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IFH 582: How to Cast, Finance and Package an Indie Film with Courtney Lauren Penn

Courtney Lauren Penn co-founded and runs the multi-faceted production company Renegade Entertainment with her co-founder Thomas Jane. Courtney oversees content: producing film, series and hybrid new media projects alongside Jane. Renegade is a pioneering outfit that has been among the most active production labels since launching in late 2019. The company is active in several verticals – feature films, streaming and TV series, and comic book and graphic novel publishing and production.

Since its inception, Renegade has produced a slew of independent feature films, a short form comedy series, a television and streaming 8 episode series for the ABC in Australia and IMDBtv/Amazon alongside AGC Television, is currently in production on a comic book series THE LYCAN for ComiXology Originals at Amazon; 3 features the duo produced releasing in 2022 and in pre-production on several films for 2022.

The first film the duo executive produced was the western thriller THE LAST SON, starring Thomas Jane, Sam Worthington, Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly) (released December 2021), followed by horror comedy SLAYERS, starring Abigail Breslin, Thomas Jane and Malin Akerman (releasing September 2022). Courtney and Jane further produced DIG starring Emile Hirsche, Thomas Jane and Harlow Jane, bowing in June 2022, as well as MURDER AT YELLOWSTONE CITY, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Mustafa, and Thomas Jane, set to premiere June 24, 2022. The company just wrapped on ONE RANGER for Lionsgate in March 2022.

Among the myriad projects currently being developed by Courtney and Jane is the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s FROM A BUICK 8. The duo have a large slate including several best-selling novels they are in development on. Adopting a material-first, platform agnostic philosophy, Courtney embraces the growing disruption in the entertainment ecosystem and together with Jane have built a selective slate of compelling stories and edgy material with global commercial appeal. She takes a transmedia approach to cultivating IP and collaborating with gifted storytellers and partners to build out her company’s diverse content slate.

Courtney attended the University of Pennsylvania and subsequently studied Filmmaking and Direction at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts. She is a former National Chess Champion, Top 50 Women’s Chess Player, Visiting Committee Member of Hematologic Oncology at the Dana Farber Institute, Platinum Member of New York Women in Film & Television, Member of the Producers’ Council of the Producers Guild of America, and proud mother to her son. Courtney began her career in sell-side mergers and acquisitions and corporate restructuring on Wall Street.

Renegade participates annually in charitable giving to institutions who directly participate in “research to bedside” care for children with cancer and vulnerable children in high conflict zones. In March 2022, Courtney & Jaime King teamed up and used Instagram to promote the booking of AIRBNB’s in conflict zones in the Ukraine as a means of getting funds directly to the people mid-conflict.

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Courtney Lauren Penn 0:00
Think that the preparation was just in the practice and the exposure and getting used to it and being judged for being you know, woman Absolutely, or being, you know, presumptions made, of course and that works to your advantage or disadvantage.

Alex Ferrari 0:15
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Courtney Lauren Penn 1:08
I'm great. Alex, thank you for having me on the show been a big fan for a long time.

Alex Ferrari 1:13
Oh my god, thank you so much. That's extremely humbling. I always find It's so insane when people of your magnitude and and statute in the business say that to me, because I'm like, I don't know who's listening. But occasionally I'll get somebody's like, I've been listening forever. I'm like, what?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:29
All of those that have done the hustle appreciate the indie film hustle.

Alex Ferrari 1:35
I appreciate you coming on your partner in crime in a new era in your company renegade entertainment came on last last week. Mr. Thomas Jane, the incomparable Thomas Jane, which was an amazing conversation about about his perspective on producing and, and bankable actors and all this kind of stuff. So today, we want to get into the weeds about producing and working in the budget levels that you're working in, and the kind of projects you're working with Tom, and so on and so forth. But before we get into that, Why in God's green earth did you want to jump into this business?

Courtney Lauren Penn 2:09
It's a great question. Um, I was told not to for a really long time, which probably fueled my, my drive to do so. I, I grew up on the East Coast and played chess actually. So through chess, I met some really interesting filmmakers. Who are there's a really interesting camaraderie in the between the film and chess community, believe it or not, there's a lot of actors who play a lot of directors. There's something about the discipline and I got exposure in high school to a man named Josh Waitzkin, who was the subject of unity. You know Josh?

Alex Ferrari 2:50
I know, I know, I don't know him personally, but I know of him. Absolutely. He's an MMA or champion. Yeah, he's I read his book. It's amazing book, The Art of The Art of Learning. Oh, so amazing. I love that.

Courtney Lauren Penn 3:03
Okay, yes, I got to read one of them, because he was a good friend of mine. So he sent me the early drafts when he was like, pending and all that stuff. But I met Josh and I am a huge fan of Tim Ferriss and Tim and Josh are sort of very close. And their podcasts together are like, just there's some of the Gold Well, yeah, completely. Josh lives lives full, like he lives life, you know, incomplete. But anyway, I met him. And I was probably 10 or 11. I was a young chess player. And I met him at the time when all the hoopla of searching Bobby Fischer was sort of was sort of happening. And I watched this film, and I'd already played chess, but it was so incredible about this movie, was how if you play and if you're part of a family of chess players, or if you're around it, and you know how familiar the community requires you to be if you're a kid playing, it just got to the heart. And I think that that screenplay, and what that film accomplished, felt so deeply powerful and emotive, that I just remember thinking, that this crossover was really, really powerful. And then what that film did for the chess world was so incredible and powerful. And then through that, I met my first mentor, Josh Waitzkin. And, you know, and, you know, ultimately, you know, played chess, I always loved film and storytelling, and I was and I started writing short stories, but I never imagined I would end up creatively, sort of in the business. And I went to school, they were recruited me for chess, I got to go to school and play and all of that, and I was always writing. And then I ended up going to Wall Street and doing investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, which, you know, transactionally speaking, you know, very much like setting up and creating a film. Every film is a small business, as you know, very well, you know this better than anyone. And so you're starting a business from scratch. You're ramping it up And then you're selling it and parsing it off. And so it's sort of, you know, it was very similar to this transactional understanding that I got from m&a. So in terms of the structured finance side, I kind of got a lot of understanding basics from my role, my time in that world. And then I kind of followed my heart, I left banking, and I went and studied film at NYU and broke the news to my parents, I wasn't going to go to medical school for an MD MBA, I was going to go pursue film. And I, you know, I did, I just, I didn't really know anyone in the business at all, and sort of just went and started the learning about where the intersection between that creative process that happens over here, and then the business side that I had, you know, understood this entrepreneurial mindset of how you know, businesses start running it sold, where does where's that cross section, and I found independent film finance and started a little company and eventually, now we're here full fledged renegades.

Alex Ferrari 6:00
So you you jump, but you weren't you also did a little acting along the way.

Courtney Lauren Penn 6:04
No, no,

Alex Ferrari 6:06
You never did any acting. I saw your IMDB I saw you you played some parts?

Courtney Lauren Penn 6:12
No, no, I mean, because, um, we met Ron Howard through chess. And so Ron was gracious and super kind. And I became friendly with Bryce and Paige and actually taught page chess on occasion. And he invited us out to the movie set for Ed TV. And I was there sort of as a child, I was playing in a chess tournament nearby, and then the days off, we'd be going to set with Ron and it was a surreal experience as a kid, you know, watching we were walking through the streets of San Francisco. And we have people opening their windows and shouting down to them and following us on the street. And it was a really, it was the first time that I've walking with Woody Harrell, it was Woody Harrelson and Brian Grazer. And Ron and me and I just remember this weird, you know, moment of wow, this is what it's this is what that's like, this is what you know, when you're no longer have a private life. That's what this is, you know. And they were calling him by his name from the show, and it's by I'm blanking on it right now. Ron, when he was a kid

Alex Ferrari 7:17
OP OP,

Courtney Lauren Penn 7:18
OP, they were calling OP OP Yeah, that's what they were doing. And I and on and he was so gracious. But I just remember, it made a huge imprint. And what what really was interesting is because Ron Howard, to me was just this really nice guy who had this fascinating job. And he was so sensitive and gentle. And he allowed us to come into his editing room, and he would show us how to craft a scene and cut a scene. And the art of it was such a beautiful thing. And he was so humble about it. And I couldn't connect that, you know, the cacophony of that public experience with the actual like, art, you know, how private the art form creation was, it was just, I'll never forget that experience I didn't run on that set was like, Hey, court, do you want to would you like to be in a scene, you know, so he put me in some, some scenes and you know, I was background or whatever. And then. And then recently, I did a scene with my son at the end of a film, and we my son and I, because I wanted to memorialize my son at such a young age in film. And Ryan Kuantan, the star of this movie called Section eight that has yet to come out. His entire journey is about the loss of his son. And so he gets into a bus at the end. And he sits in the back and he sees a young mother and her son kiss and it wraps his story in about and it's really, it's really sorry, you get teary eyed, Dizzy, but it was really powerful. So yeah, that was just something I wanted to do for me and my son.

Alex Ferrari 8:49
How you're fastened to your story is fascinating. Because you live in the world of chess, and I am a I wish I could play chess at the level that Josh and you guys play. I was Josh, you, and then I'm somewhere on the floor. But I'm fascinated with like, it's one of my searching for Bobby Fischer is one of my favorite movies of all time. I've seen that movie 1000 times. I am obsessed with Bobby Fischer in general, I saw the documentaries. Oh my god, the Queen's gambit. I couldn't just I mean, I'm, I love chess. And I love the idea of moving chess and thinking 50 steps ahead and all this kind of stuff. How did your training and chess help you navigate the sometimes treacherous world of filmmaking of the film industry, especially coming from a female perspective, which is, you know, not generally, you know, especially in the producer, female producers situation. There's not a lot of you. There more now than there were before but as you were coming up I'm sure that wasn't many Things that you could, like, speak to and talk to, and I've had a few on the show. But there, I can count them on one hand, as they were coming up, like, it was a tough situation. So how did chess prepare you for that?

Courtney Lauren Penn 10:11
You know what, I think you've kind of nailed it. Um, you know, there weren't that many women in chess. Now, there are so many more, you know, so when I started playing was the early 90s. So I remember playing in Washington Square Park, as Josh did, actually. And playing with the guys he used to, you know, he used to just be chess. And that's where I, and I remember being this, you know, young girl, and then it was just, you know, they would come around, you know, all the guys in the park. And they would say, this girl, she's playing, you know, Can she really play and, you know, okay, you know, I, I started to do better and better, and I did win, but there was a, you know, it wasn't the most common thing. And then I remember going to play in tournaments. You know, I did, I did play, you know, scholastic and traditional tournament. So I would play in New York at the Marshall Chess Club in the Manhattan chess club, and there were no women, there were no girls, there were about three, you know. And, you know, you're always playing against men. And I think that that's was very similar to, you know, investment banking was still pretty male dominated also. Then, when I was when I was in it, I think I was the only woman banker at my small firm, it was a boutique firm of less than, like, 15 people. I was the only, you know, on the banking team there was, and then going into film, same, same sort of idea. Now, there are many, many more women, but I think that the preparation was just in the practice and the exposure and getting used to it and being judged for being you know, woman, absolutely. Or being, you know, presumptions made, of course, and that works to your advantage or disadvantage. You know, it really does and on all in all spheres.

Alex Ferrari 12:07
So by the time you got to the film business, you were all tat between finance, chess, you were all had like, like dealing with this situation.

Courtney Lauren Penn 12:15
Yeah, I was, I was sort of accustomed to it. Although, you know, there is a significantly more cutthroat, as you know, there's more of a cutthroat world and film, unfortunately, and TV entertainment, you know, in general. And so I think people are so much when you're, when they meet you, they're so anxious to put you into a category.

Alex Ferrari 12:41
They have to put you in a box, immediately, like

Courtney Lauren Penn 12:43
They shake your hand and you're, you're in this, you're in the silo and, you know, they don't want to move you out of it. And it's and that's, that's one thing that's different. You know, in chess, if you beat it, if you beat you know, an older male Russian master, and everyone, you were at the tournament, you you own, that was your accomplishment, people looked, you know, recognized it,

Alex Ferrari 13:02
You know, what's funny, I had, and please forgive me for dropping a name. But when I had Jason Blum on the show, Jason is revolutionized Film, film finance. And his deal is obscene. And it's like, how he got what he did. And he said that he still is not respected in town, Tyler Perry, is still not respected for the insane things that he's done over in Georgia, and built his career, because he's not in a box that makes sense to anybody. So there's no respect in many ways to these, these, these kinds of people who have been able to do things completely outside the system, and able to do it. So you're right. And if they don't, they gotta put you in like, Okay, you're the girl producer. Okay, great. You're the Latino director. Great. You're the this. They can't just keep it open. Why is that you think?

Courtney Lauren Penn 13:56
I think that humans are predictability seeking machines. And I think, I think there's a, because of the business, because of the business is cutthroat mechanism. I think everyone went through it on their way up. So once they've reached a certain level, there's like a, just a, you know, well, this is how I was perceived. And so therefore, I will continue on that to protect sort of my my world I've carved out for myself, I think that's part of it. I've seen I've noticed a lot, that there's a lot of earnestness that you, you know, you come into this business with and you recognize it in others and over 15 years, you can recognize it maybe, maybe having become, you know, a little bit more embittered, you know, you can see that and then that in turn causes you know, changes in behavior. And so you kind of, you kind of have to keep that tension of, you know, you know, of of keeping your eye on the cries wanting to be productive, keeping good relationships, but also standing, you know, being able to stand up for yourself. And so it's a constant tension, you know this?

Alex Ferrari 15:12
No, it's It's insane. It's like this the pressure that is applied. Your the pressure you apply to yourself, first of all is one thing. You throw your own obstacles in front of yourself because of your own monkey brain and negative thoughts that you have in your own head. But then, the business just pound you like I was watching, I think was Dave Chappelle, who was on the actor studio. years ago,

Courtney Lauren Penn 15:36
That was a great actor studio.

Alex Ferrari 15:38
Isn't that amazing? And he's like, there are no weak people in our business. Like if you if I'm on this, if you're in this stage right now talking to you, James, there's nobody who's talking to you. That's weak. And I was like, it's like, you know what? He's right, it because to be able to achieve a certain level of success in this business, the amount that you need to the amount of punches that you need to take. And even if you achieve success early in life, like look at like, Josh, Josh, you know, he really was thrown into the spotlight at a very young age,

Courtney Lauren Penn 16:14
He did not like it.

Alex Ferrari 16:16
I know. He hated he hated it. But yet, there's still punches that come even at that level. I mean, you see children, child actors and people that start up. But I think that's the thing that a lot of filmmakers getting into the business and people trying to get into business. They don't are not aware of the amount of punishment that you will have to endure, to continue in this business. And the ones who adore the longest is not necessarily the most talented, right, the most moral or the nicest. It's, it's really, it's really a question of how much can you endure and I always use the Rocky Balboa quote from the front when he was talking to his son and Rocky Balboa. It's like, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. And that's, that's what this business is. It's like you're constantly getting punched. You're always being brought to your knees.

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:11
Oh, Joe Carnahan said it on your show. I think it's like running the gauntlet. You think you're gonna run that gauntlet and not catch some scars and horse like,

Alex Ferrari 17:19
Exactly.

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:21
He visually got it. Absolutely. I love that. I love I love Joe. I've got you know, one of my favorite films, is the gray and one of the greats right?

Alex Ferrari 17:33
Oh, amazing. Amazing. Like what it like it's Liam Neeson with glass wrapped around his fist fighting a wolf.

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:41
Thomas was supposed to do that show

Alex Ferrari 17:43
Was he? Wow!

Courtney Lauren Penn 17:46
He was supposed to play the role that I think Frank Grillo ended up playing. And it's like, you know, that funny funny world. But anyway, I love Joe and he's been in it and knows knows that. But you're right. And I think that you have to try to steal yourself. I know, I like the measurements, I'm always kind of taking is okay. This terrible, you know, thing happened or a punch was thrown to us your your turn of phrase on you? How are you going to let it impact you? You know, and so I think that you have to be so aware of how you let it impact you like eat there's things you know, you never you never pay that stuff forward. You know,

Alex Ferrari 18:24
You shouldn't you shouldn't

Courtney Lauren Penn 18:27
I see people who that does happen and you're and you kind of it's sad because you say oh, when they entered the business, they had this earnestness and now they've got caught up in the wounds of coming up, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:40
You know, it's, it's, it's, you know, and I that's what I do the show for really, is to really let everybody know like I always say most filmmakers don't even know they're in a ring, let alone in a fight. And then all of a sudden they just get punched out of nowhere the liquid that punch come from I thought we were in a nice you know, in a rosy field. I'm like no.

Courtney Lauren Penn 18:58
Your audience creative filmmakers, directors and writers are they are they find it producers,

Alex Ferrari 19:02
Everybody I've taught. It's fascinating, because I talk. I've, you know, in the business and I it's a small it's a small town. Everybody knows everybody. It really is. It's so true. So as I've been making friends over the years, I find out who listens to me. So like you, you know, I'm a fan. I'm like, great. Ed burns. been listening to me for years.

Courtney Lauren Penn 19:24
I'm Oh, really? Oh, that's so great.

Alex Ferrari 19:25
I'm like, why?

Courtney Lauren Penn 19:27
Indie creators Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 19:28
So there's producers, there's financiers that reached out to me, there's distributors who reach out to me. So everybody from every aspect of the business, either listens to the show, or watches the show, there's a segment represented in it. So it's not specifically just creative. It's because we, we talk about creative, especially when we're talking to you know, certain directors about the craft and stuff, but really, it's about the business, about how to succeed how to break through your own imposter syndrome, which we all have and, you know, in listening to journeys of everybody and I try to to humanize these giants in the business to like, you know, when you're talking to Joe Carnahan and Joe tells me the story of how he, you know, he left Mission Impossible three I'm like, what, like how that worked out and, and his whole story and like so it kind of humanizes him and lets everybody know what the realities of the business are because I never got that I had to learn it the hard way. You know, my first book was based on me almost making a $20 million movie for the mafia, when I was 26. So I have a lot of shrapnel along the way that I've picked up. And I wanted to, you know, kind of give that information out to the audience. And, you know, that's, that's the reason I do it. So anyway, but let's go back on track. So, when you're when you're producing, what do you look for in a director, because a lot of directors are delusional. And I was delusional as well. We think that, like, you know, we think that we're like, I, it's my genius, when are they going to recognize my genius? What are the traits that you look for in a director that you're going to help produce a film for?

Courtney Lauren Penn 21:10
Oh, let's see. It depends if you're talking about film or TV. So, you know, luckily, we've we're, so we're sort of in several, you know, production categories, where we're, you know, doing TV and streaming series. And then we're also doing, you know, independent film. And we're also we're in a, we're in a few categories. So on the film side, you know, well, on the TV side, it's interesting, because you have this really interesting tension, again, between whether it's a showrunner, who is known for being, you know, an incredible director as a standalone, and then you work with, you know, show runners who can support sort of their vision, or it's the showrunner, who is the whole thing, you know, who sort of is in the writers room is also going to direct at least two of the eight episodes, if it's eight, you know, and is rotating with credit with the writers, you know, and that's sort of like a completely different beast. So it really depends on what on the TV side, like, where the investment on from intellectual property development it's coming from. And I mean, I mean that creatively, not just financially, so. So we have a we have a book that we've optioned from Stephen King that we're in development on called from a Buick eight. And for us, looking for the partners to crack it, we actually sort of went for a tastemaker filmmaker, who's more he's a he's a writer, director. But he, he's happy to direct this more, and let to really, really well known writers write the whole thing. And so we So we approached it from how are we going to approach the whole series? You know, do we want to find the one guy that showrunner that and that certain network loves, and that he's going to take charge ownership of the whole thing, and we're going to kind of be a part of that are we going to piece this one together, which opens up the world of directors in a more open way. And so it's very specific to what the IP is, and where you were, how you want it to live, ultimately, on the film side, you know, we get all kinds of packages that come to us, sometimes the directors on a script and approaches us, sometimes we're developing a script from the ground up, and then we're gonna go look for a director. And that takes that's quite a process. You know, I mean, sometimes it happens very easily and quickly. And then sometimes you're still looking, there's a couple of projects that we've been looking for a year for the right creative partner, as a director, and we're looking for someone, you know, bit, not just genre, but also wants to get into the weeds in the trenches and wants to either make it at a certain budget level and, you know, and then, you know, so it is, I'd say that navigating that and finding the right director is one of the hardest parts of producing.

Alex Ferrari 24:15
What advice would what advice do you wish someone would have given you about being a producer in Hollywood?

Courtney Lauren Penn 24:23
Be skeptical. Great advice. Abb skeptical, because I've had so many people offer to you know, help board say they were going to help and the motivations you know, are not what you would hope that they are. And I mean this for men and women. This is a this is a universal blanket truth. I I also believe and I believe in not becoming in bittered, which takes hard work so work there is I sort of employ the Tim Ferriss and Josh is like they have a great conversation that I think was very helpful to me as a producer, their conversation about Josh's trainer. For his type questions, championships, I forgot his name, but he's, he's a legend. He's like live streams, his training sessions.

Alex Ferrari 25:23
And it was never it was not push hand. It's the other one. Got Brazilian jujitsu. Okay, yeah, he live streams, he live streams, his fights and his practices so his opponents can see all of his techniques.

Courtney Lauren Penn 25:35
Yes. And Tim says, I will help anyone and I apologize, my cat is going to just sort of arrive here in my lap, that he's I will help anyone and give them the tips that I wish I had when I was creating my four hour workweek when I was creating this. And I'll just, I'll just give it because if someone can hack it and do it better than me, I can maybe learn from them. So I think that being less precious, because you're going to meet so many people who are very precious. I think that if you try to fight to stay precious, I think you can lose yourself and become hardened. So I would say be healthily skeptical. And don't worry about being precious. Because there's a I mean, there's a few straight facts, right? I mean, a film makes money if you make it for, you know, for less than if you make it for less than what you're gonna sell it for, like, this isn't, you know, it's not rocket science, but people act in it. So, you know, actors values, like all that information is actually quite accessible. So I'm sort of always been an open book with my with my, with my knowledge, and so I think that that helps us all kind of get to a better place. So be skeptical of you know, of what, be skeptical, healthfully skeptical, heightened awareness, and then you know, don't be don't be, don't be so focused on being precious.

Alex Ferrari 27:06
You know, a lot of people I find that interesting, because in the film industry, there is that level of being precious with like, Oh, I know something that you don't and if I give it to you, you can overtake me, kind of attitude where the opposite happened to me, the second I started giving away all this information to people, doors started swinging open, and I get to talk to people like you now that I would have never, if I would have just been a filmmaker trying to hustle it out like everybody else was, and I just started trying knocking on your door, I met you at a party or something, it'd be so much more difficult to sit down to have a conversation with you. But yet, now, I can have a conference and ask you any question I like about the business, any question I like about the business. And I benefit from it. And then I as well I recorded and now the rest of the world that's listening gets the benefit from it as well. So I found that they'd be the complete opposite. Just like the more you give, the more you connect with people, the more you're able to help other people. Yeah, some of its going to go off and be done. You know, people are not going to be nice about you know, holding on to it or something like that. That's just human nature. But a lot of people will will remember it and help you along the way and, and open doors for you.

