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IFH 492: Directing and Selling Beckett to Netflix


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How do you sell a movie to Netflix, this episode will give you a bit of insight. We’re getting deep into the weeds on Italian director and screenwriter, Ferdinando Cito Filomarino American cinema debut film, Beckett, which I absolutely enjoyed! 

Beckett stars the incomparable John David Washington and Swedish actress, Alicia Vikander. This action thriller follows an American tourist (Beckett) who had been in a tragic car accident in Greece and suddenly finds himself at the center of a dangerous political conspiracy and on the run for his life. He sets to reach the USA embassy to clear his name. Elements of romance and questions of political power are rolled up into a 90-minute manhunt. 

Beckett’s (trailer) world premiere was at the Aug 2021  74th Locarno Film Festival and is now distributed exclusively on Netflix.

Filomarino talks about the cultural diversity on set – having seven languages spoken. I assume that would include, English, Italian, Greek, Swedish, etc.  I was fascinated by the film’s meticulously crafted visual elements and screenplay

Filomarino’s work may be new to American screens, but he’s gained notoriety in European cinema directing or writing on films like The Other Man, Academy award-winning 2017, coming-of-age romantic drama, Call Me by Your Name (Second Unit Director). The story sets in a 1980s rural Northern Italy — romance blossoms between a seventeen-year-old Jewish Italian, Elio, and a 24-year-old research assistant, Oliver, who’s living with the family over the summer to help Elio’s father, archaeology professor with his academic paperwork. Call Me By Your Name trailer.

Filomarino shadowed Call Me By Your Name’s director, Luca Guadagnino while working the second unit on the film and forge a good professional relationship which led to a collaboration in 2010. He was fortunate to have Luca produce his directorial debut, Diarchy in 2010. Diarchy is a Locarno and Sundance Film Festival award-winning short film. Giano and Luc are traveling through the woods when a storm breaks, forcing them to take shelter in Luc’s villa. Gradually and insidiously, a competition emerges between them, with terrible consequences.

We also chatted about Richard Eyre’s, The Other Man, fresh out of university, and how that experience prepared him for his own films. We know that experience is the best teacher, so I am always down for hearing knowledge bombs filmmakers learn from other filmmakers in this line of business. Sort of like an unofficial masterclass. 

Go watch Beckett! But first, enjoy my conversation with Ferdinando Cito Filomarino.

 

Alex Ferrari 0:12
I'd like to welcome to the show, Ferdinando Cito Filomarino.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 0:18
Hello, thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:20
Thank you so much. I'm glad I did not massacre it too badly. But thank you so much for being on the show, my friend, I really appreciate you coming on you, we're gonna get deep into the weeds on your new film Beckett, which I absolutely adored. That's coming up on Netflix soon. But before we even get into that, how did you get started in the film business?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 0:43
I Well, it's this question is specific, because it's how I got started in the business. Because I guess as a small premise, I always decided I would say from the age of this the beginning of reason about 1112 when you start having ideas, even though they're ridiculous at that age, because they're just a little kid, I had decided that I wanted to make movies somehow. So then, you know, I, you know, I went to high school and and everything. And then I went to the University in Italy, we don't really have, we have a couple of film schools, but at the university or college, the film programs are just our film studies. So you watch films, you read books, and you, you know, analyze them and stuff like that. It's not about the filmmaking process. So I did that. And then after that, I was by the, you know, by then I was 21. And I was desperate for film sets. Because I had been so many years, just imagining I want to make this movie and that movie, and I love these movies for these reasons. And okay, let's study film history, because I love it. So it's fine. But you know, I was interested in filmmaking. So then, all of this, all these years fueled the absolute obsession with which I looked for a film job first, when I got when I graduated from university, looking for jobs as an ad, basically, as an assistant director on anything. I look in Italy, which is difficult also in Italy. I mean, Italy has a pretty healthy production, but not you know, if you compare it to America, for sure, there are many less, many fewer films produced. But I also looked in the UK because at the time my girlfriend lived there, so I could crash at her place. I had friends, I just I did everything I could. And I landed my first job as a as an assistant director on a film by Richard Eyre called the other man. And on that, and I had, I had no experience on film sets at all. So it was funny because they, the film had kind of an Italian mini section to it, which is I think, why they hired me. Although ironically, even though they went to shoot it in Milan, which is my hometown, they didn't bring me there, because it was too expensive. In the UK part of the shoot, although the only reason they hired me was I was Italian. I basically I had no skills except enthusiasm. So they just like Alright, so I don't know, hold this ladder while the gaffer works on that window. And this my first days were literally like this, just sort of, I don't know what what you could do just do that. Make this coffee. And I was, of course, miles away from the director. And the cat asked, I did red light and Bell, which is in the UK, they do this thing where before shoot in some productions, at least before shooting you you ring a bell three times and red light flashes. So everyone knows they're shooting, and they keep quiet and hold the work. I did that. So that was my first experience in my way into the business. Although and actually, it was a very important experience because I was so unimportant and I had so zero responsibilities although by the end, they did allow me to bring the cast to set and stuff like that. Which was Liam Neeson and Antonio Banderas and Laura Linney. I should say so pretty cool. Yeah. For that in that position. I got to know what everyone did on set. as a as a guy who doesn't, you know, I just Of course, there was so many people I knew about the heads of department from my film studies, but not what like the prop master. I wasn't sure what a prop master did then. So you know, that would come in handy Mark very handy later when I had my first group on my first short film, but then I got back to Milan which is my hometown. I think At the same time, Luca Guadagnino was coming to Milan to his movie I am love. And he was looking for people to, to collaborate with him and to help him understand some things of the city of fight certain types of locations and find people to be in the film that wouldn't be actors, but that would be people from the world he was portrayed in the film. And because of I was looking for work, and he was looking for such a person, we found each other through mutual connections and, and I did that film, and that was a completely different experience. And I got to work very closely with him and got to know his working method really closely. And all his collaborators to which eventually became also my collaborators, some of them anyway. So that was and that meeting with him and and with his producing partner, Marco Morabito would turn out to be life changing in some ways, because, aside from personal relationships, what happened is, I wrote an idea for a short film after that movie was over. And I showed it to Luca, we showed it to Marco. And the two of them said, like, this is great, we want to produce it. And, of course, I was so happy, and then it took a year and a half of work.

Alex Ferrari 6:20
You mean, you mean to tell me that? You mean to tell me it didn't happen overnight, they didn't just write a check. And then you were shooting the next week,

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 6:25
three weeks later, we were shooting? You know, it was a it was a long journey. Also, I was right. Right. It was a little ambitious. And what I wanted to do with the actors were obviously it was very conceived to be in one location, a villa with just like a car scene outside of it. So something that would make sense, but I, I, my ambition was to work with great actors. And even with writing, I already had an idea of who I wanted to approach for those roles. And they were important actors in Europe and in, in France and in Italy. But, you know, and that's what all that time, you know, took, but between finding financing. And you know, I still have some debts from that, by the way. I do really?

Alex Ferrari 7:16
I'm sure you do.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 7:17
And coming around to those actors, which eventually, you know, embraced the project and did it. That took a while. And that was my first. You know, I did I did video stuff beforehand, it was a video maker, I did stuff for the internet, stuff for hire small, silly things, but that I would I will consider that short film, which is called darky, my first piece of work as a filmmaker, for cinema, let's say. And that. So I guess that's how I got into the business the answer a very long.

Alex Ferrari 7:49
Fair enough. Now, when you made your first short film, what was the biggest lesson you learned on that? Because you must have been being bombarded with lessons on a daily basis during that year and a half, and even through production, and afterwards. So what's the biggest thing you learned making that first film?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 8:06
Well, something that I happened to me, I have to say naturally was over preparing. And one big lesson I learned is it's never enough. All that time that all that hardship that I learned, not during the making, but I guess during the development is, you know, be ready to be sad all the time, and depressed, and feel like it's never gonna work out. And if people say no, and then they are even worse, they say yes. And then they change their mind and to say no, and, you know, especially looking for funding. But, you know, by the time it got to set all that time had passed, I hadn't thought about every inch of this short film, how I wanted to shoot it, how I wanted the performances to be in everything. But all that preparation, I realized, a, you know, I understood, first of all, something that is pretty obvious, which is the amazing luck of working with big performance, because I could have envisioned everything. But then the most beautiful thing is when one of the actors like really girl who is a very natural actor who goes by very much by his own instinct and intuition, everything that he came up with, I could not have envisioned was gone. But to go back to what I was saying earlier, there's still so many unexpected things that happen when you're actually shooting something and just even, even like this example, also, the things that come out of collaborators and actors. There's not no limit to how much you can bring in and then still be surprised I and then also There's no limit to how much you can prepare and still feel unprepared on the day. Because because of the unexpected, and so, you know, that was a, I guess, a hard a hard lesson to learn. But what one, you know, I listen, I learned even later in making my first feature, and then eventually my second is the importance of sleep. I learned that on my short film, I did not learn that because I basically did not sleep for the whole six days of shooting, because I was excited because I was worrying about everything. And you know, on day five, I literally walked into my hotel room and I fainted it to sleep. But I because I hadn't felt I hadn't slept all day, because it felt I had more important things to do than sleep, I have to think about tomorrow to go over the shots I envisioned and you know, prepare. But that was a mistake. And I learned only later the importance of you know, shutting down and actually falling asleep and letting sleep do its work as well.

Alex Ferrari 11:10
Absolutely. No, trust me, I completely understand. And as you get older you realize about sleep. Because when you're young when you're young, you think

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 11:18
you could do anything? Yeah, yeah, I was a little young when I started with that did that short film? So of course, I couldn't even physically do that now.

Alex Ferrari 11:29
Yes, me too. No, did you know so when you went to your when you went on on day one with your, with your short film, I do this all the time. And especially when I was first starting out, I really did this. I showed up. And I showed my first ad and my dp the shots, the shot list for the day, at least for the first half of the day. And I would show up with like, you know, 175. And then the and then the season First, the first ad in the season dp would go, that's nice. What do you want to cut? Did you did you do that? Or do you kind of show up with a bunch of like, you know, I always like to overshoot. So I always prepare like 30 or 40 shots? Well, knowing that I'll get 10 of them. If I'm lucky that day, but at least I have that just in case there is where things are moving, things are going quick. And then I kind of get what I want. Is that the way you approach that first,

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 12:22
I'm at probably out of enthusiasm. I didn't have more than was feasible because of course, I didn't have the experience to know what would be feasible, for sure. However, in general, I have to say my approach is different. And I tend to do the opposite. And try to think more about how less shots can do the trick, though, actually. I mean, it depends also on what the what the film is and what the story requires. In terms of pace, for example, that was a blight. You know, that short film had to do with something that was burning slow and and under occurring and building tension. You know, it wasn't action packed or anything. And it was about the hidden part of a relationship between two friends that say, and the tension that was there. And then it sort of bursts for a moment. So you know, I didn't think I would need fast cutting anything, you know. So in that sense, I have to say, even though I may have over over, you know, overestimated, it will be good shoot, I don't have that tendency. I didn't have that tendency on that or on my first film, but rather, I guess the difficulty of the shots that I came up with whether you know, they were realistically

Alex Ferrari 13:46
feasible,

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 13:47
or not. That was a pain and yeah, and it's all of this is gonna be covered in rain. And then we'll have the rain out the window and the lecture. Yeah, we can't or that there's just one guy spraying water on the window. Right? Right.

Alex Ferrari 14:02
Yeah, in the in the, in the directors imagination, you have rainmakers you've got you know, rain all over the place, you've got the wide shot, you've got lights for a mile down, so you can get these full view shots. And it ends up with it ends up with a grip with a hose on a window.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 14:19
That's exactly how it actually works. We couldn't have the hose because it wasn't the second floor. So it was literally breaking

Alex Ferrari 14:27
some pork ribs outside which Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Now how did you how did you leverage the short film into your first feature film because that's a lot of filmmakers are trying to figure out getting their first short film and how they can leverage that to get access to making an actual feature.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 14:47
I am afraid I did not think that much ahead. Look, I had an idea for a short film, which was an idea, a concept and therefore would work For a short film, I actually am generally, you know, what I love about movies is something to do with creating a world and creating a narrative and then challenging that narrative and challenging the experience of watching the movie. So it kinda is about features. So this idea I had had, was not, was never really going to work for a future it was, it was something that would work for something limited in time. So in that sense, I just kind of conceived that project as it was as a as a any idea. I mean, I'll tell you, without getting into the story, that concept was also seeing as if it was a piece of a bigger film. But the only very important piece of it, you know, so you see those two people driving in the car, and they're, they've obviously done something before. And then something is obviously gonna happen later. But you've seen the most important piece. And that's it, that fragment of sorts, like dream, really, where you can't really remember what was before, and you can't really remember what happened after, but this is the important bit of the dream. So in that sense, I guess in terms of long lead projects, I did not think ahead that way. I thought, this is cool for a short film, let's make it the best way we can. And then, and then I actually I was writing a feature, which had absolutely nothing to do with this, which was going to be epic, obviously, obviously epic, obviously, to epic. And so when I realized how difficult that was to finance this short film, and then eventually how difficult it would be to finance that feature, which was to epic. Talking with my producers about this conundrum, then then this other idea came along to make what actually became my first feature, which was something smaller, more manageable.

Alex Ferrari 17:03
Yeah. And then, with the success of that, how did you get involved with Beckett? I mean, because that's a fairly big jump from where you were, to an F to an A to an action movie with a major major up and coming star if not already a star, as well. And yeah, Oscar Oscar winner, with Elisa there. And I mean, it's just amazing. So how did you get involved with Beckett?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 17:28
Look up. First of all, I should specify that it depends the perspective. But my first feature was, you know, it had a beautiful festival run won awards. Got some very nice reviews. But you know, it only got distributed in Italy. It wasn't an N on and on movie internationally. But you know, it was it was a tiny film, it was a very nice thing. So it comes into play. But it's not I would say because of, well, I guess you can be the judge of that. I'll tell you how I think it comes into play. Because actually Beckett and the genre of Beckett, which, let's say is sort of a dramatic manhunt thriller, something I have always wanted to play with. Something I have always loved in movies ever since I was a little kid. In fact, you know what my the first filmmaker I ever loved very much was was Brian De Palma. When manhunt manhunt aside, the way he deals with genre and different ones that that would such a personal point of view. And such warm and and dramatic characters, was something that always inspired me from the get go. And then I guess that inspiration, I applied for manhunt, literature, but also movies. And so I always knew I wanted to make a movie in those in that round, let's say. But obviously, it was going to be something more ambitious. And that could not have been something made as a first feature, or at least the way I envisioned it the way I wanted, you know, to create a worldwide wide enough to contain something as strong as I would like it to be. But so you know, what happened is I concede this story based on on what I loved and what I wanted to make more personal than mine. also adding something that would be that would feel fresh today in the genre, because of course, we have seen many mahound films. But I like the idea of trying to make something new as I'm sure everyone does. After an after finding my angle, you know, we approached these actors. And, you know, the first thing that happens is they react to what's on the page. JOHN David liked what he read. He liked the idea that this character was completely unusual for the job. Right. And it was a dramatic character, a man who was going through a personal crisis, and it was completely unfit to be, you know, experiencing what happens in the film, and definitely not your typical hero per se, not skilled as a hero of these types of films. And then I guess what my first feature, you know, when he read that we sent him my first feature, just, you know, this is the guy who conceived the movie and is gonna direct it. And then we had our meeting. And when we had our meeting, the first 15 minutes, john David spoke about my first feature, because he loved it. I love this, I love that I love that performance. And he spoke about that scene in the beginning. And I think that it was an amazing icebreaker, of course, because that movie was so different, you know, it was a portrait of a poet from the 1930s. But yet he could connect to something on there. That was that had to do with the portrayal of character, which, of course, would come into play in our conversation in Beckett, because actually, Beckett is a dramatic character. And so in some ways, there was something there, I guess, to argue similarities, at least an approach, then, of course, genre would be different. So, you know, I like to think that that first feature I did, even though john David would not have seen it unless we'd sent it to him in the context of reading Beckett, it helped our relationship, our dialogue, maybe even his belief in me, you know, so it did come into play in that sense.

Alex Ferrari 21:35
And then, so you just basically sent the script out to john, David's people, he read it, he liked it, he met with you. At that point, then you started looking for financing, or was Netflix attached? How did that work?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 21:49
No, Netflix was not attached. We we financed the film completely independently with the hard work of, of my producers. It was in tandem, you know, we were we were shopping the movie to financier's and simultaneously casting. And then of course, when john David decided to make the movie that that was, it started to become a very specific package that we could have. And then eventually, we managed to finance it actually with mostly European money, a lot of Italian money, and a slice of Brazilian money. And then we made the film completely independently. And then Netflix picked it up once we'd finished it as a distributor.

Alex Ferrari 22:30
Interesting. So then, one thing I've always found, I found issues going through my journeys in Hollywood, especially when I was coming up is when you do one genre like you did with your first movie, which was much more character based. And you want to jump genre to essentially a dramatic action film, you know, because there's a lot a lot of stunts a lot of actions. A lot of times, especially if you're just the director, they say, Oh, well, he has no directing. He has no skill, and he has never shot action before. How can we give him millions of dollars to shoot an action. But the big difference with you is that you were also the creator behind this. So you kind of had to like if you want the movie you got to bring me along for the ride. Is that how it worked? And did you did you come into those walls? Did you hit those walls?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 23:14
Well, no, no, you're absolutely right. I had gone ask the question, why? Many times? Why you made the poet movie? Why do you want to do this? What's the problem with doing I love poets. I love artists, I thought that movie had a reason to exist. Because it was interesting to me to see, you know, there aren't that many movies about poets and I thought it would be interesting to make a movie about poetry and the creative process of a poet. And I also find it interesting to make a manhunt film with a very dramatic character that center why why can't that be? And I'm a kind of expert in that genre, even though I've never shot it before. And I like the idea of with my perspective, finding my angle through it, you know, and then on the script I wanted to collaborate it with with some someone American, especially because of my background and my European perspective. I like the idea because of course, we were playing with genre tropes that mostly belong to American cinema, even though not exclusively, but mostly. I like that are two different perspectives with Kevin rice, who eventually became the screenwriter on the film. You know, that collaboration, that formula? So I got asked that question a lot. And my answer was always look, I mean, someone even suggested Oh, and then we'll have a great second unit your actions. Right? And I'm like, No, I want to shoot back and see.

Alex Ferrari 24:49
That's the fun part.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 24:50
I mean, I mean, of course they're pro look at we called amazing stunt. I sent an amazing stone cord and a tour and stuff performance to Help us in the movie that, of course. But why in conceiving the action, no, I want I want to consider the action I want to, I want to decide how to shoot it, and tailor it on what this character is the specificity of this character who by the way happens to be it not a, you know, a trained killer. And on this story on my tone on my locations, which informs so much of what the tone of the film is, so yeah, I got asked that question a lot. And it's always the argument is, look, I, you know, I find this story to be interesting, both because of this characters perspective, but also, you know, because of the genre, I love the genre I want, I want to find my way into it. And it was sometimes it took hard convincing, and sometimes probably, it was not convincing.

Alex Ferrari 25:51
But you gotta but you got it in you got done. Yeah,

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 25:53
yeah. And independently, that's what's interesting, you know, the look, we did go around with, of course, the problem, aside from the genre to is, I had only one feature,

Alex Ferrari 26:08
one dramatic feature one dramatically dramatic feature. Yeah.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 26:11
So of course, it was gonna be hard. But then, you know, yeah, we got it done. It was it was a lot of it was a lot of hard work. And, of course, having the the producers that I had as a team behind me, both, because, you know, they're, they're amazing. credibility, but also, because of sheer work. You know, finding the right people to talk to and proposing it correctly. Setting up are very difficult meetings in which I got asked those weird questions. Yeah, so it was, it was all of those things. And, you know, for example, another example of that, what you ask is, oh, and then then you could get an amazing dp who's has a lot of experience and action. And I'm like, again, no, I love to work with my dp who shot my first movie, he's my favorite dp in independent cinema, he's the best. Even though he has not action, he has not shot x, oh, that's

Alex Ferrari 27:16
always a tough pill

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 27:18
to find our action language that is ours. And, you know,

Alex Ferrari 27:25
approach and what I love about and I was telling you this before we started the conversation, was I love the approach to the action in this film, it was so unAmerican in so many ways, which, which you can, I mean, I'm a connoisseur of cinema, obviously. So when I was watching it, I was like, Oh, this is so fresh, you can obviously tell this as a European director, this is not an American director in the best sense of the word because just the the focus on character, I felt john David throughout the piece, as opposed to just like some sort of puppet action, you know, 80s character who just go without any depth, there was so much depth, so much emotion, so much pain, in the action, and in that character that was so wonderful, and just how you shot the action was was raw. And it felt like a constant roller coaster like you were you You didn't give up. You didn't give others very moment, there was very few moments of break. You were just like you just on this thing. And like when you held on you got a hold of the audience, you didn't let go, which I loved. I love that about the action.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 28:31
Well, I find that to be again, I guess, depending on the kind of movie you want to make, there is a What is your focus? And in many movies, I guess, that are more or less thrillers or action thrillers, spectacle is important. And and as such, it sucks away, I guess from other aspects of work can be explored. And in my case, I definitely wanted spectacle and the sense of adventure of the genre to be there. But I wanted to only get there through this character. Because I found that, you know, having him be so specific, so unequipped for this experience, going through everything that he's going through, aside from the experience with his own personal crisis, found that that approach to this arrival at the spectacle would be, I guess what unique we have to offer. And of course, this is enabled, aside from, you know, conceiving it and planning it by the amazing performance of john David. So, you know, one thing is, is you say, all right, so he decides he wants to, he's running away from danger, he wants to steal that bike. And I guess in a movie, which focuses on spectacle, he steals the bike, any speed through the streets, avoiding all sorts of dangers and gets away in this movie, it does not go that way at all. Because what, you know, you try to steal a scooter from an angry Greek person who's going to do something very important, I want to see how that goes you as an average person, and I like the idea even of playing around with this concept of, first of all, challenging the probe. And second, really thinking about how would it go for this character, and not just for the sake of, you know, the spectacle, and again, doing what has been already well covered? Now, that I guess that this this angle, then informed of course, how the action took place, right? And then and then therefore, how its shot. As a consequence,

Alex Ferrari 30:52
if you are exactly in it, and you can tell that you you did not lead with spectacle, though there is spectacle in the film, no question. But it did not lead with that. And that's so wonderful about it. Now, I was and I was telling this to my wife, and we were watching it. I'm like, I think john David's in every single scene, isn't he? There's not one scene he's not it's pretty much every scene he's in. Yeah, yeah. So that must have been brutal for him as an ad like he's, there's not a break.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 31:20
I joke with him, I joke with him that he actually ran much more than Beckett, because he had to do takes

Alex Ferrari 31:27
on it and do it once. And I love and I love about him that you've given you gave him throughout his journey, things that would slow him down injuries. And, you know, all these kind of things that I equate with john McClane walking on barefooted on class in diehard Yeah, that you gave him a bunch of that you didn't have to because it was tough enough, but you added that extra level of stress to the character, which I thought was wonderful was just a nice little touch. Well, I

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 31:57
think this actually has to do with with, as Quentin Tarantino would say it, I guess, delivering the goods of the genre. I'm quoting something I remember him talking about Reservoir Dogs, I guess. Because he's he the way he was presenting it, I remember and then stop referencing him was, it's a heist film where you don't see the heist, but I still want to deliver the goods and the excitement of that kind of film. Okay, and reference. I get the point to me, you know, the great beauty and enjoyment of seeing a great Mannheim thriller, is it the kind of road movie, you know, there's, you know, you have to escape, and therefore, you cover ground, and therefore, ground landscape locations. They're very important. And so in that sense, of course, okay. So, he, he becomes the danger arise, and he decides he wants to go to the US Embassy, which happens to be not where he is at all. Now. Basically, in a film like this, and with this premise, the landscape can change the story, because if there's one highway connecting him to the embassy, it's one story, if there's five mountains, Four Rivers, seven trains, and, you know, a bunch of protesters, it's a different story, you know. So, that becomes part of the movie. So I would, I would consider it, I guess, more than a touch actually, part of the flesh of the film. And I will tell you that when I was driving around mainland Greece, where I wanted to set the film, looking for locations, I sometimes even saw something that was so striking that it was kind of backwards compatibility, like, Okay, so this is great. Let's adapt the scene so that it would work with this location, because he goes through here, then, you know, this happens as a consequence, and he it stays with him for the rest of the film. And in that sense, the land itself became a part of the movie, and I thought that was important for this type of movie, for that sense of adventure and spectacle.

Alex Ferrari 34:23
Yeah, of course. Now, do you have any advice for directing actors? Because, I mean, you have some amazing performances and Beckett. Well,

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 34:34
I look I am a little obsessive. So I like to do a lot of research and collect material for myself, thinking about the characters and how, you know, both in the writing process, but then also thinking about how to make them alive. And and I like to share that material with with the actors. I work with. That said, I would say my advice for for filmmakers who are starting out is be absolutely open to the instinct and the quality specific to that actor. Because maybe sometimes when younger filmmakers come with so much, so many ideas, and so much excitement about, oh, this character has to be like this. And like that, may very well be if you're the absolute master of, you know, filmmaking. But in many cases, that's not true. And in fact, something like I was saying earlier in our conversation that the actor might come out with with instinct, or, or reacting to the material you share, or, or just from their own baggage. And it's something that you may not have imagined is much richer and more useful at the end of the day to the performance that you seek. So and that actually works differently from actor to actor. So I guess, one has to have knee one needs that sensibility of understanding what is the level of dialogue and exchange or even how much you sort of want to give an actor or how much does another type of actor not want to receive very much and want to kind of do their own thing that is difficult to master, I guess, when you're starting out. Finding that sensibility of of calibrating how you work with whom I you know, at least that's how I do it. I know, people are different actors have different personalities and different methods for sure. So I always come with my baggage and my preparation and the material I like to share and then see what happens and calibrate accordingly, according to what happens next, you know, and then be open to their instinct and everything that they can enrich. Now,

Alex Ferrari 36:57
what was the toughest day that you had on set? What was the toughest production day? Like, you're like, Oh, my God, this is not gonna, we're not gonna make it. There's always a day like that. We're not gonna make it. It's not good attitude. Okay, how can how can we? How can we make it without without me dying? No, I'm joking.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 37:18
I'll tell you, I'll tell you the most obvious answer first. And we have obviously, there's a big, there's two scenes. One that is a rally a political rally, yeah, where a politician is going to speak, and then late, and then stuff happens. And then later, that rally has turned into a riot. Okay, so these are two scenes that are set in the same square. We were lucky enough that basically, the the municipality of Athens allowed us to shoot in syntagma Square, the Parliament Square, which is where what, you know, when they do rallies, they walk from areas of Athens, they join up, and they arrive in the Parliament Square. That's how it happens. In reality, it happens to be humongous. No movie could ever cover it entirely, because it's too big. However, they said, you can shoot there. And okay, luxury, amazing, beautiful, but you have only one day. Okay. So, you know, it would be one thing to have one scene to shoot, but we had two, and they were different. So I you know, that was the toughest day on the most obvious terms of what a tough day is. Because, you know, of course, we have to plan everything. Of course, there were unexpected things. And we just had to deliver so much storytelling, and also show so much stuff going on. Plot moments also, that's near the end of the film. So there's a lot going on. Not why. But there's also all these people Durango. But there's also the problem of even though we had a lot of extras, there was also 97% of the square was empty. Now it didn't look it. It didn't look it but yeah, well that's the thing. Yeah, find the angle. But then Okay, so that angle works. But then you have to go all the way there to shoot that scene. And then we had to go all the way up there to shoot that other moment. And so it was a nightmare. You know? It

Alex Ferrari 39:23
Yeah. And then there's a big difference in production design from a rally to a riot. As far as just dying, the sets and all that stuff. So like once you you're like okay, did we get everything for the rally? Okay, now let's start breaking everything apart. Let's start setting some fires. Let's start, you know, putting some debris down, because you can't go back. After you got one day you can't go back once you start once you've let that go. It's gone.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 39:46
No, one thing we did manage to to, which is kind of funny if you know it when you watch the film, but I'll say it anyway is we did manage to go back to shoot a couple of sites. blocks, which means basically that we shot, we shot the square scenes, and then there was like a moment that's only on a sidewalk, and all the characters are looking into the square to this amazing drama that's happening. And actually, it was just full of traffic, like every day, you know, does it. So you got you went to snack. And that's the extent that we managed to sort of, do get some feedback. But you know, the bulk of it, we shot on that day, and it was it was intense, you know, every 20 minutes, we had to move into something else. Or we, you know, the scene would would be missing plot points. Right, that wouldn't leave anything behind them, there was no plan, no possible Plan B.

Alex Ferrari 40:40
Now, what was it like, collaborating with john David as as a as a collaborator, as an actor? I mean, he, it's a pretty intense relationship, you guys must have had to do a film like this, since he's in every scene, it's action, you're in a foreign land and all this kind of stuff? how did how was that collaboration?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 41:00
It was beautiful. I think the first, you know, referencing, again, that first meeting that we had about the film, we had a great conversation there. And I think we understood that we were in sync, about our taste. And the idea of playing with genre, he loves genre cinema as well, very much. And he liked this idea of approaching it from this odd angle with this odd character. So that informed a lot of our first conversation, and then eventually our working relationship. Because with this exciting understanding that started our dialogue, it was all a nice sort of exploration hunt for ways to best express it. So again, I had I had a bunch of material that I shared with him a bunch of movies that I wanted to show him, and then he would react to those, and we'd had beautiful, long conversations about why that was interesting what we can take from that, what we should not take from that. And so that was I would say that was the most important part of creating that character, or at least I guess, informing that our working relationship leading to that performance. And then we did so much of that beforehand, that by the time we got to set we have short standing, we had a library of references to get to if we needed to like, oh, remember that moment from that movie that you liked for that? And that reason? Yeah, let's think of that. Or, or, you know, we talked a lot about the relationship that Beckett has with his girlfriend, April in the film, and the meaning of that relationship. And because the two characters are so different from each other, and yet, they are completely in love. And that, of course, because of what happens at the beginning of the film becomes important in the movie inside of Beckett throughout the rest of the story. What's going on, in his personal crisis, and you know, it was it was again, shorthand and easy to go back and reference that. And the thing about john, David is, is that he is obsessive, extremely passionate, and a master minimalist in many ways. So that we had this baggage, we had this dialogue, and then he would just go with his instinct. And that's when I got to sit back and enjoy. Without everything we talked about, it all sort of went away and disappeared. And then he went, he came out with his talent and his instinct, and then whatever we wanted to change, it was again, it was just like, oh, remember that thing we said about the relationship that she wished she could be? But then, you know, that's lost. And he thinks about it now. Just like 10 seconds conversation, it references a whole world that we already discussed beforehand. And we were able to have this complicity, which was, you know, a privileged and gold to me, also, you know, gave me confidence in and in the everyday production. Yeah. Now, the

Alex Ferrari 44:25
one thing I want to just kind of put a little spotlight on what you just said is, a lot of times first time directors or young directors don't realize how important collaborating with your lead actors are. And they come in with their, their ego, their way of doing it and they're very kind of concrete about, I want my character to do this, this and this, and they block and they just kind of disregard what the actor who's playing that character brings to the table and only through working with actors, you understand that the magic you hire Because of their bringing their magic to them to this character, so I'm sure that Beckett was, was created once on the page. But then once john David came in, and then both of you started working together, it became what we see. And it wasn't just all your way along, and all the great directors do that, because that's the way it should be. Right? Well, that's how it becomes better. You can take credit, and you could take credit for it as a director. I'm joking. Oh, yeah, of course, of course. I'm joking. I'm joking. The

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 45:30
point is exactly. I mean, my mind is limited to be in one mind. I conceived the project, I put together pieces, but you know, it is only through collaborators who each have their own job is obviously much better than me, come contribute with their ideas. And this is, of course, most important with actors who define very much the final temperature of the movie. The the soul of a movie in some ways. And that's, that's kind of why I think when you hear when you reading about film history and stuff, you're like, oh, and then this actor was going to play in that movie. But then, you know, he couldn't. And then this other actor played, and you're like, I can't imagine that. Because it's because that, you know, the actor, establishes, I think, the beating heart of the movie, or the soul of the movie, depending on how spiritual You are so much, that no matter how much you conceived around him, and inside him, that talent, and that baggage that inevitably an actor is, you know, Bertolucci always said, any feature fiction movie is, at the end of the day, a documentary about the actors, you know, because they're actors, and they act, but at the end of the day, there are these humans who go who are able to go places and deliver what the what the story needs. And you know, and and you can't plan all of that. Is it possible is silly. And if you did, it would be probably very shallow. You know, very, and it is an actor's qualities and definitely with john David, I got lucky. That that make whatever character is at play that real deep, and, you know, in this case, relatable, warm and strong at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 47:35
Now, when is a Beckett available for everyone to see this Friday, the 13th of August? Okay, very quick. And I tell ya, it's, it's a fantastically lucky day, I think you'll do fine. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice do you wish you would have gotten at the beginning of your career?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 48:03
I think, absolutely without boundaries, but then also revise with critical editorial mind, you know, to find the essence of what needed to say, you know, when you're when you're when it's so it's so expensive and difficult to make films that you know, when you're starting out, and you it's difficult to get any scene made, it's costly and everything and then you cut stuff, and it's on the cutting room floor, and you're like, Jesus had you know, if I'd known that I would have shot, you know, the other stuff. So, and, and it's impossible. I mean, you can't you don't you can't get there, but aspire to that, I guess that quality. And then of course, sleep

Alex Ferrari 48:55
sleeps, sleep, sleep sleep? And would that be the advice you would give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Or would it? Would that be some other advice?

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 49:05
Well, I mean, look, it's it would be a mistake, I think to say to give the advice of thinking practically. Like, you know, come up with something that you can make. That's not too crazy. I think that's wrong. I think one should follow absolutely their instinct and their need to tell stories. Why do you even want to make this in the first place? That reason is what should inform every single decision you make, including how ambitious to project it, how ambitious the project is, how big it is. And then of course, you just have to be a realist and come with critical mind and understand how you can tailor it, let's say so, you know, I guess it's a more complicated piece of advice, but that's how I feel I should have you know, if I known that more efficiently. I would have been maybe faster to put things together.

Alex Ferrari 50:06
Very good. Now three of your favorite films of all time.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 50:11
I like that you say three of my favorite things. Yes. It's not the favorite three necessarily.

Alex Ferrari 50:16
No, it's the three that come of currently as you as we speak today.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 50:21
Well, I would like to, at least with one or two reference stuff that inspired me for this film, which remain among my favorite films of all time, and one is Three Days of the Condor by Pollock, wonderful film. And other is manhunt by Fritz Lang, based on an amazing novel by Jeffrey household called rogue male in the film of the novel are different, but both are masterpieces. for different reasons, and the film is amazing. It's called man hunt two words. And then what can I say? Something more recent. In reference to the amazing composer, I got to work with the viewer which is like a motto I will say. I'm sure to your surprise Snake Eyes. by Brian Alma.

Alex Ferrari 51:21
Yeah, I don't remember snake. Yeah. Oh, God, the opening sequence. Just the way that camera? No, I

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 51:27
just say it because I know in America, it's like, oh, that movie with that kind of with the crazy Nicolas Cage that are that? No, I love that movie. And he is perfect in it. He's a you know that the character is crazy.

Alex Ferrari 51:41
Listen, Nicolas Cage is a national treasure. And that has to be stated currently. I mean, I don't care what anyone says Nicolas Cage is a national treasure. Without question ain't paid. We're absolutely on the same page. I can watch his early performances, his crazy performances, his subtle performances. He's a national treasure.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 51:59
I enjoyed the night guys. Absolutely. This This, this, again, speaking about infusing genre with a personal touch. And with a drama, which you do not expect. Because you do not expect that when you walk into Snake Eyes, you will expect spectacle. And on a grand scale, but but then you're like, you're surprised to be touched and moved and then more spectacle?

Alex Ferrari 52:28
Well, when you can, when you can combine spectacle with character and emotion, well, then you have a hit. That's where some of the biggest, you know, some of the biggest blockbusters, Titanic, I mean, for God's sakes, and those kind of films that have that you're able to do the spectacle, but there's an emotional core that people attached to. That's why when you see these movies that come out of Hollywood, sometimes they're all spectacle. And then the executives are like, why didn't it make money and like because you get no heart in and it's not as just because you can, you can write you can blow up, you can destroy the world 100 times we've seen it 100 times. And it's not cool just to see that spectacle anymore. It has to be story. If you don't have story, you don't have character, you have something to hold on to. It's just empty. And in today's world, my God, we're bombarded with so much stuff, that when you you want that attached. And I think that is I think honestly, it's one of the things I love about Beckett is the connection, the human connection. I think that's what we all thrive for is human connection. And if you can connect to a story on an emotional level, the spectacle is just added cream on top of the cake.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 53:39
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I wish your statement was always true. example, if the example of snake eyes makes it not entirely true, because afraid that was not a hit.

Alex Ferrari 53:52
Oh, no, it's there's always reasons for it not to be a hit. But yeah, but they connect to you emotionally. And I think dipalma we can go for an hour about the poem because I'm a huge dipalma fan as well sisters, and oh my god, and just I mean amazing amount of stuff that he's done. And it's so fascinating that he left Hollywood, he's like, screw Hollywood. I'm just gonna go to Europe and just make movies now the way I want to make them and I'm like, thank God. Because then and that was beautiful. Yeah.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 54:21
Yeah, that made the movie he made in Paris.

Alex Ferrari 54:23
Yo, amazed me. It was stunning. No, no, it was stunning. But this is one thing. I've always I've said this to people on the show as well, privately. It's unfortunate. Some of these amazing directors. They might have a flop or something like that, or they highlight something that doesn't perform well. And then Hollywood takes the keys away from them. Yeah, it's sad. I mean, because I want to see another Peter Weir film. I want to see another Wolfgang Petersen film. You know, want to see these kind of another Brian De Palma film maybe with a little bit more money involved so he can do what he does, and get the take they take the keys away from so I'm so glad that someone like the Paloma I could just go to Europe and just make the movies he wants to make how he wants to make them.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 55:04
I would say that some, you know, it's interesting, this cross pollination between Europe and America, just like it's interesting for some European filmmakers to go work in America, you know, depending on the films they want to make. I think it's under understated undervalued, how much? Sometimes it is, it's interesting that American directors go to Europe, not just because they can't make a film in America, but because the context is different than maybe could be stimulating in a different way. And you know, different things. Go. The taste is like, I think that cross pollination is all you know, I believe in this idea of cinema is all one nation anyway, all of us have their own culture from their own countries. But we all meet in the same land. And I you know, of course, we referenced a lot of American cinema, or British cinema. But I'm also just as much inspired thinking again about Beckett by Hong Kong cinema. Johnny or Johnny Tom movies. Or in Japan, Takashi Mika movies. Yep. So, so at Sure. I mean, I love I love to imagine there will be equity makers in different landscapes.

Alex Ferrari 56:26
And, and we'll end it on this. There's one filmmaker who got to cross pollinate over to America back in the 90s. Was Luke the sun. And he did Yeah. Which he did Leon, which is arguably still one of my favorite action films of all time. And, and I love his version of it actually, not the American version that was called the professional like when he added 15 extra minutes that they cut out because it was too risque. It actually made the story even better. Yeah, I guess that's what I mean with an American director. If you went to Europe, those 15 minutes would be in there, you know, right. And then we file because Lucas on became lupus on that the studio's like, well, maybe we should let him have his Director's Cut. And that came out it was Leon, which was originally the called Leon, but they never thought of that. But the reason why that movie works so beautifully is the emotion. I mean, you're you're crying at the end of an action movie. It's just brilliant. And that is a way

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 57:20
or a character who is most definitely despicable. Killer.

Alex Ferrari 57:25
He's Yeah, he's an but the thing that makes his character so wonderful, is that he's basically, you know, just a he's so loving with his plant. And also, he kills bad people.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino 57:40
He doesn't go and more importantly, Gary Oldman is much more despicable than him if you

Alex Ferrari 57:45
have to. If you don't have Gary Oldman, then it's hard to root for Leon, because you've got Gary Oldman who is just so overcome whatever performance that was, Oh, God, all right. We can geek out about movies on that. But there's Fernando, thank you so much for coming on the show. It has been a pleasure. I wish you continued success back it was is a triumph and and I hope everybody watching Netflix gets a chance to watch it. This Friday, August 13. A very lucky day here in America.

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IFH 491: Inside the Soulful Sundance Hit Nine Days with Edson Oda


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I had the pleasure of watching acclaimed director, Edson Oda’s knockout feature directorial debut, Nine Days. And I absolutely loved it. With the COVID shock, the world has experienced and still going through, this film centers the conversation of existentialism and depicts it quite distinctly. 

Oda’s supernatural drama film, Nine Days was shot at the peak of the Pandemic in isolated Utah, starred Black Panther’s star, Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Bill Skarsgård, David Rysdahl, and Arianna Ortiz.

The film is about an interviewer named Will, who spends his days in a remote outpost watching the live POV on TVs of people going about their lives. He interviews five unborn souls to determine which one can be given life on Earth, until one subject perishes, leaving a vacancy for a new life on earth. Soon, several candidates – unborn souls – arrive at Will’s to undergo tests determining their fitness, facing oblivion when they are deemed unsuitable. But Will soon faces his own existential challenge in the form of free-spirited Emma, a candidate who is not like the others, forcing him to turn within and reckon with his own tumultuous past. Fueled by unexpected power, he discovers a bold new path forward in his own life. Trailer.

Oda who is a Sundance Screenwriters Lab Alumni took the film home (to Sundance) and premiered Nine Days there in January 2020. It went on to win the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in February of 2020 and earned two Independent Spirits Awards nominations.

The Japanese-Brazilian director and writer made his start in São Paulo advertising scene and later completed his master’s at USC in Film and Production. Oda has produced and directed several films, commercials, and music videos. 

In 2013, he directed and wrote a short film, Malaria which is about a young mercenary who is hired to kill Death. Malaria combines Origami, Kirigami, Timelapse, nankin illustration, Comic Books and Western Cinema.

Besides top-notch commercials for companies like Philips, Movistar, InBev, Whirlpool, Johnson & Johnson, Honda, Nokia, he’s also a Latin Grammy-nominated director for best music video Tempos de Maracujá.

Nine Days was released in the US on July 30th, 2021 and I am excited to see how well-received it is about to become. I am predicting it may even win an Academy Award. Yes. It is that fantastic!

Enjoy my conversation with Edson Oda.

 

Alex Ferrari 0:02
I like to welcome to the show Edson Oda. How you doing?

Edson Oda 0:16
Good. Good, man. How's it going?

Alex Ferrari 0:17
Thank you. Thank you for doing well, man, I'm so happy to have you on the show man. Like I was telling you before we got on, I had the pleasure of watching nine days. And I have absolutely loved it. I think it's, it's a film that we need in this world now just kind of starts that conversation and starts that conversation about deeper conversation about what we're doing. And I think the pandemic has really made us think about our lives in general. But before we go down the rabbit hole on your film, how did you get into business?

Edson Oda 0:50
Yeah, I was, you know, born and raised in Brazil, and then I start working in advertising, like, straight out of college and then work never that's for like 10 years as a copywriter. And then after that, I moved here to the west, I went to film school, grad film, school. And yeah, and then I just start writing stuff. And there's some point it just real nine days and got to the Sundance labs. And then for the Sundance labs, I got, like, introduce some producers. And then from from there on, we just like started sending out into, like, we got finance and everything. So

Alex Ferrari 1:24
that's pretty That's awesome. So so when you weren't in Brazil, you were working in the commercial world.

Edson Oda 1:29
I was Yeah. I used to work in advertising agency.

Alex Ferrari 1:32
I, oh, very much. So I, commercial director for 20 years. So I yeah, but I've been a commercial director for over 25 years, between music videos and commercials and stuff. So I and before that I was editing in editing commercials as well. So I'm very well aware of the the agency side of the agency side of the business. Now, you know, coming from a commercial background and a music video background, how do you how did that prepare you to jump into your first feature?

Edson Oda 2:06
It prepared a lot actually no, and what was interesting, because when a migrate, you know, I said like, Oh, yeah, not gonna, it's just gonna start from you know, from beginning, you know, but but then, I think as it was just when it was the wrap, and it was feel me, I saw that it was he prepared quite a bit actually, like specially writing because it was a copywriter. It was interesting, because in terms of I think commercials are a very high concept, you know, in, you always try to grab people's attention in like a short span of time. And there's something that even like, 90, if you pitch someone there, there's a kind of element like, Oh, this is, this is weird, this is different. And I think, even when it was coming up with a concept that was trying to go with something that felt kind of unique, somehow it felt it same time, when you in advertise, we always push to just like have the best execution to one single scene. That's usually like 30 seconds, you know, so I think every, every single scene somehow I saw more or less like a, you know, a commercial in a way that I need, you know, tons of execution, just find the one that I feel like all this, this fits well to the story, what it wants to achieve. So it was it was very helpful, to be honest.

Alex Ferrari 3:27
Yeah. I mean, when you're writing when you're writing you, ideally, you're supposed to have a beginning, middle and end in every scene. And with commercial, you are trained to do that every 30 seconds. Yeah, it helps you with your writing a lot, I'm sure. Now, how did nine days come to life? No pun intended?

Edson Oda 3:45
Yeah, no, it's been purgatory. someone's like, it was it was such a, you know, I started writing it. It was like 2015, I think, yes, it was. So it was pretty quick, actually. And then they were like this first draft. And I wanted to ride this kind of, you know, micro budget movie, because I felt like even if people don't, you know, invest money in it. Worst case scenario, just like I do Kickstarter, or something, it just making myself so it felt like, yeah, I'm going to write something that I can produce, we'd like to interact, we'd like 100k or something like that. in a rural, it took me like, I think, one month or something after I figure out what I want to write about one month, just structure all the thoughts in my head. And then after that took me like, three, four months just to you know, write the pages in. So it was more like four months into I had like, a rough first draft. And then I got to the Sundance labs, and after the labs, it just said working on that script for like a year and a half, two years or something like that. And then from then I just liked Just like being producers and and in from from that on it was like it was something that was just wasn't just me, but it was like other people some

Alex Ferrari 5:09
something something took something took over the project at that point.

Edson Oda 5:13
Yeah, yeah. Mostly was me because it was oh the the the person just doing like most of the, you know, trying to sell and try to Yeah, give him money and stuff. But it wasn't. And then people are just like be on my side. Yeah, yeah, give it to him. Yeah, he's,

Alex Ferrari 5:29
he's a good he's a good fella, it's okay, give him some money give us he's gonna do he's not gonna lose it all, it'll be fine. It's always I always I love, I love talking to filmmakers about getting the money for their projects, because I don't care who you are, everyone's got to hustle. Everyone's got to hustle to get there to get their financing. There's very few directors who don't hustle to get their finances, especially for your first film. But when watching that film, but watching the movie, I can see that it could have easily been done for $100,000. You know, it was you know, control locations. I mean, obviously, not as grand of scale, but you could have your push come to shove made an independent version of that without question. We're talking too much about the film, let's Can you tell this to the audience what this film is about?

Edson Oda 6:12
Yeah, this is such a weird movie to pitch, but I practice a lot. So this movies about this interviewer it happens in this, this distant reality, I don't call like, you know, it's a, it's a I load Bible. In them in the same vein of movies like Eternal Sunshine, a Spotless Mind or her. And then there's this like reality, which is kind of pre life reality as a call, it's a before life reality. And there's like this interviewer whose name is Will, in his interview songs to choose one soul for the privilege of being born. And the process, you know, takes like nine days to be concluded into this nine days, it's just gonna, you know, talk to the souls know them better. And then by the end of process, just pick one to be born to be where we all at now.

Alex Ferrari 7:05
So what is your definition of a soul? And that's,

Edson Oda 7:10
that's an interesting question. You know, I think it's, it's everything that's not created through the environment, you know, I think it's, it's things that are innately there, you know, part of us before we interact with one another, but somehow they tell how the interactions in our or how the environment will shape us, but it's kind of, you know, I think, same typically would be our DNA. But it's interesting, but it's not the DNA because, as you can see, you know, there's so many variables, variables, yeah, there's

Alex Ferrari 7:49
variables. Yeah. But on a, but on a spiritual level. What do you think your definition of a soul is? If I may ask,

Edson Oda 7:56
I think I think it'd be more like a DNA of your personality, I think it would be the DNA of your view as not nothing related to a body but it

Alex Ferrari 8:07
as a being as a being as a being Yeah, is it being Is it because I love a lot. First of all, I love the casting and I loved the variety of ages, the ages, the the, the colors, it was like a rainbows fantastic to watch. But I love that, you know, some of the souls that came in for the interviews were older, some were younger, and they were all different personalities. And I found it so interesting that the concept that you know, a freshly, arguably a freshly born soul, which is what I took from the film, that is a is a freshly born soul comes in and goes, Okay, I'm here, I'm going to interview but if I don't make it, I just go back into the mix. And then hopefully, I'll get born again some other time and maybe get another opportunity. But I just love that they all came in with some with attitude. Some were very pleasing, some wanted to please others were very standoffish. It was it was a really interesting character study, I think it was almost socio almost a sociology experiment. Would you agree? Yeah. 100%

Edson Oda 9:14
You know, it was interesting before I chose to become like, advertiser was like in between, like psychology and sociology. Then I felt like always want to somehow understand you know, society or even give something back to society or do something for them. But then but the same time I felt like I was had this kind of selfish desire of creating thing, you know, and just like having the fun of creating that at the time, it was just, you know, when with advertising and in anything later in my life, we just felt like yeah, it was so interesting to do something that was more like a connecting connected to more people. You know, how I feel about the environment. Everyone knows. It's almost like a sociological study. And if there's only nine days is more or less like that. It's like how what happens For something and why we are the way, in always, it's not. It's not about like I feel, trying to just answer anything, but it's more about like just raising the questions and like start discussions which I, for me, it was just very, very interesting.

