. Right right. flame is gonna be rusted away in the mud pit. We'll call it Zales folly, you know, for generations to come around your hometown. What if you fail, that that always was a consistent and you just have to keep on pushing that aside. That's kind of my takeaway from doing it, then. And now.

Alex Ferrari 59:28
What is the biggest lesson you learned during this whole thing? Then? This whole journey from 12 to now, you've gone through all of this experience is a very unique experience. Not many other filmmakers have ever had this. Actually, no other filmmakers have ever has ever had this. So you have this this wonderful journey, which is full of pains and ups and downs and excitement and fault pitfalls. And all this comes very much like an Indiana Jones film. What was the biggest thing you learned?

Eric Zala 59:58
If I had to distill it down to one thing, in two words always finish. Always finished. There were so many times, especially as kids were sorely tempted to give up on the project on each other. You just have to hold on and push through when it's not fun when it's not. You know, for me what that wasn't the issue but but there were other things. There's always those challenges. Push through that and finish. And like I said, we almost didn't finish over a editing room mute editing room Mutiny on how much work to give the sound at the end. But if we had not finished, we wouldn't be talking right now, would we? I wouldn't have that wonderful letter from my childhood hero up on my wall, I wouldn't have had this amazing journey. It just be a box of videotapes in somebody's basement. And that'd be the saddest thing of all. So, always finish, you know, despite it's painful, even though you may not want to do it in the moment anymore. The act of Completion is is valuable in measurably for, I think for many things. So that's the one bit of advice that young, I give young filmmakers when they asked me after screening, so I always finish.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:26
And I think to add upon that is also always start. Because a lot of people don't even start they don't even get out the gate. So it's actually start and then when you start finish, no matter what initiative,

Eric Zala 1:01:39
and follow through. Yep. Yeah, it's the yin and the yang that you have to have to, to make it a to make it birth.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:48
And what is your three of your favorite films of all time?

Eric Zala 1:01:52
Oh, man.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:54
I can I assume one of the title of one of them.

Eric Zala 1:01:59
You know, everyone assumes Raiders is my favorite film, but it's kind of transcended that by now.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:03
worse and worse for you. Yeah, I mean, other than Spielberg and and Michael Kohn and whoever. I don't know if we edited the engine. Lucas, I think you're pretty. You're in in the DNA of that film.

Eric Zala 1:02:17
Oh, I can try filmmakers or movies. That's up to us.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:23
Yeah, movies, try three, three movies. And then if you want to three movies and three filmmakers, so that covers your basis?

Eric Zala 1:02:28
I'll try movies. Peter, we're movie witness with Harrison Ford. Oh, I love that. It remains. It remains just just perfect. Miller's Crossing by the Coen brothers. Yes. The Shining by Stanley Kubrick.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:59
Not a bad Not a bad trilogy. Not Not a bad trilogy. Not a bad trilogy. Right now, but what can I say? Well, I mean, I mean, the shining? I mean, what like don't get me getting started on Kubrick. Are you kidding me? I'll just talk for hours and hours about that. Now, where can people find you and find out more about the movie, get the movie, get the book, get everything you offer?

Eric Zala 1:03:22
So the Raiders kids.com is the website that we that one can acquire a copy of a blu ray or DVD of the fan film itself. A lot of folks have asked after seeing the documentary How can I see the fan film The documentary, by the way, screening on Hulu currently, and also canopy for those in at some public libraries and universities. But full disclosure I'm told after seeing you know the documentary you want to see the fan film so yeah, the Raiders kids.com you can get the fan film The documentary. Also, even Allen's fine book, which goes into really tells the story in much greater depth than the documentary does. Although the documentary guys did a great job. And even the storyboard book, those six two storyboards that I did by memory genius. I published that as a reward to Kickstarter backers and now I've got it available on the store. Includes photographs of my eyelashes and eyebrows coming out of like hairbrush bristles out of plaster the police report of kids get his face stuck in plaster christianize correspondence through the years you know, over the seven summers and of course, the behind the scenes on how we did made a giant jackal statue of an old hot water heater or how we did the the special Special Effects. That's awesome. Oh, anyway, yeah, that's, that's up on the website.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:05
Eric man, I, first of all, I want to thank you for being on the show and telling your story. But I just gotta say, thank you for making this. It is a part of my childhood and you did something that so many of us wanted to do. But you guys are crazy enough to do it. And insane enough to do it in in a very insane way on top of it's not like you shot for 30 days straight and finished it up. No, no. took us years. Yeah, exactly. But it does show it's an example of passion and love of movies and and i think in the world that we live in today, so many times filmmakers get so caught up in, in, you know what's going to make me the next big thing or what's going to get the attention of this guy or that that agent and things. And you guys came at this from such a passionate place where I think in today's cinema, there's a lot of lack of passion going on. So I appreciate you man. I hope this story inspires a lot of filmmakers out there not to go do a shot by shot creation of Raiders of Lost Art, but to go out and make the film that they want it to like like Mr. Spielberg said, find a good story and tell it well. So my friend, thank you so much. I appreciate you.

Eric Zala 1:06:15
Thank you

LINKS

  • Eric Zala – IMDB
  • Eric Zala – Linkedin
  • Raiders Kids – Website
  • The Raider! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Made – Amazon

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IFH 496: How to Make Money with PSD Self Distribution


Right-click here to download the MP3

Our guests today are filmmakers and developers, Zach Lona and Anthony Gibson. Zach is the founder of Chicago-based film production company, Eleusinian Productions studio that invented the Patronized Self-Distribution (PSD) model. The Patronized self-distribution (PSD) uses NFTs essentially as an alternative film distribution model from traditional Hollywood distribution. It hoists and redefines the status of independent films to that of fine art while targeting the film’s specific audience (art collectors/patrons). 

After finishing up his feature mockumentary film directorial debut, He Who Lives In Hidden Lakes, at the end of 2020, and being reluctant to go the normal film distribution route, Zach sought an alternative and along with his team, invented the PSD model earlier this year. 

The fanatic beliefs of an internet mystic, a cult leader, and a rookie cop who went rogue are tested on the hunt for the “Hidden Man” — an elusive forest-dwelling cryptid that terrorizes their idyllic suburb.

He Who Lives In Hidden Lakes is now listed as Eleusinian Production’s first NFT auction on OpenSea NFT online marketplace. The NFT model is a huge incentive for independent filmmakers because the increase in viewers will lead to an increase in passive income and NFT value.

As you can tell, this is a deep dive topic. So, I wanted to bring them to the show to talk about how all of it works. Efficient ways to implement Patronized Self-Distribution, Who really benefits from Patronized Self-Distribution models, and more.

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Anthony and Zach.

Alex Ferrari 0:11
I like to welcome to the show Anthony Gibson and Zack Lona. How you guys doing?

Zach Lona 0:16
Doing Excellent. Thanks for having us.

Alex Ferrari 0:18
Oh, man, thank you so much for coming on the show man, I, you guys reached out to me and I get reached out to on a daily basis to be on the show. And I get pitches constantly. But when I saw what you guys were doing, I was like, This is interesting. And of course, you hit a very sweet spot right now, which is blockchain NFT, these new alternative distribution models using technology to empower the filmmaker. Because there's been a slight history of filmmakers being taken advantage of by distribution. I'm not saying many, but some say just just a couple. I mean, it's it's not the norm or anything. But yeah, I want to bring you guys on the show to talk about your amazing new way of distributing through the blockchain through NF T's. But before we even get to that, how did both of you guys get into the business?

Zach Lona 1:13
So we actually met each other. In Chicago, we were a bit both based in Chicago at the time. And Anthony has since moved to LA. So we met through our cinematographers at Green on a feature like project, which was my directorial debut is called he lives in hidden lakes, which is the subject of this project here. And then Anthony, and I have since worked on that very closely with his his production skills.

Alex Ferrari 1:40
Cool. And that's how you guys got together. And what made you get into the business? Anthony?

Anthony Gibson 1:45
Oh, yeah, I mean, what made me get into it. I just love movies. My grandpa used to chase me around his house wearing wolf mask brought me into the world via horror movies.

Alex Ferrari 1:57
Grandpa, that's an amazing.

Anthony Gibson 1:59
Yeah, he was big in horror, big and westerns, it's one of my first memories were like in his kitchen, and he's chasing me around on that mask and would have been, it's interesting to have a first memory of feeling like you're about to be eaten by a monster, and feel like that's informed the rest of my life basically attracted to his exact movie here So

Alex Ferrari 2:17
I think this is, this is where the therapy begins. Anthony.

Anthony Gibson 2:20
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 2:20
So so. So you guys just came up with this new idea called the patronis self distribution model using NF T's essentially, can you explain to the audience and we've had other episodes about this, but just want to kind of carry it a baseline? What is an NF? t? In the simplest, simplest terminology?

Zach Lona 2:39
Yeah, this is always a tough one, right? Because it's so new. And it's like, I'll give out Anthony. I'll give my definition. And then I've thought a lot about about how to position this. And essentially, how I think of it is it's a immutable function on a blockchain that represents a asset, like a work of art, a film, a house alone, something like this, where it's universally verifiable. So anyone, no matter who you are, where you are, you can come into the blockchain code, and you can verify that this token, this NFT represents this, whatever it is. So basically, that's more confusing than it was before. So now, I'm actually more confused about what an NF T is. And I know what an NF T is. No,

Alex Ferrari 3:29
I'm joking. So you you don't quit your day job? No. Basically, to my understanding, you guys can explain to this and NFT essentially, is a digital baseball card, a digital comic book, a digital painting, as a one off, or multiple versions, or limited edition prints of something. So there's a 5050 limited a 50 of this, or only one of this. And it's just a digital version of spider man number one, but there's only maybe one of them or there could be 100 of the market be 1000 of them, depending on how many you you release out there. Is that a fair? exponential? FTS? Yeah,

Anthony Gibson 4:06
you know, I think like, for me, the term in my mind is like digital, physical, or physical, digital, it's like a thing that exists, like, as itself that you can sell as a singular item, the same way that you would have any other merchandise, you can do that with an entity. It's a way to buy and sell means.

Zach Lona 4:24
Yeah, it's a it's a way to facilitate digital ownership of something.

Alex Ferrari 4:29
Right? And then when you were saying blockchain, I mean, I know what blockchain is. So you know the basics of blockchain. If you want to know about the basis of blockchain and what NF T's are based on, I have multiple episodes, and I'll link that in the in the show notes on on blockchain explanations of it, and what it all means in our world, because that's a long conversation, and I think I've ever had that conversation. So I just really want to focus on what you guys are doing, but I'll put that in the show notes guys. So tell me then what is a patronized self distribution model? Or a PSD model?

Zach Lona 5:02
Yeah, so patronis self distribution is a way to not necessarily actually release your film, but it's a way to verifiably own the film as a work of art. So a lot of projects that have been experimented with NF T's in the film space have been sort of in a in an addition or in a like a, you could like you were saying earlier, you could buy multiple versions of it, like you have like a limited DVD release, or something like this, what patronis self distribution does is that it It means a scarce token of your film. So you're not thinking of your film as a fungible asset anymore, where everyone can go to Netflix or Amazon Prime and see it, now you're thinking of it as almost like a piece of fine art, like a unique one of one painting. So then that is then mapped to the token. And then, on top of that, you can sell that token as a sort of non fungible piece of art. And then the economic aspect of it that we've designed that comes into it grants the owner of that NFT, which is representing your film, in all of its singular artistic glory, and all the blood, sweat and tears you put into it, it also gives utility to the owner. So usually, that's going to be mean like an economic benefit, like a perk. You can also have like crowdfunding type benefits with it with, you know, maybe you can have dinner with the director and producer. But really, what's what's what, what's going to make it the most powerful book for both you as a filmmaker and your patron, is the sort of economic benefit to owning this token.

Alex Ferrari 6:57
Right? So when you're saying, so basically someone, let's say, I buy your movie for five grand, you're NFT, according to what I read in your, on your on your website, you whoever buys that token would also get 50% of all streaming revenue, from here on to eternity, essentially, in perpetuity. Oh, yeah. Okay. So then they would come in, so now, I own it. I bought it for $5,000. And then now after I've purchased it, it releases the film, because the film would have not been released at that point yet,

Zach Lona 7:30
right? Yes, exactly. So there are many ways it really the sky's the limit with what you can do with NF T's, which is really like the power of it is like this is completely untapped potential. And there's use cases for this stuff that no one has even thought of yet. So this is a new one that we thought we would experiment with, where we're saying, okay, we're gonna mint our feature film as a one on one token, which hasn't been done before, to our knowledge. And then we're also going to give an economic benefit to owning the token. And that just exists in perpetuity. So the the potential that that unlocks is you can trade the token again, it's, again, we're thinking of the film as like a painting or a piece of fine art now, where you can now there's now a secondary market for that, for that film. And along with the economic benefit, that which transfers on the resale of the token, the new owner of the film token will then receive that 50% cut. So we can get into a little bit more, but it's, it's, it's powerful.

Anthony Gibson 8:35
Yeah, you know, it's really like an exploration of incentive, and figuring out, like, what we can do within this new technology to explore new models for small business. I mean, I think of myself as like a small business filmmaker, right. And this is like, like, this new modality is allowing people to enter a space and be new and to define it, and to set up new new norms, which is really exciting. And so I think, like, in this case, it's like, well, we had this feature film that we had produced, and we wanted to see what we could do to distribute it ourselves. And that was like, along came this conversation about annuities. And we just kind of racked our brains around like, Well, what does the incentive look like? And what could scenario be that would put something in the hands of the person who bought it, but also give us an opportunity to have an entirely new platform? And that's what's awesome about these aggregators is like, you can self distribute your movie, you know, and the terms that just happened to be attached to our NFT was, we're not going to touch the aggregator until it's purchased. And that was the term.

Alex Ferrari 9:37
Right. And the thing is to that, well, I'm assuming that the budget of the film was at a point where a $5,000 nF t made sense because if you spent a quarter of a million half a million dollars on a movie that doesn't make financial sense to give half of your streaming revenue away, so it's kind of like you know, it But let's say for example, that I have a movie that has a star in it. Even Not, not Brad Pitt, or you know, Leonardo DiCaprio, but just a basic, you know, a star power that has a fan base. And then we put it up for auction, as opposed to locking it in. Did you you guys locked it into 5000. Right? Well, we

Zach Lona 10:19
did. Oh, yeah. We put it to auction. So we actually got a couple bids in. And our starting auction was one ether, which I think at the time was a little under 2000. Yeah. Yeah. So we got a couple bids in there. And it went up to 2.25 ether, which was the strike price. So that was really cool to see the bids come in for this thing. That means that there's definitely like an inkling of a market forming around this stuff. But yeah.

Alex Ferrari 10:44
So Alright, so then, so if we put the bid out, and let's say that bid gets up to 75,000 $100,000, that's a very feasible thing, especially if you're guaranteed 50% of streaming revenue coming in, and that's a massive, it could be massive, depending on the kind of revenue you're creating. Where you're being put up on is that, you know, transactional? Is that a VOD? Is that s VOD, is that P VOD. What you can define all that in your NFT. Is that, is that right?

Zach Lona 11:12
Yeah, that's correct. So with ours, and I'm sure everyone is listening is thinking like, what are these guys doing? Giving a 50%? Like, we haven't gotten into like why we did? That's a good deal, right? But yes, you can define any of that within the economics of your token. It just so happens that we're including, like, you know, a VOD t VOD. Every anywhere it's streamed, the owner of the ift gets a 50% cut of our production company's gross. So not like the entire gross. So just what we take home.

Alex Ferrari 11:43
So the So then the question is, why the hell did you do this? And how does this make it make any sort of financial sense?

Zach Lona 11:50
Yeah, so it's it's an expense, like Anthony said, you know, it's an experiment in incentives. And maybe do you want to take this one.

Alex Ferrari 11:58
But I'm assuming it's an experiment, because I experimented to my first one was five grand my second film was three grand, I experimented because my budgets were extremely low. I didn't experiment with 50 or 100. Grand, because I'm not rolling that deep just yet. So I'm assuming that the budget justifies this kind of, of risk, or this kind of experiment. Does that make sense? Totally. Yeah.

Anthony Gibson 12:18
Yeah. I mean, and Zack can probably share more about where like the budgets coming from and all that stuff. But for us, yeah, we were very much in a place where you know, a, a one ether deal at a certain point for the one to one NFT was more interesting to us than maybe recouping a any money, like all of the funding back within the actual purchase of the NFT. But also to give away 50% of the streaming rights, I think for us with most interesting about it is the experimentation and saying look like we're trying something new, we happen to have something that we're willing to take a risk with. And it's like, hey, like, if this means that more people would watch it, like, the idea of like giving up more money was okay, because it's actually just about the piece of work itself. And also what this could mean for the future. Because everything every project you get out is like a case study in like business and economics and all these kinds of things. And it's every project is going to have a new audience. And it's like, someone who's buying soap and someone who's buying toothpaste, but they buy different kinds of things, you have to find another way to sell to that person. And it's like, well, the only way we're going to get to that knowledge is if we take the thing that we already have and put forth and say we're putting it all we're going all in on our chips here, because something on the other side of this is going to tell us what to do next.

Zach Lona 13:37
Yeah. And to be specific about, you know why we're actually saying this is the utility that we're going to grant with this NFT is the trying to capitalize on the incentive of either someone by an out of the gate, or on the secondary market of someone who it's almost like a like a High Renaissance artists patron relationship where the kind of person who has the money to allocate to this kind of, you know, merchandise or artwork, they might have in influence in the greater world, where we call it in the crypto space pumping their bags, you know, so you're like, Okay, I just bought this NFT I want to show it to everyone. So the more the meme gets out there that this is a movie, and you should watch it, the more valuable that the original NFT becomes. So the idea is the person who buys this, either one has an incentive to sell it to someone with a with a large audience essentially, or some influence, or the person who acquires it outright, can acquire it for a cheaper price. Like say $5,000, which if we're talking about artwork isn't really that much. But then they can say, Okay, I have an audience of, you know, maybe a million people. Maybe I'm like a big YouTube streamer, I could drop $5,000 on this film, you know, shill it to my audience. And then within a couple months, I've made my initial investment back. And also now the now that all of my audience has seen this film, more people love it. More people love it. The more cultural gravitas that the film has, the more countercultural gravitas that the film has, the more value that the original film and ft can capture on the secondary market. So it's almost like an incentive engine to keep things going and pump the bag essentially.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
That's, it's I know, a lot of people who listen to this, like, what are these two guys? What are these three guys talking about? This is these guys are insane. But look, we're and I told you guys, this before we started, I've said this a million times on the show before is that we're in the internet 1996 we're still trying to figure out what HTML is we're still trying to figure out what JPEG is, we're still trying to get faster than dial up modems to log onto the internet without stealing an AOL disk from a magazine in a Barnes and Noble. That's how old I am. So, you know, that's where we are with NF T's with blockchain. With all this, we're at a very, very basic beginning level. And it's been around for how since 2008, when Bitcoin showed up, and the concept of blockchain showed up. It, we were we were around, it's been around that long. And it's taken that long to get to where we are now. And people are starting to figure things out. And again, we've talked about NF T's at nauseam at some of these episodes. So you can go deeper into that. But I'm curious, okay, so obviously, the budget made sense. The benefits make sense for the investor who buys this. Now, something that people might not understand is that if I buy your NFT, I resell it for 20 grand, you get 10% of that for perpetuity, if that sells for 20 grand, and then a year or two later, it sells for 40 grand, you just made another 4000 bucks. And and it keeps going and going and going and going. And hopefully your next movie is you know, taxi driver, you know, circa 2021. And then you blow up as a filmmaker will the value of that NFT astronomically goes up. And I think you use the example of George Lucas, George Lucas added theory M and NF T, what would the Star Wars and if TV and and I've said, What is it? What would taxi driver be? What would be amblin? You know, Spielberg's first short film as an NFT? What would that be worth today if it would have been treated as such? And the technology existed when that came out? So is that

Zach Lona 17:35
right? Exactly? Yeah, we're so I come from a from more of a fine art background, myself, I didn't start in film, I just sort of arrived at film as a consequence of feeling like that, that was the best medium for my creative ideas to live. So I'm coming at it from I'm trying to kind of combine these two worlds, where now we have an opportunity because of this NFT technology to assign cultural value that translates to economic value to like these priceless film cultural artifacts. I mean, film is such a big part of, you know, our culture. And you know, you can argue that it's, it's sort of got a lot of competition these days, which it does, but that's an opportunity for independent filmmaking at this level to sort of ascend socially in terms of its social status. So I see feature films going more of the way of like the opera, or, or the theater where it's kind of more of a niche interest, but it's got a very high, it's got a higher class, social implication to it, which if we're, then if then we're assigning Fine Art value to the film's and that can be traded. Yeah, the value of these tokens could, you know, seriously be worth a lot in the future. And also, because of the technology, we get a creative royalty on each of those secondary transactions. So if you know one day this sells for a million dollars on the secondary market, we just pocket $100,000 you just automatically,

Alex Ferrari 19:04
right, exactly. And I mean, imagine Wizard of Oz, or Citizen Kane or you know, if you want to talk about fine art, you mean that's the equivalent, you know, or you know, of the earlier chaplains first films or something like that as NF T's treating film as fine art, which no one's really ever had that opportunity to because film is a next film has always been something that you needed to sell a lot of tickets in order to make it financially viable. And that's the entire business model. This allows that to continue. But this is just another revenue stream for like, I was telling people I'm like, Wait till Marvel or Disney jumps in on this. Like, what it what is what is the Avengers? What is what's the Avengers? And if t worth

Anthony Gibson 19:49
Yeah, you know, it's interesting, like the idea of like, the the concept of reproducibility is dramatically changing right now. Like there's a seismic shift that is happening. Understanding what like means even are and like essentially what we're talking about is like a meme engine, like a cultural, like cultural currency being added to financial value of like singular internet objects. And it's like, the film has a one to one identity. Now, the film is films have always up until now had this concept of reproducibility films are not plays, you know, right there, they're not a fine art piece. This is that convergence of, it's both now, it's simultaneously both at the same time, if you're approaching it with this model.

Zach Lona 20:33
Yeah. And it's the same exact concept, as you know, the, the Nyan Cat NFT selling for hundreds of 1000s of dollars. I don't

Alex Ferrari 20:42
like I don't understand it in the least. But

Zach Lona 20:45
well, it's that's the cultural gravitas of these memes that are being sold it because it's coming from the people who are actually, you know, who created the meme off the bat. So not only is it like, it's the official sort of meme version. And then the more that people share the memes, the more valuable that original NFT becomes. So it's the exact same concept.

Alex Ferrari 21:07
I mean, you guys are a bit young for this. But Garbage Pail Kids. Yeah. If you don't if you knew what Garbage Pail Kids were, but I was a young guy when Garbage Pail Kids came out. And I remember the first series of garbage, it's a sticker, man, it's a sticker on a piece of cardboard. That was not Mickey Mantle, which was not Spider Man, it was a garbage. And they were selling for hundreds of 1000s of dollars, Pokemon cards, baseball cards, comic books, these things have value to the audience that they're to the to the tribe that is in invested in that to my wife, a number one first appearance of an Amazing Fantasy number 15 first appearance of spider man is a bunch of paper. To me, it's like, oh my god, that's the first appearance of spider man. And there's a complete disconnect. Like she was like, how much is that gonna cost? I'm like, I don't know, probably a million dollars. But you know, but to me that's valuable. And so art is whatever value you put on it, period, regardless if you agree with that or not.

Anthony Gibson 22:09
Yeah, it's funny to think to like, like that the interest economy of how like that's localized, like you have a look like it's like a, imagine a local economy where like, value is interspersed amongst itself and has its own definition outside of something that exists over here. And it's like, things that exists on the blockchain with NF T's like we have this dollar value that we can apply to it. But it's like, it's funny to think, yeah, like, you can have one thing over in this corner. And that can be worth so much to one person. And then you come over here, and it's worthless, but it's validating those interests. It's saying within those communities, these things matter, and they get to matter even more now.

Alex Ferrari 22:46
I mean, all you got to do is go to Comic Con, and you can figure that out real quick. I mean, I mean, like I've I took my wife to my first Comic Con deck a decade ago, and she was just in her mouth was on the floor. She's like, I see these price tags on these on these little books, what is what's going on? She's completely at no idea she that people are dressed up, like these are these are grown adults. And she would stop them like, what do you do for a living is like, I'm an attorney. What, like, but that's, but that is the world and that's the value that that world puts on, on those pieces of art, where you can walk into a fine art museum or gallery. And I wouldn't, I would look at something like that, that doesn't doesn't float my boat, but the person right next to me, like, I'll give you $100,000 for that because he knows or she knows what that's valued in their community. So this is just another the beginning, just barely starting in naeba level of this this market for for films. And I think independent filmmakers have the ability to really cash in and create not only revenue streams for themselves, but to provide some cultural, cultural art for for the society at large. And like, like Sundance like Sundance winners, SXSW winners con winners, you know, these these things that have these kind of labels like what would what would an NF t from the winner of Best Picture at Sundance be worth today cuz that that director could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars later on because of all I got there for Imagine if you had Sex, Lies and videotape. The very first 1989 basically the beginning of Sundance, this is when Sundance blew up at the moment that Steven Soderbergh sold their movie, at Sundance for a million dollars or whatever it was back then. Imagine if there was if you had that NFT what would the NFP be worth in or slacker or El Mariachi or or clerk? Imagine if you had what would those be worth and they would only be worth something to like my generation, your generation people will understand what that is. The older generation will be like that. It depends.

Zach Lona 24:56
Well the fact that we're talking about these films in this context and we're realizing like, wow, how much would that be worth? I mean, it speaks to, I think the viability of this this model that we've come up with here too. Because, you know, we're talking about, you know, why are these you know, pieces of paper worth so much? Not only is it from the the meme and the the cultural aspect of it, it's also the scarcity of it too, right. So like, there's only so many, you know, holographic chars are, there's only so many Spider Man first appearances, like the the filmmakers will do very well to understand these principles around economics, incentive and scarcity. So the decision to mint a single NFT was also driven by the scarcity question. So there's only ever going to be we're not going to mint you know, in addition, after this, of, you know, maybe other kilos and hidden lakes, and EF T's that film is only ever going to be mentioned as a one of one NFT. So that means that that's just automatic built in scarcity, there's only ever going to be one. So that's that the dynamic of that makes it much much different than if we said, okay, we're gonna mint, you know, 50 of these, or 100, or 1000. So what that does is, you know, there's much good work to be done in designing incentives around those types of additions. But what happens then, is that you have to manage each one potentially being worth less and also, in less demand as well. So it's, it's, you gotta you gotta look at your trade offs with with this kind of stuff, too.