Courtney Lauren Penn 28:19
And like you were saying earlier, that competitive advantage is like long term tenacity. You know, and so that's really the competitive advantage. You know, it's sort of like, oh, gosh, I don't want to bring up the trial. But Johnny Depp did say something really interesting the other day, he says, he said, lies, run a sprint, the truth runs a marathon. And I think that brilliant. That's great. Right? And that's that that goes to so many things, right? Everything from you know, personal conduct, professional conduct. And I think that that speaks to that openness, right? It's sort of like, if you've, you know, if you're willing and have the ability to, like stick it out and kind of stay tenacious. And you're able to the more I think you give, I really agree with you completely. The more that doors open, the more opportunity presents itself, and growth happens.

Alex Ferrari 29:18
Now, we all have been on set and the world feels like it's coming crashing down on you. You're you've lost location, the actor don't come out of the studio out of his trailer financing. You can't pay the crew that way because the finance that the money didn't drop that you were promised that was going to drop, whatever the scenario is, what was that worst day for you and how did you overcome it?

Courtney Lauren Penn 30:24
The worst day? Really when so when I first came into the business, I was sort of helping rescue films that that were had already started going. And my first big opportunity was to go and help up, helped clear up the finish out their production and help clean up a film that was already in bankruptcy. And because of my background in finance, the investor who I met, you know, said I really need help. I'm in over my head this film and several others are in bankruptcy, can you help me and it still needs to be finished. And it was a film called Gallo Walker's with Wesley Snipes. And Wes is actually a friend. And he is a terrific guy and I I just respect the heck out of him. He's G is unlimited talent. And he's like, got a very, very peaceful soul. But in the making of that movie. He had to fly back for legal reasons, most of the way through production to the United States. And that film was very compromised. As a result of producers poor conduct, fiscally. The challenges there, it was a really, it was pretty much everything that could go wrong on a movie set. Think the accountant died on set in production. I mean, it was Yeah, and I mean, I came in now I came in, after this all had happened. And this poor investor had millions of pounds invested in the film. And he said, You know, I don't know what to do. And he said, I've entered it into a bankruptcy proceeding to help clear up chain of title, what, what, you know, how, what can we do to maximize it? And I said, Okay, well, let's talk it through. Let's look at the legal agreements. What does bankruptcy in the UK look like? So in the process of, you know, cleaning all that up, we had to address the missing footage. We had to recut the film. We had to deal with existing sales and licensing agreements that are predicated upon the earlier producers and what they had papered. And it was, you know, there there were there were just some of the Titanic mammoth issues that, you know, I remember waking up one day and just thinking this film is never going to see the light of day. And, you know, we have to do the right thing for this main investor. And, you know, ultimately, sort of figured it out, started just making phone calls, looking at the paperwork, learning about contracts, got it resold to Lionsgate. It did it. But it was just I remember, there was just a cacophony of things that happened, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, sort of all in a day. And, and, you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:13
You got through it, though.

Courtney Lauren Penn 33:14
Yeah, you just, you go, okay. It's not gonna look like how we expected. But there's always a solution.

Alex Ferrari 33:22
I mean, I've been involved with projects that, you know, over, you know, a couple million dollar years.

Courtney Lauren Penn 33:28
I want to know, I mean,

Alex Ferrari 33:29
Well, my worst day was you know, almost making the movie for the mafia and you know, being stuck in that for a year and a half of my production office is being in a, in a race track and, and my life being threatened on a daily basis for about a year from a psychotic guy who was basically Joe Pesci from Goodfellas. So one day, he's once a moment, he's super, like the funniest wonderful guy in the world in this bipolar next second. He wants to he's threatening me to throw me in a ditch. And that's all great. But then I get flown out to LA and I meet the biggest movie stars in the world, the biggest power players. I'm at the Chateau Marmont, I'm at the ivy I'm doing all this, that, surviving that being that close to your dream at 26

Courtney Lauren Penn 34:10
Oh, wow. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 34:11
So sitting across the desk from Batman, I actually met one of the actors who played Batman, and him telling you I want to be in your movie do you want to sleep over tonight? So we can work on the script. So when you're that close, and then everything gets completely yanked away from you, the psychological trauma that took me two years to get out of it, literally, I almost went bankrupt. I just my whole life got destroyed. So that to me was the lowest point in my entire life. So that's the biggest everything else pales in comparison to that. So I think that was also a way the universe was like, let's give him like the most ridiculous situation up front. Because he's never going to run into something this bad again. And so for me, everything else is yeah, I've had problems and I've been part of projects that have you know, fallen around or the you know, the The set gets flipped during and flips it. And yeah, but then they lose their money and they have to wait a year and a half, two years looking for money to finish it in the in the footage is on my hard drive. And I'm doing all the posts on it. And then I'm like, there's some major stars in this movie, you guys get fined 100 grand a financier. So like, all sorts of crazy stories over the years. But yeah, that's my I mean, there's no way of I mean, I always tell people, when I when I wrote that book, and it came out, I tell people, if you want to know why, what what's the source of the grizzled voice? On the other end of this microphone, read the book, you'll understand

Courtney Lauren Penn 35:39
I sounded like when I was 26. And then hear me

Alex Ferrari 35:43
I really used to talk like this. But then. So you talk a lot about you came from the financing world. So financing is the the alchemy of our business, it is turning brick to gold, and you know, and turning led to gold, excuse me, what advice? How do you approach financing? What is needed in today's world, because financing five years ago, it's a lot different in financing in today's world pre and post COVID. How the landscape has changed as far as who's buying how much they're buying for how much more competition there is, is there as much money and finance available. That means that many people jumping in 21 jump into film, because the word is out? I mean, it's not the easiest ride for financier sometimes, unless you know what you're doing. Like yourself. Right. Right. So how do you so how do you how do you approach finance? And can you give any advice to to the people listening?

Courtney Lauren Penn 36:44
Yeah, you know, I think it depends if you are financing, or if you're looking for financing. Um, you know, and I would say that, if you're looking to finance a track record, doesn't necessarily, you know, mean that there's a financial track record. So, you know, you can have, you know, a track record as a producer of a lot of credits, but you know, what, with those films and how they look, you know, in the financial waterfall might be different. Or on the other hand, you might, you know, have done very well as a producer by helping investors find pieces of films, and that have been brought a wonderful return, and it may not be the top tier credit on the movie. So I mean, I know that, you know, I had, I had raised money, and we did, like revolving credit of around, you know, between six and 10 million revolving sort of senior debt, and it was secured monies. And we did really well with that model. While you know, this was in the post 2011 era. So before, again, the streamers came in, and, you know, film became international sales, were, you know, deeply impacted by the advent of more upfront, just transactional buy outs from the streamers, you know, and TV, you know, purchasing prices fell internationally. And so, you know, you're you were starting to deal with margins for sales that were just more and more compressed. So your financial models just look different. And I think I think that if you're looking to raise money, and you're looking to finance film, in this current marketplace, I think you have to just be much more on the dime in terms of what the market is right now. Because it is different for now than it was three months ago. And it's gonna be very different at this upcoming can that it will be in three months, because the pandemic really, really did impact things in a massive way. And so, you know, people really didn't know what was going to happen to TV, was there going to be any theatrics? At what point? So I think, I think you have to be so much more nimble for each project. And you have to be able to just say, you know, what, that film a few years ago would have been financed at six or 7 million and today, it's only three or four, can we really make this movie at that level? And if we can't, okay, you know, what, we have to maybe rethink it. So I think I think flexibility and you know, I I'm a big proponent of holding back domestic and not pre selling domestic as much as you can nowadays because I do find that if you you know what your minimum sale is. So truly, if you are just have someone financing against a minimum sale, there's there's tremendous upside, if you're working with trusted director, trusted filmmakers.

Alex Ferrari 39:40
So let me ask you a question then. So I wanted to jump into distribution because distribution is also another mythical land, land field are minefield of situations. And I've talked about distribution at nauseam on this show, because it's the one place that most filmmakers get taken advantage of You know, Hollywood accounting, all of this kind of stuff. And there's a lot of there's our good, there are good players out there. But I've, in my experience have discovered that more of more or less, more, there are more bad players or, you know, great players, and there are good players in the space. And I tried to warn filmmakers about what, what the marketplace is. And a lot of filmmakers come into the business today thinking it's 2005. And, you know, there's DVD pre sales, and those days are gone. And there's also the amount of competition that's out there for product. Right? I mean, there's just 10s of 1000s of features being thrown into the marketplace, some with major stars, you know, good stars, others that will never see a dime come back. How do you navigate the distribution fields? And I'm assuming that there's, I'm assuming before you answer, I'm assuming you've been taken advantage of once or twice along the way. Sure.

Courtney Lauren Penn 41:05
You know, I think, of course, I think I have never, ever, ever, ever provided a financial model to anyone for a project that involves any economics downstream of the initial mg for upfront sales. So I never ever provided a model that promised you know, that, even that, but even even when you know, I don't even model in what it looks like when let's say you're licensing the film for seven years domestic, your return in seven years could then be an additional X percent. Even though that that is there, I don't even don't even evaluate it, I don't discount it. I don't even I don't even do that I you know, for our purposes, budgeting is completely based off of just the upfront, mg. Or if you're able to say, this is our minimum sale, we do believe you can sell it up to this, here's the here's, here's the minimum, and here's the maximum. And I really like I always recommend holding back domestic if you can, if you again, if you understand that that's truly your minimum, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:14
So to explain to the people, so when you're saying that, because I know, some people might be confused by that, when you're saying the minimum. So let's say you made a movie for a million dollars. And, you know, you have Thomas in it, or something along, you know, a bankable actor, and you go, okay, based on the cast that we have, the genre that we have, and the director and other a couple a couple other elements, we can forecast that in the marketplace, we'll get an MG at the low end, maybe a 1.5. High and maybe three. And that is that's an MG, which is a minimum guarantee. So that's upfront check that they're going to give you then everything that comes afterwards, which is you know, after after they recoup that minimum guarantee, all the money that come afterwards, technically, you're supposed to get a split of. But a lot of times Hollywood accounting makes it that it's almost impossible. So the game that the the season producers make now is like all the money you're ever going to make. Generally speaking, there's exceptions, generally speaking, is the upfront cash, anything after that, you will probably not see a dime. Until the until until you get the movie back. And let's say seven years, and maybe you can re license it at that point.

Courtney Lauren Penn 43:28
Yeah. And that's just for the financial model. You know, and I just think that's the most straightforward way and then anything else is a bonus. I mean, if if you know we did you know, for gala walkers we did we did actually get overages from Lions Gate. We did. I think it's the only film we've ever received overages for

Alex Ferrari 43:47
Wow. That says that says a lot. Because you've you've made a few movies.

Courtney Lauren Penn 43:54
But you know what? We have three releasing this year. So but yeah, but I mean that they did provide, you know, we did get overdose from Lions Gate for gala walkers. And so you know, that was a happy surprise. But everything was based off of you know what, like, and then so any modeling that we do now for sales and for financing, absolutely just based off of like what I believe the true minimum and we'll actually get that information will work with we have wonderful sales partners that are really trusted. We have a great, our agencies wonderful. I love our team at paradigm. And you know, so between them, and our trusted sales partners that we work with, and the distributors who we actually, you know, cultivated and great relationships with some of the distributors that we you know, I've had had a wonderful experience with Redbox we did the last son of Isaac LeMay with red box and their marketing department and the way they ran the release of that film so impressed with with them. They're doing another film right now that Thomas is in called Vendetta. It's been it's been tremendous. So So, you know, I just think as you get more comfortable with certain distributors, I think, too, there's just that, you know, the ability to say, okay, you know, we have a film that we're looking at doing. Where would you guys feel comfortable, you know, oh, this is the range, it helps you back into your model sort of more.

Alex Ferrari 45:16
It's funny, because I've heard Redbox is one of the best kept secrets in distribution. I've heard nothing but good things about them. And the deals that they keep out, because they buy DVDs. Still,

Courtney Lauren Penn 45:30
I guess so. Yeah. Actually, yeah, actually.

Alex Ferrari 45:35
So it's still old school DVD. So like, if you get a full buy, it's a nice chunk of change, you know, for a smaller film, like, it's my personal

Courtney Lauren Penn 45:43
Yeah, I think that they're very fair with their evaluations, you know, because they, you know, and so, you know, we did our film with Machine Gun Kelly and Sam Worthington, and Thomas, and Heather Graham, I mean, just an incredible cast. And we shot that in the middle of the pandemic. And, you know, I was just, they did such a great job with the placement of it, and, and how they promoted it. And I, you know, and like I said, we're gonna be repeat business, I really, really enjoyed working with them. Not to say that I haven't been working with our other partners, shirt market, and so on. But just recently, I looking back at the last couple of years, I just, I was really, I was, you know, what it is to I was appreciative, because there's so much content, you know, in the world so much, that I think that it's really hard for all of these distributors to really even get their finger on the pulse of what's worth marketing and for how much and how long. And so, you know, in the old days, you know, executives would swear fealty to a project, right, and they Shepherd it through, and it was theirs. And they would make sure that it got the marketing that it deserved, and get the biggest push, and, you know, sort of that was part of their commitment and their job. And so now you have, you know, executives at the big streamers and big companies, they've got so many things that they're, that they've got in front of them, you know, it's it's overwhelming. And so, you know, it's when you see a company that has the capacity to focus marketing efforts behind, you know, a film that you really believe in, you know, it was really rewarding with with roadblocks.

Alex Ferrari 47:15
And I think that's one of the things that a cast a bankable star, or or bankable cast, does for distribution company, because they'll go, Well, we're gonna put money behind Thomas is moving because we know Thomas is gonna get X amount of because he's Thomas, or it's Danny Trejo or it's, you know, you can name a bunch of, you know, bankable stars. And we'll put money behind these these names, because, at minimum, we know that people will recognize it. And it's a low lower hanging fruit for the distributor, as opposed to the old school 90s way of like, let's take slacker and put it out into the theaters and see what happens. And the John Pearson, John Pearson times, you know, like all that kind of, you know, let's see what happens with that this clerks and this El Mariachi, like, those days are so gone, that so many filmmakers still hold on to those days. And that's not the reality of where we are right now. Which brings me to my next question, when you're putting together a package as a producer, not only how important is the cast, but can you express to the audience, how invaluable it is, depending on the budget, you're making $100,000 movie, you are a lot more free, you're making a $5 million movie, anything north of a million dollars, you you got to be very responsible with what you're doing. So cast is what is one of the ways you hedge your bets. So can you talk a little bit about that,

Courtney Lauren Penn 48:50
You know, it's become harder and harder, you know, margins are just more compressed, because the amount of content and because of the impact of the pandemic to use feel to split rights and get great split rights deals, international territories that aren't necessarily there, you know, in the same way that they were so, you know, you're you're much more beholden to understanding what you're putting who and who and what you're bringing together in the package for a film. So, you know, you're thinking you're thinking strategically for your for your casting, as well as creatively. I mean, it was it was a huge boon to have someone of the musical caliber and presence internationally Machine Gun Kelly and less than of Isaac LeMay. You know, he acts under the Nicholson Baker. But you know, because of his, his overall brand and presence, it was a very different sort of, you know, it was an outside of the box casting decision. And he worked so well, you know, he nailed the part he was phenomenal in the movie, but it wasn't it wasn't what you would it wasn't the first you know, instinctual thought maybe for casting. And so I think that you know, you when you're, when you when you're saying, Okay, I think you have to be much more strategic and think, you know, outside the box sometimes that when you're when you're looking to cast and justify certain budgets and also to think about other audiences and who, who transcends, you know, a certain box, if you will, you know, we're working with another an upcoming project, I can't say it hasn't been announced, but another musical icon, who's also an actor, and, you know, we're thrilled, because now she is a phenomenal actor, but she's also got this incredible presence on the international stage. And, you know, it's a really interesting opportunity. So I think you've got to, you've got to really just put things together. And it'd be a little bit mind bending, and how you, how you and how you approach it.

Alex Ferrari 50:55
Now, you know, you've made a bunch of movies over the years, and many of them are in the, you know, the action genre. There's a lot of testosterone in some of these films. How how I have to ask, I noticed, I have to ask this for the female producers and directors listening, how do you navigate a testosterone heavy set production, because I have to imagine that it comes with a different set of challenges, let's say, then, you know, a normal a normal scenario, you know, and I, because I'm just like, I that was the first thing that was so impressive about like, while she's made a lot of like, action packed, like really testosterone, film filled movies, I love this, hear her stories, and how she's able to do all of that, and have fun doing it and doing being successful at it.

Courtney Lauren Penn 51:50
So much fun. I've always loved action films, I was always a little bit of a tomboy. And but you know, I think that, though, I think that we can with anything, balance is wonderful. So when you have, you know, this heightened energy on set, and you've got, you know, horses and gunfire over here, and you've got, you know, these incredible titans of talent over there. And you're, I do think that there's a wonderful, I think, I think, I think women are really good producers, not that men and men are wonderful producers too. But I think women have that because they tend to be more mothering in some ways. And I think that they bring, like maybe maybe a level of like, more, a little bit of softness, or there's something you know, or a good ear, I just try to be a good ear, when there's when there's a problem. So, you know, there was one actor on a film who, you know, just sort of, he was shooting some very intense scenes. You know, I don't know if it was part of his part of his style. But he sort of was became very aggressive and loud. And he did not want to come out of his trailer after that moment and left the set. And I think that, I think that if you can, you know, remove ego, and remove impulse, and you can just try to connect to the person as to why, in the moment, this is happening, I think you can try to communicate. And I think that that's been really helpful on a number of the films I've been involved with, actually,

Alex Ferrari 53:31
Can you tell me about your new project with Thomas Jane Tropo. It's part of your new company, right? We're gonna get entertainment.

Courtney Lauren Penn 53:38
Yes. So it's our first series. And we're so lucky and happy. It's going to be sort of one of the first releases for Amazon's free V brand, which was formerly IMDb TV. And so we're, it's a Bosch spin off show and troppo are launching the retitled brand freebie on May 20. And it's been such an adventure because it came to us as a book and a draft of a pilot. And it was submitted to us a few years ago. And I read the, the draft of the pilot first. And I don't want to give a there's an opening sequence to the to the show, which I never even ever seen in film before. A little bit ala Jaws, opening of jaws, and I just remember being grabbed and reactive and responsive. And I read that pilot and I called Thomas. And I said, you know I'm going to read the book, but we need to we need to look at the whole project because we haven't seen something like this before. And read the book. I think that night did sit up all night reading it. It was called Crimson lake by Candice Fox and Candice is this incredible true crime writer called true crime but also fictional crime and she used to write with James Patterson and co author with him. And so she has this beautiful like metric and style of telling stories. It's so direct, but just so great and raw and cool. And you know, it's a woman writing cry. I mean, she just is just a great crime writer, I fell in love with the story of crimson Lake, and it's about this. It's about this American who's been in Sydney, he's a former detective, he ended up joining the force there, and ends up getting accused of a horrendous crime that he, you know, didn't seemingly commit. And sort of similar to the world that we're living in now where, like, if something is printed, or stated on Twitter, or the internet, or if someone prints something, it's just assumed to be true. Before you know, it's guilty until proven innocent. Now, and so we're seeing this play out right in front of us in many ways. And when I read this, this man's life was torn apart by an accusation, and an arrest gone wrong. And then his life was destroyed his marriage, he had a young daughter, his whole life falls apart. And he he goes up to North Queensland to escape everything and maybe it ended all and let's where we meet him, and we meet him in this strange place with wild creatures where everybody goes to kind of hide away from their, whatever they're trying to get away from. And it played like a drama, like a true detective style sort of drama. And, you know, having, you know, seen so many genre pictures get made and being a part of that, to see this great drama that was given the time to play out over eight episodes, and that we could come in and work with the writers and crack it and focus on TED and Amanda, the the woman who he meets and they get into this industry together up in Queensland, it was such a rare, really incredible experience and really rare. And so we got into it with AGC, television steward for this company and great group of executives there. And then Yolanda ranky, was brought on to show Ron and Jocelyn Morehouse directed the opening pilot episode. And we shot it in Australia during wild lockdowns. And that was a whole experience in and of itself and, you know, posted very quickly and and here we are. It's sort of like a pinch yourself moment.

Alex Ferrari 57:30
If you ask it's very jungle new war in the war, that's a new term. It's very jungle new war it's it's brilliantly done. And I suggest everybody listening definitely check it out on on freebie free V. on Amazon, just go on Amazon, look it up, you'll you'll find it there.

Courtney Lauren Penn 57:51
It'll be on it'll be on the banner, they'll be on a big banner.

Alex Ferrari 57:55
Now I have to ask. I didn't get to ask Thomas this. How did you two get together build renegade entertainment? Like, you know, after talking to him, and after talking to you, you guys have such different energies that I'm just curious how that meeting happened, and how you've been able to build this up?