Alex Ferrari 10:13
Ya know, the film definitely starts questions and it's it asks questions, and definitely we'll start discussions. I have to ask you, how was it to workshop this at the Sundance writers lab? Well, the writer Yeah, it was you broke up a little bit. Yeah. So yeah, well, how was it? How was it to workshop the film in other scripts at the, at the screen at the Sundance writers lab, which is, you know, it was amazing. Yeah, it was, it was just amazing. It was just,

Edson Oda 10:41
I think, since you know, when I got to, I got here and your West, I think I didn't know so much about the Sundance labs, but then when I got to know, I just felt like this is this kind of my dream, you know, I wanted to be in the selected to, to just workshop this group, we'd like the amazing mentors, and they give you feedback in something interesting is not just about the feedback, and how, you know, you meet them, and they, they give you like, notes, but it's more about the environment, you know, it's more about, it's interesting, because, like, my, like my movie, you know, the whole process is very, almost like spiritual, it's, it's like a bunch of people who are there, you know, isolated. And rule number one is just like, let's not here, listen to the industry. Now we are here, we want to do something that that's human, you know, something that makes a difference, something that, you know, it's you are you you, you know, and, and let's just forget what other people you know, are saying, and just find the reason for why you're telling your stories and why it's important. And, and then we After finish this, we just go in and start just like you know, teaching so it was interesting, because the whole place the whole environment and process so much about learning how to be vulnerable, current learning how to be personal learning how to, you know, do our own stories, but not just by you know, telling story for the sake of telling stories, because it has also to do with the How can we help you with the craft, in order to you to tell the story. So it was, it was just like a perfect environment for me like personal but also very technical, too.

Alex Ferrari 12:19
It's like going to Tibet with a monk. It sounds like yeah, it's like it's your, you're completely walled off from the rest of the world. It's a whole bunch of other monks they're teaching you how to meditate in the in the craft of storytelling.

Edson Oda 12:34
Like you know, I don't know if you watch like Cobra Kai, or of course, this guy. That's more like the Miyagi dough. You know, when and in Hollywood is more or less a cup of coffee. You can just after you go to mega though, you can go to you know, Cobra Kai and see like, Oh, this is the script that I brought from Yeah, I did.

Alex Ferrari 12:55
such an amazing analogy of Miyagi doe versus Cobra Kai.

Edson Oda 12:59
And I think like, we know, I'm doing advertising for the Cobra caca. And now that the new season, we're going to learn that both of them that need each other,

Alex Ferrari 13:08
which, at the end of the day is true, because Hollywood does need the independent story. And the independent story needs the infrastructure of Hollywood because all of our great at all of our great directors and writers, they all they all start somewhere, you know, they all start with their independent films, generally speaking, before, they don't just generally come out the gate with $100 million. Striking striking first parking hard, right? Yeah, strike first strike. While we're going right, we're going deep down the Cobra Kai. back. So funny. Are you still can you tell if you can tell us to kind of take a step by step. So you you're done at the at the Sundance lab, you finish the script, you meet a few producers, and then you basically just go out into the world and just start looking for financing and money to try to put this project together. Well, how long did that what was that project? Like? What was the process like? And how long did it take you to do?

Edson Oda 14:05
Oh, yeah, it was so it was interesting, right after the so the the Sundance labs, I just went back to you know, at my desk and you just start writing writing, right, so yeah, okay, now we're ready to just go out. So my managers, you know, my team just like starting to send email to producers and Sundance as well. It's interesting because I was done at Sundance, but Sundance never you know, done with you, they always support you. So and then like for the next like months, that we just started saying script and just start carrying like producer so I think during the one year I started just like working with for this for one year, but it's more trying to you know, find investors and people who would be interested at same time it's just hard for you as you know, first time director to get like money because the way they want to do it, they want to do like you know, more of with more resources and when it when it wanted to do when you really care I do like under K, but they wanted to do with more, more than 100k. So, so when you started like asking investors, they were very interested, but as well, but they were also like, you know, yeah, we'd like his vision, you know, all this stuff, but who would play you know, this character is always that always? Yeah, so there was a time when we just started going, introducing the script to to actors in having meetings. And, you know, from I think that was like, during one year, and then a couple months later, just having conversations the cast when we have like, a amazing cast directors were ready, like, in the beginning of the process with us, Kate gallery, and, and, and just, and Jessica killer, oh,my God, I,I we have to be editors, which are what part ours are cast cast directors, just cast casting directors, and we just like, we just, we just started just saying all this good to everyone. And, and then the actors were so you know, receptive to this crap. And from that, we just, you know, when when people say, Oh, yeah, I want to, you know, play this, this role and everything. We we just, like went back to the investors and they say, like, yeah, we wer just gonna, you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:27
Oh, yes. Yeah, I mean, after that cast, I would invest too. I mean, it was a heck of a cast that you got put together there. I mean, it's an actor's dream this this script is an actor's dream, all the parts, even the small parts have so much meat in them, that most actors would love to play that part. And then the I forgot his name, the will who plays the lead? Well, we can do Yes, he is. He's gonna get he better get a nomination for Best Actor. I mean, he he was a tour de force. performance. I was just I was in I was enchanted and thronged with him. He's just, he has such a presence. Generally, he's a very large man from Black Panther. And, and from us. He's a very large man, but his presence because he wasn't. I mean, he was a little bit there was there was moments where he showed his physicality in the movie, but he was normally just very quiet, very gentle. And he still just had such presence. And and when you start mixing in all these other actors, I mean, what was it like for you? As a first time filmmaker, if not first time filmmaker, but first time feature filmmaker to have a cast like this? What did you feel like going on the set for the first day? Or the table read the first day? Like, what are the nerves? What are like, how did you approach this process?

Edson Oda 17:50
Yeah, that was amazing. Just not not not remember the name? Jessica? Yeah, the both my both guests. Rex is Jessica Kelly and big Gala. Got it? Like,

Alex Ferrari 18:00
they did an amazing job. They did an amazing job deliver that. Yeah,

Edson Oda 18:03
they did a really good job. So yeah, it was it was it was amazing process just like, you know, since day one we were just talking to it was very surreal, because it was my first feature and just having does know, a list actors with you. And, and I remember, like being having all those, you know, actors in the table read, and they just read in your lines and adding like so much in there to, to the work they put in the page. And it was interesting, because I think in the beginning, because there's so much like a collaborative process. And for me, it was like, Okay, I read the those those lines and those pages, but it was interesting that every, you know, person in the team, they just like brought, like different interpretations for who, who the characters were, you know, and even, for example, Winston, he didn't want to play the character was the depressive guy, you know, like, who is always like, one thing? No. And so he was always trying to find, you know, what's what's the what's the happiness behind Well, what's what's what's going on in him and not in a way that he's just like this one little person, but just try and find more of his humanity and, and like, some other characters, like the souls, we had, like deep discussions in a way like how, so how they're going to, you know, interact with one another how they're going to, they're going to like, interact with the world surrounding them. And because since they're all souls one couldn't just like, you know, look at water, say like, Oh, my God, this water does I never tasted before. And the other ones just be like, let's say about waters, there's all cold water, but they do need you to some kind of, you know, same, you know, same kind of energy towards things around and so we have like deep discussions about how would they, you know, act, and everyone had like, really great ideas in a way because it was pretty much like experimental work, if you think of it people who don't have even backgrounds Fast and when you have just find what, you know how they would react to the workouts, you know, outside.

Alex Ferrari 20:07
What was the hardest day on set for you? Where you were just like, Oh my God, because we all have it. Like when we're on set, there's that day, there's that something that happens. We're just like, how are we going to make it through this? There's always something. So what was the hard day for you? I think was we hadn't,

Edson Oda 20:24
we didn't have a lot of days to shoot. So it was like, we had 23 days to shoot everything for photography. Yeah. And remember, and especially like, the less wishes the bicycle, you know, stuff is so beautiful, because it's just one page and scraper. But it's kind of, they take like, a day. But we didn't have a lot of days. So I remember, we we just shot like the bicycle, you know, the beach scene. Everyone says, Now this is great is amazing that the bicycle as well. But then I had this conversation with the producers, as ag producers, and who was you know, doing all the scheduling and say, we're not going to finish this movie, you know? And

Alex Ferrari 21:10
we're behind, we're behind, we can't make it happen.

Edson Oda 21:12
And it was interesting, because we wouldn't, because later we've got some more days, but it was kind of tough to just like we were filming something that we've felt really special, but we kind of got it. We can't, we can make it you know, and it was a day that we everything kind of went really didn't go by, you know, when the projections or stuff. It was just like a different, very difficult, you know, thing to handle. So it was kind of I always had this feeling like, oh, we're doing something special here. But I'm not going to be able to finish. So in that day was the representation of that fear.

Alex Ferrari 21:51
Yeah, listen, I mean, for me, I'm sure Francis Ford Coppola felt the same way through Apocalypse Now. I mean, I read look two and a half years in the jungle, I mean, but we all have many days. I think I don't doesn't matter what what level you are as an as a filmmaker, there are those days that you want to have your vision put up there. But the realities of filmmaking, it's not easy. And when I saw those scenes with the second you said all the scenes with the wishes, I was like, Oh, yeah, I looked at those scenes and like, those don't look easy to shoot. There's a lot of stuff going on the projection, the light the water, there's a it didn't seem easy, but yeah, that was, those are so beautifully shot to the music, the music, the music was wonderful. How did you how did you find the sound for this film? Yeah.

Edson Oda 22:46
I've always been like a huge fan of Antonio Antonio Pinto. I don't know if you're familiar with his work, but he he worked on Central Station seat of God, he worked on all those, you know, amazing, Brazilian, you know, movies, and in the remote his fan of, you know, he was working with a friend of mine, and they got introduced to him. And it was amazing on tour is pretty much like the representation of genius. You know, his bag is very cool guy who just feels like he's just like, not, you know, concerned about things here. And then just all of a sudden, Jesus come with something that, you know, it's amazing. It was working with him during, you know, pre production, and most of the songs he composed before we start preach photography, because he knew the songs before we shooting the girl playing the violin, right, which, like, before he started bass photography, and it was in first was just like, yeah, let's just cap something like stamp, you know, you compose. And then later, we just compose something, you know, more elaborate for the rest of the movie, but the songs are so good that they would just cap capital songs and start just composing. You know, songs based on that, that that main main song, and it was just like, you know, having Skype meetings with him, like the same way we're having now. He was just like, yeah, let me play something to you, you know? And it was just like, yeah, you're his instrument or something. And just like, uh, yeah, and then if I say, I don't know about that, it was just like, play something else and was just like, Oh, yeah, that's exactly that. So it was just like a amazing work anniversary. You

Alex Ferrari 24:15
know, I love the aesthetic of what you did with the film, the production design, with the vintage everything being vintage, which was such a lovely touch. It wasn't super sci fi or, or, or anything like that. It was all vintage and all those vintage TVs representing souls lives. But I have to ask you, how the hell did you shoot all the footage for all the souls that are constantly running? Like how did you shoot was that during production or was that after production production?

Edson Oda 24:49
Yeah, pre production. Almost everything for widows was kind of named here because it was, it was planning you know, the shoot and all this stuff and doing everything prep. And then Later that day, it would just like the picture locking, you know, the the stuff and any we would shoot like, during nine days like the main thing that would go into TVs. And then after that we're just like started like the heavy pre production for Prince photography, but it would still be adding picture locking and stuff that would go into TVs during like baseball tigers. So it was it was crazy. And we shot in Utah. Most of the stuff but also we just found out like with like a show me in Brazil in LA. So most of the stuff that you that you saw, there are all primarily shot, it was all practical on set to Oh, most of them were practical to set. But then there's some you know, feelers, some TVs were not like the hero TVs is call that they then they were like, Great come, yeah, come

Alex Ferrari 25:52
they will come in afterwards. No, it was it was beautiful. I just love the analog aspect of everything that we'll have is writing constantly in the filing cabinet and all that stuff. It was what made by the way, what made you come up with that idea of vintage, as opposed to the, because something like this, you could easily have gone sci fi much more sci fi esque. So what made you do the whole vintage vibe?

Edson Oda 26:15
I think that there's so much about the word. And the feeling that I want people to have is it was more someone's connected to, you know, the nostalgic feeling past and it's, it's hard for me like a word represents my past and represents like my, you know, my, you know, years ago would be like the 80s, you know, there were there was one my childhood happening. And so I knew that would need something like that. And I knew we wouldn't have to be like technological like, you know, x mark, you know, or in just one way, it would be nice to have like this kind of very, this texture of like, whoo, this texture of like glass and not like you know, iPads or iPods or anything like that. And then it creates this kind of cost of that imagine that we'll get in prison during the time period when he died. So like he wouldn't see anything in his house, there's kind of a goal that comes after so he would be leaving this as, you know, time period for the recipes, his existence, because like,

Alex Ferrari 27:20
stuck into it will will will ever become alive again. I don't know. I wish that's the sequel, that'd be 10 days. No, so Okay, so you've, you've made this beautiful film. And you, you put it all together have great cast grades, and then you send it out to the festivals. And you get the phone call that every filmmaker independent filmmaker wants to get, which is the call from Sundance. What was that phone call? like for you?

Edson Oda 27:57
It was amazing. You know, it was such a weird with so working such a tight, that was very short, you know, amount of time to reschedule because we we shot in September, we finished shooting in September. And we just had to add it and finish everything like a cut to Sundance to get into the you know, to screen the festival like January so it was like very, very rushed. And I remember there's so much in terms of pressure in the sense of Yeah, it comes from the lads with not, you know, not some films, you know, from the labs, the screens and that's fast way and, and I remember was just so stressed like how am I gonna make here and I was just in the gym. And you know, someone who actually was someone who went to USC with me, who called me to give me good news and yeah, yeah, she she started working on Sundays and stuff and it was even joke when to start working on Sunday necessarily. Yeah, maybe one day you just gonna give me a call or that my film was accepted or do the q&a and everything and you just let me know and give me a call and just like start yelling and screaming is am I gonna believe it? It is interesting, because during the festival, she was one of the the the organizer who will who did my q&a, which was very cool. So it was almost like a full circle. Yeah. So it was very, very, very special. And it was it was just like, my connection with Sundance in our It was my dream, you know, becoming alumni and then a dream going into the festival and even in now we you know, they're they always so supportive. They love the movie, you know, and I really feel like they're, they're kind of my family. So it was it was great just to be there like in this very, you know, Dave's space and just been screening with other people. So very, very special.

Alex Ferrari 29:56
We're in Where did you screen at the Eccles

Edson Oda 30:00
Trina echoes what was that was nerve racking. He was it was terrible. Like it was, I just couldn't, you know, my stomach was just not doing well. And there was none of my actors watched the movie before the screen. So and everyone was so pumped, there are so much hype, and there's gonna be great. There's gonna beI don't know.No one watched it. So we didn't know what would be the reaction is such a different movie, right? So we don't know. And it was interesting. I remember I remember going to the bathroom and super nervous. And then I met Tony Hale there and he just said, Yeah, just don't, don't don't. Don't let what happens, you know, out there, define who you are, you know, that that was very nice. No, there was something that I think you're gonna carry for the rest of my career, in a sense, like, Yeah, he was, yeah. Because for him, like, we did something special, we did something that were and what they say is just like, you know, can control whatever and just go there and, and but luckily, you know, people, we had like an assailant standing ovation for like, I don't know how many minutes, people were just crying and people who just came to talk to us and it was it was was very special.

Alex Ferrari 31:15
I'm not gonna give the ending away. But I teared up, I teared up, when I watched it, I was just like, cuz I didn't see it coming. I didn't see it coming until maybe until probably probably about four or five minutes before it happened. I was like, wait a minute, could that like, Oh my God, that's the thing. So it I didn't catch it right away. So that's always something fun. Because I've seen so many movies in my life, it's hard to get one past the goalie, in many ways with plots. And that was a really nice touch. But oh, yeah, I definitely teared up after I watched it. It was It was great. The one thing I love about the whole story in the concept is that we as human beings are always defining our happiness, by the goals that we set, like, you know, we're gonna get married, I'll be happy, when I'm married, I'll be happy when I get that job, I'll be happy when I get to Sundance, I'll be happy. When I heard that, and, and your story is like, well, the goal is just to get here. Which is, which is an interesting way of looking at it. Because so many of us are born into this world. And we think that in many ways, your film says you won, you're here. Now what are you going to do with it? Is the question. Yeah,

Edson Oda 32:31
yeah, no, 100% is interesting, because it comes from, you know, the genesis of this word, more or less coming from like, going through, like some hard times and, and feeling like it, you know, this, this, I'm, I'm kind of hating what I'm going through. But what what if this is something just by being here, something that's a privilege, you know, and then be so much about, like, the trying to aim at some goals and say, like, when, when this happens, I will, you know, and for me, it was the same because I remember being in advertising and working in advertising was just like, when i when i when the gold buyer, you know, when can I will you know, and I remember like exactly the feeling of winning it. And I remember like being in the stage and saying, hey, great, and people like revelations, and when they step down, just when I when I went back home, I just felt like, what does it mean is mean anything, or something? And it wasn't? It wasn't one of the moments that I felt like, yeah, maybe I should do something else. Which really interesting.

Alex Ferrari 33:35
Yeah, there's so many times that we put so much emphasis on a goal. And when you get that goal, there's depression afterwards, because you worked all your life. So people are like, I want the Oscar, I want the Oscar. And I've spoken to people who've won the Oscar who's just like after the Oscar, I'm like, I was depressed. Like, where do you? Where do when you get to the top of the mountain? Where do you go, because if your goal of life is to get to the top of the mountain, but the goal of life should be enjoying the ride up to the top of the mountain, and also walking back down and going back off to another mountain and all that kind of stuff. So that's a that's a really, yeah, I'm glad that you had that experience, because I just had the Golden Lion. Look, I got it. What do I do? What do I do now? Um, I'm not at five. So my life is not over yet. What do I do now?

Edson Oda 34:23
It's crazy. I mean, after Sundance, you know, I went back to Brazil. And it felt like what do I do now? Because it was pretty much like, this is my I want to make my first feature. And then I made my first feature, you know, and then it would go to theaters and all this stuff. And I said yeah, and what's what's the what's the point now? What's the purpose? Next? Yeah, what's that really when you when you put all the energy in like goals because then if they you know happen or don't happen, it's just like so much about about it. And if they it's very interesting you brought up about the baby we read achieve the goal, but you can see it

Alex Ferrari 34:59
right? Exactly, we're just so caught up in, in this physical reality that we don't understand that we're like, it's a pleasure. It's an honor just to be here. It's kind of like I'm, I'm honored just to be nominated. It's, it's nice to win, but I'm honored just to be nominated. You know? No one says that, like, I'm honored. I'm honored to be alive. Yeah, exactly. But most people The thing is that right now, as we're speaking, certain, there's there's people right now as we're speaking, leaving this earth. And as we're speaking, new souls are coming in. So I promise you, the people who are leaving many of wish that they continue to have the honor of living out of their affair there. So it should be something that people you know, hopefully take away from this film that this is a it really is an honor just to be nominated. till it's time until security escort you out. Now, you know, you've written this amazing movie about the souls journey. Why do you think we are here? As or? Why do you I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Because after this movie, I would love to hear what you think.

Edson Oda 36:17
I have no idea. Yeah, it's interesting. I I don't know. Yeah. Sometimes I sometimes I know, I'm pretty sure you know, right has a meaning, you know, because I'm pretty much like, half of wheel and Emma. You know, at some moments, I feel like yeah, some some moments, I just feel again, this doesn't make any sense.I think it's justfor me, it's just like this, I think it's gonna be for the rest of my life. Like there's meaning or not meaning there's meaning Are there many, there's some purpose or not purpose. And so it's hard for me just, it's interesting, because people come to me and say, like, Oh, you wrote a movie about, you know, enjoying the word. And then there's this day was just someone was telling me like, oh, how the sunset is amazing. It's not right. It's it's,

Alex Ferrari 37:10
it's not the it's not the Avengers. not joking. Yeah.

Edson Oda 37:18
It's interesting, because there are some moments I feel like, yeah, there's, there's that there is pressure, this kind of energy and there is like, meaning in there. There's some some moments, I just feel very, you know, cynical, you know, bought things out what things happen. So

Alex Ferrari 37:36
that's the upside. That's the up and down. But isn't that the up and down of life, though? I mean, there's days that you like, you're on top of the world and other days, you're like, Oh, God, I forgot to pay that bill. Now my car got repossessed, or something. And you're just like, ah,

Edson Oda 37:50
and you pay the bills? That is you're being very optimistic, because usually, really worth

Alex Ferrari 37:56
being very kind. Yeah, it's, yeah, it could be Yeah, it could be like a million different things that could happen. It is. But that is this crazy thing that we call life. Now, I'd love to, I'd love to ask this one question of you. What do you think your soul's purpose is on this on this journey? What you think you're here to do for, you know, for years, not only for yourself, but for other people? Because this film is for other people, no question about it, not only just for yourself,

Edson Oda 38:23
I think I remember. There is a moment in my life, I felt like very, you know,

lonely in a way that I was, like, I think there's no isolating the way that I was, I felt like it was all by myself, you know, there's no one with it. And it felt terrible. It was in a way that I felt like this. It's so disconnected from everyone and everything, you know, and I remember, I came up with this is a writing thing. And it was interesting, because especially after Ryan nine days, I put a lot of those feelings on the page and how isolated fail how desperate I fell, how, you know, out of hope, I fell in, in then now, people who felt the same at coming to me and telling, like, I felt the same way, you know, this is something that I almost went through, you know, and, and somehow, I felt like so powerful like, I I by showing that, you know, I felt that way it can make people not feel alone, you know, because it's kind of share the same feeling like so it was it was interesting that I think if I can do anything, you know, value here is so much about putting out and, and letting people like me know that they're not alone. And then we're also going to figure it out there. Not Alone. You know? So I think that's, that's something that, that they want to keep doing. That's,

Alex Ferrari 40:05
that's a great, great answer. Because there's so many souls or people in this world that feel alone, whether it be in their professional lives in their personal lives. And I think that's what that's the magic of movies, when you watch a character going through something, and you go, Oh, I'm not alone. And that's the brilliance of what we do as filmmakers. And I think you definitely nailed it with nine days, my friend. Now I'm gonna ask your membership. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Edson Oda 40:39
Don't try to bake into business things just don't think of it. I think the same thing that we were were discussing here about the goal. And I just I think it would just tell a story wants to tell in something that's not there, you want to see and then things will happen to the consequences, you know, and just, you know, keep keep doing your stuff. And in also don't put your or your, you know, hopes in other people. So maybe if you write something that's very personal, just write in a way that you can do yourself. So you don't, don't live your dreams in the hands of other people who just Okay, so no one does. I just do my things. And

Alex Ferrari 41:20
right and so, so writing, so writing a script that could be done for $100,000. Or it could be done for 10 million. Yeah, that's the idea. Because if you'll be waiting for 10 years for that 10 million if that doesn't work

Edson Oda 41:32
out and just name dropping, that actually was a advice that a Quentin Tarantino gave to me. I met him because they won a competition like a while ago, it was before coming to West 2012. I do like a short and then I had chance to sit with him for like, 30 minutes. Yeah, it was amazing. And then I asked him for advice. And you say like, Yeah, it's pretty much like he was telling me to do the same that he did with Reservoir Dogs. Because he he would make Reservoir Dogs with like, I think $40,000 Yeah. And you could have and you could have, yeah, so in the same way, I wrote nine days, I couldn't make 10 days with like, 100k or something, you know, and I think 100k now is the new version of $4,000. But, uh, right, it was all this inflation and stuff. But, but then I was lucky. Like him, you know, to find people to invest. But if even if, you know, I didn't find people truly investing my dream, I would say, okay, screw it out. I just got to make the movie anyway. So I think that was that was a great advice there just passing forward. Trying to look cool. But I have to admit it's not.

Alex Ferrari 42:35
It's not bad advice to pass for from, from a little from a little known director like winter. Yeah. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,

Edson Oda 42:49
it's still a lesson I haven't learned yet. I think it's to live more in the moment, in the same way that Emma lives in the moment and just enjoy the ride. And the way that, you know, I think nine days is a movie to remind me of that as well. Because there's a part of me that yes, can can enjoy them. But there's so much more so many. You know, it's it moments, there's hard to you know, put that into practice. And I feel like that's the happiness is pretty much that, you know, I think that for me, is just being able to just be accept things as they come and be, you know, good with What's life has given you. And not always I can do that. I think I'm getting better. But that's something that I'm still learning that I've learned. I've learned so

Alex Ferrari 43:41
you what you're talking about is almost becoming a spiritual master. Because that's what spiritual like, Yogi's do that, like, whatever comes to them, they just kind of like, life is good. And that's what we all try to get. Yeah, not even that is good, but they just accepted. Yeah, there's an acceptance left sucks sometimes, but he's just like, accepted. Yeah. Like, a lot of times life sucks. I think that's, yeah. Don't use that as your marketing for the film. Sometimes life just sucks.

Edson Oda 44:12
Sometimes, it's just amazing. And I think the combination is right. And it's Yeah, and it wouldn't be amazing if it didn't suck before. So there's almost like, yeah, so it needs to stop.

Alex Ferrari 44:22
I mean, if you if you if you were if you just kept hitting home runs all the time, it would be boring.

Edson Oda 44:29
And now the movies are like that. Yeah, someone is like struggling and stuff and then ecstasy, and Oh, cool. It's great. But you need to struggle, but you need this.

Alex Ferrari 44:36
You need to struggle or also it's a horrible story. If it were three Yeah. If Luke knew the force at the beginning, what's the point? And what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Edson Oda 44:50
Oh, my God. It was raining list right now. So it I have to put the matrix on my top three as well, sir. Yeah, I love this movie. A lot a lot of city lights

Alex Ferrari 45:05
are the shopping will be I love that movie too. He's

Edson Oda 45:07
a good man the other one I want to put it like yeah, seven Sue and have to put earrings are bizarre but yeah I am so American man and including all this. I had to Back to the Future.

Alex Ferrari 45:24
There's nothing wrong with that

Edson Oda 45:26
we're not talking about movies that influenced me as a director, but more as movies that you know, reflect my childhood. I think those movies are movies that are Yeah, I have to go back to

Alex Ferrari 45:37
Texas features one of the most perfect films of all time. Now. I just wanted to, you know, sound a little more artsy. You know, don't I know that people were like, I don't know, Citizen Kane and Seven Samurai Really? Like

Edson Oda 45:47
I had a friend who every time he would tell my movies back to free though he would just kind of, you know, be a little more snobby?

Alex Ferrari 45:55
He would be snobby. Yeah. Of course they love you know, love and seven. Sue I love you. No, no, I mean, look, I love Seven Samurai. I love high low. I love a lot of Kubrick's you know films. Yeah. But yeah, you know, but back to futures on watching it, you know, as the matrix on Hulu, and I'm watching feature two, I think more than 20 times. You like the second one the best when it was a kid and love the video? Oh my god. The future? The Oh god. Yeah. We can geek out. We can geek out about that. And when is the movie coming out? And where can people see it? It's out.

Edson Oda 46:39
Yeah, it's already late. No, actually, it's already in LA in New York. But now it's coming out to nationwide. This Friday. This Friday. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 46:51
That's, that's awesome. Listen, I congratulations on the film. And I wish you nothing but continued success on your journey, my friend. You're, you're doing good work here. And I appreciate and I really do help. I really do hope it It not only entertains people but makes people think a little bit about being just honored to be nominated.

Edson Oda 47:13
Yeah, what if you're not even nominated?

Alex Ferrari 47:15
Well, if you're not ever nominated, then you go out and what happens to the souls happens to the souls You know, I'm not going to ruin it. But that's when that's what happens when you're not nominated. My friend, thank you so much for being on the show.

Edson Oda 47:27
Thank you so much, man. Appreciate okay.

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IFH 490: Cinematography for Directors with Jacqueline B. Frost


Right-click here to download the MP3

Cinematographers are really the directors of images while directors are the authors of the performances. Evidently, the collaboration between these two important persons on set with a shared vision and respect influences the work environment and (the ultimate result) the film, a great deal. 

We’re inspired this week by cinematographer, and author, Jacqueline B. Frost’s book, Cinematography For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration.

She compiled her 30+ expertise in cinematography and production into this book. Its 2nd edition was published in March 2020. The book is a handbook for directors and aspiring filmmakers who want to get the best visuals for their films while establishing a collaborative relationship with their cinematographer. Through interviews with current ASC cinematographers, and a balance between technical, aesthetic, and historical context, this book guides the director into a powerful collaboration with their closest on-set ally. Topics include selecting a cinematographer, collectively discussing the script, choosing an appropriate visual style for a film, color palette, film, and digital formats, lenses, camera movement, genres, and postproduction processes―including the digital intermediate (DI). Interwoven are quotes from working ASC cinematographers.

From my own experience directing and working cinematography a few times, it is no secret that the relationship between a director and his cinematographer must be intuitive and non-contradicting. A quick sit down to break down the script, vision and general approach makes the work way easier for every party. 

Frost’s background in fine arts, photography, and cinematography— merged, has made it easier for her to spot the crevices in approaches or the lack thereof pertaining to DP, and head of images that have been the detriment of many projects.

Cinematography for her is a long-time love of the image and the endless learning process that was ignited when she pursued her graduate degree. To date, she’s taught cinematography, film, and documentary production at UCLA and through shorter courses and produced over 20 feature films and documentaries. 

We cover several themes from Frost’s book including what directors need to know about aesthetics of lenses, focal length, and its depth of field. 

Our conversation was definitely like a mini masterclass on cinematography and Jacqueline was a goldmine of knowledge.

Enjoy my conversation with Jacqueline B. Frost.

Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show Jackie Frost. How are you doing, Jackie?

Jacqueline B. Frost 0:18
I'm good. How are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:19
I'm very good. Thank you so much for being on the show. We're going to talk about today, I wanted to have you on the show because of your book cinematography, for directors and I, as I was saying to you, before we started recording, I've been as a cinematographer, which I do not consider myself a cinematographer, but I have a little feature film. So arguably, I've you know, not well, but apparently made, made it, I sold it. So apparently I did something, okay. Yeah, there was an image, it looked clean, all that kind of good stuff. And I've been a director for most of my career. So I've worked with good cinematographers, or with bad cinematographers. And I really think that a lot of especially young up and coming directors, don't understand the relationship don't understand the, the nuance of that religious, how important it is, how to collaborate, all these kind of things. But we're going to get into the weeds about all of this. But before we get started, how did you get started in the business?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:13
Um, well, it goes back quite a ways right now. But I mean, when I was an undergrad studying, photography, Fine Arts, I was really into, you know, art history, I was into photography. And then I took a film history course. And that just opened up a whole nother chapter of my life. My professor actually said, You are really good at this. And you have a knack for it as Okay, so I pursued studies in film production after that. And because I already had a background in photography, when I did get to grad school, I could shoot better than most of the people there. So suddenly, I'm shooting like everybody's film. So I realized I really liked the creation of the image, um, cut back CUT TO 30 years later, I still love the creation of the image, I realized that cinematography is an endless learning process is because I, of course, learned in 16 millimeter film of black and white reversal. Then I went to color reversal, I was so excited, I finally got to color negative, I thought I'd hit the big time, you know, going from 16, to Super 16 to 35 was like, wow, you know, but then everything changed, of course. So I've also been an educator in the field of cinematography, and film production and documentary production, and you name it as some studies courses as well, for a good portion of my career. So I shoot I teach. And basically, my background from the fine arts and photography, and cinematography, all merged into something that was highly relatable to many other cinematographers. And something that it seemed filled a void between the director and the cinematographer. So that in a nutshell, that's 30 years or so.

Alex Ferrari 2:58
So, in a nutshell, I gotcha. So yeah, that's and again, that relationship is so so so so important. Especially when you're when you're because like I said, I've worked with good, good DPS. I've worked with horrible DPS. Isn't it true, though? Isn't it true that all you need to be to be a dp is you just need to buy a camera, right? That's just the way it works. Right? If you buy a red camera, you're automatically cinematographer? Isn't that the way it works?

Jacqueline B. Frost 3:22
Oh, yeah, sure.

Alex Ferrari 3:26
No, that was my, that was my biggest frustration coming up. Because you know, you would, when I didn't know any better, you'd hire people because of their gear. And not because of their talent. And that is one of the biggest mistakes as a director, well, they have a grip truck, and they've got to read or they got an Alexa, they must know what they're doing. No. What's your experience,

Jacqueline B. Frost 3:47
Not thoroughly the case. And you know, obviously, not all cinematographers. And I learned this a long way to own their own gear, because, you know, it's what they do with the gear, not having the stuff. Well, I got a whole bunch of stuff. I don't know how to use it. You know, it's not like that. It's like, what do I do with this? Okay, you can give me any camera. Just give me a little manual. I'll figure it out. Okay. It's about what you do with that camera. You know, so

Alex Ferrari 4:15
yeah, no, there's no question. And I think that in the in the olden days, back in the day when I was coming up in the 90s 80s, early 2000s, even you could buy a film camera, and that film camera will hold you for a decade. comfortably like you. You had an S r three. Yes, if you had an S or three s or two. As our three just had a couple of bells and whistles, that's all it was. Is it for everyone listening that's a an airy six Super 16 millimeter camera. That's the one I that did my film project in college with. I got the SRP, by the way never saw an sRGB again, in the field was only a start because it was expensive to have another three, but you could own that camera and it would hold nowadays. Every week there's a new camera every week there's a new K, there's new technology constantly constantly coming out. So it doesn't make sense for some photographers to own their own gear unless they can, they can turn it over pretty quickly or it's a per project like this project gonna pay for this camera, something along those lines,

Jacqueline B. Frost 5:17
or they rent out there gear as a side gig. But I mean for independent filmmakers or students coming out of film school or whatever. I mean, there's so many really good prosumer cameras now that can make nice films with and you know, way that we never there you go.

Alex Ferrari 5:34
See I'm holding up my iPhone 12 Max, whatever, I just, I did exactly. This, this blend these lenses. I mean, look, it's not professional, but even if you had some adapt, if you could just adapt it a little bit, put an adapter on it. I mean, Steven Soderbergh doing some insane stuff with the iPhone. I mean, it's pretty remarkable. Again, it's not about the gear, it's about the person behind the lens.

Jacqueline B. Frost 5:55
Yes, yes. And in No, during the COVID times that we've teaching, cinematography and stuff. I was doing it online, but they were still doing projects, and we'd meet and screen them. But, you know, sometimes they were like, Can I use my phone? I'm like, Well, okay, let's see how it goes. You know, some had DSLRs. And they could work with that, you know, the differences, though, you don't really have the lens variants that you have a real camera, you know, which make a difference. And you can buy, you know, a variety of 5000 $10,000 prosumer gear, that's pretty awesome.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
And even, I mean, you could buy a Blackmagic 6k for 20 $500. Get yourself a nice sigma lens and 18 to 35 photo lens. I shot a feature, I've shot two features with that lens. Yeah, it's fine. It's prosumer it's definitely not, you know, the high end glass of cinematography, you know, you know, like, I've shot with Zeiss. I've shot with cooks and things. And you feel the difference when you have like an engine. You

Jacqueline B. Frost 6:56
know, the difference when you start, I recently did a workshop for an MFA cinematography thesis project. And it was we had cook lenses on through and we had an the cook guy came in to do the demo. I was like, Oh my God. I mean, it's just like Richard kura said to me many years ago, he goes, You shoot anamorphic the camera could fall off the truck, and you got a beautiful image. So that's so true. Because I could see it. I can see it in the macro. The glass, the macro was unbelievable. I could see it in the anamorphic widescreen it was just so beautiful. Even on the Zeiss is a beautiful two. Oh, no. Camera, it's about the lens.

Alex Ferrari 7:32
Yeah, and that's the thing. If you are if you're a director or cinematographer listening, the only thing you should invest in is class because class doesn't go away. I mean, as long as it's a night, you know, glasses, glass, the gear the camera is going to change is changing as we speak. And all of that stuff, but the glasses where the investment lies because I love vintage. I love vintage glass. I'd love old glasses that cuts down the it cuts down the sharpness of like a red. You know, you get a nice 5060 year old piece of glass. What was the not the the one the Oh God, the one that Oh, the I can't remember better French glass set. And then there was an ASC cinematographer who pulled it out of obscurity shot him about but I can't remember that boo, belay boo, boo boo, something it bolts bolts. Well, it's ours. Yes, the bolts are set. Yes, the bolt the super bolts, the Super Bowl tires. I've shot with Super Bowl tires. Oh, stonor red, stunning. And they're old, old glass. But anyway, we can start geeking out we got to stop this. Let's actually talk about what what? Because this is what happens when I start talking lenses. I start geeking out a bit. But for the director and the cinematographer, how do you how would you recommend that collaboration? begin? How How should a draw an ideal scenario between a director and cinematographer?

Jacqueline B. Frost 8:52
Well, there's a lot of different ways that people come together but from the 30. So interviews I've conducted over the years, the consistent theme seems to be you need to have somebody that you intuitively connect with somebody who you feel comfortable with somebody who you trust understands your vision. You may have similar tastes, you may have a similar background. I'll use an example of Matthew leba, teak. And he talked about working with Darren Aronofsky. And he said, We come from the same place. We like the same music. We like the sameness and so we could work together instantly. That's a shortcut that really makes a big difference. And when you really trust your dp, you like your dp, they're the person that you know, you lean on when you start to flake out as a director and you're like all over the place. Wait a minute, look, your dp and they'll be like, remember we talked about? Oh, yeah, you know, so it's somebody who shares your vision and doesn't contradict you, especially if so, the first comes with an intuitive meaning. It comes also for looking at each other's work and respecting each other again, Using MADI as a reference, he admires and respects the directors he's worked with. He really likes that sense of collaboration and many DPS Rodrigo as well. They like to share that vision what they have and feel like I have something that I can share with your vision and bring to this project to make it even better. You know, and that's really where it comes down to just you know, that meeting, you don't come in and, and geek out. That's that's the meeting you don't have with a director, you know, what I was carrying when I got this lens, and I got it was cool stuff. And then enough, first of all, it's like, Okay, well, what what do you What's your vision? How do you see your film? You know, what is the theme? You know, how, what does it look like in your mind? You know, because that color palette is part of the conversation. Well, and then the next step might be okay, read the script, what do you feel about the script, and still, it's thematic, you know, they talk about thematic things, then, okay, let's talk about visual references. You bring the years, I'll bring you mind, let's see whether we're on the same page in terms of what this film looks like, feels like, you know, as a director, you can say, Well, look at these three films, I'm thinking about something like this coffee table book, or this particular artist. And the DP will say, oh, okay, I see where you're going. Also, Hey, how about their golden photography? And how about this? And how about that, you know, and you start to share a vision. And that also would come in the discussion of color palette, depending on the genre of the film. And then from there, it's like, okay, we know where we're going now. And now the cinematographer will visually interpret the script where the director will go ahead and focus on shots, angles, composition, framing, as well as working with their actors, you know, and that's really the coming together.

Alex Ferrari 11:40
So, and I know a lot of directors, young directors, full of vigor. As I was, when I was a younger, younger man, I had all these illusions of shooting, you know, getting all my storyboards out getting my shots down. And you do and you could do create that. But as I've gotten older and gone through this, leaning on the eye of a cinematographer, especially when you respect them, like, Look, I'm thinking about shooting it this way. What do you think? and the like, you know what, this would be a great wonder, okay, how do we, okay, that's gonna cut off about an hour and a half of setup times. Let's see how we can do that. And how interesting it is. Leaning on that cinematographer. I found to be, especially one that I trust is invaluable, because I have ideas. And of course, I'm going to come in with shot ideas. And because I'm a cinephile, and and he or she will as well. But, but I think a lot of times filmmakers feel younger filmmakers feel that it's my way or the highway, and they block off that collaboration, because it's ego or its insecurity, or, you know, their fear of like, you know, oh, he's gonna take it away from me, or she's gonna take the movie away from me, because they're running the camera, and there's so much of that stuff going on. Have you found that as well?

Jacqueline B. Frost 12:56
Well, I definitely advise against that. And, and I mean, I've taught directing, and I've taught cinematography, and I taught cinematography, for directors at UCLA extension. And, you know, I definitely say it is best for director not to be a tyrant, and to open their mind, you know, to not say this is just mine, but I'm open to collaboration. And the cinematographer and the production designer, those people, they're there to really serve your vision and to help pull it out of your head and put it on the screen. So to not use them as a resource is, as I think, really problematic for a director because they can make your film so much better.

Alex Ferrari 13:37
No, without question. Now, one thing I always love. Asking a cinematographer is how they want to break down the script. How should a director and as a photographer, sit down and break down a script, approach the script in general?

Jacqueline B. Frost 13:52
Well, there's different ways people like to work. I was fortunate enough to speak with Roger Deakins, a few years ago. And you know, he works with the Coen Brothers a lot, of course, you know, they storyboard and sometimes he'll work with them, and sometimes not, you know, it's not like you have to sit down with them. For him. He trusts in what they do, but he'll glance at what they have. Okay, I see what you want. They'll bring his perspective as well. Rodrigo preeto talked about working with Ang Lee and he was a little bit more precise about the way he wanted things, what lens he wanted. metaleptic loves to sit down and get in and work with, you know, help storyboard or shot list or break down the script, Ellen chorus, she'd like to just take the director sequester them for a week and really pull out of their head what it is they want. So she's really clear on cymatics. And she definitely has a more theoretical perspective to it as well. So you know, some people they just what a cinematographer wants is to be a collaborator. They want to be a collaborator. They don't want to be just Is the technician creating an want to help put their take into it as well. And so being pulled in in the beginning is important.

Alex Ferrari 15:10
Yeah. And I think a lot of times I, the way I always like to collaborate with cinematographers is the shots and the ideas, we work it out together, we work the shot list out together, but the lighting is all them, you know, it should be all them. And that's where this Can't you said this word a few times already in our composition theme. theme is extremely powerful, because you look at a movie like the last emperor, which is just stunning, stunningly shot, anything, Deakins is ever shot, you start looking and you start seeing the theme, through light, through composition to a certain extent, but there's definitely there. But the light and the lens choices are really what create the aesthetic of that theme is that your feeling as well.

Jacqueline B. Frost 15:56
That definitely helps to create it. Because I mean, if your theme is isolation, you're going to use a different focal length than if it's somebody feeling really with all the people around them. So it's a difference between a wide angle and a normal lens, it's going to give you a different perspective and depth of field as if it's a person who's just, you know, falling in love. Maybe we just want to see their eyes movies, you just want to see their face in the background doesn't matter. So yes, lens definitely helps to underscore the theme. Color does as well. You know, whether it's muted, warm, saturated, D saturated, that's part of the tone that's being conveyed, thematically, and will tell tell volumes beyond the words in the exposition itself.

Alex Ferrari 16:39
I mean, you look at it from like the matrix. I mean, which is so the theme of the of I think it was Bill Pope who shot that the theme of the matrix lighting and color palette versus the real world color palette, it's so distinctive, and you get that vibrant, kind of greenish, because of the code vibe, and the aesthetics and then in the real world is all just muted, grays dark. And then you're also collaborating with your wardrobe. And in your production designer, that's another conversation how you could collaborate with all your heads to create the image because it's not just the DP and the director,

Jacqueline B. Frost 17:14
oh, never know, it's the production designer creates the environment that the DP is photographing. So you kind of have to be in concert and coming up with what the overall look is going to be. And the other thing too is once that has been decided the color palette, and you know whether it's going to be saturated, essentially, there's they're shooting that way intentionally. So you can't sort of as a director, go and post and say, Yeah, I don't want to desaturate anymore, let's pump up the color. It's really not the whole design hasn't been created for that. So once you make the decision, you know that you really want to go a certain way, you kind of have to stay with it and not change because the DP has been shooting the film the whole way thinking what you discussed, and you can't all of a sudden change your mind at the end. And you know, the DI

Alex Ferrari 17:58
and the one and we'll talk about the AI in a bit. But the one one example of horrible example of that exact thing happening at probably one of the largest scales ever was the Justice League movie, where the one that was released originally by Joss Whedon was orange that last bout it was just horribly orange. And people were like, what's going on? And then when Zach finally got a chance that release is like, Okay, this makes more sense, because that's the way it was originally shot. So that we'd like jamming something in that wasn't there. And that happens a lot. And especially Yeah, because the power of the is just, it's it's like, it's like Stanley says, With great power comes great responsibility. Yes, it's true. It's true. Because the whole the whole thing can change. Oh, it's, I mean, I've been a colorist for I was at colors for 20 years. So I've colored 50 6070 features plus 1000s of other little projects. So I I would be in a room with a dp and the director. And sometimes the DP would want to go one way when the DP would leave, then the director be like, Hey, can we go, can we go back this way, again, that happens all the time as a colorist, you'd like I who's paying my bills, I have to serve a Master, I can't serve everybody. And so it's like this weird place to be. But, you know, with a couple of strokes, you know, the whole thing now has become D saturated. But but the colors are so vibrant, because the wardrobe is so vibrant. So now I gotta go do more work to fight what you guys originally planned. And I try to explain this to directors like, Look, this is not the way this was designed. I can do it. It's not going to look as good as if we just go with what was designed originally.

Jacqueline B. Frost 19:34
Yeah, well, that's what that happened when the eyes were first coming about in the early 2000s. That was problematic. And so that's why it's kind of written in a lot of ASC and union contracts now that they come back to do the color correction so that it is their vision. The cinematographer vision on that actually is released unless of course the studio head and producer gets in and changes the whole thing but that is supposed to be in contrast Now that you know the caller, is that what they decided on?

Alex Ferrari 20:03
But at the end of the day, but at the end of the day, though it is the director and and or producers final call, isn't it?

Jacqueline B. Frost 20:10
Well, it ultimately could be the studio's final call, you know, but it is the direction, the cinematographer is really the director of the images, they offer the images, right. And the director is the author of the performances. So, you know, it gets a little bit gray, but I think that the best collaborations and if you want to keep working with your dp, I would say, you know, work together like, okay, we we talked about the sector, remember, okay, let's keep going with that. And how D saturated then we then we can negotiate?

Alex Ferrari 20:42
Yeah, I mean, you're not going to go recover chivo or deacons. I mean, that's just not you know, that's not a conference, that's not a conversation.

Jacqueline B. Frost 20:49
But you know, they do their own anyway. I mean, they want to be there, they want to be creating what they really intended the image to be. So that's why they come back. And that's why they're now paid to come back and sit in the DI.

Alex Ferrari 21:03
Yeah, because it's their it's, it's their responsibility. You're absolutely right. And we're also talking about a very high level, I mean, we're talking at the highest, the highest level of, of cinematography and filmmaking as the names that we're throwing around. But when we're talking in the indie world, this is where it becomes a lot grayer egos start flaring up. You know, I've been in rooms where the DP got a little too fancy on set, and I had to save them because they're like, you know what, we're gonna filter this. I'm like, we could do this without, like, hard filters. Don't get married to the image. But the DP wanted to show off for the director and the producer. I'm like, Okay, and then when they came up, like, why is everything yellow? Like, I like it was literally just yellow there. And I knew what they were trying to achieve. And under the look, they were trying, they were trying to Amelie kind of vibe. Oh, yeah. Which the input? But yeah, they, they put too strong of a hard yellow fill filter on it a color gel, not color jumper. Yeah. And it just polluted all the images. And it took me I mean, it was in, there's two big stars in the shot that they were talking about. And it took me about eight hours to kind of literally get in there and like, window things out and follow it took it took forever to get that scene done to save it to literally save it. So you know, that's a scary scenario to be in, and it was in the DP just let things go. But when the producers got involved, they're like, wait a minute, that's not what we discussed. So there's there's that and there's also the politics of it all. Which it's something that a lot of people don't talk about is the politics of, you know, the DP, the director, the producer, then eventually, maybe a distributor studio. But what's your experience? I mean, you've been you've been in those that di suite a lot, I'm sure over the course of your career, and I've interviewed people who've been in it as well. What's your feeling, as far as the politics are concerned?

Jacqueline B. Frost 22:59
Well, the indie world is very different. Very. So of course, issues here, completely different worlds completely different worlds, you know, and I haven't been as high end as the people that I talked to. So their experiences sometimes are mixed as well. I mean, not everything has been, you know, hunky dory for them. And I'm talking about like major people, you know, in the ASC. But in the indie world, you that's where I think the trust between a director and cinematographer is even more important. And personally, I never would have slapped a yellow filter on without saying something to the director, arm, but I don't think I would have even done it. Because I know that it's better these days. Something like that in house, you don't need to do it. The only time I put a black and white a yellow filter on is if I was shooting black and white, of course, pick up the contrast. And then I would say, you know what, I'm going to kick up, you know, that's when I would do

Alex Ferrari 23:51
but that makes sense. And and we could do color tests. You know, like, it's not hard to do a quick camera test. It's a red camera, you own the camera, let's go out and shoot something. And let's test it out. Yes, it's not what I was more ego than anything else, you know, and that's it good. I get it is a problem. And of course, that dp never worked with that director again. And she's gonna say that you ever worked directly never worked with that dp again, and there's just so many I mean, being in this suite for so many years. I just, I just saw everything I've seen. I've seen the best of the scenarios. I've seen the worst of scenarios I've seen a dp who shot a movie when an award at a major festival and wasn't even in the color suite with me. And it was just mean that mean the director call it timing the entire thing. And then they when the cinematography award didn't even mention us things like they were like, you know, like, I know you shot it, man. But, hey, a shout out to the director. Because we are, you know, when I when I decided to dp my first film, I've been coloring for 20 years. So I was like, You know what, if I could just get this thing down the middle? I can save it. And that's exactly what it was. And I showed a few of my friends in the AC about it. And I showed them the film. They're like, what do you think they're like, one of my, one of my good friends in the sec, he's a, he's a very Eastern European, he's like my friend stick to directing. Because it's fine. There's an image there, but please let it leave us to professionals. So I never I didn't even call myself I said lit by I even just, I didn't even want to give myself a dp credit, because I just don't think of it. But But I knew if I could just shoot it down the middle, and I did and shot raw.

Jacqueline B. Frost 25:44
Right?

Alex Ferrari 25:44
Definitely shoot RAW. Now, I wanted to ask you about lenses. Now, and I don't want to go down the rabbit hole on this because we can spend five hours on just looking at 30? No, yeah, we already started. But it's what do you think directors need to understand in regards to the aesthetic of lenses? Like the basics of it, because we can go into the weeds about, you know, coatings and lens flares? And I mean, we could go on for hours about this stuff. Because it's 100 it's literally 100 years of different kinds of class.