Alex Ferrari 26:30
Yeah, and I don't know if you guys knew this, but I jumped into the NFT market. When I did my first in my first interview, and I put out, I happened to be the first film tutorials ever on YouTube. Yeah, which makes me old as dirt. But I happened to be I looked at I looked, and I looked, I'm like, I think I'm the first guy ever to put an eye and I'm, I might be the first movie trailer. I can't. I can't say that for sure. But I beat like Sony classics, which was like four or five months after I released my movie trailer for my first short film in 2004. So I don't I can't find any movie trailers prior to that. But I don't want to say that because I'm like, that would be insane if I actually released the first movie trailer on YouTube. But I don't know I, I can't say I don't have an NF T for it. But But I did put an FCS out for the six videos that I put out on that day tutorials. And I put the first three out just to see what would happen they sold out within two days. If I only sold for 100 bucks, but still was just it was an experiment. Like, let's see what's going on here. So I put the rest of them out. And there's been slowly selling and it's just like, wow, that's because that's kind of cool. Like you have the first filmmaking tutorial now Who is that important to filmmakers, or friends of mine, you know, like something along those lines. You know, again, it's based on the perception of what that is valuable, what's valuable. There's YouTubers, like, you know, whatever, cutie pie, who's got whatever, 150 million followers, I'm like that to his followers, he puts out a scribble on a piece of paper. There's value attached to that, which you and I would pretty much be like, let me put my drink on that. But it's all about perception and value and what people think the value is. It is a very, it is NF T's and your model of NF T's as as ludicrous or genius as a piece of cardboard with a picture of a baseball player. Yeah, and someone attaching value to that. Yeah, it's, it's just a piece of cardboard with a picture on it. But

Anthony Gibson 28:40
the goal is to turn Zach into a human Pokemon card.

Alex Ferrari 28:44
Nice. Except no less than 10. We're working on the holographic shirts right now. That's genius. So So what are some tips that you can put, give the audience when they're creating a using the PSD model? What are certain things that should be in place for for a good successful PSD model? And?

Zach Lona 29:09
Yeah, I would say I would say, again, scarcity is looking very closely at the kind of utility that you're including with, with the NFT because you want to make sure that you're not giving away more than you're willing to lose, right? It's like, you know, the old rule of investing is, you know, don't don't invest more than you can afford to lose. So we went about it, we said, okay, 50% of our streaming revenue is an acceptable trade off for getting this you know, upfront fee, whatever it may be, because we tried to listen for 43 ether and then we put the starting bid at 12 ether. Now, I happen to think that it's still worth that much like we were just talking about, but because it's such a new thing. The market isn't willing to dip its toes that far into it yet. So I would say Make sure that you're that you're the utility is not only beneficial, mutually for you and your patron, but also that your patron isn't. They don't have to try to minimize the work that they have to do in order to capitalize on it. And also, like I was, like I said at the beginning, you know, dinner and, you know, tickets to exclusive premieres and stuff. Oh, that's cool. You can include that. But keep in mind that if you know you resell it, do you want to offer that to the new owners of that? How often do you want to, you know, keep that going. It's stuff like that is less quantifiably valuable to an investor or collector. And I also want to note that when I say investor in this context, much different from your investor, that's going to give you your budget to do the film. So

Alex Ferrari 30:48
to an art invest. It's an art investors different.

Zach Lona 30:50
Yeah, it's it's much different. So you don't you don't owe them any money. Unless you want to like where we're going or investor or patron money. That's why I call it a patron and not not an investor. But there's also the the next project we're going to be doing is kind of exploring how we can incorporate this model and do like a hybrid PSD crowdfunding model because we, we came into this already having the movie done. So it had never been released before. We just finished it in, you know, the tail end months of 2020. So we had already had the budget, and we you know, did it and you know, that's all done. So we were in a position where we could say, okay, we will have to pay anyone back now because we were self financed. But now how do we use this stuff to viably? crowdfund.

Anthony Gibson 31:39
Yeah, well, what does it look like to explore the nooks and crannies of incentive in development? And how, you know, you know, Alex, you were talking earlier, like, you know, if you have a star attached, you know, that's, that's often how distribution deals are made, you know, said, Oh, I was able to attach XYZ actor, which, you know, these kinds of audiences like this actor, here's, here's a way of shoring up your investment, because, you know, you've done the calculus, and you're like, this will fit, you know, the likelihood of this exporting value is higher because of this thing. It's like, Well, what does that look like, in today's age, with so many different corners of value in the internet? Because what does it look like when someone who does, you know, video tutorial podcasts? Or? And also someone who does fashion and makeup videos, someone else? Who does video game streaming? And you say, Hey, I'm going to put you all in the same movie? And what does that look like now, when now you're tapping value from all of these different areas? To say that, yes. And also, we're incorporating the NFT universe. And instead of incentivizing with, you know, like various crowdfunding perks and saying, you get a T shirt and those kinds of things? No, you have an NF, you'd like what if there was a way to create an NF T, that could have value on the secondary market. And so it's all about finding all of those different areas of incentive. And for anyone that's looking to make projects considering this as a model, you know, it's there, there are so many ways, it's ultimately so creative right? Now, you can do so many different things, and work right now are just getting nitty gritty for our next project about what that could look like.

Alex Ferrari 33:21
Right? And you can I mean, in a crowdfunding site, you can use, for example, someone, you could crowdfund an NF T, and then just give them a percentage of based on what they give a percentage of the final gross or the final this or the final that some sort of incentive and that way, so it's almost like more of an investment than a gift of a crowdfunding. So it's now you're you're actually sourcing it out and it's all could be done on the on the blockchain, which would be ideal, and I hope one day we get to the place where all distribution is done on the blockchain. And all payments are done on the blockchain. Yeah, everything's done with smart contracts and and we don't have to deal with this bs anymore that you know, distributors do this or distributors do that or, excuse me, let me rephrase predatory distributors do this. Do that with with not all distributors are bad? by any stretch, there are a lot of great ones out there. But we focus on the predators.

Zach Lona 34:21
Exactly, why let's let's talk a little bit about how distribution actually like functionally comes into this. Right. So like, for anyone who's still kind of like, skeptical a little bit about it, about this model we've done, I mean, we sold it, so we made, you know, $5,000 off of this, which is comparable to a minimum guarantee, you might get it from a distributor,

Alex Ferrari 34:39
if you're lucky, if you're

Zach Lona 34:40
lucky, if you're lucky, if you're lucky. And now, well, now you get the secondary, you know, revenue stream from secondary sales to but, you know, think of it like that, you know, it's like we can because the other thing that's happening with this is that we are retaining all the rights to our film. We're not giving away any rights whatsoever with this Because the revenue stream and the NFT itself are reason enough, obviously, for someone to collect it. So now, we could say, Okay, now we're going to go to a distributor and collect a minimum guarantee from them. So that's, you know, another possible avenue for so yeah, essentially, like you were saying earlier, Alex, this is like a another revenue stream for the film that will also work to hopefully automate some of the marketing lift that you have to do by virtue of being this transferable meme capture

Alex Ferrari 35:33
unit, so to speak, right. And if you had a, let's say, you did 1000 units, let's say, just throwing that out there 1000 units, and that those 1000 units are worth 10 15% of, of your revenue jumping in there, I'm just going off the top here. So you put away 15% of all revenue is going to go to these, this 100 units that you're going to sell on crowdsourcing of crowdfunding, excuse me. And then all of a sudden, all that all those people who buy those 100 people, they're going to be incentivized to market the living hell out of this. Yeah. And get this out in the world. And if you did that with 1000, and broke them that 15% accordingly that way, then you even have more. So it all depends on what you're doing. And then you could also put a price tag on all of that just to get in the game. There's so many different routes you can go on. It's it is it is essentially the wild wild west right now it is. It's the internet circa 96. Man, it is like the wild

Anthony Gibson 36:32
wild west, take a look and see, just like, like what's happening on the internet? How are people communicating on the internet? How are people pointing a camera at themselves? How are people quote unquote, influencing? And then, like, how can an taking a look at that and being like, hmm, there's some serious untapped potential, through this communication mechanism for getting new ideas, getting new films out into the world and seen by people. And it's just about connecting the dots. It's just saying, you come over here, you come over here, let's do this thing. It's, you know, in some ways, uses the same philosophy is like, you're if you're a YouTuber, and you want to, like, go on someone else's show to get to get some of their audience to come see your thing. And you cross pollinate. I mean, that's, essentially it's taking that and it's scaling it up, and using the blockchain in order to do that. And it's, it's all like Zach, and I love to just like, you know, one of our favorite things about this whole thing is that it's just, it's all memes, memes mean, everything is it mean, and like, that is like pretty like, you know, core to our philosophy. In all of this. It's like, what can we do with means? What can we do to make people think about memes? And that's a cornerstone of the mythos that we're trying to create with the bigger world that we're actually working on.

Alex Ferrari 37:45
Now, you guys also created a physical version of the NFT to send to the person who purchased it, which I think is awesome. How do you How did you create it? Because it looked awesome. From the pictures I saw. What was the cost? If you don't mind me asking like that? That's a customized situation. So what was that situation done?

Zach Lona 38:04
how he's done? So it that was a nightmare to put together? But I'll just be upfront upfront and get this. So our collector wishes to remain anonymous for now. But they told me like, hang on to it. I'll redeem it. One I feel like it so I still have it. Like it hasn't left my house yet. Which I'm fine with because, you know, I appreciate that. Like, it's, it's, it's gorgeous. We're pretty proud of it. No,

Alex Ferrari 38:29
it's stunning. I was like, That's gorgeous. Like that looks like a special special, special freakin criterion. The, you know, to the nth degree kind of one on one and drama is beautiful. Okay, you're making us blush. It is.

Zach Lona 38:45
Appreciate that. Um, yeah, very proud of it. But in terms of the logistics, yeah, it was. So not many, you know, packaging manufacturers take one off orders. And then the ones that do are pretty pricey. And see, here's the thing too, is that we didn't have to do that. Obviously, our patron doesn't even really want it right now, which is something it's a phenomenon that's happening in the crypto art, collectible space with NF T's where it's like, you know, there are artists who offer you know, the physical painting with the NFT and collectors will say I don't want any physicals I just want to I just want the JPEG in my wall. And that's totally cool. So we went into a kind of half expecting that but for me, you know, like, you know, I mentioned earlier I come from a fine arts background. I like having like a physical artifacts for for the film that I've created. But you know, obviously though it I'll put it this way, it was a lot of money. Probably more than I would recommend for someone else who's trying to do this, but it is a very cool thing. And when it's in a museum, you know, 20 3040 years. That's a nice little museum. Now. I'm just kidding.

Alex Ferrari 39:50
And when everyone understands my genius by then, I mean, hopefully I won't be Van Gogh when I'm dead and they'll go out Zach I get I guess, no, no, no, I'm sorry. I just saw I saw a clip from I don't even watch Doctor Who. But I saw a clip where they brought back Van Gogh, and they brought him into the museum. Oh, I've seen that. Oh my god, that's so like, you just start tearing up like an art. It's just like, oh my god, it was so cute. Anyway, sorry, geeked out for a second guys. Sorry, apologize. That was so. So did you, but am I wrong? Did you not create any other NFT things for like, you know, stills of the movie? or other things? Or did you? You know, you're getting into sort of the next chapter for us.

Anthony Gibson 40:43
And, you know, we're working on a big part of, I mean, I can let Zach take over sort of talking about like, the content of the movie itself, because I think it's specific to like, it's kind of amazing what work ended up working out what we ended up having in our lap at a time when crypto was around. It's kind of came to the mainstream. And our film is about a cryptid like a Bigfoot esque Sasquatch, Ian, figure cryptid cryptid meets crypto. And it was just like this perfect marriage of like, what can we do with that? And I feel like it led to that kind of take over there.

Zach Lona 41:20
Yeah, I mean, there's so many places to go from that, you know, it's like, so one of the ideas we have is, you know, Bill, so essentially what we're trying to get at now the phase that the project is in, is we are taking this feature film that we have, and we're trying to use these community incentives to build an audience around the IP itself. So you know, we can get into like the specifics of the plan, but we're going to be minting more NF T's around the, the the fiction and the lore of this, of this, you know, essentially a monster movie, mockumentary IP so you know, like minting specific clips from, you know, the film like, oh, here's a found footage. So the cryptid is called the hidden man is a proprietary monster that we came up with, you know, here's a, an eight millimeter still, or a film clip that we that we use, yeah, we actually used an eight millimeter camera for some of it. So, you know, a nice little badge of honor there. But yeah, like minting stuff like that, and then using that to sort of, do, you know, add more value into the IP through those specific items of merchandise, where it's like, at a lower level, you know, you're never gonna you're, you're only one person can ever have the actual film NFT but you can own pieces of the film, you can on merchandise of the film, that also give you like, community benefit within the community that we're trying to build.

Alex Ferrari 42:45
So I'm gonna pitch you guys something for an NF t please bear with me. This is a real thing. This is a real thing. This is not making this up. But there is such a thing called Bigfoot erotica. Now, wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it. My friend told me about this. And I'm like, oh my god. This is genius. anyone listening right now when you're done? Listen to this episode, type in Google Bigfoot erotica, and just just lose your mind at what you'll you'll find out. There's not it's not just like pictures. It's like stories, like books, novels, ebooks, about it is amazing. I can't believe you guys have known about this. But the best but the best part was I had a friend of mine who's like, man, my brother's really giving me a hard time. I'm like this what you do? Go to his house. And he's married. He goes go to his house and go on his computer and just start doing a lot of Google search for Bigfoot erotica. And leave it on this. Leave it on his on his thing and let his wife find it. It's exactly what exactly what happened. And he left he loved that his wife and like, his brother calls him like, dude, did you was you were you searching Bigfoot erotica on my computer? My wife thinks I'm doing I'm like, I have no idea what you're talking about. You're sick and disgusting. And he hangs up. Wow. So that's sad. That is does savage but that's that's their relationship. I don't get involved. But and it is a tool to ruin a marriage. Yeah. Or just or just, uh, you know, hidden man erotica. I'm just throwing it out there. Just throwing it to the in technically, proprietary world of the IP. Why not? Well, exactly speechless. If anyone listening if it was listed by sees next face, it's just like it all right now he can't even speak. Like.

Zach Lona 44:47
Yes, obviously, obvious is the thing that should happen. Oh, it's funny, actually, in the early days of the film, when I was exploring ideas, I was like, What if we had a romantic interest counter,

Alex Ferrari 45:01
tell there's a whole market that you guys are not serving sir. There's a whole market, you could be just selling this stuff to him just we're not saying there isn't a romantic encounter. There might be there might be there might be

Zach Lona 45:17
like, God, here's the thing. Let's get into me and Anthony have you know, we've got a very specific idea on how we can take this even further. So a new concept, a new blockchain concept that people maybe are not as familiar with is, is a doubt a DA, oh, have you heard of this?

Alex Ferrari 45:36
No, I haven't said

Anthony Gibson 45:38
decentralized autonomous organization.

Alex Ferrari 45:41
Well, I've heard of decentralized for banks, but not for organization. Okay, so talk to me about that.

Zach Lona 45:48
So there's been defy, which is decentralized finance. And that's very cool. The next step after d phi after NF Ts is doubtless, so decentralized, autonomous organizations. And these are essentially corporate structures or business structures, where it's not really run by anyone, there's not really a corporate hierarchy. And the governance of the organization is equally spread out among all of its members. So essentially, anyone can come in, buy the governance token, the, you know, the currency that's native to the Dow organization, and start working on projects and getting paid for it. So is that we're still doing a lot of research on how to

Anthony Gibson 46:30
imagine a decentralized production company where every all the fans get to vote on what the next project is, that's what we're working on.

Alex Ferrari 46:38
And they're paying and they and they pay for, and they'll pay for it by paying into things to help finance it creates a liquidity pool, essentially. Yeah,

Zach Lona 46:46
yeah. And they get rewarded for financing the production. And also what's going to happen is we're gonna we're creating. Now this is this is very early stages here, but we're really excited about it. The core component of how this data is going to work is essentially it's going to manage the hidden lakes IP. So you know, the, our film is just the first installment of this IP, we're going to be making sequels and stuff. And part of how we're going to get that done is that we're going to fractionalize and decentralize licensing to the IP itself. So we're going to say, okay, we're going to mint a set of 10,000 tokens, you buy a token, you can send it back to the Ethereum contract. And so it's, you know, not in our control. It's in you know, the the contract itself. And for as long as that's in the contract, as long as you're, you know, in this tank, you get in return a license to use the IP however you want. Thanks, man. pornography. Yeah, I mean, the

Alex Ferrari 47:49
thing is, like, erotica, sir, erotica, there is a difference. Let's clarify that right now. Between Bigfoot porn and Bigfoot. Radhika erotica can make porn. Very cool. There's a difference. There's a difference, sir. It's, it's, it's what kind of suit people are gonna think like, I like joy. I'm the one that started this.

I know right now I know somebody right now listening to this. It's like curving off the road laughing at like the Bigfoot. Oh, Jesus. No, this all sounds great. But this is the thing where we're so early on in this whole this whole experiment of NF T's and blockchain everything. I've said this before on the show. I'll say it again. blockchain is as or more important than the internet is the human civilization. And people, people who don't understand that statement, you will just the same way. As people in 1996 said, the internet's gonna change everything. Just like that guy who shot that rocket up into space the other day that looked like something that I won't say it looked like Bigfoot erotica. His rocket looked like Bigfoot erotica. That guy said, Hey, I'm going to sell books on the internet. And now he sells everything. That that's the same thing that blockchain is going to do. We're just not there yet. And we will get there. And it's getting there. It's growing fast. And there's issues and I think you said it in your article as well. Zach about you know, theory will become cheaper, it will become greener to sell a lot of electricity that runs through to get all this stuff. So it's gonna it's it's just like dial up man and 9695 and before it's like dial up it's like how can anyone can even think or conceive that I could buy something on the internet? Remember that? How old are you guys are younger that much younger than me? So I remember the time was like, people were like, I'm not putting my credit card online. Like that was people were like I'm not putting my credit card online that they're going to steal my identity all that was the mentality back That's where we are right now with blockchain I think in five or 10 years, blockchain will be at a completely different place crypto I think will be probably at a completely different place. And what you guys are talking about and defy and and dow and all this these kind of concepts I think are really going to help not only the world but an our little microcosm of independent film. It's getting a lot of power back to us.

Zach Lona 50:21
Yeah, that's what I was gonna say is that like this, like the the paradigm shift that's happening that mirrors the internet revolution, that's the the main people who are going to benefit from it are independent creators. So what this technology does, is it it cut out the middleman, it cut out the big centralized institutions that tell you yes or no, it's really going to power the empower the individual creators who want to, you know, contribute things to their favorite stuff and make money in the process,

Alex Ferrari 50:49
and you and use it, so you give away 50% of all streaming rights, but as of right now, you still have to do the accounting. In other words, the money has to come into an account, and then you've got to convert that into aetherium, or whatever, you know, whatever, stable coin or whatever you're going to use to pay. Yeah,

Zach Lona 51:06
that person. Exactly. So that that goes to show how early we are where you know, in five years, that won't be able to be able to get done on chain right now. The there's not really a solution for that. So we ate, you know, for however long that would take, and we'll just say, okay, we're just going to do the accounting ourselves. You know, that being said, you know, it may be that not only is the smart contract upgradeable in that we can automate that, you know, from the token on chain, or we could we could find a crypto powered streaming platform, which is also new territory, where the film will be online and you can watch it for free and also maybe even get paid for watching it. And it also probably give us a better rate streaming wise than, you know, amazon prime or Vimeo on demand. Does you mean a penny a penny for an hour? Is

Alex Ferrari 51:56
that not fair? I think that's more than fair. I don't know. I mean, didn't you hear that? That Jeff Bezos thanks that's all for having him go up into space? Yeah, don't built on the backs of independent filmmakers. Oh, don't even get me started. He made that rocket happen. We made that was all us. We started off at 15 cents. Now he's down to one cents. What happened to those 14 cents boom into space? Bigfoot erotica, anyway. So so another big player jumped on the scene in the NFT world, which is Kevin Smith, and he came on with his film Kilroy Was here, but he did the opposite of what you guys did. He's literally selling or giving his his distribution rights away to this film. What do you think of that? And how do you think that model is gonna work? Didn't even sell it yet? I don't even know if he sold it.

Zach Lona 52:47
I don't think it's online. So we didn't we that was actually his announcement. Or that was actually the reason why we press the Launch button on this project, because we've been building it since like, March. We're like, Oh, no, we gotta we gotta beat him to the punch. But yeah, I don't think it's online. But again, it's like, it's it's very similar to what we're doing. But there's also some key differences that kind of make it I preferred to not take that approach, simply because, like I was saying earlier, you don't want to make your patron work too much to exercise their, their utility that you give them. So with Kevin Smith's NFT, which also is being minted on the fantasma chain, which is different from aetherium, and we can maybe get into, you know, what chain you should actually meant on. But regardless of that, that's very technical knowledge. Essentially, the the the best person who's gonna want to buy the Kevin Smith and if t is a distributor, so like, if you come come at it, from our perspective, where we're our target market for this NFT is a private individual collector, they're not going to know how to how to distribute this thing, right? So if you're giving them the entirety of your distribution rights, that's cool. Just know that your market is much more different. And you're probably it's it's like, if you're selling to a distributor and you're looking to give the distributor your rights with the NFT you probably don't even need an NF t like that's pretty much just the exact same thing is a deal he would strike in

Alex Ferrari 54:15
I think he said I think he's just trying to get some hype over it and that's all it was because he's actually selling like, you know, James Island Bob NF T's and he's making a mint with them. You know, all those like cool little memes and stuff like that. He's not stupid in that sense. He definitely I mean, he was one of the first podcasters he was he jumped on the podcasting bandwagon, years ago, before it was cool. And and everybody had a podcast and people tell me I'm like, Oh, you jumped in early and I jumped in six years ago like Kevin Smith jumped in like a decade or more ago like it's it was insane. Like the oh geez for you got a Joe Rogan frickin he jumped into like, oh nine he like couldn't get the damn thing to stream. I saw the first in the first podcast. He was just like trying To make it work, and it was like, like 320 by, you know, by 40 videos like it was horrible. But, but he just made 100 million bucks and snap at it, okay. It's good, good ROI. So I think

Anthony Gibson 55:16
like, you know, anyone that's doing anything in the NFT space is just like adding to the value of everyone else that's trying to work on it. Like, we're all just trying to, like I said, like, for us, it's an experiment. Like, we're curious about other people's case studies, we want to see what they're doing. We want to see like, what models of incentive, they're developing and kind of like, you know, work some magic. I mean, we're all really excited about the new technology, we need people to know about it. This is still super inaccessible to like, an audience. Like they don't most people don't understand this stuff. And so it's just like, we need more people to be interested.

Alex Ferrari 55:48
I mean, I had to I had to educate myself. It took me like half a day to figure out how to mint something like the technology so plunky it's just so clunky to get stuff done. Now I'm like, Oh, my God isn't someone figured this out to make this a little easier. Like it doesn't seem that difficult, but it was like an I use mental because it was the easiest open seat was like too expensive. They want a gas freeze up front, mental to gas freeze on the on the now we're like talking in languages that nobody else understands. But, but yeah, but it was it just and even then miserable, was still like a pain in the butt to figure out it just it's still so early, then. We're still so so early. Now, one thing I wanted to ask you is, we're talking about all these NF T's and independent film and all that stuff. Not every projects gonna be a good candidate for an NF. t. So what make how do you how does a filmmaker know if their project makes sense for this world?

Anthony Gibson 56:43
They know this is an awesome question. I think Zack and I probably talked about this every day. And I think what makes particularly like, understanding like Internet communities, like if, if and who you're from a development perspective, who are the people who are going to be investing in your project to actually like, make it happen. So you can go into production and those kinds of things. Who is your like, financing audience essentially. And like, our film, specifically is targeted towards like, like, Village Voice mythmaking, and where does that happen? happens on the internet. We're doing that every single day. And so dramatically, our project is designed to be talked about on the internet. And it's like, self conscious of that. And we think that that, in itself is interesting to people who are on the internet, creating and sharing memes and using that as a form of communication. And so specifically for this world that we're building out, which is like, like, like a modern mythos, basically, using the internet as like, as like a community standpoint, people are moving money on the internet, people who are in crypto communities and want to see content that is more directly related to them and their user experience. Those are the people that we think right now, because it's the initial audience in this world that are going to be interested in funding projects and seeing things that reflect back like interesting elements to them.

Zach Lona 58:14
Yeah, I would say if you're trying to build a community like that, and you're trying to build an audience into the IP, and it's like the shared experience, this is definitely NF T's are definitely the route for you. And I think, you know, to for on a moral logistical point, this is definitely geared to like, like the PSD model itself, it's assuming that you already have, you know, you already have a completed film, first of all, and that film is probably going to be low budget, like we were talking about earlier, it's probably going to be director driven. to, you know, take the fine art sort of box. And, you know, like we were talking about before, you know, maybe if you have like a decent name, talent, maybe you don't need you know, the the boost that this PSD model would attempt to give you, but at the same time, maybe that's an incentive to grab an even more, the higher price at the auction, right. So like, oh, Brad Pitt is in this one of one NFT movie, I'm an art collector, I have a Jackson Pollock and and Mark Rothko in my collection, I can throw million dollars at the new Brad Pitt movie NFC, that'll be $50 million in 50 years. So

Alex Ferrari 59:25
what would what would a Kubrick be worth? What would be what would what would it Kurosawa would be worth? And now we have Nolan Fincher Spielberg Scorsese in what what's the Godfather worth? Like? It's just it I think, once mainstream Hollywood and some of these directors start figuring these things out, they're gonna go Oh, wait a minute. We and we can make not only can we make some money with this, but we can actually insert ourselves into the conversation, culturally. But yeah, it's it's it's worth that I think once filming makers are able to these higher end filmmakers are doing things like that. You know, what would a Fincher and FTP worth man? What a no. And what are the Nolan? You know, what would tenant be worth? You know?

Zach Lona 1:00:13
Yeah, like, that line of thinking again is very different from saying, okay, we're gonna, you know, we're gonna have NFT tickets, where you know, that might still be worth something that's more like a like a collectible, you know, Pokemon card or like a Beatles ticket from like, 1969 or something like that. So it's like almost like two different asset classes. You have the scarce sort of fine art and FTS and you also have the fungible, quote unquote, like ticker merchandise and

Alex Ferrari 1:00:40
FTF. Collected collectibles. Yeah,

Zach Lona 1:00:42
exactly. Yep. So there are two different asset classes. And when we're thinking about what is a David Fincher where there was a Kurosawa worth, like that, to me is the fine art. Like chars are for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:54
Yeah. And obviously, Bigfoot erotica. So I'm Pokemon card. Game Freak, guys. So I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked by my guest guys, what advice would you give filmmakers trying to break into the business today?