Courtney Lauren Penn 58:12
It's actually a great story. It actually speaks to what if you're having a hard time in the business? What gravitational pull might keep you in it? So I've gone through some really tough stuff in the business like we all have. But Thomas, you know, there are so few people who are completely who they represent themselves to be. And Thomas Jane is one of those rare people who is who exactly who he is. And so I met I met him. It was really funny. Someone I was I was working on a project, gosh, back in 2012, you know, and it was a small film horror movie. And they see seed me on an email where they say, Oh, we're going to offer Thomas we want him to come in and play the father in this horror movie just for a day. And then, you know, I'll email him directly. And so they emailed him and they made the offer. And I think Thomas wrote back and you know, it's not for me, I don't want to play that that kind of thing because I have a young daughter and it was very personal to him, which I respected. He it was about young children in the woods being Trump Tara and he said no, not for me. I have a young daughter I want I can do it. And so for some reason I read this script, this Gothic prohibition era action script which we are we've been working on for a while and God when it finds the light it's an incredible it's such an incredible action piece. It's like John wicks that and prohibition era Chicago with an undead Al Capone it's amazing. Anyway. It's pretty it's such a cool it's just one of the one of my favorite projects. So, you know something about Tom, as I just I emailed it to him. And I said, TJ, on column TJ, I said, you know, dear Thomas, you know, we were part of this interaction over this other film, but neither of us ended up doing. Would you be interested in looking at a directing or looking at this film, it reminded me of the Punisher a little bit character. And he wrote back and he said, Yeah, come over for tea, and we'll talk about it at the house. And so, you know, I've never met Thomas. So I said, okay, okay. You know, he's so direct this way. And usually, you know, in the business, you as a woman, you wouldn't say yes, and go to anyone's house ever for a meeting. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:42
I was about I was about to say that was didn't sound on paper. This is not it's not going well.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:00:47
No, no, exactly. I, you know, I said, I don't know him, you know, so I, I got a friend of mine, who had met with him before and said, He's really nice. I said, Come with me, we'll go and we'll suss out the situation from the front door.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:03
So if he shows up in a robe, not happening,

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:01:06
I'm there with it with a tall man, you know. So, so because so went the doors wide open, you hear like operatic music playing, and there's Thomas holding cups of tea. And, you know, amazing and come on in. And so, you know, we sat down on his deck, my, my, you know, my friend, myself and him. And we talked about the project. And, you know, it was, he was just so brilliant. He's Encyclopedia of filmmaking. He is the most sincere guy, I really one of the most sincere people I've met in the business. And, you know, so we started talking about that project, and, you know, left, just kept in touch via email about the project. And then we started talking about it more and more, and then he went off to shoot predator, I think, something else and while he was up there shooting predators, and then the expanse, he and I would do phone calls, and we break down and everything was just about he was so invested in getting the character write the script, right. And so was I. And he and I, together, rewrote the script, over over a year and a half, and it was like, beat for beat. And we would, we would just get into it. And it was like the was, you know, what the purest creative experiences I had had in the business. And so ultimately, I'm running a little long on the story, but it's all good. Ultimately, when, you know, ultimately into in 2018, I ended up hospitalized for about four and a half months when I was pregnant with my son in a really difficult situation. And Thomas, and I, while I was going through that really terrifying time of not knowing what was gonna happen, and my son was born healthfully, and everything that he was there through that in the sense that he said, the projects were working on court, they will wait, there is nothing more important than what you're doing. And the team at paradigm said the same thing. And while I was there, going through this really deeply personal very difficult time, Thomas was just like, doesn't matter. We wait on all protocol projects we've been talking about till after, till this is all finished on its matters is this. And I've never seen anyone really do that, like actually take, you know, professional interests aside to respect, some, you know, and so that happened. And then while I was there in the hospital, a chaplain came in, I was going through with this, you know, and I had this Chaplain come in, and I just started talking to them about life and many different things. And the chaplain sat back and said to me, character is revealed in a storm. And I said, it is it is, and I said, and I my mind, I said, you never know who you're going to be on the other side of the storm, or who's going to be with you. And so, you know, when all of that resolved, we ended up creating a company called renegade you know, the following year. And the IP that we had talked about previously became formally optioned and part of our company and our logo is a horse sewist fashion from the thing that it is afraid of most you go through the fire and what happens if you become the fire, the character is revealed in the storm. And so Thomas and I, you know, have a you know, that deep, long standing kind of loyalty and trust that is really rare in the business.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
That's amazing. That's an amazing story. I was wondering what that logo was about. So thank you for sharing the story. Now I have a few questions. I asked all my guests. If you've listened to the show, you know what they are? What advice would you give a few Don't make you're trying to break into the business today?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:02
Director or producer,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:05
Any filmmaker dealer's choice.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:10
Stay curious. Reach out to as many people as possible and you will find the authentic person who does want to help you find your way. Don't stop.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:29
Sometimes people do not care who they hurt. And that can be one of the most profound disappointments both professionally and personally. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
That's a good that out of 600 plus episodes I've done that's I've never heard that answer before. I was a very good answer. Very true, though. Very, very true.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:05:51
That's that goes to that. Stay skeptical, but stay open.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:54
Right! Because if you lock yourself off, you can't move forward. Exactly. But if you're too open, you're gonna get a lot of punches are gonna come in. Lots and lots of them. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:08
Oh, okay. I was looking forward to this one. All right. Well, I already gave you one searching for Bobby Fisher, obviously. Casino Royale. So good. And actually Finding Neverland.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:24
Johnny's no Johnny movie. Yes, there was

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:27
Kate Winslet.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:28
And that's right. Kate was in that as well. It's, or it's my daughter's color rose.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:34
Yeah, I really I really wanted to, you know, Titanic, I mean, Gladiator and Titanic. And of course, Star Wars are like my three like, they changed my life. But these were more characters I wanted, you know, Finding Neverland never gets, you know, a shout out. And it was such a beautifully crafted film.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:50
And Casino Royale is the best James Bond movie ever made,

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:53
Ever ever made. You know? That script? Oh, my God.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:58
And that's the thing about and I always tell people like, why is that the best one is because that's the one that he became vulnerable. We just We he's not just a dude that sleeps with beautiful women and goes kills and saves the day like in the all the other ones. There was no character development. He never He never arct you never aren't.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:07:15
But you know, they gave the woman Eva Green. I mean, oh, so she's the most complex, one of the most complex, you know, women we've seen on screen, you know, and that's what allowed him to become vulnerable. And it's very easy. You know, the other night I had, I just, I felt I had this moment where I just needed to watch something that was made caught 510 years ago, but Skyfall you know, the making in the craftsmanship. That movie is so mind blowing. And I had to go back and watch it just to remind myself like what you know, the craftsmanship is because we're so busy chasing budgets down. You know, you just wanted to go and eat and it wasn't there's all that fancy CGI, it just got it Sam Mendes at his finest with with just the most incredible production. So

Alex Ferrari 1:08:08
When you give when you give masters a really good set of brushes and a great canvas, they can do some amazing things. I mean, really, really, Scott, you know, I don't care what anyone says, Yeah, anything he does I watch

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:08:20
Alien. You three movies have a fair to ask just three

Alex Ferrari 1:08:24
Throw Blade Runner in their matrix in their fight club. There's a bunch of them in there. As well, but listen Courtney it has been an absolute pleasure and honor speaking to you. I hope that our conversation has helped a few filmmakers out there, understand the business a little bit more. And thank you for the inspiration and for the films that you're making. So thank you so much for everything you're doing.

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:08:45
Thanks so much for having us and happy to answer your questions. Anytime.

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IFH 581: Screenwriting & Showrunning Friends and Grace & Frankie with Marta Kauffman

Marta Kauffman is an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning television writer, producer and showrunner behind the hit series Friends and Grace & Frankie. After graduating from Brandeis University, Kauffman got her big break alongside David Crane when their pilots Dream On (1990) and The Powers That Be (1992) were greenlit. The pair then launched Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions with Kevin Bright and became the trio that created the iconic sitcom Friends.

Marta’s expansive and successful career includes creator, director, EP and showrunner credits on a number of television series, films, digital series and projects. In 2015, Kauffman started her production company, Okay Goodnight, with industry veteran Robbie Tollin and Hannah KS Canter.

Their first series, Grace & Frankie, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston premiered on Netflix in 2015 and is Netflix’s longest-running original ever. The series has received multiple Emmy and SAG nominations and is premiering the final episodes of its seventh and last season later this year. In 2018, the company produced the documentary Seeing Allred, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is currently available on Netflix.

Kauffman has received a number of honors and awards including the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for lifetime achievement in television writing from the Writers Guild of America, the 2016 Outstanding Television Writer award at the 23rd annual Austin Film Festival & Screenwriters Conference, The Kieser Award at the 44th Annual Humanitas Awards, and Variety’s TV Producers Impact Report for consecutive years in 2019 and 2020. Okay Goodnight and Kauffman currently have numerous projects in various stages of development at multiple networks.

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show, Marta Kauffman. How you doin' Marta?

Marta Kauffman 0:14
I'm good. Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
Oh, my God, thank you so much for coming on the show. You know, I'm slightly geeking out because obviously I am of the generation of when Friends came about. So I was in I was there, I think I was their age when Friends was. So I'm about I'm a little, like, only few years younger than the cast. So I was really feeling it. And I always wondered, how can someone afford that apartment in New York, but we could get to that later. But, um, and I wanted to kind of go down the road of how you started, how did you get started in the business?

Marta Kauffman 0:53
Um, honestly, I started as an actor, and discovered when when there was nothing in college for undergraduates to act in David Crane, and I said, Well, let's write something that that we can act in. And very quickly realized that the writing was a lot more fun than the academic. Yes. And we wrote a musical. The following year, we wrote another musical that ended up off Broadway. And when that show happened, our theater agent at the time brought a woman named Nancy Josephson who said, Why aren't you two doing television? And we went, Oh. And she is to this day, still my television agent.

Alex Ferrari 1:45
That's amazing. That's amazing. So you, so Was there something that started you on the path of trying to even be in this ridiculous business that we call show business? What was the thing that kind of lit your fire?

Marta Kauffman 1:58
You know, I've always loved telling stories. I didn't growing up know exactly what that meant. But and it wasn't until I started studying theatre and writing myself that I sort of said, I There are stories I want to tell, there are things I want to say and things I want to do. And you know, my mother was a dancer. My father could play any instrument you put in front of them. So I grew up in a very creative household. So it as much as they didn't want me to go into the business. She told people for a long time that I was going to grow up and teach mentally handicapped people, and we told them forever, until I finally had to move to LA and said, You know, I'm really doing this and she was furious. But once we while we were still living in New York, we were going back and forth between LA and New York, and I had a baby at that time. David Crane was like the other parent. We do one rule, I couldn't nurse during a pitch. That was a decent rule. And we were writing stuff and nothing was happening, and nothing was happening. And then we got a meeting about dream on interest. And, you know, they were looking for writers to do something with these millions of, you know, tapes that they had of old TV shows, and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel talking to to, you know, musical theater writers. But we were able to come up with something and get it made.

Alex Ferrari 3:50
Right. Like it, it seemed like from your from your proof from your, your filmography that, I mean, it seemed pretty quickly you got something, you know, you got a pilot produced, like, which was Dream on. And, you know, and it seemed very, it seemed quick, but I always wanted to know, like, how did you get Dream on? Like, how, because there's not a lot of time between when you first got your first writing gig to being a showrunner like you jumped pretty quickly. And that generally doesn't happen in the business.

Marta Kauffman 4:25
You know, again, I have to thank Nancy Josephson for this, um, when when dreamin right before Drumond happened. We met with the agents, and she was there and they said, What do you want to do? And we said, we want to write our own show. And they said, no, no, you can't do that. Was miss you. You've got to work on somebody else's show. And my feeling was, I had a baby. If I'm going to be spending time away from my baby, I'm going to have it be my thing. And then dream on happened. We wrote a pilot, we shot the pilot. And we were trusted to run the show. But I, it's a miracle. I don't know who convinced who,

Alex Ferrari 5:22
Like, how does that happen? Like in? I mean, I don't want this everyone listening, you have to understand that this is not the normal route of things. You don't know young writers are not given shows to run. And that was an HBO show at the time, right? I think it might have had a little something to do with. Yeah, might have had some to do with H because it was HBO and HBO was in the wild, wild west at that time period. Is that a fair statement?

Marta Kauffman 5:44
Yes, it really was. We were one of their first shows. And I think they were more willing to take big swings, then then other places might have been a network would never have let us do this.

Alex Ferrari 5:57
No way. That's what Yes, that makes that makes a lot more sense. Now, you

Marta Kauffman 6:02
Also simultaneously, we got a job. And this is what brought us out to LA what we've just here working for Norman Lear's company developing TV. So that was also happening at the same time. Um, it was we did a suspend and extend thing, which means we suspended the contract for a little while. So we could do dream on an extended at that length of time. And then we had to do both a show for them. While we were doing Dream on. And David, nice to say we used to pass the baton on the freeway as we pass each other going to the other room.

Alex Ferrari 6:44
That's amazing. Now, your first writing gig was everything's relative. And that was the first as your first official writing gig as a writer in a room

Marta Kauffman 6:53
As a TV writer. Yeah. Well, I would say my first writing gig was we wrote questions for a game show.

Alex Ferrari 7:00
Okay. That's amazing.

Marta Kauffman 7:04
But we'll put that to the side. Fair enough. Yes, that was the first that was the first TV experience we have. So then as what was terrible,

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Which okay, so I wanted to get into that, was there a major lesson you picked up from being on that show as a young writer that you brought into the rest of your career?

Marta Kauffman 7:26
Um, well, one of the things we learned was, we want to do our own show, right? We were not in the room for the rewrite. And the rewrite was massive. And, you know, we didn't have the experience to understand exactly how this works, and that they're going to take it and put it in their own vernacular, you know, the way that their characters speak, which, you know, we watched the TV show was barely on the air for a minute before we did this. And it was a, an experience where there was very little communication, very little inclusion. So yeah, that was our first experience. Thanks for bringing it up.

Alex Ferrari 8:14
Anytime I'm trying to bring up the worst and the best of your past. Learning, I'm trying to I'm trying to pick up some learning tips along the way, some lessons that we could give to everybody. Now, what is with you and you and David, what is your writing process? Like? How do you start? You know, a show idea or have any kind of storytelling? What how do you start like literally your process? Do you wake up in the morning, every day? Go to the to the desk at eight o'clock, I'm there. How's it work?

Marta Kauffman 8:42
So that's a very interesting question. And my process has changed. Since you could no no longer writing together, I had to learn a whole new process, I used to say that I wrote out loud, because David was always at the keyboard. Got it, he won't be at the keyboard. And I had to learn that I wasn't going to be able to speak things out loud. So I started acting in my head. And what I discovered about the way I write is that I write in waves. I'll sit down, study a scene, do my vomit draft is what I call the first draft. Do that scene. And then I have to walk away for a little bit until the next wave comes and I know what the next scene is about. And I sort of let the first scene settle. And then let the second scene start to bubble up. And as soon as things start to turn, in my head, I jump back in and ride the next wave. Now sometimes it's more than one scene. But generally it's it's it's about riding waves as opposed to I'm picking these hours and these hours and these I leave my day open.

Alex Ferrari 9:57
So it just anytime that during the day you're Just like okay, Muse, I am here. Yep. Anytime you want to show up, it could be at eight in the morning, eight at night midnight whenever.

Marta Kauffman 10:08
Well, it's a little more disciplined than that, in that I, if I know today is a writing day? Sure, I'll sit down. And the reason I call it the vomit draft is I know that to get started, I just have to get words on paper,

Alex Ferrari 10:21
Right!

Marta Kauffman 10:23
However terrible they are. The words have to go on the paper. And once that starts, once you get past the blank page, then the waves start to come start coming. And it's it's not really I mean, yes, I do like to call my museum, but it's not a matter of I'm in the shower, for idea happens. You know, and I jump out and go sit right.

Alex Ferrari 10:50
I gotcha. I gotcha. Well, I always love asking this question to creators, you know, even when I write, there's that moment that, you know,

Marta Kauffman 10:59
Excuse me one second, I realized I didn't really answer your question.

Alex Ferrari 11:02
Okay. So go ahead. Oh, yeah. to process the process.

Marta Kauffman 11:05
Yeah, there's a little more about the process in terms of creating a new show, okay. There are a couple things. Sometimes there's IP, a book, an article or something. And those can be incredibly inspiring. We have a couple projects based on books, and they're very exciting. And and I hate to say this, but part of why they're so exciting is you don't have to start from scratch. You have a basic idea of characters, and perhaps the shape of a story. And yes, it has to change. And it's I'm not saying it's easy. But it's a different process than when you're doing a show from scratch. And you know, here's the logline ID and then you have to discover who each one of these characters is. And you have to discover what the story is. And it is a painstaking process. It's a painstaking process. But it's one that I mean, generally. It's one that I don't write down immediately. Okay, I percolate on it for a while.

Alex Ferrari 12:32
You let it simmer? You let it Yeah, you let it kind of, you know, satay in your head, if you will?

Marta Kauffman 12:37
Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I find that sometimes that the walking away, is when my brain is most productive.

Alex Ferrari 12:46
Agreed, agreed, 100%, it's sometimes you just gotta go for a walk, go take a shower, go into Drive, whatever that thing is for you. I always found it. And this was a question I was gonna ask you, with, with creators, especially writers, I've always found the moment that you're able to tap into the flow, huge that the wave, which is the first time I've ever heard it referred to as a wave that you kind of ride a wave of inspiration, or that the thing is coming through you. I always found it that we're almost conduits from something else. I don't know where it comes from whatever you want to call it. But writers generally, and I think most writers I've spoken to have agreed with me on this is that there's that moment in time where you, you're just writing and then you stop and you read it. Like who wrote that? Right? Do you find Do you find that happening to you? Like you kind of like in that flow? It's not all the time. Sometimes it's much harder than that normally. But you get those moments.

Marta Kauffman 13:40
I'm the pilot of friends was one of those moments.

Alex Ferrari 13:43
I imagine it is. Yeah.

Marta Kauffman 13:45
That I mean, and mainly because we always say it wrote itself. Right? We didn't do anything. We just put the words on the paper it just wrote itself.

Alex Ferrari 13:56
It's just something some from some other place it just kind of like you guys were chosen, like you two are going to do it and it just all of us. And I've heard that from from from creators who've created these amazing properties and television shows and movies that when it's when it's so well received around the world, it's generally like something that just kind of like, like Rocky and Stallone like when he wrote Rocky, he's like I wrote in three days. The rough, the first draft, right? It was just there. It just it was it's like who wrote that? And that's

Marta Kauffman 14:28
Like, it's a little bit like one of my favorite pieces of sculpture is I think it's called the slave. Okay. Um, and it's a big square piece of marble. And coming out of the marble is a figure. The bottom half of this figure is in that big block of marble Sure. It exists in there. You just have to click All right, rest of that sculpture is in there. So it you know, it sort of makes me wonder if what we're doing is knocking away removing all the stuff that gets in the way from the piece of work that you're trying to create.

Alex Ferrari 15:21
That's yeah, that's what it is. Is it? Is it the VINCI or Michelangelo? Who said that? I think one of the Michelangelo? Yeah. He said, That is like I just there was, I just took the David all the pieces that weren't the David. Which sounds so simple. It doesn't, yeah, just just write, it should be fine.

Marta Kauffman 15:41
No, and the other thing, I think that gets in the way for a lot of writers and we've spoken to writers about this, but I think many of us feel like fakes.

Alex Ferrari 15:54
Oh, imposter syndromes. Absolutely. Imposter syndrome. Oh, big time.

Marta Kauffman 15:58
It's a big thing. It's a big thing, which is what makes it so hard to face the blank page. So hard to look at your vomit draft. And I always said, I'm a Rewriter.

Alex Ferrari 16:15
But the match. But let me ask you a question to why. Why do you believe that is? Because you're absolutely right. By the way, me speaking to, I mean, Oscar winners and Emmy winners and everybody. They all you know, they all seem to have that even after they've won Oscars after they've won Emmys. They're super successful. And yet, every time they get onto the page, there's like, I feel like someone I've heard this, like, I feel someone's gonna come into the door and go, What are you doing security? Get him or her out of here? Like it's but it's a weird thing is that thing is just inherent in writers weren't artists in general, because it's not only writers directors feel the same way? Actors feel the same way. Why do you think that is?

Marta Kauffman 16:56
I think if you identify yourself as a writer, then your failures are more painful than you think like I failed as writer as opposed to well, I'm not really writer. So that's why that didn't work. Right? I think that's a little piece of it. Sure. I, another piece of it, is that, as artists, we strive for perfection, which we never achieve. We just want to make it better and better and better. And we, I think, come face to face with our limitations on every script. I mean, I watched friends, mainly, what I see are the things I wish we changed.

Alex Ferrari 17:49
But that's an artist. That's always the way it is.

Marta Kauffman 17:52
Right. Right. I think that's part of it. And I think, I mean, in my case, I actually had a teacher write on a paper, once that I was the least in my AP English. I was the least perceptive student she'd ever had. And like, never be a writer.

Alex Ferrari 18:10
Those are the best stories ever. I love those stories. But that but that that kind of fed the fire a bit I'm I'm imagining?

Marta Kauffman 18:17
Well, what I realized is, I can't write an essay. Right? I can't write an essay. I can write dialogue. But I cannot write it. I couldn't write a novel for I just couldn't do it. I write you know, dialogue. That's what I do. I act it out in my head. I play all the characters and, and I it's, you know, in shorter sentences, you know, I don't have to be descriptive. I have to be clever in how I do exposition, and stuff like that. So I think that's, that's certainly another piece of it for me. I haven't yet met a writer who doesn't feel the imposter syndrome.

Alex Ferrari 19:14
I really haven't either. Yeah, it's just it's not again, it's not just the writers I think directors to to. I mean, I mean, maybe James Cameron not but but even in the quiet moments of James's Mo, you know, I'm sure there was a moment of like, No, I don't think so. I think I think he's good. But most, but most mortals, most mortals do feel that especially as artists are concerned. Is there anything you wish you would have been? You wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career? And like Man, why didn't someone tell me this?

Marta Kauffman 19:56
There are a few things I wish someone had told me I wish someone had told me that there was going to be misogyny that I could do very little about.

Alex Ferrari 20:10
I can imagine.

Marta Kauffman 20:12
I wish someone had told me that. And and I faced it a lot. I'll tell you one story, we writing a movie. And I had a had to have a minor, benign tumor removed from my breast. And it was happening on the day that we were supposed to meet with the producer for whom we were writing this movie. And David sat down with this producer. And he said, I love the script. I wish it had more TNA. They said, By the way, where's Marta, and David Flint, she's having her tea operated on.

Alex Ferrari 20:54
I can imagine in the, you know, the 90s 80s and 90s, that, you know, there was no me to movement, there was no awareness, there was no real way there was nowhere for, for females and people of color to, there was no, there was nothing, you just had to deal with it and move forward.

Marta Kauffman 21:12
Didn't really have role models. I mean, mine was Rosemarie from the Van Dyke Show.

Alex Ferrari 21:17
Minds was Robert Rodriguez from El Mariachi is the first time I ever saw a Latino filmmaker. I mean, they had been before but Robert was the first guy I saw was like, Oh, my God, I can I can be a filmmaker, I can go out and do what I want to do it with, you know, I'm sure Spike Lee was for other people and it of a certain generation, you know, Melvin van Peebles, and the list goes on and on. But you didn't see a lot. Now. It's, I mean, so much more, there's so much more to be done. But there's so much more representation out there. There's so many more different stories from different perspectives, which are so important.

Marta Kauffman 21:56
I think there's finally an awareness that we need to do that, that all people need to tell their stories. Right. Right. Exactly. And that there's an audience for that.

Alex Ferrari 22:07
Oh, yes. Exactly. It because at the end of the day, it generally always, you know, I, I had a, I had when I came up in a video store, you know, in the 80s. In the 90s, I worked in a video store. And there was one moment where I, there was a, I had some had a racist situation happened with a customer. And they called up my Oh, my boss, and he was like, I can't believe this Latino kids telling me I'm late charges or something like this. And I was first time I'd ever really been, you know, in front of fronted with that. And he said, I'm going to tell you one lesson, he was a Jewish man. And he said, the only color that people care about is green. If you can make the money, it all goes out the window and a lot of ways. And I found that that's generally the way it works. In Hollywood specifically. Do you agree with that? Like they just like if you're making a lot of money for the company, or for the movie or for things? doors, the doors, but just I don't know, it's I don't know. I would just love to hear your opinion on that.