Jacqueline B. Frost 26:14
Okay, the thing about directors, some not you necessarily, obviously, because you do have a technical background, but there are directors, if you start talking like that, their eyes will just Yes, over Yes. Check out they don't get they just want to know, okay, so but what directors should know, they should understand focal length. And what that gives you in terms of depth of field, for sure, a wide angle is going to give you the whole environment and beyond, you know, a normal is going to reduce that. So you know, know the basics. And know what you're doing with that, know that if you have a zoom on that, yes, you could do a rack and you could do that, you know, the vertigo shot that

Alex Ferrari 26:54
the the jaws,

Jacqueline B. Frost 26:57
right, do that and watch the depth of field come closing in, you know, know that if you're shooting a beauty shot close up, if you have a longer lens on like an 85 a factory, it'd be soft, and your subjects look really good. But if you take a wide angle lens, you put it in your actor space, it's going to distort. And maybe you want to do that because it's a horror film, or they're psychotic or something, right. So if you understand the basic principles, and also the basics of depth of field in terms of focus, because if you are having an 85 and you're in the low light, and you're wide open, you have no movement in there, you know, and you can understand you're focused on the left eye or the right eye if they blink itself. So you know, I think that that's as far as a director needs to go understanding the basics of depth of field, the basics of focal length, and difference between a high speed and low speed. And maybe you know, if you want to add a little more what anamorphic will give you versus a spherical lens

Alex Ferrari 27:51
pro and prime versus zoom and get those kinds of things. But I

Jacqueline B. Frost 27:56
But I outlined in the chapter of the book, I went to coatings and and all of that major company. I had a conversation just last week with the guy from cook. Oh my God, we went way down a rabbit hole. So it was really, you know, but I wouldn't put that I wouldn't put that in for a director to necessarily wrap their head around.

Alex Ferrari 28:16
No, absolutely not. I mean, I'll geek out just a little bit because I have to, but one of my favorite lenses is the Synoptic. Are you familiar with optics panoptics. So canoptek is a French lens that Kubrick shot, the end scene. In shining in the air inside the inside the maze with the snow. He shot that scene with a panoptic which is a 9.8 y non fisheye. So it doesn't fisheye. If you remember this scene in Clockwork Orange when he's walking around the out the record shop, that's a synoptic it's all super wide, but it doesn't fisheye that's the optic the shot right before the the the unfortunate scene in the beginning of Clockwork Orange, let's say when they pan that as door rings that's a panoptic. So I love that lens. So I found it sister, or the baby brother of it in 16, which is the 5.8 good optic, which you can attach to a a Blackmagic 1080 p pocket. So it has a super 16 lens. And it's I shot my shot my feet I shot one of my features. A lot of my shots were with that. It needs light, it works best outside, if you're inside you need it, you really need to, you know, if you shoot it wide open, it's going to be soft on the edges. But you can pop in a little bit, especially if you shoot a little bit higher rez and I was blown away at how beautiful the images it's just Oh, it's just, it's just wide. It's great. So that's it and I got it off of ebay and they're available. Still And the nine points are still rentable. They're rare, but they're rentable. But these are kind of little vintage things that you just like oh, what a Kubrick shoot. Oh Okay, there you go. Yeah, I want to I want to shoot with that so I mean, I go down that rabbit hole, but vintage I mean, look what I'm Zack Snyder just did with with army of the dead. That was all was it? We it was it What was he? What did he realize? He rehoused? Is it still lenses or just old vintage glass?

Jacqueline B. Frost 30:28
I'm not sure I there's probably an article on American cinematographer magazine about it. Yeah, I mean, because he because if you are working with vintage glass, still camera lenses and rehousing them,

Alex Ferrari 30:39
well, he rehoused all of all his lenses, and he shot and you can tell like, it's a very, like, there's barely any, like everything's out of focus. Like he moves 100 it was a really unique for such a big budget, visual effects film, a pretty pretty ballsy and he shot the whole thing himself because he's he grew up as a cameraman, and director cameraman in the commercial world. So it's fascinating to watch. But that's what's happening now. And knowing something as simple as this, this idea, if you're shooting with a red if you have a female actress or any actor, if you want to see the pores, shoot with new lenses, if you want to soften things up a little bit, shoot with a little bit older, size, cook better, because it's going to be a softer image.

Jacqueline B. Frost 31:26
I mean, old cooks, because the old cooks are getting sharper and crisper, although they were saying the Zeiss is, you know, their, their lines are just perfect. So that from end to end, the lens will be crisp and sharp, whereas cook allows the fall off. And so I think, you know, bring it back to a director again, if you have the opportunity to test some glass with your dp Yeah, and then together and then you know, you write let's notes, this is the 25, cook, this is 25 sites, this is this this is that, then you can really get a sense and the director can respond to what they really like.

Alex Ferrari 32:02
And that's and if you can do that, and in today's world, you know, you probably could do that. I mean, you probably could have the DP like rent, rent a couple packages for the day, go out and shoot some tests, come back to the DI suite and take a look at it and see what even if you know nothing as a director about lenses, you could just go I like the way that looks.

Jacqueline B. Frost 32:20
I don't like that that's too sharp that you know, definitely. Yeah. And I mean, that's something that isn't hard to do. And I it would be a bite nice bonding thing for a director, oh, yeah, they don't know each other that well. And then you can start to see where you're going. And I think more of those kind of testy experiences watching films together, getting a sense of where this person's coming from, you know, understanding each other I that will make it so much easier on those 12 to 15 hour days.

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Oh, especially on that 15th hour, is where you really, you know, those last those last few hours of those days is when you start leaning on each other, and especially the director is leaning on the on the DP a lot. I've been on shoots, where I'm just like, I'm either exhausted, flustered, I'm dealing with other things on set, and I can't, I can't even think of the next shot. And I'm like, we're working where do we need to put the camera? And the DP is there. Remember, we spoke about this, let's Why don't we shoot this here? Or the location changes? Or we can't shoot it that location. So we have to run to another location and steal something? And we're like, okay, on the fly, what are we going to do? And yes, that's when you you want that, that, you know, brother or sister in arms on the day in that relationship. So, so important.

Jacqueline B. Frost 33:38
It is it is and it can make and break a film too. Because if it isn't a good relationship, and you're hating each other and, and like I always used to say don't fight in front of the children, like, you know, you're arguing in front of the actors, because you got to throw off you know, you know, go are you behind the trailer somewhere, if you punch each other back then but don't you know, it's it can really ruin a film. So I think finding that person and I think that's why directors who really like a certain dp will keep working with them. And you know, and then unfortunately, if somebody passes away, it's harder to find another way to keep working with again, and you know, but it's a shorthand that's so essential. And doing these books, I, you know, I was able to really focus on the first one came out in 2009. So I was still talking about film stuff. You know, that's when I decided I had to redo this completely and redo the whole thing from beginning to end. But so I got to talk to more people because of that, you know, and I really found that it was an important conversation. And that DPS feel very, very strong about it. They don't want to be dictated to they don't want to be handed a shot list or a storyboard say it has to be just like this because they say nothing looks like a storyboard. No lens look exactly like storyboards, right, you know, as a reference. Cool,

Alex Ferrari 34:58
you know? And then That's the other thing is like sometimes you work with DPS, excuse me with directors who are arguably could be easily could be lighting this themselves like a Fincher or a Cameron and and like like I have a wonderful story with Russell carpenter who you know the Titanic won the Oscar for Titanic but any the True Lies as well with and now he's doing avatar with with with James and his stories of Jeff's are are hilarious because of I won't tell it here but I'll tell you off here but it wasn't I don't want to get into that the whole story but but you know when you have somebody like a director like a James Cameron or David Fincher who arguably could like the damn thing themselves could they're that technically inclined. You need a special dp for that you don't like Deakins is not going to work with Fincher, there's just no way. No way. No, no way. You know, but chivo will work with Alejandro because that works perfectly fine. You know, or Terrence Malick and chivo will work together because the company always in it. Oh my god, isn't it amazing? Oh my god, Shiva. Oh, God. He says just like, you know, when you're with these kind of cinematographers, and that's the thing when you when you have two Titans, like if you have a deacons, and you have a Michael man, how does that, like, you know, how do you how does that work out? We're off subject now network is geeking out and, and playing around. But in seriousness, like when you have two Titans like that, that are some of the best at what they do in their own fields, and they can't agree with one image or the one way of looking at things. It must be hard. And that's those stories have been out there. And therapies. Sure. Yeah.

Jacqueline B. Frost 36:52
You know, and that's also depending on if they continue to work with each other. If you look at a DPS credit, you see they work 10 films with this one, one with somebody else, and then five more with the same people. That one was not a good experience.

Alex Ferrari 37:05
Generally, generally, generally speaking, yeah. And you could see like, you know, Spielberg would work with Who's he worked Africa, who he was, was he working with, like, up until 80? Until then, Janis came in? And then who and Yes, yeah, yeah. And he worked with him for a certain point. And then that was it. Going Hey, john Jonas, and then, ya know, it's been he's basically shot everything right? since then. Yeah. Yes. Yes. He's, because he's, that works. It works. And I go back to the I go back to the well all the time with people I've worked with, because I just like, I don't wanna have to deal with a new relationship, especially at such a high level, you want to just build that relationship and Okay, know what I'm gonna get with this, you know, as opposed to try and dating someone new. This is this is a relationship. I don't want to date someone new. And I have to look, I have to like pretend I'm somebody I'm not. And I can only hold that up for so long. Like, it's like I know you we know each other. Let's just keep going down this road.

Jacqueline B. Frost 38:07
Like, got Martin Scorsese, right. He worked with Michael Bauhaus for many years, many years from you know, they did like from that film, after hours in the shorter Wait, then Michael ball has passed. So he had to find somebody new. So he tests the waters lib found Rodrigo creato. And now that's been working since, you know, he had Robert Richardson shoot a couple films for him. But it's been creative since. So it's like when you find somebody you're comfortable with working with you go with you've got Robert riches, and he's used to work with Oliver Stone all the time. Yeah, he's trying to try to divorce. You know, and now he's a Tarantino, because he found his new love. And, you know, they connected. Oh, they

Alex Ferrari 38:53
connected in a big way. And, you know, I just wish I just with quitting a little shoot more often. So we could see their work together. But yeah, The Hateful Eight. It's been stunning. And they're doing insane stuff, what they were doing and all that kind of stuff. You know, now that you spoke about visual reference, what should a director bring as visual reference for their vision to a dp?

Jacqueline B. Frost 39:16
Well, it's anything from previous films, of course, some, you know, you could say this film, this film, this film. I think Spike Lee would be notorious for actually screening and, you know, saying something like this, not, you know, knocking on the shoulder or whatever. If they don't have time, they would just share shot list streaming things, you know, check out this, check out that. So photography, of course, is a very strong reference. You know, you've got photography of William Eggleston for a certain time period with the Alang Grapes of Wrath time period. Nan golden, contemporary 70s. You've got a variety of photography, sometimes. It could be graphic novels, depending on the kind of, you know, film it is it could be old magazines Life magazine look magazine for a certain vintage time period. The force there are a handful of painters that are filmic painters you got Edward Hopper, you know Caravaggio, for chiaroscuro Rembrandt for chiaroscuro. Vermeer for directional light. You've got Andrew Wyatt for a certain look. He misery they're very filmic and their their paintings alone seem like stills from a film

Alex Ferrari 40:29
in a way you watch it you watch Barry Barry. Lyndon Lyndon B Barry Lyndon right yeah, yeah very very Linden oh my god like those frames are literally paintings they looked a tour of the candlelight from below I mean, it's literally like he just zooms out and then you just like still frame that looks identical to a masterwork I mean, all and it's shot, shot after shot after shot after shot in that movie like that.

Jacqueline B. Frost 40:58
And I was pulling and I was talking about Sam Mendez talked about using Edward Hopper as their as a reference to Conrad hall for Road to Perdition. So as frame grabs, I mean, there is a frame in repetition that looks like an Edward Hopper painting. I mean, it's seen where it's kind of split in half the boys sitting on the bed in a long shot. The Tom Hanks character comes in, but he's not there yet. So it's an empty frame. And it's so painterly, it's beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 41:25
No, Conrad, I mean, Bobby Fischer. I mean everyone always goes back to Bobby Fischer and what he was doing and Bobby Fischer Alright guys, I apologize we're geeking out again. This I knew this was I knew this was gonna happen. This isn't gonna happen. One thing one thing I think directors should understand is the power of color and the color palette. Absolutely. Because color is so informative at its at a subconscious level green gives you this energy of feeling red gives you that and I think one of the best uses of that was the loud user the last emperor. It is it's a masterclass in color palette. And what from like when the instruct when the teacher comes on a green bike, you know things little

Jacqueline B. Frost 42:11
it's Vittorio has a whole philosophy on color. But you don't have to get as in depth as that except if you understand that their color even just using color as complimentary colors if you understand the color theory a little bit

Alex Ferrari 42:25
what do we have? What the color wheel there?

Jacqueline B. Frost 42:28
Yeah, the color wheel what's you know, what's warm, what's cool, what's complimentary, you know, and integrating those if something is the past the period piece you know, it's warmer perhaps in the present day maybe schooler I mean, there's been so many films where they've touched on this the color palette for specific reasons saturated liquid, Todd Haynes and Ed Lockman. duty to recreate the 50s it has this feeling of a technical or Kodachrome film, film, but that's add light lighting it like Kodachrome film, you know. So, the references will give you that to base yourself on but you have to understand as a director, if you're saying well let's everything have cool palette, what you're saying is this is a somber tone, right use for a rom com.

Alex Ferrari 43:12
It's not gonna work.

Jacqueline B. Frost 43:15
Nor if you have a rom com and it's all you know, if it's saturated warm, okay, we want to see the but if it's dark, and chiaroscuro, that doesn't work as a rom com either. So your lighting and doing color for genre.

Alex Ferrari 43:26
Yeah, exactly. So you look at that's why most comedies are shot essentially flat, almost, it's like, you know, Dumb and Dumber, or the more slapstick it gets the flatter it is there's no in depth lighting. Rom coms have a little bit more shape to the light, but again, very specific. But then you look at, you know, a Michael Bay film, and then or Tony Scott film, and the colors are vibrant and saturated and dark blacks because it's an action film. And then you look at seven or fightclub A Fincher film. And the contrast is dark and like you look at seven is just a masterclass in life. That's

Jacqueline B. Frost 44:05
Yeah, because the whole look visually, is a visual exposition of how sick and twisted and sad story is. Yeah. It's telling it's telling the audience how to feel without telling them how to feel.

Alex Ferrari 44:18
Right, you see a frame you see a frame of seven, and you see a frame of Dumb and Dumber and there's a different energy regardless of what's happening in the frame. So understanding those basics as a director, you have a better yet these are things that I think all directors need to understand at a rudimentary level, to be able to be a, an effective storyteller in this medium colors, basic color theory, basic lens choices, basic lighting, but you know, these kinds of things are basics that you can't I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about like, if you don't as a director, you're relinquishing that power to someone Else good. Could be you could take all the credit for a Roger Deakins. Or you could have a dp who has no understanding of what they're doing and make you look horrible. But you need to understand just the basics to go, Oh, wait a minute, that's not what I want. That's not the tone I want. We need to switch that basic basic stuff. Do you agree?

Jacqueline B. Frost 45:19
Yes, absolutely. And it will if you can get on the same page and really truly collaborate together that's gonna make the film so much better.

Alex Ferrari 45:27
Know what I mean. And again, Malik and chivo I mean, you watch you watch tree of life and you're just like, just you just sit there like you just said, you just sit there and go. Oh, yeah, this is like this. Like it's it's it's when they when those two get together. It's like you're in a dream. It is really dream like in a way that I can't really explain it and that's the beauty of it is that the visuals of it are so dreamlike. And it's not that they just like you know, foggy put some Vaseline on the lens is nothing like that. It's reality ethereal quality. Yeah. I mean, one of my favorite Kubrick films is his eyes wide shot. And I absolutely adore eyes wide shot. Intel. I love eyes wide shot, but the thing is with eyes wide shot. It's a dream. It's it's completely unrealistic thing and the way they did the sets and all that stuff. But the lighting I mean, especially the beginning, just the the the Christmas lights in the background. Yeah. And that's how they lit they lit the whole damn scene with Christmas lights. And I think China ball. Right, right, which are good things to keep as a reference. Right? Yeah, I mean, China balls, the indie filmmakers best friend is a china ball. cheap, cheap lighting,

Jacqueline B. Frost 46:53
get it get a little bit and they travel? Well they flatten out, just don't crush the bolts keep them separate. Exactly. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 47:00
Now, one thing with all the confusion of cameras and resolution, this is a one one area that, you know, it's a pet peeve of mine with the 8k 12k 6k 5k, all this kind of stuff. So many directors get caught up in the case like, Oh, I'm shooting 8k, I'm like, good for you. It means nothing. I shot my last film 10 ADP looks great. blew it up to 2k on a DCP projected at the Chinese theatre. And I was shocked at how good it looked. I was scared. I'm like, this is not gonna look good. And all that oh my god, it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever been a part of. So it doesn't it again, it's always about what's behind the lines, who's who's behind the lens and Who's shooting the shooting it. But what's your take on this whole 8k and the resolution wars, if you will, and directors getting caught up in that. And also then the power that that gives the director with with composition in post?

Jacqueline B. Frost 48:00
Well, in terms of First of all, I want to say there's a quote that john Seale said to me, he said, of course, with a really good Australian accent that I won't do right now. First Five minutes into watching a film, they're not going to know your audience is going to not be aware of whether it's 8k 2k 5k they're not gonna think about that they're gonna be in the story. The story is any good. All right, so that first of all, isn't going to make your film better shooting 8k? And how are you projecting it 8k because you can shoot it 8k but then it's being projected to K at best, at best it's on on a monitor, it's 1080. So what does it really matter? You know, if you are shooting something that is isn't the right now 4k is kind of averaged out. You know, cinematographers said that super 35 is the equivalent of a 6k k anamorphic is is beyond you know, supers six 630 65 millimeter is beyond 10. It's like eight to 10k whatever. But unless you're seeing it like that, you're not getting the impact of it. If you're watching it on your on your phone, or on a computer, it really doesn't matter what you could be shot with your phone. No, it doesn't matter. So to get hung up on that I think is a really trivial and marketing kind of issue. That right now the manufacturers of the cameras keep saying well we can do this and this how many cases are we going to go? Do you really need to see somebody scores Okay, then your di guy you know, you go into post now you got to slap 100 filters on it to soften things up again. You know, you're it doesn't you put it back that's now taken away from film in the making.

Alex Ferrari 49:39
The only thing I would say ever to shoot that at the higher resolution is that is a wildlife. Shoot it at 12k you need that resolution. You're out in the in the savanna somewhere you want to zoom in on a lion eating a gazelle, and you're cute, then yes, absolutely shoot as many cases as you can, because you're more likely going to project that animal iMac scenario or something like that, but the one thing that I've talked to so many VPS about, especially when I'm in my in the in the DI suite was the repositioning You reek recomposing shots, where the DP very, you know, with with with mission, shot it and compose it one way, but the director comes in and goes, Oh, well, let's get all our coverage from the shots. And let's pop into extreme close up. Let's pop out over here. Let's do this and that. Can you do that? Especially in the indie world? Can you do that? Yes. If you shot 6k, could you get away with it? Yes, but the lighting is not correct. The lighting was lit for a wider a wider shot. It's not, it's not lit for your eyes. Yes, you can jump into the eyes. But then it's my job then as a DI that I'm doing basically digital lighting and I'm sculpting light in the DI which takes longer, all this kind of stuff. So but and I know that the PS, every dp ever talked to hating,

Jacqueline B. Frost 51:00
because you lighting you every time you do a different setup, you're you're tweaking the light. And if it's a close up, now that's going to cut into the coverage, of course, you're going to tweak the lights off in the light do this. And so that's that actor looks the way you want them to look. So to just take a slice out of something else is not ideal at all. No,

Alex Ferrari 51:18
no. I mean, look, if you get in trouble, maybe if you get in trouble one shot, but not like, because we all do that. I mean, I've seen $200 million movies who shoot it or whatever. Yeah, I mean, I was I was talking to a dp who worked with bei and he literally was in the DI went outside, shot a closeup of a tire with his iPhone and brought it back in, inserted it and made the movie. Oh, that's awesome. Because it's because it was like, yeah, I'll be right back. Let me go get another shot. He shot some sort of tie or something with his iPhone. It was an insert it was like a you know, 15 frame insert, but he wanted that shot, edited it in, no one ever knew. So it happens it happens. But as a as a thing that is a constant is definitely

Jacqueline B. Frost 52:06
not ideal. But the thing is, like, you know, and resolute things have shifted so radically quickly, like john Beit Bailey told me he shot a film a few years back, this was when the eyes were early, they shot it anamorphically you know, so it was widescreen. anamorphic. And they only did to do a to K di. So it was released. Okay, so what was the point of shooting? widescreen anamorphically. You know, it was there was no point it was reduced. So, you know, if you shoot something 1k 2k 4k, you're great. If you have the opportunity to do something, or if it's a special feck thing, or if it's it is going to be IMAX or huge. Okay, then the higher case matter. But to get have a little tiny camera get hung up on

Alex Ferrari 52:48
this is 15k

Jacqueline B. Frost 52:50
who gives a crap really, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because you don't need to see that much detail.

Alex Ferrari 52:56
Right? You want to know you do not trust me. I've been in that I've been in the AI suite and I'm like, oh, that actor did not Oh, they didn't shave today. Okay, that's I see every hair, okay? Look at that way,

Jacqueline B. Frost 53:10
you don't need to see it. I mean, remember with film, remember the music, the magical transformation that would take place you're shooting on set. Okay, you got your Zeiss lenses at all. But you're shooting film, you see it transferred. And it looks just beautiful. Because the ice is different than film reads. You know, that's what made it so nice and soft and magical. Whereas you have a really harsh lighting, and you have a really sharp lens in a four to 6k image quality. You don't really want that sharpness.

Alex Ferrari 53:43
And that's why Alexa hasn't really jumped up to 8k 10k cuz they're like, we don't need that. And and arguably, Alexa has the soft one of the softer images. I mean, when I say softer, I mean a pleasantly soft edges. And the red, the red is sharp, as its surgical, how the red sensor picks up the image. And I don't know about you, but I'm a big black magic fan. I love Blackmagic cameras, I think they're the best bang for the buck for an independent film. And I've done tests where I've shot and this is for everyone listening, because everyone thinks Oh Alexa, Alexa, let's if you can afford it. God bless you. God bless you. But if you can't, I've shot with and I've spoken to AC cinematographers who have had black magics on the set with as B or C cameras on every set. And they're like we can't publicize this because you know, we can't do that because that's just it. That's not the cool thing I guess or whatever. But they literally had they should be roll on it and you can't. Can't tell and I actually did like it let's actually put this to the test. So I shot Blackmagic Alexa, same lenses, same setup, shot it down the middle. I mean I throw it up there. I challenge anybody to tell me which is which but where The Alexa starts showing its glory is where you start pulling it. You start going under, under or over. The black magic falls apart. But the Alexa hold and hold and but if you're doing your job as a dp, you shouldn't really be under five steps. Step five stops or not. Yeah, I'm hoping not but, but just for people listening. I mean, Blackmagic cameras are best bang for your buck. Without question. You can get a beautiful image of you shot with those or have you any experience with those cameras? Yeah, yeah. I have one right here. Yeah, they're great. They're they're fantastic. Little cameras. They're fantastic cameras. Especially. That's the original 1080 p that's super 16. sensor. Oh, what I have. Oh, so also, you definitely get to look up that synoptic you got to put that an optic up. Look up that panoptic it's good. And that's been booster. Isn't that speed booster amazing on that thing. You get an extra stop stop and a half. Yes, yeah. Sweet. It's, it's it's happening here. So I have, yeah, different things that yeah, it depends on the budget depends on the price of the project. Of course. One other thing I wanted to talk, so we kind of touched upon this the entire time, but in a DI suite. How should a director work with a cinematographer in the DI suite? In your opinion, and I will tell you mine because I see so often, but I'd love to hear your point of view. I think the DI suite really is the DPS domain, because it's their image, that they're tweaking and polishing based on a discussion that's already been had with the director. So I don't think it's a time to do radical different things. Or to go off of that I think that the DI suite is really for the DP to finish their film, to finish being the author of their image. So but where do you balance that with the vision of the director in the safe, it's a little bit different. And we're talking subtleties, not we're not talking like black and white to color or set massive saturation differences or anything like that. But aesthetically, where I've been in the room with a director is like, I don't like that. But the DP is like, well, I want it this way. At a certain point that dp has to like, Look, if it's within five or 10%, of where I originally had the idea, I disagree with you, but you're the director. It is your final vision. This is where that politics situation comes in. And then God forbid, if the producer shows up off, forget it. You do not want the producer involved in the situation.

Jacqueline B. Frost 57:22
But you know, then at the end of the day, I mean, you're working for the director, the director is not working for you. So if it was me, in that situation, I would have to relent, if the director really feels that it should be a little brighter than I intended it to be, you know, it is there felt, I may be annoyed every time I see that shot. But isn't it

Alex Ferrari 57:46
right, as long as it's within a preset, like if it's if it's like, if we're literally just, you know, pixel adjusted pixels. It's a five or 10% difference. That's aesthetics. That's like my taste versus your taste. But if it's like 50% off, and like, you know, wait a minute, this is not what we talked about your we went in shooting the matrix, but now you want Amelie, or you want or you want Dumb and Dumber, this is not what we talked about. Now, can you tell people about your book in cinematography, for directors a guide for the Creator, calibration, collaboration? tell everybody about the book and why you wrote the book?

Jacqueline B. Frost 58:24
Yes, well, the first book came out in 2009. And the second book came out in March of 2020. Right on time of COVID. Of course, obviously,

Alex Ferrari 58:33
for for everyone to go out shooting in production. So great book,

Jacqueline B. Frost 58:37
I haven't done any promotion for it. It's sort of like disappeared for a year. So I'm just pretending that it just came out now. So that the second edition is new, completely updated. The reason I wrote the book is because it is sort of the thread between the director and cinematographer to kind of put them on the same page. This is it's written for directors more than cinematographers. But I've given it to cinematographers, and then given it to directors like

Alex Ferrari 59:05
please, please do this, for God's sakes with this,

Jacqueline B. Frost 59:08
please read this book. So it gives them It gives directors producers screenwriters, people who are not super tech savvy, it gives them an understanding of what his cinematographer does. And I use a variety of quotes from ASC members to kind of validate what I'm saying. So I talked about lenses. I talked about formats. I talked about visual effort references color palette, working with the script formats. touch on color theory. I even talked about film versus digital, talk about certain types of cameras, where we are today, and a whole list of collaborators, directors and cinematographers historically.

Alex Ferrari 59:46
So it is a book that every director should read, especially directors coming up who have not had the experience of being on set with many DPS. It is invaluable because if you had a good collaborator as a dp You're, it's so hard to make a good movie period. Yes, it's so difficult to tell a good story, it's so difficult to just produce a film and get it over the finish line. If you're fighting your dp, it's so much harder.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:00:14
It's not, that's, that's hard, you should be in celebrating the fact that you're making the film, celebrating the fact that you've finished the film, because you're going to be in festivals together, you know, you're going to be sharing it together. And, and hopefully, you're both proud of what you've achieved. So that's, you know, and so I'm all about advocating for collaboration, on all parts, for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:35
in life in general, we should all get together, have a coke and a smile. No, Freeman's, then, you know, just work them out calmly, what you know what, and that's, and that's something that's very important to say, you will not all agree on things. And as a dp, I'm like, I want to go left, you want to go right, that's fine. As long as the DP understands that the end of the day, the director is, you know, and I'm taking it as a director, I'm taking advice or input from the production designer, the costume designer, the actors that all this, oh, this location, that location, all these kind of things, but, but if you could, at least respect I think respect is the big word here, is refers back. If you respect your cinematographer, and the cinematographer respects the director, you can work things out, as long as there's respect there. But you will get angry, there's no question, you're gonna get angry with each other, because it's production. It's crazy. It's insane.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:01:29
And you're creatives, and sometimes you're not gonna see things exactly the same way. Right? But it's it, you know, I have to trust that if I'm shooting for a director, that it's their vision, and they see it in their head, they know what they're doing. So I may see it this way, but they're like, no, I really want it. I don't need that. Okay. I'm not gonna argue you're fine. If that my shot? No, you know, okay, you see it this way, you know how you're cutting it together. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:50
All right. And let's, let's move and let's move it along. Let's move on. And that in that attitude is of one of an experience of photographer because I've seen both the inexperienced cinematographer and the expert and the experience cinematographers just like the experience directed so so like, that's fine. Just Just get along. Let's I got to go get some coffee. Let's move on. It's really not worth fighting about it's pick your battles pick, isn't that you, the young dp the young directors, they fight all the battles all the time, and they're exhausted by the end of the shoot, where the it's like an every in every feels like the the guy was that story, when there was a story of a young boy who wanted to finally fight his dad, like, you know, that coming of thing and like, I'm gonna take you out Oh, man. And the and the dads like, Alright, you want to fight, let's walk outside and go, is it so that the kids like walks out the door, walks, he's walking out the door to go fight them in the front yard. And that clocks him in the back of the head and knocks him out? And when the kid wakes up, he's like, lesson number one never turned you back on. So that's age. I mean, I should. That's abuse. But but you get the story, you get the Let's hope it doesn't happen. But you get the idea.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:03:09
What a dp and experienced dp in particular, but even you want to director be prepared, yes. there and go, Oh, gee, where do we put the care of like, you should know that already. So if you if a director comes on set, and they're prepared, and they know what they're doing, and they know what they want, they have a vision that will make everybody's life so much better. It'll make the shoot so much smoother. And that's what you want to go for. You don't want to be completely unprepared of what you're doing.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:36
Amen, amen. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions as well. My guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? Don't piss anybody off? No. That's obviously not possible. Especially in today's world, you're gonna piss somebody off by doing something?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:03:55
Well, the thing is, today, there is so many more open doors than there were before. Because you can make so many films digitally that look good, that you can submit to so many festivals, there's so many outlets now. If you're a woman, and you'd like to be a dp is so much easier for you now, with the doors being open for unions for the ASC. There's an openness and rather than, you know, a discrimination against women shooting so it, go for it, but do your best work and be strong and don't let anybody deter you on the path. And I say that for guys, as well. You know, you have to just be determined, follow what you want to do. And stay your course. You know, I think eventually you'll make it.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Wow, that's a hard that's a good question. You know, I appreciate

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:04:52
I mean, I think everything is an endless learning process. Don't ever assume you know, everything remain open. And be friendly and fun to work with. You know, don't take yourself so seriously

Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
as I don't know who I think forgot who it was, but it was either a famous director, someone's like the best advice I ever got as a to make it in this business Just don't be a dick. Good, there's still working in the business. So I don't know, there's there there is there is and they do get to a certain place. But generally speaking, if you want, if you want to be on set with, you want to be on set for 15 hours a day with someone you get along with. And if you're a prick, you're not going to work as much.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:05:36
People aren't going to want to work with you, and you're not going to work with them. So and that has happened, you know, it's like it's a hard job. And I've talked to DPS about this too, you know, and they say they want to enjoy the experience, you know, life's too short not to.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Of all time,

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:05:56
I'd have to put the graduate in there for sure. So Apocalypse Now because that's the one that made me fall in love with cinematography, because of victorio. And the third one that could be tough. I really love the work of Douglas Sirk and the cinematography of Russell Mehdi, so good to look at like, all that haven't allows or written on the wind. I love the saturation of the 1950s cinematography, I love the work of wrestling money. So I guess I could say those.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:28
And where can people buy the book?

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:06:30
They can buy the book through Michael ABC productions. They go buy it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. It's pretty much everywhere now.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:37
That's awesome. Jackie, thank you so much for being on the show. It's been a pleasure. And I know we can geek out for at least another hour or two. But I do appreciate you writing the book and helping directors collaborate with send a tog refers in a positive way. So I appreciate you.

Jacqueline B. Frost 1:06:53
Yes, thank you so much for having me and it's been a pleasure speaking again.

LINKS

  • Jacqueline B. Frost – IMDB
  • Jacqueline B. Frost – Facebook
  • Cinematography For Directors: A Guide For Creative Collaboration – Amazon

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IFH 489: Using Blockchain to Make Money With Your Film with Kim Jackson and Jake Craven


Right-click here to download the MP3

Learning about new and improved ways to navigate archaic structures in our line of business is always very interesting. So, this week, I wanted to take you on a deep dive into blockchain entertainment financing — refined by entrepreneurs and producers Kim Jackson and Jake Craven of Breaker.io.

Kim is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, co-owner of SingularDTV, and CEO of its umbrella company, Breaker Studios, where Jake serves as Vice President of Content Partnerships.

Breaker, founded in 2017, is a leading blockchain development and services company in the Media & Entertainment industry. It provides an innovative, intuitive, and user-friendly end-to-end royalty management platform for independent creators and distributors. Simply put, it uses blockchain and cloud-based technology to enable creators to maximize their revenue by automating revenue collection, backend accounting, and royalty payments while ensuring transparent reporting. 

I discovered Breaker when I stumbled upon Alex Winter’s award-winning feature documentary, Trust Machine: The Story Of Blockchain produced by Kim. Trust Machine trailerThe film explains how Blockchain technology is already being used to change the world, fighting income inequality, the refugee crisis, and world hunger. 

If you are new to Blockchain or have felt overwhelmed by all the information Google threw at you in an attempt to learn the rudimentary theory of Blockchain and cryptocurrency, check out Vinay Gupta‘s ‘A Brief History of Blockchain, Kim referenced during our chat.

Breaker’s concept is definitely the future of entertainment finance and, dare I say, global financial transacting. Being ahead of its time, Breaker is introducing products that allow for media revenue and royalty to be tracked via blockchain technology, which allows for an open-source network of data.

Basically, Breaker provides a better model for instantaneous recording and eliminating mistrust, especially for independent companies that want to sustain a business and revenue model for themselves.

I wish we had more time to continue the conversation because it was packed with filmtrepreneurial and blockchain knowledge bombs, and we could all do with the extra crash course. But I made sure to ask many important questions for you guys from today’s experts.

So, enjoy my conversation with Kim Jackson and Jake Craven.

 

Alex Ferrari 0:01
I'd like to welcome to the show Kim Jackson and Jake Craven. How you guys doing?

Kim Jackson 0:19
Great.

Jake Carven 0:20
Doing great.

Alex Ferrari 0:21
Thank you. Thanks for coming on. You guys are doing some really interesting stuff with your company breaker. And I saw them film by Alex winter about blockchain because I've now obsessed about blockchain pretty heavily and about NFT's and all that kind of good stuff. And, and then you guys reached out to me, and I was like, Oh, interesting. I like to see what you guys are doing. So for the audience who is not familiar with this new magical world, that is blockchain and crypto and tokenization. All this stuff. What is blockchain?

Kim Jackson 0:59
Wow, that's a ginormous question. So in relationship to media and technology and film, we'll I think we'll put it in that context.

Jake Carven 1:11
Sure.

Kim Jackson 1:12
Jake.

Jake Carven 1:12
Right.

Kim Jackson 1:12
Well, seeing that avenue.

Jake Carven 1:14
Yeah.

Kim Jackson 1:15
But essentially, blockchain is the technology that what we're all familiar with, as Bitcoin runs on, right. So Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. And it operates on blockchain technology. So it's a at its simplest form, it's a protocol that runs programs. And so at a basic level, the programs Oh, that's why they're different than centralized systems is because this network is called decentralized. And that means where there's network, there's data and where there's data, there's network, unlike centralized systems that we currently work with. So when you apply that to basic concept to certain, maybe challenges and problems that different industries, like media, and film and television have, we have been building and are launching products that allow for media to be, you know, rights, revenue and royalty of media to be tracked via blockchain technology, which allows for a decentralized network of data. So I'm going to stop there, because Jay can go a little more specific into what breaker is, is building from that more general description.

Jake Carven 2:43
Yeah, thanks for a good intro into the big picture of blockchain. How I like to refer to someone's asking what is blockchain? What is a blockchain? It's really just a record of information. Right. And what makes it different from other records that we use, if you think Google sheets or Excel, or just databases, right, is that when when you enter in a new row of data, that information is encoded, so that nobody can go in and change the information later. So it's locked in place and set in stone. In addition, instead of the data being stored on one person's hard drive, or one company's servers, it's held and hosted, maintained by hundreds of people all around the world. So when we say decentralized, it's what we mean, it's there's people all over the world that are hosting and maintaining this network. And this is a record of information. So no one party is in control of that information. And it's all open source so that anyone at any point can go and view this record, they can pull up a website, and you know, put into information and actually see, you know, proof that information was logged and entered into this record. Now, it's all done using, you know, cryptography and long numerical chains that the average person can't decipher, or any person can say can decipher really. But what it does is it creates this opportunity where when you have data that's coming in from one source, instead of that data, just living on someone's computer, and then some human is like entering data and changing the information and sending it via an email. That information is automatically recorded and set on this public record the blockchain that people can go back to.

Alex Ferrari 4:56
So to simplify it is basically a database That has pages in a ledger, those pages are blocks inside of that chain. And they're hosted cop, there's 1000s of copies of that exact thing around the world. So even if you hack into my computer, and, and you know, try to do something, you can't, because there's multiple copies all around around the world, that could be verified by 1000s. And 10s of 1000s of people around the world as this continues to grow and grow is essentially and you can't adjust. And then like any chain, if you block it in the next chain, if you affect this chain, it will affect the rest of the entire chain. So that means it's literally locked in stone, digital stone and cannot be adjusted. So that's the security aspect of it. Is that a fair explanation?

Jake Carven 5:47
Yeah, absolutely. And I think I think most people, most people, you don't need to be tech savvy to, to, you know, reap the benefits of this or to appreciate how all this technology sort of works. You know, I think a lot of times, especially with the blockchain world, we kind of get a little too, we start talking about all the tech and code and all that stuff, when you know, really think of the internet and email, don't need know how email works in order to like, reap the benefits of email. So, you know, there's always this sort of element of the blockchain world where things get too technical too quickly. But we try and just break it down into kind of very clear concepts. And I think that's, that's an important element of just understanding that normally, when you send an email to someone, the record of that email is being held by the company who owns your email address, right? The email server like Google, if Google were to cease existing tomorrow, you would lose all of that information that's on your email, because it's stored by this private entity. So what blockchain does is takes that data and puts it up in a way where it's not subject to like one private entity who can take and use that information however they want or just disappeared, delete it.

Alex Ferrari 7:06
Fair, fair enough. Now, there are obviously the the origination of blockchain was with Bitcoin, and Bitcoin coming on. And that's when the whole concept of blockchain came to came to be, I think, in 2008 and December of 2008, if I'm not mistaken, and there are multiple blockchains out there because a lot of people think there's just this the one blockchain there's multiple blockchains out there, Bitcoin has its own blockchain, which is based around its cryptocurrency. But then another blockchain came out, which is arguably the silver to bitcoins gold, which is aetherium. And aetherium, was created as a blockchain not as much for money, though it has a component of that, but as a platform to kind of piggyback on is that, is that correct?

Kim Jackson 7:54
Correct. Yeah, it's its intention is to have more functionality and more dimension than just operating currency, which is Ethereum is the is the operating protocol that we're building our applications on top of

Alex Ferrari 8:12
now with, with Go ahead,

Jake Carven 8:16
I was gonna say, to go back to your analogy, instead of saying the theorem is silver to bitcoins gold, I think a better way to think of it is a theorem is the oil to bitcoins gold, because well, Bitcoin is a, you know, an asset that can be used as currency. Fair enough theory is, is a system for running applications and to be built upon.

Alex Ferrari 8:39
Now with that, with Ethereum, you because there isn't a monetary aspect of theory, there is an aetherium coin, which runs everything. So with, with the theorem did some of the issues that I've been hearing and seeing myself in the NFT world, is that it takes a long time for these things to get all these all these processes to get registered, because it takes time to physically get it on there. Also gas fees and things like that. Can you talk about that? Because that kind of goes into a larger conversation about what you guys are doing? And how are you going to kind of, because we're at the beginning, where I've been telling people there's like, we're basically in the internet 1994 right now, there, people are still trying to figure out how to build a website, people are still trying to figure out JPEG, because it's that, you know, I remember downloading an image that took four days to download one picture because no one understood JPEG yet. Things like that. Were in that world right now. So there are these kinds of issues that and that we're all figuring out and will be figured out in the next five years, if not faster, because there's so many people going in there. But what do you think? How do you approach and I can you explain gas fees and the speed and things like that with aetherium? Because there's just so many people jamming into it.

Kim Jackson 9:57
Jake

Jake Carven 9:58
Yeah. In order to understand, you know, if you're someone that that, listen to this and you're not familiar with sort of how blockchain actually works, when we say we're recording a new piece of information or data on the blockchain, what we're doing is you're submitting, let's say, transaction with this data. And then there are all these people that are maintaining this network in order to get people and this is what makes blockchain innovative, is, in order to get people to actually maintain that network of information. And to update it, you have to incentivize them, right, they're not just going to do it out of altruism. And because they like the idea of a decentralized network of information. So they have to get paid to maintain all this, right. And so they're just using computing power and their computers. But what happens is, they get paid a fee to update the blockchain to record your data, right, like you pay a fee for a notary public, if you will. And so those, that fee is what's called a gas fee. So when you go to transact blockchain, or you're going to use an application that is interacting with the blockchain in some way, you have to pay a gas fee in the form of cryptocurrency that goes to the individual who's actually like logging that transaction. So that's what keeps the system going. And moving forward, as you know, people are being incentivized because they're getting paid to do it. And, and that's, that's what we refer to gas fees. Now, there's a lot of development that's taking place and a lot of different approaches to blockchain technology and updates, the original mechanism of it was built in serve one purpose, but it had limitations. Were at a phase now where there's a lot of updates being made and switching to some different systems that are more efficient and cost less and are faster. And those are going to be implemented. And some of them are already implemented. Some we're going to be going in the next year, a couple of years. So the whole landscape is changing pretty dramatically right now in terms of just like the nuts and bolts and how of how it works. But for us, the key thing is looking at just that underlying the value proposition of just a blockchain and then this core concept that of what we like to call tokenization. What is tokenization?

Kim Jackson 12:35
Well, Alex, I want to say one thing. You have it, right? It's early days, it's like 1996 in blockchain right now. So it's like the dial up date. Oh, settings, take

Alex Ferrari 12:47
money for 100 bucks. 2400 baud? Yeah.

Kim Jackson 12:49
Yeah, exactly. So it's very, it's a very early, it's still early days. It really, really is. And so, you know, the, the architects of Ethereum are well aware. And they are, you know, they're there. You know, I listen to conversations on clubhouse that, you know, they pop in and out of, and, you know, they're, they're very much aware and their solutions that they're working on, and they're very confident in the future of the etherium protocol, being able to handle the number of transactions that would would be necessary for it to work properly for the general public. Just like the internet, you know, had to figure that out, too. So, yes, so you know, it's, it's, it's definitely a good horse to bet on.

Alex Ferrari 13:39
No, exactly. It's like, if you would have told me like, you know, this internet things really gonna take off. You know, I mean, I still remember dialing, you know, logging in with my AOL free disk that I got, yes, I got my free connection to the Internet.

Kim Jackson 13:54
Made the sound on sound effects. Oh, fantastic. It was, you know, you couldn't wait and we just sat there and we waited and a little chat rooms would come up in the windows, you'd be talking to people in like Vietnam and it was just like amazing Thai was was exceptionally good, incredible. Time. And then you had I put in my name and didn't work and you know, getting your email address. For the first time in a while. I tried like a zillion things. And then I ended up putting some really random thing in there. Just like, okay, I give up. And then of course, it took it so then that was my AOL. I Oh, well, address was something weird and random for a very long time. Yes, it's sort of like that. And, um, I recommend this really great about 25 minute video that Vinay Gupta recorded some years ago that essentially talks about the history of computer science leading to blockchain. And it is super, super important, especially those who maybe came a little bit later in the game and don't maybe have holes in their knowledge of computer science. Leading up to today it was extremely it's like one of those things that we have a required viewing for people who work with us. Because it's very important to understand this moment in time of computer science, which is where we are, which is extremely exciting.

Alex Ferrari 15:16
No, exactly. Please send me a link to that. I would love to put that in the show notes for everyone to watch as well. But I feel I feel that blockchain is as important if not more important than the internet. And it's just such a that's such a that and that is such a massive statement to say, I'm not alone in that, by the way, I'm sure there's many I think both of you agree with it. It's, it's seeing the vision of work and go it's not there right now. But seeing the vision of where that can go. They mean cryptocurrency and we could talk about cryptocurrency, and that is a long game. It's a long in 100 years, we're all going to be dealing with some form of cryptocurrency. I mean, the dollar paper money and all of that, is it. I don't I don't think that's going to happen. I mean, it keeps going for the next 100 years. I think that's very archaic way of doing things. This is and I think that the D five movement and the decentralization and all that stuff is great. But Jake, remind me Did you? Did you answer the question on tokenisation? No, okay. Okay. Okay. I was, I was like, I don't remember him answering it. So took a decision, because I don't know, that's a big part of what you guys are doing with breaker.

Jake Carven 16:22
Yeah, so you to bring it all back around to film and entertainment and how blockchain can be used in the entertainment industry. You have to think of this concept. And this is what when people hear of NF T's or they hear of, you know, different companies and tokens, what we're what we're really talking about is taking a piece of intellectual property and creating a digital identifier with it, which is what we call a token. So it is a unique code that is an address that is recorded on the blockchain that is then associated back to that asset. So what we're doing is taking, let's say, a film, and creating a digital token that represents that film, and the ownership shares of that film, same time. So instead of having just like a contract, then each person has their copy of the contract. And, you know, you kind of have to rely on attorneys to confirm all that. And then some, some accountant will look at it and determine, okay, this person gets this amount, what you're actually doing is you have this digital identity identifier that's recorded on the blockchain. But with that is in associated smart contract, which is another key concept in the blockchain world, which is you're taking the terms of, let's say, a film finance agreement, and you're turning it into a logical formula saying, if X amount of dollars, then it goes to this person, then any money after that goes to these people. And so now, when something happens, let's say there's a transaction or someone sends money to, or records it on the blockchain via a platform, that token, so the asset, right, the money flows back to that address, it's associated with it tied to that address, and then the code based on the smart contract knows how to then to split up the money and who to send it to automatically, because of the terms that you put in place. So what we're doing is looking at how we can tokenize an asset, right, take intellectual property, create a digital token that represents it, and the shares and the back end, and then also apply a smart contract where we can then automate the flow of revenue and the management of rights for that underlying asset

Alex Ferrari 18:48
in a complete transparent way where anybody can go in and look at it, as opposed to the shady world of distribution today.

Jake Carven 18:58
So instead of relying on, you know, an entity where it really comes down to some, you know, accounting associate, manually putting numbers in a spreadsheet, and even if everyone is acting with the best of attention intentions, they're still going to put you know, run the formula incorrectly or miss human error type number, you know, all this stuff, and it just so much error and so much money is lost, and, you know, all because of the sort of human and, and really archaic methodology and practices for entertainment, accounting and rights management, which is really hasn't changed since this all started in the turn of the century. Alright, so this, you know, a way of bringing this new technology to create more efficiency, automation, transparency, for what is otherwise a very inefficient process.

And that is your so some key elements that you Using our tokenization and then smart contracts, can you go? You mentioned smart contracts? Can you explain the smart contracts are to the audience?

Well, yeah, smart contracts are really, it's a set of code that is embedded on in the token. But really what that code is, you're taking the terms of an actual paper contract that you sign, and then taking the logic of like the flow of funds and who receives what and when, and then applying that into actual, like, logic, like math of. And that's what smart that's really all a smart contract is it's that logical formula, that is reflecting agreements between parties that are done outside

Alex Ferrari 20:45
like the waterfall, it's normal waterfall funds, yeah, on the back end, correct. First in like first in financers, get first monies in all that kind of stuff. But it's broken up through using basically smart contracts and blockchain. So when a happens, then B happens, and then once B is done, then it goes out to C, D, E and F. And then you can just lay out however you want the smart contracts to play out, essentially

Kim Jackson 21:09
correct so that when revenue flows in to that token, from the external sources, it automatically will get split into those buckets that you know, you know, this this shareholder that shareholder that member this, you know, that you have your writer and your director or your let's say, you know, you have guilds that need you know, all of it, you can do all all of the anyone who's sharing revenue, in a particular piece of content, or intellectual property. It will automatically when revenue comes in the revenue be pushed into all of those

Alex Ferrari 21:46
different entities. Because right now, there are a handful of companies around the world that do this but in a manual way, not an A and I have had those those companies on the show have spoken about that sounds great. Like they make sure all the you know the the unions get taken care of and, and all entities are very comfortable with that, because there's a centralized kind of almost escrow account that handles the money that has not been handled by anybody else. And they know that they're going to get paid because this entity is going to do it. But the way you're proposing it would be essentially humorless, in the sense of it's going to be set up in a completely transparent way where you can literally log on, check the check your site and go Okay, this is how it's coming in. But the question I have for you is, this is all of course, based on blockchain and cryptocurrency because that's how these these payments have to be moved through has to be moved through aetherium. cryptocurrency, correct. I mean, you're not writing checks, essentially, are not doing wire transfers, or are you

Kim Jackson 22:43
know, no, there is a mechanism that it can be turned into Fiat. It can be turned into, you know, USD. And so we're using a stable coin in this case, so that that deals with the fluctuation that will happen right with cryptocurrencies. So, you know, when revenues come in and something gets, you know, pushed into the token, it will be pushed into the stable coin. And then those stable coins can be held on to or transferred into, you know, exchanges,

Alex Ferrari 23:16
however you however you choose, so that, when you say stable coin, is that an actual name of a coin? Or is that just a generalized name of a coin that you are creating, to make sure that that if $10 comes in $10 comes out, as opposed to $10 comes in Ethereum bombs, or explodes? And then they got $100. Or

Kim Jackson 23:35
no, we didn't invent that. Okay. It's it's a mechanism that, you know, others it's an issue, right? That's a problem, right? You to pay people in crypto, just playing crypto, I mean, it's gonna rise and fall in a millisecond. So So how do you deal with that? So, you know, it's been figured out and, you know, Jake, you can shed some a little bit more light on that one, because I know you're, you know, we're working on our SaaS product right now. And, and that's one of the mechanisms that we use, but no, we can't take credit for.

Alex Ferrari 24:04
Because I've seen that, but there was a point that's a USD coin that's just basically tracks. So that's the point you're using, essentially.

Jake Carven 24:12
Yeah, so we use usdc. There are a number of other stable coins, but the core idea is, you know, it's getting the benefits of, you know, sending funds via the blockchain and but without the volatility or the risk of interacting with cryptocurrency, so it's tied to the value of the US dollar. And, you know, what we really look at is, and this is something that we encounter, you know, there's a lot of companies that have been in this space that came around, we've been doing this for a lot for a while now, men have really learned what are the pain points and some of the limitations to really for broad adoption of this technology. And so we build tools, taking those learnings and applying that. So you know, when you're a filmmaker You need to be able to exploit your film, anywhere where there's a revenue opportunity, right. And there's only if the number of avenues that you release a film is just growing, right? Because audiences are more spread out, there are more new platforms every day. And it's important to be able to, you know, reach those audiences wherever they are to find those opportunities to have your film stand out. So we've built a tool that we call it an on ramp, right, like fiatter, crypto on ramp, so you're able to collect payment in dollars, right? Usually, it's processed via bank account transfer, so a ch. And then our technology automatically converts that to a stable coin. And by doing that, once the funds are in a stable coin, then they can be sent to the film's token. And the smart contract can then do its job, send the funds to all the different participants, and they can then claim their share of the royalties and the revenue immediately. Right then in there. So we look at this sort of full chain of funds, and and how do we make it as smooth and easy as possible, while still still actually getting the benefits of the technology? At the same time?