Anthony Gibson 1:01:11
You take that one. And the advice I would give you is focus on what's in front of you and figure out how to, like build a team around the things that you're stoked about. And, like, don't be afraid to just like, not sorry, I'm blanking ongiving advice. What I'll say about this is that when I was in college, there were classes that were offered to me. And I felt like that wasn't meeting the needs of what I wanted to get out of my education. So I figured out that I actually had the agency to create my own class and get credit for it and bring people on and make the movies that I wanted to make. And I didn't have to wait for anyone to tell it to give me a curriculum to do that. So get creative. There's tons of opportunities out there you don't have to just follow what's given to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
What is that? Oh, no, go ahead Anthony. And fleet perfect answer for that. What is the lesson that took you guys the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life tax credit financing to say sir, to Shay, to Shay, it's a as a very fine, fine, fine lesson to learn Tax Credit Financing everyone Tax Credit Financing, first time, in almost 500 episodes that someone said Tax Credit Financing is something about how valuable it is. And it's actually big on that. tax credit, and three of your favorite films of all time.

Zach Lona 1:02:49
Oh, mine are weird. I like 2001 I like Napoleon Dynamite and the third one is a toss up between Mystery Men and Badlands.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:00
Well, that's a hell of a combination of films there. I'm trying to put connecting dots I'm like I connected to and I connected to mystery man. Wow, Mystery Men first time on the show Mystery Men. So I love I love mystery minute. What a cast wasn't it? Same cast.

Zach Lona 1:03:17
They had the production design like the writing Smash Mouth Smash Mouth. Smash Mouth, man. Oh, man. Yeah, so that's that's mine. About about you, Anthony.

Anthony Gibson 1:03:29
I'll see Princess Mononoke A Little Miss Sunshine classic indie. And I will say Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone probably if I'm

Alex Ferrari 1:03:42
sure Hey, yes, nice. Nice. Nice. Can I use the magic of childhood in Yes. And it's in it's a nice Christmas movie. It's like every time it's I always watched it during Christmas that's when they get out. So I always associate Harry Potter movies with Christmas as well so and where can people find out about your NF T's about your films about your projects and so on?

Zach Lona 1:04:04
Yeah, so you can learn about the film and the NF t at who is the hidden man calm that's where all of our links are and also follow hidden ones Tao da o on Twitter you can join our discord to to get the drop on that cool Dao project that we're doing which is the next step of this oh and also the film is live on Vimeo on demand too. So you can search for he lives in the hidden lakes on Vimeo on demand and it'll be prime video as well soon

Alex Ferrari 1:04:33
and you're and you're using film hub as well right

Zach Lona 1:04:35
yeah, we are using film have discovered them through indie film hustle so thank you to that

Alex Ferrari 1:04:40
Yeah, there's some good doing some good work over there trying try and everyone's trying. It was trying to like I said everyone's trying to bring you know, you know, break that nut. No one's can crack it No one's cracked the nut yet on on on the perfect model. I think it's always shifting and moving and, and but this is awesome, man. I thank you guys so much for coming on the show. I'm excited anytime I hear new ways that filmmakers make money with their films and especially when it comes to the blockchain I'm, I'm all about it. So thank you guys so much for for coming in and jump in.

Zach Lona 1:05:10
Yeah. Thanks for having us, Alex.

Anthony Gibson 1:05:11
Yeah. Thank you so much.

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IFH 495: $300,000+ in Debt for Film School with Zack Morrison


Right-click here to download the MP3

The crippling student debt crisis in America threatens college the financial freedom of many students. According to Forbes 2020 student loan debt statistics, there are 45 million borrowers who collectively owe nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. and student loan debt is now the second-highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt.

I was introduced to filmmaker, Zack Morrison’s plight when I read an amazing article in the Wall Street Journal about his $ 300,000 student loan debt from Columbia University film school.

Zack is a short film director and writer. Some of his work include Everything’s Fine: A Panic Attack in D Major and Captain Cyborg.

Everything’s Fine: A Panic Attack in D Major is a musical comedy about a woman at the onset of her quarter-life crisis and her existential journey through the various stages of anxiety in song and dance.

Captain Cyborg tells the story of a young boy with a hyperactive imagination who creates a superhero alter-ego in order to confront bullying at school. Unfortunately for Jake, the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur, and he is forced to make a decision that will change his life forever.
This was Zack’s big second-semester project at Columbia University’s MFA Film program. It began as a script swap process where everyone signs on to direct someone else’s story as an exercise in collaboration and adaptation.

Zack’s passion for filmmaking goes back to eight years old after being inspired by a Steven Spielberg lego movie game 

He followed through by doing his BSc at Rutgers and his graduate in film at Columbia University. We get into the deep of his choices to attend an Ivy League school for film, the accumulation of debt, and how that has impacted his life. 

You can watch Zack’s short films on his website or his youtube channel — you can find the links in the show notes below. Let’s get this conversation started.

Enjoy my conversation with Zack Morrison.

Alex Ferrari 0:11
I'd like to welcome to the show Zack Morrison, man. How you doing Zack?

Zack Morrison 0:15
Good. Good. Thanks so much for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
Man, thank you so much for, for coming on. I was introduced to your plight, when I read the when I read this amazing article in the Wall Street Journal about what you are going through what you've gone through. And it is a topic that is dear to my heart, which is student debt. But I had not quite heard about it from the Ivy League side of things. Because when I think film school, I don't think Ivy League generally speaking, but before we jump into the deep end of the pool on that, let's first have to ask you a question. What made you want to become a filmmaker? Like what was the catalyst? Oh, man,

Zack Morrison 0:56
um, I think the what, what really did it I mean, I grew up watching movies, and you know, so like, I just a big movie fan my whole life even as a kid. But the thing that really did it was I was really into Legos as as a kid. Like That was my whole thing was like playing with Legos. And you know, building like, not following the directions of the thing and like building my own stuff. And, you know, forming these little stories with these Lego people in my head. And every year on Christmas, that was like the big family activity was, you know, after all the presents and stuff were over and family's over, we would all sit down and like build a Lego set together, especially my grandfather and I and one year, I must have been eight or nine years old. It the Lego set that year was a Steven Spielberg Lego set. Nice. It was it was the it was the coolest thing. It was like you build, you know, a little cityscape and a dinosaur to come in and knock it down. But you also built like the camera crew and the lights and like all the grip and everything. Stop it.

Alex Ferrari 2:00
Stop it. Why isn't this in my life?

Zack Morrison 2:04
it's it's the coolest thing ever. But it came with, you know how like, it has the instruction book on how to build the set. In the back of it was a storyboard for frames of how to shoot the movie, the you know, the the movie that the set teaches you how to do and it came with this little camera and this very, very basic editing software. And it blew my mind it was it was without a doubt the coolest thing. So I started making this little Lego Movie. And then from that point on, I like played with the Lego set for a day got rid of it. And then now I just had this camera and this editing software at eight years old. And I was off to the races I started, you know, stealing my dad's camcorder on every family vacation. You know, I would go out in the backyard and like Middle School, and that's when that's when like jackass was big. So he was like, Hey, we're hanging out in the backyard and like doing stuff, you know, like our friends, we would all get together and just film stuff. And when High School came around, I played sports, but I rode the bench because I was terrible athletes. But I would do that all the sports highlight tapes for all my athlete friends. And just from that point on, I just knew. So you know, by the time I got to college, I was just that's all I wanted to do with my life was make short films and specifically comedy. And and it's quite literally the thing I've been doing for my whole life.

Alex Ferrari 3:24
It sounds like is from eight years old. I didn't find my passion till I was in my teens but and I was again it was I was given a camcorder and I'm a bit older than you. So you had technologies that I did not have access to. I was editing between two VCRs back in the day, but yeah, that's Yeah, that sounds like it sounds like you know, once you get bitten by that damn bug, you can't get right. It's done. It's a done disease that we're stuck with. So we just the curse that doesn't go. So okay, so you've been making movies all you know, from from eight years old until 1819, I guess at that point, and you decide, hey, you know what, I think I want to go to film school. What? So can I ask you what made and what year was that, by the way that you went to?

Zack Morrison 4:10
My senior year in high school was 2010. So okay, like college, like the college discussion was happening around like 2009 2010.

Alex Ferrari 4:19
Okay, so there was a lot of stuff out there for education, as far as filmmaking at that point, still wasn't a tremendous amount, but it was not like today, but still, there were some YouTube channels, there were some education, things like that. You would have been directing and shooting and editing your own stuff for such a long time. Why did you decide that you wanted to go to film school, and then we'll decide then we'll talk about which film school you chose?

Zack Morrison 4:45
Yeah. I think the you know, the big thing for me was especially as a high school student, you know, I was taking I was, in hindsight extremely fortunate. My high school had, like the arts programs at my in my town. So my high school were very, like they prided themselves in in establishing those. So we had video production courses in high school, you know, I was in the band, so I was playing music and stuff as well. And so I just I knew art, in some form in some medium was the thing. And I had so like, I just, I loved it so much in the fact that I could do it in school was was like the life changing sort of revelation that I had up to that moment school like, that was the hobby I did. After school. That was the thing I did on weekends. And school was like math and science in history. And I was like an okay student, but I was not inspired by any of it. And you know, as as you grow up, and you get through high school, you start thinking like that, what am I going to do with the rest of my life. And I realized I want I wanted to make films, I want to tell stories, like, that's the thing I want to do. And I knew that just knowing how the kind of student I was in the kind of, you know, environment that is conducive for me, I knew I wanted to go to a film program. You know, in some of my favorite, like, all time favorite filmmakers went to film school, and that was, you know, in doing research, that was the path that, you know, I just that made sense in my 17 year old brain, you know, because this was, this was before, like, Ryan Connelly, and Film Riot really blew up, you know, this was before, like, the sort of DIY film education on YouTube became a thing, there was a lot of like, sketch comedy, like Smosh was huge. And, you know, that was when after john was on, yeah, rocketjump Andy Samberg was on SNL at the time. So like, the idea of like, where you can make funny videos was very much a thing, but the How do I go about pursuing, like the craft in a broader sense? You know, the, the option that made sense to me was was film school. So, you know, junior year of high school, I was, you know, looking at looking at programs and obviously, I checked it, you know, you look at NYU, you check out all the, you know, the big undergrad programs, but I'm from New Jersey, and so I you know, I always had Rutgers as like the state school in my back pocket. I live now, even five minutes down the road from campus, you know, all my family went there, I baby pictures in in rector's gear. And so, you know, I always knew that was a thing. But at the time, there was no film program. There was not a thing. They had journalism, they had broadcast. And they had Film Studies, but there was no filmmaking. And it became a thing after like, I applied to schools, and NYU rejected me, you know, that like the traditional sort of undergrad film programs all rejected me because whatever. Don't say that came down to I had, oh, no, no, I don't lose sleep over it. But it came down to Emerson College in Boston, and Rutgers, where it came where my, you know, to kind of top two choices. And, you know, I was also playing I played volleyball in high school and the coach at Emerson, it was a d3 program. And so he brought me up for a recruiting visit, and I visited the film classes, and it was awesome. And you know, as this was, like, everything I wanted, I could play the, you know, the game that I love, and I could do the stuff that I love for school, and it made sense. And then I saw the, you know, the bill, or what it what it would have been. And at that time, it was just wait, it was outside of what the budget for college would have been compared to in state tuition at my state school. And so records just ended up making sense. And so I decided to go there for undergrad.

Alex Ferrari 8:37
Right. Okay, so you went to Rutgers? And then you decided to go to Columbia University for film now. I've been in the business a long time. And I know all the film programs pretty well. Columbia is not one of the ones that gets spoken about often. So wasn't it's not ASI. It's not UCLA, USC, NYU, it's not even la film school or full sail. It's an Ivy League school. So when you think Ivy League, you don't generally think film program.

Zack Morrison 9:08
True, but I will say that, I think specifically if you're looking at graduate, like the graduate film programs, and like every year with like The Hollywood Reporter, and whatever that article is that like, lists them all, you know, comes it's on there somewhere. Yeah, your top five or Columbia and NYU on the east coast and asi UCLA and USC in LA, you know, those are, at least domestically in the US I would consider, you know, the five top programs and anyone you ask that you can, you know, plus minus whatever the rankings are, I know Chapman's a good one also. But But you know, specifically for graduate film programs. You know, it was always on my list. It was always you know, I had a undergrad professor that went there and taught there and so he you know, kind of gave us the the Kool Aid a little bit The thing that made me really want to go to film school in general was, I did four years of undergrad, loved it had the time of my life. And Rutgers was developing a film program. As I was there, I was kind of like the guinea pig student for what a film major could be like, every semester, they kept adding classes, and I kept taking them. And I did like an individualized major. And it was cool when I was like, in the room my senior year when they like, you know, the governor's office was like, okay, there will now be a BFA in film, after you're gone, you know, which was, which was, I was super proud of it. But you know, after four years of like, advocating and stuff, I'm glad now students that at the Art School at records have a program on the

Alex Ferrari 10:42
introduction of the measure question, what made you think, what, who gave you the information that said that you needed a master's degree or, or, you know, even even a bachelor's degree in film to make it in the film industry, so that just something that you came up with? Or someone was telling you this? Oh, no, no

Zack Morrison 10:59
one, no one told me that I knew that. I this was a path that I was choosing for myself. And because you know, everyone, like, I have a bunch of friends who never went to film school. I know, there are a bunch of filmmakers that never went and it was, I never felt like that was the only answer. I just felt like, that was the path that made sense for me. You know, like, fair enough, undergrad, opened up so many opportunities for me. You know, like, everything I've done up, like, up to that point was as a result of school. And every, like, every film that I had, in every festival, every, you know, every, all the trips, and like the people I met and the jobs that I had, everything came through school, through the transfer property all a product of, you know, my connections that I made it records and so, you know, when it came down to, you know, senior year in college now, this is like, 2014, and I was working a lot. You know, I had a huge portfolio of narrative films and music videos, and I'm directing stuff all the time. And, you know, I'm working at MTV. At the time. It's like a, you know, in there on air promos department, like, Here's what's coming up next on Teen Wolf and like, a bunch of stuff. And, and so, you know, I was starting to think like, Okay, what, what's next, you know, and the two options that were presented, you know, that just sort of made sense to me was one, I could, you know, spend 1015 grand by like a read, go in New York and hustle as like a freelance production guy. totally valid option. Option B was, right, my feature film and just like, like, fucking do it live was the thing we said all the time in college. So it's like, yeah, maybe I can just like do my feature now. But I knew I wasn't ready. I knew I didn't have just the, the sense of self as both a person and then a business manager, and then an artist, like, it wasn't, I wasn't ready to do that yet. And option C was looking into graduate film schools, you know, because, you know, again, like I had professors who I went to undergrad, who I had for undergrad, went to grad school. And so they kind of told me about that. But then also looking at like, you know, that at Tisch at NYU, Spike Lee doesn't work with the undergrads, he works with the grad students. And you know, that at ASI, the Peter start producing program, that's a graduate program. And, and so I just started thinking, Okay, there's still there's a potential Avenue here, you know. And, you know, being from the east coast, I looked in New York City schools, and, you know, NYU, obviously, is the is the big kind of name one, but you look at a school like Columbia, who has, you know, Jennifer Lee, Kathryn Bigelow, just a ton of a ton of people who've come out of there. And so the program was got on my radar. And then I applied to, you know, I applied to NYU, Columbia and USC, because I figured if I'm gonna, if I'm gonna do this unnecessary thing, right, if I'm gonna go to school, I might as well go to a program that that means something to some people potentially, and that to go to a you know, and so, I got rejected from NYU and USC at the same day. So I was like, Alright, I guess schedule is not going to be It's fine. It's not, you know, I'll just go in the city and hustle and then and then I got a call for an interview at Columbia. And so it just the the choice kind of was just fell into my lap like it was almost made for you. Yeah. And like, at that point, you get you get an offer like that. You don't you say yes. And you figure it out later, you

Alex Ferrari 14:26
know. So the point before your undergraduate What did that what was the cost? tuition was

Zack Morrison 14:32
tuition wise, it was, I don't know. Off the top of it was like in state tuition. 20 it was like 20 something a year, something like that. A year a year. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, my, my mom, my mom worked at the school. So all all say for one, like my first year tuition was it wasn't tuition remission is like tuition reimbursement. So we kept like, recycling the same tuition check each year. And then the only costs were room and board and the random fees that go into into school. So it wasn't I wasn't finishing college like undergrad with a lot of debt

Alex Ferrari 15:12
at all. Okay, good. So you, you it was a very manageable amount of debt coming into undergraduate. Which is the same for me when I went to full sail in Orlando, which is a tech college and I paid I think total when I came out my student debt was, I think, anywhere between 18 and 25. If you include like, living costs and stuff like that off campus and stuff, and it was 9596. So it's a little bit different time, obviously. Yeah, yeah. And there wasn't. And at that point, there was really no other option, like there was, there was no information anywhere other than books and behind the scenes, videos and stuff. Like there was nothing. So I didn't have an option at the time. I'm like, Okay, this is what the film school I want to. But okay, so then you go into Columbia, and then what is the how many years? Were you in the program for graduate?

Zack Morrison 16:01
Yes, so Columbia's MFA program, it's very unique in the sense that it's a three to five year program. And and, you know, most most MFA is or two years, you're in a room. And, and so thankfully, it was, it was still only two years of class and two years of full time tuition. But the sort of the interesting part was year three and onwards, you become an artist in residency at the school. And so you know, if you think about how that will compare to a more standard to your MFA, where you do your two years of class, you kind of, in your second year, you just focus on your thesis film, and then you're out. And then you have a year to a couple years after grad school to sort of do that next, you know, to like, either write the script or do the movie, kind of on your own, you know, or like, whatever your calling card piece is going to be. and Columbia, you know, I kind of fell in love with their philosophy of Look, you're going to do that work anyway. Why not do it here, under our supervision under our, with our resources with the, with all your classmates here on campus? And it was it was, it was an interesting concept, you know, and so it was I ended up staying for four years. It was two years of like, full time class 21 credit semesters, no time for working an outside job. And then your three in your for the total opposite. I had no class no assigned, no, like project work or anything. It was just cool. You know, I was a screenwriting students. So like, write your pages and and do your movie, do your short and call us when you have it? You know?

Alex Ferrari 17:39
So what were the costs for each year?

Zack Morrison 17:42
So that I mean that you the full the kind of full time part year one in year two, that was like your, you know, your 5060 grand? Yeah. I think was like 60 something a year, and then plus the cost of living in New York City? No, because, yeah, so I ended up taking out loans that ended up being something in like, the 80 ish, but I don't have that 30 year numbers in front of me, but like the 80 ish, yeah, per year, because I also had to take out loans to afford to live in New York, and not work. And then your, your three and your four, like those thesis years, it was significantly less, but it was still like, it was still a good amount. So you know, grand total, it came out to like, including, like the all the interest that might have been generated, I'm up to like 202 190 something from just grad school. And then you add on like the little bit of debt I'm in left for for undergrad and it kind of kicks me over the that 300 level. And that's

Alex Ferrari 18:44
just my stomach is turning brother. I'm so sorry. As you're saying these numbers, I'm like, Oh, it's like you are living it. And I'm just like, and it's so painful to hear. Did you understand the financial obligations you were getting into? When you sign up for it? I mean, I know you're not you obviously just graduated with a BA. So you're not dumb. Right? But But did you really grasp what was going on? Did you like did you think in your mind, oh, well, I'll just sign up for this. This is a great opportunity. I'm gonna make a million first few years anyway, like, what was the mindset of this? Because that's what I did. I said, I'm like, yeah, hollywood should just bring their truck of money just dump the money truck. They should they should be realizing my genius any day now.

Zack Morrison 19:37
Right? No, thankfully, um, you know, as a as a college senior because I went straight in from undergrad to grad because I knew if I didn't go then I was never gonna go back to school. And I was very much aware of what I was signing up for you I almost didn't go like I the the big, you know, debate I had was, again because the the decision Like which school was not a factor? It was like one or nothing. That was the big debate I had for months, you know, even even before even her Yes, like the application was, was Thanksgiving of 2013. And I heard like March or April of 2014. And I had about a month or month and a half period to make a decision. And so I, I, you know, obviously, the number is massive, and it's terrifying, but I knew going into it, what I was doing. You know, I that was like the running joke with with all my friends like, Oh, yeah, like, I'm screwed. I'm never gonna pay this off. Which, you know, that kind of humor doesn't translate into a print article. But, um, yeah, I knew what I was signing up for. And the way I justified it in my head at the time and even now was like, a, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. You know, there was no chance to defer there is like, I'd have to apply again. And I knew again, once I left the school system, I was never in started working full time, I was never going back. And so just in that moment, at that time, I was like, here's an opportunity. Here's life saying, Here's your shot, you know, you did the, you did the DIY thing for four years in undergrad, you know, you you helped build a program for future students. And here's the universe saying, here's, here's a chance to actually invest in yourself and dive in and, and do something, you know, that you wouldn't have had the chance to do if it wasn't for the last four years of work that you put in. But yeah, I, you know, I, I think like I've obviously I've never seen $300,000 like in my life before that like that. The what that physically looks like it's like that scene from dodgeball where he opens up the briefcase, and it's like, people normally don't see this unless it's in the movie, you know,

Alex Ferrari 21:52
by the way, very good. Ben Stiller. Very, very good Ben Stiller impression my friend very, very good. No, I yeah, no, it's almost it's almost, I don't mean to make this light of it. But it's almost a comical number, like it does. It doesn't seem real. Like it really is. I can't I can't even comprehend being 300,000 plus dollars in debt. And for everyone listening, you have to understand like, Zack can't file bankruptcy. Like he can't keep this is debt that will be with him. And again, dude, I don't mean like, rub salt in your room. I'm just trying to educate people listening. They'll know, but like, this is debt that he will carry with him for the rest of his physical life. Maybe they'll figure out a way to take it to the next life. I don't know. Trust me, banks will figure a way to do it if they can. But that's something that a lot of people who do sign these on the like, I'll just file for bankruptcy. I'm like, no. Thanks to a certain president in the early 2000s. They signed a deal. A law stating that you cannot bank rip yourself out of student loan, which, okay, so Alright, so let's go back to a lot of things I want to kind of open up here. Okay. So I'm not questioning the education that you got to Columbia. I'm sure it was top notch. I've spoken at USC, I've spoken at New York Film Academy. I've spoken a lot of these schools. And I've talked to the instructors. And I've seen that the syllabus, I'm like, dude, I would have killed to go to USC would have killed you go to NYU, coming up with their amazing, amazing programs. But the ROI doesn't seem to make sense. And it's not just in filmmaking, but like, I have a friend of mine, who's a social worker, who went and got a Master's at USC for social work. I don't know about you, but I don't know a lot of rich social workers. That's generally not the way social work works. So she was in debt for 184. So social work, right. And then I had another friend who has a master's degree from Florida a&m, or for Florida in Florida International University. Same same degree different school, she was $20,000 in debt. Right for social work. Do you see that? She's paid it off already? Yeah, the other one will never. So that's when I when I talk about ROI. I'm like, if you can afford the school, go for it. Film schools have a lot of benefits and potentially a lot of things, resources and context. Like you were saying, but $80,000 a year for those two years plus, the next two years. The ROI doesn't make sense. Do you? Do you agree with what I'm saying?

Zack Morrison 24:45
I agree that the numbers sound crazy. Like I totally I totally hear you on like the math and, and the you know, the article, The Wall Street Journal article, they had this fun little graphic where you can like see you Know, the school and the cost and then like, what the average person in that field is makes two to three years out of school like that in in a bubble makes perfect sense.

Alex Ferrari 25:10
Yes.

Zack Morrison 25:11
The the part that, that I always like because I you know, I've been having this conversation going on for years now, since I went to school in the first place, and the part that I always bring up to people is that a lot of the benefits of that ROI, like a lot of the things that you're investing into, and like the dividends that investment pays, are, are non quantifiable, you know, especially in relation to the like, how much money you're making out of school. You know, I spent the last two years in Los Angeles hustling and trying to do the Los Angeles thing. And so, you know, I was entering a workforce where your entry level job is like 30 grand a year, or, you know, if you're lucky, if you're lucky, if you're lucky, and like 15 bucks an hour and no health insurance and all that jazz. But the, you know, even just on like a superficial level, what I had that a lot of these other, you know, my peers in the workforce didn't have potentially was for feature screenplays that have been workshopped over the course of four years work that got me a manager, which helped me bring bring myself out there, you know, a short film that that was nominated for, and then won an Emmy. And that started conversations. And so there's, I mean, again, those are just sort of the superficial egotistical benefits. But the even on that surface level alone, you know, I don't know if, like, the kind of basic equation of like, what's the ROI from the cost of your degree? I don't know if that equation works. You know, there's, it's like, we're trying to do like a divide by zero thing we're, we're ignoring, you know, I can ramble about metaphors all the time. But you know, you don't I mean, there's like, there's it, I'm able to justify it in for me, based off of the the work that I know. And the experience that I had that like does, that doesn't factor into that equation is that

Alex Ferrari 27:11
it does, it does make sense to certain extent, but like, you know, as my wife always says that the numbers never lie. And all of those things are great. And look, I you know, when I when I got out, and I was stuck with that debt, and I deferred it for a year, and my interest went up, because I was working as an intern, you know, working no making no money for the flight for the first six months or something like that, or something like or working as a PA making, at the time, 75 bucks a day. Because I was back in the day, until I finally got my legs under me. And then once I got my legs under me, and I started like, Oh, I guess I could I have a job now. My first job in the business was making 23 grand as a tape vault guy in a commercial production house. Then I became an editor. And then I was making stupid money as an editor in Miami in the 90s, when money was just flying everywhere. It's just everywhere. So and I was able to pay off my debt Little by little, until I finally got it off. But But you know, the things that I learned in my personal experience, the things that I loved my film school, I loved it, it was fun. I got to play I got to learn. But a lot of the information that I learned there was very antiquated because we were I got caught right between the digital analog switch. So okay, so there was no lighting, no, there was very little non lean, linear editing, right? Like avid wasn't a thing just yet. And there is no final cut yet and any of that kind of stuff. So I was caught in that little weird place. So a lot of the stuff I learned, I could just talk to the old guys at the studio, so proud, but really didn't help me get a job.

Right. But so I'm not sure what the ROI was for my experience. But with all of that said, if you had I mean, obviously, if you had a chance to go back and go, is this worth $300,000? Or could I have gone? Could I have been my short film without the again and still get an Emmy nomination without going to that school?