Marta Kauffman 23:12
Yes or no? Yes. And no, I mean, after, during friends, you know, David, and I would go to a meeting and there were certain men who would not look at me, in the meeting, walk straight to David. And I'd be sitting right there talking. They'd look at me when I talk, but then they would talk to David. Um,

Alex Ferrari 23:39
And you had the biggest show, you had the biggest show on television.

Marta Kauffman 23:43
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's it. It's gotten better. I have seen a real change since I started in this business in the 80s. Short Course. It's, it's been massive. And I still think we have a very long way to go. But I feel like finally people are paying attention. And I won't get things like we were pitching a movie where there were two women at the center of the movie. And the executive said to us, if it isn't Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep, you're not getting the movie made? Nobody wants to see a movie about two women unless it's those two.

Alex Ferrari 24:27
Even now, or

Marta Kauffman 24:28
This was maybe six or seven years ago?

Alex Ferrari 24:34
Still close enough. And that's, that's another thing I want people listening to understand. I mean, you've obviously had a lot of success in your career. It doesn't mean that you get to do whatever you want and that a lot of a lot of writers think that like oh, well you wrote friends and and Grace and Frankie you do what you basically all you do is make a phone call. You get something financed and you get something produced. I've talked to everybody I've talked to. I've talked to all these It's not the case, they all have to hustle, do it even even well into their 70s I've had people that like, yeah, I, I still lose jobs. I yeah, I still get rewritten.

Marta Kauffman 25:11
It's actually one of the pieces of advice I was going to say, young writers is you can never rest on your laurels ever, ever. Um, you know, because the next minute you're out there developing, and for whatever reason, just because you're an Oscar winner doesn't mean they're gonna buy the movie.

Alex Ferrari 25:32
Correct! Correct.

Marta Kauffman 25:34
I mean, we went through a year of Developer Summit this year, that was sheer hell, not the development part of it. But the part where, you know, the, just the pluses. Yes, that's what we want. And we write in the go, we don't want that anymore. The lion. We had quite a few of those kinds of experiences. We actually were writing something we pitched something about a pandemic. But it's not really about the pandemic. It's it. Anyway, it's based on a book. Sure. We pitched it right after the news from Wuhan came out. Oh, yeah, exactly. They bought it. We wrote it. And then we're like, yeah, yeah, we're not.

Alex Ferrari 26:27
There's nobody wants to watch a pandemic show. Nobody know.

Marta Kauffman 26:32
We're moving. That's another thing that happens is you get caught life life, the world where you have a great idea and you go pitch it and they go, Oh, we have an idea about brothers, even if they're completely different.

Alex Ferrari 26:45
Right! No, yeah, exactly. I'm assuming there were a lot of terrorist scripts were shelved after 911. Like,

Marta Kauffman 26:54
I That's true.

Alex Ferrari 26:55
I it's just it's, you know, it happens things happen in the world. And, and then also, sometimes the opposite happens. There's a script about something that all of a sudden you have Mandalorian. And like, Oh, we're looking for that. And it just happened to be the timing for it. So timing works.

Marta Kauffman 27:08
And there's also there's also a tendency to oh, that worked. Let's do more of that.

Alex Ferrari 27:18
Of course, that's Hollywood's bread and butter.

Marta Kauffman 27:22
Rather than let's find something new and fresh and exciting. Let's just do what's good. It's no, it's got to be Ted lasso.

Alex Ferrari 27:32
Oh, God. How many Ted lasses by the way, Ted last was absolutely phenomenal. I just finished binging it for the first time. Oh, it's wonderful. But now I'm sure how many Ted lasso rip offs are going to come up. I mean, I always I always go back to Pulp Fiction, how many Pulp Fiction rip offs were there, once Pulp Fiction came out, and there was like five or 10 movies that came out, they're all trying to be Pulp Fiction, because that's just the way Hollywood works. So I have to ask, so I have the question I've been wanting to ask you is how did you come up with friends? How did friends come to be? How did it get produced? How did someone say? Sure, six kids living in New York? I think you'll be okay. How, what's the story behind? I'm sure you've answered this question a couple times.

Marta Kauffman 28:15
Um, so basically, we had just finished doing Dream on, which was a show with a single lead, who had to be in every scene which was extremely difficult on him. Every scene he was in. So, David, and I said, the next thing we do is going to be an ensemble. Okay, we didn't want to do that. And we started developing some stuff. We did a couple of pilots that obviously didn't work out. And then we were doing this was our second year of development. And we started thinking about where we came from. We lived in New York, we were part of a group of six people who did everything together. In that case, four of them turned out to be gay, which was a shock honestly, at the time, who like really but we were extremely close. And then I was here in LA driving down the street and I saw a sign for insomnia cafe. And I thought, that's, that's where to go. You know, the place you go get coffee is the place to go talk and to be together and to you know, it just felt like besides the apartments, which you always see this is, this is the meeting place. This is the gathering place. We actually sold it to two places, ended up at NBC, obviously. And there was a period of time right after we did the pilot, where they said, you know, we're worried about doing a show about six young people, that's not going to get the audience except for young people. Can you bring in an older character? Maybe the guy who owns the coffee shop, the coffee house,

Alex Ferrari 30:35
Your Schneider?

Marta Kauffman 30:36
Yeah. We used to call him a cop. And we said, No, you don't need that. They are everything for each other. They are their community. They don't need to go to some old guy for advice, or women. They don't need to go to someone for advice, because they have each other. And they let us do it.

Alex Ferrari 31:09
In how so what point, you know, in the casting process that you go, Oh, we have something special here was it after the first pilot. I mean, that because that magic that that cast has, and I'm not I'm not saying anything revolutionary here. But the magic of the friends cast is so palpable, you could just say, you can sense it. When these six people got together, it just worked in a way that is unexplainable. Like you couldn't write your letter, write that as a story. It's, it's,

Marta Kauffman 31:41
You know, it was, it was not easy to cast with 140,000 people. I mean, it was it was not an issue. But at our first rehearsal, the first time all six of them are on stage together. I got to chill up my spine. And sort of when Holy shit,

Alex Ferrari 32:09
Really that early. You felt it

Marta Kauffman 32:11
It was the first time they were all on stage together.

Alex Ferrari 32:14
So you guys didn't do chemistry reads or anything like that. You just You just cast them individually, and then threw them together and what happened happened, essentially,

Marta Kauffman 32:24
Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Alchemy happened. That's gold. Yeah, little gold. And this is one of those cases the stars were aligned. Things would have been different. The stars were aligned.

Alex Ferrari 32:38
Yeah. Wasn't there like wasn't is it Jennifer that was on another show? Or was on another show? Yeah. And she had to get she had to get out. And I think I think I think it was in the reunion. I just saw that. She said, Yeah, yeah, go to that show. He'll get canceled after a year. Something like,

Marta Kauffman 32:55
That shows not gonna make you a star.

Alex Ferrari 32:57
That's the quote. That's the quote. Yeah, that's the story. That's like gonna make your star.

Marta Kauffman 33:00
Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 33:02
And, and that was the thing too, with that show with the characters that were also beautifully balanced. You know, you had the flighty one, you add the you know, the series, you know, the not as bright one, the two bright, like, you balanced the characters, I mean, just a balance that you and David were able to put together of the characters just on a character development standpoint. How did you develop each of those characters? Or did this cast bring in some flavors that you later added and developed more with him? Or did were they pretty fleshed out originally on paper?

Marta Kauffman 33:36
The answer is a little bit of both. Look, a character you write is one thing in your head. And then when an actor breathes life into it, they bring something to it. And it elevates it, especially with this past, they elevated everything. One example is we didn't originally write Joey as stupid. But he played it so well. That it just became part of who he was. And that was not in our initial description of him.

Alex Ferrari 34:13
So he wasn't originally the dim one. Correct! Yeah, but he was the actor. He was an actor.

Marta Kauffman 34:19
He was an actor.

Alex Ferrari 34:20
So brilliant. Dr. Jake Romano. I mean, oh, God did all those lines. I mean, there's so many. I mean, the list of quotable lines from that show. Were any of them ad libbed? Or were they all broken in a room with with the writers do they you can remember like, Yo, how you doing and all these kind of things like that.

Marta Kauffman 34:44
Well, we may have written how you doing but but the way he did it, right is what made it incredibly special. How you doing as a line is like whatever.

Alex Ferrari 34:55
How many people have said I mean, we say that, uh, how you doing? Yeah, yeah, but it's performing made it

Marta Kauffman 35:01
His performance made it.

Alex Ferrari 35:02
Yeah. And anytime you refer to that you never hear someone guide that line how you doing as how you do it like everyone does. Everyone does that. Right? And, and to find six characters, six actors who melded so beautifully together and stayed best friends really to this day. such good friends is almost unheard of in a series environment for 10 years without somebody wanting to kill somebody look as look like his family, we all get families or families we all have, you know, fights and things like that. But generally speaking, they all stayed together for the entire show. Ah, it's remarkable it is it is I don't remember another series that had this kind of ensemble. And the other thing that I found so fascinating about the show, is there really wasn't a breakout star. And I don't mean that in a bad way, because they all were breakout stars. And that's unheard of, you know, it's your experience as well.

Marta Kauffman 36:03
Yeah, in my experience as well. And you know, it was also when we cast it, we didn't want to cast a star, right? We didn't want someone who was going to pull all the attention towards themselves. You know, by an audience, we wanted six people who worked as a unit, who made the characters come to life. And who could, you know, hopefully meld? And you just won't know, you don't know until you do it. But but you know, it worked out.

Alex Ferrari 36:41
Yeah. Wow. And Courtney was the only to my knowledge was the only kind of known person at that time, because she had been, she had been, you know, into movies, and obviously the perspex thing, music video, and she'd been around for a little bit at that point, but she wasn't a star per se. She was a known actress. Right? What is it? Like? Can you discuss the process of breaking an episode in the friends writers room? Like how do you do from season one to like season eight? Like, what are the main differences from breaking that first season, as opposed to breaking the eighth or ninth or 10th season?

Marta Kauffman 37:19
Well, the biggest difference is in the first season, you're making the arcs, you're creating the relationships between people. By the time you get to the eighth season a you really know who they are, and be there are things in the works. So what starts to happen is, the show begins to tell you what the stories are. Interesting, you know that the show tells you which direction to go in, for example, our idea with Monica and Chandler was they have a one night stand, and then it gets really, really awkward. But the audience reaction when we shot it was so huge had to go. Wait a minute. What are they telling us? Yeah, and we had just switched courses. But we had to, you know, you have to be incredibly flexible along the way. That's number one. In terms of breaking a story. You know, it's a bunch of funny people sitting in the room going, either. You know, what might be funny. And then it's spitballing and spitballing and spitballing. And sometimes it's I gotta tell you what happened last weekend.

Alex Ferrari 38:42
Right! And they bring

Marta Kauffman 38:45
As an example, the Taylor's story. Joey and the Taylor.

Alex Ferrari 38:53
Oh, god, that was amazing. I remember. Yeah.

Marta Kauffman 38:56
True story.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
That's a true story? He went he went a little too far. And he's like, up in the ball. And you guys will it has to be Joey has this up first.

Marta Kauffman 39:09
Ofcourse he does.

Alex Ferrari 39:12
Yeah, so Yeah, cuz I remember when, I mean, look, I've seen the show. I've probably watched it a ton of times over the years from the first viewing and when it hit Netflix, I want to hit HBO Max and I just, you know, watch it. Now my kids watched it. My kids are I think when they start watching it, they shouldn't be watching because it's inappropriate, because they were eight. But we'd fast forward they couldn't get a lot of the references. But they would now even to this day, they'll see Jennifer Aniston somewhere like oh, there's Rachel or there's Joey or there's Chandler and they that's that's how they refer to the actors because they just that's all they know. it's generational. Now. It's like one of those things that will be brought along to other to generate and that doesn't happen very often in television.

Marta Kauffman 39:56
You know, I have a My youngest daughter is two 23 now but when she was 16 and the show went to Netflix, a friend of hers said, Have you heard about that new show called friends? They thought it was a period piece.

Alex Ferrari 40:16
Yeah, they thought like this is a great new show. And remember when I hit Netflix the millennials were just like, this is fantastic this this period piece show. They're talking about CDs and stuff is amazing. The phones were this big and they used to go someplace and sit down. It's amazing. It's I heard about that couldn't stop laughing when I heard that. It's, it's remarkable. I have do you have a favorite episode? I know. That's hard to say without the hundreds of episodes. Is there something is there one that you just like, that's the one that really did it for me.

Marta Kauffman 40:50
No, it's a little bit like saying Do you have a favorite child? But yes, I do. The episode with the game and Oh, yes. embryos, the empty embryos. When the other part is Phoebe is getting her eggs fertilized Wright Brothers. Of course. That's the other piece of the story that's in there.

Alex Ferrari 41:25
But it was the game it was you mean the game when they lost the apartment? Why? Oh, it's it's that's an amazing episode one of many. But that

Marta Kauffman 41:33
I love that episode. So much. I love it so much.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
It's It's It's perfection. I want to ask you.

Marta Kauffman 41:40
I love to. Um, but but that to me is that's just my favorite.

Alex Ferrari 41:45
Now, is there something that you look for specifically in a potential writer for one of your rooms?

Marta Kauffman 41:51
Yes.

Alex Ferrari 41:53
What is it?

Marta Kauffman 41:56
That I can be in a room with that person for 12 hours a day. No matter how good the writing is, if the person is obnoxious or too shy, or too shy, it's true, are afraid to talk. I won't hire that person. Look, you read a script, you respond to it or you don't? Correct. Part of what happens is as you start to put together a writer's room, you go alright, this person is really strong on story. This person's really good at jokes. So the script I read of that person may have been hilariously funny with not a great story, but that's okay. In a writers room.

Alex Ferrari 42:47
Right! You're taking the best pieces, you're taking the best pieces,

Marta Kauffman 42:51
Right! You want to balance you want to balance but I also feel that when people stay with the show, they start to you know, gain depth as writers of course, you know, and and learn and learn to strengthen their weaknesses and show their strengths.

Alex Ferrari 43:11
I mean, the best advice I've ever gotten for being in this business is don't be a dick. Best advice I've ever gotten, and it's and people are like, Oh, you've got to be super talented like, that helps. Don't be a dick. I promise you. You could be the best writer you could be the second coming of William Goldman. And if you are an ass and you can't work with them at any in any any field in our business grip. Gaffer DP director, writer. If you're hard to work with, in maybe you get in, I've always seen this too. Maybe your talent gets you in and then you become the dick. The moment you stumble, the second you stumble, you're gone. And yeah,

Marta Kauffman 44:01
We we and I feel that you're right. It's about the whole business. I mean, as a showrunner, one of my priorities is a happy set. Absolutely. A safe and happy set. And anybody who can't participate in that can't stay on the show. There's nobody else there's no yelling, period. End of story. You don't yell. Right. You know, there's an end there are ways it's being show runners sometimes it's like being a camp counselor. I'm not always but sometimes that is what it feels like when you're sort of supportive, supporting uplifting cheering on your cast and crew. To make them feel good about coming to work every day.

Alex Ferrari 44:58
It's not easy. A lot of people think I mean, look at Hollywood and being in the in the show business and, and television. It's fun. Don't get me wrong. And I know you know that as well. It's fun. But it's hard work you work 1218 hour days sometimes. Yeah, everyone's well compensated at all, that's all great and dandy, but at a certain point, it doesn't matter how many, how many dollars come into your checking account, it's still 18 hours, and you're still busting your your butt and you and I can't even imagine the prep the financial pressure of being a producer, on a show like that, you know, and because at a certain point was one of the most expensive shows on NBC, his roster at a certain point, you know, that we're making a lot of money with it as well. But that pressure as long as well as trying to be creative, as well as trying to keep a happy set. People don't think about things like that. But it is an immense amount of pressure. I can't even understand this point.

Marta Kauffman 45:45
It's true. It's a lot of pressure. It's enormous stress. But and I would say this to a young writer. We work too hard not to find joy in what we do. Great as a writer, if whatever you're working on doesn't speak to you. It's not going to come out well, and you're not going to be happy doing it. Absolutely. It's got to be something that you feel in your soul in your gut that this is something I have to write.

Alex Ferrari 46:24
Well, I have to tell you, my new obsession is Grayson, Frankie, and I, my wife and I watching it and I saw the trailer for it when it came out originally. And I jumped on. I think I jumped on Season One. I was an early adopter. And I was just sitting there going, how in God's green earth that this get made? I can't I'm so happy it did. On paper. It doesn't play well. But you know, you mean like, you know what I'm saying? Like, you know, it's it's something that you never see you never see people of that age. On on a show. Obviously, you I think you had the same luck that you had with Dream on. HBO was the Wild Wild West, I think Netflix was very much the wild, wild west. To a certain extent. It's still it's the wild west over there. And you pitch them the show. I'm so happy that it exists in the world. And we're obsessed with it, by the way. So thank you for making it. How did you how did Grace and Frankie come to be? How did that idea come to be? Because some of the ideas in that show are just wonderful

Marta Kauffman 47:30
Umm, well, it was kind of a fluke how it started. I had lunch with a woman named Marcy Ross, who was head of the television department at Sky dance. We'd known each other previously. And she said the Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin want to do TV. I thought she meant together. I called my agent and I said, Is it true? The Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin want to do a show together? She said, I don't know. I'll call you back. And 20 minutes later, she calls me back. And she says they do now.

Alex Ferrari 48:17
Because you were asking.

Marta Kauffman 48:19
Yeah. Well, and also because they hadn't thought about doing it together, you know, and it was like, their friends course, they were very excited about it. And then, you know, we knew certain things we knew we wanted it to be about what it is to be that age, sex and sexuality and friendship. And we have a few pads to it. And I was sitting in the car with my daughter who is now a VP of my company because she's so freaking good. And she's the one who said what if they are women who don't like each other? Their husbands work together in a law firm and the men fall in love and want to get married.

Alex Ferrari 49:08
She's the one that came up with that. What? Oh my god. What? That's amazing. And and the ketamine Martin and Sam it just

Marta Kauffman 49:21
And then it tell you Alex, there were days when you could do table reads. Look across the table, right. Am Waterston Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen, and I would go what is this real?

Alex Ferrari 49:46
It's remarkable and the topics Yeah, I mean, I've never seen a show like that because it's just something you never see characters of that age on on television as the main star, just just it doesn't happen. There's usually a side character But there's that then the topics they cover like you're talking sexuality, that's taboo. You don't talk about things like that. And then that they open up a vibrator company is just the most brilliant thing I've ever seen. And then the toilet thing and oh my god, it's just, every season keeps getting better.

Marta Kauffman 50:18
It was all for us about life starts at any age, right? Um, and also was a little bit about no one talks about Dr. vaginas but they're a real thing. Right about them and you know, on Netflix, you can talk about it.

Alex Ferrari 50:36
Right! This is not gonna happen on on on a network show. Guys, and fairly even not happened on any of the major networks. That's just not gonna happen. But, you know, by the way, did you I'm sure you've seen it at this point, the SNL wrap.

Marta Kauffman 50:52
Oh, my God. Oh my god. So it made us so happy. We watched it in the writers room, and we were just so happy.

Alex Ferrari 50:59
Oh, my God, Pete Davidson. It's just the it was the bet if anyone's not I'll put a link to it in the show notes. It is when I saw cuz I'm a fan of Saturday Night Live. So I was watching it. I'm like, are they? Are they doing a rap about Grayson, Frankie? This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. And that Jane and Lily showed up at the end

Marta Kauffman 51:16
I know it made us so happy. Made it.

Alex Ferrari 51:21
Yeah, it's not crossed over. Because that's the thing. It's because on paper. It's not a great pitch. Don't get me wrong. It's not a great pitch on paper. Because you're like, well, it's only going to it's earned this is what the studios would say it's only a certain demographics gonna watch us only an older generation. Is that kind of the generation that we're going after. But their biggest fan base is young millennials. Yeah. You know, and Gen X like myself and like and everyone in between because good story writing is good story. Good acting is good acting.

Marta Kauffman 51:51
Well, it's no similar to friends when they said, you know, you can't do a show about six young people right out we've always said and this was the case with Grayson, Frankie too. If the stories are identifiable, if you can connect with the characters and the stories or something you can empathize with, then it'll work. No matter how old they are.

Alex Ferrari 52:17
You're absolutely right. And in the you have the record now of the longest running show on Netflix. There is no other show. No other show that's ever done it and that was the thing in the wrap to I love that. It was like in the log is flicks. Again if on on on paper, you would have told me Oh, yeah, this is also going to be the longest running show on Netflix as Netflix is infamous for more than two seasons, you're out. Right to three seasons, you're out if you can make it the four or five my god you're at this point your Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. You know, but this little show and it's that little bit this little show about you know, older people talk about Dr. vaginas and vibrate. That's now longest running show on Netflix. I mean, do you do you believe? I mean, I think you said it already is like it identifies and crosses the generations. And that's why I think people connect with it so much. And I mean, obviously it's the performances as well and Jane and Lillian Martin and Sam are just their magic as well. You've you've hit you've hit the lottery twice. I did it.

Marta Kauffman 53:27
I'm very grateful and very lucky.

Alex Ferrari 53:33
So I have to ask you I heard the rumors. is Dolly showing up? Dolly is it is official out there.

Marta Kauffman 53:42
Yes.

Alex Ferrari 53:44
Because on Season Three I'm like when it's Dolly gonna show up as a cameo. Jesus, somebody bring Dolly back, please. When I see the three of them again, because I'm of a generation that remembers nine to five I love nine to five I watched it. Oh god so many times. It just was one of those movies at that time. That movie was a monster hit. Wow. She was it was in the zeitgeist at that moment in time. And the three of them are so magical together. I cannot wait to see that. I'm just dying to see what you guys do with them. And when our winners show up with the final episodes because I already binged the second you teased out a few episodes

Marta Kauffman 54:26
I don't have an official date yet. Okay. I don't have an official date yet hopefully in the next I think it's gonna be in the next few months.

Alex Ferrari 54:37
Next few months so yeah, as this we're recording this in January so hopefully in April sometime last what I'm hoping for Yeah, hopefully around April sometime it'll come out and how many episodes are left? Oh 12 total?

Marta Kauffman 54:52
12. Left. We were six. It was 16 episodes.

Alex Ferrari 54:57
Oh, that amazing you got extra because there's normally what was The normal episode run

Marta Kauffman 55:01
13

Alex Ferrari 55:02
So you got three. So good. I'm so excited. I cannot wait to watch Grayson Frankie again, see where this where this this start? I'm no seriously it's like there's very few shows that I get obsessed about Grayson Frankie. I'm also obsessed about Cobra Kai because it's a Cobrar Kai. So, but is is, I don't get obsessed by shows. Oh, Yellowstone too. I don't know if you've seen Yellowstone?

Marta Kauffman 55:28
I haven't yet but I am. I'm having my knee replaced. I'm saving it for that.