Alex Ferrari 26:20
So and then. So let's say you have a Netflix deal, you've got some transactional on iTunes, and you sold Germany for a few 1000 bucks, let's say you did all those three things, you would basically have them send checks or wires, essentially into a an account that then automatically turns them into a stable coin.

Jake Carven 26:42
Well, yeah, so what it is, is you will in one way to think of the to kind of step back, when we talk about tokenizing a film, think of it in the way that we would go about and create like a ppm, right? If you're trying to raise private equity for a film, you need a private placement memorandum, which breaks down what is the equity structure, what is the person who's investing in the film, getting all that sort of stuff, and tokenizing, the film is taking that waterfall, putting it into the smart contract and deploying that. So it's recorded on the blockchain. So now you have this token that has been deployed, it's in place, and then begins time to like, Alright, let's start collecting revenue. So for Netflix, and if you're releasing from on iTunes, you're like going through an aggregator or distributor, those payments, most likely are going to come the NAC h transfer, right? A direct bank transfer. And so we are you, a filmmaker can then share the link to our payment portal, if you will, and that that distributor or license or can then submit, you know, remit payment, VA ch directly on that, and that those funds will then be automatically associated with the filmmaker with that film. Right. And so all of the like, you know, the manual, all the like, the counting stuff is all happening behind the scenes automatically, that international, probably, you know, there's a good chance that that might come the wire payment, but also, you know, bank transfer. So we're looking at, you know, how are the ways that filmmakers actually get paid today? And how can we evolve this technology to be able to

Alex Ferrari 28:26
address those different use cases, and you as breaker don't hold any of the money coming in. Because that's been one of the big issues with aggregators and things like that, that they hold the money and might miss spending money, money comes in automatically, with instantly once the money hits that account, turns into a kit at the stable coin, then goes down the waterfall into the thing, you guys never touch anything regarding. I mean, obviously, regarding whatever the payment is for your service might be taken off the top or there's a pain. I don't know how that works. How do you make money with this all?

Jake Carven 29:02
So I mean, we're providing this service, right, it's a software as a service. So you know, there's a mechanism of people, you know, paying for via, like, you would pay for any technology that you use. Got it. And so, but the goal, the the core goal for what we're doing, and this is something that goes back to something that you brought up, collection account management services, and one of the big, the big cards with them is that they are expensive, very often prohibitive, especially for independent film. So, you, us using this technology allows us to provide this service to creators at a much more affordable rate. Right then the legacy systems that are in place today. Very, very cool.

Kim Jackson 29:48
And then, you know, another goal that's worth mentioning here, is that, you know, is to have everyone in this ecosystem participate With blockchain technology utilizing this, so not just the content creator, but also the media companies who are distributing the work, because we talked with a lot of them, and we are approaching, you know, a lot of them at the moment in very exciting conversations because they're backroom accounting is extremely inefficient, cost them millions and millions of dollars, and they lose millions and millions of dollars all the time based on just either error or error, you know, error in accounting, or just the inability to really track stuff, especially when you start getting complicated with multiple, you know, territories that you can imagine a piece of content will go to especially like, you know, Netflix now and all across the world. So the long term goal is to, you know, really have everyone participate in, you know, with this software and building a bridge between the, between the two, because it can benefit both sides. It's baby steps, and it's it's new. So, you know, everyone has to start to get comfortable with the concept of telling the truth.

Alex Ferrari 31:16
Anyone who's anyone who listens to my podcast understands my feelings in regards to traditional Yeah.

Kim Jackson 31:24
Right with you all, it's one of the reasons that this is happening is is I got tired of being shortchanged, I get tired of not having revenue reports, not being able to report to my, my investors, and good, bad or indifferent, you know what I mean? Like you, okay, sometimes a picture doesn't, you know, do well, but at least you'd have numbers to be able to, you know, justify that and show why we don't even get that information. And so, when we learned about the potential of blockchain, on media and content, it's really what inspired myself and my co founders to, to do what we're doing right now. And realizing that it is a long game and realizing that we would be disrupting and interrupting, you know, quite quite a system. But just like the internet happened, it was undeniable, and people are not going to use that I'm not going to do that. It's one of those things where you're all we're all gonna be using it, whether we realize it or not. Someday soon. And so, it by introducing the power of this and the efficiency, I think that organically, I'm hoping this is my pie in the sky, you know, but, but I'm hoping that organically, everyone just adopts this. And then we don't even have to have a conversation about the truth anymore. It's just it just happens. Because it's just more efficient.

Alex Ferrari 32:45
Right? And that's what this whole. That's the whole beauty and genius of blockchain is that two strangers can do business without knowing or trusting each other. And that's been the issue from the beginning of the humanity high, since beginning of time, it was like, I want to give you my goat. And you're gonna give me a cow. But how am I sure you're not going to kill like, there's, there's no, there's no way of doing and that's why fiat money and gold and all these kind of things of getting, we've tried to figure it out over the years. But in this digital platform with blockchain, it completely erases everything.

Kim Jackson 33:24
And it's completely transparent. You don't have to have a like a moral or philosophical or ethical position, it's just gonna be in is it just gonna happen? Because it makes more sense. It's logical, you know, and this is, like, Jake said, it's math, it's man get down to the core of all of it. And it's math. And it's just with with the acceleration of technology and media in particular. It's going to make sense, just from a logical perspective, because how do you account for all this content? And this content sharing? I mean, it's like, it's insane how much is out there. I mean, just from the perspective of the viewer, I get we're over, we're overwhelmed with choices. And if you think about it, from a content creators perspective, the competition out there is insane. And the lifespan of your of your content now, is much, much longer and much greater, much grander than it ever was before. And it's going to just keep accelerating.

Alex Ferrari 34:17
Right, exactly. And I, you know, I'm in the weeds with this all the time. And when you're saying all these films are out there, most of them aren't getting paid. And it's not, it's either, you know, I did just not they're just not most most most of them are not getting paid, because of these kind of weird distribution agreements or shady practices or error, human error, as well, or Amazon's which is from 10 cents a minute, an hour to one penny, of streaming and things like that

Kim Jackson 34:49
get acquired and somebody else buys them and then they have a new department and then they have to transfer all that centralized data and I've got a new person and I'm looking at this first time and I don't know what I'm looking at. I Since it's insanity, it's really insanity. And when we talk to a lot of the, you know, CFOs and accounting types who put these media companies, you know, a lot of times the one departments are talking to the other. So the the department is doing distribution for television is not talking to the department is doing distribution for for traditional film and they have data that's separate and those that data should be connected, and it's not being connected, and it's in the same company within the same company. So the inefficiencies are getting the gap is getting wider and wider. And so they know that something's got to give because they're losing money. And so, you know, the blockchain is an incredible solution. And, you know, we're very, very excited and very motivated by the promise of blockchain. And, and, you know, it's very exciting that you guys and the listeners, and everyone, you know, get this and, you know, it's like talking, it's kind of boring on some level to talk about it a blockchain, because it's like talking about JavaScript, it's like, Who cares? It's like, what's going on underneath of the hood. But you know, what you really care about is, you know, what's, what's the bottom line for, for you, and what the bottom line is, is understanding the core that you're using is actually going to level the playing field, you know, take away, you know, the mistrust, and be able to give you instantaneous recording, these are very important and powerful things, especially for independent companies that want to sustain a business and revenue model for themselves. Because it's, it's almost impossible, you know, you'll get a bunch of funding, you'll make, you know, half a dozen movies, and then you're closing your doors four or five years later. This happens all the time. And so there's got to be a better model. And we're hoping with with this technology, we hope to be able to provide that to these, these filmmakers and these companies.

Alex Ferrari 36:52
Now, there's another thing I saw on your website in regards to financing a film, how do you use this technology in the financing game on how to get your independent project financed? Because there's some very, very interesting benefits that could possibly come from it?

Kim Jackson 37:10
Sure, it's a bit complex, right at the moment, it's not black and white, as you know. You know, I think if you're in a perfect world, and in the future, I can see that you can tokenize your movie, do a token raise just almost like crowdsourcing in a way. But the differences is that instead of getting a T shirt, you're actually getting revenue participation in that movie. And in real time, just like we're talking about through the same mechanisms we were just discussing. And that's in a perfect world. And that's what we we envision for tokat. In the future, it's not possible for various reasons, right? Right now, really, from that perspective of, you know, we can't be it, we can't hold money and be a bank for people like that there has to sort of be that separation. And so it's not as easy. And also, on some level it's crowdsourcing. So you're kind of faced with that same kind of situation with, you know, the Kickstarters of the world, right, in terms of like, getting people's attention, to be able to, you know, raise the amount of funds that you need for that your, your picture. And so, there is a mechanism that I could see in the future that would kind of combine those two efforts where people, especially if you're a well known filmmaker, and you have a track record, and people know, you, you're already going to have a fan base. And so imagine, imagine if there was the Star Wars token, like a mad magic. And but but all those token holders who were fans got to participate in the success almost like the NFT type of model. Right, right. But but from from more of an intellectual property and a revenue sharing model. So, Jake, yeah, I'm sure you got.

Alex Ferrari 38:52
It's like, it's like equity crowdfunding, essentially, almost. But using blockchain and tokens, it's called,

Kim Jackson 38:59
it's complicated because of ky seeing. And because of all of these, these these sec rules and regulations that are from like, 1948, or something that don't really apply to technology today. And so it makes things a bit challenging, but how about this for this specific moment,

Alex Ferrari 39:17
but what about IPOs? So wouldn't this be similar to an IPO? Well,

Jake Carven 39:23
it would be but we forget, I mean, we don't forget it. It's a very small pool of people who actually get to participate in IPOs. Right? It's not IPOs are not something that every person gets to participate in. We might be able to buy a stock after a bank purchases X number and then they sell it again.

Alex Ferrari 39:44
initial point an Ico excuse me, an Ico not an IPO but Ico when they like Dogecoin for God's sakes, or something like that when they put out a coin codepoint initial coin offering could that be kind of like a movie initial movie offer

Jake Carven 39:58
so well. That's the thing, I mean, that we're at, we're at the stage to go back to the knowledge of where we are in the evolution of the technology. Right? There's, we're at the stage where Yeah, it's, you know, 1996 internet, but the SEC has caught up enough learned enough about the internet, right, that they're on, on c span, calling it a series of tubes. But, you know, applying their existing framework to this, and causing a bit more, you know, you know, it's still an evolving process. So, you know, we've gotten to a threshold where, you know, 2017 2018, is where you had the sort of Ico boom. And that's where the technology was very new to a lot of the regulators in, in, you know, countries around the world. But now 2021, it's much more familiar, it's on the radar. So they've limited stuff to a point that you really not seeing those happening as much right now. The coins that are released very often it's, it's not something where people are raising funds through a release of the coins, where people are purchasing them, it's usually more, the new currencies or tokens are being utilized, where they have some utility to them. And they're being distributed to a community of people who can then you know, use them for different purposes, but it's not being used as something to you know, crowdfund in the same way that it was in 2017 2018. So you know, where we look at in terms of if you're a filmmaker, and you're going to raise money. And one of the big aspects is, where's the money coming from, and you can still go out and raise equity and get investors. But what happens more often than not is you're a filmmaker, you get an investor to help you with your first film, you make that film, but from the investor standpoint, the experience of being an investor in independent film is is so bad, because there isn't a lot of information, right? There's, you know, they don't, it's not even that they didn't make their money back. It's just like, there's the black hole, right? There's no data, there's no, it's very hard to get a sense of like, what's going on, you know, what is the act? How is money actually being used? Where's How is the film doing? What was the value of my investment in this. And so it becomes incredibly difficult to get people to investor invest in a second film. And you what we really see is this technology being a tool that creators can use when they go out to investors saying, look, using this, and the technology ensures that you're going to have this access to information. And, you know, we're addressing these sort of pain points that a lot of film investors encounter. And that makes the you as a creator. more intriguing, you know, option for someone to invest in, because there's this level of like, I don't have to trust that you're going to write me a check and pay me back. It's, it's we're utilizing technology that's going to automate all of that. So you're going to get everything as soon as we do. And that our aim is for that to be something that helps these conversations when filmmakers are talking to investors. And that's how it right now without getting into regulations, and sec stuff is a way today that it can be used as a tool to help with financing.

Alex Ferrari 43:20
Well, where can people find out more about what you guys are doing?

Jake Carven 43:26
Well, you can find out on I mean, on our website. So breaker.io is a website. For our technology side, we have a website called tools.breaker.io. We also have our studio side where we produce and finance our own slate of films. And that's breaker studios. And actually, I'll add that those films are our own testcases. So we're using this technology to manage the revenue in the rights for the films that we're producing ourselves. So we're not just asking people to use it, you know, and we're also not just technology people that are trying to build something for the film industry, because we think the film industry is cool and sexy. People that happened to be technology people at the same time, I'm an entertainment attorney. And I spent my career as a distributor working with new distribution mechanisms and new tools and platforms, and Kim's a producer in producing films her whole career. So we're also you We come from the entertainment side and have that background and knowledge that has informed how we guide this technology.

Alex Ferrari 44:34
And the old joke is how do you how do you make millions in the film industry? You start with billions. Yeah. You did. Actually. You don't? I mean, it's Yeah, I mean, and you say that you know you when you define the film industry, Alex Well, the film industry is very there's so many aspects There's the independent film industry. There's the people who, like Marvel. There's Disney, there's, you know, then there's the back back alley, you know, predatory distributors. There's so many aspects of the film industry on the just performance side, then there's the production side, then there's the this, there's, there's so many different aspects of it. But yeah, so you can't make money in the film industry. There are definitely places you can make money in the film industry. But

Kim Jackson 45:30
yeah, if you're a pirate, and you know, I've met them on all beside you're talking about I've met them in production, of course, we'll go We'll go What's your budget, okay. And then they do their own creative accounting on the production budget, so they can filter, you know, filter money over to some other entity, whatever happened. And you're like, you know what, I'm a line producer. I know how to count. I don't think you kidding me? And they look at you with a straight face. Like what do you mean,

Alex Ferrari 45:59
crafts? craft services cost? $20,000. a day on $100,000? movie? I don't understand. You know, $100 bagel?

Kim Jackson 46:12
Yeah, you have? Yeah, there's, there's four extras and you have, you know, $100,000. And for extras, like, you know, like, what? No, extra. So, you know, like these types of things. But yes, you have to be a pirate you do, you have to be a pirate. And, you know, I've definitely made a movies with my fair share of them. And I had to say it was a lot of fun. However, I want to make money, I want to make money, I want enough a business revenue source, you know, that's reliable, that allows me to sustain a business model for myself. And you know, one of the other interesting things that I always bring up to is a lot of colleagues who've been in the business a long time who have survived longtime survivors of you know, independent films specifically, you know, they are coming up against Where are the rights to these films that we sold 15 years ago, where are these are who owns the rights to these films, because they're expiring now and right, and technically, they should be able to, you know, repackage and redistribute these films, especially the sweetheart films that have, you know, an ability to be repackaged in a really, you know, classics or whatever, how or whatever you want to package it. And they're finding that they have no idea where the rights live anymore, because a lot of times the companies that they first sold to were bought, the libraries were bought and sold maybe multiple times, and the the resources that would take them to do the research is just not they're not it's not available to them. So they just kind of have to let things you know, go. And it's a it's a missed opportunity. It's a missed business opportunity, especially if you're a longtime, you know, producer, it's our director, you know, a creator it's, it's, it's a lost opportunity.

Alex Ferrari 47:56
And if you have smart contracts, that kind of voids that situation. if everyone's on a smart contract, like 15 years, it automatically goes to this person's account again, and blah, blah, blah, or whatever it is. All right. I mean, if everything in a magical world, eventually we'll get there. I think we're still years away. from everybody jumping on board, it could because it's, it's like the internet. And how long did it take? I still remember going on line and going Paramount calm? Nope. disney.com? Nope. Like there was I remember those times that there's How long did it take before everybody jumped online before anyone had a website? So this is the same thing I think it's gonna take it's gonna be faster than it did with the internet, though. And Bitcoin is kind of like, done a lot of the heavy lifting over the last decades. It's It's, it's, it's it's come out. It's like, they've kind of refined the idea. And now it's starting, I think he's starting to pick up a little bit of steam. Would you guys agree with all just blockchain and everything is that people are starting to become much more aware of it. Sure.

Jake Carven 48:56
Well, technologies evolved to a point that it's, you know, there are, there are certain hurdles that we encountered and chosen a team that limited our ability to do certain things that were are no longer hurdles, because technology is evolved. So it's growing and improving really, really fast. And that's a great thing. Because, you know, we see the potential use cases and the potential is becoming the actual very quickly.

Alex Ferrari 49:22
Yeah, I mean, if you remember 1996, and then you remember 2006. I mean, YouTube was a year Oh, you're you're too old. And the compression of video was horrible. And it took them another five or eight years before. Oh, look, 720 p. It takes time for this to go. But I think that's I think it's a very exciting time. And I think what you guys are doing is really exciting. And there's there's a lot there's a big learning curve coming. There's a lot of hurdles we have to get over. for everybody involved including the old school dinosaurs and the new young kids coming up who understand is much better than your flitz.

Kim Jackson 50:04
But, you know, don't Don't sell yourself short. I mean, you know, we were there in the beginning. So we have more knowledge, you know, because we were at the sort of the, the beginning of the internet craze. And sure, I think that being around for that and witnessing that and sort of being turned on by it, you know, kids today they just automatically come into it. They don't know they don't understand. They don't this they did not get, you know, like I had a bag phone. I had a phone in my car that was in a bag. Like That was my I was talking about this past weekend with somebody like cell phones was like this giant if anybody

Alex Ferrari 50:39
wants it in a bag, if anybody wants a reference to that watch lethal weapon. And at the end towards the end of lethal weapon, Danny Glover is outside on a bridge talking to rigs on one of those phones.

Kim Jackson 50:51
One of those phones and it was like the $900 a minute like it was really it was seriously like you get you only it was an emergency situation, you know. But you know, the internet was it's very interesting, you know that the whole thing? I mean, I I was in college and I was dating a guy who was a computer science major at BC any I always joke he bought me my own URL for like Valentine's Day and I was like, What is? Where were the flowers? What is the nerdiest the nerdiest,

Alex Ferrari 51:22
dirtiest romantic gesture in the history of?

Kim Jackson 51:25
I have my name calm? Because of him? Yeah. Yeah. And like, there's a million Kim Jackson's on the planet. I mean, I've ran into him. I've had people email me saying, Can I buy my Oh, you're out? Because I I'm like, No, I kidding. Like, that's amazing. But I have my own URL. But I mean, you know, back in the day, if I would not have thought of that, I would not have even thought it. I was like, what's the URL? What do you mean,

Alex Ferrari 51:50
I was lucky enough. I bought Alex Ferrari calm and like late 90s. So I was I was I was, I had a website, business I had, I had an online business in the 90s. I used to make, I've sold this a couple of I used to make like, five, six grand a month. The problem was my server bills were five or six grand a month. Because of bandwidth, bandwidth.

Kim Jackson 52:14
Yes. So that's where we're at now. Yes, this is where we're at right now. And, you know, it's super cool to be talking to you. You're so knowledgeable about it, Alex, and it's really awesome. Because you know, more than you let on that you did. So.

Alex Ferrari 52:32
Like I said, I've been doing a lot of research about this, because I'm really fascinated by the whole concept. I do think it's, it's the future of it's gonna it's gonna affect so many different industries, ours, our small little corner of the world, which is we think it's really big, but the film industry is so small comparatively to medical records and, and just yet, and just just infrastructure on like tracking food and, and manufacturing and finding parts and everything will be on the blockchain eventually, eventually GE medical records everything, everything.

Kim Jackson 53:03
I mean, imagine like, that's one of the examples, I use a lot of medical records, because we will say I don't I don't quite understand. And I say well think about like, you go to the doctor, and then your insurance changes you and you got to go to another network. And that network didn't talk to that network, and you got to fax your faxing, where it's to 2021 were faxing medical records right over to another thing and they didn't get it, you get there and like, we never got the fax and you're like getting it to fax. And I mean, you know, it's like insane the inefficiency and data sharing in the health industry. I mean, it should just be a decentralized network, you can just go Okay, which is a little scary, because then, you know, give the Think about that for one second. I mean, there's some security, and some, you know, privacy things that would have to be it for me to be comfortable to. And by the way, there are blockchain companies who are working on the security and the privacy issues around, you know, the fact that it is decentralized, and you know, anyone could find the hash tag that would be this long that you would have to understand that there's, you know, Jake's hash tag for that particular thing. Unless he told me I wouldn't know that but people don't quite understand that but but and when people's names and more private information is gonna start being shared. I think, you know, it's good to know that there are blockchain companies that are working on the on the privacy and security protocols around that because it will be necessary.

Alex Ferrari 54:34
Now, just really quickly, those What do you think of the NF t situation because I mean, I've done I've done three episodes, I did a series of episodes on NF T's because I was fascinated with them. And once I understood what an NF T was, which is basically a digital baseball card. Like Okay, got it. It's a baseball card. It's a comic book. It's what it is. So I put up some NF T's just for fun and sold out. I was like, wait a minute. How does this work and In my NF T's that I sold, where I have the distinct honor of having the very first filmmaking tutorials ever uploaded to YouTube. Cool, I have a series of six of them. And they were all up there. And I showed the link and everything and they I sold the first three and then I uploaded the other three. And I've had, I had interviews with the the guys that a lot of wanna, who NFT their, their, their feature, and they're not selling their distribution rights, but there's, you're able to buy basically shares in their movie. And then whatever money comes in, gets out there. And then Kevin Smith is selling his entire distribution for his latest film on that, whatever he's doing there. What do you guys think of NF T's and how it affects the film industry? Just out of curiosity? I know, that's not what your company does. But this is just a curious question, Jake.

Jake Carven 55:48
Well, you know, and it's funny, I wouldn't say that we don't do anything with NF T's because NF T's are tokens. And we operate in tokens, right. And so while we see greater application of fungible tokens to a film, where you're creating the, you know, Jake's movie token, and you're creating 100 of those, and each one represents 1%, of the total share of Jake's movie token, it's still a token. And I think that the core concepts that you need to understand to buy and interact with NF T's are the core concepts you need to understand to use any blockchain application. And so to that regard, it's uh, you know, rising tide raises all ships, because the more people that learn about this and become comfortable with the fundamentals of the technology, the better I think, at the end of the day, you know, there are things that come up with NF T's where people like NF T's can do this, they can do that. tokens can do that. It doesn't have to be an NF t to do it, it's tokens. And so we focus and NF T's are flashy, because of the, you know, the dollar amount that comes up with some of the sales. And, you know, I think there's a very particular audience that's very excited about that. And, you know, it's a specific pool of people that are actually transacting and purchasing NF T's it's not, you know, it's a very, it's actually a very small number of people in the whole, you know, of the total population that are actually purchasing. But they're collectibles, right, it comes down to collectible item, merchandise, things like that. And that's great. It's really interesting how it's evolving in the gaming space, you know, and how these tokens can be used to unlock different things. And that's exciting to see that evolve. And I think that's going to be in the next couple of years, where it's going to continue to get exciting is in, in gaming, right? Because video games, the whole world of you know, I bought this game for 150 bucks, I'm playing it and now I have to purchase, you know, in app purchases, I need to play it yet. But then you don't own those things. Right. It's stuck. It's limited to just that game. These are not transferable. That's, that's a, you know, problem in itself. But we just keep going back to you know, the more people become comfortable with tokens, the better for our standpoint, because that is what grows the technology. We, at this point, you know, you mentioned, you know, that that's a lot of the boring stuff, you know, or the boring aspects of blockchain or applications, like with healthcare, we focus on the boring stuff in the film industry. And I'm fine with that. Because, you know, we're nerds and, you know, I said, I'm the attorney and I like the boring stuff. I find it fascinating. And, you know, so what we do is necessarily sexy, you know, you know, videos and flashy stuff that selling for, you know, millions of dollars, but we think it's a tool that can can really help this industry and help independent creators across the board. Whether or not you're tech savvy.

Alex Ferrari 58:55
Yeah. And look what the NBA has been doing with NBA hot shots and, and Major League Baseball's coming out with their like digital packs. And those digital packs are like flying off the shelves and things like that. When do you think when do you think we're gonna see, you know, Marvel's NF T's? Like, you know, when are we going to start because it's coming? It's coming in? There's no question tomorrow it

Jake Carven 59:19
yeah, it might be tomorrow. I think fox is announced they're making a big investment. And, you know, it's, it's, it's an inevitability. But when you look at in that regard, it's it's just an extension of their merchandise division, and it's just more merchandise and with no cost.

Alex Ferrari 59:35
It's very little cost of manufacture.

Jake Carven 59:37
Yeah, exactly. So you know, I think it I think it's a good thing in the long run,

Kim Jackson 59:44
because, you know, what, it's, everything's digital now. Right? So, you're, we're going, we're going been going into the digital world for decades now. And so, one, I think challenge especially for art, you know, is how do you rare Buy and make digital art meaningful and worth something. And so I think that NF T's are, you know, valuable in that way, because then you can, you know, create value in a new in a new way, especially for digital art. And I think that, you know, studios, they've got all the that, you know, they're the, they're the, you know, 1000 pound gorilla sitting in the room, and they just sort of wait till everybody else figures it out, and then they just go, Okay, we'll do that. And here's the money make it happen. Let's do it.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:28
It also took it also took them 12 years to a major studio to come up with a streaming service. So there's that they aren't, they're not fast, they're not fast. They're not path

Kim Jackson 1:00:36
because it's bureaucratic. And there's operasi, inside of the studio, if you've ever worked at one I had the pleasure of doing when I first came out of the gate, you know, with my career and realize that that didn't think I could remain employable in that atmosphere. So I, you know, just thought the indie road would be would be better, but I feel that what we're the road we're on with building applications on blockchain technology is going to aid in the evolution of our industry. And that's really what we're what we're dedicated to. And and in you know, that that that slow and steady wins the race?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:23
Right? On, there's no question and to bring it back to where we started with the 1996 analogy. Remember, when when the internet first popped out? How many people were scared to put in their credit card? Oh, yeah. And that's the same thing with like, how many people are afraid of buying an NF T or, or buying a token or putting their you know, that's where we're at right now? And yeah, I think it will, it will change probably faster than any of us think it's starting to already grow in self. I mean, even in the small time that I've been aware of this avenue about Bitcoin, obviously, like everybody else has probably, but understanding this, I've only been really got into this deeply, probably the last six months to a year. And just in that time, things have changed so dramatically, and will continue to change as things go forward. So it's exciting. I'm excited about what you guys are doing. Thank you for fighting the good fight and try and help creators and filmmakers out there so I appreciate you guys again, where if everybody wants to check you guys out where they go.

Kim Jackson 1:02:23
breaker.io and watch trust machine the story of blockchain

Alex Ferrari 1:02:28
Yes. With with is it. tetanus tetanus bill, bill from Bill s Preston Esquire. Let's do it correctly.

Kim Jackson 1:02:37
Indeed. He's the director extraordinare.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:39
Yes. Thank you so much.

LINKS

  • Breaker.io – Website
  • Kim Jackson – Linkedin
  • Jake Craven – Linkedin
  • Trust Machine: The Story Of Blockchain – Amazon
  • Vinay Gupta – A Brief History of Blockchain – Youtube 

SPONSORS

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

IFH 488: When Hip-Hop, Skateboarding and Filmmaking Collide with Jeremy Elkin


Right-click here to download the MP3

In today’s episode, we take you back to the late 90s and early 80s hip-hop and skateboarding culture in New York City with director Jeremy Elkin’s new documentary, ‘All The Streets Are Silent: The Convergence of Hip Hop and Skateboarding.

In the late 80s and early 90s, the streets of downtown Manhattan were the site of a collision between two vibrant subcultures: skateboarding and hip hop. All the Streets Are Silent brings to life the magic of that time and the convergence that created a style and visual language that would have an outsized and enduring cultural effect. From the DJ booths and dance floors of the Mars nightclub to the founding of brands like Supreme, this convergence would lay the foundation for modern street style. Paris Is Burning meets Larry Clark’s KIDS, All the Streets Are Silent is a love letter to New York—examining race, society, fashion, and street culture.

Jeremy is the founder of Elkin Editions—an independent video production studio under which he’s done production, writing, cinematography, and directing. 

He’s most notable for his 2015 hot topic directorial debut, Call Me Caitlyn, and a second unit director on recording artist, Demi Lovato’s 2017 documentary, Simply Complicated (trailer). The documentary gives a personal and intimate look into Demi Lovato’s life as not only a regular 25-year-old but also one of the biggest pop stars in the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching All The Streets Are Silent. It gives one all the good nostalgic feels while also provoking current socio-cultural consciousness.

Enjoy my chat with Jeremy Elkin.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show Jeremy Elkin man. How you doing Jeremy?

Jeremy Elkin 0:07
Hi.

Alex Ferrari 0:08
How you doing? Right? So I wanted to bring you on the show, man. I saw your film, all the streets are silent. And it really hit a chord with me, man, because I was like I was telling you before I, I was raised in New York as a kid. So for most of the most of the 70s, and up until about 85, I was in New York and my dad, my stepdad was a cab driver. So I would ride with him throughout Manhattan, and I saw hip hop coming up, and breakdance and then skateboarding and all that Washington Square. I was all in that stuff. I was a young kid at the time, but I saw it happening. So when I saw this, I was like, Man, I'm back home. So how did the project get together? Man? How did you put the whole thing together?

Jeremy Elkin 0:54
It's a big question. Which part of the?

Alex Ferrari 0:59
Well, just in general, like I mean, so what was the genesis of the project? Like how did you like At what point did you go I gotta put this thing together. I got to tell this story.

Jeremy Elkin 1:07
Yeah, so you know, I made skate videos for a long time. And I made documentaries for a while and I had always known that he like Eisenhower had this like magical archive based on his footage that was mzr mixtape. And I knew that he was at destruction Bob radio show a lot. I knew he was a club promoter. But I didn't really know the full extent until we started to dive in. So yeah, to be perfectly honest, I didn't I didn't know there was a story until probably like a year and a half and to making it didn't really know if it was anything more than just a behind the scenes on how mixtape was made. And it really wasn't until we discovered Yuki Watanabe, who was the founder of the nightclub Mars, until we discovered his archive from the nightclub. That's where the story opened up.

Alex Ferrari 2:03
Now, how can you explain to people the importance of Mars because I had Moby on the show a little while ago, and and Moby talked about Mars like it was, you know, the second coming? So can you take the importance of those years? Because it wasn't around for a long time. It was around what four or five years? I'm like that two years? Oh, two, it was only around two years. Jesus?

Jeremy Elkin 2:22
Yeah. midnight of the new year's eve of 89. And a close spring of 92. Oh, Jesus. So it was only January 1992. Like, you know, April or May of 92.

Alex Ferrari 2:36
So a couple years, but it was such an impactful club. Can you explain to people what that was about?

Jeremy Elkin 2:42
Yeah, so it was actually not a hip hop club. It was a club that had many different genres of music. And every floors of genre that's that's how you ki and Rudolph set it up. And you he was a DJ, and he was super interested in the youth. And so he set up this little radio station and called radio Mars where he would record mixes in his little office, and he would audition DJs for the for, you know, for the next week or whatever, right? And people will drop off demo tapes. They would come You know, do a session for him and he would figure out who, who could pair with Who and What floor they would go on and whatever. But it wasn't about hip hop. Until there was one evening, famously when Beasley has a character in the film, found a microphone with Eli, the narrator. And this is in the basement. They have like this house party in the basement, they plugged in the mic. And word got around that there was a mic where you could rap because in the basement of the house, but they were like playing hip hop, like you weren't supposed to buy hip hop because it brought like bad insurance, whatever. You didn't want it because it meant like gang violence but they started playing like de la Sol and tribe and black sheep. And a non black sheep. Those later dread Dale's own tribe and you know, jungle brothers, those guys all the cons. And they had a mic and Run DMC showed up. And you know, and and we're like, you know, this is how you Ryan kind of thing. I think just word got out in the in the community that there was an open there was the ability to go to a club with a DJ and you could get a mic. So that sort of that was like the birth of I think the club blowing up and that was within the first like, you know, let's say six months of it opening

Alex Ferrari 4:28
and then I saw the vid in the film that Do you have some footage of Jay Z? A young unknown Jay Z just rapping on the mic? Yeah, that was the

Jeremy Elkin 4:39
Yuki his wife actually filmed that. That was a that was a crazy one. That tape was like that's a whole other story of discovering the tape. But yeah, Jay Z was you know, completely unknown under jazz O's when coming up. Jazz Oh sort of gave him the chain that night to wear and I think he just let off and he had never seen that footage we showed it to him many years ago and he was he couldn't believe he you know he didn't even know anyone record

Alex Ferrari 5:07
he didn't even know that Jay Z ever played that that clip because he always he didn't know who's Jay Z was so he's just was another another rapper right Ryan's name like Jay Z didn't even know that was recorded. Oh, Jay Z didn't even know it was

Jeremy Elkin 5:17
your dad and he didn't know. But no, Yuki Yeah, he didn't know. You know, he, these are all unknown rappers. It's like if you know, it's like if we go to a club next week. And there's a bunch of people rhyming, like we never

Alex Ferrari 5:30
met. And then m&m shows up.

Jeremy Elkin 5:32
We're certainly not gonna tape it. And I think yukia is why Bolton Eli as well. But you know, you I was like younger back then. But they had the foresight to record, you know, every once a week, once or twice a week and record performances of the club. And that was just happened to be one of those nights. Yeah. And I think they only recorded that because the junk if you watch the film, The Jungle brothers, he's kind of doing a dance. Yeah. And there's like an interview there's an interview where they're from, I think MTV or VHS or something like that. And they're interviewing him and so they were filming the jungle brothers being interviewed on broadcast TV like the camera man was in there. So I wonder I don't know they were in there to record the jungle brothers is as an interview in the club. Right? This is according to like what I've seen in the tape. I mean, you he doesn't remember they don't remember but I don't think the cameraman would have had the you know, I don't think they're recording all the all the musical performances that night. I mean, it was a lot of people going on. I doubt they got it in that quality. But you know, Yuki, his wife was able mammy Watanabe was able to record it. And she labeled the tape wrap streetstyle New York group or something?

Alex Ferrari 6:39
So would have never been able to like How the hell do you find that in the probably 1000s and 1000s of times?

Jeremy Elkin 6:45
Yeah, so he he was only giving me the tapes that were properly labeled. And then there was like another 234 1000 tapes that were unlabeled, who were mainly house and disco and not really the nights. It was again, it was this night. It wasn't really like there wasn't like a hip hop night collection. It was the hip hop was sort of embedded in archives. So you know, they would make these highlight reels of each evening. So for instance, you know, one evening it was, I think the one that tape where the Jay Z appear that saw a glimpse of avant was it was a mash up of a variety of evenings. And it was a glimpse of like two to three seconds of most mute of Jay Z on the mic, and I called up right away. I was like, Where's the Jay Z tape? What's that? He's like, he never played in Mars.

Alex Ferrari 7:36
Now he wasn't there.

Jeremy Elkin 7:37
I would have known him, you know? And I was like, No, no, I'm pretty sure it's Jay Z. I sent him a picture. He's like, Yeah, it looks like like, No, no, it's for sure. It's JC. And he's like water. No, like, it must be an unlabeled tape. You know, if we have it, because those highlight reels, you know, may me and him were like doing the tape to tape editing or whatever it was called where you would make like a highlight reel of a variety of tapes on the one tape. But you couldn't have like the audio wouldn't transfer with it. So you just put you choose a song and then you would layer in footage, you know. And that's that was it? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 8:11
So you mentioned the zoo, your mixtape? Can you tell people what Zoo York was and the importance of New York in this whole movement?

Jeremy Elkin 8:21
So yes, New York was a skate company founded by Rodney Smith, Adam Schatz, and he like as our 93. Adam shots, Eli had come over from doing fat farm. And Rodney was the founder of shot skateboards, which is the first New York skate company, the early 80s. And so they sort of combined forces after Eli that success of Mars and fat farm developing platform under Russell. He, you know, they got together started New York, and it was kind of like the first it was really like the first successful East Coast skate company, I guess you could say. Because Sean had some success, but it was definitely underground and more like transition pool skaters, Zoo York was really Street and it had like, the hip hop roots graffiti aspect with the tags. And yeah, it just was a it was a really like Ross street brand that existed for about, you know, seven, eight years before it got bought by Marc Ecko and and became something else but during those first years, 93 to 2000 ish. It was it was you know, as good as it gets for skated for street skate on the east coast.

Alex Ferrari 9:33
And then so um, because at that point, basically West Coast owned the the skating world I mean, with Tony Hawk and the the one of those guys called Dogtown z boys, z boys and Dogtown and they kind of I'm not sure who were they they were the first to skateboard right with it. West Coast was there or is there or is there a conversation?

Jeremy Elkin 9:57
There's a lot more cruise like it was the end Were in San Francisco. There were a lot of amazing skaters in LA that were doing street skating. Just like the New York guys. It's just the only mainstream press was hitting you know, only the mainstream press is picking up Tony authz boys, etc. But there were there were I mean, there were millions gay companies were awesome in the on the west coast. It was it wasn't it wasn't like if anything does Tony out busy boys were seen as corny. And you know, men s and some of the like, Girl chocolate skateboard guys, Spike Jones, his crew, those guys were like, those guys were like, you know, the skaters that everyone like looked up to, at least from you know, the type of skating that I grew up, you know, enjoying,

Alex Ferrari 10:39
right. And then the whole skate scene in New York was a lot more I mean, again, when I was raised there, so it's a lot grittier. There's no palm trees, there's no beaches. You don't want to go to the beaches. Most of the time, things like that. So the energy was just so different. Now. At what point did the street culture combined with hip hop was that the mixtape?

Jeremy Elkin 11:04
I mean, there's I mean, there's a lot of examples of it. You know, I think even going way way back to like breakdancing circles and the projects in the 80s. You know, I'm sure like for kids with skateboards, there was a DJ in the park. And there was a couple of these breakdancing and doing graffiti. I'm sure it was all it was always. It was always like part of one thing, you know, I think it wasn't so like black and white. But I think the mixtape just like showed, as as Josh kailis puts it in the film, he says they show how close they were in relation, I think, you know, as opposed to like, you know, some like abstract, archival photo from the mid 80s. I think just seeing a 40 minute version of that was way more impactful. And just the fact that like, clearly the guy Eli was at the radio station and the guy from escaping, also Eli, an RV family, you could tell they were using the same cameras, it might have been been been from the same tape. So I think that's what really like hit home the people It wasn't like, they just scraped the internet for x footage, and then paired it with the footage they were filming, it was all part of the same body of work. That's probably why it hit harder, you know.

Alex Ferrari 12:15
Now, two of the main people in the movie that are in all this archival footage is Harold and Justin. Who are I mean, gone too soon was luck, of course, but their characters I mean, Harold, I mean, he's a legend. I mean, there's people wearing his name his face on T shirts still. And he passed years ago. I knew him from I was introduced to him by four kids. I mean, I saw kids in the theater when I saw kids. You know, I was just completely blown, right? Rosario Dawson, who's in your movie? I was I think that was her first movie, right? That was her first movie was kids, right? Yeah. Can you explain a dude Can you explain first of all what kids was and then what that impact is kid blew up in a kind of an underground world. It wasn't like a massive worldwide hit or anything. But it was a big thing, especially for basically a bunch of street kids. You know, just running around skateboarding. How what was kids? And then how did that affect Harold and Justin? As far as what how do they affect their lives?

Jeremy Elkin 13:20
Yeah, so harmony was in town. He moved to New York from the south, I think, from to attend school to Zen college. I began this wrong but I think like the new school asked me i think i think it was a new school. And one of his I think it was his thesis project was the script for what became kids and Larry Clark who was a season filmmaker photographer at that time he I think he saw something in harmony and he needed a writer in harmony was like one basically, you know, I can't I can't I don't want to get this wrong but something like that where they you know, they joined forces decided to make this movie based on the kids of Washington Square Park. That's the the gist of it right. And yeah, they decided to cast you know, kids from Alphabet City and Laurie side and Washington Square and Tompkins he's village and and kind of create a film that was like, so real that it could have just been a documentary. That's the that was I think the goal but it's just about you know, what kids get into their their everyday lives downtown New York.

Alex Ferrari 14:34
And how did that how did that fame and exposure affect Terrell and Justin psychologically? Could you talk a little bit about that the doc

Jeremy Elkin 14:44
Yeah, I think, you know, it must have been It must have been pretty nuts. I mean, you know, I don't I don't think how was getting paid by Supreme. I think whatever board royalties and wheels and shirts, whatever he's getting from New York was probably maybe 1000 bucks, whatever you Getting a month you know, they're not exactly like rolling in the dough or, or or forgot about profitable. They weren't really like recognizable outside of the bubble of like the 100 skaters who skated in New York, you know, like, it was tiny. And then all of a sudden, he was like, at the Loews cinema on the big screen and selling out movie theaters. I think it's a it's a huge change. Right? I think, like, it must have really messed with him and Justin, I think, with their, psychologically with their, probably their, like hopes and their their aspirations or what they wanted to do. As kids, the downtown said, for sure. By changing them, you know, they were also getting older and having I don't remember what year or not remember how old Howard was when kids came out, but he must have not been more than 20 or 21 years old, and maybe even maybe they TNR was he was young for sure. Yeah, so yeah, huge effect.

Alex Ferrari 15:59
Now, um, you know, when you approach this, this project, you know, I've, like I said, I've been editing for years, man, How the hell did you go? How did you approach this? I mean, you're talking about 1000s of hours of footage on what was it? High eight, height tape, mix of

Jeremy Elkin 16:17
high eight and mini DV area? And there were like, you know, obviously photographs, 16 mil reels, eight millimeter, etc.

Alex Ferrari 16:24
How the hell did you? I mean, I'm assuming you had help, because I can't believe you did it all yourself, as far as just category category, cataloging all this stuff?

Jeremy Elkin 16:33
Yeah, the cataloging was done by a few people who came in at the very start, it was it was definitely like, you know, three people, one or two of them a week for the first like, you know, three, four months then after that, it was really just me. And my assistant Khyber who, who stayed on and, and helped develop it, you know, we developed it together, I think in terms of like, figuring out, you know, ABC grade footage, you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:57
now as far as the story goes, I'm always fascinated when I talk to documentary filmmakers about, you know, you discover the story as you go along. And, and that's something that a lot of filmmakers listening, don't understand. On the documentary side, like, yeah, you can maybe have a script, maybe you have an outline, maybe you have your thing that you want to kind of go after. But when you start, like, you know, you you meet that one interview, you're like, Oh, my God, that just took me off to a completely new direction. How did you approach the storytelling of this? I mean, did you like you said before, it could have just been a behind the scenes of the mixtape. But once you've got that one interview, how did you kind of like structure it all? Like, how did you put it together? outlining it and stuff?

Jeremy Elkin 17:38
Yeah. So I think it's a three part answer. One, my boss when I was at Vanity Fair, was the producer on the film. And he was a vanity fair for 25 years. He's an amazing journalists, amazing editor writer. So working with him, the way that we work was just the same as what we had a vanity fair. So we worked really well together. And I think that's part of the success of the story is, is the two of us. I think, if he had just been getting, he's not a filmmaker, but if he had just been doing on his own with someone else, maybe it wouldn't have looked the same. I think I would have gone a little nuts, had I not had him. I think he really like, you know, help, sort of like, I think he just, you know, he saw the bigger picture. But he also, let me tell that it was an interesting relationship. You know, like, I think that that's, you know, a, I think, you know, the bottom line here is that it's Eli stories narrator Eli gessner. It's his archival footage, for the most part, you know, largely it's 60 70% of the film is his archive, meaning that we I was trying to just tell it as he was, you know, as what he was recording. So he didn't record Janet Jackson and Midtown, there's no data, you know, that certain things aren't in the story that might pertain to like her dating cutup, or this some weird other connection. Those are left out if we didn't have the footage. We weren't just like taking things off the internet. And then and then figuring out how they were aligned. It was really like, what is the basis of Eli's collection? And how is how is there a story in there? You know, that was first and foremost. And yeah, it's like, you know, it's totally Eli's it's what happened to Eli and and also what Eli recorded that's the result of the film. Like that's the that's like the core of the movie.

Alex Ferrari 19:29
What got you into filmmaking? What What did you make? What made you want to be a filmmaker?

Jeremy Elkin 19:35
Um, yeah, I don't know. It's just it felt like I never was like, I want to be a filmmaker. It wasn't. It wasn't like that. It

Alex Ferrari 19:44
was like I have pictures of Scorsese on the wall and shit.

Jeremy Elkin 19:46
No. Honestly, I haven't probably seen like, 1% of the movies that most filmmakers like I don't like watch a ton of movies. I make things all the time and I just the medium is film but I don't know. Like a student of film, you know, like, I'm

not, I'm not I, you know, I probably watch a movie a month or something like, I don't watch movies. I want to, it's just, it's just the it's just the medium that I'm that I'm using, you know,

it's, it's, you know, it's only it's the thing that I guess I'm good at or is easy and easy for me. And that's that's sort of it. So it's not like I wouldn't have like some big master plan to be like a director. It was never that I never wanted to be a director. I always want to be a designer. And so just sort of like fell into this.

Alex Ferrari 20:34
Yeah. How did you fall into it? What like, what was the Was it a job because of

Jeremy Elkin 20:37
Vanity Fair start films. Yeah, I started filming skateboarding in Montreal. Growing up in MTL, it was like, there weren't many people who have video cameras. And I looked up to this guy, Eric lebeau. Downtown Charles Eric's awesome, great, great, dude. He had the Vx 1000 Sony that I was I was like, 12 years old. So I couldn't afford that. But he was, you know, it's inspiring to see him out there every day. And I just was like, I want to do that, like whatever that is. But also, like, my friends were way better than me at skating. And they were doing tricks that were arguably better than what I was seeing in the video. So I was like, someone's got to film this. And so you know, picked up a camera and then made one skate video and another another another, and then wound up doing things outside of skateboarding. And then, sort of now we're here,

Alex Ferrari 21:24
just kind of like how spike started. Spike Jones?

Jeremy Elkin 21:27
Yeah, a lot. I mean, not just by like, like Ty Evans. I mean, there's a lot of amazing filmmakers that come from just,

Alex Ferrari 21:34
you know, the skate world. Now, I always ask this question of my guests, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, whether in the film business or in life?

Jeremy Elkin 21:48
Um, I think just like the things take time, like don't rush anything. I think that's the like, that's like the number one. You know, I'm interested in how people can act and how things develop and how scenes sort of intertwine. And that's always been interesting to me. So, you know, the film is a natural progression. But yeah, I think that's just, you know, I would I would say, just do something that do something that you love, and you're passionate about.

Alex Ferrari 22:17
And do you have any advice for filmmakers trying to like, kind of make it in today's world? I don't know. That's, that's my laptop. Just give me a second. Sure. Sure. Okay, we're good. Yeah. So yes. Do you have any advice for filmmakers who are trying to break into the business today?

Jeremy Elkin 22:41
Yeah, I mean, just meet everyone you can and be good to people. And, you know, try and try and make, I mean, the biggest advice, the biggest advice that I would that I would say is like, if you're gonna make a story about a place, or if, if the story that you're trying to tell is in a certain place, like live in that place, don't make a film about Tokyo living in Australia. You know what I mean? Like, it's, it's just not going to have the same texture or the same sound or the same feeling. As someone who understands their environment, I think.

Alex Ferrari 23:18
Yeah, you're absolutely right. So many filmmakers make You're right, the Australian who makes a movie about Tokyo or New York had never been there. And they just what they grab is they grab it from the internet, or books or movies and things like that. There's nothing like actually living it breathing it being there, especially a documentarian. I mean, you've got to as a documentarian,

Jeremy Elkin 23:36
yeah. I mean, the, the walking out your door, whether it's in New York or anywhere else, like, you kind of want the environment to inspire you, you want it to be like a constant source of inspiration. And, you know, just make things in the same environment as your work, you know, I don't know that's, that's, you know, like take in the typography and the architecture and the smell and the pollution and the whatever element is out there and your city put that in the picture and and sound it's gonna make a huge difference than if you're like, that if it wasn't in there. If you're just researching

Alex Ferrari 24:10
what is what, what inspires you as an artist, man, what, like, what kind of makes your juices flow?

Jeremy Elkin 24:17
Just honestly, like opening the front door, that's like the best thing. Just going I can just just walking in one direction for a lot for like, eight hours or an hour, whatever it is you just going around the block. You just at least I live downtown in the city in New York. And and it's like, that's the inspiration for me, you know? I don't know. I like seeing just how different every second of every day is here.

Alex Ferrari 24:45
And where can people watch a movie? So the film is out. When does is there I think right before it comes out. So

Jeremy Elkin 24:54
okay, so the film comes out July 30, nationwide. It's limited, really In New York and until then, and then September 7, it'll be out on digital platforms on Apple and on, I believe on Amazon as well.

Alex Ferrari 25:09
And we're in what are you doing next? What are you working on now? working on a few projects that I can't unfortunately can't. Exciting, super exciting stuff. Jeremy, thank you so much for being on the show, bro. I appreciate your time. And thanks for putting this together. Man. This tells a story that hasn't been told before. So I appreciate you man.

Jeremy Elkin 25:29
Thanks so much, man. I really appreciate it.

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IFH 487: How to Avoid a Bad Film Distribution Deal w/ Guy Pigden


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I’ve said many times before on the show, sometimes you just don’t know what impact these conversations will have when I put out an episode. I mean, it’s just me with a mic in a room with a Yoda statue behind me. 

I’m honored to have on the show today, a long-time IFH tribe member who has appreciated and utilized the knowledge bombs we share on here. I’m glad to have on the show today, New Zealand director and writer, Guy Pigden.

After years of working with several production companies in the UK and freelancing in New Zealand, Pigden wrote his directorial debut feature film in 2011, I Survived a Zombie Holocaust, with a grant from the New Zealand Film Commission in 2011. The film was nominated for Best Feature Film Screenplay and Best Emerging Writer by the New Zealand Writers Guild in 2015.  