Zack Morrison 29:11
that the answer is physically, it's possible to do all those things. And maybe, maybe someone could have, and I'm not. And that's not to say that any, like, indie filmmaker listening like that, I'm not trying to say that film school is the way like not the Mandalorian like this. It's not. But for me, it was and like, I don't you know, because I don't have you know, an uncle in the industry like New Jersey is as far away from the film industry as as one can physically get geographically and still be in the United States. And so, it That was my way. And that's fair enough that that was my way into into jobs. Like I wouldn't have worked at MTV, if it wasn't for undergrad. I wouldn't have gotten in like the tonight show or Saturday Night Live if it wasn't for connections I made while in film school in New York City. So like, even just from like a door opening, I know that's one of like, the cliches that people say, Oh, you go to film school, so it opens doors, you know? And but it did, it really did. And so I don't know if I don't know if I'd be writing at the level I would be at now. If it wasn't for film school, I don't know if I'd be as confident a director as I would be now if it wasn't for school. And so I don't, I wouldn't change anything. So slight debt.

Alex Ferrari 30:35
So what So what was the purpose of you coming out publicly is, you know, saying, like, I've been financially burden, you know, in that article, like, I've got 300,000 plus dollars in debt, like, what was the purpose of you coming out? Because I understood, I get your point of view, I get you, there's no question, do you learn something, and you've got some bang for your buck? I just my personal opinion, don't think that, that education is worth that amount of money, where there are other programs that are more affordable, that could teach you a lot of those things. And, and even then, in 2020, we talk about 2014, there's a tremendous amount of online education, and, you know, even going to other schools and things like that there. There are other options at that point. It's not like it was 85 Oh, yeah,

Zack Morrison 31:27
for sure. And again, like I wholeheartedly understand that was not the only option, you know, and I didn't feel pressured in any way, you know, like, in reading since the article came out, like reading the comments section, you know, like, I think the thing a lot of people are, are missing is like, I know that it's crazy. You know, like, like, I'm, well, you're for that.

Alex Ferrari 31:51
But you're a filmmaker. So filmmakers are not we're not, we're not genic

Zack Morrison 31:54
that's a starting point. You have to be insane to, to grow up wanting to be an artist and to continue doing it, you know,

Alex Ferrari 32:01
oh, and then to pay obscene amounts of money. Because I paid obscene amounts of money as well. I only went to school for I went to a special program was a year and a half. And it was $25,000 in 1995, or 94. Whenever I went, so it's insane. That's insanity with no, no job prospects. No. It's not like it is now like now there's just jobs everywhere. There's also a lot of people looking for those jobs. But in the 90s. You kidding?

Zack Morrison 32:31
Yeah. No, but the reason why I wanted to speak up. There's a couple reasons. One, I mean, like, objectively correct, like, no school, like school should not cost anything near what it costs in this country. You know, I don't, you know, I don't think the federal government should be making money off of off of the debt that they're, you know, giving us like, when we take out student loans, the interest rates are insane, you know, and so what's

Alex Ferrari 32:58
the interest rate? What's interesting? I don't even remember what mines was.

Zack Morrison 33:03
It's like, it's like this. I don't I don't want to throw a number out and they'd be wrong.

Alex Ferrari 33:08
Ruff, ruff. Yeah, I think it's like six, I think in like this, this kind of stuff. It's for education, man, you shouldn't be like, it should be one, it should be like

Zack Morrison 33:18
a it should be nothing. Or at the bare minimum, whatever, like the prime, like, whatever prime is whatever prime is like it should like at a bare minimum, it should be that we shouldn't. Tuition shouldn't be that high. But anyway, that's a whole different conversation. But a you know, I just wanted to say like, Hey, this is the thing that I experienced. And you know, and I did everything I could, in my conversations in that to really stress that like, I'm not trying to, like I don't second guess anything. I'm not criticizing any aspect of the school itself. It's more like that's just the nature of how much school costs and that's the problem. But also, I knew that like having come from a journalism background, I wrote I've written for news before I was a journalism major, technically in undergrad and and so I know how I knew how to talk to a reporter and I felt comfortable talking to a reporter and I knew a lot of my classmates did not feel comfortable doing so. And I also knew that there was the chance that if someone who you know a classmate of mine who didn't feel comfortable talking to a reporter ended up feeling pressured to do so and then said something they regret on the record and that's like a whole thing. So I was like, yeah, I'll do it. Sure. I have no problem.

Alex Ferrari 34:31
So somewhat to the reporter came out came looking for you guys or was you did you go looking for them?

Zack Morrison 34:36
I got I woke up to an email in my inbox saying, Hey, we're doing a story on student debt you want to talk and at that point, like I wasn't even on like Facebook and Twitter and whenever I was not very private about it, I have no shame and because it's a joke, right? Like it's hilarious. I have I mortgaging a house I'll never live in you know. And so I even like I wasn't contest it during the game show pay it off. Like it was on that show on Game Show on TBS, and like the bit was instead of giving you money, we give it off. And so I was when they were workshopping it, like in Brooklyn. I was one of their test contestants. And, you know, I went in and this was in like a, you know, like, kind of warehouse in Brooklyn. And they were where they were workshopping the game. And they had, I was one of three contestants. And like, two of them had, they were both undergrads and I don't know, had like, 2121 50,000 in debt. And I was like, Hi, I'm Zack Morrison. I'm 300k in debt. And there's just like, a silence that like, and we can't have this. We can't

Alex Ferrari 35:41
if this guy wins, he's gonna bankrupt us.

Zack Morrison 35:43
Yeah. And like the game show, like, clearly the game was not prepared for me that you know, and, and the funniest part was, I won, like, I won the test episode. That's horrible. Oh, my gosh, that's like, and they were, they were really great about it like that. You know, like, the whole crew is they were fantastically supportive of it. It was just, it was really funny. And that was, you know, that was just a from that moment on. I was like, I should just be talking about this because it's, it's hilarious. You know?

Alex Ferrari 36:13
I mean, it I mean, it is looking out. I mean, I'm glad you have a good attitude about if not, I mean, you have to have a good attitude about it. If not, you just you know, just at the at the end of it just like gets over. But so Okay, so mo is your most your student debt federal?

Zack Morrison 36:29
It's it's 100% federal, yeah, it's

Alex Ferrari 36:31
100% federal. So this is absolutely in the control of the US government to help students and citizens get going in life without screwing them over with interest payments. Even if it looked at it, look, if you went into like, Hey, I got $300,000 in debt. But every day, I'm assuming you're not making the full payment. Oh, like I'm not making any payments. Also, so so now it's just become a joke, essentially.

Zack Morrison 37:04
Right? Because it's in cut like I'm on the income based repayment plan. I've been unemployed since like unemployed. Since the pandemic hit. I've been you know, freelancing and gigging. And

Alex Ferrari 37:13
sure, your career, but you're accruing interest. Yeah.

Zack Morrison 37:16
And, and, like, I'm on the income based repayment plan. And, and, according to that, and like the tax bracket that I'm in, I don't, I don't have to make any payments I'm making, I'm paying what I can, but my payment plan is do zero a month, because they know I'm not making any money.

Alex Ferrari 37:35
So that's, that's they're a little bit better than a bank, but not by much.

Zack Morrison 37:39
Not Not by much. And this is this is the federal government and like they're, you know, why? Why are we knowing how, like the relationship between schools raising tuition, and the government allowing loans to be larger and larger and larger. I'm not like an economic economist, I'm not a writer, either. But like, whatever that relationship is of like tuition rising, and the government raising the ceiling of the loan limit, like if the government stops writing loans, maybe are we gonna keep raising tuition if people can't, you know, so like, that's that macro issue, I think, is what I hope is the conversation that comes out of all this, you know, why just why does education cost so much?

Alex Ferrari 38:24
Well, that's the thing, too, I'm like, there's at a certain point, like I was saying, with the social worker, like, if the job you're trying to educate yourself to get, or the career that you're trying to get doesn't even come close to the tuition you're paying to get, it doesn't make any sense to go to that school, can you find that same education or an equivalent education at a cheaper school, a state school, you know, something else like that. So like, USC versus f IU, you both get a quality education. They're both very good schools. Obviously, USC is more prestigious, but it's a private school, if IU is a state school. So if you know, for $20,000, or $160,000, for the education of a social worker who's going to make probably less than a filmmaker, which is scary. Coming out, does that is that is that? Should they even be legal? Like I'm being I'm being honest here? Like, is it legal to charge someone $80,000 a year? And let's say it's a two year master's program? Yeah. So 160 plus whatever it costs to live in that in the state that you're going to go live in? Is it even legal to charge somebody that much when they know, they know the school, I'm sorry, knows that the chances of the chances of the students in a in a 5050 students in a film course, going going for a Master's Course, spending $160,000 for those two years, let's say they don't do the three, four or five here at Columbia. The chances of that what is the percentage of those 50 people actually getting and making a living in In our industry, it is for it's fractional, and you know, it is. So is that even legal thing? And then of course, and then of course, you've got the government coming up with their numbers going. Oh, yeah, sure, just keep raising the limits, you've raised a little. So it's allowing this thing to keep going. Right. Right. I mean, you know, on the one hand, like, yes, it's legal. I know, it is legal. Right.

Zack Morrison 40:24
But also, you know, I, I like putting aside the specific school of costing specific amounts thing because, like, I don't know why, you know, different schools costs, charge, what they what they do, and like, it's not, it's not just like school costs, you know, like, you can buy a sandwich for five bucks, like sandwiches or $5. You know, education should just be what ever education costs,

Alex Ferrari 40:48
but you could also be could also spend $35, for a sandwich. And it's, and it's still bread, cheese, meats, and maybe a special sauce.

Zack Morrison 40:58
But I'd like again, just putting it in from like, my specific situation, you know, I, those were, those were the options available to me, you know, and I, I was like, because undergrad, the students who are at Rutgers today are getting a significantly better filmmaking education than I got when I was a student there. And so, you know, I went to the most like, affordable DIY, like I taught myself, most of what I know about shooting and editing, and then class was just like, a place to put it to work, you know. But then, you know, when the grad school question came around, I had all the, like, everything that I was going to learn from, from YouTube filmmaking tutorials, like, all the technical I had down, I was, I should shoot, I can edit I can, I can do all the things. Now I need a place where I can actually apply the craft and like, and workshop that, like the artistic decision making, you know, and, and that was that, like, I want to be a writer, director, I don't want to be a working cinematographer. I had the knowledge base to be working cinematographer, what I wanted was an environment where I can write stuff, put it up on its feet, and workshop it in that artistic, you know, critique environment, among my peers. And, you know, I have friends who are in the industry, but like, you know, I don't know if I don't know if I could have gotten 50 people in a room on a weekly basis to like, discuss, no, I graphed it back to you. No,

Alex Ferrari 42:30
no, I got it. It's just again, the cost the it's the ROI. It's like, could you have done that exact same thing in another program somewhere else at a fraction of the cost? Even if it was? look even at $20,000? a year? Yeah. Which is still obscene. You could probably have found that somewhere. Who knows? You know, if

Zack Morrison 42:49
if, if another school that was cheaper, said yes, I would have considered you know, and, and without a doubt, you can find like, you can find anything you want at almost any school, like, you know, I don't I don't believe that. Any one school like that, specifically, that place is going to make or break your ability to make it in the Caribbean. Right?

Alex Ferrari 43:13
If history's I mean Spielberg, Tarantino, I mean, there's the list goes on a lot that they did not go to film school.

Zack Morrison 43:18
They didn't I will say that there. For every person who's successful that didn't go to film school, there are a billion who did George Lucas Marty Scorsese, you know, like, like, that was a different generation, though.

Alex Ferrari 43:29
Yeah, there's a different gender that is called the film school generation, like that is the generation of film students, that there was no other option and that that's they took over Hollywood and that whole thing. But more recently, I've seen a lot more image there are UFC men pumps out, pumps up, people left them, right. And I know that program well. And the connections you make in USC is worth the tuition, to be honest with you, a USC that the money you're spending is to make contact with your, your your fellow students who all end up going somewhere because they wanted to that that program. And while you have a similar not as not as much to my understanding, but asi is the same way. Things like that. But But yeah, go ahead, continue.

Zack Morrison 44:17
I mean, I would argue, I would argue Columbia was the same way. You know, I, like all, all of my friends who I graduated school with are all in the industry, they're all working, they're all going to be exactly, you know, five of them are already creative executives, like two of them are heads of development at studios. Like it's, like, forever, you know, there's so much of that, like, that's why I went because I want to, you know, make friends with actual true creative collaborative friendships with people who are going to hustle hard as hard as me if not harder. 10 times harder, you know, right. And and so, I the because I've done like these like, you know, I've sat on a debate panel with like, the no Film School guy. And and we went back and forth that like a film festivals like do you go to school? Do you not go to school? And it just came down to like,

Alex Ferrari 45:07
it's individual? It's an individual choice. Yeah,

Zack Morrison 45:09
it just came down to like, do what you can, you know, and and do what's available to you?

Alex Ferrari 45:14
Yeah, listen, this, this is a thing for certain people, and certain filmmakers that need that structure and want that structure and want those resources. And that's perfectly fine. I went to film school, I get it. But there's others who are like, you know what, I'm going to do it all myself. And I'm 19. And I'm going to go make my first feature, I'm going to fail a whole bunch, but I'll make my first feature for 1520 grand, learn a whole lot there. And keep going. And I'll just hustle and hustle, hustle, but I want to have any debt. So those are the two, two roads, you can go down? Yeah, I don't think that I don't think that film, school is a waste of time at all. I think it's, if you can afford it, go for it. But I have a problem with the cost. And I think you have a problem with the cost. I do. There's no problem with the actual program itself and Columbia, or NYU or USC, their costs are astronomical and only growing every year. So five years from now, someone who went down your program could be half a million, or half with a half a million dollars in debt. Yeah, that when you start getting it to over a couple I mean, you're talking doctor lawyer numbers. You know, as far as doctors and lawyers, I have, I have an output to make a lot of money.

Zack Morrison 46:27
And I like I was I was I was in school long enough to be a doctor, if I went to any other school that any other program, I'd have my PhD by now. But but at the same time, you know, like just like you said, you know, doctors and lawyers, they take out a lot of money because there's potential to make a lot of money. The film industry is the like 11th largest industry in the country. And so that same potential, despite it being like the arts, and we kind of we kind of a big

Alex Ferrari 46:56
I know it's the 11th biggest fan, but do you know as well as I do that the chances are astronomical.

Zack Morrison 47:01
Yeah, they're not but like, I'm gonna I want to be the guy on the the missile at the end of Dr. Strangelove, like writing this thing into the ground. You know,

Alex Ferrari 47:09
you're an anime sir, you're an anarchist, I can tell you're an anarchist.

Zack Morrison 47:14
It's just like you have like, if you're gonna if you're gonna pursue the industry, you can't let things like the the the percentage of people who make it Oh, no, you know, like the how hard it is to break in. You

Alex Ferrari 47:26
can't let that stuff you know I did. My entire business is wrapped around that. I agree with you, 100%. I'm here to teach filmmakers. These are the realities of what the hell is gonna happen to you guys. I'm not saying don't stop. But Don't be an idiot about it. Like I always say, follow your dream, but Don't be an idiot. But there, but the cost is still the thing. Like if you can go down this road at a much more affordable rate, or another school or another program. Great. And you have a BA and you just wanted to go into get to get a masters and I was your choice. And you were like, What 20,020 30,000? The whole prior to that? Yeah, I

Zack Morrison 48:04
completely undid like the the smart thinking that I did going to my state school.

Alex Ferrari 48:10
Right? I wasn't there was a remember. Like it was like, Yeah, I can't go at Emerson that's well, that's crazy.

Zack Morrison 48:16
That went to Rutgers you New Jersey State. Right? It was great. Yeah, I completely undid that. And I went to undergrad at Rutgers for financial reasons, you know, so I like knowingly flip that switch. When when Columbia calls? It's It's

Alex Ferrari 48:34
It's an it's insane. Yeah, no, I look, I don't know, if at your age, I would have made much of a different conversation, I would have made a different decision. I'll be honest with you, because I came from Florida, as far south as you could get from from Hollywood. Yeah, you know, so I, if I would have applied, I couldn't apply to it. Because I didn't go to a four year school. So I couldn't apply to NYU. And my high school was ridiculous. My number I, I barely made it through high school. So if I would have got a call from NYU, or USC, or UCLA or asi at 1718. I want to say whatever it takes. Yeah. And I was just lucky that I came out at a time one when Full Sail said yes. Which they said yes to anybody with a checkbook. They did they did anybody with a checkbook, though, except it only hurt me about 25 grand. And I was that was something I can climb out of. But I don't think I would have made much of a different decision than you did. Man. I'll be honest with you at that time in my life. I'd be like, Oh, my God film program. Look who's come out of there, especially at Columbia is a good film program. I didn't mean to disparage it at the beginning, but that's generally you don't hear that name is that the one that comes up? It's USC, UCLA and NYU and these are the Yeah,

Zack Morrison 49:56
those are the only it's only reached its you know, like it's made like the the night 80s and onward, even like early 2000s an honor is really when it like saw an exponential curve from like, the nothingness into, you know, the that, like, again that Hollywood Reporter article that comes out every year. But, uh, but yeah, you know, I, cuz you're right even at 17 or even at I was 22 when I was I was like it's like, like screw Like what? What else am I going to be doing with my life?

Alex Ferrari 50:25
And you don't knew at that age and I hope everyone listening understands when you're that young you don't really understand what you're doing you understand what you're doing but the numbers don't seem real because I just let it out I'm not paying I'm not paying and I was were federal mines were like, loan loans from like, banks.

Zack Morrison 50:43
I will I will say though I I don't know if it's fair to on like a blanket way to say that a 22 year old doesn't feel right doing. I and I and that's again, I think that's like When, when, when we're talking about this, like the kind of broader marbles in the myth, the whatever, like guys that that happened since that article dropped, like, there's been a lot of conversation like, oh, a 21 year old or a 19 year old, doesn't know what they're doing. And I think for the most part, a lot of them do. And, and despite the, again, the insane the insanity of like going to school for that amount of money. You know, it was it was a very, like, Cognizant choice that I made. And I know a lot of my classmates, it was a very active and researched and nuanced decision.

Alex Ferrari 51:36
No, I'm not. You're I'm not saying that all 22 year olds are not educated and they can't make their dumb you're young. No, I'm not saying that. Because I was at 22. I wasn't I wasn't the seasons that I am today. Let's just put it that way. I would make different choices. Now. If I had my my brain back in my 22 year old body, many different things. But generally speaking that like even with me, and I'll just use my point of view, when I sign on, like, oh, here's another five grand here, I just I'm going to do this or I'm going to take another six grand there. The numbers don't seem real. At least they didn't for me. They don't they just look they just a couple numbers on a piece of paper. Like they don't they don't see you don't see that you don't feel the gravitas just like that Ben Stiller thing and dodge were like, right? If you saw six grand cash or 20 grand cash, you'd be like, holy, that's a lot of money.

Zack Morrison 52:26
Right? And if I, you know, if I at any point, like had to do something where I handled that amount of money before, like, you're right, like, that's that it? It didn't feel real in that sense. Right? Right. Because like, I never saw it, it was like, in and out of like, it never even hit. The only thing that did hit was like every like the the read the refund that I would get where it was like it was like that extra like 20 grand for the year to like, print, you know, for living in New York City, that extra part of the loan, that part I saw. And then you know, so that was my, my living budget for the year was that like 20 grand every year because, you know, I didn't have time to work. So like that was like that part of it felt real,

Alex Ferrari 53:09
you know, cuz you lived off of it.

Zack Morrison 53:11
Right? Because I was like, This is what I have to live off of. And I also had to shoot my movies within that budget as well. And

Alex Ferrari 53:19
did you eat ramen? You ate ramen all the time?

Zack Morrison 53:22
A lot. A lot of ramen. A lot of. I mean, it was it was New York. So there's always like cheap food joints around the corner. You know, I lived in Harlem for four years and loved it. So like, there there was, you know, and then thankfully, New Jersey is a 30 minute train ride out of Penn Station. So, you know, like my family. My support system were also on the east coast and that definitely made it a lot easier. But But yeah, they're like metaphorically, there was a lot of ramen. I

Alex Ferrari 53:48
was like 20,000 in New York City or even 2000s is not it's

Zack Morrison 53:54
like I lived I lived in what should have been a one bedroom apartment with three dudes. And you know? Yeah, I mean, like, thankfully, they were my college roommates who I do all my movies and like comedy with so like, we were already used to living on top of each other. But it was it was close quarters for a while. God and I assume dating was a little rough back then. It was interesting in the sense that there was no real time for it.

Alex Ferrari 54:22
No socks, no socks on the on the doorknob. Oh, what what door? You had a door front door, didn't you? Yeah, we had a front door but there was no Oh, no, no. No bedroom to the kitchen. I understand that because I lived in I lived in a similar situation in college as well. No in the front door.

Zack Morrison 54:40
There's no Oh, yeah, there was Yeah. Thai restaurant. Yeah, that system figured out but like I again, it was like those four to five years. That was an experience. You know that. Again, in hindsight thinking of like, what did I get out of going into that debt for like, that was an experience in my early to mid 20s that It changed my life, you know, of course, and that was, that was one of those one of those life things that like, I'm gonna, I'm gonna write about in wherever the hell I write it, you know, like, so it's little even like those little like the hell of living as a young person in New York City and that, you know, taking the subway to 30 rocket two in the morning, on a Saturday night, like, all those things are, you know, that's that's all part it was all part of the experience of doing it that again, if I, you know, you asked me like, would you do it again? Or would you? would you change your decision? All of those things contribute into? Like, no way in hell would I change any of it?

Alex Ferrari 55:36
And that is the insanity of being a filmmaker. It is the insanity of what we do. I mean, it's, it's, it's insane. I have to ask you, though, what do you think that student debt will be the next financial bubble? Because

Zack Morrison 55:51
100%? You know, I think that's the end. And it's not just the arts, it's everything. I think that like, the arts is like the easy target for a lot. But student

Alex Ferrari 56:01
debt nation,

Zack Morrison 56:02
student debt, student debt in the very macro sense, like, it's, it's such a problem, because you're, we're gonna have an entire generation, you know, that is start, like entering the prime of their working lives with too much debt. Because like, and jobs across the board today don't pay what they should be paying like these, specifically, just in the industry, because that's what the jobs that I've worked, that were working $15 an hour because those jobs were $15 an hour in 1994. You know, and or it's just like, Listen,

Alex Ferrari 56:37
I was getting paid 50 bucks an hour to edit commercials in the 90s. Yeah. And now that's dropped down to 20. Because there's so many more editors out there. So it's dropped down. So now there's more job opportunities, but you're not getting paid nearly. I mean, I used to get paid 50 to 75 an hour depending on Yeah, if I'm working promos or I'm working for a network or something like that. I was it was it was in this and I lived at home was insane. I was in my 20s living in a home. That was great. But yeah, but I think that you're absolutely right. I think that student debt will be the next thing that I think it has that has more there's more student debt than there is credit card debt. Now. That's, that's insane. That's in the United States like that. Yeah. There's more student debt, and only going up and the cost of education is only going up. So but but the edge, you're not getting more educated, you're not like, You're not coming out, like, well, you're caught you it cost you 300 grand, but you're making 4/51 year out, like, no, that's not.

Zack Morrison 57:42
And then, you know, then there's, there's also that part like, yes, like, now, in this present moment, I'm making 30 grand a year, you know, but and specifically with the entertainment industry, you know, there's no middle class, it's, you're making nothing until you're making guild minimum. And then that's, that's a life changing, you know, amount of amount of money and there, it's, it's like, you flip a switch, you know, and so, at least in the, in the back of my mind, when those like 2am panic attacks are happening. You know, about like, How the hell am I ever that was like, the thing they quoted me on to the thing was, like, How the hell am I ever gonna pay this off? You know, at least I know, like, the economics of the industry as backwards as they can be sometimes, you know, all it takes one thing to go from the bottom, like, from nothing into making guild minimums and, and selling scripts and like that land. Still very, very hard. It's a very small target. But like it, there's no middle ground. So we're just kind of Once that happens, yeah, then I'll pay my student debt off. But, you know, that's at least that's in the back of my head is like, you know, there is a way out of this.

Alex Ferrari 58:53
Yeah, there there is. I understand what you're saying. And there's always that opportunity. And that's the that's the magic that Hollywood right sells that we're really Hollywood really good at the sizzle really sucks at the steak. You know, and I've said this before on the show, I'll say it again. If you've lived in LA, so you'll know what I'm talking about. If you go down to Hollywood Boulevard. It is not what it looks like on the Oscars. No, it's not great. It's not really great. And but around the world Hollywood Boulevard is this place that everybody thinks like oh my god, it's you know, the Chinese Theater and, and everything and for like a block and a half looks cool. But if you cross the street, grab to grab your purse, and it's

Zack Morrison 59:35
Time Square. It's the same thing. It's like when I when I first started working at MTV, and like 1515 Broadway's at like that time squares, the Phillies, the Viacom building, and I was like, This

Alex Ferrari 59:45
is so cool, you

Zack Morrison 59:46
know? And like, like growing up watching Nickelodeon, they were always like, do you want to write to us right, and like 1515 Broadway, you know, and I for the my first day at MTV, I was like, This is the coolest thing. I got off the subway at Times Square. I was like a jersey. I wasn't like city. Sad. Yet, and then after that first day, I was like, This is hell. This is the worst.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:04
Is that an Elmo? Is that an Elmo with?

Zack Morrison 1:00:07
Elmo? I would say that I prefer Time Square Elmo over Hollywood Boulevard.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:13
Oh, yeah. He's, he's rough. Yeah, he's the one that gets into fights every once in a while. Right? Right. I'd like to I'd like Hollywood Boulevard Superman before he passed the documentary on him. And he was right. He literally looked like Christopher Reeve. But a lot thinner. He was anyway now we're going on it on a deep. But but but it's it's just to use an example of what Hollywood sells. And Hollywood is that it especially here in Hollywood, it is the land of broken dreams. Because you live everybody comes out with like, I could be found I could be discovered that I can sell that script, I can make that movie. All these kinds of things that can blow me up. And is there a potential for that? Absolutely. But those are lottery ticket conversations. But what you're talking about is not even lottery tickets. Just like Dude, guild minimum will change my life. Right? Like, this is not like we're not you're not going after a million a year you're like going for 6070.