Alex Ferrari 55:31
Oh, it's off. Taylor is off. It's amazing, amazing writing. Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions I ask all my my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Marta Kauffman 55:44
Well, a couple things. One is, before you take scripts out there, get some friends together, read it out loud. So that you know that you have a product that is acceptable. And then I would say and I know, there's a lot of controversy about this. Um, I think agents can be extremely useful. I happen to have had a very good experience with mine. Other people have had good experiences. Some have not I understand that. But I think getting an agent is really important. And that's, by the way, one of the ways you do that is knowing other writers who can say hey, I met this person who has a great script and to do that. I really think getting into a writers room being a writer's assistant starters, a writers pa if you have to be a writer's assistant, we had every writer's assistant we had except for one ended up being a writer on the show.

Alex Ferrari 57:04
On what show Grace and Frankie are friends are both Chris and Frank.

Marta Kauffman 57:08
Quite a few on friends as well. But on Grayson, Frankie everyone, really? That's awesome. A woman who started as a writers pa ended up as a producer in our last season.

Alex Ferrari 57:20
How does and I have to ask how do you go from writers PA to producer in the scope of the series? Like why so people listening can understand what she did that.

Marta Kauffman 57:32
Well, in my room, I run a very democratic room. Okay. And if a writer's assistant has a joke to pitch, I want to hear it. Okay. Um, I, you know, I want to hear what they have to say for writers assistant has an idea. The room may not necessarily be the right place to do it, but then pull me aside and say, you know, I was thinking, what about this? And then we can go back in the room and I can say, Brooke just had this amazing idea.

Alex Ferrari 58:02
Because there is that there is a politics of the room that that that's not spoken about a lot is like how to, you know, especially there's a showrunner side of the of the room. But then there's the writer side and how to politically do it without stepping on toes and egos and things like that?

Marta Kauffman 58:17
Well, it depends on the showrunner. Exactly. It depends on the showrunner if you have a showrunner with an ego i It's tough, but you still would learn a lot in a writers room. And, and start to get to know writers. I mean, I a lot of my writers were working with the writers assistants reading their scripts, giving them advice.

Alex Ferrari 58:39
That's great mentoring them almost.

Marta Kauffman 58:42
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 58:44
That's amazing. That's great. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Marta Kauffman 58:52
Wow, that's a really interesting question. And I could go in a bunch of directions. I'm not going to go to the dark place. You know, bringing it full circle. I think I learned that I'm a writer.

Alex Ferrari 59:15
Took you a while to figure that out?

Marta Kauffman 59:17
Yeah. Took me a long time.

Alex Ferrari 59:20
Really?

Marta Kauffman 59:21
Yep.

Alex Ferrari 59:23
I want everyone listening to hear this. That someone is as accomplished as you had a long time to figure out that they were really a writer that that imposter syndrome was was bad. Do you still deal with it? You have to not deal with it as much. Did you still deal with it? Really? But you but you figured out like that's just a voice in my head? I'm a writer.

Marta Kauffman 59:48
Yeah. Yeah, I figured out all right, I've done before I can do it again. And just get words on paper. Just get words on paper. And then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:02
Are there three pilots that everyone should read in their specific genre that you would recommend?

Marta Kauffman 1:00:11
Um, you know, my so called Life was an amazing pilot was I remember it was an amazing pilot. I learned a lot from watching that pilot. So that's one squid game had a pretty good pilot.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
She says, What the hell with that Jesus Christ that show? What a thing like how well like I don't even I have to do it. I have to get that show runner on the show. I've just if he speaks English, I want to speak.

Marta Kauffman 1:00:46
You know, I It's funny that I mentioned those because I don't watch a lot of comedies. Okay. I mainly watch dramas because watching comedies work for me.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:58
Right! You're analyzing it, you're picking it apart. You're like, oh, that didn't hit right. That didn't hit right. Why did that get through?

Marta Kauffman 1:01:04
Or how did they get to that? How's that the story? Why is that doesn't make any sense or whatever.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:10
So you know, alright, so So mostly drama. So squid games, my so called life and what was the third one? You think?

Marta Kauffman 1:01:17
I'm debating between a couple.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:19
Okay, you could toss them both out.

Marta Kauffman 1:01:22
Sopranos had an amazing pilot. David was I mean, Jesus. Genius, genius. But I have to say I recently watched a show that I've long since forgotten about. The pilot for lost is really good

Alex Ferrari 1:01:42
The pilot was amazing. Amazing. Oh, remarkable. I mean, they kind of, you know, it took them. They went off. They went off the rails a little bit.

Marta Kauffman 1:01:53
They didn't know where they were going.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:54
They were just like, in a smoke monster shows up. Like, but that first season was yeah, some of the best television. Yeah, in a long time. I always throw in Breaking Bad because I think it's one of the Oh, that's a really good. I mean, you add another 15 minutes to it. It's the it's the best independent film of that year. It's true. It's remarkable. And just for fun three of your favorite films of all time. She's wiggling in her chair. She's wiggling in her chairs.

Marta Kauffman 1:02:29
I am, um, I loved there's so many. And some of these may be a little controversial. To Kill a Mockingbird. Fantastic film is an amazing film my favorite film made from a book, Now this one's a little strange. The original West Side Story. Okay. I grew up on I will sometimes just watch the dances.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:08
Oh, they're so beautiful. Amazing. Did you see the new one by the way? Did you see Steven? Yeah, I hear I haven't had a chance to see it yet. But I hear it's phenomenal.

Marta Kauffman 1:03:19
Watch it and then we can have a conversation.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:22
Okay, fair enough. Fair enough. Okay, and what was that and what's another one?

Marta Kauffman 1:03:30
Um, what was the first one he said the favorite

Alex Ferrari 1:03:34
To mark To Kill a Mockingbird?

Marta Kauffman 1:03:36
Oh, the favorite.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:39
Oh, the favorite. Oh. Which one?

Marta Kauffman 1:03:42
The one with Olivia Coleman.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:45
Oh, god. Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Marta Kauffman 1:03:48
I loved that.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:50
I haven't seen that movie forever. But yeah, I remember that movie.

Marta Kauffman 1:03:54
Oh, it's just Oh, and I also love arrival. I do love science fiction. I watch a lot of science fiction. Really? Sad arrival. Great

Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
See that you never think that Marta coffins like a big sci fi fan?

Marta Kauffman 1:04:06
Huge a huge sci fi fan.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:08
Did you see that? Have you seen Mandalorian Do you watch any of that stuff? Or? No? I do. Did you enjoy it? Yeah, I enjoyed it. This fun? Yeah. It's popcorn. It's popcorn.

Marta Kauffman 1:04:17
Exactly. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:19
It's popcorn. It's fun. It's you know, it's not changing dinner. Right? It's not a it's not going to change the world. But man, is it fun? And I just started watching the book of boba and just like, it's fun as hell man. If I saw I saw this meme of. It's like kids playing with Star Wars toys. And it's like Jon Favreau, David Fillion, and then making the Mandalorian and they're just literally having the fun playing with there. Isn't someone's filming it? Um, Martha, thank you so much for being on the show. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you and it has been.

Marta Kauffman 1:04:55
Thank you Alex. I appreciate your thoughtful questions.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:58
It was wonderful talking to you and continued success thank you again for bringing for Friends into the world and also a Grace and Frankie and I cannot wait to see what you're up to next. So thank you again so much.

Marta Kauffman 1:05:08
Thanks so much. Bye

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IFH 580: How to Cast a Bankable Star with Thomas Jane

Thomas Jane is a prolific actor, director, and producer, with extensive credits including the series The Expanse and Hung, and the features The Punisher, 61, The Predator and Boogie Nights. Jane recently starred in in the hit thriller The Vanished, and his film Run Hide Fight world premiered at the 77th Venice Film Festival. Jane will next be seen in the anticipated drama series Troppo for IMDb TV/Amazon, based on the bestselling novel by Candice Fox, which he is also executive producing via his Renegade Entertainment banner.

Jane founded the production company Renegade Entertainment with Courtney Lauren Penn in 2019. Since its inception, Renegade has produced the soon to be released features Murder at Yellowstone City, starring Jane, Gabriel Byrne, and Isaiah Mustafa; Dig, starring Jane, Emile Hirsch, and Harlow Jane; The Last Son, starring Jane, Sam Worthington and Colson Baker; and Slayers, starring Jane, Abigail Breslin and Malin Akerman.

Among their projects in development, Renegade is producing a comic series The Lycan, continuing the Malone franchise with a sequel to the cult fan favorite Give ‘em Hell Malone, and producing an adaptation of Stephen King’s From a Buick 8, marking the fourth collaboration between Jane and King, following 1922, Dreamcatcher, and The Mist.

Jane is a writer and director, directing one of the first-ever natively shot films in 3D, the noir thriller Dark Country, as well as the celebrated season 5 episode “Mother” of his hit series The Expanse. He founded the graphic novel company RAW Studios in 2011.

Thomas recently opened up his new production company Renegade Entertainment.

Thomas Jane and Courtney Lauren Penn’s Renegade Entertainment has been prolific since launching late in 2019. Since the start of the pandemic the company has completed production on Murder at Emigrant Gulch, starring Gabriel Byrne, Isaiah Mustafa, and Thomas Jane; Dig, starring Thomas Jane, Harlow Jane, and Emile Hirsch; The Last Son, starring Thomas Jane, Sam Worthington, and Colson Baker; and Slayers, starring Abigail Breslin, Thomas Jane, and Malin Akerman.

Renegade is in production on their first scripted series Troppo, based on the bestselling novel by Candice Fox. Among their projects in development, Renegade is producing a comic series The Lycan, continuing the Malone franchise with a sequel to the cult fan favorite Give ‘em Hell Malone, and producing an adaptation of Stephen King’s From a Buick 8, marking the fourth collaboration between Jane and King, following 1922The Mist, and Dreamcatcher.

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Thomas Jane 0:00
I started on my first experience on set was as an extra. In Oh, Renzo llamas movie, we're talking about like the 1980s 80, something like that.

Alex Ferrari 0:14
This episode is brought to you by Indie Film Hustle TV, the world's first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. Learn more at indiefilmhustle.tv. I'd like to welcome to the show, Thomas Jane how you doin Thomas?

Thomas Jane 0:29
Hey, good to see ya!

Alex Ferrari 0:33
Good to see you too, my friend. I'm excited to have you on the show. I've been a fan of yours, my friend from back back back back in the day. So I appreciate you coming on. And I'm excited to talk to you about your new projects and the new stuff that you're doing in the world. But before we get into all of that, yeah, why in God's green earth? Did you want to get into this insane business?

Thomas Jane 0:53
Wow, there's a question. Why did I want to? I think it's a kind of businesses sort of like, you don't really have a choice. I mean, I think if you could do anything else, coming up as a young actor, anybody in my acting classes that had a plan B, you know, whether it was managing a restaurant or going to night school to be an accountant, that's what they ended up doing. So one of the first things I learned was no plan B. Gosh,

Alex Ferrari 1:25
You burn that you burn the ships, you burn the ships at the shore.

Thomas Jane 1:29
You got to I mean, otherwise, you're gonna there are nights when you lay awake in bed at night, staring at the ceiling and going, Why the hell am I here? And what the hell did I think I was doing? There are those nights, you know? And if you've got that, you know, escape hatch sooner or later, you're gonna get weak and take it. So yes, you gotta burn the ships, man. There's no way out.

Alex Ferrari 1:52
So let me ask you a question that I mean, look, as an actor, I'm always fascinated by, you know, when I'm when I'm directing, and I'm doing a casting, I try to be as kind as I can to actors, but they get rejected 99% of the time, especially when they're coming up, if not 100% of the time when they're coming up. How did you deal with rejection coming up? And yeah, how did you just keep going and grinding every day? When there there was nothing on the horizon that said, if you stick with this, you're gonna make it.

Thomas Jane 2:22
Yeah, you know, how did you do? There's only one way to do it. And that's to love what you do. I started a little theatre company here in Los Angeles and the bad part of town on heliotrope and Melrose, we rent it out in literally a store space. And we called it the space and we built our own, we got our, our seats from some abandoned theater, and we built the tears and I think it sat 49 people. And we built our stage and put up some lights. And we started directing, acting, writing, even I did a one act play there that I wrote. And you get a group of guys together that just really love it, you know, and we of course, we're all doing it for free, you know, tickets were negligible, if not free, you know, and you get all your buddies to come on one weekend, and the second weekend, there'll be three people and one of them will be asleep. And the audience sorry. I've had I've had I've been there. Yeah. But if you love what you do, and it's like, Well, where can I do this and even if I have to invent my own place to do it, and that leads to friends and some other guys got to another theater and really that's I did a lot of theater in LA and you don't want to don't think of La as a theater town. But there's, there's a little bit going on. There's a great theater called the Odyssey down in Laguna Beach. That's a union theater, I did a I did a play there with Sherry North who used to be called the Smart Marilyn Monroe back in the day. And and I just kept I kept that up. I haven't done theater in a long time because I've been busy doing this but I'd love to get back to it. So the question and the answer is love what you do and if you love what you do, you'll find a way to do it and it doesn't really matter. And you know, I ultimately said to myself, you know, it doesn't really matter if I never get paid for this. I love to do it. You got to I love what it does and I love to watch it you know I love to go to theI I became an usher at a theater in Century City just so I could go and watch the play every night you know and watch the different changes and how it was the same but different every night. I was a bad Usher because I was kept watching the play instead of showing people to their seats, but

Alex Ferrari 4:47
Other than ushering so so you when you get your first gig as a paid actor on a movie or a TV show, what was that like just going on the set for the first time I'm knowing that you're gonna remember some lines and even it could have been just one line, but just be just being there. What was that like for you and and did you throw up? Did you have impostor syndrome, all that kind of stuff.

Thomas Jane 5:13
All of the above it's a new experience for sure. But you know, I started on my first experience on set was as an extra. In a Lorenzo Lamas movie, we're talking about like the 1980s. It was late 80s, something like that. And I played soccer in the background of some scene that they were shooting, right? And watch watching Lorenzo Lamas do is he had this towel and he would puff up his biceps before each shot, you know, and I was like, well, that's interesting. And just watching the crew watching the people is all new to me, I had no idea what anybody's job was, but they sure were busy. And then at the end of the day, you line up to the, at the, at this makeshift table where they would hand out your paycheck. And when I when I got over there, they packed up and gone. So you know, I was I was only supposed to get like 40 bucks or something. But that 40 bucks meant a lot that pissed me off. So I like doing productions where people actually pay the people that work and respect the different jobs that people do. You know, then I started getting I guess, maybe it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where it was like a real movie. And I and I had a few I had a scene with Luke, Luke Perry. And I played this garage mechanic and he's kind of crazy. And that was really my first experience of getting into the makeup trailer. And you being thrown through the works and the process and the onset and doing your scene and the coverage and all that and yeah, it's it's exhilarating and terrifying and fascinating and everything you'd think it would be I remember, Luke was in his makeup trailer and he was talking to his agents on the phone. And they were arguing because he had this what do you call it jazz button. He had this little

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Flavor savor the flavor savor

Thomas Jane 7:24
That it was clean shaven except for that. And he was who was arguing with the producers and the agent about whether or not he was going to keep it or shave it off the horse. They wanted him to shave it off. He ended up keeping.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
Yeah, it was funny because I because I knew the I knew Fran the director of Buffy years ago, I hung out with her and she would tell me stories about what it was like being on that set and running. And I think it was their second movie or something like that. And it was a studio movie and people Oh, and Luke Perry was like, at the height of his power. I think he was the star of that, you know, even though was Christie's you know, she was the Buffy but I mean, people don't understand. Yeah, you mean I lived in Orlando. I mean, actually, I lived in Florida. When that mall that he went to go visit there was a riot. And like people oh my gosh, yeah, I was I drove by that that they were like what's going on over here? I was living in Fort Lauderdale at the time. And it was, so people didn't understand how big of a start it was back then. So that must have been a hell of an experience just being around that.

Thomas Jane 8:29
I met a lot of people on that set, David Arquette. Paul Reubens go friends today.

Alex Ferrari 8:38
It was a great day. It was a great group of people that film. Now speaking of some films, I mean, you've worked with a couple of good directors just a couple over the years. You've had the pleasure of working with like Terrence Malick and BT Anderson and John Woo. Did you learn any lessons from a filmmaking that you brought into your directing into your producing years later? Or just as an actor? What are some lessons you learned from some of these great filmmakers?

Thomas Jane 9:03
Always, you know, they all got different styles, I learned that I learned that there is no one one way to do it. And I always paying attention because I do love directing and producing and, and I've always been headed in that direction. Once you get a little experience, you know, I feel like I have something to offer and avoid some of the some of the pitfalls that I've fallen into in the past and I've seen people fall into it's really nice. It's neat to it's an oral tradition, you know that there is no you can read some books, but there's only one way to really learn how how it happens and that is to do it and you're in your learning hand to mouth you're learning sorry, mouth to ear. It's people teaching other people how to do it and that process for acting has gone back 2000 years for filming. Thinking it's gone back 100 years more. But you've got an it's technicians and artists teaching other technicians and artists. And so I love that. That tradition, you know, there's no other way to learn it except for to be there and to learn it from people who learned it from somebody else. From as far as those guys, you know, I love Terry Malik's style, it was very open, he was very open to the environment and to what the actors were doing and, and, and he would be able to shift he was fluid. He was extremely fluid in the way that he what he wanted, he would change his mind. I was I had this scene on a hill. It was one scene and he'd asked me to be in the movies three times before and I was busy doing other stuff. And they finally I was free. And so I flew all the way over there. I flew with Mickey work. And we had to take like three planes. He kept getting lost. And I felt like I was kind of babysit. He hate he hates flying, apparently. So I was kind of taking care of Mickey and then I went over and I got to watch Mickey. So of course, I wasn't working. But Mickey was doing his stuff one day, and I showed up and all day long. Watch Terry. And Mickey and Mickey was doing improv at improv all day beautiful monologue. Gorgeous work didn't end up in the film. But my scene did. And I tell you, we started at dawn. And we shot the scene. And then throughout the day, there'd be cloud cover, and he'd shoot the scene. And then there'd be sunshine. And he'd shoot the scene. I knew just enough at that time to be able to ask him like, how are you going to cut this together? You've you were shooting in the sun. We're shooting in the shade. You've got us at dawn, how is any of this going to match and he said, You know what? I'm shooting I'm covering the scene so that I can take all of the cloud cover shots and put the scene together. And I'll have or I can take all the sunset sun shine sunshine shots and put those together. Or I can have a shot at dusk and dawn, I can have a magic hour scene because that way I can put the scene anywhere in the film that I like because it's a kind of a standalone, standalone little scene, so it's not really connected to any other part of the story. I thought that okay, that's kind of brilliant. And then halfway through the day, he disappeared for like three hours. It him and John told just ran off. And we're so he's sitting around for three hours. He finally comes strolling back, I go, Hey, where are you been? And, and he said, Oh, I saw some beautiful butterflies. Over there. And we were we were cats. We were filming them. Anyway, we're we're we?

Alex Ferrari 13:04
He literally just went off to chase some some butterflies. Oh my god. That's literally literally literally, it's it's

Thomas Jane 13:15
Yeah, I've learned a lot from different folks. John Liu John Liu. He actually he had a funny way because this was a movie he was shooting in America yet American Crew he was out of his element. He wasn't with his normal guys doing a John Woo movie, he was doing a Hollywood movie hired because he's John Woo. John, who was very smart, he speaks fluent English. But during the show, he pretended that he didn't speak any English. So when the producers are trying to talk to him, he'd be like, Ah, what's his what are they say? And then you have this interpreter, and the interpreter would be trying to explain. And so he had this out, he built this out for himself where he just did whatever the hell he wanted. And if the producers got upset, be like, sorry, he was just a misunderstanding. John doesn't speak English. You know, we're doing the best we can. And I thought, That's pretty clever.

Alex Ferrari 14:12
Did you know but did you know on set that he didn't speak English?

Thomas Jane 14:16
I know, I watched him and I watched all the interpreting and all this stuff and and he had his little Chinese group around him that were very protective. And, and it was I was able to, to, somebody told me, somebody told me at the end of the day, I was made friends with somebody who's on John's team, and he told me the straight the real deal.

Alex Ferrari 14:39
Oh my god. That's that's, that's because John I mean, watching to him. It's a famous face off if I'm not mistaken. Correct. So yeah, a classic John Woo film, and then need to make a sequel of it as soon as humanly possible. There was a lot of I mean, he's just one of those directors. You know, he he rewrote how action movies were made after he came.

Thomas Jane 14:59
That's right we sure did everything is everything's never the same after the bullet ballet.

Alex Ferrari 15:06
Oh my god after hard boiled and hard boiled and the other one he did the killer. Just

Thomas Jane 15:13
The killer.

Alex Ferrari 15:14
Oh, he was

Thomas Jane 15:18
What a face. You know, we didn't have to do anything. It was just one of those faces. It's like to share a Mfume, you know, you just get fascinated by this guy. I'm watching. I've watched all the current salad stuff, but it turns out, buffoon. I did more movies with this Japanese director called a Naki. I think it's called an Aki. And he did more movies with this guy in Japan. But those movies never really made it outside of Japan. They were very Japanese. And his work with this, this guy is just as good as Curacao in a different in a different way. But have you seen the samurai trilogy?

Alex Ferrari 16:04
Yeah, I remember the samurai trilogy. Yeah. Oh, it's amazing.

Thomas Jane 16:07
I just watched that recently. I hadn't seen it. That is it's like a six hour movie divided up into three films. It's on criterion is Criterion Collection. Yeah. And you've got it's the story of Musashi, who was this the most famous samurai. And it's sort of his journey from being this ruffian this kid is Wild Child kid to being a real samurai. And then his journey along the way, and it took six hours to tell the story it, it's now up in my top five, I love the way he shouldn't so simply done. And I love those older films where they just hang on a shot, you know, it's they're not doing all these cuts. And when they cut into a close up, it's me, it means something, you're like, Whoa, they would let a whole scene play out just in just in the Master, you know, and the actors would be choreograph. So they'd be moving, I love that kind of work. And I'm just hoping that, that I can do some of that kind of work and that people don't get bored. You know, I think that we need, I think it's desensitizing all of the all of the television cutting that's sort of permeating our world right now, and has been for years and years. But now it's now it's been sort of sunk into, it's like, everything has become it. You know, there used to be a difference between television editing and movie editing. Now, yeah. And now you've got pretty much everything's TV. And I think somebody maybe me is going to is going to turn that on its head again, where we just let it play. Because the actors are damn interesting. The story is interesting, I can see everybody, I see what they're doing. You know, if you got a wide shot or a medium shot, I see all the expressions on your face, I pick it up. And I think that we need as an audience. And as we move through time and society, we need things to kind of wake us up a little bit, you know, you have to break out of the pattern a little bit in order to wake people back up to the power and the glory of cinematic storytelling.