I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is a zombie horror-comedy about a young runner, on a Zombie film set, who ends up having a set day from hell when real Zombies overrun the set.

Pigden has written and directed a couple of TV series and films since his breakout comedy-horror feature including Asylum, Harrow, Older, No Caller ID, etc.

Filmmaking and storytelling had always been a passion for Pigden. At 16 years old he shot his first short film, on an eight-millimeter camera camcorder. He moved to London where he landed jobs as a runner, script reading, and writing.

Once he felt much more confident in his understanding and skills as a writer, it was time to make his transition to the dream. Being a director. Pigden returned to New Zealand and freelanced directing and writing.

After the release and performance of his first feature film, Guy sought out means to grow revenue from low-budget indie filmmaking—-particularly the business aspect of the industry. He found his answers here at the Indie Film Hustle and from my book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Profitable Business. Everything from making deals, to the actual journey. With these tools, he was able to make a turn-around with his second film.

Just this year Guy directed and wrote his latest comedy show, Immi the Vegan which you should check out. Immi the Vegan dreams of finding a good vegan man and gaining the confidence to perform her songs in front of a live audience. But lately, her dates have mistaken her for a vegetarian or tried to send her photos of their meat and two veg.

It was humbling learning of how impactful Guy found our work here at IFH and knowing that what we do here is serving bigger purposes, glad to be of service.

Guy is raw and transparent on the horrible distribution deal he got into on his film and shares how you can avoid the mistakes he made on his filmmaking journey.

Please enjoy my conversation with Guy Pigden.

 

Alex Ferrari 0:14
I'd like to welcome to the show Guy Pigden. How you doing guy?

Guy Pigden 0:18
I'm great. Thank you for having me, Alex. great pleasure to be here.

Alex Ferrari 0:21
Yeah, man, thanks so much for coming on the show. You've we've been shot. First of all, we've been trying to do this for a while now. So I appreciate your patience. It's been very busy. At the podcast, the last six years,

Guy Pigden 0:32
man, you've got a couple. I was planning to do like a joke on Twitter or something where it's like, you know, what does all of a star and Richard Linklater and Guy Pigden have in common? They're on the

Alex Ferrari 0:46
Indie Film Hustle podcast.

Guy Pigden 0:47
Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 0:49
Exactly. Exactly. So I could say the exact same Joe. What do these guys have in common? Yeah, they were just all on same podcast. That's it. That's that's the that's where the that's where it all ends. But thank you so much for your patience. Brother, you you you reached out to me a while ago, talking to me about First of all, one of my favorite topics, which is unfortunately one of my favorite topics, a horrible distribution situation, which we're going to get into, and also a seven year independent film, which I always love to get into the details of why it takes seven years to make an independent film. Yeah, and all that stuff. But you've been following me for a while you've been listening to the podcast and stuff. When did you start listening? And then use the books had an impact in your career? Tell me a little bit about how you just found me.

Guy Pigden 1:38
Well, that's right. So I, I was coming from a space. So I was sort of finishing up my second feature film, and I had my first feature film, which is called ice Viper, zombie Holocaust, which came out in sort of 2015. And it came out around 2015. And while had a great festival run, and you know, got some great reviews did not financially do very well for me, for a number of reasons, which you sort of documented in your podcast. And but I was sort of wondering is like, Is this just the experience of all low budget indie filmmakers? Is this what we all go through? Or is it just me? Am I missing something? Am I missing some key piece of information about how because this business seems broken to me that like all of it seemed quite broken in a lot of ways. And and how these firms were distributed, how these deals were done, and also sort of the the cost of making a film versus how much it's actually likely to make back all of that stuff. And I was asking other filmmakers, and no one seemed to have a good answer. And then I came across your podcast where you sort of really broke down the steps. As an indie filmmaker, you sort of broke down how these, these deals can can screw you over, you sort of broke down your own journey with what you were working on with, you know, on the corner of ego and desire. And this is me and all that sort of thing. But you really sort of, I guess, put into context, and framed everything that I had been thinking about that when I need to make my filmmaking a more of a business, I need to stop thinking like, it's just an art form, and then I'll just be discovered, we all we all have to throw away that lottery ticket mentality, all of those things have to, like, you just need a whole shift in perspective, really, if you want to be like, because we can't all be Spielberg. Even though we start off, imagining that we will be sorry, how can we have a sustainable career and without maybe those heady heights, but still get to make our films and so everything that you were talking about, just struck this huge chord with me because it made me sort of really understand, okay, so I'm not crazy. And actually, there's this, this world out there that I need to understand more, and I need to sort of develop these skills, that stuff that you sort of try to educate people on, I need to employ all of that stuff in my filmmaking if I want to continue to grow and develop and so I sort of following yours and and also, what I found is a lot of the principles of my second feature film The way I made that as a micro budget and all that sort of thing, apart from the seven years I failed in the in the in do at the quick turn around, which is again, one of your sort of things turned around quickly. I did not do that. But apart from that, a lot of the principles were you know, I had in mind a lot of these ideas that you you actually put into words ever in your book or on your podcast and, and so that's how I sort of came across you and him have been a sort of loyal follower and subscriber ever since then. And, you know, what a fantastic thing that you have provided for filmmakers like myself, to sort of better understand how we can equip ourselves in this film industry, which, you know, does punch you in the face all the time, as you mentioned, you know, what are you going to do? You're going to keep getting like, yeah, you're going to flinch or you get a, you're going to learn to get your guard up just a little bit to protect yourself. Right, as opposed to just getting just walking straight into those punches.

Alex Ferrari 5:36
Constantly, Constant punches. Yeah, no, and I don't care what you are, you're gonna get hit. You're always gonna get hit all throughout your career. Yeah,

Guy Pigden 5:44
yeah. So So those are all things that, you know, really, yeah, sort of resonated with me. And that's why I sort of have been listening and reached out. And now my film was out, I thought it'd be a great opportunity, hopefully, to talk about some of my experiences and, and how they relate to all of these things that you're, you know, trying to educate people about.

Alex Ferrari 6:07
I appreciate them. And thank you, you know, thank you so much for the kind words, it's it is, like I've said many times before on the show, sometimes you just don't know what impact they'll have when you do an episode. Or you're I mean, it's just me with a mic in a room with a Yoda behind me. Some, you know, somewhere in in Los Angeles, and you just put it you put it out there and hopefully it read it. But look, you're coming from us. Where are you calling from? New Zealand? Yeah, New Zealand. So if you couldn't tell by the by the accent, you know, New Zealand, it was New Zealand or Australia. But God forbid, God forbid you. I know that. You can't do that. No, don't do that. Don't do that. It's like It's like calling all Latinos, Mexicans, and I'm Latino. So I can say that, Joe. But yeah, it just depends on where you are in the country of the US. If you're in New York, you're Puerto Rican. If you're in Miami, you're Cuban. And if you're in LA, you're Mexican, but doesn't matter. So, but thank you for thank you for that. I'm glad I'm glad. What I do is helped you a lot. And that's, you know, also wanting to kind of dig deeper into why Why? What happened with your first film. So before we do that, though, how did you even get started? Why did you Why did you choose this painful, ridiculous path that we call filmmaking?

Guy Pigden 7:20
I love how you call it a like a virus like a sickness. And sometimes you get better and you feel like you've sort of semi recovered, but no, it always

Alex Ferrari 7:29
comes back.

Guy Pigden 7:31
always come back. And that's always what it sort of been like for me. So I sort of got into the business. I started off I was actually lived in London for a couple of years. And I worked as a runner at a production house there. And that was my sort of like break into the industry I'd already made I'd already had that sort of that indie filmmaker spirit prior to that. So when I was 16, I made my first short film, I you know, I bought like a high eight millimeter camera camcorder to shooter Dinah carried on to VCs, all that sort of thing. And, you know, so that's where I started the idea that I wanted to make films, and I really wanted to make films and tell stories, because I have come from a, my, my background, my parents, you know, would read stories to me and my dad is a huge movie fan. And he would sort of talk to me about also how movies were made and directors, not just, hey, check out this film. And so that certainly sparked my interest and sort of filmmaking, I started to do it. And I did the short film when I was 16. And then again, as soon as we'd shot that as even though it was obviously still quite a painful process, even back then. I was like, Oh man, I have to do this. And so I went to London, and I got a job as a runner. And then as a runner, I also started being a script reader for that same production house there. And I started started reading a lot of scripts. And again, I had quite a strong background, the only thing I did well in school that was was writing creative writing. And so I really started as a writer who wanted to be a director. So I read all these scripts, and I thought, look, these are coming from, you know, these are coming from agents, these are coming and I think I can do as well as most of these scripts of, of, you know, the, you know, sort of, I don't know, a couple of 100 scripts I read only ever recommended, like three. So I didn't I just so I could get to this level. And so I started writing my own scripts and developing my own scripts. And some of those, even as a very young, you know, a young writer at like 2021 did sort of get some, I think I got one of them to Columbia, TriStar in the UK and it got very favorable coverage and they sort of, they're like, Look, this is really good. We don't, we're not going to make it but here's a bunch of agents and maybe you can get representation through The script, and I didn't get representation because I didn't have any follow up scripts, you know, they were like, Hey, this is good. This is promising, but what else have you done, and I sort of like, Well, nothing really. And I didn't have that foresight and that sort of thing to just start writing like crazy and just go, let his five others you know, and really get the ball rolling then. But it did sort of, again, give me some confidence that, hey, I can write and I'm a good writer, and hopefully I can transition to being a writer and a director. And so I came back to New Zealand I started making stuff again, just making stuff and my friends, a lot of those friends that I still work with To this day, started shooting stuff with a slight with a slightly, I guess, a more of an education and film, I have never been to film school or anything like that. But I, I had a bit of knowledge and a better understanding of kind of the business and, and the way things worked a little bit more and obviously, story and structure and all those things from being a script reader. And I started to get actual paid work as a writer. So I developed a few different things that sort of didn't get produced, but you know, sort of took me and again, it's like, Okay, I'm getting paid for writing now. So I know that I must be doing something right. And I must be on a certain level, if, you know this can happen. And what happens in New Zealand is, we have a government body called the New Zealand Film Commission. And they provide essentially grants for films to make movies over here. So very, very, very different. You know, the US and, you know, the studio system, and all that sort of thing. But essentially, this these, these grants given out to make films, and they hope that these films will sort of breakout and I had, you know, made many submissions to the Film Commission, prior to this one. But I made a submission for a new scheme. Around this time, as I was still making my own projects, which was what would become a survivor, zombie Holocaust. So was the zombie horror comedy. And it was for this new initiative called the escalator scheme. And the escalator scheme was essentially they give 250,000 New Zealand dollars to an up and coming filmmaker who has not made a feature film, so you couldn't have already made a feature film. And they give you that money. And through a series of steps, you then give them the money to make the film, but you have to sort of do all the pre production first. So you have to without anything, so you write the script, you do the pre production, you do the budget, you do everything, and you present that to them, then they sort of narrowed down to another group, you go back, you read all that stuff, and you get given the money. And so we were, you know, what went from sort of like maybe 20, or 30, or 40, teams, down to I think 12 teams. And so four of those 12 teams were going to be picked. And fortunately, we were one of those four, four teams that were picked to make that thing. And that was back in 20 2010, the end of 2010 2011. When when that sort of initial thing happened, and there was a couple of rules around it. But you know, one of them was that you kind of had to start production within six months of getting the grant, which we did. And the other thing is that you couldn't get any extra money. So you couldn't get more financing, or try and get more people on board, or people that kind of top that up somehow you just had your 250,000. And that was it. And so we were given that funding, and we sort of shot in 2011, early 2011. And then it was another sort of three years before the film actually came out which we can we can get

Alex Ferrari 13:56
Of course, of course. But we're doing it What are you doing from that you were doing posts, you were doing film festivals? You were getting it out there in other ways. That's right. So so I'd love to I'd love to dive into man. Okay, so what happened with I saw the zombie Holocaust with this distribution situation like you, you told me that there's a horror story here. And we'd love to share those here at the show. Yes, to help and educate filmmakers. So what So what happened? Exactly?

Guy Pigden 14:24
Well, I mean, a lot of it comes down to, to not understanding, you know, a lot of it come down to ignorance on on our behalf as sort of filmmakers. And then, you know, there wasn't something you know, this was back 2014 2015. This is before you really brought blown the lid off this kind of this practice, right. And I think there's also an inherent fear from all of us filmmakers, if we speak out, like if we say something about, yeah, we'll never get another opportunity. And not just from them, but from any other people that know them. And so there's This all well, I can't say to anyone, you know, this, you know, they, they screwed us because we'll just get screwed, or it will only negatively impact us. And so we will stay quiet about what happened. But for us, we sort of, I mean, there was a few issues. But, you know, just, again, we're talking about, I'm from a very small town. And although I've been to London, and I've done all this stuff, and I've done everything I could possibly do to educate myself about filmmaking, there's actually very few books on that. The post production and finishing business at the end, like you're really one of the only and certainly one of the first. And so I didn't understand, like, I didn't even understand, okay, what's a good film festival? Why is the A, B and C, I didn't understand, I got into a good Film Fest was like, great, I got into a bad Film Fest was like, great, I didn't understand the difference. I didn't understand why one might be more important to go to than the other. I didn't understand about festival fees or anything, I was just randomly submitting to random things, and FA got in cool. All of which then sort of leads to obviously, when you have a successful festival run, you start getting approached by sales agents and distributors. And we were approached by a sales agent. And again, there's a lot of things. That sort of real un because they're playing on your naivety to find it,

Alex Ferrari 16:31
and also your dreams. Don't forget, they lay your dreams, they love to dangle the carrot like Hey, hey, this could be the one Spielberg is Mr. Spielberg Come this way. Yeah.

Guy Pigden 16:41
And so we so the first thing they did is, are we haven't even finished the film yet. But we just wanted to come out of the screening and say, we love it. And we think it's amazing. And we we know, we want to sign up straight away. So automatically, wow, you want to sign us all that say like me? Exactly. This, this huge company. And again, we were banking on the fact that they were big, they have all this huge catalogue of films. So well, they must be good, because they're big, which is again, not necessarily at all true. And so we were definitely caught up in that, because we had multiple offers. This wasn't the only offer. But it also wasn't the only bad offer, you know. And so there was a lot of the sort of back and forth over it. But essentially, we sort of did all the things wrong, that we normally that that you have talked about. So marketing sales cap was atrociously high. What was it? Well, I don't think I can't get into specifics, but I can definitely tell you that it was well just put it this way. It was over. It was over $50,000. Okay. And then, you know, there was just a lot of things, but there was a lot of smaller details in that deal. That just mean that there was very, it was be very unlikely, or that's not true. I suppose if it made as again, if it made millions of dollars, great. Of course, you're gonna see that money come back to you.

Alex Ferrari 18:15
Maybe in a minute maybe look for a cup of coffee, according to Paramount Forrest Gump is still not making any money.

Guy Pigden 18:21
So Exactly. And so. But even in that, in that marketing, there was no accounting for that marketing as an there's no way for me to go, Well, can I see where you spent that money? Because they didn't spend that money. They didn't spend any of that money that didn't spend? I would go as far as to say they, you know, spend? I'm sure less than $1,000. But also a marketing sales cap is really, to me more for your distributor than it is a sales agent. Why does a sales agent need?

Alex Ferrari 18:53
Well, wait a minute, this was a sales agent. You haven't even gotten to the distributor yet. We haven't even got to the distributor. Oh my god, I'm sorry. You see what I'm yeah. hurts. It hurts. Okay.

Guy Pigden 19:05
But But that was the problem was we didn't even understand the distinction between the sales agent distributor, because now my first question would be like, why do you need $50,000? What are you doing with that? I'm providing you all these deliverables. So you don't have to make anything. So you're now just giving it to a distributor who will do anything that is required? What is this marketing? You know, what is this marketing sales kit for? And so that was a huge, huge thing. And then there was like other little things built in because you know, it's also Okay, so we've got to recoup that $50,000. But we're also going to take our percentage from that before, so it's not $50,000. So we're taking money for ourselves while we bring back that, that however much money it is so we're not just bringing so it's not just $50,000 it's actually more like 70 or $80,000 because we're taking 20 or 30% or whatever it is. out as we go. So, so then it's like, okay, so it doesn't have to make it has to make $90,000 before we see any money. And then there was just this whole, like what I sort of heard, you know, subsequent, you know, because you also try and speak to filmmakers before you make these deals, but you often speak to filmmakers who have just made a deal with that sales agent, you don't speak to someone that has that three years in, you know, and also, they may be reluctant to tell you, Hey, you know, because of this whole thing, because, you know, thank God for, you know, indie film, hustle, hustle to, you know, to say, like, Hey, you know, this is predatory thing that's going on. It's terrible, it's got to stop, and it's happening. And we're gonna shine a light on it. And I think it's just very, very important. So around that deal around that, that sort of marketing cap was a big thing. But I also sort of then heard rumors later on that this wasn't even a and in terms of, you know, what they made back is always just, whatever that marketing sales cap is, like, almost exactly whatever that is magical. So, so magically, so when you look at that, you go, Okay, so actually, what they're doing is they're getting all these sort of lower budget, you know, horror films, genre films, and they're doing exactly the same thing to all these different first time filmmakers. And they using that pot of money to actually pay for the bigger films, and maybe treat those slightly, you know, better. But so essentially, they had never had any intention of making any more sales, than they're all they wanted as that, that guaranteed, that guaranteed first chunk of money from like, you know, a big bunch of places. So, you know, they This is for, you know, television, and all that sort

Alex Ferrari 22:00
of thing, and there's certainly different territories out in different deals here and there. Yeah,

Guy Pigden 22:04
yeah, like big territories, they just make those sales, and then they don't even push it again, it's like, it's not even part of the thing. It's just, we just needed that, that $50,000 that we don't have to pay back or that, you know, 70,000 $80,000, whatever we have to make, we get that. And we don't do anything more, because it doesn't make sense for us to start really giving much back to the filmmakers, we only deal on those big deals up front with our certain people that we have. And then we sort of walk away and find the next filmmaker and do the same thing, find the next naive filmmaker and do the same thing. And so really, that was, you know, the hardest part for me is that we'd been on this journey for five years, you know, I had passed the the $250,000 that we were given, I had actually invested heaps of my own money into, you know, getting that finished, I'd shot pickups, and I'd been living this thing for so long trying to get it made and get it done. And then just to watch the kind of other people, like, slowly collect money, and then have none of it come back. And we also had like, there was also lots of other things going on. So, you know, one of the other things that they they did is that they said, you know, essentially you have to, like when you give all your deliverables over, as you know, there's sort of something in the contract that states once you've received these certain things, and that's confirmed, right? That's, that's done. You know, you're you're good, you have no more obligations. Well, in the contract, one of the obligations was a letter that said, we have delivered all of these things. Right. So just just a letter that says, You have delivered these things, we delivered those things. We sent a letter to them, not worded in their official way, just worded in a different way. And then sort of a couple of years into our thing, when we realized that, essentially, we'd been screwed. We had one loophole, which was if it hadn't made a certain amount, by a certain time, we could ask to get it back. It was like the one good thing that we sort of put in the Yeah, yeah. And the contract. And so I was like, cool. We need to exercise this right now. And so we go cool. We'd like to exercise this and they go, Oh, no, you haven't handed in all your deliverables. And we're like, well, what are you talking about? You've been selling the film for two years. You've got all the deliverables. We confirmed it. You know, there's been absolutely no issues and they go, Oh, yeah, but if you look in the contract, you'll see that we need this confirmation letter to confirm officially that we've received those. And so that then goes so so they go cool. So So then we sent that letter and they go, okay, the contract starts from now officially and You could absolutely,

Alex Ferrari 25:02
like, what happens all that money that they've been making? Well,

Guy Pigden 25:05
yeah, is that null and void because we hadn't officially delivered the film, you know, there's, and this is the thing, and this is what I hate the most about, the whole thing is, obviously, you could go after them with a lawyer and say, question, but, you know, they know that we're going to bring our lawyer, and however much it's going to cost you is not going to be worth it. And also, we know you're a poor filmmaker, because we've taken all your money. So we know that you can't get a lawyer, we know that you can't afford a lawyer, and we'll just happily sit back and, and do our thing, and, you know, kind of keep your film in purgatory. And that's, that's kind of what happened with that thing. And, but it definitely came from, you know, I'd love to say, it was absolutely a predatory situation. And it was absolutely what you talk about so often here on on the podcast, but it was also, you know, that ignorance of naivety that is exploited when you're a first time filmmaker. And that's where we were sort of at with a lot of that with a lot of that those negotiations as we just did not understand you know, how this could go wrong. And yeah,

Alex Ferrari 26:30
and the you also had, so, you needed something you had a sales agent and you had a distribution company.

Guy Pigden 26:35
So, the sales agent then was the issue that we do have to you know, it did then go on to distribution

Alex Ferrari 26:42
on staff that the sales agent

Guy Pigden 26:44
but the but the sales agent was the one that did this deal that was you know, the this you know, and so you also have to put it into again that perspective of like, what is a sales agent marketing? Like Yes, they taking your film, well, what does that involve? You know, if

Alex Ferrari 27:02
you're there, they're obviously buying giant billboards, near highways, they're spending they're spending at least 10,000 in ads on television and Facebook, you know, targeting your your niche audience Robbins, obviously, they're, they're doing all of this because the ROI makes all the sense in the world. It is, it is terrible. I'm sorry that you had to go through that. But you learned, like, you've been listening to me long enough, you've read a lot of my stuff. You know, I've been through some stuff myself, with the mafia, family, all sorts of different things that I've gone through. So but when you come out of those kinds of events, you are a lot stronger, and you're a lot smarter. You've got that armor that trap note that I talked about so much. You got you've got you've got shrapnel all over you, brother. I could smell it. I could smell it across across the world, sir. I can smell that that that's wrapping those there. But hopefully that that store that you just told will help other people listening right now. Go Oh, wait a minute, I might be getting screwed on this or a damn it. I just got screwed. It there has to be something has to change, man. I don't I don't know what that is yet. I don't know how that. how that's gonna work. Um, I trust me. There's not a day that goes by that I'm not thinking of how I can crack the nut myself, too. I'm like, how can I do something? You know? How can a small podcaster a humble a humble podcaster? You know, with with a Yoda behind him, you know, do do something more than what I've already been doing. because something's got to change, man. Something's got to change. And it's been going around, man. It's been going around since Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin's days. I mean, it's literally been going along with that long. It's crazy. Yeah, I

Guy Pigden 28:47
mean, and that's the thing is, I know that my story isn't new. I know that, you know, we were sort of talking about something that happens a lot, but it's still happening. And I'm still you know, even my experiences people have come to me and said, Hey, you know, what's your experience? And I've told him my experience and then I sort of go so what do you do? Oh, well, we signed with them. Well,

Alex Ferrari 29:09
you know, there's because there's because they didn't have any other options. They don't know any better. And they're like, well, this is the only guy or gal who was willing to date me. So because exactly and it's an abuse in this abusive relationship. So let's put it in that it's an abusive relationship, but this is the only person that loves me so I guess I'm just gonna go with them because you don't believe that there's another option out there for you.

Guy Pigden 29:31
And I also think that we all as filmmakers you go, Ah, well, you got screwed guy you know why? Because your film was just not good enough to make the all that money that you thought you were gonna make. You know that the end there we sort of as naive young filmmakers, we got our you got screwed, but my phone's gonna make a million dollars. The reality is that, you know, that's not gonna happen. That's just exactly that's not gonna happen to me. But it's like, just Consider that your film isn't going to make a million dollars, consider that you just want some good returns on your film. And when do you want to start making back money from that? Do you want to start make? Does it? Does your film have to make you know, 70 $80,000? Before you see a cent? Or do you want to really think carefully about this? And also, you know, the world is changing, right? streaming has changed everything. Even the way that the idea of like, well, we need all this money for marketing. Well, why because for you put something up on, you know, Amazon, or, or Netflix or wherever it's like, you don't need all that marketing, the marketing is done. The viewership is already there, you know, Now, I'm not saying marketing isn't super important, but it's not for a sales agent or, necessarily, or distributor to be to have to spend, you know, that comes when the film is out.

Alex Ferrari 30:56
I just tell you know, I've known a lot of sales reps, and producers reps. I've never heard of one ever spending money for marketing. Maybe Maybe they'll pay something to get a trailer done. Maybe they'll get a poster made if the posters not done, but to like buy ad somewhere. Does it make sense? I mean, I can't even I can't even compare. I mean, the only thing that would make sense is if they bought like, you know, front page ad on Hollywood Reporter during AFM, you know, or that kind of ad buy. That's a big maybe, but for sales producer to drop 30 grand out of their purses out of their pocket. You know, for a frog. That's it's not like it's magic money, that's money that they're putting up and hoping to recoup. Yeah, it doesn't make business unless they think that that 30,000 is going to be an easy sell. Why would they spend that money that generally when a sales rep picks up, picks up a film, or a distributor picks up a film, if they give you an mg, which is rare nowadays, but even if they let's say if that, let's say you got a deal for 50 grand, yeah, that's your mg, you would have probably been like jumping out the way like, Oh my god, I got 50,000 for the MG. And that's just the start of the massive amounts of money, like just massive amounts. First of all, you'll probably never see another dime. First of all, right. But the distributor knows that with two phone calls. with little effort, they'll be able to sell this film, in certain territories based on their relationships, or automatic output deals that a lot of the they have, that they'll make that money instantly. But what I've heard happen is like, let's say your your marketing cap is 75 grand, or 100. Grand, yeah, the moment they hit that 100,000, they literally stop selling it, because they don't want to deal with you anymore. So like, I'm sorry, and they will just stop because like we got our 100 out, we're done, and the filmmaker, and then they hold on to it for the next seven years, and every single time and then because you've signed a horrible deal. And then after that, anytime a new streaming service comes out, or a new cable station in Germany opens up and they're like, we need a lot of content, they'll sell the whole library and licensed the whole library as a package deal. And by the time you try to do the math of how much your movie is worth and not, it's gone, it's gone. It is such a ridiculous business, how the only reason that we are still able to do what we do, or the business survives, is because there's a fresh new crop of films, and filmmakers coming in monthly. And these distributors and these predators know that. So they know that they don't have to build a relationship with you. Because there's 30 more of you right around the corner who are willing to give up. And I've actually consulted filmmakers. And when I was coaching them and consulting them on projects, where we know we're not going to go with the distributor, and some of them are big name distributors who will remain nameless, but I know that their deals suck. And, and the deal that they send over suck, okay, we're not going with them, we're gonna go with these other guys. But let's push them to see how far we can go. And we'll start asking for things like, you know, accounting on a marketing and let's talk the marketing cap or, you know, get a little bit more mg upfront or add, if you go bankrupt that the movie automatically goes back to you, as opposed to sitting in arbitration for the next, you know, five years and you can't do anything with a movie. And I saw it go back and forth once and then afterwards you like it, we're done. Thank you. They didn't want to negotiate anymore because they're like, this obviously is going to be a headache. The film's not worth it. There's 40 more around the corner.

Guy Pigden 34:40
And also they know they go Okay, this person actually knows what they're talking about. Therefore, we cannot use our regular exploitative tactics with them. And we can't make you know, 100k up front that we want off them before we leave. So yeah, we'll just go to the next and there's always another person because You know, we can't we don't know not yet at least we don't all listen to any film hustle, you know yet yet. And so, but I think the most important thing is we have to talk about it, we have to share these stories. Yeah, and we have to kind of converse with other filmmakers, you know, and really say, Look, just, you know, you need to take it to more experienced people, when you've got those deals on the table, you need to take it to more experienced people to comment on it, and like, you know, even paying like, you know, and we did have a lawyer and all that stuff. Look at Look, look at this deal. And we also, you know, crazily we had the foam Commission, the body, you know, the person there looked at the steel and was like, Yeah, looks good. And that still blows my mind. But they don't know, they don't

Alex Ferrari 35:48
know, they don't know any of this, you need to have, like, I say it in the book, I'm like, don't get Uncle Bob, the real estate attorney to look at this, because he won't know what to look for. That's why having a consulting session with me for half an hour, could save you half a million dollars. And that's it, it's actually happened actually happened with me or with with many, there's many good people out there that do what I do as far as consulting and helping filmmakers, with their projects. That will, I literally had a filmmaker reach out, I think he was on the show, at one point. He said, like, dude, you, you saved me a half a million dollars, because of this deal was so bad. And I went with this other deal. And I was able to control my rights and all this kind of stuff. And it was literally a half an hour or hour consultation that I gave them. And I should charge obscenely much more than I do. And that's why I put together that course, that that six hour distribution course on every little detail and trick that they use to screw you over, that was a new one that paid that paper, that that letter thing, that's a completely new level of skirts, summary. Exactly. And, and eventually, eventually,

Guy Pigden 36:59
yeah, and I, you know, sort of recently or not that recently, but I sort of said, so, you know, the deals coming up, this is my, the official leader that would like to terminate our agreement and get the rights back at this time. And they're like, Oh, thanks, but you know, how you didn't send through that letter. So actually, it's an extra two years, you know, because of the leader, you know, and as much and, you know, part of me wants to totally lose my shit. And, and, you know, go after them with everything I have. But the other part of me has to be a bit more Zen about it. And I just hope, like I said, I just hope that we can share these stories, and we can stop people from getting into these busy, you just do not want to be the kind of the low budget, indie horror, which they always do kind of, they always do sell a certain amount, and they always can make money for people. And so you don't want to be that person that's bought up by this big sales nation or distributor, and used essentially, your, you know, they suck the life out of you, they, because they don't just take that film from you, they take that opportunity for the money you make from that film to develop your next film. And, and that's a really key thing is that, you know, you can't just spend five years on something, and then get absolutely nothing to show for it, and have no and then it's like, COBOL, I'm rebuilding from square one. Now I'm back to, you know, obviously, I know a lot more, I've got a lot more experience, but, you know, you've taken the opportunity for me to develop my craft and continue on. And obviously, they just don't care. So that's so it's a very good, I guess, lesson that I learned and I, and through this podcast and through your books has sort of made me really be much more aware of that side of it. But you know, the key to contracts as transparency, you know, transparency, and all the things you know, if you're, if the spirit of they're giving you a marketing, why need to know where that marketing is going, and I need it in the contract that I see everything that is being spent, and maybe that I even approve certain things, you know, and even these marketing captures, like, you know, really, how much are they going to be spending on your low budget, indie film, if we're all making indie films? Are they real? Are they really dropping? You know, $30,000 on your marketing your independent film, like, forget about it, the spending a tiny fraction of that and getting a lot back with these guaranteed places that they always take these two that they know they can sell. And yeah, it's it is borderline criminal, but you know,

Alex Ferrari 39:43
well, it's definitely immoral. And yes, the problem is, first of all, they're destroying lives. They're literally destroying people's lives. I've seen I've seen it time and time again. But what's the most disgusting part about this is that it is just so inherent in side of the distribution world, that this is just the way business is done. And it's like, they don't even think twice. They're like, Oh, sorry, you're gonna have to do another two years because you didn't do that one little thing. And you're just like, wow, like, it's just, it just rolls off their tongue. And I've said this on the show before. And I'll say it again, the same thing that happened with me to where the casting couch was business as usual. It was a running joke in the business. It was in movies that people were like, oh, if you want that part, you're gonna have to go on the casting couch, like, you know, sleeping with the producer or the director. So that was a thing. For throughout. Throughout Hollywood's history, it was just business as usual, to finally some people started standing up and now thank God, that is not the way business is done. As usual. That moment is yet to happen in this space, because it is still I feel like a financial raping of the independent film community. Yeah. Without question. It is a physical abuse, that this that the whole distribution infrastructure is doing to independent filmmakers, and the whole community in general. And again, I've said this again, it's not everybody. They're not all predators. They're not they're I know good people. I've worked with good people. I've talked about them. I've had them on the show. There are good people out there trying to help filmmakers. But a lot of them aren't. And one thing people listening have to understand, it is harder now to make $1 with an independent film, than it has ever been in the history of filmmaking. For independent filmmaking specifically, it is really, really tough. And even with people who know what they're doing, it's tough. So walk in with that being walk in humble to this brother. Like you were saying, like, you gotta walk in humbly like I'm going to be the next Spielberg. Like I had that conversation. You read it in my book. Yeah, like it shooting for the mob. I was just like, it's my time I it's obviously going to happen to me, I'm, When are they going to recognize my genius? Back up the truck with the cash and in my house in the Hollywood Hills? And let's let's let's go have lunch with Spielberg and Cameron. Like, how is like that was the mentality so many filmmakers have? You've got to walk in humble, very humble, because if you don't walk in humble, it will humble you.

Guy Pigden 42:22
Yes. As it has done many, many times.

Alex Ferrari 42:28
And by the way, will continue to carry out your career it will humble you. Look, Jeff Katzenberg, arguably one of the more successful producers in history, you know, with Disney and DreamWorks, and, you know, he worked with, you know, partner with Spielberg and Geffen to create DreamWorks, and, arguably a legend. He just got humbled by kwibi. He thought he could come out, he thought he could come out, he thought he could come out. It's like, you know what, we're gonna throw billion bones in this, we're gonna do this. And we're going to be the next big thing and pop up. And you know what, it didn't work. And a lot of people lost a lot of money. And he was humbled. I don't, but I do give him credit for getting up to the plate and taking a swing. I don't think he walked in thinking that he was the end all be all. I don't know the man. I don't know how it worked. But at least he gave it a shot. But look, a man of literally a legend. In our business, absolute icon. In our business humbled. It happens to every big director, every big director has has a flop Hey, Steven Spielberg, Steven Spielberg, but he had 1941 he did 41 I still loved the movie, but it did not do well in the box office. And he was humbled. If you don't walk in humble to every project, you promise you, you will get humbled at one point or another in your life. And it happens to everybody, everybody.

Guy Pigden 43:54
And I think that's a also a really important distinction to make is that it is very hard to make a good film. And it's even harder to make a good film, and then have that good film, especially in the indie world, find its audience, it's not even just making a good film, you got to make a good film. And then you have to take that one step further and connect to that audience. And that is something that costs money, you know, and marketing and all that stuff, which is, again, we just think, hey, we'll just make this film. It'll be so good. That one, you know, we don't have to worry about the good, bad thing, because it's going to be so good is that is to genius. The audience will just connect to what's true, I'll find my audience. And that was another thing is that we, you know, with zombie Holocaust, we had, you know, like I said, it was on Showtime for years, you know, people were saying, Hey, I saw your film, you know, it was, you know, pirated like, you know, over, you know, millions of times sometimes would pop up on YouTube, and then three, you'd catch it under About 300,000 views on YouTube and go, can we please take this down. So it's not that people weren't watching it. But even that did not truly Connect, like, I could not connect to my zombie fan base, like people that love zombie films still don't necessarily know that that film exists. I couldn't connect to my audience, I couldn't, I didn't have that sort of that marketing push, or that clout, or that sort of even that grassroots thing, to really join those dots to make it a huge success in that way. And these are all things that we don't think about, when we're sort of starting out. So but you have to, and like you said, like the, you know, to use, and I think about this, when I made my second feature, older, which was a micro budget film in 2013, is when I started that film. And in 2013, if you made a feature film, it was still an achievement. People were still like, hey, that's, that's pretty Oh, you you made that you just did that you you sort of put it all together out. That's impressive. And 2021. That's cool. It's like, cool. Well, I think my neighbor did that. He's, he's, he's put I'm pretty sure he's put together a feature film.

Alex Ferrari 46:13
And I think and I think and I think he has Eric Roberts in it. So sorry, Eric. Eric, I apologize. I do love you, man. Best of the Best was awesome. I'm sorry.

Guy Pigden 46:24
That the technology has has made it more accessible and easier to do, which may has muddied the waters to the point where, hey, you know, how you finding those quality indie titles now, because it's not just that they're not just sticking out anymore? right in, in this whole sea of other stuff. And so, you know, that is another challenge that we have to think about and face and, and sort of work on if we want to connect?

Alex Ferrari 46:51
No question. And if anyone listening out there thinks they're going to make an independent film, and your audience is going to find you. I also have some land to sell you or a bridge to sell, as well. Some swamp land in Florida. It's fantastic. I mean, it just that's mentality from 1990 to 9394. When someone could find a clerks, someone could find a brothers but but do you think brothers macmullan, if it showed up today, would make a dime I talked to Ed, and that's Bs, a douchey. La guy who's dropping names. But when we talked when we had that on the show, I asked him like, Did you think he's like I? Probably? Probably not. It's just it would be so difficult to get any sort of attention for a film like that in today's world. So it was about timing and mariachi to I'll you know, when Robert eventually shows up on the show, which he will want to be when Robert shows up on the show go do you think of mariachi would have a chance today? Like, truly, truly do you think you know my reaction? Not that it's not It has nothing to do with the quality of the film? It's the marketplace, can it find its audience. So I hope people listening, take your story, hold wholeheartedly, and realize, and trust me, you've got to be a special kind of person, especially depending on what age you're at, to really look at yourself and go, maybe I'm not the next Spielberg. Because I promise you, every every big guy that you've that you think, or every big director you followed, in the last 30 years all probably thought if they were younger, or another generation from Spielberg thought were the next Spielberg. And they ended up being something else. Like the features of the world. And the kitten, the Nolan's and even Cameron Cameron was inspired by Lucas and he went on to do his own thing. But everyone aims for the masters. Everybody wants to draw like Picasso, or Van Gogh, we, you know, if you pick up a paintbrush you like it has to be Picasso or Van Gogh, yeah, we'd love to get to that place. But the hard reality and the truth is, you're never gonna get to that you more than likely will never get to that place, because it's impossible to get to that place, because there's only one backup period. But you can get to your van Gogh place, whatever that place might be. It could be right there next to him. Or it could be just making a living as a painter and loving your life. And that's O. K, you don't have to be rich and famous. You don't have to be Tarantino to to be a successful filmmaker. I know filmmakers have had on the show, who direct all the time, and just make their movies and aim it at their audiences. And they make a good living. And they're not living up in the Hollywood Hills. But every day they wake up and they get to do what they love to do. And I think that that is the success that is the dream, not making millions of dollars and making a Marvel movie, which by the way, as I always say, Kevin Fay, I'll take the I'll take the meeting. But but that's not. That's not the only definition of success. And I think, hopefully in the show, I've put that out there enough that filmmakers especially younger filmmakers will understand that and I'm glad you've shared this story with us. But before we go, I do want to touch upon the seven Yours, it took you to make your neck your next film older. What happened?

Guy Pigden 50:06
Yes. So, um, after the experience with zombie film, and to be honest, I still going through it, because in 2013, I was still wrapping up the post production on the zombie film. And I was still sort of chipping away at that. But I sort of was like, Okay, cool. I've made this kind of, you know, again, one of my other mistakes is that I tried to make a film that should have cost a, you know, several million dollars for $250,000. So I was not working within my budget in terms of like, so that made every single scene every single thing harder, because essentially, I was asking much more of the resources that I had. So I had to be, you know, much clever about my approach, which I wasn't always, but I am much, but all of that just made it extremely difficult. And I thought, Okay, look, I just want to do a walkie talkie film, I want to do a film, you know, there's much more modest than scope and scale. That is, you know, something that I love, which is, you know, who you've had on the show Richard Linklater films, but I was thinking about before sunset, sunrise, just people talking and hanging out real relationships, all that sort of stuff I loved, you know, those early Woody Allen films as well, that sort of dealt with that sort of thing. And so I wanted to do something like that, which was just as far away from zombies and exploding heads and sort of gore and all those sort of things that I'd been sort of, you know, knee deep, and I wanted to just do the opposite. And that was really my inspiration for shooting old and just do a real relationship drama, because I love those films as well. I'm not just a horror guy. And so I sort of said about, we did some crowdfunding. And this again, this was kind of before crowdfunding was cool. This is when it was sort of in its infancy, like, not everyone was doing it, we did it Indiegogo. And we raised, I think about 5000 US dollars, I also have, with my production partner, Holly nevel, we have this successful YouTube channel, we use some money from our YouTube channel, and we kind of pulled all those resources, and we were just like, it's going to be three weeks, we're gonna shoot it, I'm going to have it all done within a year, just within a year,

Alex Ferrari 52:21
I'm sure that's the way it worked out.

Guy Pigden 52:24
And so, and we shot it, we shot it in three weeks, but with the idea that we'd shoot like 80% of it, so that 80% was like the hardest part of the film, we're doing three weeks, and they would pick up some of the little bits that I didn't have time for that 20% over weekends following on from that. And that was always the way I do it. And I was sort of inspired because, you know, at that time 2013, the five D Mark three had come out in the Mac two, and I'd shot some pickups for the zombie film on the mark two and I was like, holy cow, this camera can almost replicate what I had with a crew of 20 or 30 on the zombie film, but it's just me and another guy, and some photography lenses. And so, you know, obviously, it was this kind of revolutionary moment for indie filmmakers at the time, with that type of gear to get this kind of this shallow depth of field look is really what we're talking about. And so I was like, Okay, we'll get that camera, we'll use that I had a friend over in Australia who was doing photography, he actually flew over for three weeks to shoot, to do that shoot. And we sort of really went back to basics, whether it's super small crew way more, like, you know, we're talking three or four people. And keeping it that small scale, because it gives you a lot of freedom, you know, it gives you a lot more freedom. Sometimes when we're not all thinking about our max and our the focus puller is but out today, you know, all of those things that kind of kind of sometimes stagnate a shoot, when you have a big team and a big crew, you can just go back to the basics. And just it's all about the story. It's all about the performances. And it's it's about character and relationships and all that sort of thing. So we shot that we continue to do those pickups straight afterwards. But what happened is that I kind of then got bogged back down and creating the deliverables and post work for the zombie film, and then the promotion and marketing of the zombie film. So from that sort of end of 2013 and 2014 and 2015 I was really very preoccupied with getting my first feature out there and sort of didn't really start back up editing older until sort of, you know, 2016 ish, really. And then I sort of had some more ideas about maybe I want to change this maybe I want to adjust some things because a I'm a perfectionist and you know you have a love for Stanley Kubrick I have a love for Stanley Kubrick. It's not right until it's right and so when you have such a small crew and such a small team You're on good terms with all of them. You one of the big benefits you have is you can go, you know what, the scene isn't quite right. Let's go back and redo it. Let's, let's, let's shoot it again. And so I sort of did a little bit of that I did a little bit of rewriting of some sections, which again, could have been avoided had I'd done more thorough work on the script to begin with, you know, I was sort of rewriting after the fact and sort of rewriting beforehand, and saving all that time to shoot it twice, you know. So I wouldn't say that, like, essentially, the majority of the film was still that, that 2013, shirked, but there was these bits from 2014, and 2015, and 2016. And actually, all the way up to 2900.

Alex Ferrari 55:45
How did you how did you were the star of this as well. Right?

So how did you like, keep your flike? I mean, you're aging. I mean, I yeah, I'm aging rapidly, rapidly as filmmakers, too, we do not age.

Guy Pigden 55:58
I always joke about this too, is that filmmaking is like staring into the dead lights. And it you know, when it and it turns everything gray, that's, that's filmmaking ages, you years and years, I'm 25,

Alex Ferrari 56:10
I'm 25 years old, look at me looking at, you're like what 17 I mean, look at

Guy Pigden 56:15
you. Sorry, it was a bit of a problem, I sort of went from having here, that was graying to gray here. So I had to keep dyeing my hair for it, I also had to maintain a certain weight as well, because that sort of got in shape, because I knew I was doing these, you know, six scenes and stuff like that. And I was like, Okay, I don't I want to look good on camera, obviously. And so that was a struggle. So it was a battle

Alex Ferrari 56:39
like this, it kept you healthy, it kept telling you, you look better than you ever did for seven years. And now you've completely let yourself go. So that's faster.

Guy Pigden 56:49
Now, totally different. And I'd like look now that time can catch back up. So it was a little bit of a challenge to keep that continuity. And we had actresses, you know, with here twice the length that was you know, and they were like, Well, I'm not cutting it again for this film, guys. So you better figure out a way to dress my hair. So it doesn't look like this. And so there was lots of issues like that. Some of that, like the house that were originally filmed, we no longer live there. So we couldn't film there anymore. So we had to go back in and there was all sorts of stuff.

Alex Ferrari 57:22
So all of this, all of this is all of this is the insanity of it. This is this is the definition of insanity of being a filmmaker. It is and it's wonderful. It's beautiful. And it's just destructive and terrifying. At the same time. It can't be can't be wasn't in this case, but it can be Yeah, imagine if you would have put not 1000, but 80,000, and you would have mortgaged your house. And then all of a sudden, you can't pay the rent. And all of a sudden you lose your house because you've this film, and I've heard these stories, man. So but at least you were smart enough to go, you know, let's keep this micro keep it small, keep it small, keep it small, the worst thing is I'm gonna not have the I can eat those french fries.

Guy Pigden 58:02
look good. And that's and the other battle too was just the Edit because I also edited it myself. And I got busy with other projects, you know, I you know, if someone would come on and say, Hey, can you shoot this web series? It's like, Okay, cool. Well, that's, you know, the next four months of me working on that web series, you know, we're going to, we're going to shoot this other little short film. Okay, well, let me do that. And so I certainly got into having to put put a pause on the film, to do these other projects, which I was very grateful for, because, you know, sort of earlier, maybe in 2013, I wasn't being asked to do those things. So, you know, it was a progression in one respect, but it was also holding up the film. But I think that, you know, that's, again, something that if I had to do over, and I could afford it, I wouldn't eat it at myself. Because it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work. In fact, to me that is the most time intensive part of of the filmmaking you think it's the shoot you, maybe you think it's the writing of it, you think all those things, but as soon as you're in that edit room, and you're chipping away, and you're looking at take six, and you're like, Oh, well I actually did a little bit from here and a little bit from take one a little bit from Tech, you know, to it's it is it's a grind. And so all of those things, because also, you know, I have, I also work other jobs as well. I'm not just a full time filmmaker, sadly, people aren't paying me enough to, you know, just be directing or freelancing. I do like, I do camera stuff and edits for other people, for other people. So all of those things kind of just would put a pause on the film until we sort of finally got to the end and sort of 2020 and sometimes you will started like I'd been through it once I'd been through that whole process. So I was a little bit more patient and understanding of that process. And really the focus was obviously trying to make the film as as good as It could be, but but that seven years goes by pretty quick.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:04
I look, I tell you like I just woke up and I'm 46. Now like, I just I'm like, I just like, last last night, I just got into film school. Like they mean, it was just like, I still remember like just walking onto the soundstage for the first time going, Oh, this is where I'm going to bring in the crane here. And we're going to get the techno over here. And we're going to do this, and none of that could afford. But Richard Linklater said something was such a profound statement. And I've heard a few people tweeted out, after that interview came out, he says that our skill set eventually catches up with our ideas. Because when you're young, and when you're starting out, you've got massive ideas like I can do Avengers. Yeah, I could do this or that. But the skill set the craft, takes time to catch up. And he was the first to admit it. Like when he did slacker, he, you know, there was things and every movie that he kept doing from dazed and confused, and so on, he got better and better and better. And I haven't, you know, told him that and he's like, yeah, you know, after after the fourth or fifth, I'm solid. Like, after the fourth or fifth movie, I was like, you might not like my movies, but you can't argue that I can make movies, you know that I can finish a movie, say like, it took me about four or five movies to get that under my belt, and I'm solid. You can't argue with that. At the beginning, you can like is this guy even going to be able to make this thing work? It takes time to get that craft to catch up to those ideas. And it's patience, brother, it's patience. But listen, I have a couple questions. I asked all my guests, and you will probably know these. Since you listened to the show I should, then you'll be able to do better be prepared, sir. What advice would you give the filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Guy Pigden 1:01:43
Well, to be honest, because, you know, we've we've mentioned a couple of these. And I actually did try and write down a couple of these things. But, you know, for starters, yeah, forget the lottery ticket mentality, as you say all the time. And think about long term sustainability, view your films as a brand, and business as well as an artistic endeavor. So that's something that I would would definitely throw out there. I would also say, you know, don't assume that people will recognize your talent. Right? So focus on connecting with an audience that appreciates, but stop assuming that I'm a genius. And you know, what I do will just be at that level that I want it to be with all my, you know, all those greats that I look up to. So, you know, you got to shift that mindset a lot. So those are the things I take what I mean, to my younger self, I'd say, Look, man, don't be depressed. But it is gonna take a lot longer than you think. Obviously, it's

Alex Ferrari 1:02:52
gonna take too, it's like, again, I'll go back to Rick as he said this another quote is like, it's gonna take twice as long as you think and it's gonna be twice as hard.

Guy Pigden 1:02:59
Yes. As and, and you know, you know, I know that I can't remember who it was that said, it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. Well, maybe I think it takes 20 years to become an overnight

Alex Ferrari 1:03:14
it turns, it depends on your path. It all depends on the path, you walk some Look, man, some people hit it out of the park, like Robert Sure, without mariachi, and he was given a gift. And a lot of these guys have had on the show, were given gifts, like they happen to be at the right place, right time, right product. And you know what, you know, everyone has their path. So you just kind of walk your path the best way you can. And maybe you're destined for greatness, or great things in the way that you think they're great. Or maybe you're destined to make a beautiful living, doing the art form that you love. And maybe no one will recognize you other than that smaller audience that that loves you. And that is an amazing accomplishment. Or maybe this business isn't for you. And that's a sad reality of, of what we do. Because as we saw in the beginning, that punch comes. Either you know how to take in and keep going forward, or you're knocked out. And I've seen a lot of filmmakers get knocked out. And the only goal I have with this show is to make sure that you know that that punch is coming to let you know, because I wish I had that podcast when you were trying to get this distribution deal made. So I wish I was listening to this. I wasn't even started yet. I hadn't even started yet. So I was in my own turmoil selling olive oil and vinegar and that's a whole other conversation for another day. But But yeah, okay. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in film business or in life?