Zack Morrison 1:01:18
Get like, like, like Writers Guild minimum would be fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:23
Like I would be right now. Rolling. I would be like, I'd be like, just all day. No, no, but it's true. And I remember coming up, I was like, Oh, my God, if I could get like DGA minimum, to be a first ad or second ad, just coming up, I would be like, Oh, my God, that would be amazing, you know, and all that stuff. But then I jumped into post and went down that road. But yeah, it's it. This is a this is a long conversation, it can keep going for hours and hours. I think that I'm very grateful that you came out to talk about this, because I personally hadn't heard of debt that much for films for film school. When I heard about it, I like I was disgusted by the cost. I was like, What the f is going like there's I personally think there should be no school that charges that much for a film degree. I think the degree should relate to how much money it that it's expected for someone to make in the business. And they have to be relatable, they just have to be because if not, you could you can go to $100,000 a year, pottery class, and get an MFA and a master's in pottery, and you could be like the best Potter in the world, the chances of you making that money back is it's not. It's just just no real chance. So like social work and your social work in the film industry. Because Social Work is an actual, like, you can get a job as social workers. There's a lot of social, we need social workers, you can get a job in the film industry, too. But you can you can. I'm not saying you can't. But the amount of people going after those jobs in the film industry is a lot more than they're going after the Social Work industry. Does that make? Is that fair to say? Because social works. Not that sexy, Hollywood, super sexy, super, like everybody wants to be in it. Everybody wants to make movies. Everybody really just wants to direct honestly. The old joke, right? But yeah, and I agree with you, I think I think we're both on the same page. For the most part. I still don't think that the education you got is worth the money that you paid. But I don't devalue the education. And I don't value I don't devalue the opportunities that that that program got you by connections. And job offers something. Because I know how like, corporate like via comms and those guys on like, they'll look like, Oh, hey, yeah, we'll take interns from Columbia and NYU only because they're like, that's that's their way to weed out. All the crazies like me trying to get in when I was younger, like, but I didn't go to those schools. Well, we only take interns from this or that. So. But I think we're pretty much on the same page. Do you agree? Yeah, I

Zack Morrison 1:04:03
totally hear you. You know, I think that I absolutely wish that school did not cost with it. You know, I think like any rational person would agree on that. I'm not. I'm not ready to say that. I don't think it was worth it.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:20
yet. Yeah. How old are you now? I'm 29. Talk to me. 10 years, probably about 10 years. I'm at least making guild minimum. So that would be that dude, that's doable. Man. You should absolutely be vaguely guild minimum like that. No, I listen, man, I understand bro. And I understand completely This is I'm talking to guy who's you know 47 so I've been around I've been around the block a little bit longer than you have. But you but you definitely have experiences that I do not have. Without question. You know, I I just think that anyone listening really needs to think very carefully before they go down. on a road like this, and it depends on what school you're going to go to what program it is, is that program worth it? I'm a I'm a sell. I'm a hustler, as my T shirt and hat and company say, I'm a self guy. I'm like, I'm a self generating kind of guy. Like, I'll educate myself, I'll read out the things. Absolutely. That's the kind of personality I have. There's a lot of people who don't have that personality and need. Not that that's wrong. But yeah, would benefit from a school program that's structured and stuff. I can't that 110% but they really need to think very carefully about if they're going to jump into this even if they're jumping into $100,000 of debt. That's a lot of money, man. Yeah.

Zack Morrison 1:05:44
No, I absolutely. And you know, like growing up in New Jersey, like the the hustle the grind, like that's, you know, I appreciate having had like, having had that like, gotta hustle DIY do it live environment before I went to to structure because all of all of undergrad for me was was that it was we were shooting our own films on weekends. We were hustling it was, you know, it was that mentality, watching a lot of like, Philip bloom videos, oh, yeah. Film Riot and all those guys, you know, because we wanted to figure out how to do that camera thing. And, and so I, I took, I totally, I totally hear you on on the hustle. And I think there is a balance that any filmmaker who wants to make it needs to have have like the tenacity to keep going. Mm hmm. Combined with like, whatever Avenue is going to help you learn how to do the thing that you need to learn how to do do it. And you know, and so I'm with you on that it's it 90% of this is just you have to have enough energy and passion and drive to keep just to after every rejection to keep going. It's quite literally you just have to outlast everybody.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:59
And, and it's not generally the most talented that Outlast everybody. It's, it's it's and that's something that people need to listening need to understand. It's not about how talented you are. Because I've met an obscene amount of people in the industry during my days. Who are they should not be where they are. They shouldn't be doing what they are. But they just are tenacious and they did not give up where other people who I've talked to him like oh my God, you're so effing talented. Like your script, I've read this script, this should be you should be making this into a feature that should be you should be blowing up. And they don't. They just gave up because it's it this is a brutal, one of the most brutal industries. There is Oh,

Zack Morrison 1:07:38
absolutely. Like 90 90% of my day to day is rejection emails, or, or getting ghosted by jobs or people who are like, Oh, yeah, we're looking for a person for this person for that. It's just, that's, that's my status quo is rejection. But you know, I always joke that it's like, oh, like, we're at a deli, and we're just waiting, you know, we're waiting in line for our number to be called. And it's like, what are you going to be doing? During the time? You know, that you're that you've pulled your ticket? And that they call your number? Are you going to have the rest of your shopping done? Are you going to like know, what you're making for dinner that night? Like, again, I speak almost exclusively in metaphors. But you know, it's like, you just you just have to keep going. And then when you get your shot, take it, but be ready to take it when your number's called.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:28
Now, I was gonna ask you, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? But I think you've answered that question, right, there is like, just don't give up. And also, you know, there is a thing about not giving up because I can run into a wall headfirst and not give up. But at a certain point, you know, my head hurts. Maybe I should figure a way around the wall, under the wall. Maybe I should buy a tool, something along those lines. So yes, be tenacious. But if things aren't working, reevaluate, absolutely. And keep and keep trying different angles to get in and I listen to, you know, I've been trying to I've been trying to get into the business for 20 odd years, I tried to hack my way in, I tried to, like sneak my way. And I always was trying to, like, get invited or sneak into the back door. And the moment I stopped doing that, and then just started to honestly, when I started the show is when the doors all opened up. For me. That's great. And because I was giving back to the community, and I was and then I was making contacts with people and things like that, and it's insane. But I didn't I wasn't trying anymore. In that sense. I was trying in another way. Again, beating your head against the door or a wall. And then Nope, that didn't work. It took me 20 years to fix it. So again, not the brightest, but now it's it's a different place. So I think you did answer that question. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or In life,

Zack Morrison 1:10:02
the lesson that took me the longest, I'm probably I mean, I think I'm still working on it. But to value my own worth, I know that sounds insane after a conversation about all the debt that I'm in.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:22
That's great.

Zack Morrison 1:10:23
What I mean by that is to trust my myself as a person who is allowed to be where I am right now. You know, I like especially just from like, all the, you know, the early jobs in the film industry I worked, where it's like, Don't talk to me, don't do this. Like, you can't be here. Why are you here? Like that meant, like, I even I quit a job that will go nameless, in 2020, right before the pandemic, which was a dumb decision, because I missed out on unemployment. But it was because the, my boss had this attitude of Why are you talking to me right now. And it was my job to be constantly talking to them. And so, like, I realized, like I am, I'm allowed to be here, like, it's my job to be here. And so, you know, in the context of like, pursuing the dream in the film industry, it's like, it's my job to be a filmmaker, I'm allowed to be a filmmaker, it's that like, fight. How do you fight that imposter syndrome? You know, so like, I'm, I'm writing I'm writing what I think is going to be my first feature film right now after having written like five or six feature screenplays. And, you know, I'm still working on finding the confidence to say like, yes, this is my, I'm going to do this. And I have this, the skills and the self where with all to be able to write this. And so I don't know if I've fully learned how to do that yet. But that's like, that's the work in progress is just like, learning how to, you know, know what my self worth is, and like, just do the thing that I have spent 1015 years practicing doing?

Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
And I think I think what you said with self worth, I think we as especially when you're coming into the business man, you think you're that people think make you make you feel worthless. And that like that guy that you were just saying, like, why are you talking to me, I had those bosses, I had those those people and I completely understand it. And if you do need to understand your worth, even if you're just an intern on a movie set, there should be no abuse. There should be there should be a level of respect. You're a human being offering a service. And you should feel that way. And I love that comments. Like I deserve to be here like I'm yeah, I'm a human being. I'm here. Respect, respect me and respect what I'm trying to do here. And I'd like that idea. I'd like that concept very much. I think it's something that definitely needs to be put out there. And three of your favorite films of all time,

Zack Morrison 1:12:59
sir. Oh, man, three of my favorite films. Number one is the Blues Brothers. Without a doubt I would always one of the one of the best films ever made. I I grew up playing the saxophone, you know, between between the blues, like the Blues Brothers soundtrack and like every Clarence Clemons solo and a Springsteen song like that was my way into art was music. So the Blues Brothers was a huge influence on me my film that won the The award was a musical. And so that just like style and genre like that is will always be near and dear to my heart. Number two is my cousin Vinnie. Genius. It's, I think it's a as a screenplay. It's perfect. Like anyone who wants to learn, like screenplay structure and rules of comedy writing. We're like every joke has a payoff in the third act like that is a perfect screenplay. And then the third one just because it's it's a film that I love that I think no one else really truly loves the way I do but a Knight's Tale with with Heath Ledger.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:05
It's a genius film I

Zack Morrison 1:14:06
love I just watched it the other day. It's great love it. It's like it's a two hour cheese fest. But like the soundtracks great and I cry at the end every time I don't care. It's it's an amazing movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:17
I love I absolutely love and I said, Oh, all good choices. They're all good choices. And last question, man, what do you say to a potential film student thinking about going to film school today? Okay. After this entire conversation, I would like if I'm 17 I'm 17 I'm like, Zack, man. I'm thinking about you went to film school I hear is cool. What do you What advice do you have should I do that? Or should I just watch like Film Riot and listen to indie film hustle and, and and just go my own way? What would you say to me?

Zack Morrison 1:14:53
I would, I would say to a young person who is trying to who wants to be a filmmaker. And I didn't know the answer to this question when I was 17. So whenever you figure this out, in my, in my opinion after having gone through it, if you want to be a cinematographer and editor, a first ad, if you want to work in production if if you want to, if the some part of the technical is what you want to do, and you know that that's the life path you want to have, I don't think you need to go, I think you can, you can learn you can go get a camera, you can go shoot, you can edit, you can make a bunch of stuff, you can learn the technical, like, without a doubt, you don't need like a degree in sound editing, or cinematography, right, become a sound person or cinematographer, because that you just learned by by doing and playing, if you want to be a writer, director, or a screenwriter, or because I think writing and directing are like, two halves of the same skill set. If you want like to, you want to be that person, then you have to figure out are you in a position to make work now? Like, like, if if you want to be a screenwriter Are you in a position where you can write material and also get quality feedback from not your mom? Right? Or from not the friend that's gonna say like, it's great, it's perfect. I love it. If you can, or if you have like that, if you can be Quentin Tarantino who can lock himself in a cabin or wood cabin in the woods and right Reservoir Dogs like awesome. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:16:28
but you but you could go to writers groups you can is there's a lot of

Zack Morrison 1:16:32
whatever, whatever the access to that is, if you have that I don't like I don't know, if you need to go to film school. If you are like me, who does not have that? If, if you're if none of your friends are art people, if none of your friends are writers, if you don't have at 17 years old, you know, like a writing mentor or access to the artistic resources, not like not even the technical resources, but like access to those artistic environments where you can workshop stuff and shoot stuff and like, play it for people and get honest feedback. If you don't have that, maybe you consider it because that, to me is the biggest value that I got out of film school is that artistic environment. That and so I know like, it's not that easy of like a yes or no, I just think further if you have, if you're the kind of writer that loves to write in a cabin in the woods, or you have that writers group already, and you're getting good, constructive, positive, and like forward momentum on on your work. They're like, that's what we that's what I got in film school. So I don't know if that answers the question.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:45
It doesn't answer the question. And I think your main point is like if you can have colleagues that will look at your work, give you constructive criticism, work with you on things. Maybe you take a take a handful of online courses, maybe you take some local courses or fly out to take some workshops with some high level people and get in the community. I think your big thing was community and having access to other people. And trust me, I know what you're talking because I came from Florida, we did Miami, which was no films like it was like I was starving. I watched entourage as my way to connect with the film industry as sad as that might be. Or behind the scenes videos of Raiders of the Lost duck. But, but if you can find that it's not necessary. But again, if it's affordable, there's a lot of local programs around the country, Community College, a lot of great community colleges have access to gear teachers who will help you learn that gear. And I love what you said about if you want to be a technician, you don't need to you don't generally speak you don't need a four year degree, let alone a Master's to make it in this business that's been very well established. But if you want to be a technician, you might go and take some classes, take some workshops in that man you can go to LA or New York and take you know ASE workshops by ASC cinematographers

Zack Morrison 1:19:07
or online you can pick up a lot of stuff too. Or you can just go shoot stuff like my, my, my good buddy, his name's Adam zahlreiche. He's, he's the best dp I've ever met. He's my first phone call whenever I have a project. He like we both went to Rutgers together. And he has been like hustling his ass off for years in the New York City scene as a working dp and he's spent like the same time that I put into film school learning to be a writer he was out there shooting learning to be the best dp he can possibly be. And, you know, I like whenever I talk to like, even prospective record students are just like I was teaching a high school class in New Jersey the last two weeks for like a film Summer Academy. And I was talking to the students and they were like, Do I go to film school or not? And I was like, here's a here's me and my buddy and we both had two different paths, and neither path is mutually exclusive and terms of benefits from the other, you know, it's just wherever you, whatever your path takes you do that, like, if you have access to stuff, follow that access. And if you you know, if you need access, just like you're running through the wall, if you need to get to the other room, find a way into the other room.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:18
You know, but you would generally say, don't go through her $1,000 in debt on the hole if you can avoid it. Try to not go $300,000 just as a as a general rule, general rule, not a great not a great thing. Zack Rob, I can't thank you enough for being so transparent and honest and raw about us. And actually just good humoured about what you've gone through and and sharing this sharing your story with with my tribe and with filmmakers around the world. I think it's a conversation that needs to continue to be had. And I think we've we've I think this is this has been a good conversation. I hope anyone on the fence can figure out what's right for them going down the road, but I wish you much success on your journey, my friend and thank you so much for for for being on the show, man. Thanks.

Zack Morrison 1:21:12
Thank you very much, Alex. I really appreciate it.

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IFH 494: Adventures in Bad Distribution Deals with Heather Turman


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I am delighted to have as a guest on the show today, Filmmaker, comedian and podcaster, Heather Turman. She’s the creator and writer of the feature film, Stuck, starring Joel McHale, Heather Matarazzo, and SNL’s Chris Redd. And the host of the Indie Women Podcast on Youtube.

Darby finds herself in trouble with the law and is sentenced to house arrest. Now she must serve 30 days in the home she used to share with her ex-boyfriend, which he now shares with his new fiancee.

Heather has appeared in films like La-la Land, or the 2019 TV series, The Room Actors: Where are they now

At age 18, Heather moved to Los Angeles to pursue her passion for entertainment. And she’s since built a successful career as a comedian, writer, and producer — one that has taken her touring to over 75 cities across the USA.

She is an LA Westside Showdown two times top-finalist and has appeared on the FOX series Laughs and the Seed & Spark original Everything Is Fine! stand-up comedy special.

She is most known for writing, producing, and directing the hilarious original web series, Conversations with Future Stars which you should check out.

Heather shared with me in the interview that she discovered the IFH podcast at the beginning of the pandemic and binged every episode. Now, this is particularly special to me that she recognized and enjoyed the wealth of knowledge the show provides. So, having to sit down with her is an absolute full-circle moment.

I was thrilled to have had such a raw and transparent conversation about her experience with her.

Enjoy my hilarious conversation with Heather Turman.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
I like to welcome to the show Heather tournament. How you doing, Heather?

Heather Turman 0:18
I'm well thank you, Alex, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:20
I'm better we are seeing the others. I think we're on the other side of this thing. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel free, I don't have to wear my full hazmat suit anymore to go shopping, which is nice. And other of air, we were talking about how you found me that you discovered my podcast at the beginning of the pandemic, and you've listened to you said all of them. And I said, That's a lot. That's a lot of episodes. And you said

Heather Turman 0:48
it was a long pandemic? Yeah, I started going on walks, you know, every morning with my, you know, overly ridiculous mask. And, you know, it's sort of start my day. So I dug it and became a fan. Thanks for doing this. What a great, just what a great resource and inspirational, I think, you know, tool for everybody. So thank you.

Alex Ferrari 1:10
I appreciate that I appreciate I do what I can I try to I try to help as many people as I can many filmmakers as we can. And we're going to talk about why we have to protect them sometimes from our business and in our conversation. But before we do that, how did you get into the business?

Heather Turman 1:25
Oh, man, I moved to Los Angeles blindly at 18 right out of high school, not knowing I'm one of those I didn't know, I knew I wanted to be an entertainment. But I came from Michigan. And you know, and at the time. I remember I got a book that was like, you know how to break into Hollywood off of like, Amazon was pretty new, like this was 2005. And so you know, it was still like digital media was just sort of starting. And this book did not prep me at all. For me, it was

Alex Ferrari 1:55
shocking for me. Shocking. No,

Heather Turman 1:57
exactly. It was awful. So I came here blindly. And I knew I wanted to write and and make films but and just be involved. So I had, you know, got started, I actually booked a commercial and met a fellow Michigander on it. And we produced a short film together in 2006, called subdivision and so that was sort of my first foray into producing my own content. But then I fell into stand up comedy. And so I spent the last several years I mean, the last decade really, you know, touring the country and that kind of thing, but in the middle of it, produced a web series, and a couple other short films, and then come 2000 in 2015, my writing partner and I had sold a feature script, but it didn't get made. So you know, it's that thing where it's like, well, this doesn't do anything. For me. All it does is give me a check, you know,

Alex Ferrari 2:50
which, by the way, big accomplishment. So that's not

Heather Turman 2:55
Yeah, no life goal achieved. Absolutely. And it's still my favorite script. It's just that sad thing, you know, the thing that most script that was most proud of sold, and it hasn't been made. So there was this feeling of, you know, I did this really difficult thing, but my name is not on the screen. So people don't can attribute my work, you know, to me, and so, I said to my writing partner, let's write a one location that we can shoot ourselves. And so we did that. And we produced we wrote and produced stuck, which we partnered with the director, she came on board as a producer as well. Julian Arman, Dante, and yeah, and that's sort of where since then, you know, it's been it's been more filmmaking drama with a distribution world and all that stuff. But But yeah, I guess I've just been in been in the industry, my whole adult life. And

Alex Ferrari 3:52
yeah, that's awesome. So I can only imagine 18 coming from Michigan to LA. I'm sure that you did you find. Sure. No,

Heather Turman 4:02
nobody was predatory. Nobody was all sorts of stuff.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
Nothing. Everything was I'm sure fine. They gave you work right away. Soon, you were paying all your bills comfortably. I'm sure it just it was a smooth. So yeah, smooth transition.

Heather Turman 4:16
Didn't you know, slave away in restaurants at all?

Alex Ferrari 4:21
Exactly. I came to LA probably three years after you did, but I'd already been in the business for 10 years, at that point. So I came a little bit more prepared. Not much more, but still enough that I was able to hit the ground running, but still it's Oh, God, if I would have killed a team they would have would have destroyed me. Yeah, yeah. I feel lucky to still be standing. No, I want to ask you something. Do you believe in today's world that you need to if you're going to be in the film business? I mean, LA is LA. It always will be LA, I think for people outside. I mean, I came from Miami, you know, so we're both From small markets, if you will, in the film industry markets. So I always felt that when I got here a year here was like five years there for me, it was like almost like dog years, in the amount of experience exposure to good and bad to the industry. Do you feel that is still the case today? Or could you go to Atlanta or a Vancouver or you know, other Louisiana or other Austin, other areas and still be able to build up that career?

Heather Turman 5:31
I absolutely think you can do it anywhere now, especially because of in addition to all the advancements, technology's made in the last 1015 years, but the pandemic has, you know, sort of exacerbated that aspect of it. Like, it's, I guess that's kind of the wrong word, because that's sort of making something worse, but it's, it's, it's made it so that, you know, everything's through all meetings are like this. I mean, many,

Alex Ferrari 5:59
it's more, except this is much more acceptable. Like, I've been recording podcasts like this for a long time. And people were like, Oh, god, it's on zoom, or it's on Skype. It's not, it's not. And now, it's on the news. And in documentaries, it's it's not very acceptable to do this. Yeah. And before, you really need to be you need really to be in the room with an agent, or, or with talent, where now it's somewhat more acceptable early.

Heather Turman 6:25
Yeah. And I feel like slowly but surely, you know, you're seeing with the capabilities that independent filmmakers have in other markets, and how much cheaper it is, you know, California, of course, has employment laws and permit laws and all these things that make it so incredibly costly for on the independent level, it's it those laws are there for big Hollywood, you know, and it's great on that level, we people need to get paid fairly when we're talking about millions and, you know, millions of dollars, but when we're talking about an independent project, it just, it becomes so much more difficult here that it's unreal, you know. And so, as time goes on, I become more and more interested in the cost in the concept of, you know, going to a small town and then making films there, you know, because it's just, it's more possible. I feel like these days than ever before, without feeling like you're not at all connected, you know? Yeah. And also,

Alex Ferrari 7:22
I think when you're outside of LA, people are much more excited about filmmaking, you know, what do you want for free? Exactly. When I shot my last film, I shot at a park city during the festive Sundance, I was shocked at how how many people like all the businesses were still excited. I'm like, oh, you're shooting a movie here? Yeah, well, would you I was shocked. I was shocked. Because I was like, oh, there must be over it because of Sundance. But they're not they were super excited. And, and shooting outside of La because in LA, they're like, okay, even the local deli is gonna go I need I'm gonna need $1,000 for locations for five hours. Like they already know there's, here's the contract, they already have the setup. Like they're all sharp about

Heather Turman 8:02
Absolutely. Anybody who anybody here who has any sort of property or business at home, they are very hip to the concept that that is a filming location. And they will absolutely make sure to exploit anyone who comes to them looking for at least shoot. So I

Alex Ferrari 8:20
had a friend of mine who has a house down the street, and he's like, Oh, yeah, this this new show on this new cable show wants to rent my house. I'm like, Well, how much are they paying you? They're like, Oh, it's 10,000 for two days. I'm like, so that's their, that's their line. That's their barometer. So now when you show up the level, I got paid 10,000 I'm like, that's our budget for the film.

Heather Turman 8:42
Which is it's so interesting that you you know, you say that because that was we when we went to do stuck, it took place in a home. So we needed somebody to give us their their suburban looking home for 10 days for nothing. I mean, how do you how do you? So I know I mean, I went door to door and I knocked and and face to face. Yep. And we found a house and they 300 bucks a day.

Alex Ferrari 9:08
Okay, so it was there was something there was some some

Heather Turman 9:11
jumping, and their child was an actor. So that helped. We were like, we'll throw our part in the movie. That's

Alex Ferrari 9:18
and seen all right, there we go. That's, that's how you do it. No one. My first film I made was all in LA, but it was just my house. My actors houses like it was all friends, you know, friends or acquaintances that we knew that would give us their house for the day or, or a couple days or something. But that's brave. You just went knocking on doors.

Heather Turman 9:39
Yeah, we did. We definitely did. And we had had another house that we really liked. And the woman was totally interested. And, you know, we even we brought the director to look at it and the DP and all that stuff. And then when we whip out the contract, and we talk about money, she's like, Oh, no, like absolutely not for $300 a day. I was thinking more like 10 grand a day. So she knew the neighborhood. Of course, it turned out we had chosen it was it's like in Studio City. And it turned out to be one of the most sought after neighborhoods. Because of the look of it, it really looks like suburban America in the center of LA. And so they do all kinds of commercial shoots there. So all the people in the neighborhood were very aware. And the thing that gave us their home for 300 bucks had moved from Texas, like a year before. So they hadn't been approached yet. You know, so it's really just lucky. You know,

Alex Ferrari 10:36
they weren't, they weren't hip. They weren't hip to it yet. It's but but you're outside of La you don't get those problems outside of LA. They're just so they'd be so excited to like see a camera and a crew and didn't even have to have a star in it. Just any like, that's just an exciting. And we as filmmakers, we forget that there is an excitement for people like when we first saw film set. I got it. Oh, yeah, it was a huge thrill. But we're so like, yeah, it's another day at the office.

Heather Turman 11:02
Exactly, exactly. But it's true. And I'm out of out of state in a small town. Not only is it not only are people excited, but they're just like, Yeah, do you need extras? You know, do you need What do you need? I need food. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 11:15
we'll cook for you. Oh, yeah. Do you need Do you need a police department? We up? Yeah, I'll call my boy up. And he'll come over and yeah, it's, it's it's pretty. It's pretty insane. Now tell me about your film stuff. So you told me that you kind of put it all together in one location? How did it come to be? And how did you like, put it all together?

Heather Turman 11:32
So I'm Dave and I, David, David Michael. He's my writing partner. And he also produced with me as well. I approached him and said, Let's write in one location. So we did have a few other locations, which of course, were difficult ones a doctor's office and courthouse. I mean, a courthouse is hard. But we found a museum in culver city that has a that has a

Alex Ferrari 11:59
pastor standing

Heather Turman 12:02
a standing courtroom and so 1500 bucks, you know, and then I have a friend of medical sales, so she hooked us up with the doctor's office. And so 4500 bucks for locations. You know what I mean? Which is pretty, I mean, that's incredible, you know, in LA. Yes. It actually because of that I got hired to do location scouting for a film right after that, because they couldn't believe what I was able to get. I'm like, I think it's because I'm willing to go knock on doors. You know, you don't get it with the egos in this town. Most people aren't willing to do that. But I was so Um, but yeah, we you know, we wrote this one location and it's about a sort of a adults like a, you know, like a woman child. irresponsible pothead. She's a nurse, and she gets into trouble with the law she sends to house arrest. And she is couchsurfing at the time. So her last legal address was her ex boyfriends house, so cut to her serving out house arrest for 30 days with him and his new fiance. And we a friend of mine, Larry lebeau. runs an organization called New filmmakers LA.

Alex Ferrari 13:11
Of course. Yeah.

Heather Turman 13:12
Okay. Yeah. I love Larry. He's the friend that I met on the commercial in 2006.

Alex Ferrari 13:19
Amazing, yeah.

Heather Turman 13:20
Yeah. I mean, Larry is just the greatest. We like literally we didn't. We tried to cheap out and not get permits. And when you got permits,

Alex Ferrari 13:33
huh, you got permits?