Alex Ferrari 18:14
Now, when you're working as an actor, what do you look for in a director? You know, how do you like to be directed? What is that? Those elements that when you're thinking about doing a project, you're like, This is not going to work out because we're not going to mix here. I really am looking, this guy doesn't know what he's doing. This girl doesn't know what she's like. You could say, I'm assuming at this point, you can sense this as a third, as a sixth sense. Now, it's a what is that thing that you're looking for in a director?

Thomas Jane 18:39
Oh, you know, I can take care of myself now. So I used to want a director who could really who was going to get the best performance out of me, I found that those are few and far between. It's just sort of becoming a lost art. We're directors really understand there's a few of them out there. But as far as working with actors, I got that covered. I can take care of my performance. What I'm what I'm hoping and looking for is can you take care of your directing. So I like if somebody comes to me with storyboards and says, This is how I'm going to shoot this, this is my vision for this thing. And if they don't say anything, you're like, well, you're just going to show up and make it up on the day, which unfortunately, I have, you know, work we've all worked with. And so I'll figure it out. And by the way that can work. That's

Alex Ferrari 19:32
If Ridley Scott shows up and says, Hey, we're just going to figure it out on the day.

Thomas Jane 19:36
Right, you trust that but and then that can work but I like an I like a director to be prepared and to have a point of view and to involve me in that story. You know, how are we going to tell that? How can I help you tell the story that you want to tell? So but I'm being folded into a grander picture. not just showing up and you know, we'll make it up on the day, it's it's what you're looking for is a vision, you're also looking for a sensitivity to the acting, you know, you don't have to direct it most some of the best directors I've worked with don't say anything, they don't direct you. Their direction is extremely minimal, you know, things like a little bit faster can mean the world in a scene. Generally, directors want to say as little as possible to their actors, but to know that you're being taken care of means to be know that you're being watched to your, they're paying attention, they're intently focused on what you're doing, and they see everything. So a director comes up after a taking goes, that pause you took before you picked up that that fork. Fantastic, and then walk away. So I'm being able to piece together what's working and what's not working with little comments like that.

Alex Ferrari 21:07
Yeah, cuz when you get it because I've, I've been on set with very insecure directors and insecure directors are yellers. And, and they're trying to, you know, boast their ego and all this kind of stuff. And I've always found that the quieter the director, the more secure they are, it's the quiet ones that you really, yeah, they just with one word faster, more intense than those couple words. That's

Thomas Jane 21:31
If a good director has done his job. By the time you get to set the movies already made. You're just executing the motions and all the all the crew knows what to do. Everybody, there's little adjustments to make throughout the day. But they've there's been production meetings that have been very thorough, and everybody knows exactly what's required on that day. And what the scene is about, you know, like Lumet said, is like, I sit everybody down, and we all have to be making the same movie, you know, and that's the conversation during production meetings is what kind of movie are we making, because you can make any kind of movie you can take a script and turn it into, you can take the darkest film and turn it into a comedy or vice versa. It's the page is really is a skeleton, you know, no matter how good the script is, you're looking at a skeleton that can be interpreted and built in many different ways. So if you've got a group of 20, artists, you know, they're all going to kind of have their own proclivities and ideas and stuff. And if you just let them run, you're gonna get 20 You're gonna get a Frankenstein movie. But if you're able to coalesce and everybody's making the same film, and then when they come to set, and they have a question, you can remind them and say, No, that's not the movie. And so you're now you're just nudging people onto the path, as opposed to just, you know, running well, there's 20 different ways we could get to town, you know?

Alex Ferrari 23:04
Exactly now you know, being an actor of your caliber, and, and being in the business for as long as you have, I'm imagining that you get pitched projects all the time, from filmmakers from producers, who want you to be a part of their show, or be part of their movie or something along those lines, knock on wood, knock on wood that keeps happening, right, and you deserve it. Because you are you've have you've built a hell of a career for yourself and done some amazing work. But, you know, being in the indie space, and you know, now you're you're working a lot independent projects as well, that are, you know, outside of the $300 million studio system, though you do those every once in a while as well.

Thomas Jane 23:42
I really enjoy the indie space, I really do.

Alex Ferrari 23:45
What is what is the proper way that someone could put a package together to entice an actor of your caliber? Like what elements should be in place? What elements shouldn't be placed? Don't do this, do this. Because there's so many, like, I consult constantly independent filmmakers, and they'll just do the, you know, ignorant things that they just don't understand. Like, you can't reach out to Thomas without some money in place. That's step one. I don't care how beautiful the script might be. His agents are not going to even look at it unless there's verifiable funds, things like that. So So yeah, what are some of the things, some tips you can give some filmmakers out there?

Thomas Jane 24:27
Well, it all starts with the script. You know, obviously, you've got to have a script that's going to be attractive. For and there's a number of different ways. There's an endless amount of ways you can pull that off, but you got to have a script that's attractive. You got to have a script that's meaningful to actors. The most important things like you said is that the film is set up or there's financing that is ready to be in place. You know, most financiers will say, Okay, I'll commit to making this movie if you bring me Thomas Jane. So you know, so you can you there's a meeting in the middle where you know, so you don't. So you don't necessarily have to be fully financed, but you have to have the means to be financed, you have to so it really is a director, you're always you're starting with the money, you know, you need your producers and you need your money. And in that way, you can start to build your package, you know, I think everything's becoming a package these days, you it's, it's about who you're pairing with. So when you're crafting your script, make sure you have more than one good part. Because the guys who are able to get a whole movie financed, they've got old scripts lined up around the block of waiting, waiting for them, they can pick any movie they want, you know, and so those, that's, that's not a good route, I mean, you're going to get in line, it's going to be three blocks down that way. But if you put a pack, if you have a film and a script, you put it together, and you've got a number of different neat parts. And they could be just a two day part, you know, a really fun part that's, that works for two days, those work really well. And that's how you're, you're able to attract an actor I won't read, it's there's just too much stuff, you know, I just don't have time to read stuff that doesn't have any financing, or nobody's looked at it. However, as a producer, now we've started a company called Renegade, and troppo, our TV show for Amazon is our first as our first projects really exciting. And that we do read scripts, you know, we read script, we're looking for great scripts, so that we can then take it out to the financiers and, and start to put that together. So that's sort of your first stop, the first step would be Renegade.

Alex Ferrari 27:01
Obviously send it into my production company, which is Yeah, which is, which is, which is very, very cool of you to like, you've launched this new company, and you're doing some really cool projects with the, with the company as well. And you're taking kind of more control as an actor over the work that you're doing. So you're not just you know, gun for hire, you're actually trying to put this out there.

Thomas Jane 27:22
And I'm also and also not everything that we do have to be starring Thomas Jane, you know, so it's not a Thomas Jane production company. It's a real production company, we started in 2019. So we're just getting started, because then the pandemic hit right away, right, one of the first things we grabbed was Stephen King's from a Buick eight. I know, I saw that really exciting. So many people have tried to crack it as a film, John Carpenter can't remember the other names, but a lot of people have come on and tried to nail that down as a, but it's really it's too long form, it needs to be a mini series. So we've got some really good partners in place to create, turn that into a mini series. And that's one of the things we've gotten then in the trapo book came across our desks, that was one of the first things that come around. So looking for books, looking for projects, looking for material, that's the fun, that's really fun, you know, like, oh, this could be and then shepherding that material in a way that so that it doesn't get compromised or damaged along the way, which, which is probably the toughest job in Hollywood, you know, besides writing, writing, the script is the toughest job. second toughest job is being able to take a decent piece of material and shepherded from A to Z, without completely altering it so that it's unrecognizable. Or, you know, twisting it in a way that it turns into something that is not what you intended, or what you fell in love with at the beginning.

Alex Ferrari 28:53
But as you as a you know, someone who's shepherding a project like that You are the protector of the material. That's right, You are the protector of the material, and you have to be a strong guardian. And a lot of times filmmakers get you know, producers will come in or the studio will come in or someone else will start pushing it around to the point where you've lost control of it. And now you've you've not You're not protecting it anymore.

Thomas Jane 29:18
There's so many different ways that things can go off the rails and you need to make decisions that do change things a bit, especially if you're going from a book to the screen From Page to Screen, you need to make adjustments you know, and the adjustments that you make. You have to always keep in the forefront of your mind, does this serve the core of this project? Or is it compromising it in some way? And then there will be compromises, you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:48
Every day, every day of every second there's a compromise. The whole the whole filmmaking process is compromised.

Thomas Jane 29:54
It's making the right compromises and then it's it's making compromises that In turn, protect the thing that you love the best about it, right? So identifying that and being able to, when you make those compromises, make sure that they're still serving what you love about the project in some way, you know, so you can you can, there are certain things that you can lose, and still not compromise your project, there are certain things that you can change, and you've ruined it.

Alex Ferrari 30:27
Oh, one little one little thing, you lifting that fork a little too fast, the whole gone off the rails? Well,

Thomas Jane 30:33
I mean, the scene might go off the rails?

Alex Ferrari 30:36
No, no, but you know, it's like a butterfly flaps its wings. And there's, there's, you know, an avalanche somewhere.

Thomas Jane 30:42
The thing we're getting as a reverberation and you know, comes from experience, knowing what kind of compromises you can make and how and what and what and what you're protecting what you can't compromise.

Alex Ferrari 30:55
Now, as far as that package you were talking about before, I mean, verifiable funds, or at least being able to verify those funds. How important to you is the creative packaging team, like the producers involved? The director, if it's a first time director, you know, because I know a lot of a lot of actors who just won't work with first time directors, because they just don't have the time to to take that risk on their either their career or their time or any of that stuff. So how born? How important is that team? And also, I mean, obviously, your co stars, who you're going to be working with, and so on. And I'm asking these questions, because a lot of filmmakers out there listening, don't understand the realities of what it really takes to get a film off the ground, especially in today's world. So I want to, I wanted to come straight from the horse's mouth, if you will,

Thomas Jane 31:36
Well, if you're a first time director, I would start small, find a project that you can make that your calling card, you know, don't go try to get a bunch of big actors in your first time move, it's getting rarer and rarer. And for a reason, you're right, we don't have the time, and we just don't want to take the risk. I mean, the chances are, your movie is gonna be pretty flawed, if you're a first time director, you know. And that's, that's just the way it is. But if you're making a film, that you can't now it's so easy, you know, if that you can put together that that's your calling card. And if somebody shows me that and goes, Hey, check this out. Hopefully not a short but a short, you can't, you can still get an idea of of, of what a director is capable of through a short. And you know, there might be some tight if I had a really fantastic script, and I had a great short, and the part was great, then then I might take that risk. But if one of those three isn't there, I just don't have time, you know, starting small as a director, you know, so that you can create something that's exciting. And for you, and then you know, and then the producers will be able to go around town and say, Look, man, this guy made this in six days, imagine what it'll do if we give him 18. Know, and that becomes a selling point. But as far as what, what would you like to know?

Alex Ferrari 33:09
So I mean, what you just said like those three elements like great script, great part, great short film is an anomaly. It happens once in a blue moon. And then also there's personalities aspects, the the almost the, like, can I sit in a room with this? Or can I be on a set with this person? For 1218 hours, sometimes depending on the project? Yeah. And yeah, those are those elements as well about what entices an actor like yourself to be part of a project. And again, I'm just trying to really hammer home to filmmakers who are listening that this is this is the reality, because I hear it every day, Thomas every day, I hear filmmakers who like hey, you know who's going to be perfect for this? It's going to be Thomas J. And I'm like, okay, great. What do you have? And they're like, I've got this script. What have you done? Nothing? What do you have any money? Almost, I almost money's gonna drop a minute. Do you have verifiable funds? Do you have a qualified investor now? Okay, do you have an agent? I don't have an agent yet. Do you have a lawyer? We're looking for one. But you see, but this is the delusion of a lot of independent filmmakers because they're ignorant to the process. And that's what my show is all about is trying to really guide them through the process so I can at least cut a couple years off of their their learning lessons. And that wastes two years trying to get to your agent trying to get a script to your agent and then getting angry. I'm like, oh, Hollywood doesn't understand my genius.

Thomas Jane 34:32
That script you want to put that in a drawer and then you want to make the one that's going to get you in the door? You know? We really is you know it's Show and Tell around here there's you know, people talk bullshit all day long and peep some people are really good at it. Some people may have been career at it.

Alex Ferrari 34:51
I've met the same people sir.

Thomas Jane 34:53
So but if you you know if you can do it, if you can do it once you can do it again. You you can make it, you start with a financing, you know, start with. And that I guess, you know, in a lot of ways, the producing part really is tough. Because finding somebody who can recognize what a good script is, or recognize what a talented director is, and I think that's one of the frustrations of people starting out, it's, you know, it's like, if only they knew how, how brilliant I am. It's show us show us, show us, you know, it's show and tell. And, and that can be a short film. But you know, if you could, if you can put together an, you know, in in what's great about its doing something like that is, it could be a half hour long, it could be 45 minutes long, an hour, an hour and five minutes, you know, you're not beholden to any kind of rules, except for making something really damn interesting. Now holding somebody's attention on a really low budget thing for an hour is miraculous. No, no, there's no question for half an hour, it's miraculous, if you're gonna make sure keep it under 10 minutes, you know, and those rules are made to be broken. But, you know, if I see a short, you know, and it's 45 minutes long, Oh, watch some of it. But the chances are really small that I'll get through the whole thing.

Alex Ferrari 36:22
Right, exactly. Because 45 minutes short, I'm like, Just keep going.

Thomas Jane 36:26
But you need a combination. You can't just make a brilliant short film and show it you got to have you need that combination, you know, and yeah, and I think building your team early is good, you know, find ways to hook up with really talented writers young, because the young writers when I was coming up, I was fortunate enough to find some really talented writers who are now making livings a screenplay, but we were living hand to mouth. But we love what we did. So we would get together at night after our day jobs, and we'd spend three, four hours writing together, you know, developing stuff, and that really, those scripts, if I look back at them today, they're not very good. But they're, but there's moments of brilliance in them, you know, and that, and that's how you kind of cut your teeth. That's how I cut my teeth was, and I did short films, I gotta tell you, I wish somebody would dig these up, I did film for UCLA, USC, I would go and I would audition and you know, these graduate filmmakers, directors, they needed to make their thesis film. And it was usually a short. And I did like four or five of them. And had a great time, you know, and met met all kinds of wonderful people. And, and but really, you know, we were cutting our teeth. So I did short films I wrote with young writers who they're not expecting to get paid. You know, they, they're, they love it to their learning to they want to do it. And then, you know, if you're lucky enough, you'll find you'll meet some really interesting young producers. And then making those connections is great, but cutting your teeth on an actual project that everybody's just doing because they need to do it, I think is the most important thing.

Alex Ferrari 38:19
Yeah, you've got to you actually, it's one of those. This is an art form that needs to be up. If you've got a paint paint, you want to play music, play music, you can't just talk about it so much or intellectualize it into

Thomas Jane 38:33
Its mouth to its mouth to ear, man. That's the only way to do it.

Alex Ferrari 38:37
Yeah, until you're on set and trapnell is being tossed at you literally and figuratively, sometimes. Yeah, you learn you'll learn on the first day when you're directing and you're losing the light. And you've got three pages left. And

Thomas Jane 38:54
Nobody's coming back tomorrow.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
And we lose the location at six. That's right. That's the stuff they don't teach you at school

Thomas Jane 39:03
Thinking on your feet.

Alex Ferrari 39:04
Then you're like, Okay, how can I cover this? In the next 15 minutes? I'm not going to lose the scene. And I can say.

Thomas Jane 39:09
Or how can how can I rewrite it so that I get the grasp of what's being done. And then a lot of times, that'll turn out better than your three minutes seeing?

Alex Ferrari 39:17
Right! I always love I always love going on set, especially with when I'm working with the first ad the first time I come in, and I'll have a shot list of like 100 shots for the day. And he's like, you know, we're not going to get them like absolutely no, we're not gonna get to this, but I want them there. In case things are going well. Or maybe I can switch here, but I'd like to have that there. So just in that experience, because because the first time I went on set with that list, I expected to do all of it

Thomas Jane 39:41
And knew Oh, yeah, you're like, Well, why not?

Alex Ferrari 39:44
Why can't we do 200 setups and eight so this behind the scenes documentary of Tarantino, I think it worked out fine.

Thomas Jane 39:58
Are your guys just starting out, Are they young professionals and they're trying to the ground there, it's a bunch of different people?

Alex Ferrari 40:06
It's from the it's from the newbie who doesn't understand that the things we've discussed all the way to the experienced directors who have worked and worked on projects been in the business for 1520 years, but still might not understand the producing side of things and how to package how to package a project.

Thomas Jane 40:24
If there's like a secret language to producing even I am still learning about the ins and outs of this secret language that they've got, you know, obviously, they've got little lists, you know, and if the actors aren't on the list, and they're every actor is worth a certain amount of money this week, and there'll be worth a certain amount of money next week, and that kind of fluctuates. And then if you put certain actors in combination together, then that gets you it really, it's a financial puzzle that the producers put together so that they don't take a bath, when they make your movie, you know, since they want to have us a floor, they want to have a concrete floor, that they're not going to fall beneath and just disappear forever. They need they need that insurance. And that comes through who you got in your movie. And, you know, I think one of the big hurdles, like I said, is finding a producer who really understands what the potential of your project is. Because those producers are the guys that are going to be able to go out there and talk to the financiers, and figure out different models. And there's several different ways to skin the cat. Which way is best at this time and place with this script with this cast. So there's a lot of different elements, and it takes years to figure out this producing stuff. But But beyond but that anybody can figure that out, that's math, what the magic sauce is, is being able to recognize a really good script, you know that that has the potential to make a really good film in a way that we haven't seen 99 times people why they make all these sequels and why or what's all these remakes, because it's already been proven to work. Nobody wants to take a step outside the formula. Because then you're in no man's land, you're in the unknown, you know, you're like you don't you can't pull up the list of numbers and say, well, this movie did this. And this movie did that this was released on Labor Day, and it did this. So there's all kinds of numbers surrounding that what's not surrounding is when you come up with something unique enough that it becomes an unknown, then, you know, you really you need to fall back on you're these are the actors I've got, these are the parts that are that are available. You know, generally men mean more than women in this crazy business, you know that I still don't understand that one. But somehow it's still a thing, you know, where a male movie star will bring more financing to a project than a female movie star. In most cases. That's strange to me, but part of the bit, it's just math, it's like insurance companies. And other like, we don't care, it's you know, there's been this many people die in car accidents on this road. Therefore, if you want, you know, if you want to drive on it, this is what you got to pay. So,

Alex Ferrari 43:16
And those those rules, by the way, change daily, they change daily, these little,

Thomas Jane 43:20
Not constantly fluid, in the end, the producers who are tuned in, are monitoring those fluctuations all the time, you know, and then where you can shoot monitors, then you get your rebates, you know, everybody would go to Louisiana because you'd get this great rebate. You go to Georgia, that's why Walking Dead and all these other things shoot in Georgia, they get a tax rebate, but that's when I was shooting hunting for HBO. We go to Detroit for a couple of weeks. We got this great rebate, but then you know they they've played fast and loose with their eBay money and it dried up. So now you don't go to Detroit anymore. Now you go to New Jersey. It's always fluctuate.

Alex Ferrari 44:03
No, it's and you know, another thing I discovered, I worked on a project where there was a name actor who they brought on, and then But then the filmmaker was working with them. And it's in the finance the project. But then by the time the movie came out, that actor had diluted his value for the year. And there was 12 other movie viewing too many movies. He did 12 other movies that year. That's a lot. That's a lot of movies. And then he went out to the district and he completely valued his name. So then then the filmmaker who that was was his that was his game. He went to distributors and like I really got three of his movies this year. I'm like,

Thomas Jane 44:42
You don't want to do that.

Alex Ferrari 44:44
As an actor, you I'm assuming you think about this as well as an actor. You're like, I can't be everything because

Thomas Jane 44:50
You can't flood the market with too much product. It's supply and demand. But some years are different than others. You know, one year you know, you're like I've got pay off this this debt, you know, I've got so I've got to do it and that but you know that then you're probably going to not work the next year for a while you want to keep that supply and demand going, you also want to be you can't work too little. Because then you know, then you're like, well, we don't know what your value is, because the last movie you had came out five years ago, it's a totally different business. Now, I don't know, you, then you're a wildcard and people don't really want to invest in that. But I think as an actor, one of the things that I've think that I hope that I've found some success in is choosing projects, you know, if what, what I like, what I hope for is that the projects that I do are at least going to be interesting, there's going to be it's not going to be some shady script, you know, and by the way, I've done it. But hopefully not a lot, you know, like maybe once or twice, I've done a script where I was like God, I really, I really need to pay the rent, you know, this month, I don't go do it. But and this is the only thing that's come across the table. And by the way, thank God that it did come across the table so I can hang on to my house, that's great. But you want to have the taste, to be able to choose good projects, at least they're good on page, they have a great script, they have an interesting director, some cool people are in it, who knows what it's going to turn into. But I choose projects based on the script and the people involved. But it's got to be something that's going to be fun for me to play and for you to watch. Because that I can take control of for the most part. I can have fun in a part that I'm having fun playing and I can make it enjoyable for you to watch. Everything else might suck. But that I can pretty much get get across the line. You know, the editor might fuck it up, the director might be up there becomes unrecognizable, but at least it starts out where that was a fun part and fun to watch.

Alex Ferrari 47:12
Yeah, and there was a good friend of mine who's an actor. He's like, Alex, sometimes I gotta take alimony movies. I called alimony movies is like I know they suck. They're horrible. I leave town when they get released. But I got to do what I

Thomas Jane 47:26
Got to do many of those you know exactly. What as Robert Duvall said, you know, he said one for the art, one for the condo.

Alex Ferrari 47:35
Great quote. That's amazing. Now I do have to ask you about a little short film you made called The Punisher dirty laundry. Which I mean, by the way, I loved your Punisher. I loved the way you play the character I you know, you are so amazing in that film. And when I saw the the short come out, I'm like, well, the cool level of Thomas Jane just went up because he made a just a short film a fan film almost. How did that come out? How did you get involved with that? How did that even get made?