Guy Pigden 1:04:38
I think it goes back to you're not entitled to success. You are not there is not an entitlement. how good you think you are or how talented you that you are not entitled to success in your own entitled to appreciation. No matter how good you think you are. I think there was a big lesson for me to learn as a younger filmmaker Even though I'm still trying to have to remind myself from time to time, when you know, I, I get into these conversations with, with filmmakers or producers, and I'm like, Man, I've made two films by the effort, you know, like, I know what I'm doing. But you can't look at it like that, you have to come into it humble. And so that was a big thing for me. As you know, there are no entitlements here, you know, and you're not, you don't deserve any of that. That's, you've got to, even if you're the hardest worker in that, because I also thought it was to do with hard work, I thought, if you're the hardest worker in the room, and you've got some talent, you know, it will come together, I actually don't think that's true. Like you can do all those things. And it's still not it come together. At that time. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:45
what I would say, as far as that is concerned, I think if you're the hardest worker in the room, and you have a little bit of talent, something will eventually happen. Yes, it could happen in a year, it could happen in 10 years. But only good things come from that in one way, shape, or form. If you stay if you stick with it. That has been my experience, that's been my experience talking to so many filmmakers, if you show up and just keep working every day, something will happen. And I use, I use the example of the podcast when I launched, nobody knew who I was, no one knew indie film, hustle, I came out of it literally from scratch. And I just showed up every day, and just did as much work as humanly possible. And I've been able to build up what I've been able to build up over the last six years, but purely because of just straight up, hustle, straight up just grinding and grinding harder than anybody else. And good things do eventually happen. But it takes time to do it. But it might not happen to the way you imagined it in your head. And that is the lesson because you're not gonna grow. If you if you say, Oh, I'm gonna win the Oscar, you're done. You're done. Pack it up, you're not gonna win the Oscar, it's not gonna happen. But you know, like, Oh, I'm gonna make a million. Maybe, I don't know, doubtful depends on the movie. Maybe not, who knows. But just, if you can get out of this out of what your vision of your success is, and just let it unfold in front of you, and be open to whatever comes to you. That I think is a much more better recipe for success than trying to plan this open grant this grant thing, because I promise you and I've spoken to these guys on the show, every one of them that had these grand things happen to them, not one of them planted.

Guy Pigden 1:07:32
And it's such an important distinction, isn't it? Because we're coming in seeing these people and expecting the same type of success. You know, the Robert Rodriguez, the Kevin Smith, we're going to go that journey, we're gonna make these then we're going to, and it's like, but they didn't have that plan. They're like, I've just got to make my thing, I got to tell my story, and hope that something comes from it. And then all of this stuff came from it. But, you know, we I think that's, again, goes back to that sort of entitlement thing. Right. And, and, you know, what we are adjusting our expectations. Because I am sort of very proud of the things that I've done in my career. Very proud of having made two feature films and I'm super excited to be you know, just about finishing another one and, and all the opportunities that have come with that all the people I've got to work with along the way. I am incredibly grateful and thankful for that. But it was not, you know, it's not the giddy heights of Hollywood's and and that's okay, as you said that's okay.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:37
Robert, Robert wanted to make a mariachi for the for the Spanish VHS market. He had no intention of ever it being anywhere else other than straight to video to the Spanish market, not even straight to video American market students. And look what happened to him. None of them expected. None of them expected. Do you think Spielberg expected jaws to be the beginning of the blockbuster? To be the biggest movie of all time of its that? No. None of them do. So hope that gets in there. And last question, sir. Three of your favorite films of all time. I mean, this is the hardest one, but you've had time you've had time. I've written times I've written down. So let's go.

Guy Pigden 1:09:18
I've written down I've cheated. So I'm going to but I'm going to throw out so my first top three is the three that I can just off the top of my head, the shining number one original Star Wars trilogy. And back to the future. I know that's a cheat, but there will there will be but now the three the thing, john capita, the original Indiana Jones trilogy, and the dollars trilogy so so you've

Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
cheated all sorts. I mean, you

Guy Pigden 1:09:47
cheat one more time. One more set of cheats as this is a little bit off the beaten path because I know that people always give those ones The Big Lebowski sure the labyrinth Labyrinth I know Yeah, ever in the library.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:05
I don't think Labyrinth has been on the show before sunset, I don't think is a domain made the list either. But But to be fair, you have cheated. So I'm gonna I'm gonna have to do this. I'm gonna have to disclose I'm gonna have to disqualify the sir I'm sorry. But the guy that it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man, thank you so much for being so raw and honest and transparent with your experience. And, you know, putting it out there for the world to hear and, and hopefully help other filmmakers out there. It takes a brave filmmaker to come out and just kind of like, Hey, man, look, I learned these lessons. Hopefully, it's gonna help some other people. But I do truly appreciate you coming on the show. And it's been a blast, talking to you, my friend. So thank you so much and much success on your journey, sir.

Guy Pigden 1:10:47
Well, thank you, Alex. Thank you for having me on. I am a cautionary tale for other filmmakers. But I hope that one that people can take a lot and learn from and go cool. I'm not going to make those mistakes, because we all make mistakes, and we keep making mistakes. What do we take and learn from those. So I really hope people learn from my mistakes. And I'd also just like to say, please go and see my new film, which is available now amazon prime to be Google Play, which is older, it's, it's free on most of those platforms. And we begin to some awesome feedback. And, you know, we want to keep making films and long may continue. So please check that out. And you can also find me on YouTube. The savage filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:27
Fantastic, man. Thank you again, brother. Thanks a lot.

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IFH 486: Directing the End of the World with Zoe Lister-Jones


Right-click here to download the MP3

Our guest today is a triple threat. Actress, filmmaker, and writer, Zoe Lister-Jones, who made headways in 2017 with her all-female crew directorial debut, Band-Aid. The decision was inspired to foster new creative experiences amidst the staggering inequity on sets.

A couple who can’t stop fighting embarks on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band.  The comedy-drama film, starring Zoe, Jesse Williams, and her New Girl co-star, Hannah Simone premiered at the 2017 Sundance Festival. Check out the  trailer here

Some of Zoe’s most known acting roles include some of your favorite sitcoms like New Girl, Whitney, or Life In Pieces. I have watched Life in Pieces with my family many times and it remains a favorite. 

Zoe’s love for performing and writing goes back to high school which set the foundation for a scholarship ride in NYU. Even though the film is what she’s most known for now, Zoe has a background in music and theater. In 2009 she co-wrote and produced, her first screenplay, Breaking Upwards with Daryl Wein on a $ 15,000 budget. The film explores a young New York couple who, battling codependency, strategizes their own breakup. 

Operating on a thin budget like that turned the experience into a crash course or a production management Bootcamp in filmmaking for her and Daryl as described during our chat. 

A couple more production gigs later and she was ready for the director’s chair. 

Last year, Zoe wrote, directed, and produced the sequel to The Craft (1996), a supernatural horror titled, The Craft: Legacy. A group of high school students forms a coven of witches.

Wein and Zoe paired up again to bring a Sundance 2021 official selection cinematic experience to our isolated-covid-locked-down screens with what is described as a serene apocalyptic comedy, How It Ends. Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) embarks on a hilarious journey through LA in hopes of making it to her last party before it all ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way.

It was chill and fun chatting about Zoe’s indie filmmaking journey and navigating the minefields of live sets. 

Please enjoy my conversation with Zoe Lister-Jones.

 

Alex Ferrari 0:14
I'd like to welcome to the show, Zoe Lister-Jones, how you doing Zoe?

Zoe Lister-Jones 0:18
I'm good. How are you doing?

Alex Ferrari 0:19
I'm good. I'm good. Thank you so much for doing this. Like I was telling you earlier, my wife and I have binged all of life in pieces. Is that that must have been such a fun show to beyond. Oh,

Zoe Lister-Jones 0:30
that was fun. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I got to spend like most of my days with Colin Hanks who's a real dream of a person and and acting partner and, and then the rest of the cast. Yeah. Like, if you could have told my younger self that I would be spending my days across Diane waste across across from diabetes die would have been like your lying.

Alex Ferrari 0:53
Right.

Zoe Lister-Jones 0:55
But we all we are so close. You know, we continue to be close. And it was such a gift of a show to be on for four years. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:01
Collin, he keeps popping up in your films.

Zoe Lister-Jones 1:05
Can't get rid of them.

Alex Ferrari 1:07
He's He's like a dirty Penny just he just keeps he'd love to be with us that now. How did you get started in the business?

Zoe Lister-Jones 1:18
I went to NYU to Tisch actually I studied acting at the Atlantic Theatre Company acting school. And, and then upon grad, I always knew that I wanted to write as well. And I, upon graduating, wrote a one woman show for myself,

Alex Ferrari 1:40
as actors, as actors, as actors do,

Zoe Lister-Jones 1:42
as actors do, and I got my first agent and manager from that, and, and then, you know, started like booking law and order guest stars, the, the bar mitzvah of, of young actors in New York. That's how I became a woman. And then, and then yeah, I just, I started to work a lot more as an actor there in both theater and, and TV and film. And then I co wrote a film called breaking upwards with Darryl wine, who I co wrote and directed, co wrote and co co directed out ends with. And that was sort of my first foray into filmmaking. And, and we, we made a number of films together. That bring up to a super gorilla. It was like, we made it for 15 grand. And, and it was a real labor of love. But it really opened a lot of doors for us. And so we got to then make a number of more films. And then I went and made my directorial debut, which is called band aid, which premiered at Sundance in 2017. So that was kind of how, yeah, the filmmaking experience prior to that was really bootcamp. And I was,

Alex Ferrari 3:06
like, I'm ready to direct because it's not because it's not being an independent filmmaker is not just be it's like being on the set of law and order. Your craft, he is generally not as good.

Zoe Lister-Jones 3:16
crafty is generally terrible. I was in charge of crackdowns breaking up words. So it was like, Yeah, like many bags of chips that I was buying bodegas. And just like throwing them at cast members.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
So you wasn't I mean, you started off as an actress. And, and obviously, you still have a very, you know, you're still acting as well. And you wanted to write and direct. But when you went into breaking upwards, I mean, it was kind of like a crash course into because independent films is definitely is trial by fire, especially in a $15,000 budget. In New York. I'm assuming you call friends and friends help, then there's all that kind of stuff. But what was it like going from, you know, what you're used to as an actress, and know that you were like, you know, you know, on the Avengers set, but you know, what I mean? Like, you know, a little bit different than 15k 15k was probably the, the Crafty budget for that episode. Totally.

Zoe Lister-Jones 4:16
You know, I think because it was the first film that the first narrative film, at least that Darrell and I had made. It was really trial by fire. And I kind of think, you know, that is the way even if you do go to film school, there's no way to really learn any of the things that you will learn once you're on a live set, because it is just, you know, navigating minefields by the hour, and especially at that budget, but but really, at any budget. I mean, I've now gone on to make a studio film as a writer, director, and and I think even when the budgets get bigger, you're still facing You know, finally similar challenges, they just they just shift in scope, but they're always, you know, like, you're always up against a budget, no matter how big

Alex Ferrari 5:11
the budget or the line you're in, you're up against the sun, you're losing the light. You're always, always trying to make your days. Yeah.

Zoe Lister-Jones 5:18
And, and that is, that's really, you know, I think something that is a muscle that, you know, you can obviously, exercise and learn how to be really efficient and quick on your feet. But yeah, it's always that that dance between the purely creative impulse, and then there's something that's, you know, slightly administrative about it, where it's just like, You're in charge of this crew of people, regardless of how big or small that crew is. And you're really just trying to, like, get the shot before, before the sunset.

Alex Ferrari 5:55
And one thing ending on exactly, and the one thing that they never talked to you about, is, honestly, the politics of sets of being on a set. And just dealing anytime you've got a group of people that you've got to manage, there's going to be some politics and things what you do what you don't do, and you have a unique perspective, because you come from in front of the camera, as well as the back of the camera. So did that when you were on set? I'm assuming there was some of that going on. And especially the lower the budget, unless it's all really good friends, things happen. But even on some of the larger projects, you have, like how do you navigate those kind of like political landmines that you have to within egos and personalities and stuff, whatever you feel comfortable saying, I don't want to get in trouble.

Zoe Lister-Jones 6:39
Yeah, no, absolutely. I'll name names. No, I think, yeah, that you are, I mean, I always say like, the ultimate goal. And I think the beauty of filmmaking is that it's like, a group of people who ultimately have to learn how to sort of operate as one single organism. And that's like, a really beautiful social experiment and creative experiment. But you are constantly dealing with, you know, like any community, you know, whether it's professional or just who's living in your house, or when you move in with a friend, it's like, you come up against, yeah, just personal things, that, that you kind of have to be the, the mother or father, you know, or parent. And you are, and I think ego does come into play a lot, unfortunately, because because the stakes feel high, regardless of how small the budget are, the stakes always feel really high on a set. And everyone's trying to do their best work, and everyone wants to be doing their best work. And, and that's a really vulnerable place, you know, to be in. So if anything, is getting in the way of someone doing their best work, or if they don't feel that they have agency over their work, or, you know, any of those issues will come up. And I think I just always tried to, I believe, like, wholeheartedly that every one on a set is like, in charge of their own artistry, and the more that you give them, that you let them know that, you know, the better it goes because everyone is ultimately there to support you know, this sort of filmmakers vision, but, but each but each person has their own incredible, unique vision, you know, that is in support of that. And I think the more freedom people feel, to sort of express those visions individually, I think the better, the better. It always goes.

Alex Ferrari 8:48
Yeah. And I think also the, that's that what you just laid out was a very secure director, someone who feels comfortable in their own skin when you have an insecure director. And I'm sure you've probably worked with a couple in your day. Career, it's not that you know, then it's all about control and make sure so I've always found being on a set that has more freedom as long as everybody understands that everything is funneled through the one vision open to all ideas. That fair.

Zoe Lister-Jones 9:19
Okay, yes. And I think you know, the collaboration is is the beauty So, like anything the more you try to control it, but the less you will

Alex Ferrari 9:30
give me like in life like in life.

Zoe Lister-Jones 9:32
Yeah, yeah, I think it is about really submitting to, to Yeah, to the collective in this one way while still staying really true to your vision. But I think a lot of that happens in you know, in prep and so that PrEP is obviously in pre production is really important and having a strong script. And then you know, the team around you is is sort of has more freedom I think to to know that like on the day We have to get shit done. And we have to get it done like quickly. But also, like, if there's a great idea, you know, it we're we're all open to hearing it and maybe veering slightly off course.

Alex Ferrari 10:12
Now you your parents were artists, and you were kind of grown grew up in an artist's kind of family. Did that scare you? Or did that embolden you to go into the arts because the artists life is not an easy life. And in any art form.

Zoe Lister-Jones 10:32
It scared me, my both my parents are still artists, although, you know, they both had to work other jobs in order to support themselves and raise a kid in New York. So I obviously feel very grateful and lucky that I was and continue to be able to make a living from my art because that is, you know, it is a real rarity. So I think seeing that struggle growing up definitely scared me.

Alex Ferrari 11:11
But not enough, but not enough cuz you're here.

Zoe Lister-Jones 11:14
Enough? No, I mean, I think seeing the heartache, you know, in the end, the rejection and the and, yeah, just the sort of the vulnerability that comes with it, and how much pain can also come with it. When Sure, we're all making art to make art. But ultimately, we also, you know, would like that art to be received well, and you know, and, and I think, to watch, you know, that happen, firsthand, as a child and see the pain that could accompany the pursuit of those kinds of dreams. It was, it was scary. And I think when I, I knew that I really loved performing, I knew that I loved writing. But I did not know that I was going to go to college for it. And it was actually my mom that pushed me to not in like a stage mom way before I had started to act in high school, I was quite shy, and I started to act in high school. And then I ended up getting like, I ended up auditioning for NYU and getting a scholarship. And I was like, I don't think I should go because I didn't want to put all my eggs into that basket. And my mom was the one who's like, No, you should definitely go. So yeah, big ups to mom for encouraging me.

Alex Ferrari 12:33
Now I've talked to you know, when I do my projects, I've always tried to be as kind as possible to actors. Because I feel in the in the, in the hierarchy of abuse, that creative abuse that you get actors are they have no control, they're essentially almost a commodity sometimes like, because until someone gives you permission to do your art, you really can't do it at all, you know, to get paid for it, then writers are the next abuse. And then filmmakers and so on. But how do you how did you deal with the rejection? Because I mean, it breaks my heart every time an actor walks into a casting session I'm doing I try to be as nice even though I know that they might not be right for the role that has nothing to do with them. But it's just like, I'm looking for a six foot tall black man. Yeah, you're a white woman who's five foot five. First of all, how did you get in this casting?

Zoe Lister-Jones 13:25
Totally. Yeah, I mean, well, it's interesting. I don't know that this sort of like hierarchy of the pain of rejection. I don't know, I don't know that I would put actors at the top of the pain region.

Alex Ferrari 13:42
In our industry in our industry. No,

Zoe Lister-Jones 13:44
no, I know. No, in our industry, I even is what I'm saying. Like, I think that it's like, having done at all, I will say that it's all painful. But I but I do think that like, you know, when when you write something and share it, it's incredibly personal and vulnerable. That's really different, you know, then being like, well, that part wasn't for me, and I spent, you know, you write days, days learning the lines for this audition. It's like you can spend years on a script or on a pitch for a TV series and then it these things go away, you know, and they are they're gone forever. And you're just like what? So, you know, I try not to pity actors too much. I can say that because I'm one of them. Easy, no, it's hard. It's hard. Being an actor. It's hard. Being a writer. It's hard. It's hard being a director, I mean, actors. I think the volume of rejection is really difficult. But I always do try to be Yeah, as nice as humanly possible in in my auditioning people and and being an as encouraging as possible, and I think it also takes to a certain extent giving actors some leeway because some people just are very nervous auditioners and it actually doesn't speak to their level of talent. So it's sort of having to look at everything you know, if someone has an energy that feels right, but you're kind of like I think you're self sabotaging right now go outside and like breathe for 10 minutes and come back and start freaking out, you know, can sometimes be helpful.

Alex Ferrari 15:34
Now your your project breaking upwards and a handful of your other projects as well got into some pretty big festivals I love always love to ask especially like South by and Sundance. When you got the Paul, what what's that, like?

Zoe Lister-Jones 15:50
Bringing up this was our first was our first film, and it got into South by and we were just so excited. And going to Austin was you know, it was it was just a thrill. And we were in narrative competition and being there. Everyone, you know, the line around the block to get in? Yeah, it was amazing. Um, Sundance was always like, the whole the Holy Grail. And on my directorial debut, it was the first time I got into Sundance and that that call was truly like, yeah, it was it was out of body I left my body for sure. And to be in narrative competition at Sundance was just Holy shit, you know? And they they were like, and you're gonna play at the Eccles which anyone listening? Oh,

Alex Ferrari 16:39
yeah. Oh, yeah.

Zoe Lister-Jones 16:40
It's the dream of dreams. You know, this, this theater. And it's where I had as a, as a viewer watched so many filmmakers go and you know, introduce their films there. And it was always like this huge life goal. It was absolutely surreal. And, and for band aid, which premiered there. I mean, it was just crazy. Because it was, I stood up on that stage after the film ended. And I think that that theater holds

Alex Ferrari 17:09
2500 ethics.

Zoe Lister-Jones 17:10
Yeah, like 2500 people. sanity. Yeah. And everyone got on their feet and stood and I was it was just, it's truly one of the one of the greatest experiences of my of my life. And I'm sure it will continue to be until I die. But yeah, that those calls are always amazing, and how it ends which, which just premiered at Sundance, even though it was virtual this year. That call was it never isn't exciting, you know, it's not a bad call. It's not bad call no matter what it is. and South by to like, how it ends, we've been really lucky. It's the first film I've ever had to play Sundance south by and Tribeca. And so like, you know, every time we get the call, we're like, we really, for each festival, we're like, we get to come to you, too.

Alex Ferrari 17:59
It's the holy, it's the Holy Trinity. He got he got a festival smoking question. Now, when you shot band aid, you, you famously had an all female crew, which I'm embarrassed to have to have a conversation about this. It shouldn't. It shouldn't be a thing. It just shouldn't. But did you realize that it was going to cause so much discussion? When you're like, Oh, yeah, we're gonna do an all female and everyone's like, why, like their head people's head started to explode. First. Yeah. Did you expect the dialogue that all this dialogue to happen? The secondly, as a female director, what was it like? Just walking around looking at females? constantly everywhere? which I'm sure is not the the experience normally.

Zoe Lister-Jones 18:44
Yeah, no, totally. Um, I, I guess, I guess I was aware. I mean, I think because the reasons why I chose to hire all women on the crew of band Aid, you know, we're like, multi fold. Part of it was was just on a personal level, I really wanted to see what that would feel like, you know, like, I'm really into creating environments that that can foster a new creative experience, you know, and I think, as it was, I was a first time director, I'm a woman. I've seen women, you know, have to take some shit, especially first time directors on sets when I've been an actor and I wanted to protect myself.

Alex Ferrari 19:35
art fairs. In other words, you didn't you didn't want that 65 year old dp. You know, who you know, he's smoking a cigar on set doing this chick doesn't know what you said you didn't want that experience, because I've had that experience as a man when I was thinking

Zoe Lister-Jones 19:49
direct. it you know, it doesn't always discriminate you always get some sort of crotchety person the caffeine

Alex Ferrari 20:00
It's always it's always.

Zoe Lister-Jones 20:05
Yeah, God is tough. But But I, you know, I think and I've had amazing working relationships, you know, with men, I just, I think I did just want to see what it would what it would feel like. And then on top of it, I think I was, as we all continue to be, sadly, this we shot it in 2016 just the inequity on on sets, what is still so staggering, you know, I mean, you will oftentimes be on a set with one woman on on the crew that's, you know, not counting hair and makeup or wardrobe, but like, generally, it'll be, it'll just be script. You know, it's script, which in France is still called script girl. It's like the secretary of cruise. And it's an incredibly important issue, but it is like, it's such a broken system to hold on from the olden times.

Alex Ferrari 21:03
Yeah.

Zoe Lister-Jones 21:04
Yeah. And it's so difficult to change. And I and I had witnessed that, you know, I chose to do this pre Me too. But, you know, pre pre many things happened, the world changed. I wasn't 16. But, but I think, in watching in the hiring process, just for me in that in that film, even my women keys, you know, we're nervous about hiring other women who had less experience than the dudes they've been working with, for a decade, you know, like, and it's not, it's not that they were discriminating, it's that everyone's everyone wants the best person for the job, I'm putting that in, in quotes for people who are listening. But the best person for the job can sometimes be a person who has, you know, less experience, because there's hunger and because, and because there's ingenuity, and you know, and I think there is a real roadblock for so many women and people of color for that reason, like it is, it becomes just sort of, we're gonna hire the same people we've been hiring because we know they're working, because it's a safe bet. And so I think it was a really interesting experience for everyone on on the crew of band aid to have to step outside their comfort zones and work with new people and see, like, oh, man, that actually does work. Like we can do that in the future. And, and it's also like, you know, to a certain extent, about mentorship, and, and we shot band aid in 12 days, with many people who didn't have the experience level that, you know, necessarily would make a person comfortable in a larger film, we got, you know, what we were able to accomplish with this crew of people is like, a real testament to taking those risks. And I and I do, you know, I have continued to try to do that, as best I can, of course, when you get into like, the studio system and, and larger things and, and the television studio system, it becomes more challenging, but But yeah, it was, it was definitely one of the most creatively fulfilling experiences in my life.

Alex Ferrari 23:36
Now, when you um, when you're writing, what is your process? Do you outline first you start with character? Do you start with plot? How is that process when you're starting the writing process?

Zoe Lister-Jones 23:46
Um, I tend to not outline unless I'm working with a studio has forced me to, but I do tend I really like writing and not knowing exactly where it's going. There's just something about the there's some sort of like channeling that happens that I think it's really interesting, where you're, like, where this dialogue coming from are, where's this plot twist coming from, you know, and, and just sort of getting into the flow of that. Now that that can't happen once you're outlining to you can surprise yourself, but, um, but yeah, I have tended to not outline personally and then, you know, when working I made like a pilot for ABC that I wrote and directed and then working on the craft legacy for Sony and blumhouse. You know, those things start with outlines and, and outlines are sort of, they're pretty heavily vetted that before before you got the green light, right.

Alex Ferrari 24:51
Yeah, and fair enough. It's their money. So fair enough. Fair enough. But you said something really interesting, too. Like the channeling, and I completely am on board with what you're saying when it comes to that, where I always love asking, you know, creatives and artists and writers, you know, where does it come from? Is that that question is like, Where is this coming from? And anyone who's ever been in an art artistic form, they understand the zone. If you're an athlete, you understand the zone, when you're writing is like you're in the flow. And I love what you're saying, like, I don't know when because it just kind of like, I like to be the surprise, like, Where's this dial up? Because sometimes when I write same things, like, Who's talking, I'm just diktat. And parent Dino says that all the time is like, all I am, is I just dictate what? The conversation. So where do you think like, what state Do you have to be as a writer to kind of allow that? Because I'm assuming it doesn't flow all the time?

Zoe Lister-Jones 25:46
Yeah, no. I feel like I get a lot of ideas when I'm going to sleep and when I'm waking up. And I think a lot of people do people say, when they're in the shower, I think it's sort of like the liminal spaces where your, your conscious mind is like, able to, I don't know, expand in a different way. And then, and then generally, like, when I'm in that, I will just like wake up and go right to the computer. And I tend to write pretty quickly, like, I'll, I like to get everything down. Like if I'm writing a feature, you know, I like to just like, I don't I don't do a lot of like going backwards and looking at scenes. I just like keep going, I like to push through till I have a draft. And then and then, you know, get it. fine tuned. And then I have my, you know, group of readers that I send it to who I trust and, um, but yeah, I mean, I think getting in the flow is something it's like, it comes at such interesting and unexpected times.

Alex Ferrari 26:58
And generally, it's like I do it when I'm driving. It comes to me sometimes it's horrible, because I can't write, but I'll record I'll record but I think it's when your subconscious mind takes over your normal like walking, or at the gym or showering, like it's, it's an automatic movement that you've done 1000 times. So your subconscious mind is doing it. And your, your conscious mind is like, Hey, why don't we over here now, because I don't have to think about this and where I go. And it kind of fives that it can get you get into that vibe. And if you figure that out and how to do that constantly, then yeah, then it's great. It really. Yeah, absolutely. Now, when you work with when you work with Blum House of blumhouse, excuse me, on the craft, which I was a huge fan of the craft back in the 90s is such a great movie. How did you get involved with that project? Cuz that's, I mean, that's it. You're, you're, you're stepping up now you're in that now you're in the big leagues? And, and, you know, how did that How did that come about?

Zoe Lister-Jones 27:59
Well, I think band aid, you know, fortunately, like made up enough of a splash for me to then be in consideration for a number of sort of bigger, bigger things to direct and, and that my agent came to me and said, Do you want to pitch or take on a remake of the craft? And I was like, absolutely, because, you know, it's such a legendary film, and it excited me to reimagine it in today's landscape. You know, what, what, for young women stepping into their powers would look like and, and so I went and I pitched it to Blohm. And, and the rest of his team there and and some and, and Doug wick, who produced the original. And, yeah, Jason was like, I mean, very sweetly. And he said this, I'm not talking to my own horn. But he did say it was the best pitch he had ever heard, which was really exciting. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 29:09
that's that's high praise from Jason.

Zoe Lister-Jones 29:12
Yes, it was very high praise. And yeah, apart like that day, he just called and said, You got the gig. And. And then, yeah, it actually happened quite quickly. Like it was, I think, from that day to when we shot, it was like, two years, or when we wrapped it was like two years. So it all happened quite quickly.

Alex Ferrari 29:39
Right. And we're the only business that two years is is fast. Very quickly was like the least 24 months it was finished.

Zoe Lister-Jones 29:48
And that's like not quickly for blumhouse they turn things out, but I think this was just a different you know, they've been trying to remake the crafts and for many, many many suits

Alex Ferrari 29:58
and stuff. Yeah,

Zoe Lister-Jones 29:58
yeah. And So it did feel fast, relatively speaking to like that one hears that had, they've been trying to remake.

Alex Ferrari 30:07
Now, when you walk on the set for that first day, you're on, you know, you're at the show, as they say, you're at the show now you've been, you've been working you've uh, you've been, you know, you've been taking a lot of at bats, but now you're at, you're in the you're in the game. What does it feel like walking on set that first day on a studio project with the cat had a fantastic cast? You know, all this stuff? What does that feel like?

Zoe Lister-Jones 30:32
It was, it was surreal, you know, because leading up to any film, it never feels like it's going to actually happen, you know, I mean, the day before some bomb will draw up and you'll be like, Oh, this movie is in dire straits, you know, and we hit many of those things in, in the lead up. You always just have to fight as a filmmaker like tooth and nail to get that thing just on its feet, just to get it, you know, just to get to get to that day one of production. So I was just so happy that we had made it there. And, and I always like to do like a little like, ceremony up at the top. So I did that. And it was really nice. It was like, you know, we're all entering into this really fucking intense thing that we're about to do for the next 27 days. You know,

Alex Ferrari 31:33
like, and the funny thing is, and the funny thing The funny thing is, is that like, I'd like to do a ceremony which is very apropos for the film that

Zoe Lister-Jones 31:46
well, we had real witches on set who were our like, our consultants or which consultants so they were helping lead us in some ceremonies to

Alex Ferrari 31:56
amazing that that's the thing. Which consultant only in Hollywood only in Hollywood, is there such a thing as what which consultant? Now your latest film how it ends? I had the pleasure of watching it. It is a quarantine film. Correct. So you shot it during quarantine? It is not it's not it's not about quarantine. Yes, absolutely. But it is a quarantine from the minute he was produced there. Because you said it very lovingly shot during work. Which is great. But the the film is so LA. Anyone who lives here, it's just such an LA film and it's so wonderful. Can you tell everybody what it's about?

Zoe Lister-Jones 32:36
Yeah, howdens follows. Live by who I play. On the last day on earth, as she's in conversation with her younger self is played by Kelly Spinney, who is the star of craft. And so it's like a walk and talk through the streets of La on the last day on earth, as we're trying to make it to the last party on earth. And we run into like, an amazing and eccentric cast of characters along the way.

Alex Ferrari 33:07
It's like a it was I just I felt like you were Dorothy going to the wizard. I swear. Like everything is just this is a journey journeys. You just weird wacky characters and things and you just kept working and you just kept it's great. I

Zoe Lister-Jones 33:21
know. We've talked a lot we've talked a lot in quarantine. I mean, we Darryl and I devised the narrative you know to be shot entirely almost entirely outside and six feet apart because we started shooting it pretty early on in quarantine so so yeah, this sort of walk and talk running into people everyone is in we have this insane cast. You know, it's like Olivia Island Charlie Day, Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen. Helen Hunt, like, we just luckily called our friends, and they were all available because they were stuck in their houses.

Alex Ferrari 33:58
So this was this was this. I don't mean to interrupt it. Was this the pitch? Hey, we're just gonna come over with a crew. You don't just get out into your party, just get outside your house. And we'll just fill you out there. Yeah, I

Zoe Lister-Jones 34:10
mean, not everyone was at their house. You're like, whatever you feel comfortable with. If you want to meet us at someone else's back yard, we enter through this, you know, the side gate will show up there if you want. If you want us to come to your backyard, we will show up there if you want to be on a street corner, and I think because the film you know, we wanted to make a film that wasn't about the pandemic, but that was sort of exploring a similar emotional landscape. Because we all were in this really, in this really, you know, like bleak atmosphere, but we're still like, you know, watching Netflix and there's this like, banality to like the apocalypse that I think we thought was really like something that we wanted to at least be able to laugh You know, amidst The darkness and, and I think when we were having those conversations with, with the, the actors in the film, we, a lot of them were afraid to, to this was their first time in front of the camera. And I think it was like, Can we be funny right now like, you know, it was such a, it was such a dark and, and sort of desperate time. And I think what we, you know, wanting to instill on the set and when we were having these initial conversations was like, you show up wherever you are emotionally on the day, you know, like, and that's the beauty of, of this being the last day on earth, is that like, if you're in a deep dark depression, you'll show up and be in a deep dark depression. We'll meet you wherever you are. And, and I think that was really freeing for all of us as actors on the film that we could sort of just experiment with wherever we were on that day and use it as a form of catharsis.

Alex Ferrari 36:06
You know, what I found fun is I started seeing some memes during the pandemic on social media that where it says like, what I thought the pendant what I thought the end of the world was going to be like, and you see like a scene from walking dead. What the real end of the world is, is like you and your pajamas, watching Tiger King. Like it's and when your movie was very much like that was about like, it was the not that the zombie fighting won, it was more about like, we're just gonna walk around and watch. It's like, essentially that energy of like, dying today, but are we gonna do?

Zoe Lister-Jones 36:38
Yeah, and I think you know, Darrell, and I have not seen a film an apocalypse film that wasn't, you know, like, sort of like violent mayhem. And we thought it'd be funny and interesting to explore. Just like, everyone's been preparing for this day for like months, so they're just kind of like, chilling. You know?

Alex Ferrari 37:02
There's nobody going crazy. There's nobody robbing anybody. I mean, except except for the car. But But no, it's in your set you thinking about it? Like, what would happen? I mean, would it be? What's that movie? Oh, God, when you have the one night one night to kill everybody to do any that? The there's a series of Oh my god, I can't believe the purge. Is it the purge? Is it like the purge where all mayhem is gonna run loose? And like, well, no one's gonna stop us. Or I love your ending, by the way, I wouldn't much rather live in your world ending. And then the purge?

Zoe Lister-Jones 37:39
Yeah, well, I think, you know, I think we the world at large needs, needs needed and need some tenderness. And I think that was part of also what we wanted to do. And to make a film that was like, funny and playful and irreverent. But like, ultimately tender, you know, because we're all pretty raw.

Alex Ferrari 37:59
It's still our it's still, we're not out of the woods yet. If we see the light, we see the light we showed you, when you were making this, there was no light, no light, no light whatsoever. Now, what was it like, you know, you've worked with your husband, as a co director and a lot of projects. I mean, I, you know, cooking dinner with my wife. Sometimes it has issues, let alone directing something with her. How would you navigate that? I mean, that's a, that's a landmine in itself. lanphier. Yeah.

Zoe Lister-Jones 38:34
This was the first one we actually co directed, we had co written

Alex Ferrari 38:39
and co produced you work together?

Zoe Lister-Jones 38:42
films. So we had a lot of experience working together. And you know, I mean, I think there are pros and cons to it. Like, we're a great, we're a great team in many ways. Because we share a sensibility, we share an aesthetic, you know, we trust each other's taste. There's a common language that, you know, I think is really important when it comes to like, efficiency. And then, you know, I think the lines between personal professional can sometimes be challenging, you know, but doing it within quarantine was Oh, he decided to add an extra an extra challenge to, to living with your partner. Yeah. During, during a global pandemic.

Alex Ferrari 39:32
It's funny, it's funny, because a lot of people realize that, like, when the pandemic hit, and they were quarantined, like, I really don't like you. Like, I think this is Yeah, I mean, that happened. And then the other other side's like, I really like spending time with you, you know, which is so it that the pandemic has forced us to do things. Mm hmm. It's everything head on. Oh, it's it's remarkable. And what was it like when you got the call MGM I mean, MGM bought you film. So what's that? Yeah, was that called like,

Zoe Lister-Jones 40:04
it was so exciting. And they've been such great partners and just yeah, their their enthusiasm for the film, their love for the film is just like it's so it's just a, it's like a big studio hug. Nice and they're so wonderful. And they have great, you know, tastes like I think it's just been so exciting, like they sent us like a pass like the posters and the trailers and that can go really wrong, you know, like, like, get those things and just be like, you are off base like, this is not the movie, please don't embarrass me. And they came in with just like, amazing trailers, amazing posters, like, they really get it and and it's just so exciting. And it's exciting that, you know, we're gonna be on demand and streaming but also in theaters in select theaters. So I think especially coming out of out of quarantine, that's just so exciting to go to be able to see our movie on the big screen. And once it come out.

Alex Ferrari 41:08
July 20. So is it day in day, or is it going to be a delay? Yeah, is the end date? So it'll be available on streaming as well as in the theater, but go to the theater? Yeah, I mean, get first of all, be vaccinated first, then, then go to the theater. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today? buckle up baby. May I quote you on that? I'll put it on a T shirt.

Zoe Lister-Jones 41:41
Buckle up, baby, it's gonna be a rough ride. It's a living nightmare. What advice would I give, I would say, you know, just find a community of people that you'd like making art with. Because I think that making those relationships, you know, creating those relationships early on is really such a gift. And, you know, I've worked with my same dp every film I've directed, she's amazing. Her name is Hilary Spira. And, and, and the TV pilot, like, my same editor I've worked with on any every film and it's, it's really nice to, to, especially when you're just breaking in to find other people who are in a similar, you know, position is you similar level, you can all be sort of learning together and creating together and then creating this this common shared language. And I think if you're in film school, especially like making those connections is so important. Because Yeah, just like finding a great sound person, like, while they're young, you know, that denim cheap, cheap? Well, exactly. I mean, it really is about getting them cheap. And, and when we made breaking up words, it was our dp Alex Bergman, who Darrel literally, he was working at a like a mailboxes, etc. But he owned a camera and wanted to make a movie. And then literally two people we found on Craigslist for free. And that was our crew. And, and you can make movies that way. I mean, especially and that was in 2008. I mean, the technology has, has advanced so exponentially, that I would say just go start making shit. You know, like, don't be afraid of, of making mistakes and not getting it perfectly right. Like just start. Just start getting out there and, and flexing those muscles because you're gonna fail, you're gonna fail even when you're successful. I mean, especially when you're, you know, the thing is like, is, is and that's what we're always up against, right, like creatively is to not let the those moments stop the creative spirit. So I would say also know that you have there is going to be a lot of gatekeepers. And sometimes those gatekeepers are important to listen to, because you can learn from them. And other times you're you can say, fuck, fuck the gatekeepers and just go make things on your own.

Alex Ferrari 44:13
not do that. Which brings me to a question you as an actress decided to take kind of control of your own destiny and start writing and then eventually producing and directing. Do you recommend other actors do that and if you're a director to start writing until you have something to direct and, and vice versa, if you're a writer, start learning how to direct and just even if it's at the lowest, even as a $15,000 indie get it done. It's something right.

Zoe Lister-Jones 44:41
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think as an actor, especially. I mean, there's so little that you are in control of. So to write your own work is, it's for me, it's been like a real lifeline. You know, Because I get to write the parts I want to play like, what a What a cool thing to be able to do. And yeah, so I definitely I recommend, I mean, I think the interdisciplinary nature of like learning everything is so important because even if you're not going to do it professionally, like, if you're directing, you should take an acting class. Like, if you're, if you're directing, you should take a writing class, you know, like, even if you're not going to do that ultimately, I think, because I do think I think being an actor has informed so much of how I direct and being a writer has been informed so much of how I direct and and being a producer certainly informs a lot of that stuff too. So

Alex Ferrari 45:47
now , what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life

Zoe Lister-Jones 45:53
um, um man, I guess Don't take it personally.

Alex Ferrari 46:07
Yeah, and then three of your favorite films of all time.

Zoe Lister-Jones 46:13
Moonstruck one of my favorites Morvern calor. Which is also one of my favorite, my favorite films. What's my third? I love. I really love love and basketball, if I remember, right, yeah, I think it's just like a beautiful love story. It's such an epic love story that I feel like is sort of an unsung. But she's an amazing director, and is still making amazing films.

Alex Ferrari 46:58
And then again, where can everyone find how it was and how it ends is going to be in theaters and all streaming services.

Zoe Lister-Jones 47:05
Let me select theaters, it's gonna be on demand. And then I think it will be on all streaming services

Alex Ferrari 47:11
at one point or another, either for transactional or another. Yeah, yeah, we'll put we'll put it in the show notes. So we thank you so much for being on the show. It's been an absolute eyeball talking to you, thank you. And continued success and hustle recognizes hustle because you You are a hard working, hard working woman. And so congratulations on all your success.

Zoe Lister-Jones 47:34
Thank you so much. So nice.

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IFH 485: Directing Last Starfighter & Writing Escape from New York with Nick Castle


Right-click here to download the MP3

On the mic, today is 80s horror icon Michael Myers, also known as, Nick Castle who is also a director, writer, and actor – notable for directing The Last Starfighter (1984), Major Payne (1995), and Escape from New York (1981) among others.

Nick’s fictional character, Micheal Myers, in the Box Office $255 million-grossing Halloween film is possibly one of his most well-known roles that have been strongly supported by fans for years. He appears in the 1978 Halloween film as a young boy who murders his elder sister, Judith Myers. The same role is reprised fifteen years later in the sequel where he returns home to Haddonfield to murder more teenagers. 

In 1986 he wrote and directed the heartwarming fantasy drama film, The Boy Who Could Fly which tells the story of an autistic boy who dreams of flying and touching everyone he meets, including a new family who has moved in after their father dies.

Filmmaking came naturally to Nick for a host of reasons. For one he grew up in a showbiz family. His father choreographed musical comedy films, while an uncle of his worked as a lighting designer on movie sets. At a tender age, his dad introduced him to entertainment through smaller roles in front of the camera and summer internships behind the scenes. 

There he grew a fondness for directing which inspired him to pursue film school at USC.

Notoriety came quickly for Nick. Along with collegemates, Carpenter, Rokos, Longenecker, and Johnston, Nick worked cinematography and co-wrote The Resurrection of Broncho Billy – a short film they created while still in college that blew up and entered the academy consideration and won the academy award for live-action short film in 1970. 

Nick and Carpenter reunited and worked together again on Carpenter’s 1974 sci-fi comedy, Darkstar, which follows the crew of the deteriorating starship Dark Star, twenty years into their mission to destroy unstable planets that might threaten future colonization of other planets.

In 1984, Nick made his second directorial film which was quite groundbreaking. The Last Starfighter, became one of the earliest films to incorporate extensive CGI. The plot centers around video game expert Alex Rogan who, after achieving a high score on Starfighter, meets the game’s designer and is recruited to fight a war in space. He’s transported to another planet only to find out it was just a test. He was recruited to join the team of best starfighters to defend their world from the attack. Its popularity resulted in several non-film adaptations of the story in musicals, books, comics, games, etc.

Nick was making innovative films long before most of the more popular guys came along. It is appropriate to consider his 80s sci-fi films as pioneering.

Please enjoy my fun conversation with Nick Castle.

 

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Nick Castle. How you doing, Nick?

Nick Castle 0:18
Really good. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:19
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I I'm a big I'm a big fan. I you know, there's a bunch of stuff that you've done in your career that I that have shaped my life, sir. So I appreciate you coming on the show?

Nick Castle 0:31
Well, that's very kind of you to say. I assume you have some questions for me.

Alex Ferrari 0:37
A couple.A couple. Just a couple. So how, before we I always like to ask all my guests, how did you get started in the business?

Nick Castle 0:47
Well, I grew up in a family that was in show business, my father was a choreographer, an uncle that live with me, who was a lighting designer, and before that a trumpet player in an orchestra, you know, kind of a swing orchestra. But mainly my dad, you know, he, he worked with some of the, you know, very important musical comedy entertainers of the 30s 40s 50s, Judy Garland, Jean Kelly, Fred Astaire, he put me in a couple of movies, as a matter of fact, when I was a little kid, so I kind of had it a little bit in my blood, you know, he would have party, he did a show in the 60s, you know, one of these variety shows the Andy Williams variety show, and you have the, the Nick castle dancers and I would go on my summer breaks and work with him work, meaning getting coffee for the dancers, and, but mainly meeting, you know, you hang around, and you meet all these movie stars coming in and out what, you know, week after week, you throw parties at the house, you know, so it's kind of like, you know, I was bound to do some, you know, and I always liked the idea of, of that what the director did. And I gravitated to that just by osmosis, kind of and then wound up going to University of Southern California film school. And, you know, kind of, you know, tripped into that, that knowing what I was going to get involved with, I had no ambition at that time. This is during the period of late late 60s, you know, so I was pretty much a hippie, you know, thank you.

Alex Ferrari 2:32
Peace and peace and love and flowerpower got it.

Nick Castle 2:34
That's it. That's peace, love. And hopefully meet a girl, you know, I

Alex Ferrari 2:40
want Well, obviously, I mean, obviously, if you're not, yeah. And that motivated me to be a big time film directors. You know, you're not the people. You're not the first time I've had a director Come on, like, I got to film because I wanted to get chicks. I mean, seriously, this is, this is the reason why, you know, obviously. Now I know that when you were at USC, you met another budding young filmmaker, by the name of Mr. JOHN carpenter. Is that is that correct?

Nick Castle 3:08
That's absolutely correct. JOHN, and I met at film school, y'all must have been 1967 68. We worked together on a short film. He was the editor. I was the camera man. And we both wrote, I wrote the song and saying at the song of a picture called the resurrection of Bronco Billy, which was a short that the producer wound up, blowing up to 35 entering it as an academy consideration and we won the Academy Award.

Alex Ferrari 3:41
I didnt know you guys want the Academy, really?

Nick Castle 3:44
The four person crew gym. Ronald Coase was the director. We all wrote it. And and in john Longnecker was the producer and he wound up on the stage getting the gold trophy from Sally Kellerman. It was pretty hilarious. You know, to start off your career, we weren't even starting a career. We were just in film school, and just out of film school by that time, and then we hadn't I mean, it was all down.

Alex Ferrari 4:14
And a slowly, slow, steady decline for the entire rest of my career. And then you you work as it was in the camera, the camera department in darkstar.

Nick Castle 4:25
Actually, I worked as kind of anything you need, you know, slash actors slash gophers slash Well, you know, again, it was like a film. This was turned out to be a feature film, but it started out as a 40 minute short out of USC.

Alex Ferrari 4:42
Okay.

Nick Castle 4:42
Dan O'Bannon, who wrote alien was the CO creator of the project with john and yeah, they just needed some buddies to you know, really needed some hands in there they had a camera man a sound man them couple actors in me and maybe we Whoever they could drag off the street, you know, across the campus, they help them do something. So my claim to fame there though is is it was the introduction of me behind plastic being a character, which was there was a beach ball monsters least that's what we called it was painted to look like a giant tomato. And so I literally have it's subtle back then could get behind the thing and kind of do this to make it seem like it's breathing. So if you see that that's my first foray into acting as, as this turned out to be, you know, very limited part of my repertoire.

Alex Ferrari 5:35
Absolutely. Now, you, you also worked with john on another little, little independent film called Halloween. And that was at the time it and correct me if I'm wrong, one of the most successful independent films of all time, when it came out. I mean, it was an absolute, blockbuster runaway hit. And you also played a part in that, which I honestly did not know, until I researched this. I was like, Oh, my God, Nick played this shape. So can you talk about first of all, how did you become the shape? Or Michael Myers? And then how did and I've heard so many stories over the years about how that whole movie got put together? You were kind of there. So can you can you shine a little light about that?

Nick Castle 6:26
Sure. You know, john, I think did a after dark story, he is first independent motion picture after that was an assault on precinct 13. And he met some people after that movie that got a little bit of attention. It's a good movie. It didn't have a big release, but it it attracted some people in including erwinia blondes who had an idea for a babysitter murder movie, and, and brought it to John's attention. And john took it over and and off day when you know he I think he said he wrote it in like a week or a weekend with Deborah, who at that point Deborah Hill was, was a producer on the picture and also his love interest. Life. And so john was, you know, going to shoot it. Part of it. Yeah, at least pretty close to both where we both lived. We both live in Laurel Canyon, not very far away from each other actually. And one of the locations was down the flats in Hollywood. And I knew it was going to be close by so I said, I went over there. I said, john, I'm going to come by this set. They were setting up for the next week's shoot. And, and I said, you know, what? Would you mind if I just hung around? Because you know, I want to become a director. I'll see what you do. makes me look at all your mistakes and make sure I don't do it anyway. Okay, well, as long as you're going to be here, why don't you put on the mask later on?

Alex Ferrari 8:09
Oh, no, you're not stop it. I'm not going to put on the mask. Oh, but is that the is that the original mask?

Nick Castle 8:15
This is the original mask from the 2018 Halloween the original mask I actually kept for a while and then Deborah actually wanted it to so they could make the new copy for the Halloween too. But I never got it back. So that that is gone.

Alex Ferrari 8:37
But that is but that is a William Shatner mask painted white correct? Exactly.

Nick Castle 8:41
Yeah. The production designer who is also close friends with john. In fact, we're we're hometown buddies from from Kentucky. He he he literally went to find a man. Yeah, they had no money to sculpt something or no money at all. So I think they have about $300,000 to do the whole picture. So their, you know, production design, budget was minimal. So he went into a local Hollywood, you know, toy store and found looking for something that he could make into something and he found I think a clown mask that he thought was interesting. And he saw the Shatner minutes he saw Okay, I could do something with that. So he's really the genius when it comes to you know, because there's so many things that went right with that movie and had to go right to make itself successful and that's one of them I think is really the idea of the combat mask and the and the and the character of course, but it's spooky some of these very spooky he wound up getting.

Alex Ferrari 9:42
I mean, he was the he was the first Michael Myers was the first kind of as we kind of know it. The 80s Horror icons like Freddy and Jason Mike was the first one. And that that really kind of like kind face White gummy Shatner beater. This is like a star trek mask from the 60s basically. And it's a, it's a kind face. It's not like he doesn't have hard features. So that mix with the hair, and then just the, it's just weird. It was just, it hits you in a suit and almost like in a like, it's like a primal way when you see Michael Myers and then of course, the music.

Nick Castle 10:24
Oh, my God. Well, john really hit it out of the park there that, again, didn't take him very long. But he had an idea of, you know, the kind of timing, he wanted the simplicity. And he's a good musician, you know, self taught, even though his dad was a music teacher, you know, but he still is not someone that reads music, for instance. But he, he hears it, and he and he can play it, but and then also, you know, a couple of things that he kind of, you know, was in the forefront of which was that electronic music. And then using the, what was it the panda glide? That that spooky kind of airy? That was the first time that was ever used. I mean that the first time but one of the first times in, in most of the

Alex Ferrari 11:08
panic, it was kind of like the steadycam of its day, or like a little bit after it before our competitor of Steadicam?

Nick Castle 11:14
I think yeah, I think panic lag was just the one where a pan of visions version of it.

Alex Ferrari 11:20
Got it. Yeah. But it wasn't You're right. It was kind of like this souping, you know, because the first time you see that, even when you see it in the shining, you know, or you know, even when we think the first time they used it was on rocky wasn't in 76 went up the stairs.

Nick Castle 11:35
Yeah, it's one of the it's the the and but also using it as the point of view.

Alex Ferrari 11:41
That was the first time it was done. Right. And it was just very, like you're there. And I think that is what makes that film so damn spooky. behind the mask, you feel like you're the killer? Oh, it's very. Even today. It still works. It does it ages very well. Other than other than the clothes?

Nick Castle 12:03
Yeah, I think so too, is you know, john is a filmmaker, you know, he's just not a shooter. He understands the history of motion pictures. And and, you know, is a student of film. And so you know, that's brought to bear there. And you can see his raw, not just as raw talent, but as you know, educated talent, you know, there I think it's quite well done.

Alex Ferrari 12:25
And then you played Michael the entire time.