Heather Turman 13:35
No, we didn't. I was gonna say, Amen. Yeah, no, then the cops came. And so we were told we had to, because that neighborhood, like I said, Everybody in the neighborhoods like you guys didn't fire us like, yeah. Oh, Larry. Larry, I know. And all the work that he does, you know, with film LA, he was able to call and and literally have the governor expedite us a permit. You're supposed to be like a 72 hour wait, we got one like immediately, which was, you know, and that just goes to show that your friends in this business are the most important, you know, part of this business? Yeah. And Larry recommended, I asked him about a director, I said, I'm producing, you know, my first feature that I wrote, can you recommend some solid directors and he I said, preferably a woman because I did want to, you know, sort of pay that forward. And especially It was a female lead, I just wanted to go that route. And so he recommended Julian Arman Dante who had been in the business forever, and I had recognized her from her acting work she was in like girl interrupted and bad teacher, all kinds of stuff. And so we met with Joanne and she was like, totally down, but we didn't have enough money to pay her. So she was like, the, the amount she would, you know, be willing to work for so she said, let me partner as producer trying to build up my company. And so the three of us work together as as producers, and you know, I was Initially looking to make a micro budget $50,000 film. And when Julian came on board, it's like, no, we're gonna do this a little more grown up style. And so we ended up doing it for 150k. And, you know, we scored in terms of cast and that really, you know, it starts Heather matarazzo who is now my wife. I met her on the movie, and now we're married. Yeah, the night the one good thing that that's bleeding out of the eyes for an indie film brought me was was that my friends are like, hey, at least you got a wife out of it. I'm like, Yeah, I got double screwed. Um, yeah. But um, but, uh, so Julian, of course, was friends for 30 years with Joel McHale. So she had Joel up and, and said, Will you play with us for a day. And luckily, you know, that we had this role, the role of the judge is, you know, one day, sort of bookends the movie beginning and end. And he was willing to do it. And once you have that name, even though it's a small part of it, we were able to go out to other people from there. So I made direct offers to Kate Flannery. And, you know, Kirsten vangsness, from from criminal minds. Yeah. And just in that kind of stuff. And then Heather, and Heather came on board and agreed, and, and yeah, and then we made the movie.

Alex Ferrari 16:23
So the key to getting getting actors on a low budget film is if you can tag one name and taxon name, yeah, it's about one. That's one thing I've always realized is that nobody wants to be the first to the party. Nobody that's in money that's in cast, that's in everybody. Nobody wants to be the first to come in. But if you can get one other person to come in, that's even somewhat of a recognizable name, or face, or respect, as inactive, because there's that could be worth nothing to the box office, but be very well respected by other actors. Absolutely, that can attract other actors. Without question, yeah. And it's always it's the exact same thing for my first film, I have one called friend called a friend called the friend call a friend. And everybody just showed up and, and played, and it was,

Heather Turman 17:12
yeah, and played. And it's great. I watched both of your films, by the way, thank

Alex Ferrari 17:15
you so much.

Heather Turman 17:15
And I love them, they do look beautiful. And I was especially impressed by on the corner of ego and desire, because you know, you listening to your podcasts that you know that you did shoot it off of a, you know, a script, man, and in Sundance as it's happening, it's just it's cool. The story behind the movie is is especially cool.

Alex Ferrari 17:37
It was absolutely insanity. It was it four days, 36 hours shot an entire feature actors had never met before. It is a really insane story. I don't advise anyone doing it. Unless you have some. If you've got some years behind you, and you can fall back on that experience, then yeah, but I like I like that one. But Meg, for me, even is even more impressive, because I've just shot that thing. And, and and now normally, and now knowing what you went through and knowing that we made that movie in LA for about five grand. Yeah, it's amazing. It's absolutely amazing. It's It's sad. But of course paid. I mean, everyone got paid. But it was all favors and no permits. No permission. Of course. What's the permit run permits? Like, what is

Heather Turman 18:25
it was like it cost us 1200 bucks for the one and that was not telling them we had other locations that was lying and saying, yep, everything's at this house. So if we had if we'd had to get one for Culver City, and the doctor's office, it would have been a different story.

Alex Ferrari 18:39
Yeah. Right. So that's, that's why it's so cost prohibitive to shoot here, especially for an indie and that's why you got to kind of go you got to be a gorilla about it. Yeah. You know, I've known I've had other people on the show who've shot in LA. And I mean, but they there's other there's other filmmakers I'm thinking of, they were brazen, like they'd show up with grip trucks. And like, they would just get out in front of a location and just start shooting. And yeah, they're like, wait to the cops come, we got an hour. Let's see how long it takes before the cops come. And even when the cops show up, our producer sent to hold them back for 15 minutes while we finished the shots. And then they go in. But they got I mean, they shot the entire city is pretty insane. Yeah.

Heather Turman 19:23
Yeah. I mean, that really is how you have to do it. You know. I was chatting with a female filmmaker the other day and she said that sometimes you can sort of that she's like, I'll play the female card with an officer like, Oh, we have to get permits because you know, like, into like that

Alex Ferrari 19:39
like, and then she twirls her hair she doesn't know twirls or has like oh my god, do I need a permit? No, yeah, I could just shoot this amazing. Like, sorry, that's my valley girl. So I apologize.

Heather Turman 19:54
I mean, that's that's that's the performance she would put behind. You know what I mean? Um, Because, you know, you got to play what cards you have, you know, and they're gonna be like, Oh, this is a woman's making this movie. Okay, it's not real Move, move ahead. Well, the other thing,

Alex Ferrari 20:11
the other little trick is for everyone listening, always have a film student ID onset. So you always bring a film student as an intern on set. So if a cop does show up, and you're doing something that's a little bit, you know, not official. You're not hurting anybody stealing anything. It's just unofficial. You can always be Oh, it's a student film. And you bring this thing you show them the student ID and like, we're here to help the student. And yeah, you know, but if Nicolas Cage shows up, that's a problem. So you have to have money. Exactly. wants it? Yeah. No, I remember we shot a film. I was part of a project years ago, that was shooting on a dv x 100. A camera. I think you might remember that. Can you remember that? Yeah. It was a fantastic camera. And I otzi showed this in Florida. I otzi showed up because it was we had, I mean, we had script trucks and everything. But then when they saw the camera, they said, we're good. And they just walked. They just we had big stars that we had an Oscar nominated, but he wasn't there that day, thank God. But when they saw that they're like, these guys obviously don't know what they're doing. It's a camcorder. It's okay. We're fine. It's Yeah, it's it's a dolly but they don't know what they're doing. It's fine. Totally. But, but that is, that is another trick for everyone listening, always have a film student onset just for those occasions? Because they will it will it get you out of trouble and get you out. And don't ever try shooting on Santa Monica Pier.

Heather Turman 21:40
Oh, yeah. I wouldn't recommend those touristy areas. That's probably that's definitely they see you Kai. I mean, you're asking for it. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 21:47
unless you shoot it with an iPhone. If you're shooting with an iPhone, and it's all under cover, you might get away with it for a few minutes. But don't build on top of you so quick. Oh,

Heather Turman 21:56
yeah, it'll swoop in I yeah, I, I remember, for my web series in 2012, we needed an exterior. I'm sitting in with the editor. And we, we need, it's supposed to take place inside the Scientology center. And so we're looking at the cut. And I'm like, we need an exterior we do. So we grab his camera, we can see dp that too, we grab the camera, jump in the car drive to the celebrity center. And he's standing on the corner filming it for like, within 10 seconds, like oh, swarm of Scientology security on bikes, just like that's a pretty serious camera, you know? And he's like, yeah, and they're like, yeah, you better get out of here. And they like, took my license plate was really crazy. But, uh, well, you know, when you're going to those types of places,

Alex Ferrari 22:44
did you get the shot? Just, we got the shot. That's all that matters. That's all the matters. You got to get done out, get out, run, run, run.

Heather Turman 22:52
I might be on some kind of list, but we got the shots.

Alex Ferrari 22:54
It's perfectly fine. It's perfect. It's absolutely perfectly fine. Now, you mentioned that. You mentioned that the manager had a couple issues with distribution. Can you elaborate a little bit about what cuz this movie was originally finished in? This was finished. It came out in 2019. Okay, came out in 2019 originally originally came out. Yeah, that's it. Yeah. So what happened and and everyone prepare yourself because this is I'm sure. Your story?

Heather Turman 23:27
Yeah, um, well, let me just start by saying that, you know, no shade to my two producing partners. But they are definitely from a different generation than I'm from. And, you know, I was really feeling like, I trusted the concept of self distribution. And I felt like, you know, I was doing a lot of research at the time and Sundance had a whole thing about, you know, doing your own, just like they had a whole workshop all this different stuff. And, and I really felt like because of the the cast, I mean, you look at like Felicia Day, she has a huge online presence. And like, all at the time, Joel, of course, you know. And I came from the comedy scene. So I had tapped, Alexis Rizal, who was YouTube presence, who I had cast in my web series. It was her first job ever in 2012. So I had hit her up. And I had cast a guy that I had known at the time, Brian Jordan Alvarez, who after the film, God willing grace and became the character who married Jack's character. So he got an Emmy nomination and he blew up. And I tapped Yeah, and I tapped Chris read from the comedy scene as well. And now he's on SNL. So it was like we got I got very lucky with the comedy scene and the people that I really saw talent and that blew up. And so knowing the, just the reach that all of those people had, and that's like, not even Joel you know, and then not even Kate from the office and not even the crime, Criminal Minds for kearson bands ness and not even Heather matarazzo so I really felt like we could release this on our own. But, you know, the people that I partnered with just, they were a little, you know, they're used to the old school way of like, you find a distributor. And that's the only way, you know. Yeah. And so I even brought like a sales agent friend into the mix, but my co producers, one of them didn't want to give away 20% which I'm sure haunts them to this day. And so we, because it was a sales agent friend of mine who's legit, you know, he sells movies for a living and I really feel that would have been the safest way to go. Unless we experimented and tried to do it ourselves. Um, but yeah, and so this company had approached us through slated, which, you know, I don't I, if an indie distributor is seeking people out, I feel like that's kind of a red flag I entered. Like, I feel like

Alex Ferrari 25:55
unless you're unless you're at a film festival, and you just got down to screening and they walk up to you like, Hey, we're a distributor, we love to film your movie, that's different. But if they're if the soliciting movie if they're soliciting you, which happens all the time, unless it's in even if it's a big distributor, I mean, a 24 is generally in that emailing people.

Heather Turman 26:16
Exactly, exactly. And you know, because they're getting flooded all the time. And they have their connects. And so it's, you said it perfectly. Because yes, if you are at a festival, and you show your film, and somebody comes up to you after and is like, I would love to distribute this, Here's my card. But if they haven't seen the film, and they're just soliciting you, it's probably a red flag. But we met up with them. And the guy, the head of the company, they had a handful of cute films, like I watched all the trailers and it was like, okay, you know, it seems like this company really is looking to, they all sort of fit within this brand. And so it was like, okay, they seem like they know what they're doing. And the contract they offered us was amazing. Amazing. It was tell us the details. It was so we made the film for 150,000. And we crowdfunded a, you know, a majority of that. I would say that about almost 100 was crowdfunded. And the other 50 was the three of us. You know, owning up, ponying. Yeah. Which we didn't expect to do. And then it was like, Oh, shit, we spent too much money. Here's for me, here's from you, you know? And so, we they offered us 300,000 minimum guarantee, which was, you know, we only had to make, we only needed to make like, 60 grand, you know what I mean? So, right.

Alex Ferrari 27:38
So they gave you an mg $300,000 mg in 2019. I'm assuming around that time. Yeah. Because I'm trying to because the game changes so often. It depends on when you got that deal, if it makes sense in 2018, that we got the deal. Released in 2018. Still ridiculous. That's not a thing that happens. But go ahead.

Heather Turman 27:59
Yeah, yeah. And so because at that time, Netflix had stopped, you know, they there was a time that Netflix was giving out 500 grand for an indie film, but that went away, you know? Um, yeah. And so he, so that was in our contract. 300 grand minimum guarantee. And, um, and yeah, and they paid marketing. So they paid marketing costs that was in our contract. And obviously, that's the big thing, like we've done enough research to know that, that's how they get you is that they promise you all this stuff, and then you get the bill. And it's like, oh, they spent it all on marketing. So we get 12 cents, you know,

Alex Ferrari 28:33
what was that? What was the top on their marketing? What was it? Was there a limit on their marketing or not?

Heather Turman 28:38
There was not a limit, it said that. I know. I know. It's bad marketing. Yeah. But he said marketing was a team decision with the producer. So we were supposed to have a say in that as well. So you know, it's like, I mean, this deal sounds I mean, it's in theory,

Alex Ferrari 28:56
in theory, it sounds wonderful so far.

Heather Turman 28:59
Yeah. But yeah, we have not seen a dime. And every other film, that's what this company has, with the exception of maybe like one or two others has pulled their film from them. And you know, gone to court got their money back and this distributor is under investigation with the FBI for major fraud. A friend of mine came out of the woodwork. Oh, go ahead.

Alex Ferrari 29:22
No, no. off off. So they offered you 300 mg. So when you delivered the film, I'm assuming a part of the contract as soon as the film is delivered, some money is really it was

Heather Turman 29:32
after it was after quarter one from exhibition. So exhibition began, may have of 2019 and so once quarter one and he was like, oh, maybe you know might be but realistically, it'll probably be like, you'll get your first checks by the end of it'll be during the second quarter that you'll see. You know, was that money

Alex Ferrari 29:52
was that $300,000 supposed to be broken up over multiple quarters it was going to just won't be one foot one fat check.

Heather Turman 29:58
So that contract was for by 40 months, we would have that 300 grand. So

Alex Ferrari 30:05
spread out mg, it was a spread out over four down months. So you're talking about,

Heather Turman 30:11
okay, August 2022 is when it's up, but we haven't seen a diamond and it's clear we're never going to. So that's

Alex Ferrari 30:18
a pretty it's a pretty, I've heard of flat out people not paying m G's or distributors not paying em G's, but the way they've structured that deal was, you'll get a little bit of the whole 300,000 from now until four years along, which is generally how mg is work. I'm G's work like, you deliver the film, mg is you're here to check, maybe break it up over the first year, something like that. I mean, that Netflix does it over two years, if you can, if you get it, and now they're going to pay you until after the agreements over. So if they licensed it for two years, well, your first check starts at the end of let's because it's Netflix, so they're just, you know, flux they cancel. Yeah, exactly. Okay. And you said your friend came out of the woodwork.

Heather Turman 30:58
So yeah. And then a friend came out of the woodwork and said, Oh, are you we're I didn't know that you had worked with him. She was actually She's a friend of my wife. And she had hit her up and said, I didn't know that Heather was working with this, this, this guy? And she said, Yeah, he's the distributor for the movie. Why? You know, and she said, Well, 10 years ago, I, me and several actors came together to make an indie film. And we'd had about 150 grand that we'd all chipped in, like, you know, three grand five grand, they'd all paid for it. And a week before, and he came on as a producer, and a week before they went into production, the money was gone. And he ran away with it. And so and so then I started doing a ton of that's how that was the first red flag because that was right when the film was coming out. And so I'm calling my producing partners, and I'm like, red flag, red flag, red flag. And one of them thought, one, the distributor had fed one of them. He partnered with them on another project. And so he was basically sitting next to them feeding them all of this. bs about how it's a disgruntled filmmaker, that suing them. And that's probably must be what I'm talking about. And I'm like, that is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a different thing, like 10 years ago. And I'm, you know, maybe he has turned over a new leaf and is trying to make things right. But I think we need to talk about this and see what if we can get out of this. And I just, you know, my team didn't, didn't agree with me, essentially, at the time. And then later, it came out that that person was, I mean, I guess I can't even really say that part yet. But yeah, um, long story short, the Yeah. So now the distributor is supposedly still going to film festivals I've heard and still telling people that he wants to distribute their films, under this company, that's no longer in good standing. If you look it up, it like doesn't exist anymore.

Alex Ferrari 32:57
But he just opened up a new a new company if he wants to, and that's the whole thing again.

Heather Turman 33:01
Exactly. And that I had read about that I'd read about the bankruptcy, you know, plan where they were filing bankruptcy, and then going and buying all of their assets. And basically, you know, owning your film in perpetuity for nothing. And so when I read up on that, I was like, I think this is what he's doing. But he didn't end up filing bankruptcy. And it turns out that, because he's the only one on the company, and that kind of stuff, he still will end up being held liable. But at this point, it's like, we're kind of just we're gonna wait till the 40 month mark, when if we don't see that money, contractually, we'll get the movie back. But I mean, it's gonna be over four years old. So it's, you know, and we probably will still have to hire a lawyer and spend more money. So it's just something that like, if I can impart any sort of wisdom on any filmmaker who's going through this is just like, do your due diligence and everything that you preach about, about knowing your audience, finding your audience, and, you know, making people excited about the product before you release the product? Like you then can release your own product and you can really have a bankroll if you do things, right. If you crowdfund and you don't owe people money back. Why wouldn't you release it with a knot? give someone that power, you know, what, so?

Alex Ferrari 34:19
So right now, the movie is basically in limbo. You have no idea. It's it's, it's out. It's out there right now. It's out in the world. Yeah, it's around the world. But you haven't gotten a check yet. And it's been a long now, since you were supposed to catch up.

Heather Turman 34:31
I mean, so I mean, two years. We choose we are I know that he worked with an aggregate company. So he then of course, didn't even know how to get films up who was

Alex Ferrari 34:44
who do you work with tri coast, never heard of number 35. Right coast, really never heard. They're an aggregator.

Heather Turman 34:53
They are a distributor, but because he knew them and I didn't think he had the ability to get the films on the platforms. So he signed with them as an app aggregator for as an aggregate for all of his for his whole slate.

Alex Ferrari 35:05
That's another middleman. So that's another middleman that's taking a chunk out of your money.

Heather Turman 35:09
Exactly. Well, which, you know, we owe nothing to them that like, you know, their their contract wouldn't underwrite ours, it's just that thing of

Alex Ferrari 35:21
they'll take money out of his car, which will then take money out of your cut.

Heather Turman 35:25
Yeah, which we're not gonna see a cut Anyway, you know what I mean? Like, he's a criminal. That's really all there is to it. He's, you know, his I know, he had a court date for the FBI thing, like week or two ago, so he could be in jail for all I know, right now. But he, uh, go ahead.

Alex Ferrari 35:41
So where's your film available right now?

Heather Turman 35:44
It's, it's on Amazon. And last I it was on all of them. But tri coast recently dropped all of his films because of all the legal drama. So they ended up cutting ties with him. And so all of their So, you know, they got rid of all of his film. So I don't know if he's how capable he has been of getting it on somewhere else.

Alex Ferrari 36:06
Right now. So right now, it's only on Amazon.

Heather Turman 36:10
As far as I know. Yes. It was on Apple TV. It was on all it was on all these, but I think that it got pulled? And to be honest, I haven't checked it. But I definitely saw on Amazon. Somebody just watched it the other day and hit me up.

Alex Ferrari 36:21
So would you which cases obviously they're in breach of contract? Yeah, term breach of contract. If they're off of all the platforms, why don't you just take control of the film again,

Heather Turman 36:33
and just Oh, so I tried to do this. So I tried to do this. And I, again, you know, my, when you're partnering with people that, that you don't have an existing relationship with, like, I tried to go behind everyone's back and go to try and get the hard drives and do things that way. Like I was, I was trying to just be like, if you if you're a criminal, I'm gonna, I'm playing with a criminal here, I'm gonna go steal my movie back, you know, and, and I went there, and they'd already turned the drives over to him. So he has the hard drives. And he sent me a couple texts saying, like, you know, we are I hold like, I, we still hold the copyright. But the contract, of course, assigns the copyright to him. So where we've left it right now is one of my producing partners, spoke with him on the phone. And and basically, let him convince him that like, Oh, it's it's tri coast fault, I'm in a, I'm at odds with them, you know, and I'm just like, dude, you cannot, he is a criminal, we're never gonna see this money. And they're like, well, I don't want to pay for a lawyer. So let's just wait for the 14 month mark. So that's where we're at now. But it's been such a mess and such a nightmare. And I feel like I was not listened to this entire time by my producing team. Do you know what I mean? And so it's, it's, it becomes incredibly disheartening to and I think that that's the thing if, if you're going to go into if you're going to partner with other creatives on a project, make sure you're on the same page about distribution before you work together? You know?

Alex Ferrari 38:09
No, without question. I think distribution is I mean, I've talked about distribution and nauseum on this show. But I feel that it's just something that it nobody wants to talk about everyone, let's talk about the creative part, and the fun part. And hey, it's cool. And let's all talk about that. And we'll go to the premieres and walk red carpets, and Hahaha, and our egos will be stroked, and it'll be great. But when it gets to this point, everyone just has different views. And most, I'm gonna say 99% of filmmakers are completely ignorant of this process, speaking to 1000s of them, and connecting with 1000s of filmmakers on a daily, weekly basis. And what I hear all the time, most just don't know what even professionals are having issues in today's marketplace, let alone people who have no idea what's going on. Because there's there's a lot of like you're producing partners sound like they have the 9096 mentality. of them. Yeah,

Heather Turman 39:03
you know, Mm hmm. Yeah. And it's and it's changing. You know, it's a, it's an evolving world. And it's changed so drastically. And I agree with what I've heard you say on this podcast before, and that if you want to know what's gonna happen with film, watch what happened with music, and it's 100% true. And in some ways, it's good because we are at that place where everyone can make a film. But you also now you are competing with everyone. And so what you may cast to either you have to know your audience, inside and out, or you have to make something so good, you know, be that rare, amazing, universal story that that touches and reaches everybody. And not everybody is going to be able to write or create that that film. And so, you know, it's just it's changed so much and and it's so important to be aware of the options, and also to think like a business person and I think that's the thing because this As a creative field, so many people don't have like, I feel like I'm like, I'm split brains, like I was always good in math and science and good in English and the creative. So like, this stuff adds up for me, but like, a lot of the creatives that doesn't, and so they get taken advantage of I mean, even just the concept of agents, why agents exist, you know, because the creatives don't in general like that. They're their artists, you know, they're not thinking about the business side of things necessarily.

Alex Ferrari 40:27
Yeah. And I look, I think there are places for, I want to say agents, but managers have, eventually, one day I'll get an agent maybe who knows. But you need a you need some, especially when you add a certain level, you do need someone negotiating for you. As long as I'm not saying you don't, yeah, yeah, you definitely do that. Yes. But reps are great. Yeah, reps reps are fantastic. But it gets silly sometimes. And then then there's also those reps that just sit around doing nothing, you go out and get all the work, and then they take the 10% or 15%, or God forbid, 20 if you've done a really bad job.

Heather Turman 41:01
But at the end of the day, there is that second set of eyes, reviewing contracts and making the deals and a lot of times they make you more money. And so it's worth the money that you pay absolutely, absolutely

Alex Ferrari 41:14
no shade to agents or managers at all.

Heather Turman 41:17
I just the business aspect that like creatives need that some that business brain, you know, helping them along the way,

Alex Ferrari 41:24
you know, without without question, you know, I wish I wish I can tell you that this is a brand new story that I've never heard before. But you've listened to my show enough to know that this is not the case. I'm always fascinated by new techniques, new new scams, new ways to screw filmmakers. It's it just I don't know, I don't know, I guess I just come from a different cut from a different cloth because I just don't want to do that. To Life is too short. Like you're gonna, I don't know, this is my feeling. In 100 years, no one's gonna remember any of us anyway. Right? So you know, why don't you try to do some good while you're here, try to help some people try to express yourself be true to yourself. And that's basically what it is. Because, you know, if you just I don't know, it's not we're going down a whole other conversation. But it just upsets me that that filmmakers are treated this way. And it's, but you were saying something about music. That's what I was trying to get back to. With music. You're saying it's easy to make movies, it is super easy to make an album, like it is, it's so much easier to make an album there's so much more competition in music than there is in film, and watching what successful independent artists like Chance the Rapper, and Drake and these kind of guys who came up completely without an AC label, and did it all on themselves. That's inspiring. And we think we have a lot of competition where nothing compared to music. I mean, there's so everybody, and their mother thinks they can write a song or sing a song and put an album together and sell it. But that's where you need to focus on like what are they doing? What are the successful artists in that field doing that we can copy and you know and model in our world because oh God, and it's only getting tougher, so sorry, guys. No, this is that. I don't want to be that completely downer on this. But it's only it's only getting tougher. Like you just said Netflix isn't buying things like that anymore. And you know, many filmmakers I talk to everyday like, Oh, I just want to get enough that. No, you don't. You're never gonna get on. You know, do you have Jason Statham on? Okay. Yeah, you'll get good. Yeah. Bruce Willis, maybe? You know, yeah. It's it's genre. It's genre based. Big Star vehicle films is the only thing that they're by outside of their originals.

Heather Turman 43:43
Yeah, no, it's, it's true. And I do feel certain, you know, independent artists that are finding, it's almost like, like, when you especially when you look at someone like Jim Cummings, right after winning Sundance that didn't get him. You know, hollywood didn't come calling. Then he crowdfunded the feature that even that didn't get Hollywood coming. Finally, after crowdfunding, you know, this third now, you know, he's with CIA and taken seriously, and they're like, Okay, this guy's legit. But like, nowadays, it's like, you have to do it, you should just take one film, and I just feel like now it's cultivating a like a voice and, and brand through your work. That's, you know, it's like when you were talking about what the music what the musical artists do. For me, it's, they are really good at, at doing them like they know themselves inside and out. And they they have, they are a personality, and their their music fits within that personality. Like I feel like filmmakers have to do that same thing. You know where this these films are representative of my voice. Those films are representative of their voice and build that brand and then you can sort of step outside A little bit and and not just always, you know, then you don't have to always like when you're first getting started, yeah, make the vegan chef movie, you know what I mean? Like, and then find your audience. But then like, it's really funny and people start taking you seriously, like, start being like, that was a funny movie, I never, you know, I caught it because I was dating a vegan were over. But that was a great, great comedy, then maybe they'll tune into your next comedy, you know. And so eventually you can build out a brand and a voice,

Alex Ferrari 45:28
I think, I think you have a much better chance as a niche filmmaker doing niche stuff than you do if you're trying to do like a broad, broad spectrum stuff. Because everybody we talked about, look, there's probably arguably no better filmmaker who has a direct connection to their audience than Kevin Smith, Kevin Smith has cultivated over the last 2025 years. 30, almost 30 years, an amazing relationship with his audience. He understands who he is, he understands the kind of films he makes. And he talks directly to the audience. The thing that a lot of people don't understand is that he had studio backing to get his voice and his brand out there. So did Spike Lee. So to Robert Rodriguez. So to Quentin Tarantino, all of these guys have a big, have a big money behind them to launch this, they might not have it now, like Kevin Smith doesn't do studio movies anymore, really, he does mostly. But his brand is been established out there so much because of the studio system, that that they ride that way, it's the same with actors, you know, actors have one or two big movies, and then they'll ride that for a career, you know, don't really, you know, don't I'm not gonna say name specifically. But there's actors who were in the 80s and 90s, in big, blockbuster films, but then their career kind of petered off. And then now they're, they're working actors, but they're still off, they're still, they're still being paid off of that recognizability off of the big studio pushes. And for an independent, I think the only way you can get noticed is in a niche market. And then hopefully, and then hopefully grow from there. But be happy to stay in that lane at the beginning, and then maybe venture out but if you can, I always tell people, and you've heard this, if you could just make a living doing what you love to do. If you could just do this, Mike,

Heather Turman 47:20
you won. You won. Pick up one and don't know Yeah, I was gonna say yeah, you want like, this is it. And I think that like that's the thing with you know, because of the stories like Robert Rodriguez and you know, Richard Linklater, and everybody that you hear that had that beginning, you assume that that's going to happen for you. And so you have a having an attachment to the outcome of your film is the worst thing that you can do. Just make it because you love it, and share it with the world. And if it makes people happy, then that will make you feel good. And that's it.