Thomas Jane 48:07
I wasn't fully satisfied with the Punisher film that I did. Only because I had a vision, the vision that I had of the Punisher was slightly different than the slightly comic book version that we ended up doing. And I'm proud of that film. And it's got a lot of fans. And so I'm not taking anything away from the movie. And Jonathan Hensley did a great job. You know, it was I think it was his first directing was really successful writer of blockbuster films. And he wrote this and they gave him the chance to direct it. He gave it everything I had, I gave it everything I had. So there's a lot to be said for the film, but it is more of the character. I felt there was more to that character. There was an I wanted. So I was laying around one day, and I came up with that story. I was like, God, you know, and somebody had said something to me at a lunch or something, you know, they said, you know, you just need something to dine out on, you know, you need something that people are talking about this week. And you down out on it. Somebody call it hey, let me take you to lunch, you know, and I thought, all right, well, if I did a short film, and I came up with a story, I thought it was great. I had I was Chad St. John's a wonderful writer was a buddy of mine at the time, went to his wedding. And we were trying to get different projects off the ground at the time. And he had this terse, wonderful Walter Hill kind of style of writing, absolutely loved. So I called him up and I said, Hey, I've got this outline. You know, this is my, my thing. I want to make it a 10 minutes. And he wrote it. He wrote it in a weekend. And then I went to Phil's ronto who I would who I had worked with on a on a He Blumhouse movie. And I said, I asked him because Phil did a lot of commercials probably still does a lot of commercials. So he had any shot in town a lot. So he had crew that depended on him to for their livelihood. So, and Phil, of course, fantech state of grace. I mean, he's just a fantastic talent. And I thought that's a great combination. And then I put and then I went into another buddy, and who was a producer, and I said, you know, this, this won't cost us very much, because Phil is going to pull in a favor from his crew, you know, on a weekend, he's going to pull in favors for him, we got our crew together, we got our special effects together, we got the whole damn thing together, it all came together. And, and you know, and I put it, that was sort of my first foray into producing and making projects happen. And from that led to renegade my company. So I'm proud of that one. Very proud of it.

Alex Ferrari 51:09
It's it was such a fun, fun, fun short to watch. Now, tell me about your new project troppo.

Thomas Jane 51:16
Troppo. So troppo means it's an Australian slang word for going crazy in the tropical heat. Like, when you go up North Australia north, the more North it gets, the hotter it gets in Australia, because it's upside down. And then northern most you go, the hotter it gets, just until it just gets tough humidity. And so people literally lose their mind up there. And so they've got a word for it. It's called going troppo. You know, when you tear your clothes off and run down in the middle of the street yelling like Tarzan, you've gotten trapo. And I thought was a great title. It's not the title of the book, the title of the book is called Crimson lake. And it's by Candice Fox. She's a fantastic writer out of Sydney. James Patterson tapped her to co write some books. So that's how good she is. If you if you're into the mystery novels, Candice Fox is what definitely one to look up. The the second one is called redemption point, those two and then there's a third one, too. Those are great, great mystery books really nicely done. Why? Because they're all about character. Anybody can sort of put together a kind of a mystery. Well, not anybody. But mysteries are one thing that you can engineer. The thing that I think separates a good mystery from a great one is the characters. And that the mystery is ultimately about solving some mystery within yourself. You know, those are the kind of character driven material that I'm looking for, especially with Renegade. So we've got this. We've got this great book. And we this is about two years ago. And we went through the process of developing it. And you know, this, this was brought to us by a company, an Australian company, and they were interested in doing a CO production. And so those building pieces, building blocks were already in place, we came on more of the creative end, working with the showrunner working with the creative producers, protecting the material, making sure that that what I loved and what we loved about the novel actually made it onto the screen. And for the most part, we were successful. The show opened in Australia two months ago and did very well. And the most gratifying thing is that the fans of Candice Fox in Australia, love the show. So we didn't fuck it up. That that was good. That was really good to hear. And now it's a matter of how the American audiences will respond to it. The only one of the changes we made was she wrote, she's an Australian writer writing out of Sydney. And all of her characters in the novel were Australian, and the lead character is this guy, Ted Caffee. He's a disgraced cop. He's, he's a good detective accused of a horrible crime. And I was interested in what does the detective do he he seeks the truth. He's a truth seeker. If he's good at it, he needs to seek the truth. Right? He's passionate about it the way I'm passionate about acting the way you're passionate about directing. This guy is passionate about seeking the truth. And that passion, that truth seeking thing, that inability to leave something alone that you have to sneak in there and find out what's going on is what led to him getting accused of this horrible crime. You know, if he had just left well enough alone, it would have just been another day, but because he He's a truth seeker. It ruined his life. So the core of that is, you know, what happens when the thing that I do best the thing that I am, ruins my life. You know, that was fascinating to me. And I add in the other lead character is Amanda. So they've got these two leads, and they couldn't be she is this young 20 Something shaved head tattooed, badass, crazy person who just got out of prison, she spent a decade in prison for killing her best friend in high school. So she's, you know, this, these are not two people that were going to be hanging out together in a bar at all. But because and she got out of prison, and then went back to the town where she committed the murder and open up a detective agency. But she doesn't know how to be a detective. She hasn't done the first fucking thing about it. So she figures she sees me and knows that I am an ex detective. And she figures Well, this this guy, this is what I need. And they start this uneasy relationship, you know, and the only reason Ted takes the gig if he doesn't take the gig. Don't get me wrong. He's like, alright, I'll do this once. I'll go ask these quick, but that's it. He's constantly trying to get out of it. But the thing that keeps pulling him back in is that glimmer of hope you know that because he's a truth seeker. He says that glimmer of being able to do what he does best. So really neat story, great characters.

Alex Ferrari 56:37
And where's it going to be in it's going to be played on for is a freebie, Amazon?

Thomas Jane 56:40
Yeah, if you go to Amazon, and then I think there'll be a banner for free D free, which used to be the IMDB TV app. Okay. And now they changed the name to free anyway, there'll be a banner on top of Amazon troppo. find on Amazon.

Alex Ferrari 56:58
Now I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Thomas Jane 57:06
Run!

Alex Ferrari 57:09
You know what, that advice has been said on the show many times.

Thomas Jane 57:14
Not too far from the truth. You want to be a filmmaker? Well, what you do is you make films. Don't wait around for somebody to hand you a bunch of money. A lot of folks out there are waiting around for somebody to handle a bunch of money a lot. I would even say maybe most great. If you want to put the pedal to the metal put your money where your mouth is, you know, you got an Coppola said this years ago I remember Coppola giving a great speech about in this was right at the dawn of cell phones. You know, right at the dawn, I think I think it was the iPhone one that just come out. And he goes, you got one of these. You got no excuses. I mean, he was blown away by the technology. And he's right. I mean, there's a great film called tangerine all shot on the jungle. Shaun Baker Soderbergh shot on the iPhone. Look, you got no excuse you want to make if you're a filmmaker, where's your film? Where's your film?

Alex Ferrari 58:16
If you're a painter, where's your painting?

Thomas Jane 58:18
There it is. And, and it doesn't even have you know, you don't even need actors. I mean, one of the greatest movies I've seen in a long time was called the bear.

Alex Ferrari 58:28
Oh, it was oh my god, the 89. I remember very well. Oh,

Thomas Jane 58:33
It's a French film. It is it is a bear. It's about a bear and a baby bear. And it's their adventures through the wild. It's absolutely gorgeous. You know, you should be able to tell a story with rocks with smiley faces on it. You know, I'm not kidding. It's great. To be able to tell a compelling story with the motion and everything you want to get across using sock puppets. Okay, so there's no excuse. There's there's never never an excuse, you know, and it's fun. The challenge of it is amazing. And then you know, and then you got the puzzle. How am I going to come up with something that people want to watch and that people maybe haven't seen before? Or how am I going to come up with something that they have seen before but I'm gonna do it better than anybody else. It's just a potpourri of Delights out there right now and you can all you can do it with just whatever's in your house, you know, the computer, the phone races and it's fun. There's a really neat lens that came out a couple of years ago that say 235 it's so it's so and you've slipped You slip it onto your iPhone Have you seen that?

Alex Ferrari 59:49
Oh, it's amazing.

Thomas Jane 59:51
It's really well done it's it's not cheap. And it's well grabbed the lens is really well ground and I'll give you that widescreen form Add on your phone. That's amazing. Yeah, I had fun playing with that for a long time.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:05
And two last questions. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Thomas Jane 1:00:11
Oh my god. What are hard lessons to learn? You know? I guess one of the hardest lessons to learn is that I'm good enough.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:23
That's been that the exact answer has been said multiple times on this on the show.

Thomas Jane 1:00:27
Well, it's true. You know, and, as an actor, I gotta tell you, it took me a long time to become an actor that that I would want to watch. You know, that I had problems, I had problems. Being in front of the camera, I had problems being on set, I was nervous. I was, I had the imposter syndrome, I had a real difficulty calming down enough so that I could concentrate enough and relax so that I could do what I wanted to do. Because I be great in my bathroom. And rehearse and yeah, a lot, you know, and I knew the character that I wanted to bring the life and if it wasn't, wasn't coming out, you know, it's like, that is not what I saw when I was laying on my couch daydreaming about what this part was, you know, or doing my research. And it took me a long time to be able to relax. And, and, you know, and part of that is sort of a you know what, this is what I got, you know, and that is liberating.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:35
And last question three of your favorite films of all time.

Thomas Jane 1:01:40
Oh, my gosh, three of my favorite films

Alex Ferrari 1:01:43
That come to mind today.

Thomas Jane 1:01:45
Oh, come on, right. come to mind today. Well, I've got to mention the samurai films right now. So that counts is why samurai one, two and three. There you go. I call that one movie. No. Now you're gonna have me kicking myself later on. Okay, here's a great film you should check out last of silence. heard of that one?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:08
No, I've not.

Thomas Jane 1:02:09
It's an old I'm a real big fan of Noir. This is a late Noir. Who the low budget low budget if you guys are if you guys are all filmmakers out there, you gotta check out blast to silence. I don't I think this guy maybe directed one or two things. And I can't remember his name, unfortunately. But black and white, early 60s. So late noir period, crime movie, called the blast of cyber just blast of silence. I think even criterion might have put that out. We'll look for it. All right, there's there's two, right? And let's see number three. You know, I mean, the movie that has stayed with me and changed my life, and made me want to change my life was alien. Alien changed. I was eight years old. Right? And I always say I think I've said this in 100 interviews. But but but people ask me and so that's the truth. But I was eight years old, my folks, you know, they didn't have money for babysitters. So they drag us kids. My sister was only five. But that movie made a huge impression on me. I got the booklet. My dad made my dad by me, the guy used to hand sell these books, and it was full of information and pictures. I took that to school and I told all my buddies, we're not going to see alien, you know, their parents, we're not taking them the alien. I acted out the whole movie for all my friends over and over again. And that was the beginning.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:50
Thomas, it's been an absolute honor and privilege talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much for entertaining us for all these years. And I'm so looking forward to seeing all the new projects you do with Renegade and the stuff that you're doing in the future. My friend, thank you again. And thank you for being so honest and raw, and forthcoming about all this information. Hopefully, it's gonna help some filmmakers out there. So I appreciate you my friend.

Thomas Jane 1:04:09
So buddy, it was great talking to you. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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IFH 579: I Made a Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It (Audio Book Preview)

In this episode you get a FREE PREVIEW of the IFH Books release of I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It audio book on Audible.

Written by award-winning filmmaker Clarissa Jacobson, I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It is jam-packed with hard-earned knowledge, tips, and secrets on how to enter film festivals, promote your movie… and SUCCEED!

I Made A Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It covers everything from what festivals to submit to, how to maximize your money, secure an international presence, deal with rejection, gain publicity, harness the power of social media, what a sales rep does and much more.

Included are exclusive filmmaker discounts on services/products from the subtitling company, Captionmax, and promo merchandisers, Medias Frankenstein and The Ink Spot.

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“I Made a Short Film Now WTF Do I Do With It is jam-packed with first-hand knowledge, tips, and secrets on how to enter film festivals, promote your movie, and achieve your wildest filmmaking dreams. It’s required reading for every indie filmmaker who wants to gain an audience, stand out on the festival circuit, and work towards a career as a filmmaker.” — Film Daily

“Ultimately, Clarissa’s book is a very thoughtful reflection on her experiences making and marketing her successful and hilarious horror comedy “Lunch Ladies.” This reflection is a wonderful knew resource for filmmakers who are making or have already completed a new short film, but are looking for some help maximizing its audience-seeking potential.” — Horrible Imaginings Film Festival blog

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Alex Ferrari 2:51
Now today guys, we have a special episode, we are going to be giving you a free preview to the new IFH books. Audible release of the best selling book I made a short film now WTF do I do with it? A Guide to film festivals, promotions and surviving the ride by the award winning filmmaker Clarissa Jacobson. Now you might remember Clarissa from Episode 538 When she came on the show to discuss her new book at the time. And I was so impressed with her that I decided to publish her audio book through IFH books. Now in this episode, you're going to get a sneak peek to the audio book and hear the first three chapters for free. Now at the end of the episode, I'm going to tell you how to get a free copy of the new audio book. So without any further ado, enjoy your free preview of I made a short film now what the f*** do I do?

Clarissa Jacobson 3:54
Prologue You are amazing. Pep Talk to get you stoked to wade through this book. Congratulations. You are amazing. You dare to dream dare to make a film. raise that money. Save that money. Pinched squeezed and blood that money. slaved over scripts, locations, long nights, early mornings fears, hopes worries argued with the negative voice inside your head and came out alive. Not only alive, but you finished your masterpiece. And it's awesome. NowWTF do you do with it? Well, amazing person. I was you once. I too didn't know the first thing about promoting a film or getting it onto the circuit. I'd heard the tales that politics matter how the odds are stacked against you. What types of films are successful, what types aren't? And short. I knew the word on the street. Why couldn't succeed versus why you could However, I don't listen to that stuff, and neither should you. It does not serve you. First lesson, whenever anything negative comes your way. And there will be a lot. Ask if it serves your film. If it doesn't ignore that will serve you. But I digress. Anyhow, I knew the word on the street, why you couldn't succeed versus why you could. But I also knew my film was terrific. And you must know this too about your film or you've lost already. And I had a goal. I therefore learned everything I could, battled the haters, battle, my insecurities, didn't give up on my short, believed in it, kept my eyes on the prize, worked like crazy, and had an amazing run over 120 film festivals all over the world 45 awards, gold standard distribution, over 100 reviews and interviews and a wide fan base. To be clear, for all you folks who think I had a leg up and anyway, I didn't. This was my first film. I had very few connections. No one on the circuit knew me or my work. Clarissa who and I had a film that didn't fit the mold, a comedy horror genre piece coming in at the appalling length of 19 minutes. Still, it succeeded. And want you to succeed too. And I'm going to pass on all the things I learned how to promote, how to submit to festivals, how to maximize your fest budget, how to think big, how to overcome negativity, how to laugh at rejections, how to love social media, how to get filmmaker, discounts, and more. Let's get started. Chapter One, get a goal, or be a goner. Preliminary first step to keep you focused. I know this probably makes you feel like you're back in junior high, and um, that really annoying teacher who's on your case. But seriously, what is your goal? And what are you going to do with your film, focus your delinquent. Trust me, kids, having a goal is going to make everything so much easier. You put so much time into making your short, but the true marathon is the next 18 months after you finished it. There will be a massive amount of work to do to give it a life. If you look around at the films that succeed, it's not just about quality. There are 1000s of good flicks that never see the light of day, and plenty of bad ones that do. It is also about the filmmakers goal, knowing what they want to achieve. Some people make short films just to create is that you? Some people make short films to practice their craft. Is that you? Some people make short films to get interest in their career. Maybe that's you. Some people make short films as a proof of concept for their feature is that you? Some people make short films because they can't afford to make long ones is that you? Some people make short films because you get my drift.

Figure out why you made your film. When you figure out why you made it. You can figure out what you want from it. Your goal and that will drive you and your strategy. Why do you need a goal and a strategy? Promoting a film is a ton of work. And the only thing that will keep you doing that work, which is absolutely exhausting, is a clear reason to do so. A goal. The only way you are going to achieve that goal or have a chance at it is with strategy. If you have no goal, you are not going to do all the heavy lifting that's required to make it a success. You are going to skip doing social media. You are going to skip entering festivals that require too much work. And you are going to give up with a few rejections. Further if you don't know what your goal is, you will not know what strategy to use to achieve what you want. And that will frustrate you. Figure out first and foremost why you made your film. For example, I'm a screenwriter who made the film versus the director who usually makes the film. More on that in chapter 10. I wanted to get interested in my feature screenplay. Lunch lady's, a surreal, quirky comedy horror with two middle aged female leads. But the industry would often tell me there was no market. I got sick of hearing that nonsense. So I decided I would save my money and make a proof of concept short based on the feature to show the power Here's the be that there were plenty of people who would pay to see lunch ladies and they should fund it. Every step of the process after the short was in the can was with this goal in mind. Number one email every blogger and magazine I could find that wrote about horror and cult film to get them to review it. Why? Maybe some producer out there would read about lunch ladies and want to make it number to prove lunch ladies has a market all over the world and money can be made. This is more drivel, the industry loves to spout that comedy doesn't play overseas. So I wanted to enter as many facts as I could all over the world. Number three, have a great IMDB page. IMDB stands for Internet Movie Database, and I'll explain more about that in depth in chapter two. So have a great IMDB page, put up photos, Film Fest release dates, reviews, awards, keywords, special thanks, etc. A figured anyone wanting to finance my feature, but first go to my IMDB page to check out the short. Number four. Make a Website show industry folks how I would market the film because unless they see the potential, they won't get it. In my site, I have a school store a hairnet club, fan art page, geography lesson announcements and more. Number five, build a fan base. Get busy on social media so I can find my target audience and fans, it becomes crystal clear who that is when you see who follows you. I felt if I knew my target audience, I know who to market it to. And if a producer knows there's a fan base and who they are, that helps to get it made. Number six, be seen. It had to be seen not sit on my hard drive. It must play everywhere it could no matter how small or how big because someone may see it and help. The goal of getting a feature made influenced all my choices in the festival run and gave me a strategy. I wanted to make the feature so bad that it kept me focused and excited. Even when I was exhausted and didn't want to work. I would come home from my day job. write blogs for my website. Each took about two hours. And I wrote over 200 over the course of the film. I post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, populate my Pinterest page, right reviewers, talk to fans, talk to other filmmakers, see other filmmakers films, do interviews. And generally Bob till I dropped. I am certain a huge part of lunch lady success on the circuit was because of all those things that I just talked about that I actually did. The film is great. Remember, you got to love your film. And there are a lot of films. It's the work I did that took it to the next level. Have I achieved my goal of getting the feature made? Not yet. But I'm still trying and having a great ride. Who knows what the future brings and when it will happen? Or if it opens the door to something else. So remember, why did you make your film and what is your goal? Get a flipping goal.

Chapter Two, be prepared press kits, websites, social media and being a goody two shoes. I admit it. I was the goody two shoes who always had her book report done a week before, sometimes two weeks before. Okay, fine. Three weeks. I'm not a procrastinator. So it has always been easy for me to do things ahead of time. You have it harder if you aren't a goody two shoes, but it's a must for your sanity on the circuit. press kits, your website, IMDB page, social media handles, promotional pieces. You want to have that stuff done before you start your festival right now while you're making your film. Don't get all crazy. But when you finish the film, why? Stop arguing with me? I'm trying to help you. The reason why Hardhead is because you are going to be so busy promoting getting into festivals and being a world traveler that you won't have time to do anything else. If you don't have time. Then all the stuff you've procrastinated on that you could have done before the run is going to be sloppy, which is why most press kits I see look like a four year old kid and their dog did them. Those filmmakers waited into the festival or publication asked them for a press kit and they either did one of two things. One, they had a nervous breakdown at the thought of adding more work on top of their crazy festival schedule. And they never handed one in therefore missing a huge promotional opportunity. Or two. They took a shot of tequila and made their press kit in a three hour panic. That's not for you. press kits with typos out of focus photos, bad layout, not for you missing a chance to promote your film because you haven't completed work you could have done earlier.

Nope! Not for you. Having a nervous breakdown because you're overloaded with work when you're supposed to be charming and witty on the festival run. Nope, not for you. You aren't going to do anything amateur. Because if you do, no matter how good your film is, you are promoting that you are an amateur. And you aren't. And always remember, keep your goal in mind. If your goal is to get drunk at film festivals, take your clothes off and flip off the establishment, then hey, you don't need to have an IMDB page, you may need a sexy outfit. So choose what you have to tackle. I had to tackle them all based on how it furthers your goal.