Nick Castle 12:29
Yeah, there were certain times when rindy Tommy Wallace, who I mentioned, put on the mask, because this is how cheap it was, you know, they had it there are a couple times when like he puts a Michael puts his fist through a door, or he puts his fist through a closet door. And and. and Tommy just said, Well, I better do that. Because I know where I scored the door. So if you miss it, and we put on the spot, there's no second door. I don't care about your hand. That's really just about the door, honestly, not the door. It's because the 120 bucks, they don't have 120 bucks. So that was the reason for that. Then there was a couple other things like they were snap men. And then there was a reveal at the end. It wasn't me they take off the mask. And it's a guy named Tony Moran. They just wanted a certain look for who Michael really look like. And they have little kids. So I didn't look anything like that little kid. So

Alex Ferrari 13:26
and you were so you were essentially just like hanging around the set and just like hey, put the mask on.

Nick Castle 13:31
Yeah, yeah, you'll see some behind the scene things. I'm just hanging around. I have the mask dangling out of my hand. No one knew. Of course, this would be what it became. At the time, no, no one had an inkling you know. And here I am like whatever it is 40 something years later. That's what I'm known for. I could do Last Starfighter tab. I can do all these other movies. Forget it has nothing to do.

Alex Ferrari 13:57
Here. Michael Myers, your Michael Myers

Nick Castle 14:01
And it's pretty bad. I mean, look, I have you know, I'm an action figure.

Alex Ferrari 14:09
And I do I look, I mean, you're exactly. It must be honest, it must be so trippy to be in an independent film. And then you're still talking about it. 40 odd years later, and I'm sure you're asked about it everywhere you go. And you see like that little action figure and you've I'm sure you've gone to conventions and events and all of those things. That must be so trippy. Like you were just like I was just hanging around the set. Like this means not like we were just chilling, we had no idea.

Nick Castle 14:37
And I mean, I've actually brought I mean we've had trips like going to Germany to go to London. And you know, it becomes a time when I can take my whole family my kids and their kids and have so much fun with and it's paid for you know, so it's it's pretty hilarious. You know, I don't deserve it in some level, be so lucky. But I take full advantage of it

Alex Ferrari 15:06
as you should, as you should, sir, as you should, because I'm sure the mask was very uncomfortable as high as it was, I'm sure you know, you have to get paid something.

Nick Castle 15:15
And of course, David Gordon green, who was the director on the new one, he called me, you know, before they started, he said, do you want to do it again? And I went, well, you know, I'm 70 years old. Now. You know, you don't want some old guy even though he's supposed to be old. Even though this means that.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
Michael Myers is technically Oh, yeah, this is supposedly

Nick Castle 15:34
40 years later, but they got someone that could really actually benefit from his physicality James, James, Jude Courtney, who wonderful guy, and, and brought a lot to the role and but I got to do these cameos. So it was fun. You know, I knew. And I was honored on at this on the set, you know, by the crew, they would, they would have to bow down to me because I am the original.

Alex Ferrari 16:01
That's amazing. So I mean, that's so trippy. That's, that's just so amazing. Now after Halloween, you jumped in with john again. And another classic film called Escape from New York. And you wrote that with him? How did you guys come up with Escape from New York?

Nick Castle 16:20
Well, I you know, john, first of all, john, right out of film school, wrote the first draft of escape in New York on his own Of course, at any rate, he wrote it and stuff like that. And then now what do I do with it? Well, you put it in the trunk, you know, was the drunk went off to do other movies? And then after he did, I think the Fogg the studio that did that they really wanted to get in business with him. They say, what else do you got? So he went to the truck pulled out this, kind of pitch them the general idea without, you know, saying that they have the script complete. And they loved it, you know? So then he called me said, Nick, I'm, you know, I really need another set of eyes and ears on this one, would you be willing to come up and you know, talk, you know, we'll just come up, have fun, sit around his pool. Again, he lived right next to me. And we'll talk about you know, you know, flesh this thing out, put some a little bit of humor in it. And, you know, I think he, he knew what I could bring to it, probably. So that's what we did, you know, we, we just had fun to do to friends lap laughing it up, trying to think of where snakes should go in New York, you know, well, you got to have a taxi ride, you have to go to Madison Square Garden, get to do this, you got to do that. And then, you know, forming it coming up with some nihilistic ending, which, which was pretty hilarious. And then, and then again, that was before I started directing again. So I said, Hey, I'm gonna hang out again. So I didn't get to play a cat. I did play a character in there. Actually, when the snake goes into the theater, there's a crazy show going on. I'm the piano player, playing the song that I wind up writing, I wrote for them for the movie. So a lot of fun. And you know, john was so gracious in the midst of all this stuff, because it was Yeah, it's nice to be able to hang out, you know, throw a few suggestions in. He's very collaborative that way. Great guy. And, and, you know, I learned quite a bit from from that kind of apprenticeship.

Alex Ferrari 18:26
And you shot on a you shot you guys shot because obviously you didn't take over Manhattan. So I think you shot and it was a Detroit or mission. Where was it? St. Louis? Oh, St. Louis. Yes.

Nick Castle 18:37
Those were the locations that I didn't go to I they were shooting. When they got back to LA I started looking at that. Then they went for a couple of days, which I went to, to to to Liberty Island, where they did this with the with the Statue of Liberty.

Alex Ferrari 18:54
Very cool. That must have been I mean, imagine that was that was a student with a studio project or independent project. They have studio aapko embassy, I think, yeah. Can you imagine a studio making Escape from New York? Yes, because they're always talking about making reviving Well, no, no, but like as an original IP? Yeah. No, I think it's an isn't isn't Robert Robert Rodriguez doing the the remake or someone else? I heard someone there is a remake in the works. Last time I heard I think was Robert Rodriguez. And he had John's blessing. And I think John's involved somehow. Well, John's involved like this. Where's my money? Do you have any like, let me think. Yes. Where's my Can I have a check? Sure. Sure. Go give me an executive producer credit. Let's rock and roll. Now, one of the one of the films you've directed, impacted me so much when I was growing up, which is the Last Starfighter and it is just one of those Classic 80s films I mean, in the pantheon of 80s. I mean, it's I think it's right smack in the middle is 8586 if I'm not mistaken 8484 I said it was around at 45 or six. So it was right smack in the middle of the 80s. It's full 80s everything, it's just wonderfully done. The story, the thing that was so wonderful about that story is that as as I was in fourth or fifth grade, at that time, I probably saw it a little bit later on VHS when it came out. But there you are the kid, cuz he's just playing a video game and like, wait a minute, I play video games. Wait a minute, this could possibly happen to me. And that was the brilliance of that story. Can you tell me how the Last Starfighter came to be how you became a part of it all that?

Nick Castle 20:48
Well, it was the The script was written by Jonathan badgal. remains very close friend of mine, great guy, again, talking about being in the trenches, you know, because when I read the script, the street I had done my first film tag, the assassination game was a little independent picture and lorimar saw it and like the way it looked, and, you know, young director getting involved with this would be a good match. probably cheaper to, obviously. But yeah, I'm getting an old veteran. And so I you know, I read the script, I thought it needed quite a bit of work. But the like you say, the brilliance of the storyline is just you can kind of like, it's so simple and so obvious, especially for that era, you know? Yeah. And john, I know, came up with the idea with it. And he's, he's a New Yorker, he went into a video game, parlor, whatever you call those things, and saw people doing this. And then he was reading I think, some version of sword and stone, King Arthur men, you know that there is something someone that's born for to be the leader and he thought, whoa, that's, you know, just crank him up. He's like that to play. We're talking about a guy with you know, where you, which is the most difficult thing is that coming up with the creative nugget, the idea that everything circles around that you build on that he's wonderful like that, and very funny, too. I think it brought a lot of humor to itself. That's only to say that we spent, I think, almost a year, maybe eight, nine months on the next draft of the screenplay, and, and the and so we were in a room together, you know, just making the thing work, waiting for them to decide to greenlight Finally, green lighted. And in the meantime, they had they had engaged a new kind of technology for this called digital technology. No one had ever heard of Yeah, they've someone said they did something in Tron but you know, that looked like it was.

Alex Ferrari 23:10
Yeah, cuz even even Star Wars wasn't digital. It was analog. Oh, no, no, no, no. Yeah. That was all. It was.

Nick Castle 23:17
Yeah, and those role models and stuff like that. So this was starting this had no physical element, you know, so we were we were in a way stuck, because of the the good price that digital productions gave for there to do all the visual effects with them. And kind of scarily, you know, they were doing research and development, as we were right around, doing the screenplay. So a lot of things a lot of, you know, balls in the air and a lot of, you know, a lot of things that were, you know, kind of difficult in and crazy. So, you know, again, another person in my life that I thought was what we'll always have Starfighter together. And then we had a good time. You know, the shoot was pretty easy. The post production took another year that was about this. I mean, for people listening, you guys have to understand that that the visual effects are in last, The Last Starfighter is

Alex Ferrari 24:20
so cut, it's a little bit ahead of its time. And you guys were basically in the bleeding edge of technology, emphasis on bleeding. Because I was looking at it, I was just like, I just recently went back and watch those. It's like, this is I mean, I'm a VFX guy. I mean, I do I've been VFX souping and I understand how things are done. I'm like, the computer power back then. I'm talking you're talking to 8384 and 8283. In that world, my God, like they were still using giant floppy. Like it's it wasn't like you could just get things off the shelf. So I yeah, it's amazing. How did you as a director even Did you use shot elements? Didn't you you shot like plates and things for people to comp in and stuff, right? Yeah.

Nick Castle 25:05
Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, you know, we had the the entire picture was storyboard and I storyboarded even, you know, all the just live action material that they didn't even have visual effects coming in. But we know we had some excellent people on the picture that two of which are still Well, one of which was is still a very close friend was the, the art director was Jim vessel. Jim Did he? He did. He just says everything

Alex Ferrari 25:38
he did, he's done. Okay. He's done. Okay.

Nick Castle 25:42
So you have that going for you. Then we had the master Ron Cobb, who's, who if you don't know, Ron, he, he was a production designer, he just passed away, unfortunately. But he was one of my best friends. And he, he just, he might as well have been a second director because he, he was such a good artist. He could, you know, he came up with all the character art, all the all the hardware, art, all the symbols, everything, you know, just he's a master at design. And, and he, and he was the one that could tell me what I could expect out of, you know, what, what, what, what digital productions would be able to do, and, you know, here's the upside, here's the downside, but here's what we should do. And it's why the interior for instance of the ship is so simple. I mean, I would have liked it to be on was cautioning going, you know what, I don't know if they're going to be able to get that kind of complexity into there. So let's go as simple as possible. So those kind of things were used. That information was important to kind of figure out what we were going to what we were up against. So great team, Gary Allison was a producer was, you know, just, you know, and ended and the son of the owner of the company, so that that helps

Alex Ferrari 27:04
to make sure you got made sure you had everything you needed.

Nick Castle 27:07
But not, but that wasn't only that. Gary's Gary's strength, he was also very, very good event. Very good at story too, and hence a lot of good ideas. And that's a good team, real good team. And like you say, it's, it's a it's a staple of the 80s. It's something that is always threatening to be either remade or made a sequel is in what what are the what's the efforts and rumors for years

Alex Ferrari 27:34
about it? So what do you have any updates on that? anything going on? Well, you know, yeah, I

Nick Castle 27:39
mean, back in the early 2000s, john, and I had a script with a studio, and it was really very close to getting started. But it just fell apart because of these complicated rights issues, because it turned out to be that two studios had Tommy has a plan to the rights. And none, neither of them would get into partnership with each other. And john had the rights to the characters. And then finally, within the last few years, Jonathan got the rights back because of the age of the project, I think. And now he has another way he thinks he wants to approach it. So there may be some tober all the Starfighter fans there may be in the not too distant future. Yeah, a new a new version. And what we what he has always wanted to do is no matter how long in between making a sequel, so it's not like a reimagining. It's not like Yeah, yeah, and and make, and this is something we wanted to do to you know, 20 almost 20 years ago now. When we wrote it, kind of prefiguring with Star Wars wound up doing doing the there 40 years later thing,

Alex Ferrari 28:52
right. I thought we were pretty clever. We came first even though we didn't get it. We had it wherever you are. Billions of dollars counting just just count. I I picture him in a Scrooge McDuck situation with with a gold gold nuggets. No, um, but yeah, I mean, they did it with Tron, which is very similar like they did that sequel. And I think that was you know, I loved about about the sequel about this, that they just, you know, brought in the old and brought in the new and, and I think that would be an amazing thing to be able to do with the Last Starfighter, like with today's video games. And, you know, virtual reality virtual reality. There's so many different angles you can go after with it. I wanted to ask you though, as a director, during that time, with bleeding, peeing on the bleeding edge of technology, I've had the experience of being on a project where I didn't know that if the visual effects were going to come through and the story depended on certain level like if the via if we can't make this VFX work. The movie doesn't work. And that is in in at the time that I was doing it, it was just like really at the beginnings of off the shelf visual effects, meaning like my team that I had, you know, we had that attack, but like, no one had really done it on this level on an indie short film. And it was like really high end stuff. And my guys were all kind of young, which, by the way, they all went off to do like Star Wars and Skyfall. And these guys all turned out to be amazing visual effects artists, but at the time, I was terrified. So I kind of had a backup plan, just just in case I could maybe cut that out or cut around it. But did you at some point? Did you just go, man, if this doesn't work, we don't have a movie?

Nick Castle 30:45
Well, yeah, no, that was always in the back of it wasn't just making imagine the studio that put the 13 or 14, whatever it was the million dollars into the thing that that up. You know, at one point, our visual effects coordinator, Jeff Oaken, who did a fantastic job to, by the way, saving Rs a number of times, he did the calculations, and he's you know, you know, at this rate, this will be done in five years. They can't sustain it, because every frame don't, you know, so long to render, you know, every frame. And, and, you know, even though they had what they called the Cray computer, which was a thing that looked like a giant sofa. It did have something you could sit on, and then all these kind of looks very, very, very 80s visual effects that live beautiful. And even though they have that it really did have the you know, the amount of power that's now in my

iPhone. Apple Watch. Yeah, it really and I'm serious. You know, I'm Joe. i'm john. Yeah,

I know. Yeah. And, and so your, your point is, yeah, yeah, everyone was nervous about it. And we just had to be creative, you know, things like, that's why I had to be there for a year. And then in post production, I'd be on the in post production at a terminal looking at the thing, and they would go, okay, that plane back there, it's never gonna, is it gonna get any closer than this? Because if it doesn't, we don't have to put all this other, you know, information onto it, we can just let it be kind of like a stick figure. And I said, No, you're good with the stick figures. But every shot every element, stuff like that, and we had to do in order to make it make it make sense. And then there were things that look are the worst, the worst of the effects were their inability to do terrain. Like there's a sequence where that where the ships are going to tunnels, forget and, and you know, they could not at that point, get the detail and then smooth out the edges and things like that needed to make it look and Jeff might have the he added whole plan of doing models for that. And in came to the production and said, Okay, let's look why the digital ship, but we'll do it in in models, and it'll look real, as opposed to this and, and the production set. How much is that going to cost? You told them if they said no, we have this much money, we're going to those guys said they could do it, they're going to do it. So I wound up in, in the final coloring, you know, just at some point I just kept going lower, lower bring down the the the lighting, so you literally you can see some of those shots, you can't even see where you're where you're looking at is for good reason. It looks so bad.

Alex Ferrari 33:47
That's amazing. So you just get darkening. So for everybody listening out there, visual effects are bad. Just Just darken it a little bit, just a little bit. Listen, I when I was in when I was in film school was 95. And I was working on a Video Toaster back in the day. And I remember a ship just doing a 3d model of a spaceship and moving it from point A to point B. That was five days. Yeah. And if it crashed, yes, start again. So I could only imagine what you guys

Nick Castle 34:24
it's, it's, you know, things weren't invented, for instance, motion blur, which for your audience, like right, you know, you know, car goes by and, and, you know, you you kind of see it in a swish of colors and stuff like that. Well, if, if, if, if a ship went like that against your camera, it would pixelate because you have to instruct it to have this blur. So they had to invent motion blur for the movie, and they didn't know how to do that, you know, things that are kind of simple physics in in models or not. simple physics in the digital world. So you know, there's a lot of very inventive people talk about people in that world that went on to do work, you know that they they all are, you know, Master technicians.

Alex Ferrari 35:13
It's remarkable. Yeah. Now, when you you also got involved with a friend of the show, Mr. James v. Hart, who's been on the show a few times. And you work on another one of my favorite films growing up, which is hook. And you work with Jim on hook. And I've heard the story from his point of view that his son said, Hey, what happened? If Peter Pan grew up and all that stuff, how did you get involved with him on that? Well, Jim,

Nick Castle 35:44
as I say, I had done a movie for TriStar and the, the people there were fond of the movie liked working with me. And then the, the same producer of Last Starfighter came to me with Jim's idea of exactly what what you do what you just said, I'm sure Jim does a wonderful job of giving the background with this son and like that, talking about another. This was very Starfighter in a way what a kernel of an idea that you can build.

Alex Ferrari 36:23
It's like, it's so great, that you can't believe that no one has ever thought of that. Like what happened to Peter Pan grew up.

Nick Castle 36:31
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It's just such a wonderful notion. So similarly to what I just explained in The Last Starfighter, first of all the, the, the, the company said, okay, Nick, you're gonna we like you, we like the idea deck, will you work with Jim on the on the screenplay, develop and develop it with him, I went, yeah, because this could be great. So again, this was another one, which I don't know how long we took, again, another at least a half a year, maybe more, just going over it coming up with you know, coming up with the structure. Some of the details, and, you know, Jim went off and wrote it, and we get back together and this and that. And we came up with I thought, a very good first draft, you know, solid first draft that went out to the movie, the stars that got interested in at that point, I was going to direct it. And, and then the studio got a little cold feet when they saw how big this could be. You know, and so without going into any of the gruesome details, the the the picture, then eventually got to Steven and Steven did a very nice job, I think on it, and brought in some brought in some other talent to help Jim with some of the, some of the net the next, you know, some of Stephens ideas. So it became what it became. So it's a it's a, it's a, it's a solid piece. And, you know, I was always really fond of that. And, and because again, back in the trenches with someone like Jim, we became very close from that. Now, did

Alex Ferrari 38:15
you get to hang out on the set?

Nick Castle 38:19
No, I went on to do some other work, you know, and and I had a couple of screenplays I wanted to write that never got made. I see. I use my time that I By that time, I didn't need the finish. No,

Alex Ferrari 38:30
I understand that. But it's still it's from what I heard, it was that one of the everybody took the visit of that set, because it was the most remarkable production set just like the people were just visiting it just like Jesus, look at this. They I mean, it was all the talk.

Nick Castle 38:44
And the other thing that I remembered, I did visit the set. And what was interesting about that is the camera man from Halloween, did hook Dean candy. So I knew that that gang and he had some of the old gang from Halloween. So I did get to say hi to those guys. Which was a lot of fun. Very small, small, small business, isn't it?

Alex Ferrari 39:10
Now, when you write, by the way, do you do you outline? How would you What is your writing process?

Nick Castle 39:17
Um, most of the time, I will. Whatever notion comes, I have a yellow pad, you know, here's a little version of it. This is the version but usually a big yellow pad and just start, you know, kind of idea, idea, idea idea. First kind of, you know, pages and pages of ideas that come to me, and then at the point where I go, Okay, I get it. I think I know where I'm going. I have a beginning, middle and end. Then Then the next page that goes is, you know, scene one and start again still longhand, you know, going through it coming up with ideas, maybe some dialogue notions, things like that. Before I get to the computer at the best originally typewriter,

Alex Ferrari 40:06
right? Now do you start with do you start with the character the plot? What comes first?

Nick Castle 40:12
It really depends on the project what what the what's driving the interest of the project. Sometimes it comes from not even made, like for instance, I did a movie called tab. Yeah, about pregnancy. Apparently that came from and back the same company lorimar, the same owner of the company, the same producer that I work with Atlanta Starfighter. Merv Adelson came back from New York once and I was talking to him, you know, walking down the halls of larmor. And he said, Nick, I know your dad was a dancer, and he was a tap dancer, right? And yeah, I said, I just came back from watching 42nd street or one of those, you know, silly, you know, yay, tap dance movies. And he said, Let's do one. Why don't we do one? Yeah, why don't you come up with something. So there's a situation where you have a subject, you know, no story, no character. But you're given this kind of on a gift, because I just thought, Oh, my God, what a gift I, I always wanted to do musicals coming out of film school. And that was a love that I had, you know, from my dad, but also, just from my own experience, looking at the history of film, I just love Vincent Minnelli, for instance, I just love the classic, classic work there, and that there's something thrilling about that work. So I spent the next six months or so investigating what was out there, you know, just in terms of talent. And I came very quickly to the idea that there's only one person there, Gregory Hines, that's, that really exemplifies you know, the spirit of the tap, tap it he and then I then that's when I started to come up with a story. It's a very weird way to do a movie. And usually it shows I think I'm you know, I'm happy with the movie, but it shows it's, the weakness is in. In starting with an idea and the setting, instead of a character, a lot of character a lot. Yeah, something like as, like we were talking about before, if you have the idea of what happens if Peter Pan grows up, you know, boom, you know where to go with that

Alex Ferrari 42:22
character. You just started with character. Yeah, please. Yeah,

Nick Castle 42:25
exactly. Or a situation like, you know, The Last Starfighter where it's like, you know, what, if you were, you know, so this one is, yeah, it's, it's, it's a little backwards. And it's a tough thing to pull off. I wouldn't suggest that necessarily starting with that. But sometimes you're told, like my first movie called tag the assassination game, same kind of thing. And not directed then. But my, my neighbor came up to me and said, Nick, I have some people that want to do this, this, that this crazy movie about this craziness going on college campuses called assassination, or I forget what it was called, it's like rubber tip dark guns, then you go around stuff, where you couldn't do that now, but so

Alex Ferrari 43:09
much, not so much. Not so much nowadays. But you can see how innocent we were, oh, my God, people don't understand how we're alive is beyond me. I talk to my wife all the time. Like, how did we survive our teens? Like in our college years, I mean, things you do to yourself at those at that age? Oh, my God, it's insane. But there was a situation where, you

Nick Castle 43:31
know, I agreed to put together a little draft of a treatment, you know, based on an idea in a newspaper, as opposed to, you know, so that one kind of helped itself because it seemed like once I thought, Okay, then the game goes for real. someone gets cross crazy and starts using a real gun. Okay, now I know what I want to do. Boom. So those are the kind of things that you know, there are different things like, the boy can fly, which I did. Well, came from my friend Ron Cobb, who I mentioned before as a production designer, he was going to do the original et he was directing at work. It was a horror film before it was what it turned out to be, when Steven saw that saw it when I'm going to change this, you know, and I think I'm going to direct it. So I'm sensing kind of,

but, but, but Ron was talking about how the character was going to be maybe autistic. This this kid. I didn't know much about that. But I really found that fascinating. And so I thought I'm going to I want to think about this second kid who's autistic that is, it almost seems like they're magical. And at the time, I was reading Dumbo to my kid, you know, so you You put the two Yeah, I know. I know shuffled around and then blink, the light goes on. And then you have a movie, you know,

Alex Ferrari 45:07
etc. I think someone has cut online somewhere a trailer as easy as a horror movie like they've edited a trailer, that's a horror movie. And you could easily cut from that movie, you could easily cut a horror movie. But that would have been an interesting, interesting approach to say the least. Right now you also worked with Jim on another one of my favorite films, which is August rush, loved August rush. And I've had Paul on the show, I've had Jim on the show, and now have you so I'm now that's the trifecta. So from from what from your point of view? How did you get involved with that project and mold it into what it was because it was kind of a meeting of minds, if you will, taking it to the different places?

Nick Castle 45:49
Well, this was another project that came to me through the producer, there was a screenplay by Paul and it, it what it had, was a great notion, a great character, that, that this kind of, again, a kind of kind of real, that surreal sense about it. But again, a way to a way to talk about the magic of music in a way that you know, that that we all kind of love it and, and it moves us we don't even understand what that is that moves us. I just love all that. And the fact of putting it in a character that has somehow embodied it, you know, and Paul had it going off to a certain certain, right, right field, you know, with the basketball, and the kid grows up and stuff like that. And when I ran it, I came up with an idea, I think that that solves what what would create the essence of the storyline, which is the kid lost his parents, and the, they're both musical people. And he's born without them, and he still needs them. And the way he finds them is through the music, he doesn't grow up, you know, like, it was in the original thing, but he goes on a journey to find them. And in the journey he finds it become it becomes a little bit of, you know, you know, a classic English character, you know, who, who meets various nefarious and friendly characters on his, on his journey. So it was a journey movie, but but based on this kind of instinct that this kid had for being able to, to hear music in anything. I also, it was a it was a notion I had in tap to that there's a scene in that movie, where I came up with the idea that the father had got his rhythms from the sounds of the city. So he would hear like a car going over a grading, and here did dump a tempo. So he would take that and go down to dub dub start, you know, but you know, so that idea that the mind creates a, you know, a connection with with me. And in that case with the city. So there was something about that I thought was was fantastic. That was in Paul's original idea to expand that. And, you know, so we went from there, and then I wanted to direct it, you know, and I Stephen

Alex Ferrari 48:39
didn't do this when Steven didn't do this. I know that he didn't get that one from your neck. He didn't do

Nick Castle 48:47
but but the producer wasn't sure he wanted to keep his, his his his idea his options open. And this before I did my draft, by the way, so I said, Well, I got a DIRECT address. I'm not going to do it. So I walked away. And about, I don't know, five months later, I kept thinking of it and thinking of it and going god damn, I know how to make this thing work and it's gonna be really cute. And so I went back to videos and said, okay, have you got it any further? And he said, not really. And I said, let me come on. I'll just I'll just write it and and we'll see how it goes. So that's what happened. I just wrote it and it got to that it got to a stage where you know, it looked like it could be you know, he could attract some money in a studio. And then Jim came on and just really did a nice job embellishing it bringing in characters that it needed to and you know, really kind of

Alex Ferrari 49:42
brought it home. Right and then the second Robin Williams said, Yes, it was a go picture.

Nick Castle 49:49
Robin Hood, and you know, the I never I didn't meet Robin on hook, and I didn't meet Robin. But I didn't meet Robin. Somewhere in between there at my friend's wedding. To his friend of his, but we never, we never, I've never, I never did. And of course, I never will know, I have had the chance to just kind of sit down and say, God, if only we almost I would love to have a relationship with him because he just seemed like such a great guy. Yeah. Jim Tim talks,

Alex Ferrari 50:17
just I mean, we have a long conversation about Robin and his some hilarious stories of stuff that they went through from being on hook and, and an August rush and stuff. But Robin was, I had a chance to meet him for 10 minutes one day. And I, you know, it's something that you don't forget. And he wasn't on that day, and he wasn't cracking jokes. He was just normal. And it was actually a few months before he passed, which was really, it was really rough. But I had the pleasure of meeting him was it was in Jim said, it wasn't he was on the show. He's like, you know, that the script was going around town and this and that, but then that Robin Williams said, Yes. And it was automatically a go picture, like instantly that like, okay, here's X amount of dollars, and let's rock and roll. And he was one of those guys that could just the second he said, Yes. Everybody said yes. with him. It's, it's nice. It's nice. It's nice if you have that kind of power. Now, when you when you directed that first film, the tag the assassination? What was the biggest lesson you pulled from that? as a as a first that was that was the first time you directed a feature?

Nick Castle 51:29
Yeah, yeah, that was the biggest lesson I learned. While I as I got his lesson going forward. You know, I think it was a lesson and I and, and, eventually, something I look back at and go, Oh, was the lesson, the correct lesson, I'll tell you what to be prepared. You got a million dollar picture, you have 25 days to shoot it. And, and you, you, for a young filmmaker, I wanted to know every angle every over, you know what, you know, making sure I had the right? eyeline for every shot, don't cross that

Alex Ferrari 52:20
line, don't cross that line,

Nick Castle 52:21
don't cross the damn line. have been at every location, have storyboarded everything, at least in my own little scribbles so that I could I could approach the the production from the standpoint of professional, you know, you want to go in your your, you are the leader of the game. And you you want to be able to impart a certain amount of, of, of stability to, to the to the crew, so that they do their best work, you know, so I think that was it. But why is saying that that that was also problematic is that you can get so stuck in that in the in the barriers that you put up for yourself or, you know, here's what I'm going to do here is that you lose a certain amount of spontaneity that you can get from the set. Not that I didn't do that. But I remember one time on the set, my favorite moment, and it's no one would ever notice it. Hamilton is talking about something he says something very, you know, know, something dramatic. And right in back of it was a barbecue at way in the distance. And I had I said Oh, good, Hey, get some fluid, get some barbecue. And when I when I do this, you throw the barbecue in the background. And so she says this thing, and then the fire goes up in the background just as a kind of hit. That was my favorite part of it. Because it was so spontaneous. Yeah, and you get a lot of fun out of that. And I think I think that's what a lot of good directors look for. And I took me a while to try and maybe maybe it's been a you know, part of what I look back on and don't like about what I did is that sometimes it's just too, too too much on the horse holding the reins back, you know. But as it starts that's a that's a gift. And it's something you have to watch out for, especially as young young people they want to, they want to do it right, you know, and you get and it's scary doing that. So you want to be prepared. You want to have it all together. But you also have to open up to what's available to you too.

Alex Ferrari 54:29
Yeah, and that's a thing though, I think that you just that's that's time and age and experience like your first move. You've got a first time director out there who's just like, let's play jazz out here, everybody, let's just do this or that you're scared to death because the guy's never done it before the guy hasn't done it before. So you I guess those first features have to be a little bit more tight, you know, but then as you get older and you do more stuff, then you just become much more relaxed. And I always I always equated to being like catching the magic. You know, catching the thunder. lightning in a bottle because there's things that you will never see, other than when you're on set the magic that the actor brings, or the or the the environment brings, or something happens, you just see a barbecue in the background like, wait a minute, boom, throw something. That's something you can plan for, you know, now did you did you also have like, because I do this all the time, when I go on set, list a shot list that's obscene, like, handed over to the first ad. And the first thing is, oh, ad shots. Okay. All before lunch? Oh, okay. And those first days, I was so prepared. That's what I would give them. And then obviously, I would get for now I'll do like 40. And I'll just tell him, I understand. We're not getting all of these. I know, we'll get 10. But they're here just in case things are just flowing. Is that was that your case? as well? Like? Did you like over a shot list? Something that people are like that you're insane?

Nick Castle 56:01
No, you know, I was pretty conservative in that way. You know, I kind of I kind of could see how long it would take to light. dosh was, which was, you know, so I prepare for that, that would be part of my calculus, I would have, you know, especially like we're saying, for the early shows, you know, I would have the shot list boom to my assistant, the Assistant to the ad the ad to the cameraman. And we pretty much have the day plan. And down to the inserts, you know, so that but and like you're saying too, as things went on, I would be laughs maybe just get bored with that kind of

get lazy.

While you know, you get lazy and you just go Okay, I know what I want. I'll just give them a general idea. And I said, We're fine. Don't worry about it. We're fine.

Alex Ferrari 56:52
Right? But that takes time. And a lot of first time directors don't get that or even young directors don't get them like you know, at a certain point. Like I'll just walk on a set and I'm just go. Alright, here here, I'm not going to storyboard out a dinner scene. Like unless it's something really elaborate people before I would need that security blanket. But now you're like, Alright, put the camera here. Let's go here, the dolly here. Let's rock and roll. And that's. But when you get more elaborate with some sequences. Yes, storyboarding and previz. And all that would help. Now you've I mean, you've worked with some amazing actors over the course of your career. Do you have any advice on how to direct actors, especially for young filmmakers? No. You're screwed all of you. I'm sorry.

Nick Castle 57:39
I say that, honestly. You know, I'll probably come up with something as we speak. But, you know, we weren't, at least at USC film school during the years that I were that we didn't have any education. In us in, in dealing with actors. We, it was the one thing that I'm sure they must have corrected.

Alex Ferrari 58:05
mean that Nina folch, the coach, she had a legendary class there that I I've taken because we've got recorded before she passed, and I took it, I was like, Oh, my God, and everyone from EDS awake? And I mean, they all took those classes, and they're like, Oh, my God, it changed the way Yeah, so they did face it, but you were screwed, basically got it, you should actually get a refund for a little bit of the tuition. Yeah,

Nick Castle 58:29
exactly. So you know, I didn't I just would be sometimes playing it by ear Can you know, the all the the actors have different processes, you know, you can't assume that you're going to say, okay, we're going to have a two week rehearsal period. And you're going to come in here and you're going to do this and you're going to, it's, it's something that the, I guess the first thing would be is to have dinner with your actors, and get a sense of who they are, and just have a rapport that's independent of this of the story, just to get a feel for how, you know, what their personality is like and, and what what to expect he or she can get a little sense of that from their own histories. So but it's, but most of what I did, as a director was came out of the general sense of, you know, my understanding of human psychology, which, you know, you don't have to take necessarily a course for that you just have to be kind of aware of it. And and then, of course, like, I probably are closer to some of the directors that are more about making sure that they have just hired the right person that they there and a lot of the people that you get you can get are themselves filmmakers, you know, they understand the filming process, they understand. You know, everything about it and the difficulties some of our summer prima donnas? You're gonna have to deal with that, of course. But a lot of I've found a lot of people are, you know, they understand when you when we're, how the process works, you know where you're going to, you know, and you try to make the sets as comfortable as you can. I think that's, that's another thing I think it's so different from director to director to actor to actor, my my theory was to make the set itself just a fun place to be, there would be no screaming, there will be no, you know, not even just between me and the actors, but between anybody and anybody else, if you have a problem, let's take it back and discuss it. You know, just so you know, you feel like now, some people do it the opposite way and they get a lot out of the confrontation, you know, the tension, maybe it works for certain things.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:56
Yeah, from from from speaking to you here for this hour, your energy doesn't seem to be that guy. The yeller the screamer, you seem the the happy set, the collaborative set the nj we're here to have some fun set. But I've been on those other sets where they thrive on confrontation, they thrive and it pushes them to another place. But that's someone else's process. And hopefully you signed up for that as an actor. Is that a surprise to you? Now, I'm gonna ask you the last few questions asked all my guests, what advice would you give a filmmaker starting in the business today? Well,

Nick Castle 1:01:34
it's funny because I was just talking to a young filmmaker, it depends on the your, your skill level, and what you're looking for, if you're talking about becoming a director, the the artists, the, the, you know, the person in charge of the film, the thing that was very instrumental to me in, in, and in the days and weeks, leaving film school was one to have a film that I had done, you know, now is the best time, I think in the history of motion pictures for young people to be able to produce direct, write, edit, and finish something you can actually see on absolutely no money, assuming you can, you know, you have friends and colleagues and you know that that will help you. So that's, that's a big, that I think was very difficult for us to do back in the day. And then, but the other thing that you have control over is the screenplay. And anybody that's a filmmaker, I think, should be a writer. And some people have different skills, but I think that's something again, that no one can ness, no one can. It's not, it's, it's, it's not a collaborative medium. It's something that you are there, you and the typewriter, and the I mean, the keyboard, and, and you can finish something and have something a product that, that that shows your talent. And if you have good ideas, I mean, you're you're not going to as it as a filmmaker, you're not going to walk in someplace and say I want to be a filmmaker, you know, you got to be you've done a little short, which is, you know, is a is a wonderful of a tool, or you have a screenplay, you know, that's and that's both of those things now, are available to you. And the other thing now, getting to that point, getting to that point that you have something valuable is the other thing that you need to do, which is learn the history of film. There's a lot of it out there.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:44
A couple of things.

Nick Castle 1:03:47
Yeah. And there's so much one of the best things that go into USC film school as a matter of fact, I've felt was not just meeting that individuals that would wind up working with and, and getting a lot of, you know, help from like john, for instance, but it was the film retrospectives, you know, there'd be you know, there'd be Preston Sturges festival, there'd be a Western festival, there'd be people coming over talking about films, all that stuff just goes right into here, and it stays there, you know, if you if it stays in there, and you start to create your own sense of I wouldn't say ethics, the aesthetics,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:26
style,

Nick Castle 1:04:28
yes. aesthetics and, and you start to find you, you know, as a as a as an artist, so and then you know, the other thing that I remember john Houston saying to that question, I went to a on the Queen Mary they had, the Directors Guild had a had a weekend of john Houston movies with john Houston Paul. Great filmmaker. And these And he, he's someone asked what should young people do to get in debt to become filmmakers, he said, read, read and live, read and live. It was very simple to him, you know, you have to experience things you can't just experience. Now we're talking about learning the history of film, you can see yourself sitting in front of your 60 inch TV, watching the latest, you know, Steven Spielberg from 1975, or something, and think that's filmmaking? Well, that's important. And going back even obviously, further is important. But actually having something you passionate about, that only comes from loving reading, and that's something that can be forgotten in the world. That is, this can be such a mechanical, you know, mechanical art. And it's one of the good things about the new technology, by the way, that I think is that you're not necessarily confronted by this giant camera anymore. No, it's this suit. Right? Right, which I always found intimidating. And he had almost no physics. Oh, really?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:15
Oh my God, when you get that first, like, area 4435 or 535 up with off candidate and it's on a pan of vision Jesus Christ, like and you needed a degree just to turn the damn thing off. It was no,

Nick Castle 1:06:30
yeah, but along with the, you know, the intimidation of being on a set with all the other things, you have to do that with that giant camera, the one thing that which we've been talking about is to be able to sit, sit back and be able to assess it on the bigger picture, you know, literally not upon but a bit bigger picture of, of how it's playing, that, that's, that's the, maybe the most difficult thing to be, as to understand is to, to be able to keep the keep that story, you know, fresh and, and the and, and in those bits and pieces that you do every day, that continuity that that has to be there for it to feel like a real a real story a real real, you know, real movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:22
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life of the air? Yeah, I

Nick Castle 1:07:31
think it it is that same thing in a way stepping back to smell the roses or flowers?

Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
Enjoy the jump do it?

Nick Castle 1:07:38
Yeah, we are. We're doing it right now. I'm trying to think of how much more I can spend with my family. Now that I'm basically retired because I can't retire in a certain way. But, but enjoying the this the latter years of my life becoming, you know, the most involving and, you know, and, and, you know, and, and enjoying, you know, living so most of the time where we're enjoying making a movie or enjoying our career or joint You know, there's so much about the the act of creating a creating a career and it's you have to do it in order to make be successful. You have to put everything into it. Be able to step outside of it is the most important thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:33
And last question three of your favorite films of all time. Oh, boy. Let's say Meet me in St. Louis. Yeah, that's come up quite some quite a bond as this Yeah. Yes, it is. It has

Nick Castle 1:08:46
is a beautiful film. Oh, god, they're just so many I would The Searchers

Alex Ferrari 1:08:54
know, also another another one that's made the list many times. Yeah. Let's see. Westside story. Yes, very good. Which which brings us back to what we talked about earlier, which is now being remade by Steven Spielberg. So what another one another one. Nick, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to the tribe today and, and sharing your your knowledge and experience and stories with us. So I truly appreciate it, my friend. Thank you so so much, and I hope to see you on the set of Last Starfighter too.

Nick Castle 1:09:34
Yes, that would be wonderful. Thank you, Alex. Thanks a lot.

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IFH 484: Pretty Woman and Producing Hollywood Hits with Gary W. Goldstein


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Today, we are hearing from one of the cultural influencers of the 90s film industry, and that’s non-other but Gary Goldstein, producer of the iconic rom-com, Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere, and Julia Roberts.

A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets… only to fall in love. The film’s story centers on down-on-her-luck Hollywood sex worker Vivian Ward, who is hired by Edward Lewis, a wealthy businessman, to be his escort for several business and social functions, and their developing relationship over the course of her week-long stay with him.

Pretty Woman was most of your introduction to Gary’s work, but mine was Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.

I know. After all these years, the title still makes me chuckle. Years later, I would reference the title to people. And in case you were curious, Gary goes into the movie title origin story in this interview.

Gary films have generated well over one billion dollars – consistent box office hits. Pretty Woman, for example, grossed $463.4 million – more than 30 times its budget. After the massive success of Pretty Woman, Gary collaborated once more with his filmmaking partner, writer, Jonathan Lawton to produce the action thriller, Under Seige in 1992. Like Pretty Woman, this too performed successfully at the box office and critically – including an Academy Award nomination. An ex-Navy Seal turned cook is the only person who can stop a group of terrorists when they seize control of a U.S. battleship

As an undergraduate student, Gary briefly did talent scouting for Columbia Records and is credited for producing music concerts and cabarets for Berkeley, where he studied.

After college, he practiced law briefly as a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco. Soon, he lost interest in the legal field and sought out a passion. Film and TV became the apparent choice since he had lots of friends who were in the business he could learn from. A year later, Gary opened up a management company where he put his talent scouting skills and experience to work. There, he worked with writers and directors.

By cosmic aligning, he met the young brilliant writer, Jonathan Lawton who wrote the script that became Pretty Woman.

In 2013 he authored Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success, which is a compilation of strategies to help anyone; whether looking to sell a spec script, option a screenplay, land a writing assignment and get hired, attract an agent, or manager of your dreams…or get a producer to take a meeting with you.

Gary blessed us with knowledge bombs in this interview, including tips on entrepreneurship and film as a business.

Enjoy my conversation with Gary Goldstein.

 

Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'd like to welcome to the show Gary Goldstein, How are you doing, Gary?

Gary Goldstein 0:18
I'm fabulous. Alex, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:20
I'm doing great. Thank you so much for coming on the show and, and dropping your knowledge bombs on our tribe today, sir.

Gary Goldstein 0:27
It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:29
So, before we even get started, I need to I need to bring something to your attention. There was a film you made that had a very big impact on my life, and it's called cannibal women on the avocado jungle of death. Now, with that film, I was working at the video store in 1980, that my audience is tired of me saying, Oh, this video, so I am going to have a guest that impacted me during that time. I always bring it up. It was a it was 89 if I'm not mistaken, and that was a year into my a year, year and a half into my time spent at this video store. And I remember coming in it came into the store. And I said, Oh my God, that's amazing. Who the hell made this movie? And oh, my God, that's the greatest title of all time. Years later, I would always reference that title to people in like, the 80s were crazy. They even made a movie called cannibal women in the avocado jungle. And it was like and there was another one called the sofa. The killer bimbos. And there was and there was like, you know, girls, it was insane. But I remember that those those are the titles that I just stuck with me so much, because it's such an amazing title. How did you get involved in that? How did that come to be?

Gary Goldstein 1:41
It's actually a really fun story. So as you recall, because you were there at the time, in you know, I at the time, when I moved to LA I really didn't know a soul. I didn't know it look about the business. Other than I had a dream, I was driving to LA whatever fitting my Karmann Ghia came with and everything else left behind. And within a year or so I came here in the early 80s. And I formed I was a soft defrocked attorney, I was a criminal defense attorney up in San Francisco. I did not want to be an attorney. And I didn't know the job definitions of the film and TV business. But within a year or so I learned I found some mentors and friends. And I ended up opening up a management company. I wanted to work with writers and directors. So I formed a literary management company. And it you know, the first couple several years were pretty Rocky. But I figured it out. And it started to become a really good business. And I really enjoyed it. And because I was new my clients were unknowns with virtually no resume or a little resume. Anyway, long story short, I'm going to start at the beginning. So I bought one of the first Mac computers in the 80s. And it came in, you know, a box the size of a refrigerator. But you couldn't plug it in, it didn't do anything. And so I ran across it, I realized that a friend of mine, this woman, she was a screenwriter, and she was writing on one of these machines. And I said, How did you do that? Who programmed that for you? And she said, Oh, call Jonathan and I call this fellow Jonathan. He comes in he's 23 really brilliant guy very quiet. And he programs spent three weeks in my office, programming this darn thing and did a brilliant job. And along the way at the end. I was asked him a bunch of questions. And I learned he was a film school dropout. he'd written seven scripts, not a human had read one of them. They were in his little one room studio apartment in the rampart district of Hollywood. And I said, Well, you know, listen, let me read one of your scripts and and and if I like it, I'll help you get an agent. Well, long story short, I read three and I said, Forget the agent. You're good. I want to work with you. His name was Jonathan but he's also known as JF law. And then he was the guy who, amongst other things, wrote the script that became pretty woman. So you know, you never know where the good in the universe coming from. Anyway, so I now I have I have a great client and I have a computer that works. And life is great. And we're making hay, but I you know, we got to 1988 in the Writers Guild went on strike. So it shut all production down film and TV. So that was really weird. Yeah, I didn't want to sit on my hands. So I went to Jonathan and I said, Look, you've always wanted to direct I think I want to flex my producing muscles. See if I've got a producing muscle. And, you know, desktop, one of your college scripts, I'll go out and raise whatever I can. And we'll figure it out. You know, we'll be Dumb and Dumber. We'll go out and gorilla play like gorillas and make a movie. Anyway, long story short, so I went out looking for money, and I went to If you remember, do you know Charlie band? Name center? Yeah, Charlie band was the owner of a company called Empire pictures. Oh. And it was like a b minus Film Company. I'm putting it mildly anyway. So he ran this operation. And the way they made films back then was he would put together this gorgeous artwork on a glossy foldover. He would have a film title, he would have images, he would have a paragraph summary of the story. And then he would have a credit block. And it turned out I learned, I said, Who are all these names in the credit block? And he said, oh, they're the names of all my wives ex boyfriends with their first and last names mixed up and said, Okay, fair enough. And he would take these to the different film markets, me fed AFM, etc. And if buyers bought it, he had the money to go make the film. And if not, he threw it in the trash. So I went to him to to raise money. And he laid out a bunch of these cards. And he said, pick one. And I'm going to give you $200,000 whichever one you pick. And the titles were absolutely embarrassing. It was spaceless in the slammer. He had one called Parana women. So I said, Well, alright, I'm going to pick Parana women. And I said, you know, is it or is that carved in stone? Or can I change the name? He said, You cannot change the name. That's my name, you may not change the name. And I thought about it. Okay. But you know, people might think we're taking ourselves seriously. So can I add words to the end of it? And he said, Yeah, you can do that. So the film started as Parana women in the avocado jungle of death until we got the lawyer letter saying Turley, Ban has stolen our title. And you you can't use it. So it became cannibal women in the avocado jungle of death. You know, which was, which was for Joseph Conrad. We always say it's a 10 minute spoof comedy based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. But we, we basically had a four week period before we were supposed to leave to the Sundance Institute for their production lab. on another project, I was gonna say, Don't tell me the cannibal women. They have a lot of fun dances about it. Not exactly. It was actually 3000, which was the the early version of Pretty Woman. So we had four weeks, and I said to Jonathan, whoa, whoa, yeah, let's make it when we get back. And you said, No, I don't want this hanging over our head. Why don't we make it before we go? And I said, Yeah, that makes sense. Let's do it. So we basically had, you know, two weeks of prep. We didn't have a crew until the second week, we realized we were missing something. And we shot it in 11 days and edited for three and deliberative as as is. And off we went to Sundance, but yeah, we had we made every mistake known to man, but at the same kind of way too much fun. And then we had, you know, listen, we had Bill Maher, and we had Shannon tweed, and we had Adrian barbeau. It was a riot.

Alex Ferrari 8:25
And the funny thing is that people don't understand that then in the late 80s, early 90s. I mean, essentially, all you needed to do was almost finish a film and it was sold. You wouldn't. If you just if you made it past the finish line and delivered a movie, you're going to make your money back because there was just no competition. I remember watching everything that came out every week. But literally every film that came out every week, which is probably five or 10 on a really great week normally like two or three new releases every week. And one right one of those one of those weeks is cannibalism. an avocado jungle is fantastic now, now I can diabetes, because now I know where that's okay.

Gary Goldstein 9:03
Yeah, I mean, it did make it Paramount Home Video. So it was out on VHS and ultimately DVD. And then I forget the platform, but it ran on it actually ran on cable for like, I don't know, 15 years or so.

Alex Ferrari 9:17
And it was constant. It was a constant. It was always Oh, and by the way, just so you know, one of our best selves and one of our best renters and just you know, one of our he was one of our best pals and little mom and pop little mom and pop shop that I worked at was it was insane. Someone came in like, well, that's going to be fun. It would be like predator, and then cannibal women the avocado devil that I'm like, watch one fruit for the action. Watch the other one just to have a great time. And as long as you don't take it seriously, it's going to be it's going to be worth your dollar 99. That's hysterical. So Alright, so you work on pretty woman with You know, it's a classic now and when it came out, I mean, people again, who weren't around during that time, it was a phenomenon. I mean, Julia critics made Julia Roberts who she was who she is that you know, Richard Gere was Richard Gere already, but it just completely exploded into another stratosphere after that. I heard the stories because we have a friend and comments on when we need that book. You know, he was my instructor, Walter, who was my instructor and an associate producer on and I think he just needed a second unit that one but associate producer, and I think he worked with Gary, he came over with Gary from happy days. I remember. And yeah, I think you're I think Gary Marshall, the late, great. Director. Now I love to hear the story from your point of view. And now I heard about 3000 that you haven't bought $2,000, which was the original title. And the original ending to Pretty Woman, not so uplifting. Boy, let's just say boy does not that girl, and then some. And there's a bit darker, bit darker ending. But Gary came in and kind of Gary marginalized, it essentially just made it a little bit more to tell me from your point of view. And from the screenwriters point of view. How was that process? Well,

Gary Goldstein 11:21
I mean, it was fascinating. And what had happened was I had optioned that project, you know, I got people back then paid and probably still do pay a lot of attention to the projects that get selected versus Sundance. Because I wasn't a big, you know, I was not well known, my client was not well known. But when people saw that our project was picked for Sundance, the phone started ringing. Long story short, I optioned it to best Ron. And it wasn't all that terribly long before best run, let us know they were going into bankruptcy. Right. So we got it and got it and turned around, who transitioned over to our notions, relatively new company back then, which was new Regency. And so I optioned it to new Regency and, you know, a similar experience like nothing terrible, but we weren't getting financing. We weren't getting a cast. Richard Gere had passed on it went to him while it was investor on went to him again at New Regency and he passed on it both times. Despite edlow motto, his agent bank banging his shoe on the table saying you got to do this, you got to do this. Anyway. So I had sent that script, kind of out of frustration, we were in the doldrums, I sent it as a writing sample. To a senior VP over it touched on the sister Disney sister label and it was supposed to be here's the setup, you know, we're gonna come in in a week, and we'll pitch you to Disney appropriate stories. This one's not for Disney. It's about a working girl. And the phone rang a few days later. And they basically said, we want to buy it. And I was like, Did you read the right script? Anyway, long story short, it turns out that they were going into production with with Gary Marshall is the director and the full complement of production personnel diet, you know, Diane critten, and casting, etc, etc. On what about Bob, but Michael Keaton, who was originally going to be a play that lead his deal blew up, for whatever reason, I don't know. And they had this sort of gap. And they looked at our film and said, you know, we could flop this in and have you put dairy on that film, etc. So we went in for a meeting. And you know, it's very unusual. You usually meet with an executive, maybe two, there were like over 20 people in the room. And it was Gary and his team and it was all new Regency and it was, you know, I mean Katzenberg in the room and David hover and the president this to me, it was like who's who? And long story short, after the meeting, settle down. And and David, the President, his studio was speaking, he turned to he turned to me and said, so on the Disney lightened scale, this is a four. And we would like it to be a seven. Can you do that? Well, you know, even if you've never heard of the Disney lightness scale, you sort of get what the question is. And so I just, I sort of looked pensive noticed everybody in the room staring at me, and I smiled, and I said, Yeah, we know exactly how to do that. And, you know, if you had no idea, and there's no idea how you're going to do that, and I didn't matter we'd figure it out. Yeah. Look, I mean, if you look at it, if you go back and look at it, I mean, it's a Disney movie touchstone obviously with the adult version of you know, the adult version with downtown Beverly Hills, which was the launch of it, and it was what kind of brought Disney back out of it was almost bankrupt at a certain point when Eisner and Jen Katzenberg shut up but even touchstone you're making a movie about a working girl about a prostitute and how that movie is looked upon. Now is this just wonderful rom com like the enemy of Iran calm almost, is on paper absurd. But if you've seen the movie, you understand? Yeah, well, what's absurd is that they could see in that original even the remote possibility because the original, let's just say it was edgy, it was not, you know, there was nothing warm and fuzzy or comedic about it. It had some tones to it that were very dark or dark, not dark, but you know, edgier than certainly the rom com version. But But you know, God bless they figured it out and and then put it to us to figure out how to transition it. And the only thing I really said to the writer Jonathan was like I'm, we're gonna make this deal. And my The only condition that's, that's, you know, live or die is that you have to be guaranteed the first rewrite to break the back of it as a comedy. And then they can hired I know, they're gonna fire you immediately after the first draft. And that's okay. expect that. And that's what happened. They hired three other writers.