Alex Ferrari 47:52
Enjoy the process. Because the end, the end goal is quick. If you're there for the awards, if you're there for the screening for the applause. That's very short amount of time in the whole time, the entire process of what you're making every day in, day out. If you don't love what you're doing. It's it's that's why so many filmmakers are so sad. Like they wouldn't ask you to like now what? Yeah, I mean, I don't have these problems. But many other people have had these problems where there's like, they win the Oscar, they win the award, they they make a hit, and then they're like, Oh, god, this is all I've been focused on my time. I don't know what to do now. Yes, I hope we have this problem. Great. I mean, I got I made 100 million now what do I do? Like I hope I have these problems. But But and I think you've seen it in the films that I've made. I just enjoyed the process. And I had no attachment to outcome. None.

Heather Turman 48:43
Yeah, no. And that's why I think I was so inspired by it. I had, you know, stumbled on the podcast stumbled on your book, and everything you were talking about in the book. I was like, well, which by the way, this was very funny, because when we were doing when we were looking for distributors, I my wife had done us a small film called girl flu. And they were with glass house, I believe is what it was called. And I was looking through their Rolodex of films at the time their slate. It was that who it was, and I saw handled.

Alex Ferrari 49:15
This is Meg. Yeah, they did international distribution for me.

Heather Turman 49:18
Yeah, so I saw this the trailer for this is Meg. And I watched it way before I heard your podcast way before I, you know, read your book. And so then as I'm reading this book that is speaking to me, and I'm like, this is exactly what I was trying to say, when we were building stuff out is I was like, let's really target like, you know, it was just that thing that I had had these instincts but didn't execute and didn't, wasn't taken seriously by my partners. And so when I was reading it, and you said like, Oh, my first film this is mad. I'm like, that's so funny. And that made me then go watch it because I was like, well, this feels a little bit Kismet because I had stumbled on an indie trailer. I mean, who does that you know? And then it turned out to be yours and and I loved it and coming from the comedy community, you know, Sean Paul offski. And oh, I didn't know. Yeah, just Jill. Yeah, I didn't I don't know her, but a friend of mine know her. And so I really enjoyed it. And it both of your films feel like the same director though. You know what I mean? Like, I guess you all have, yeah, I guess you have a style and a voice.

Alex Ferrari 50:24
Yeah, there's an energy, there's an energy behind it. But then if you watch my earlier films, they have absolutely no, like, it's completely different energy than their action and, and, you know, thrillers and things like that. But it's, you know, look, if the Coen Brothers can make raising Arizona, and blood simple. You know, everything can happen then. And we're humans and we evolve. Absolutely. in your life. Yeah. Look at Spielberg. I mean, he hasn't made a really big popcorn a movie in a while. He's a very serious filmmaker now. And they're great. And I love all his movies now, too. I do miss him going back to that. But I think he's, he's like, I've done that. I'm good. I don't need to make et anymore. I'm not I'm not the filmmaker. Yeah, I'm not that filmmaker anymore. Now I have to ask you, what is the right? I know, right? What is filming films like that? I know, what is the biggest lesson you've learned from making this film?

Heather Turman 51:19
One is the thing that I'd say two, I would say. First and foremost is the thing I mentioned about not having an attachment to outcome, because I feel like emotionally, it was such an incredible grief. And as a result of him sort of coinciding with that is the is compromising man. Like, if we're gonna go through the effort, and I think this is what I really learned is that I mean, I have started directing, I've dabbled in some shorts that would cost no money, they were just experiments. But I, I definitely want to direct for sure now, because when you go through the effort of, you know, building a world that you write on, on the page, and then go through the efforts and all the hours and labor that's involved in producing a film, especially when you're the type of producer that's knocking on doors and, and you know, when we can't find patrol cars, I'm going on Craigslist and seeing who's selling, you know, a black crown. Vic, can I pay you to not sell that just yet? And you borrow it for my film? When I hit up an ambulance and say, Can you guys come by for like an hour, I mean, all kinds of different, you know, stuff that I was willing to do when you do that kind of groundwork and you don't have final creative say, it's like, you know, it's a big heartbreak and, and especially if you know, you're just don't compromise that much. Just make sure that you really stick to your guns and you know, the product you want to make, so that you are not bullied or, you know, pushed out a little bit or just, yeah, I mean, compromising with with artists is not is not cool. Don't do it. Unless it's like a small thing.

Alex Ferrari 53:04
It's it's a tough the making film is probably one of the toughest artistic endeavors ever created. Because there's so many different, it has all the arts in it, all of it, it's all wrapped into one thing. And then also you can't do it alone. You need to compromise with others you need. Anytime you have other words, collaborate, you do collaborate, but as any director at any level will tell you, I don't care if it's a $200 million budget, or if it's a $50,000. Budget, you gotta compromise. Yeah,

Heather Turman 53:34
but if you are the and what, but what I'm saying there is that knowing, knowing what to compromise on, do you know what I mean? Is is and so that's what I mean, really know the product you want to put out, so that when those times come, it's like, yeah, I can bend on that that's not important. I think, you know, there's that thing Quentin Tarantino, something about music, like he was not willing, he needed the money to pay for the song because he knew that that for sure was going to really make the scene. And so it's the thing of and make the film and, and so knowing those things, and not bending on on what you know, is going to make the film and what you know that the film really is. But yes, of course, you have to compromise because you are, like you said, it's a collaborative environment. It's so many different moving parts. And so of course, that's going to happen, but yeah, I just mean like the meat like you can't compromise the meat, it becomes a different movie.

Alex Ferrari 54:27
No, no question. There was one. There's a funny story I heard years ago about Michael Bay on his first film, which was bad boys. And there was a shot he wanted and if any bad boys fans out there will know this shot towards the end when there there's a shootout in the airport. This guy explodes out of an airplane and crashes into something and it was like a big event and they and Michael really wanted it and and at that time, Michael was completely disrespected. He's a commercial director that like at whatever. They didn't really respect them and he's like, I need the shot. I need the shot. I want the shot. And it's like, no. And though he's like, how much will it cost to do the shot, he's like, it's gonna cost you 50 grand into the shot. And we'll come in an hour too early and set it up tomorrow, if you want to do it, and he goes, I'll pay for it. The next day before the take, he took the check, and placed it in front of dailies in front of the lens and recorded it. So everybody knew that he was paying for the shot, but he got a shot. And you got to regardless if you'd like Michael Bay movies or not, you got to respect that. You got to respect it.

Heather Turman 55:28
100% Yeah, yeah, I, I ended up having to sell my car to pay off the crew. And I remember, at the time, it was so simple. I know. And so that's why the distribution things even worse, but it's like, so I had done that. And the crew, though, knowing that I was doing that. He had said the kind of things to me and just, I know that I'll always be able to work with them again, you know, because of that. And so, you know, you definitely have to make those sacrifices when needed.

Alex Ferrari 55:57
Yeah, exactly. And hopefully you don't have to sell your car. Hopefully, hopefully, you don't have to sell your car. Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to trying to break into the business today.

Heather Turman 56:11
Just make make make, start small, tell small stories, learn how to how to direct actors in a in a, you know, in a one room story and get bigger from there. And just learn that that's it. Get started and learn and start. Start small. So you don't overdo it. You know, like I said, I wanted to do a $50,000 movie. I'm happy with the movie. It's a rockin little indie. But um, you know, it was much bigger than I intended it to be or get and, you know, it put me financially in a hole for about two years. And so don't go too big too soon, you know? Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 56:46
I agree with you. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Heather Turman 56:50
Oh, man. I'm gonna get laughed at about this. But the Brady Bunch movie is one of my

Alex Ferrari 56:58
favorite first first time after 600 and some episodes of all my podcasts. Brady Bunch never ever one. Everyone should have you ever seen it? Of course I have of love that are so it's so

Heather Turman 57:08
it's great. It's fun. It's great. And just it's brilliant directing because it's you know, the Brady actors are in a whole different world than the rest of the cast. You know, it's it's brilliant. And it's so funny. So I love the Brady Bunch movie is one of my favorite films. And recently and growing up. Oh, man, everything Charlie Kaufman ever did.

Alex Ferrari 57:29
That station? I mean, yeah, yeah.

Heather Turman 57:33
Yeah. Eternal Sunshine. And, and lastly, I'd have to say and then just recently, I think I love booksmart. It was my favorite one of my favorite films in the last decade. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 57:43
Very, very fun. And then where can people watch stuck? Even though you won't be getting paid off of it yet? But where can?

Heather Turman 57:53
Yeah, we watch it because I want people to see you know what? My wife gave a killer performance. And I've seen people say that where they're like, wow, Heather matarazzo This is her first adult lead since Welcome to the dollhouse like she Yeah, what, uh, yeah, you know, and, and she killed it. And she did such a great job. So I want people to see it for her. And so it's on Amazon, and I believe, do a Google search because I haven't done one in a minute. And I'm sure you can find it on other platforms. But it's out there. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 58:23
it's on Amazon. And hopefully, one day we'll, we'll get some money for it. Yeah. I'm gonna

Heather Turman 58:30
write a book about the experience. I'll make my money back there.

Alex Ferrari 58:33
There. That's the film shoprunner method. Fantastic. I love it. Thank you so much for being on the show. I pray and thank you for being so raw and honest and and transparent about your experience in your journey. Hopefully, this will help some filmmakers out there listening. So thank you again, so much.

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IFH 493: The Art & Craft of the Romantic Comedy with Charles Shyer


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We have on today, one of the best rom-com and comedy writers and filmmakers of all time. I’ve been a fan of many of his films growing up, specifically, Father of The Bride. Now that I have two daughters of my own, it is fondly scary to rewatch it.

Charles Shyer is an award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer whose work includes some of the best fuzzy-feel good films of all time. 

He is the director and writer of the 1991 comedy film, Father of the Bride starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams (in her film debut), etc. Martin, a businessman, and owner of an athletic shoe company finds out his daughter is getting married, he finds himself reluctant to let go and goes on a spiral. The film grossed $129 million and has had two sequels of it made in 1995 and 2020.

He wrote and co-produced one of the most pivotal films in Lindsey Lohan’s career, The Parent Trap (1998). It captured the story of identical twins Annie and Hallie (played by Lohan), separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, later discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together.

People fell in love with the movie and Lohan’s exceptional performance, leading to an instant box-office success with a $92.1 million gross. 

There are but few writers who are able to master the craft of romantic comedy, and Charles Shyer is one. His films include Private Benjamin (1980), Irreconcilable Differences (1984), Baby Boom (1987), the Father of the Bride sequels, The Affair of the Necklace (2001), etc.

Shyer directed Baby Boom and co-wrote it with his long-time writing partner, Nancy Meyers in 1987. It stars Diane Keaton who discovers that a long-lost cousin has died, leaving her a fourteen-month-old baby girl as an inheritance. Like most of his films, this too was a box office success. 

All this happened after he made the switch at the start of his career in the industry, from pursuing directing to writing and landing a gig on the 1970 TV series, The Odd Couple. Where Shyer eventually worked his way up to head writer and associate producer, writing about twenty-four episodes of the show. 

In our conversation, Shyer tackled the making of some of his well-known films and the changing writing culture in Hollywood. It’s always a good fun day at the office when I can chat up with folks like Charles. 

Enjoy my chat with Charles Shyer.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
I like to welcome to the show, Charles Shyer. How you doing, Charles?

Charles Shyer 0:13
I'm okay, man. Thanks.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
Thank you so much for being on the show. I really, really appreciate it. I've, I've been a fan of of many of your films growing up for a long time, and specifically one that I refuse to go back to watch because I have daughters now is Father of the Bride. Because I have two daughters. I'm like, when am I going to actually have the courage to watch that movie? Because I remember it so fondly, like, but now it's a whole other conversation.

Charles Shyer 0:40
Right? Right. It's Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 0:43
It's brutal. It's a brutal conversation when your father and I don't want to go there yet.

Charles Shyer 0:48
When your father would daughter. Yeah, it's it rings, it rings. pretty true.

Alex Ferrari 0:53
Yeah, exactly. And, and one of my daughters, that happens to be a tomboy, and all that kind of stuff. So it's kind of like, Oh, so um, so before we get started, how did you? How did you start in the business?

Charles Shyer 1:06
Well, I, you know, basically, you know, my dad was in the movie business. So I kind of came up through through the ranks a little bit, you know, I, I used to go onto the set with him when I was a kid all the time. Like, probably from the time I was seven years old. Through my teenage years, I, I go on the sets, when because, in those days, they worked always six day weeks, my when my dad was making movies, and so I'd go on the set, and then, you know, I, I, it was kind of a natural, you know, he'd been in, you know, a dry cleaner, I probably would have gone into the dry cleaning business, you know, but, uh, you know, I went into the movie business and, and, you know, I was lucky enough to get into the, to the DGA training program, I was one of the first people to get into that. And it was kind of it was just starting out then. So it wasn't really well formed. But I did get I did get some experience. And then I was lucky enough to become a second assistant director. And from there, I went to work for Gary Marshall and Jerry Belson. And that kind of sprung me into a whole trajectory of, of writing, and I was their assistant, you know, right, I was pretty Marshall's assistant on the show called Hey, landlord, and basically you I was like, 22 years old, probably. But my job was basically, you know, do their Christmas shopping, get their cars, cars washed, you know, by implied cycles, and shit like that. And then for that trade off, I got to sit in on story meetings and stuff like that, and they welcome me to do that. And they were very, very, they're very open about all that. And, and, you know, then, you know, once in a while I give them, you know, I popped in with my shitty idea. And, and they would, they would, they were so nice about it, they'd say, That's good. That's good, you know, keep thinking. And then Gary finally said to me, you know, why don't you try to be a writer. And he introduced me to another writer and started to he actually became my manager, Gary Dell. And, and he kind of guided me, you know, through, you know, a bunch of stuff. And eventually, I became like, the, the head writer on the odd couple, the prayer, you know, and, and, and that kind of sprung me into, you know, other stuff.

Alex Ferrari 3:34
Like God, the odd couple, like I used to watch that show all the time growing up, and he also worked on happy days, I think one episode. I did.

Charles Shyer 3:41
I did a couple of happy days. A couple of Marjorie's families, you know, I mean, I, yeah, I wrote a couple of odd couples, I wrote, like, there was a TV show called barefoot in the park back then. And, you know, I bounced around in TV. I didn't really like TV in those days. It wasn't like it is today. It was kind of like an orphan, to movies, and I wanted to work in movies. So

Alex Ferrari 4:05
I remember I remember that. I mean, you never if you were TV, if you were a film actor, you would never in a million years to a television, I would be like, Oh, you're over your career is over. So you're obviously retiring to television? Where now? Yeah,

Charles Shyer 4:17
it's the opposite. Yeah, it was definitely not the cool thing to do. So you know, and people would say, Oh, he's a television writer.

Alex Ferrari 4:25
Oh, yeah. They have to put you in the box. They have to put you in a box. There's no way you could, if you wrote Happy Days, there's no way you could write anything else but Right, right. Right. How did you how did you break out of it? Because I know that a lot of a lot of writers coming up today have that same problem. I mean, hollywood still loves to put people in boxes. I mean, you're right. You're the horror guy. You're the common romantic comedy guy. You're the action guy, and you can jump back and forth. How did you break out?

Charles Shyer 4:49
I you know, I wrote a script. We wrote a script based on a book called cut and run about a young black guy who, who inherits by mistake has sent front row seats through Lakers, he had applied for, for tickets, and he got the wrong ones and he got front row seats. And he used those tickets, it was a really good idea actually, to kind of manipulate, manipulate his way into, you know, all kinds of things and became like, he used those tickets as his as his ticket. And anyway, now, it was a kind of a good script. And we, my agent sent it to Universal somehow got got got wind of it, and read it. And then they offered us smoking the bandit for rewrite. And, you know, it was, you know, I'm a guy from Studio City, you know, I never heard of an 18 Wheeler, radio. I mean, I didn't know what that was. But, you know, it was a chance Burt Reynolds was a big movie star.

Alex Ferrari 5:56
He was

Charles Shyer 5:57
huge, huge, huge, huge, huge. So, we said yes, and, and we did it, and, and I didn't work on it that long. Actually, I worked on it for probably two and a half weeks, but was day and night. You know, yeah, we're on it. And I kind of I didn't learn about CB radios. I didn't. Really I didn't. I always loved country music so and, you know, meeting with Bert was kind of cool and mad.

Alex Ferrari 6:24
And that's and that's Bert at like, for people that listening even understand that people like know, Burt Reynolds and stuff like that. But for him, there was a five or six year period, that there was no bigger movie star in the world. He was the Tom Cruise of his day, the Brad Pitt of his day, there was just nobody, even close to him. And smokey was one of those reasons. I mean, smokey was a massive hit. Man, I mean, massive blockbuster hit for it was

Charles Shyer 6:48
the number two movie of the year after Star Wars. So I mean, it was Yeah, and what's weird is, you know, I mean, I always say this, but you know, those my first movie credits so they paid us I think we got paid. I think maybe $15,000 for the two of us. So if 70 $500 each, you know for this movie that made $300 million. The gap the craft service guy made more money on the movie than I did. It's it's really weird.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
But and welcome to Hollywood I guess at that point. Yeah, I

Charles Shyer 7:24
mean, well, yeah, it's it's that the accuracy I you know, the joke about the Polish actress who comes to Hollywood and sleeps with the screenwriter. It's Yeah, you're really treated pretty much like shit, but they were they were you know, and how Needham who was like the only it was the only DGA member, I'm sure at that time who was packing heat. He carried a gun director with a gun in his in his waist. But he was a good guy. And he, you know, he was like a real shit kicker and would say things, you know, you write it all, I'll film it. And he was a courageous guy do anything. And that's why the movie you know, they had those way out stunts.

Alex Ferrari 8:11
Yeah. So I was gonna ask you how many of those stunts were in the script? Or was that all kind of just worked on on set? No, no.

Charles Shyer 8:17
I mean, I think like that. Some of those you know, when the top of the when the top of it I haven't seen the movie a long time, but the top of the car goes under?

Alex Ferrari 8:25
Yeah, Jackie Gleason said Jackie Gleason score. Yeah,

Charles Shyer 8:28
yeah, we came. We came up with that. I when I first saw the movie, like, you know, back in the day, I was gone. I I thought it was really bad. I thought, Oh, my God, I can't believe it. But then they then I guess after birth died, they did a 40th anniversary or something of the movie. And I took my kids. One of them who's sitting with me right now. I took my kids to go see it in a movie theater. And I realized that it it I saw I saw it a hold up from what a different way and it really works. You know, Jackie Gleason was great. Jerry Reed was great. Sally had a great, great chemistry. The music was great. And how did a good job man Gleason was just fucking hysterical. He'll, you know, I mean, just brilliant. So yeah, it worked. The movie worked.

Alex Ferrari 9:18
So that so after that, obviously your your name gets now you're you're a writer on a big big Hollywood hit. So then you collaborate with jack nicholson directing project and he's an actor in it. What was it like collaborating with him on that level? Not just as a you because you were a writer on that project. But how did you How is jack nicholson as a director?

Charles Shyer 9:46
He, he I think jack in those days was was off balance about comedy. You know, I mean, I remember seeing any, because we I had right we went down to Durango, Mexico and that's where pursuit. And so I would during the day, my partner and I would go to Jack's house, you know, because he had housekeepers and all that shit. And we would write there because it was so much nicer than what but but he, he studied comedy. He was very open, you know, to suggestions and stuff at that time and maybe always is like the coolest guy you've ever met. He just is me just, you know, with his shades and smoking dope and being cool. And and

Alex Ferrari 10:37
is that before is this pre is this pre or post? This is post Easy Rider, right?

Charles Shyer 10:41
Yes, post this right. Okay, buddy, but he was a big, a huge movie star and he was about to go do

Alex Ferrari 10:47
shine.

Charles Shyer 10:48
Yeah. So. So he talked to Stan Stanley Cooper kind of phone. I remember him, you know, he call him Stan the man. Yeah. You know, I had nicknames for everybody. But it was fun. And the thing about jack is that I think the challenge was in many ways he could he could keep going. Even more, we're shooting till two, three in the morning, pitching and stuff, you know, and we were younger than him. And but it was very hard to drop, jack, you know, we would start to fade, you know, if your eyes start to roll back in your head at a certain point. And he keep going, No, no, come on. Let's keep going. Let's keep going. And so you couldn't, he just had energy that I you know, I couldn't even imagine having. But he was a cool guy. And a good guy. I really liked him a lot.

Alex Ferrari 11:43
And, and then I remember a movie that you wrote that I remember was almost became part of the Zeitgeist at the time was private Benjamin. And that came out was at I think it was 1980. And I was I was very young at the time, but I remember seeing it. I remember my parents talking about it. And I just remember being Was it the first time there was a comedy placed in boot camp? Is that or was it just the twist of of a woman with with Goldie Hawn?

Charles Shyer 12:13
I think it was the twistable I think there was there was ID Martin and Jerry Lewis

Alex Ferrari 12:19
Gomer pile obviously

Charles Shyer 12:21
did a service comedy, but you know, and stripes came out after us. But um, yeah, I think it was the twist was this Jewish American princess who ended up in the army. And, and Goldie was, was perfect for that part. You know, I mean, she really knew how to play it. And, you know, her mom was Jewish, so she got it. You know, and writing it with Nancy, who's, who was the Jewish girl from Philadelphia. It just all came together for us.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
Now, how do you approach working? Because you're gonna you've written a lot of stuff with with Nancy, how do you approach having a writing partner? As opposed to writing by yourself?

Charles Shyer 13:05
Well, um, you know, yeah. For me and Nancy, we, everybody I've written I, you know, I've written with with Nancy, I wrote with Alan Mandel. And I wrote with Elaine Pope, and I'm, I just wrote a couple scripts with my friend, Rebecca Connor. What, what, what you have to have is the same sensibility. And that's, that's tricky. Because Nancy, and I just, you know, we just laughed at the same things. We love the same movies, we kind of educate each other on the movies that will that each of us loved. And Nancy really made me laugh. I think she wrote the best one liners of anybody I know, except Neil Simon. I mean, she was up there with the, with really running great lines. And, and we were just always in sync when, you know, as we, as filmmakers, had this thing, that if, if we're doing something and one of us, doesn't like if we were doing a scene, and one of us didn't agree with it, we would always try it another way. We would never say nobody dictated what we're going to do what we'll find a compromise or both of us. If one of us doesn't like it, we'll find another way to do it. You know, and that was kind of we It was kind of almost unspoken. We just were in sync, Nancy and I were very much in sync when we're making our movies. We hardly ever disagree that you really, really laugh.

Alex Ferrari 14:34
Now when you were working on with a fresh faced Whoopi Goldberg on jumping jack flash. It was one that wasn't your first was that your first directorial feature? I didn't directed penny. That's right, which was your first directorial my first director or tutorial was irreconcilable differences. That's right. Yes. with Ruth drew and Shelley long. What was it like jumping onto that set like Yeah, as a director, because you've been around so many

Charles Shyer 15:03
obviously, that was the thing, that for me, being on a set was really I knew, you know, when I was 10 years old, I knew what a key grip did. You know? I mean, I, I knew it. Oh, you know, so I was never that was one of the things people you say you're nervous about directing first movie, I, I really wasn't that nervous, because I knew I knew the menus. So well, I just was so comfortable on a set. I grew up on movie sets. So and, and Nancy and I had written the script. So that's the other thing when you've written a script, you, you're not, the actors can't ask you a question that you don't know the answer to, you know, and, and so for me, that was great, very emboldened, and also, Ryan, O'Neal was fantastic to work with whatever his reputation was in the world. He was just totally great. And totally there for us. And Shelley was brilliant and, and Sharon Stone, who we discovered in that movie, it was all it was very, it was very harmonious. And we just all really got along. And it was a really cool experience. And we saw the movie, American cinema take did a screening about a year ago. And Nancy and I went, we were both kind of nervous about seeing it again. But I thought it really held up. And it was pretty inventive. I liked it. I thought it was a cool movie.

Alex Ferrari 16:34
Now, when you were when you're on set, I mean, every once in a while, I know all directors have to deal with this at one point or another where you have the especially when you're the young director, that you know the first time director, you'll have the seasoned dp or the seasoned production designer or seasoned script soup, you know, script the, who starts, you know, busting your chops a bit or, you know, starts testing you. How do you approach that I'm assuming you've had that happen to you in your life at one point or another onset?

Charles Shyer 17:03
Well, you know, what it is, it's, it's, um, for me, when I realized that that was going to happen, you know, and, you know, I, you know, what I never wanted to do was, when I realized after the first time, I blocked the scene, you know, you have these guys in with the turquoise belts standing there watching you saying he doesn't know what he's doing, you know, and I said, I'm not doing this yet. So I, I realized early on, clear the set, just me the DP, the script supervisor in the first assistant director, and the actors, and Nancy, Nancy was there, and I blocked it that way. So nobody's watching, I don't have to worry about it. You know, and I, and the actors, then we bring everybody in, so and I and on irreconcilable, Billy Fraker was the was the DP, who, you know, who was kind of a brilliant, and a great guy, you know, and was there for us and, and had a had worked, you know, with Warren Beatty, when he first directed to heaven can wait. So he was very good with first time directors. And he was just so kind to us. And, and, and just really knew what he was doing. He was a cool guy. So that helped a lot. And he and he really did a beautiful job, you know?

Alex Ferrari 18:20
Because that's how you handle this. So you've cleared the set, did everything and then and then brought everybody in? Yeah, because

Charles Shyer 18:26
guys, you're shaking your head, like, yeah, like you could fucking do it better. Dude, come on.

Alex Ferrari 18:34
It's always that way that I read. I was, you know, when you I mean, I'm assuming, I don't know if it happens to Steven Spielberg. But I'm assuming somebody out there has gone. I could have done that better. Like, right.

Charles Shyer 18:44
This is what what he's doing. And I, you know what? I don't I don't know what I'm doing. I'm trying to figure it out. You know, but you know what it is? It's like if you're, if you're writing a script, and somebody's looking over your shoulder while you're writing, you know, what the fuck, you know, you can't you know, like, give me a break. And that's why Martin Scorsese has a rear view mirror, you know, on his monitor when he's shooting, so he can see if people come up behind him. Oh, I

Alex Ferrari 19:10
didn't know that. Really?