Ironically, the first writer they hired made it even darker. Which was weird. But then they brought in Bob garlin, who's wonderful, the guy who wrote the electric horseman, and he just polished all the business dialogue. But then they brought in Barbara Dennett, benedek, to do the final rewrite. And she basically, one day whispered in my ear and, and said, I you because I was nervous. It's like Barbara, which, you know, what, what's the direction here? Where are we gone? And she said, you know, frankly, Jonathan's draft was what the film should be. My job is to take it as, as close to that as I can, making this studio believe that we followed all their notes. And that's kind of what happened. So we ended up with with a script where Jonathan got sole credit. So yeah, sole credit because it really was his rewrite. Now, that's not to say it was the film. It wasn't. There was, you know, God bless Gary Marshall. I mean, we'll go back, I'll tell you the story about how we got Joey on how we got our cast. But the fact that we inherited Garry Marshall was such a stroke of galactic good fortune like to get. And I honestly, I never would have thought of him as a director of this film, certainly not the way it was originally constructed. But the fact that we got Garry Marshall was truly miraculous. So I give very enormous credit, it was Gary Marshall alized. He is, you know, we sort of had a rule of thumb in production, which was, you know, shoot, you know, what, when one take is scripted, and then let's play let's improv because that's what he does. And he has such he had an and is the king of finding that that common heartbeat, he knows just where to find the magic. And he gives enormous freedom, not just the actors, which he did. But the whole set, we had an open set, it was full on participation, you know, of craft services had an idea, we want to hear about it. So, I give enormous credit to Gary, I give enormous credit is starting with the writer Jonathan but enormous credit to Gary Marshall, without whom this film wouldn't be what it is. And also to the actors. I mean, there were stunning moments where, like the there's a scene where she's on the balcony in the penthouse of the hotel, and she talks about I won't settle I want the full, I won't compromise, I want the whole dream. And that was not written that way. That was just Julia. Just doing a high wire act going with her character, where she needed to go. It was stunning. And and then there were other, you know, like, that was just the ethos of that set, was like, let's, let's all just give our best. And actually, Garry Marshall, you know, there were a bunch of what we call fog, friends of dairy. And some of them were, you know, in this in different scenes, some of them were in the crew and, and then some were just visitors to the set like Martin Kearse Feld, who, I think had worked with Gary Marty had worked with Darien overboard and one of one of his other films. He was a creative consultant and he was on the set one day, that scene where he's got her. He's taking Edwards taking Vivian to her first ever opera at the war memorial in San Francisco, and she's in a red Cinderella dress and they're in the elevator. Whatever line was in the script, I don't remember to be honest, but we were looking at it wasn't really working. So we're staring huddled around video village looking at our leads inherit, you know Full wardrobe. And suddenly this voice which is Marty kerfeld. whispers, what if she were to say, in case I forget to tell you later, I had a wonderful time tonight. Oh, and you? You could have heard a pin drop. I mean, I just, I was speechless looked at the sky and thinking God spoke. Exactly, you know, Never have I heard in the essence of a character summed up in one line so beautifully. So, of course, it worked and stayed in the movie and whatnot. But yeah, I mean, I think there were a lot of contributions. We can't we can't discount the talent, we certainly have to give, you know, enormous enormous credit to this film for one to one person and that's Gary Marshall.

Alex Ferrari 20:51
Yeah, and how did you get Julia? How would because Julia, just mystic pizza, if I remember correctly, and she she was she was not lead by any stretch? Yeah, no,

Gary Goldstein 21:01
no, but the fellows who produced mystic pizza, were friends at the time. I haven't seen him in 100 years. But Mark and Scott, before they lock picture that as as we often did, you have friends and family screening, and you you know, please kick the tires, before we lacked texture was Give me your criticism. And so I showed up for that screening. And when the lights came up, I basically said I you know, there were and I there were a good number of people there. But I basically said, Absolutely no criticism, I think you've got a gem of a cell and amazing cast, well written, well produced. Don't mess with it. It's good to go. But by the same token, I don't know who that girl is. But that one, I need to know her. What's her name? And this is Julia Roberts and blah, blah, blah. And I would you introduce me and they said absolutely. Well, Julia and her her then I believe it was her manager, Elaine Goldsmith, I forget they read it and immediately like within a few days, they Julia was attached and she stayed attached for the three years before I got it, rocking it, Disney. But you know, at the time, once we got it set up Disney Disney really wasn't interested in Julia Roberts, they didn't know her she was in fairness, she was not yet known to the American public ordered the studio system and despite the fact that she had completed production on a yet to be released Steel Magnolias. So she was she was already well on her way. I mean, her, her career arc was inevitable. In my view, she was meant to be a star, I think pretty one was just a really extraordinary fit for her. But I knew that the studio was screen testing and auditioning and meeting with every name in the book, both male and female for the leads, and so I didn't really have a chance to put my argument forward for Julia until we had a male lead and I just, you know, basically let them know that you know, really we wanted Richard and he had turned us down twice but we never had a major studio a major director and a major checkbook and maybe we should have a run at that. And they did and they made him the you know, the Godfather offer and he didn't refuse and actually it was a tentative yes it's a sweet story a tentative Yes. edler mana was was, you know, a real champion. And so, at that point, I went to Gary Marshall and, and basically said, Look, there's this you know, I know we're meeting a lot of talent, a lot of females for the lead. But there's this one young actress I'd love you to meet. But I'd like to put a you know, a condition on it, which is to say I want you to meet her alone. I don't need to be no one else should be there. I said by the way, there's a warning that goes with it, which is you're gonna fall in love. Just be aware. So, you know, that was kind of sealed the deal. Anyway, he met with her and he absolutely said yes. You know, this is like, She's amazing. And so we we did a he flew her to New York, to meet with Richard. He was going to try and put put the bow in, you know, tie a bow in this. So he took her to Richard's apartment in New York, and they walked in and they were introduced Richard and Julia and apparently as the story is told Gary, after a couple of minutes excused himself said, Yeah, I'm gonna go to the bathroom or I'm gonna make the call or whatever he was going to do. And he walked away to another part of the apartment. In 15 minutes later, he called Richard cell and from the back of the apartment, is it How's it going? And Richard was talking to him. And Julia science and posted on Richard's desk, grabbed a pen and wrote something on it and tore it off and handed it to Richard. And all it said on it was please say yes. Oh, right. Oh. And of course, right there in the moment, he smiled and over the phone to Gary, he said yes. And that it doesn't get any better than that.

Alex Ferrari 25:28
I mean, and just that story alone, it kind of permeates the entire movie, that heart that thing is there. It's it's undeniable, almost the same TV woman a million times during over the last 30 years. It's just something that you just one of those films that you do. And Julia, we she was Oscar nominated for that as a mistaken. Right.

Gary Goldstein 25:50
She was she was she got a nomination and as she did for Steel Magnolias. And yeah, I mean, she came out of the gate being, you know, all really all the time. But yeah, so it was it was a blessing. They did you know, we did a screen test, just to sort of finalize it. And all I can tell you is, you know, even before they started rolling camera, it was it was the needle just blew right off the far right of the chart.

Alex Ferrari 26:23
Yeah. Yeah. And it's Yeah, I just, I just still remember going to see it and my mind being blown. And of course, that also has a video show with a big rental. We had more than one copy, if I remember correctly. Now, you you, you had a nice little run there for a minute. A few a couple movies later, you also worked on under siege, which, which was a massive hit. And pretty much if I'm not mistaken, still the biggest hit of students adults career. I'm not mistaken. It might be. But I think it was his biggest I I'm not

Gary Goldstein 26:59
absolutely sure Alex, I know. It was huge. It's not, you know, it's fun to see. But we're, you know, it was it was a big deal for Warner Brothers. It was actually the first time they released a film of that type in in October, and it set all kinds of records. I don't really know. I think it's certainly one of his biggest if not his biggest box office experience. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 27:22
And I know Tommy and Tommy Lee Jones was just amazing. Gary Busey amazing in that zone. I mean, it was, it was so he has so much support around him. I mean, a lot of support around him. And the Africans, the director was, he was also like, Andy, Andy Davis. Yeah. And it goes out the fugitive.

Gary Goldstein 27:46
Yeah, yeah. I mean, he's no slouch. No. And Andy was amazing. He had worked with Steven once before. And I also loved his and ano his work with Peter McGregor Scott, who's no longer with us what an amazing gentleman is so good at what he did. He was sort of a hands on line producer. You know, he was, anyway, they were a delight to work with. In fact, I don't know if you remember, there was a party scene in in the battleship for the admirals birthday. And there was a jazz, a jazz band that played jazz, the jazz band was led by Andy Davis's brother there good Chicago boys.

Alex Ferrari 28:28
nepotism at its best. That's awesome. That's awesome. Hey, I do the same thing. But I remember that movie really well, as well. And that was also a fairly big hit for us for you. I mean, when you mean, obviously when pretty woman and then under siege, you know, a couple of a few years later came out. The town looks at you very differently after a massive hit. And the doors all open. Can you talk a little bit about being in that kind of? I always like to call it the center of the hurricane? Because I mean, as a producer, people start picking up your URLs or zippers or on on pretty women. Okay. They pick up the call? How is that? What is it like being in that space in Hollywood, especially during that time, which was a pretty insane time.

Gary Goldstein 29:14
It was a pretty insane time. It was actually a brilliant time. Not just because of the studio, the studio system was so different, that it was run by years before the studios were bought by these larger companies. But because there were I don't know the number. But you know, it seemed like there were almost three dozen maybe it wasn't maybe there were two dozen really robust indie companies to handles invest drones and so on and so forth. And they were making amazing, you know, they were making a platoon and Salvador and dirty dancing and all these, you know, just their output was equal to the studios. And so it was a really good time to be in front of or behind the camera. You know, whatever you did, it was a good time, and I Um, and I think that, you know, I sort of I sort of, I didn't grow up in the business, I was still relatively young in the business, to have a film like pretty woman, be your first studio film. And I mean, when we were making it, the truth is we had a reputation of Oh, that little film in trouble. Because the but we were extraordinarily low budget for a studio film, by Studio standards. And we were everyone knew we were doing a lot of improv and that we were trying to turn it from a, you know, because it had been so widely read and well regarded as the original, that people knew how big the transition might be. And so we had sort of a, you know, oh, it's a little film, oh, they're trying to find their, their tone, and so on, and so forth. So when it came out, and did the kind of business that it did, and it was in the theaters actively for six months. And it was doing it was, you know, doing five figures, every, every every week. And in fact, it went up the second week. So we knew word of mouth was good. We sort of do from the test screenings that we've that we might have. Not a hit. But a successful film, right, by by minimum definitional standards. We had no idea that it was going to be touched a chord the way it did. In fact, my concern, and I don't think I was alone in it was that we're going to get pilloried. I mean, it was the era of lurk Gloria Steinem. And you know, when, and I thought putting this out as a role model, I don't know. But I think we have to be prepared that there's going to be some upset people. And ironically, that never, that never came to be, in fact, the very people I was concerned about embraced it, and came up very publicly in support of it. So it was interesting. But I think I was to answer your question, Alex, I think I was pretty naive guy at the time. I mean, I, I was grateful. I was excited to be welcomed into the game. I don't think I was like, sitting outside of myself looking at the situation going, Oh, my gosh, guess guess what just happened. That wasn't my thought process. I was grateful to be able to reach out to people and talk about other projects. And you know, and just happen to have a film out in the world that was doing well. I think I started to figure it out a little bit more with under siege, because, you know, now it wasn't a one trick pony. It was, you know, here was another really solid, solidly performing film with named talent and the big studio and all of that and respond to SQL, etc. So, you know, if that was when I sort of realized, oh, gosh, you know, I there's, I always thought that no one's unreachable. You just have to know their assistant, and then you sneak in. But yeah, really? Yeah. If you want to own the town, just own the assistance, and you're all you're all good. But I think at that point, I started to realize, Oh, you really have established sort of a beachhead, and you can have access when you need it, whether it's agencies, your studios, your production company, whatever it might be. And, you know, I mean, I think the, you know, a good example of that. What one of one of my, one of my favorite films that I've been involved with, anyway, was a film, the film the madman prophecies. Well, and the reason why is sort of the nonpublic reason why I say that is because the writer who brought that to me, was one of the CO writers, he was a he had a writing partner prior. And that team was it's interesting, their attorney, their attorney called me and said, I have this team of writers, and they had this script called in dark territory, and their agent shot to everywhere and everybody passed on it, but would you read it? It was like, that's how is the dubious honor? Right. So okay, fine, send it over. I'll read it. Long story short, I said, I know I like it. I think I know, I think I know if we can change the title and make these couple of changes, send the writers in let's talk and they did, and I sold it to Warner Brothers who had passed on it 90 days earlier. And it became ultimately the sequel to under siege. But one of those writers then later, some years later came to me with this project, the Mothman prophecies. And honestly, Alex, when I read it, I was his sucker punch me in the third eye because not in a absolutely literal sense. But when my best friend My dad died unexpectedly, the next year and a half, two years were that that's that film son. My experience it was like that, almost losing your tether. And assuming everything, all these weird things are happening, because it's your dad trying to reach back out to you or your loved one trying to reach back out to you. And it was a very, very odd time where you're sort of walking into worlds. And when I read the script, I thought, oh my god, I don't care if same thing. It had been shot by the agent, everybody had passed, and I didn't care. I said, Let's, if I can find one company that didn't pass on it, and I did, there was one company, Lakeshore great company. And I said, I don't care. This is going to be a private homage to my dad, I am going to get this film made. And the team over at Lakeshore read it and they they said it was, you know, fascinating and amazing and wonderful. And thank you. It's gonna be a pass. Yeah, very Hollywood. And and there was a long pause. And I basically said, Listen, I really appreciate it, guys. I love what you said about the script, but I'm gonna have to pass on your pass. And so I you know, look, of course, you can pass but I just Will you give me a face to face before you make it official? And they said, yeah. And I think there are two things that were at play. One is I went in and never talked about the script. It was a very short meeting, I basically went into 15 minutes on who my dad was our relationship and what what, you know, like the, the crack in the universe that I fell into, in my experience, following his death, and how we're all hardwired to understand the loss and despair that follows. And anyway, long story short, they turned their, you know, they huddled in they they changed their mind. And they came back and said, Yeah, you're I think we think you're right, we're gonna go with this. And so I was able to get that film made, and I thought it turned out really well. I think it lived up to its promise. And I'm blanking at the moment, why am I blanking? Mark Billings, Mark pellington directed it. That's right.

Alex Ferrari 37:11
Well, I'll tell you one thing. I saw that movie once, and I will never watch it again. Because it terrified me. I was terrified after I saw that meld and I just like it to my bones. It's like very rare for a movie to like, hit me to the bone. I will not watch that movie again. Like I don't even like saying the name. It just freaks me out. It was it was a very, very well.

Gary Goldstein 37:31
Yeah. So I was very proud of that for for, you know, as a producer, but also as a son. And and I, you know, I think I can't tell you for a fact. But I will tell you my suspicion is that having had a couple of successes prior to that asked, it didn't hurt the cause.

Alex Ferrari 37:57
No, I did. And it did. Well, for my Android, it did very well. And then we need to box office. No, I mean, it's been it's remarkable the projects you've been involved with. And I have to ask you something, though, just because you told your story of how you, you nicely got into the business and how you were like, Well, you know, I'll just do this. And I'll do that and I get it. And you were coming from you know, you weren't coming like sleeping on couches, you know, you're an attorney, but you need and want to make the attorney. Where do you see people go wrong, when they try to break into this business? And I was like, the term breaking like, it's varsity. Like, you gotta break in and you gotta Yeah, like, it's not like, how can I you know, be part of a community, you know, how can I break in? It's always that, but where do you see people going? Because I'm assuming you've been approached a million times about, Hey, can you do this for me? Hey, can you get this for me? Where do you see what do you see people go wrong?

Gary Goldstein 38:52
Well, I think you just put your finger on. You know, you really just pointed right to it, which is people have this very unwelcoming story almost a sort of a monster story about how unfriendly and how close off is this thing called Hollywood, which is not my experience of it. I mean, I'm not gonna. It's not it's not a panacea. It's not utopia, but it's far from what I think many people attribute to it in their mind. And I think part of the and I also think a lot of people don't realize the value they bring to the conversation. They feel needy, they feel insecure, they lack confidence. I'm going to come back to this I just want to share one quick story. So years and years ago, there was a gal who had been a senior VP of had been fundamentally the head of business and legal affairs for a major one of the six majors. And she'd done it for 14 years. She was a force of nature. Everybody in town knew her. She was a get it done. are in really lovely. And one day she called me out of the blue, and basically said, Gary, I want I want to, I want you to coach me. And I was like, What? You're one of the most formidable people in the industry. I probably would love to learn what you forgotten. What, what, what what can I possibly help you with? And what she revealed was that she had been sort of a closet screenwriter at night and on the weekend, over the recent years, and she wanted to leave her executive suite position and become a full time screenwriters, she had just officially done that she had left the studio and was now a full time screenwriter. And what happens apparently, Alex, when that choice gets made, as they also give you a free lobotomy, you forget absolutely everything that you know, all of the fears, well, of all of the insecurity, as well as all of the of them ever going to be good enough. It's too hard. I don't know how it's too competitive, and all these stories rockin in your head, and it really starts to take effect. And I think that, you know, the biggest, I mean, there are a lot of mistakes that people often can or do make. But I think one of them is just not wearing their humanity upfront. So you see, you know, the biggest tool of a writer is the blind query letter, the worst idea ever taught to anybody on the planet, the most impersonal, like easiest to ignore, flying into the same inboxes. And by the way, they're all going to wet agents and producers, will you produce me? Will you represent me? No one's reaching out to mentor saying a cinematographer and editor a casting director, you know, like, people who are in the center of the ring? No one's knocking on their door. What could what what kind of relationship and what kind of community could you build? What kind of lessons could you learn? People are very narrow focus, very near sighted about things. And they sort of mimic other people's behaviors, it's a it's really not a very, you know, if you were in any other industry, and you said, I'm going to focus 100% my craft, I'm going to really ignore my marketing or my entrepreneurial or career, you know, the side, you'd be out of business. And you end up losing a lot of brilliant stories and a lot of brilliant storytellers because they just get worn down. But I think it's one of the biggest mistakes, I know there's a there's a long laundry list of mistakes, and I've made many of them myself, tons. But I think the one that really is most crucial is they get shut down. And they don't share who they the artists, the storyteller, the creator are, they don't share their humanity or their origin story, or why they're so deeply passionate and connected to this particular story. They hide behind the script cover, behind the project behind a blind query letter, and, and and they don't give people a chance to get to know, let alone champion them. So

Alex Ferrari 43:19
you know, I go ahead and interrupt you. But it seems such an interesting way of looking at it. Because, you know, I didn't when I was coming up, you know, you would just try to, you would just try to try to connect with, you know, a producer, a director, an agent, a manager, and after whatever, at such a superficial level. And that's what this whole town is built on, is a lot of these superficial relationships. But whenever you do connect authentically with someone I found in my career, that you hold on to these people, that they, you you because it's so rare to find authenticity in Hollywood. I mean, even if it's negative authenticity, and like for someone to say your script sucks. I'm sorry. At least it's something authentic, as opposed to it was great. It's fantastic. It's amazing. You should win an Oscar we're gonna pass which is the nicest. efuse Hollywood is the art.

Gary Goldstein 44:23
Yeah, give us the truth. Right? In fact, I I've often coach fuel instead, let the you know, rejection is your best friend. Yeah, because 99.9999% of all humans when rejected will react predictively you will not. You're going to do the one who takes a nice deep breath. And when you hear that you're going to smile. And you're going to say thank you, you can say but what would be really the most helpful, valuable thing in life right now for me, is if you do me the honor of sharing the truth, why why is this a pass for you? I want to learn and when happens is you're probably going to learn something. But more importantly, you've just honored them. And you bonded with them in a way that very, very few people ever Well, you've taken advantage of a moment. It's kind of like the it always tells me I had a actor friend. This goes back aways. But anyway, I ran into him one day, and he was in a he was he was really in a bad mood, he was in a funk. And I said, What's going on? And he said, I just came from this audition is a role I really wanted. And I didn't get the gig. And I said, Yeah, and so that's why you're all upset. He said, yeah. So tell me about it. What was the project and who was in the room? And he told me about the project? And he said, Yeah, and it was the casting director and the casting associate, and there was the producer. And I forget if the director was there, it's probably just the producer, and whatever. And I said, really, all those people were in the room? And do you feel you gave a great, you know, good, solid performance? You said, Yeah, but I didn't get the gig. as well. I mean, I don't want to be unsympathetic. But here's the deal. You know, I think you think the purpose of an audition is to get a job, and I don't, let's talk about that. Because you're going to live in a world pass fail, a RF note, no gray. And I live in a world where I think, Wow, every audition should be celebrated. And that it's not about the result is an opportunity, you're being invited to a party that you want to be invited back to. So you go into a room and you hug and greet and smile at everybody starting with the assistant, and then the casting people and then the producer, and then the director and everything, and you do it on the way back out. And you of course, you're going to give your best performance. That's just a given. But what you really want is to make them feel they've gotten a sense of who you really are as a personality as a human, not just as an actor giving a performance, and that they like you. And gosh, you know, he may not be right, there's a million reasons why you might not be right for a role in a moment. But they've got a lot of projects, and these people are serious people and you want to know them. And you you know, you you just want them to like you enough to think of you in the future. And if you've done that you just want that's that's the long game.

Alex Ferrari 47:15
Isn't it amazing that. And please tell me what you think that if you are likable, if you are someone that people can work with, and stay in a room with for 10 hours or on set with the third 12 hours, or when it's like hour 15 and OT and you're still got a good attitude. If you're that person, wouldn't you go out of your way to figure out how I can get in there, right now for this project. But I'm going to remember that guy or that gal, and I'm gonna find a way to bring them into what we're doing. Because we need people like that, because they might not even be the most talented. They might not even but that power of being likable. It's like the best advice I've ever heard. Like, for being film business, like Just don't be a dick. And the greatest, it's a great good advice. Good advice, don't be a dick. And not in that being that big will get you more work and more opportunities then. But that your experience as well. Like if you see someone who's just meant likeable, I think I could really work with this person, I got to figure out a way how to make this happen.

Gary Goldstein 48:24
I think that's only 100%, true 365 days a year. If you're if you're I don't care if you're looking for a production job or an acting job, or an agent or a manager, you know, it's like they the men, they're going to take the measure of you whether they're conscious or whether they articulate it or not. They're going to take the measure and say, am I going to be able to go the long distance with this person? Or am I going to enjoy this process? Are they going to contribute? Or are they going to be nagging at me and complaining? I had a showrunner there was an exact producer of a TV series that I was. We were talking about I was I'm always fascinated by the writers room, right? It's like staff. I just find that dynamic, so interesting. And you know it anyway, so I was I was asking him, I said you know what? What are you looking for? How do you build that team? What are the things that are going through your head? Look, it's really simple. It's 3am. We have until daylight to crack this thing that all of us have been banged on and unable to crack. We're all sleep deprived, we're exhausted, we're unhappy. We want to go home, we want to sleep in our bed. We miss our family, and we're hungry. Who do I want next to me? That's the pic. That's the image in my head who's the person and it's not about the most talented person. He used those words just like you did. He said, I will absolutely gladly take the second or third most talented person if they're the one I want sitting next to me

Alex Ferrari 50:00
Cuz I know I know a lot of very talented people who are absent dicks. And I wouldn't want to work with them. I just like, and I would take second or third tier, who's going to give it their all? Yeah. And we're going to get to the finish line, because really enjoy. And, and again, as I've gotten older, I've just realized that life is way too short. To just work with people who are decks. It's just, it's just like, I don't want to work with people like that I want to work I want to find good people who I enjoy this process with, because it should be an enjoyable process. We are some of the most lucky human beings on planet to do what we get to do on the archery Oh my god. Can you imagine

Gary Goldstein 50:43
being miserable or to be complaining? Doing what we do is like not acceptable. It's

Alex Ferrari 50:49
no. Look, and there's like, you know, you could be on the set of The Revenant. And, and that's a that's a tough shoot. You could be on the set of Titanic. That's a tough shoot. But even on the worst day, you're still being paid to play, to enjoy to be an artist and and that's such a rarity in this world. And I think I think filmmakers, I think filmmakers and screenwriters, they lose, they lose focus on that, because it just, you know, especially when you're young, you're out you want the I joke about this all the time, but I'm sure you've run into these, you know, it will be your with your work, where you when you look at the filmmaker screenwriters who come in with this entitlement. They're like, why hasn't Hollywood, you know, recognized my genius. I mean, I don't understand like, I'm such a good writer. Why haven't I sold 15 scripts already? And I should be living in the Hollywood Hills? Why have I not gotten that part yet? I'm obviously the best for it. Like this, this entitlement that comes into it. And it's I mean, I was like, when I was in my early 20s, I was just like, obviously, come on, when is someone going to recognize how amazing I am? And then the business goes? Do you have you run into that kind of scenario?

Gary Goldstein 52:06
I'm not I have no idea what you're talking about. I've never, I've never met an entitled creative in my lifetime. I'm sure it'll happen. But now that Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think if, if you could just give people a timeout, and say, Can we just set that on the sideboard for the moment? I want you to spend the next 24 hours, better yet the next 72 hours. With only one idea in mind, I want you to be 100% other focused? How can you contribute to them in that moment? Just flex the muscle?

Alex Ferrari 52:46
Oh my god, I tell people all the time. Then if you want to create authentic relationships with someone offered, you offer to be of service, don't ask when you first meet somebody? Hey, I know that, you know, Gary Marshall, can you send him my script? Like, obviously, you could pick up the phone and talk to Gary or to talk to Richard or talk to Julia or what whoever the you know, whatever connections you have, I just met you. By the way, I need you to do me a favor. What do you that happens all the time to me, I'm nobody. I'm nobody in my world. And I get hit like that on a daily basis by people. And I always tell people, if you want to build relationships, you need to be of service. I've built relationships over courses of three or four years, before I ever asked for a thing. Because I truly built a real relationship authentic relationship. And I was always there to help them. And then if I need some help, as a friend, you go, Hey, can you connect me with this? Or can you do that? And but that's an authentic relationship as opposed to five minutes after we meet. Can you hear that's my movie Gary, I need I need Can you connect me to half a million? It's almost

Gary Goldstein 53:57
what surreal is how constant that mindset. In other words, these habits that people have reaching out to people they've never met in person. Probably never had a single real, what I would call conversation. But they'll reach out to them and send their script or their real or whatever and say, Well you produce Will you work for me for free to produce this movie. It'll take you several years on your dime you know, it's brilliant. So I'm doing your favorite or conversely, you know, will you you know, Mr. Agent, Mr. or Miss Miss manager, will you represent me? Same deal. You can't think of a bigger ask. You're asking people who've made this massive commitment in life to what they what they do. And you're saying out of all the possible people you could collaborate with. For projects. Choose me now. I haven't bothered to introduce myself, then I haven't bothered to get to know what what you care about or what makes you tick. I haven't even done that really with your assistant because I'm afraid of Calling Strangers. But please, you know, and it's, it's not always because they it's not even that they necessarily come across as entitled or think thinking they're so grand. It's just a common behavior set. Yeah, it's just like, if you were in any other industry, period, full stop if you're in any other industry.

Alex Ferrari 55:37
Right. And like I was, I always tell people, if you were in the cookie industry, you wouldn't walk up to the CEO of a cookie company and going, Hey, I've got this great cookie recipe. I think it's gonna make you millions. Like, that just doesn't happen. You know, it's, we're such a group of iOS, call us Connie's, you know, we're Carnival folk, you know, we're just a unique group of artists that travel and set up tents, and we put on a show and we record the show and look like we're Carnival folk. And it's just such a remarkable, it's just such a remarkable industry. I love the I love it. I've always loved it. I can't quit it as much as I've tried. There's many times in my career the last 25 years that I've just like, I just kind of put it to something else. This is too hard. This is too brutal. And then like, like a disease, it flares up again, because I got bitten by the bug at that damn video store. And then I can't, I can't quit. Like, I can't quit it and nothing I do. I have to be around that I have to do what I love doing. And it's, and I'm not sure if that's, that's not the way the cookie businesses like you. I mean, I'm sure for some people, it's in their blood that cookies, but generally speaking. What? Well, yeah, I mean, it's it.

Gary Goldstein 56:53
I think, if you want to endure in and I do think that we're blessed to be in this business. I think it's a crazy business. It can be a shocking business, it can be an amusing business, it can be many things, it can be disappointing. But if you want to be in this business, if you're one of the cricket people, and you love hanging out with cricket people, and I don't mean cricket isn't, you know, dishonest? I mean, like, where are we, where our humanity, we're flawed, where you know, it's fabulous, right? We're stories, the people who are drawn to storytelling. Yeah, then you have to see it for what it is, which is, it's, if you can, if you number one, you got to be really determined. And you got to, you know, I mean, it's, it can't be a hobby, it's got to be you got to commit. And if you're committing, it's about building relationships. And it's about getting better at your craft. But if you do one without the other. And to build relationships, you can't be asking huge favors of total strangers, it's just that

Alex Ferrari 57:54
people are bigger. That's the way the world works. It's not the world words, I'm in you. You've mentioned it a bunch. I've mentioned it a bunch, but we call this a business. But no other business in the world that I know of, can drop half a million dollars on a product that could literally be worthless. You know, if you don't know what you're doing, you could I mean, if you spent a half a million dollars on house, there's codes, there's things that you have to pass through the inspection process. Even if you've made an ugly house, it's still a house, so it can live in it. But if you make an ugly movie, and I seen those movies, that it's money just flushed down the toilet, it's a remarkable business that way.

Gary Goldstein 58:39
Yeah. Yeah, no, it's true is true. And if you know, so you got to pay your dues. I mean, I think part of it is also I mean, when I started out, I was just so excited, I was wagging my tail, I was just so happy to be here. And if anyone would talk to me, like I okay, you made my week. But I, you know, I think that it's we're living in a different time. Back then, there was also still some, not the old studio system where actors were under contract, and they had to make six films a year, and they were paid very little. And, you know, but but that's sort of, like, we're gonna work you till you're brilliant at your craft. And people had long apprentice runways, right. It's also when there was not a thing about make or break the first weekend and, you know, with a huge marketing budget on a film, it's like it was a different time. And people really did develop relationships. They were working so much and for such a long time graduating without grand expectations of I'm going to be a producer, my first, you know, my first script. And I think that some of that is, you know, there's this perception that the business is contracted and I think it's just the opposite. I think it's an expanding business. You know, I just look at the demand for fresh stories in every format more formats than we're used to. It used to be just series in film. Now it's doc limited series and docu series and you know, you, whatever you, whatever you're excited about, there's a place for it. And there's more buyers than ever and, you know, more mouths to feed, so to speak. Yeah, so I, I think it's a really extraordinary time, but you got to kind of get old school, I think you got to, you know, be willing to actually meet the people that you want to endure, and have enduring relationships with, gotta get, you know, get over yourself. And, and, you know, be a little bit more, I don't know, look over the hedgerow, get a little generous, be sure your personality get, you know, pick up the phone, do something,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:50
you have to be vulnerable, you have to handle, you have to become a little bit vulnerable, just a bit, show people a little bit faster than near them. Because that's what people feel connected. That's what people connect to.

Gary Goldstein 1:01:04
And you know, what's interesting? I've always said it, you know it. And I think it's true of a lot of industries, I think, because it's about the human question, the human factor, I don't think it takes an enormous amount to shine to stand out. If you show, as you were saying, Alex, if you show a little bit of vulnerability, if you're a little bit other focused, if you're a little bit generous, if you're just a little bit of those things, you'll, you'll look like a rock star.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:33
Right? Because there's no competition, because nobody else is doing it, you automatically rise above, above the noise by doing that, and I did that when I was coming up as a PA. You know, I was just being I was always trying to be of service to people. That's how I got my first kids and got my first got jobs and all that.

Gary Goldstein 1:01:52
Yeah, and we talked about it before. But I think the other thing that the other the other oversight or mistake that people often make is, you know, they're so focused on the name on the door, and forget the name on the door. You know, like, by the way, if you're fortunate enough to develop some kind of connection with them. People who are successful, who've made it, no, it's a team sport, they didn't get there on their own. And they be very generous, they tend to be very available, they tend to be great mentors, and friends, whatever. But you don't expect that the name on the door is going to necessarily be available to respond to you. People in this business matriculate quickly there, they're vetted there, you know, like the assistance, the entry level, the creative exactly that all those low lying positions. Well, I did, I did this as a as a sort of off the cuff lesson for a group the other day where I just went on LinkedIn, and I typed in a keyword. And up came all these young looking faces. And I went one by one, and I said, I want, let's just go through the resume. And they worked at these five amazing companies. And they went to Harvard, and they went here, and they went there. And these are like the most vetted people. Otherwise, you're not going to be sitting on the desk of a great agent, or a great producer, whatever it is, and they are ambitious, and they're smart, and they need to grow their own relationships to have currency. These people need to know you as much as you need to know them, just get out of your own way Get to know them, because they grow we grow together and micro generations. And just make friends with a lot of people who are already on the inside but who are available. And, you know, the that's that's the may seem like the long game, but it's really the diamond land.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:42
I would agree with you 100%. One thing that we one thing that this business is known for is rejection. You're going to get 1000 nose before you get one yes. And everyone gets knows even students do project notes. You know, even Scorsese gets notes like I, I tell people that all the time and they go what I'm like scuba couldn't get Lincoln made, like he had to go. And Scorsese couldn't get some of his projects that like Oliver Stone is hustling for his next budget like it's it everyone gets knows, how do you deal with rejection and continue to move forward and not get decimated by especially when you're at the beginning stages when you don't have that armor and momentum to continue to move forward?

Gary Goldstein 1:04:22
Yeah, I listen to it. I'm not going to say I'm immune to it. I sort of flipped the script a little bit. I always First of all, I think that failure and success are the same exact goddamn thing. They're twins that were never really separated at birth. You know? I mean, it we've heard it 1000 times the famous quote from Thomas Watson who founded IBM, if you want to increase your rate of success, double your rate of failure. I think I'm doing a justice anyway. But that idea and I really don't I see is it's like on a spectrum. But wherever you are in that spectrum, including getting rejections, I always just reminded myself, what does that mean? That means I'm in the game. I'm making actions. I may be getting rejections, but I'm making connections. I'm being taken seriously enough to be in a conversation. So don't stop, just keep pushing forward. I figured, you know, if I really suck, then, you know, great, I'm gonna, you know, if this I'm not a big sports nut, but you know, I'd be batting less than 100. Right? Okay. But if I'm batting 50, and I get and I get enough at bats, am I creating insider relationships? Yeah, I am. I'm just failing a lot. And I'm learning from that. But I just want to make sure I'm on the court, not in the sand, I want to make sure I'm in the game. And to me, rejection is an opportunity to learn as it legitimately is, if you're willing, if you're ballsy enough to follow through, is that so you learn but it's also an opportunity, as we talked about earlier, to bond and really surprise people and take that level of reporting inch it forward, it's a game of inches, right and move it forward. And there's really no downside to it. You know, you can't it's like I don't I don't really take it personally. It's it's the old Maya Angelou thing. If I if I can let someone reject me and actually make them feel good, leaving that conversation, I have now one a new friend. So whatever was said, they're not going to remember, I'm not going to remember, no one's going to remember. But they're going to know how I made them feel and vice versa.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:47
Great. That's great, great advice. And I'll ask you, I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,

Gary Goldstein 1:07:06
give yourself freedom, give yourself permission, the shit that you worry about. And I think there's over 8 billion folks on the planet at this given moment. Not one of those 8 billion people are worried about the thing you're worried about. You know, get get out of your own way. Don't you know, this is? Stop being self conscious. Stop thinking the world has you under a microscope that they're grading you that they're judging you? And if they are, fuck them, you don't want them in your life? I'm sorry, I just probably said something that's not supposed to happen on a podcast. It's, it's, it's raw. It's real. Okay, but it's true. It's Yeah, absolutely. If someone is that kind of a human, you don't want them in your life. So what do you care what they think it's actually a good time to write them a little thank you note and say, you just saved me investing a whole bunch of time in the wrong direction. If you could just grow up fast enough on the inside to say, you know what, I'm going to be the truth of me, I'm going to be who I really am full on. And I'm not going to care because I'm going to win more friends that I'm going to make enemies. But at the end of the day, at the end of my life, will it have mattered, that some people had judgment of me that I never even knew about? I don't care. I just I really think that being proud of who you are, at least, and I don't mean in any sort of bragging, you know, not braggadocio, not not. You can be humble and proud at the same time. You can be kind at the same time, but if people liked themselves, and didn't give a wit about what other people thought, didn't give it so much weight, and would share their story, I find that most people, the vast majority of people. If you ask them about themselves, they'll tell you a story. And that story is mostly fiction. Because they've laden it with all kinds of stories that built up over the years, and they've swept a lot of the good under the rug, and they take themselves for granted. And it's it's not that what you're getting. If I ask if I asked other people tell me about someone. So that's nonfiction, I'm going to get the truth. They're going to tell me who they are, what the value of them is, you know, how they make them feel. They're going to tell me the stuff that matters. And I think that people hold themselves back as a result and they don't share their story as a result. And if they could just learn to be proud of who they are. Regardless, we all make mistakes. We've all got, you know, stories that Gosh, I'm embarrassed. I better be the first to share that story about me before someone else does whatever but I You know, like, growing up, a lot of it is about becoming the best version of yourself being okay with it, knowing everyday you can make your you know, you can strive to be better not than your competition or someone else but better than yourself. Right, a better version of yourself. I don't know, I just, I think I think that sort of, I'm not articulating it well, but that essential freedom to be who you are, and do what you what you care about. Behave toward people in a way that makes you sleep well at night. If you do those things. I think that's what a successful life looks like.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:45
Not and I love what you just said, not a successful career, but a successful life. And that's a very important distinction. So a lot of times, filmmakers and swimmers are so caught up into there. I'm only a screenwriter, I'm only a filmmaker. But at the end of the day, like, you know, you're also a human being your father, your wife, your wife, your husband, your a son or daughter, your other things besides your occupation. And that took me a long time to like when I was younger, I only identify myself as a filmmaker. And the moment that that didn't go well, in my life, my life was over. Because I gave so much power to these people I was meeting that could give me the you know, like, why aren't you Why aren't you opening the door for them? Don't you understand that this is who I am. Without this. I am nothing. And it took me years to figure out that like, Oh, I'm so much more than just a filmmaker. It's part of me, it's part of who I am. But it's so much. And that was a very, I just wanted to point that out. Because that's such an important lesson for people listening to understand is like you will not you are not, you're not what you do. You are who you are. And there's a very big difference in that you agree.

Gary Goldstein 1:11:55
1,000% You know, it's interesting, I had an amazing dad. He he was nothing if not a people person. And he had no filters at all. He wasn't a particularly he didn't he did he did. He did well in life. We weren't rich, but he you know, we weren't struggling. And but from history that he just he couldn't he literally didn't see someone station in life. He didn't see what car they drove, he didn't see much of anything about them other than and when you spoke with him, you felt like you were the only person that he was speaking to really truly he was like, you were special. And, you know, I think we you know, that's that's some of that's a bit generational and some of it's just individual and but I think that I lost my thread, there was something I've you said a minute ago, that I wanted to get back to,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:52
we'll come to me, if you're not who you are, but what not what you are, but what you are what you do, but who you are. Yeah,

Gary Goldstein 1:13:01
I mean, yes. I don't know. It's like, trust yourself. Share yourself with other people, you know, exactly. I, when I was when it when I was watching my dad, I guess the point I was trying to make is that, you know, there was a certain point that I recognized as I started to get out of my own, like when I went to college and beyond, right? That, gosh, what, what is what's the best part of this experience of being out in the world on my own. And the best part of it was meaning other people, you know, and like creating this sort of World of, and I at some point, I coined a phrase for myself, I coined a phrase, which is that whatever I'm doing, whatever I'm busy doing, really, the underlying mission statement here is harvest genius. So if you if, you know, like if I read a book by a great author, I wanted to track I want to stock that person. If I you know, like, if I went to a lab, and someone was speaking and they were impressed, I'm gonna, I'm gonna get in touch with them. I'm gonna walk up to the stage, I'm gonna get their number, I'm gonna do whatever it takes. Like, I didn't care about what walk of life they were in, I cared about whatever I thought was the best of humanity. Like I want good people in my life. So to this day, I've got tons of friends who have nothing whatsoever to do with film or television. And, and I think that I'm a lot richer for it. But it also keeps you a little bit balanced because Hollywood, there is that sort of almost vacuum that sucks you in a vortex, if you will, that sort of energy that says we are all consuming, we're inward facing. Like, I think you know that I won't tell who but there was a story years ago about a big big name producer who went on holiday and he went alone at a family but for some reason he was going on and he went somewhere and wherever he went when he And they didn't know who he was. And that vacation was supposed to be like a 10 day vacation that he was home in two days. And, and he because he could not bear that he didn't get reflected back to him who he was. Wow. Right. Like, how, how sad is that? Oh, I mean, this is a guy who would buy and sell companies who could, you know, he was like a big deal. But, you know, it's like, yeah, be be, you know, like, beyond plant yourself on terra firma and the terra firma isn't. It's not got the name Hollywood on it. Right? It's

Alex Ferrari 1:15:43
bigger than that. And like you and like you said, how sad it was for that producer. But there's a lot of sad. A lot of dead souls in this business, a lot of sense of who, you know, my wife is like, when we first got to LA, my wife refused after like, two or three of them. She's like, I can't go to any more parties with you. Because all people want to talk about is the business like, I want to I want to have a human conversation. I'm like, okay, we're in Hollywood. This is what we do here. And I was so excited. Because I was coming from Florida. I was like, I yes, I want to talk about the business all the time, because I never had a chance to do that before. And she's like, now, I wanted to have a human conversation with another human being. But everybody you meet is just all about, what Who are you? What can you do for me? And you see it and you see it at these parties do sometimes you're like, what do you do? Are you okay? You can't do it for me, and I'll walk away, and then walk away from you. And you're like, wow, like, you know, let's say if unless they see some sort of value. They don't even waste their time with you. Because they're hunting. They're like, they're like a wolf pack. Trying to find people to help them. It's just It's a sad, it's a sad way of doing things, but it's rather women. Now, last question, last question. Three of your favorite films of all time.

Gary Goldstein 1:16:56
Oh, my God. That's so unfair. People ask that question. So tough. Look, I grew up on the films of you know, the thing that made me fall in love and want to be down here with the films of the 70s. Right? Scorsese is a early Coppola, you know, I mean, on and on and on. I mean, it's like this kaleidoscope of, you know, Easy Rider and five easy pieces. But I also love the old films. I love the films like you know, Bo Garten McCall and Lauren Bacall, I love you know, like I come from to sort of timeframes. But I would say, I'm going to come up with some crazy like, probably once you want to, like I love the epic storytelling of David's lean. course. I loved the storytelling, a Sergio Leone fell. Did you know I mean, those are some of the guys that I would have to say, man. I don't know how you get from here to there.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:02
Like, once upon a time, in the West, once upon a time,

Gary Goldstein 1:18:07
once upon a time, and how did you know? Because once upon a time in the West was actually the film. I was with a bunch of buddies. I was at UC Berkeley, and one of my guys he was a poet and a long haired coupe called dude. And he said, Let's get out of here, I suppose finals next week. He said, Yeah, that's a good reason to leave. Let's go and we're going to hitchhike down to LA. Whatever the story was, it's like, Okay, fine. Let's go. So we went. Let's just say there might have been some illicit substances involved when when we were down there, Sophos? I know, and we decided in that condition that we were going to go to Disneyland because it was such a logical choice. And well, you know, the Disneyland had a lot of very large big boned crew cutted walkie talkie blue blazer, gentlemen. Who were the the guards of the castle. And they saw us coming a mile away. You know, our sandals, long hair hippie outfit, and like, clearly not, you know, entirely sober. And they wouldn't let us in. Well, long story short, what happened was we got we all pile into a car and go, bummer, man, you know. We take a and we're driving along and we see a movie theater we got That's it? We're gonna go see a movie. We sit in the front row high as a kite and staring up at this massive screen and what are we watching? Once upon a time with the West. I mean, that that that film is beyond genius. What's it certainly genius. I mean, what he was able to put but that's also said that first opening sequence. Yeah. The close ups of the cast.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:58
Yeah, you don't you there's no There's no dialogue for the first like eight minutes of the movie. And you're just like this. You're just sitting there like, Oh my god, it's just music and shot. And he's telling us the gun barrel with the fly. everyone listening after you're done with this podcast, please go watch once upon a time in the West, you won't be sorry. I mean, and then and then watch the rest of the man without men with no name trilogy. you'll, you'll enjoy.

Gary Goldstein 1:20:26
Man, you can watch the third man. The quiet man with john Florida marine O'Hara. Not bad.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:33
Not bad. Not bad. Not bad. Yeah, there's, I mean, I always asked that question, because, you know, I like putting my guests on the spot because everyone's like, Oh, come on. I can't I can't, I guess. But it's I always loved having these conversations, because we kind of go down different roads and like, and that's always fun. Because, you know, I always get, you know, the godfathers, obviously. And you know, there's Scorsese and Spielberg stuff. But then every once in a while, you get these kind of like, out of left field conversations. And once upon a time, there was obviously the message not been on has not in 600 episodes, not one of the ones that popped up all the time. It's not one of those automatics. But it should be because it's, it's just, it's just really, it's just really. Yeah, but bigger. It has been a pleasure talking to you, man. It has been a real honor. And I know we can keep going for at least another two or three hours. We could break the record, but I think we'll stop. We'll figure it out

Gary Goldstein 1:21:31
Alex, you're a total joy. I love Listen, I love what you're doing. And I love this conversation. And I know we've only just met but I hope to continue the conversation down the road.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:43
Absolutely . Thank you.

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IFH 483: Exploring the Actor’s Process – Inside His Greatest Roles with Edward James Olmos


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Our guest today is 80s star, multiple-awards film, and theater actor, and activist, Edward James Olmos.

Olmos’s roles in films or TV shows like Stand and DeliverBattlestar Galactica, broadway musical and film Zoot SuitBlade Runner as detective Gaff, and many others are some of the most memorable of all time and he’s still dominating our screens.

While I could not resist talking about his iconic roles over several decades, we mainly discussed Olmos’ new must-see film, Chasing Wonders.

The picturesque Australian/British drama was the official selection at the Adelaide film festival in 2020. The beautiful cinematography of the film was shot over a five years period to authentically capture the coming of age story by screenwriterJudy MorrisChasing Wonders is a story of hope, possibility adventure, and overcoming your past – a heart-warming story of a young boy, who, encouraged by his grandfather (Olmos) to live a life of hope and possibility, takes off on the adventure of a lifetime to find the magical Emu Plains. His journey through the lush landscapes of Australia and Spain leads him to the heart of the human condition – learning to acknowledge the complexity of what comes before us but struggling not to be defined by the past.

The Hollywood Walk of Famer earned an Academy nomination for Best Actor in the 1988 drama, Stand and Deliver. He gave a stellar lead performance as Bolivian- American educator Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutiérrez.

Olmos filmography is quite extensive. Literally, the man has stayed booked and busy since 1974. He’s appeared in over 130 films, TV shows, and plays.

One of his outstanding roles is perhaps,  Lieutenant Martin Castillo in the Miami Vice (1984) as a series regular. A fan-favorite for sure.

But if we do talk about Lieutenant Castillo we must mention Olmos’ role as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner (1982) and a brief reprise in the sequel Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Gaff is the Los Angeles police officer who detains and escorts Deckard (Harrison Ford) throughout his mission as a ‘Blade Runner’ to track down bioengineered humanoids known as replicants and terminally “retire” them.

Olmos showed the world his versatility in both the Broadway play and film adaptation of the musical comedy, Zoot Suit. The story weaves the real-life events of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial – resulting in the racially fueled Zoot Suit Riots throughout Los Angeles. Olmos portrays El Pachuco, an idealized Zoot Suiter, who functions as narrator throughout the story and serves as Henry’s conscience in both adaptations.

Honestly, I could go on and on down Olmos’ filmography, but we can’t spotlight all of his other spectacular films right now. So, let’s get into this interview, shall we?

Don’t forget to click the links in the show notes to watch Chasing Wonders.

Enjoy my epic conversation with Edward James Olmos.

LINKS

SPONSORS

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