Charles Shyer 19:11
Yeah. Yeah, I could. And I'll never let what I have, I always make the producers have their own monitor. So I'll be there sitting with the script supervisor. And my favorite dp operates himself. So he can come over and look at the playback that we want. But I don't ever have anybody around me. I mean, I'll have my son or my daughter or something like, No, you know, nobody who's going to shake their head.

Alex Ferrari 19:37
Do you ever let the Do you ever let the actor watch.

Charles Shyer 19:39
Yeah, sure. I would, you know, this last movie I did. I was so lucky, because it was a very difficult shoot. But I had the nicest actors ever that I've ever worked with. Yeah, I mean, Justin Hartley was that as as nice as, as anybody and cooperative as anybody I've ever worked with. So That was really cool. helped me through it.

Alex Ferrari 20:02
Now how do you balance, confidence on set with when you are just like, Hey, man, I just don't know what we're gonna do here, let's figure it out. Because there's, it takes a strong, strong, deep, strong director who's very comfortable in their own skin to just say out loud, guys, I really don't know what we're gonna do here. I'm open to ideas, let's let's figure this out together. That doesn't happen often, especially early on in your career, unless you're very comfortable with yourself, how do you approach that confidence and also just confidence of not knowing what, because we all don't know the answers at all times as a director?

Charles Shyer 20:35
Well, I, first of all i storyboard, I'm not cocky enough to just go in and wing it. So I just want everything. You know, I storyboard everything. I don't storyboard, I map it, you know, so I know where, in other words, I have a dinner scene. I all know, before the actors get there, where everybody seated, you know, I'll diagram it and stuff. So I don't think you have to. You have to instill in the actors confidence in you, you know, and like, what I didn't realize, like, on this last movie, I did. I've done so many movies now that they assume a certain that I know, more than I know. But so I, you know, which is kind of comfort, which is nice, actually, because it kind of will just follow whatever you want to do. And, you know, a certain times as I know, you know, I'll change things in the middle. This isn't working. And, you know, I think if you're honest, you know, they'll, they'll understand unless they're jerks, and I guess, you know, I've worked with some actors who are really been really not nice. And it makes you uptight, you know, you don't want to you don't want to freeze up, but I don't know, it's, it's, it's a challenge.

Alex Ferrari 21:53
It's a challenge, to say the least. But I have to ask you, I was asking you earlier when you worked with will be on jumping jack flash. Did you work with him? Did you work with me at all work? like writing that or anything? we rewrote the script.

Charles Shyer 22:05
And when we got the script, it was actually a drama. Oh, God. It's a little different company. And then, and then, for some reason, I don't know Nancy, and I were kind of arrogant. In those days. We didn't want to put our name or our names aren't on our Didn't we use pseudo names? You did

Alex Ferrari 22:23
you? Did you pseudo names? Yeah. But it's on your IMDb but if you did use a pseudo

Charles Shyer 22:26
name, which was so ridiculous. But, you know, I don't even know I know that. That that the first director who did it was Howard ZIF, was on it with directed private Benjamin and directed another movie I did called housecalls, with Walter Matthau, and Glenda Jackson, but Howard, and would be somehow didn't get on. And Howard got fired. And then Penny Marshall came on. And, and did it and I don't, to be honest with you. I don't think I've ever seen the movie.

Alex Ferrari 23:07
Fair enough. Fair enough.

Charles Shyer 23:09
I don't think I have, if I have I have no recollection of it. You know, I but I know what I was. You know, I've talked to her a few times about it. And she was very sweet about the rear. We did a really good rewrite on the script. But we did make it funny. I just don't know if it was a very good movie cuz I never saw it.

Alex Ferrari 23:32
Right. But it did. Okay. at the box office did okay. It did. Okay. And she actually she ended up doing a write in her career. Not too bad. Not too bad. Now, what is your approach? With directing actors? How do you pull that those performances out? Especially comedy, which is so difficult? I mean, obviously, casting is a very big part of that. But how do you kind of, you know, corral or pull those, those performances out?

Charles Shyer 23:58
castings kind of can't be overstated how important casting is but you know, I, I mean, like, you can, it's, it's different with every actor, like was Steve Martin and Diane Keaton, Nancy and I would actually and they like this, Nancy, and I would actually go into the set and, and work out the scene ourselves. And then we would act it out for them. Literally,

Alex Ferrari 24:29
you know, so it's a step away from a line reading. Yeah,

Charles Shyer 24:32
it's a step closer than a line. I would I would do the block. And I remember we did it several times. And Diane and Steve loved it. They loved that. Oh, great. Okay, I know exactly. Yeah, well, you did, they'd make it 1000 times better. But um, so we would do that a lot. And then, um, you know, I I I will give line readings are all keep going till I know I have something that I can use, you know, it's not like Broadway, you're not coming back tomorrow night you better get it now. Now oftentimes I'll think, Oh, I can loop this reading or this intuition, you know this the way they're saying something, but um, you know, it's, um, you know, when somebody is not funny or they don't have rhythm. You're kind of up against that man. You know, you've miscast?

Alex Ferrari 25:29
Yeah. And I think and people listening, comedy is all about timing. It's all about the beats. And it's literally fractions of a second that something's funny. And something's not it's frames. It's six frame. It's, yeah, it really comes down to that. I mean, I've been an editor for most of my career, and I've got comedies and I've caught with some very accomplished comedians, who were like, Nope, that's, that beats off on the beat. And it's all about that timing. And you I'm assuming you because you've done so many comedies in your career, you can kind of sense those beats on set when you're directing. Yeah,

Charles Shyer 26:04
you know, I it's a weird thing, because I don't think I don't believe that it's something you can learn. You know, my dad was funny. And I think you kind of inherited, you know, my daughter Halle, Nancy, and my, you know, is a is a accomplished now writer, director. But, uh, you know, I mean, you grow up with a certain kind of humor, and you're, I don't know, maybe not everybody, but for me, that was real helpful. And then I always loved comedies. Like, you know, I liked comedies and I like westerns. I, you know, like, movies that took place in outer space. I, you know, I wasn't interested in you know, I just didn't dig at all you know, and still don't, but Billy Wilder movies, I always thought of Preston Sturges. Oh, you know, are those guys I mean, those were the movies I really loved, you know, where are, you know, like, 20th century, you know, like Carole Lombard. I mean, you know, but that was the thing, though, back in those days. Then actresses like Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, people who could just knock it out of the park these women, but you don't really have them anymore like that. I don't know why. You know,

Alex Ferrari 27:13
it's not Yeah, I know exactly. What you mean.

Charles Shyer 27:15
You didn't have to get them line readings. Dude. Really? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 27:19
They just they were just masters. It's like, yeah, they're just mad. It's like walking on a Hitchcock set in his prior. He's just like, you know, he doesn't even look at what are the rumors? He never looked at the at the camera. Yeah, well, yeah. I was like, yeah, it just like, just give me my storyboards. And let's move on with looking at the leading ladies, though a lot of that's what that's what the rumors were. Now, when you write do you begin with plot or with character?

Charles Shyer 27:46
I would say plot plot done really? Well. Yeah, I like this new movie that I wrote is kind of autobiographical. So I started with the character, but the plot was about my life. So it was kind of intermixed, but I would say more than not, like the hook of the movie are. Yeah, what? Yeah, I would think more. I would think more plot but the characters right. intertwined with that, you know, it's hard to separate them, you know,

Alex Ferrari 28:17
well, of course, you need both, but I always love to know, what's the genesis of the of the idea is like, I have this idea for this caper, and then I'm gonna create characters in it, or I'm like, I've got Indiana Jones, and I could be an adventure for him.

Charles Shyer 28:28
Right? Yeah. For me, it would be more I the caper would come first. I think for me. Like, what the reconcile what like with Benjamin, it was more you know, the situation and Jewish girl joins the army. You know, I have that then I can go from there are irreconcilable of a kid, you know, wants to separate from its parent, his or her parents. Alright, well, who are they? You know, then you start going that far? Who is she? Who is the Jewish American Princess, you know, our that kind of thing, basically.

Alex Ferrari 29:05
Now, how did you get involved the father of the bride and trying to remake a classic?

Charles Shyer 29:11
Yeah, I you know, Steve Martin contacted us. I mean, he had seen he had three people he liked good scene, baby boom and really liked it. And, and there was a script already written that he didn't love. And I, I remember, so we love Steve so much. It was like an honor. And he was in New York. So Nancy and I, I hadn't First of all, I had never seen the original founder, Brian, I didn't even know it existed. You know, it's not wouldn't be my kind of movie, necessarily. But I remember. So we said, Yes. Let's go meeting God. Are you kidding me? So, so we got on, on the airplane, and I hadn't read the script yet. Right. You know, I just knew I wanted to stay in Yeah, I read the script. And I wanted to jump out of the airplane.

Alex Ferrari 30:04
Was it that you just were not a fan?

Charles Shyer 30:05
I thought Jesus, man, this is awful. Um, and, um, you know, but we went in and met with him. And I think he had three different people. He was in Viet Minh ads into the grill. And we met with Amen. And he said, Yeah, let's make it and and that was going on, we went back and we kind of watched the movie, or we watched it. I guess we watched the movie The night before we met with him in the hotel or something. Maybe Nancy had already seen it. I don't know, I hadn't. And, and then we just went ahead and what what's good about a movie like that is when somebody is so clearly identifiable in their, the way they act and, and everything. It's easier to write for him. You know, so right, we wrote it for Steve, knowing what Steve could do. And then, you know, we've made baby boom with Diane. So we, we had to shoehorn into her into the script. Nobody wanted her nearly nobody. Why? Because they said that she was the kiss of death. She had made movies that had bombed and baby boom was not a hit, and they can't push and he can't believe the kind of actresses you know, we fought for and fought for. And finally they gave in. But

Alex Ferrari 31:23
you would think like, it's Diane Keaton, for God's sakes, like

Charles Shyer 31:27
Annie Hall.

Alex Ferrari 31:30
Godfather, I mean, come on, let's see that.

Charles Shyer 31:32
No, but you have no idea. Well, a lot of times in movies and put maybe in any job, your boss is dumber than you?

Alex Ferrari 31:43
You know, shocking, right? I know. Shocking. Shocking, you know, but yeah,

Charles Shyer 31:46
you know what I mean? They get to be my paws? Because I, you know, I know the most of the times when people who hated me in high school. So you know, exactly, you know, so, um, you know, it's hard, you have to end you have to have that, that technique of when they give you an idea, you have to say, That's a good idea. But how about we do this instead, based on your idea, which is not based on their idea at all, but massaging them? Yeah. Mike Nichols said, you know, executives thinking having a note is a creative. It's a creative, you know, thing, and it's not really I mean, anybody can have notes. But um, yeah, it's hard. It's, you know, you got to play the game.

Alex Ferrari 32:36
But you got, so you obviously got Diane in, but like, so working with someone like Steve, who at that time, I think he was at the height of it's part of his powers as well. He was a huge star at the time. You know, how much of how much was he riffing on set? Because I mean, he's, I mean, he's, he

Charles Shyer 32:53
always, he's a very, very polite person. So he would always say to us, when you have what you want, when you have it the way you want it, like we're shooting the scene, when you have it the way you want it. Tell me because I have an idea, you know, and then he would do his idea, which was invariably better than anything we had. And every time it was his idea, it's in the movie.

Alex Ferrari 33:15
Oh, really?

Charles Shyer 33:16
Funny. But he never would, would say, what he always wanted us to get what we wanted first, and then he would do it, which is kind of it's a

Alex Ferrari 33:26
smart way of approaching it. Because if you like him, or Robin Williams, or someone like that, that just are just spewing genius constantly. And then you're like I because I've heard I've spoken to many people who've worked with Robin. I'm like, how did you handle Robin on set? And like you don't you just get them? You get what you want once and then you just let them loose? Because it's just again, most of the time what, Robin?

Charles Shyer 33:51
hold it hold it? Yeah. Because they're, they're better than you. I mean, yeah, you deal with it. You know,

Alex Ferrari 33:59
you're working with geniuses. I mean, yeah, yeah. It's Steve, is that Steve is that guy?

Charles Shyer 34:03
Yeah. And he was also really sweet about everything. So I mean, that was, it was really kind of he did anything that role fitting like your glove. Oh, you know, I

Alex Ferrari 34:14
mean, it's remarkable. And then Kimberly, the daughter, the story was that she came in as a friend of somebody who was auditioning, and then No,

Charles Shyer 34:24
that's not really true. I you know, she was going to Northwestern at the time. And she, you know, she was like, I don't know if she'd even done anything. She had done nothing. She said nothing. No, but and a lot of a lot of women who became stars, either, you know, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansen, a lot of people audition for that role, but none of them seemed exactly right. And then Kim came in. And I don't know she just ring the bell for us. It was like Lindsey and Parent Trap. She just felt right She was innocent. And we kind of wanted to an unknown. And I don't know if you ring the bell for us. That's what Lubitsch used to say.

Alex Ferrari 35:10
It's just like it. There's a thing that you can't, you can't quantify. When you when the, when the right actress or actor walks in. It's nothing that you can explain you just like, but that's just the That's just it. And then I'm assuming when they got together with Steve and Steve was like, well, this is obviously this is

Charles Shyer 35:29
Yeah, we screen tested or I know with Steve maybe with Diane too I think with Steve for sure. And yeah, it was just she was right. But you're you're right. When when you've had that feeling, just go with it.

Alex Ferrari 35:42
Listen to the gut. Listen to don't ever. Oh, my God is that is that like the best advice you can give somebody right now is just like, Listen to your gut. Because I've I've not listened to my gut so many times in my career. And I've always, I've always, it's always screwed me.

Charles Shyer 35:58
You know, Alex, Nancy, and I used to have a thing on our monitor that actually said gut duty. It's good. Just so we remember you. Because you're absolutely right. That instinct you have to go with.

Alex Ferrari 36:11
Yeah, because if you let this get in the way, if you let your brain get in the way you're done,

Charles Shyer 36:16
yeah, you'll improve it into a failure, as Billy Fraker used to say that's exactly what happens. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 36:24
Now after after father the bride father bride was a monster hit. Very big hit. You've already done a few hits already but fathered by that. Was that the one of the biggest of your career at that point?

Charles Shyer 36:37
Yeah, I guess so. Um, you know, we got nominated for an Oscar, we won the Writers Guild Award for private Benjamin and got nominated for an Oscar. So that was a pretty big, pretty big success for us. But yeah, I guess, I don't know. I

Alex Ferrari 36:52
it was a pretty it was I know, it was a pretty big deal when it came out. Did the doors open a little bit faster for you after that?

Charles Shyer 36:58
Oh, actually, you know, for me and Nancy. We, I don't think we ever wrote a script we didn't sell. You know. So I just honestly, I mean, we we, we were right in the high we could kind of do what we wanted back then.

Alex Ferrari 37:16
Right? It was in the height of your powers at that. Yeah. And it was the height of

Charles Shyer 37:20
a time where they made movies for, you know, not like today where 20 million bucks. 25 million bucks. Yeah, it's today. It's really a battle. You know.

Alex Ferrari 37:31
Now you got to go with streamers. streamers are making those kind of 25 million $20 million movies. Yeah,

Charles Shyer 37:36
I mean, and I luckily got in with Netflix and and I've loved working with them. creatively, financially in ain't the best situation but, but creatively they've been pretty fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 37:51
Yeah, I hear they just let you go.

Charles Shyer 37:53
Once it's they let you go. I mean, I don't you know, I hardly give us any notes on the scripts. I'm maybe that's because the scripts are good and stuff, but and they're not. They're not jerky about it. They don't, they don't dictate. Um, you know, I give me a little bit when we were doing we're doing positive bride Jeffrey Katzenberg, we had this preview, and we got these numbers like Lion King numbers, you know? Yeah. I mean, we're like, cute. But and Katzenberg said to us, you know, look, I have some notes. I'm going to give you these notes. But all I'm asking is that you read the notes and you try them. You don't have to ever show me. And if they work fine if they don't, don't worry about it. And it was like it was it was so freeing that and we did try some we tried them all. And if they worked we kept them and if they didn't, you know we did and we never heard from them again. And that was it. And that was such a cool thing. And that's kind of the way Netflix is they say to you, you know we have an idea try it. Tell me what you think if you guys disagree tell us so I mean they're very open about that creatively so that that's great. And that's a it's almost almost but not quite even trade off for not getting paid

Alex Ferrari 39:14
so but please let everybody know that that's generally not the way it works in Hollywood that you generally don't don't have freedom and have creative now you don't you know how and how did you deal like coming up with what was like the worst scenario on if you could tell the name of the film or not that you just had to like fight tooth and nail for your vision?

Charles Shyer 39:33
Well, I remember what I remember once I had a warner brothers called me and Nancy into a meeting and had notes on private Benjamin and we looked at and he had this login script with like, you know, how do you turn down two pages

Alex Ferrari 39:45
on start dog eared it? Yeah,

Charles Shyer 39:47
yeah, there must have been 50 turn downs on the on the script, you know, and by the time we got the before turn down, dance and I was so prepared and in Nancy especially was so tough that he closed the script and said, I can't do this. He stopped doing this Netflix. Really? Yeah, well, wait,

Alex Ferrari 40:09
but what did you guys do? So what did you guys do? We just said, Well, if

Charles Shyer 40:11
you do this, you know, a lot of times, it's like a domino thing. They have an idea and it affects, you know, the third act or something, you know, they're just don't think shit out. So you know, and, and they were also idiotic ideas, you know, a lot.

Alex Ferrari 40:29
might get shocking.

Charles Shyer 40:30
Like they want to, they didn't like, I remember when Kim met her boyfriend. In the movie, they were watching. I know, his go Friday, or one of these movies, one of these hawks movies and, and they wanted us to make it a more contemporary movie, you know, it's all this shit that you go. Wow. Right? But they want to they want to put their imprint on the movie in some way. So I guess they can tell their wives or girlfriends or boyfriends.

Alex Ferrari 40:57
That was my idea. That was my idea. Yeah, exactly. That was that was my idea. Oh, you see the Howard. They were gonna make a Howard Hawks movie there. But I put it at You see?

Charles Shyer 41:09
I mean, yeah, I made him use James Cameron. You know, which is funnier? You know? I don't know. It's, you know, look, you just deal with it. But you can't, you can't let them break your heart. And you can't. You gotta you've got to grow with it, dude, or your, you know, don't you know, this, this culture? It's so toxic. You fuck up. You can be gone forever. We see that all the time with people.

Alex Ferrari 41:41
It's not like me. Oh, God. Imagine the things that were said or done in the 80s 70s or 80s. I mean, Jesus Christ.

Charles Shyer 41:48
How can I wait, the directors like Otto, Prime Minister George Stevens and guys like that? Who would scream at the crew?

Alex Ferrari 41:55
Oh my god, legendary.

Charles Shyer 41:57
You couldn't you can't do that anymore, man. You know, dope HR. And you'll be you know, Joe Pesci, I had a problem on my last movie with the production designer. And, and, you know, because it just wasn't happening, and I got pissed off. You know?

Alex Ferrari 42:13
They were they were screaming they were screamers.

Charles Shyer 42:15
Yeah. And Netflix got really upset about it. Because the production designer quit. But I was glad he quit because he was no good. Right? That's one of the problems when you make a lower budget movie, you often get lowered lower quality, or cattleya caliber, lower caliber people in and brands, you know, and you know, I mean, people who make good money make it for a reason.

Alex Ferrari 42:50
There's, there's a reason why Ron Howard waits for his first ad. That's right. There's a reason he's like, I can't shoot until I had,

Charles Shyer 42:58
like, the first ad I just worked with, I don't know, in my movie would have turned out. I know, it wouldn't have turned out as as, as well without him or with my friend who's a dp, you know, I fought for certain people. And, you know, you know, they helped make the movie with you. You're not alone.

Alex Ferrari 43:17
One thing I want people to be and I've said this 1000 times on the show, I want people to be very clear about this. No matter who you are, no matter how, what age, you're at what level of business you're at, you still got to fight. Everyone's got to fight, you're gonna get punched in the face constantly. Because there's an illusion. There's like this kind of myth out there. It's like, Oh, well, you've been nominated for an Oscar, you want an Oscar and you've made hundreds of millions of dollars. Like they just roll up and just throw money at you. You feed and you can do whatever you want. That's not the reality of the business. No, no,

Charles Shyer 43:46
no. Also you're fighting you're fighting nature, you're fighting all these kind of, you know, things where the actor doesn't get it right. You know, I can't tell you how many times I would bury my head in my you know, I hate moving you know, you go I can't do this as this flipping me out. You know, or you wake up in the middle, you know, and the other thing is that you realize it's Billy Wilder said this every day after you wrap on the drive home, you realize how you should have shot the scene you just shot? You know,

Alex Ferrari 44:16
isn't it Marty isn't it Marty says if you don't look at your movie at one point and go this is absolute crap. You're not doing it right. Right.

Charles Shyer 44:24
Yeah, no, I mean, the first time we looked at private Benjamin, we thought career Ender will never done we're never we're never work again. Let's go make cookies and assembly. You know. And same with baby boom, we thought this is it will never work again. You know, and we didn't blame them for never hiring. It's again. it you know, it just, you know, it takes so much work to get it right. And then a lot of times you can't get it right because it doesn't work. That's

Alex Ferrari 44:54
right, exactly. And I just want to talk about a Parent Trap because honestly, it is one of my favorite Like my family and I love it. I introduced my daughters to it. How did you approach doing that classic because that was a beloved classic.

Charles Shyer 45:07
Well, it was more Nancy's idea to Mike because Nancy had loved the Parent Trap. The Hayley Mills. Yeah. Yeah. And, and we were at Disney anyway at the time. And so we went to Jeffrey Katzenberg and said, We want to remake it. And that came kind of naturally that was a, you know, it was barely it. Again, this was more Nancy than me because I didn't really, I, you know, I loved Hayley Mills. And I thought the original movie was really good. And I like Brian Jeep. But But um, I know it was kind of a not an easy rewrite, but it was something that came very naturally to us. And then when we got when we got Lindsay that was that was striking gold rule. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 45:55
she was

Charles Shyer 45:56
that was when she was she was amazing. She was amazing. I mean, she was 11 years old and just could act her ass off. I mean, she was just great. And, and, you know, it launched her obviously. And Natasha was great. You know,

Alex Ferrari 46:11
Dennis? Yeah. Dennis.

Charles Shyer 46:13
Yeah, sought us out. Actually, she wanted the part. We didn't really even know her work that well, but she was so. So perfect for the role. I mean, we got very lucky. All the casting on that movie really worked out.

Alex Ferrari 46:26
Yeah. And I mean, after watching that movie, when I was younger, I was like, I gotta go to Napa. I mean, that's just gorgeous.

Charles Shyer 46:32
Yeah, we shot we shot a lot of that on the Coppola state. Oh, okay. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 46:36
I've been that. That's a that's such a stunning.

Charles Shyer 46:39
It was great. And, and, and also, hey, you know, because Dean Cavalera did the production design on that we did all Coppola's movies, you know. So he got us in with Francis. So we spent time with Francis. And that was just all pretty great.

Alex Ferrari 46:54
That must be pretty cool. hanging out with friends.

Charles Shyer 46:58
And having Dean travelers through your movie is pretty incredible, too. He's like a genius. That's right. Cameron Mandy's one of these amaze may be the best production designer, one of the top three or four of all time.

Alex Ferrari 47:11
That's amazing. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions as all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Charles Shyer 47:22
Man, I don't know. I mean, my son who's sitting here with me, it wants to do it. And I I think number one, if you would? Do you want to be a filmmaker? I don't know what that means. Do you want to be a writer or a writer director, I think if he I think to be a director, it's what it really helps to be able to write your own movie. Because if you don't, you're going to have to make films that knock people out, they'll let you direct. But if you write a script, you can kind of handcuff yourself to the script, if it's good enough, you know, and and say, that's what we did with. That's what we did with irreconcilable. We said we're not going to we're not going to go with another director. What you know, you know, but it's I think it's really hard today, I guess, maybe with streaming and stuff who come up with a really strong idea. But if you write it yourself, I know you're, you increase your odds program. It's like,

Alex Ferrari 48:23
now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Charles Shyer 48:31
That that i think i i think it took me a long time to realize I'm better than I think.

Alex Ferrari 48:42
You mean, imposter syndrome getting over imposter syndrome.

Charles Shyer 48:44
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Right. You know, I mean, I, you know, on this last movie, I started to really feel a sense of accomplishment for what I've done, you know, like, one of the weird things that happened on this movie, this crew, the most, the thing that they were most impressed that I'd ever done, was smoking in the band. And, you know,

Alex Ferrari 49:07
that's pretty, it's a pretty cool credit, I have to say,

Charles Shyer 49:10
No, but when I was my head was when I'm not What are you talking about? And why would that be me? You know, now, you know, understand that changed my life. And, you know, like, Justin Hartley has that Jeep the car that Burt Reynolds drove in the movie. I mean, you know, these be I'm going well, geez. Alright, but starting to appreciate what I do. What I've done was was something that took me a long time to really embrace

Alex Ferrari 49:37
and three of your favorite films of all time,

Charles Shyer 49:39
I would say, oh, lucky man. Lindsay Anderson movie. Do you know that room?

Alex Ferrari 49:43
I don't know that movie.

Charles Shyer 49:44
Oh, oh, you know, I have to see that movie with Malcolm McDowell is that I would say All About Eve. Yeah, probably More of the apartment 20th century, and I think back to the future is one of the best screenplays ever.

Alex Ferrari 50:06
It's that's perfect of a film has ever been made, honestly. Yeah.

Charles Shyer 50:10
It's like the apartment is a perfect movie.

Alex Ferrari 50:14
Correct. And that's been mentioned many times in the top three here at the show up there. All About

Charles Shyer 50:20
eat the dialogue is like, forget it who writes like this? I mean, who writes, you know, you're too short for that gesture. I mean, who writes lines like that? You know?

Alex Ferrari 50:33
That's awesome. And what's your what's your your next project that you're that's gonna be coming out? Well,

Charles Shyer 50:37
yeah, I'm, I'm editing this movie. Now that will be out. It's actually not coming out till Christmas of 22. But because we don't finish until February, but then I'm going to try to do this autobiographical movie that I've written that I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll probably do it with Netflix again. So I'm gonna do that because I like working there. I can only get them to up the salary a little bit.

Alex Ferrari 51:06
Hopefully, they'll watch this and maybe they'll take it and

Charles Shyer 51:09
be good. No, it's a good it's a nice place to work though. I have to say,

Alex Ferrari 51:15
Charles, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. It is. Thank you so much for having being on the show. And, and doing it just brings so much joy and happiness to people around the world. For all the years you've been doing this man. Are you too kind? Will you let me know when it's gonna be on? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I'll send you a link when it's already. It'll be on in a few weeks. But thank you again so much for being on the show, my friend.

Charles Shyer 51:36
It's a pleasure. Thanks, man.

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