Branding, what is branding, it's how you market your product, your film and make it distinctive. You don't have to have your brand fully developed. But it's super smart to have an idea of what it is. So you get off to the right start and don't have to backtrack. There's a ton of stuff that can go into branding. But I just take it to the simplest level. What is the essence of your film. Now bottle it lunch ladies is a rebellious bloody yet full of heart playful, loud and takes place in a jacked High School. Therefore, those specifics became my brand. For example, I designed the lunch ladies website with a high school motif. The cast and crew are listed under rollcall reviews are listed under grades. There's a school store and a study hall with teasers to watch. The writing is in your face liberal fun and can be offensive like the film. Once you have a concept. Stick with it. And your ideas will evolve into a specific identifiable look which captures the heart of the film. Be consistent. Use the same fonts, colors, logos, and writing style. And you'll be golden IMDb IMDb, for those of you who aren't addicted to reading banal information about movies and movie stars is the Internet Movie Database. You want your short listed on IMDb because it's the go to place that people look for information about film, it's going to move your short up in the search on the internet, and it's going to give it legitimacy. I started my IMDB page immediately after the film wrapped well before it was edited. Because my cast and crew worked so hard for so little. The least I could do is get their credit up. Who knows what jobs it could help them land. Get people's credits up as soon as possible. After that's accomplished, add to your page as much as you can. As often as you can get a poster up, get a trailer up, get your special thanks up, get photos up, get your synopsis up, put them up now. Later on you will spend so much time adding reviews wins festivals etc. You won't have time. Your IMDB page will be the place you visit constantly throughout your films life by keeping it up to date. The initial process of getting all the names and credits correct takes work. So do it now. You won't have time later. And your cast and crew are going to be irked if they've waited a year and you don't have their credits up. Not cool. Here's a sidenote, email every single person on your cast and crew and ask them to send you their direct IMDb link. Unless this is their first credit. If you've got a John Smith on your crew, and you link it to the wrong profile, because there's 30 John Smith profiles, it's a nightmare to change. Trust me, I hooked up profiles to the wrong people at first, learn from My Excruciating time wasting experience. I'm not gonna lie. IMDB is a beast, you will be so frustrated from the learning curve. Wait until you have to tackle posting your wins. But you'll be so frustrated you'll swear your head off scream, wallow in self pity, cry and send nasty emails to some employee at IMDb who will ignore you. It's super confusing. In fact, you may need a PhD to figure it out. But just keep at it like I did. And you will learn to tame the beast that is IMDB. Once you get the hang of it, you'll love it. Nothing is more gratifying than adding new information about your film and seeing it show up for the world to see. In addition, once you really get going the IMDB people begin to know you're short. They probably hate you because you're constantly updating and making work for them. But who cares? You're a self centered filmmaker. The point is Eventually, instead of it taking two weeks for information to be approved and go up, it will take two days. Because the powers that be know you are filling the page with real information, not lying and padding it and they will get your updates up ASAP. press kits, I'm not going to sugarcoat it, press kits, or APKs electronic press kits for those in the know, are no fun to make. And it takes a while to get them right. You have to have patience. But that's why you're doing your press kit now, right? Don't be overwhelmed. I know there's a ton of ideas on how to make a press kit and that can freak you out. It did me to listen, just pick a template that speaks to you. Or make up your own style. No one cares. Her no Prescott police. All that people care about is how its organized, how it looks and what it says. There's no right or wrong way. Be creative. Be smart. Make it look good. represent your film. My Prescott took about a month to complete. Choose people you trust to edit it. They'll find the mistakes you miss. put your ego aside, get feedback and listen. Think of it as a job resume, make it as perfect as you can. And if you have 120 people in the cast and crew like I did, you're gonna misspell a ton of names. And that's disrespectful to those that helped make your dream come to life. So get everyone's name right check them over and over before you send it out. For my press kit, I decided not to list my reviews. Although you may want to. I had so many I didn't want to be constantly updating it. But often I will attach the best ones when I send the kid out, depending on who's looking at it. Also, the length of your kit is dependent on you. Mine was long because I had so many cast and crew also like to talk a lot. If you haven't noticed. If you want to check out my press kit, go to lunch ladies movie.com backslash contact and click the download link. I think it's pretty good. If you don't like it. Geez, what are you the Prescott police, social media handles. If you don't despise social media than Wow, you are ahead of the game. Most everyone hates some type of social media and you have to have them all. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, et cetera, et cetera. So stop whining like a baby. Nothing is going to get in the way of your goal. Especially not something as banal as social media. The key to social media is and I'll talk about this more in depth later, you must find a way to love it. Social media is the king pen of all your promotion. Love it like unicorns, puppies, and rainbows. Take it a little at a time. You don't have to have a huge following right away. You don't even need to start posting until the film is on its run. You don't need to do all the social media channels at once. You can build them a little at a time, but get started. Open the accounts, create your handles populate your photos. Because once you're on the circuit, you will need to promote and you won't have time to set it up. For your handles try to remain consistent so people can easily find your film. If your Facebook is the same as your Instagram, you only have to tell people one handle. And that's easy to remember. Some people on the Facebook, some only Instagram, some both. You need all types of social media to really promote or you will miss opportunities. So make the handles as uniform as possible. purchase your domain for your website first, if you decide to make a website, then base all your handles on the site's name. If you do it the other way around, you may find that the handles you've set up are not available for your site. important make sure your website name is 15 characters or less. For my domain, I chose lunch ladies movie.com Because my first choice of lunch ladies.com was taken. In retrospect, I should have chosen lunch ladies film.com because Twitter only allows 15 characters. Therefore, at lunch ladies movie is the handle for all my social media except for Twitter, which is at lunch ladies film. So learn from my screw ups website. My website is my favorite promotional tool, and I highly suggest making one and starting it now as it takes a while to get it up and running. It took about a month learning curve to figure out how to build it, but it has been invaluable. A website will be your go to spot to send people. It has your social media, your blocks if you blog, your announcements, your trailer, your cast crew and synopsis. Everything is there in one beautiful place. Start with picking a great domain 15 characters or less remember, there are many companies you can put purchase that from, but I recommend wix.com. Because it's a one stop shop, you can use their templates to build a website for free, and then purchase the domain and hosting from them at the same time, easy. If possible, make the website yourself, it will save you tons of money because you will constantly need to make updates to your site. If you don't learn how to do it, you will always be paying someone to make the simple changes for you and then waiting around for them to do it. For those of you who have never made a website like I haven't, and don't understand the difference between hosting and domain, like I didn't think of it like real estate. The website is your house. The domain is its address. The hosting is the land it sits on how to pick a domain, you will want your first choice, but often that's already been bought by someone else. So you may have to settle like I did. Remember, I wanted lunch ladies.com and ended up with lunch ladies movie.com. Once you've got a domain you're happy with, it's time to build your website. There are many out there that allow you to use their pre made templates. But Wix had great reviews and was cheap. So I took a chance. Good call. I pretty much love it. The support is super helpful, and the site I created from their template looks legit. Pay for your hosting and off you go. If you're really strapped for cash, you can opt for Wix is free hosting. However, with the free service, they print Wix on the headers and flutters it looks super amateur. So I say cough up the cash and pay for the hosting. Of course, if you're already choking from the aftermath of your overinflated film budget, then okay, go for the freebie some site is better than no site. promotional items. The two things you want to have before your festival run are your postcards and business cards. If you're strapped for cash up for the postcards, eventually you will want both because they are useful for different reasons. postcards are super important because that's what you will use to promote your short at festivals. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most audiences aren't going to seek your film out. I know it's awesome, but there's a lot of awesome films. Folks attend fests to support friends see certain genres or something specific, and your baby probably isn't even on their radar. You will get on the radar by having postcards displayed and handing them out. Most fests will have a table where filmmakers can put their cards and people do pick up cards from the table and see films that interest them. Many will see your movie just from you handing them a card and introducing yourself. I highly suggest printing postcards no bigger than three by five or four by six. I had a larger size. And though they were really cool looking. They were a huge pain. They didn't fit in my purse, they didn't fit in my pocket. And I'm sure people would pick them up and be annoyed at how flipping large they were and leave them in the bathroom after printing. Print your image on one side of the postcard and the back will have two columns. One column will be blank. This is where you will put your labels and or addresses if you end up mailing them to specific people. And I'm going to discuss this more in chapter seven. The other column will have your concise logline your website if you have one and your information on how to reach you. I know this is a major duh. But I have seen postcards with nothing but the name of the film and the logline. I envisioned some three piece suit picking it up and saying this film is genius. I must invest 5 million in the sequel. Who do I call? Forget it. I'll invest in that condo instead. Business cards are needed primarily for when you meet industry people. Sure, you can give them a postcard, but it shouldn't have your personal info on it. They send on festival tables for the world to see. And you don't want some stalker calling you on your cell phone. You do however want Guillermo del Toro calling you on your cell phone. So you will want a business card with personal information on it for Guillermo. Business cards are also great for night on the town when you don't want to carry bulky postcards are broadly promote your film. You will meet someone new, possibly someone hot trade cards and they will say oh wow, you made a movie. What's it about? Can I buy you another cocktail? Everyone you meet is a chance for promotion. And of course, a hot date. Have your cards professionally done. I know it's tempting to save money, but don't put them yourself on that dot matrix printer hooked up to your ancient Commodore VIC 20. Cheap cards just make you and your film look cheap. Plus, there's a certain pride in having a nice looking business card feels good passing them out and gives you a boost of confidence. It's perfectly fine to wait until you are in your first festival before printing anything.

But it's best to have the artwork ready to go because it will take time to get it right. This goes for posters as well, which you will want once you start the run. Printing is the least of it, you can do a rush if needed. But rushing artwork is always a bad idea. More promotional items that you can start thinking about include pins, pencils, stickers, and other types of swag. It's not necessary to have swag, but I do think it gives the film a push and pays for itself. In the end. I had some fun things when I started and added more during the run. Chapter Three spreadsheets for success. Get organized. Prevent screw ups.

I'm going to teach you to set up some super organized spreadsheets, which will maximize your money and chances that success on the circuit. It's not glamorous, but it will prevent screw ups. Disclaimer. If you are as Angel as me, then you have permission to skip ahead whenever it gets boring. But for the rest of you delinquents pay attention. The film festival grid First, open an Excel spreadsheet or scribble in a three ring spiral notebook. If you're a Luddite Excel will be easiest as you will want to sort columns. But if you don't have the program, that's okay too. Having any list will be a huge help. Title it film festival dates. Why do you need the spreadsheet? You need it so you can keep track of all the rules and dates to enter. Every film fest has a ton of rules and entry dates and they are all different. You will have to read all those boring rules and keep them straight. Because you don't want to waste money entering your film in a festival where it can't be accepted. They'll still take your money, they'll just disqualify you. With the film festival grid. You can easily track everything so no mistakes are made. Your early bird submission dates, that is the cheapest time to enter which festivals coincide, what length of film is accepted and more. You will also need to track which festivals need premieres. Some festivals not all require premieres and there are several types of premieres world premiere, national premiere, international premiere regional premiere and who knows what else. The first time your film plays, that's its world premiere that will also be either your national or international premiere, depending on where it plays. Then there are regional premieres, festivals that will only demand that you haven't screened in their city before premieres are a pain. Your first run will probably last a year and a half. If you are doing great, it can last longer, but my feeling is get out. Don't overstay your welcome. Go into distribution when your time is up and don't hang around like a 22 year old dude hanging around high school stocking hot freshmen. Of course, if some hot freshman wants to date you, for you to say no, so sure, the infests if they pursue you versus you pursuing them. That's not overstaying Your welcome. You're hot. What can you say? If you ascribe to this way of thinking, and if you don't, that's okay. You can be a creepy old dude stalking hot freshmen. Seriously, no judgments, insert sheets on your spreadsheet for two years, one for this year, one for next, because this year, you won't make the due dates to enter some festivals and will have to enter next year. To recap your pages on your spreadsheet are number one, this year number two, next year. If you're into overkill like me, add one more page called add a glance. This will be where you can easily see which festivals you got in and what you didn't hear you will add all festivals you enter in one column. And in the other two columns, you will pull from that list which festivals you got in and which you didn't only do this if you are nerdy like me, and like to know your percentage of success and failure or which festivals you have entered at a glance. Here's what your spreadsheet tab should look like. This year will be the festivals you will enter this year. Next year will be the festivals you will enter next year. Duh. Now it's time to organize both sheets exactly the same. Number one, title the first column film fests. Here you will list the name of the festival. what platform you submitted it on platforms will be discussed in chapter five. And when the festival notifies filmmakers of acceptance, this will help you in festivals are rude and don't have the courtesy to tell you your film wasn't accepted. If the due date has passed, and you never heard from them, you can be certain they want you to get lost. It's good to know and to get lost and stop dreaming you gotten there festival number two, title the second column International. This is where you make sure The festival takes international entries if it's outside your country, sometimes you will be so excited to enter your film and you forget to read the rules and you pay and then realize they don't take international films. They will never refund your money. Trust me. Basically, this is an idiot reminder to make sure you check. Number three, title the third column Oscar. Only a handful of festivals are Oscar qualify. If you win one, you can be in the running to get nominated. There are other ways to qualify but this is the simplest. This helps with decision making when or if you are low on cash. If you really want an Oscar, you can check that column to see which ones are Oscar qualifiers and can weigh their cost against the others that aren't. Number four, title the fourth column location. This is important because some film festivals require premieres as I mentioned earlier, and premieres are always based on location, so you need to keep track of what area of the world you submit to. For example, most festivals in Austin, Texas are notorious for requiring a premiere. If you decide you want to be an Austin Film Fest, wait to enter South by Southwest because if you get an Austin, you can't be in South by Southwest anyhow. And you'll know South by Southwest is an Austin because you put the location in your spreadsheet. Nothing is more aggravating than paying $50 to enter South by Southwest, getting an Austin then getting in South by Southwest and realizing you flushed $50 down the toilet because they won't let you screen because you already screened in Austin. We'll talk about premieres more in chapter four. Number five, titled The fifth column website. You want the festivals website here so you can click it up easily. It will save you time in the long run as you will want to check their website many times if you get in or see who was accepted if you don't get in number six. The next six columns six through 11 will be the entry dates and fees of the festivals. Titled The columns respectably Early Bird, Early Bird fee, regular regular fee. Final, final fee. This will help you strategize your money. You can obviously sort your spreadsheet many different ways depending on what you need. One way you will sort it is by early bird entry dates. These are the dates you want to enter by and will keep you on your toes to never miss a deadline. The reason you list the fees, even though admittedly it's time consuming to do this is so you can easily keep track of the money you are spending. And you can weigh whether you want to wait to enter at a later date if you don't have the cash at the moment. Sometimes early bird entry fees are not that much cheaper than regular fees. Sometimes they are similar. Sometimes they are drastically different. If you know the consequences of not entering a festival by a certain time, you will be much more likely to make better decisions with your money. Then, once a week like clockwork, sort your spreadsheet by early bird entry date and submit to the ones that are due, you will never miss an early bird entry that way. Number seven, title the 12 column festival begin. This is important so you know which festivals coincide in case you get into that run at the same time. This happens a lot. You can check the dates so you can wisely choose which festival you will attend. That way, you won't annoy the programmer by gushing that you are going then backing out when you realize there's another fest you'd prefer. Number eight, titled The 13 column festival and it's good to know the length of the festival. As mentioned, sometimes you get in festivals that coincide. But sometimes one lasts three days while the other is 12. So you can actually go to both. Why don't you put the festival beginning and ending all in one column such as April 15 through 19th, like I did the first time because then you can't sort the column separately, which you may need to learn from my screw ups. Number nine title the 14 column length. This is how long the film can be for acceptance into the festival. If your short is 15 minutes, and the festival only takes films up to 10 You cannot enter but they still will take your money and disqualify you see a pattern once again. If they get your money, it's theirs forever. If you find out the festival is not a fit. I suggest still keeping it on your spreadsheet and graying it out. You will enter so many festivals you will forget which ones you researched and you will waste time unless it's on your spreadsheet. Hmm, I almost forgot blah blah fast. Why didn't I enter blah blah fest? Blah blah fest is awesome. Let me look up the rules. Oh, that's right. I tried to enter bla bla fest two months ago, but it only takes films that are bla bla. And I wish I had remembered now I just wasted 10 minutes researching bla bla fest a second time. So everything you research, keep it in your spreadsheet. Number 10 title, the 15th column premiere status, do they require a premier, you may even want to consider having a separate spreadsheet for premiers to keep things in line. Because this can get confusing fast. Number 11 titled The 16 column notes, this is for anything else like hey, this festival pays for hotel if I'm accepted, or hey, this festival doesn't give awards, forget it, I need awards. Or this one needs English subtitles to submit or they only take films made in the last 18 months. Have you are a good little rule follower. Your spreadsheet will look fantastic. Excellent job, you'll have your film festival Grid Setup. But wait, you aren't done. You also need to make one more spreadsheet, the viewing grid. This is where you will list every single person outside festivals that you send the film, it will come in handy time and again. Put anyone you sent your short to here. industry people social media folks you've met reviewers press their handles their emails, the dates, you've sent them your film, where they're from notes on who they are created. Now, you will need it when you want to ask people to vote for the film if it's up for an award, or to spread the word when you get distribution. You now have a cultivated list of people to ask for help complete with emails. You will also need it if you can't remember who someone is down the line and they are gushing to you. You can look on your viewing grid and know who they are. Lastly, you will need it when you make the feature as there will be so many who will tell you during the run that they want to be part of it when it happens, you may not be able to hire them. Oftentimes we don't have a say when a film gets produced, but you will have their names and how to reach them. If you do have a say the viewing grid is incredibly useful. Now that you've made these really boring spreadsheets that are super useful. Let's enter some festivals. Wait, what's that you say? You don't have a clue which festivals to enter. Except for? Please no. Please don't say it. I said don't say it. Don't say Sundance, Sundance. I mean, okay, whatever, Sundance fine, enter Sundance Sundance, but listen, Sundance, quit saying Sundance. There's a whole world of incredible terrific festivals out there that aren't Sundance that are just waiting for your film. So let's talk about some of those in the next chapter.

Alex Ferrari 42:59
I really hope you guys liked that free preview. Now if you want to pick up the book, all you got to do is head over to indiefilmhustle.com/shortfilmbook and they'll take you straight to Audible that's indiefilmhustle.com/shortfilmbook. But if you don't have an Audible account, and you want to sign up for one, you can get this book for free. All you got to do is go to freefilmbook.com Sign up for a free account on Audible and you get one free audiobook which of course you can make it this book and download it for free there, listen to it, and enjoy the book. So that's your little free hack. Go to freefilmbook.com If you want to sign up for a free account on Audible and get this book for free. Or you could just buy it if you already have an account and just want to buy this book head over to indiefilmhustle.com/shortfilmbook. I hope you enjoyed this guy's as always keep that hustle going. keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there, and I'll talk to you soon.

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IFH 578: Making Money in Niche Filmmaking with Adam Schomer

Adam Schomer is a conscious filmmaker, president of i2i Productions and is known for going to extreme lengths to follow stories that empower us. Feature documentaries include THE HIGHEST PASS (2012), THE POLYGON (2014), ONE LITTLE PILL (2015). WOMEN OF THE WHITE BUFFALO (2022) and the #1 iTunes Best-Seller and NETFLIX hit, HEAL (2017).

His recent docuseries is a heart pounding and spirit driven quest to find freedom on motorcycles in the Himalayas, THE ROAD TO DHARMA (2020) and its companion online course for Living a Life of Freedom. In addition to making films, he has been a documentary distribution consultant for select films including CHASING THE PRESENT and produced their online summit as well as the online summits for FANTASTIC FUNGI and HEAL.

Adam is also a certified Master Sattva Yoga and Meditation Teacher, and really Adam has this history of using pilgrimage and life’s adventures to reveal deeper truths. His company i2i Productions mission is to Unite Through Wisdom and Entertainment.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:45
I'd like to welcome to the show, Adam Schomer. How you doing Adam?

Adam Schomer 4:00
Great nice to be here Alex.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
Thank you so much for coming on the show brother. I truly appreciate it like I was telling you earlier. I feel like I know you because you have been one of the stars in two of your projects that I've watched and I feel like I already know you just been watching hours and hours and hours of you.

Adam Schomer 4:56
Loving it. I love that you've watched it. Awesome. And and you have a little insight into a really powerful, crazy journey, a couple that I've been on. So that's cool that you know, I've got to share that with you without, you know being there in person.

Alex Ferrari 5:10
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I So first and foremost, why did you want to get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Adam Schomer 5:20
Great never did, you know didn't have the aspirations as a kid never, never maybe like, you know Billy shoots or my neighbor used to make videos with his guinea pigs like stop motion weird like guinea pigs saving the day,

Alex Ferrari 5:32
I want to I want to see those movies by the way, I want to see those.

Adam Schomer 5:37
Do too. I remember like he would make a theater and like show these things. So back then I think I wanted to do that. But no, no real aspirations and then kind of fell into it in my late 20s, where I was bored at a corporate job and decided to do stand up comedy. Just an hour, it was the craziest kind of most nerve wracking thing. And then that pivoted into improv comedy, which I found to be the yoga of comedy. And that's that I stuck with that. I said, this was really cool. Because not only is the fun of meeting people, but it's got those yogic principles, right release be with a moment. Yes. And that like athletics, and I had been a semi pro soccer player. So it's kind of my next athletic venture. And that led me into writing and all that kind of stuff. So I was writing more and writing comedy. And eventually, that, you know, I won't go long. But eventually that brought me to LA and I just kept wanting to push it, you know, just go to the next level. Okay, write screenplays, be in a film, get my sag card, you know, improv. And I was always producing my own stuff when it came to improv as well. Because, you know, no one just gonna hand you stage time. Even in Detroit, where I, where I grew up was a cool community, everyone was very nice, and it was a good community, but you still had to kind of create your own opportunities to be on stage. So I think that producer Ness started there. And then once to LA, it pivoted. I think when I won't talk too much, but once I went to India, then I came back and, and decided, you know, what, I'm gonna focus on the writing and producing because as you know, acting is a pretty tough world, you know, even tougher than I would say, even like producing, writing, directing. I mean, acting is really, acting.

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Acting is, in my opinion, acting is probably the, the hardest part of our business with writers right next door, and then directors come in after that. But actors is like 3030 rejections a day. Yeah. Writers is, uh, you know, maybe 20 rejections a month. Yeah.

Adam Schomer 7:40
Directors, powerlessness of nitewhite really being able to create your own stuff. Correct. I was like, okay, that's not gonna work for me. And I was already producing my own like, you know, little webisodes in a kid's show. And, and then, uh, not you know, who you've seen anon and had on your other show. When I was in India, my third time there said, Hey, do you want to do this motorcycle riding into the Himalayas over the highest road in the world, and I'm like, This guy is gonna kill me. You know that in my neck.

Alex Ferrari 8:08
By the way, I can't see your face in the dock. You just like I just You were terrified. So So let's give everyone a little bit of context. So your this was your first movie, right? It's just your first dock. Yeah, first rockin first feature. Yeah. So it's called the highest pass. And it's about tell everybody what it's about.

Adam Schomer 8:24
Yeah, I mean, in essence, it's about it's facing death, right, facing death and finding freedom. So facing our fears and finding love. Not that we have to get over fear per se, but just be able to move through it. And then the context is a journey over the highest road in the world. 18,000 feet on motorcycles. My teacher or my guru has a prophecy he'll die in his late 20s. He's that age. It says he'll die in an accident and his Vedic chart, and he asks one of his students me if I want to go and I've never ridden a motorcycle, and I say yes, of course. It's my guru and the Himalayas and you just do it. So I willed myself to say yes, at that moment, I remember like, making my lips move while in the background. My head is thinking he's trying to kill me to take on his prophecy. I'm the sacrificial lamb is your brain drain is a horrible thing to have. Oh, it's armed. Right, you know, every bad story and I'm like, wow, I could write a lot of movies about this because it's so evil. So then, then I went, we went out and I was like, Yeah, let's make this invite other people and let's make a documentary. And and to be honest, I only wanted to do it if we could do it. Well, not not. Not that a handycam or shooting an iPhone is not well but this the Himalayas and India and I really wanted great cinematography and so we you know, like okay, we're gonna do it if we raise money, we're gonna raise money for it and so I went out and raised money and found a great DP that had experience with motorcycles and back then I was like, the Canon five D. was like the thing and And it served us really well on that trip, I mean, to have like a DP sometimes one time, like riding a bike with one hand and, and filming with the other at one point, we can get into that later, but I was.

Alex Ferrari 10:11
So I was able to I saw that movie and I saw the series that you did afterwards about it, which we'll talk about in a minute. But what I found fascinating about the movie is, you know, I've, you know, many people on the show know that I have another show called next level soul, which is all about spirituality and asking the big questions about life, personal growth, health, and all that kind of stuff. And I've had the pleasure of talking to a non, your guru on that. And it was just released, this thing was this week, or last week, I forgot it was this week, I think I released it just came out. It just came out this week. And it is fascinating to talk to someone who you know, in many ways, is a spiritual master, and having a conversation with him and talking to him about life and about your spiritual journey. And about just everything was really beautiful and eye opening. And I'll put a link to that in the show notes for that for that episode. But then I reached out to you, I'm like, Well, I gotta have Adam on the show. Because you know, he's a filmmaker, and he's been, you're not only just like, I shot a little documentary, you've been doing it consistently over for over a decade now. And doing it at a high level, you're doing really great work, and you're doing award winning work and, and movies that many of us have seen and heard of and been on Netflix, and so on and so forth. So going back to the highest pass. Yeah. The insanity of the environment as a producer, because you didn't direct that once you produce that one.

Adam Schomer 11:31
Yeah, I mean, co directed, co directed although credit wise it's not listed. It's a that's a whole story, wrote it wrote it co directed, CO produced.

Alex Ferrari 11:43
I figured I figured there was a story behind that, because like, he's directed everything since what, what happened here.

Adam Schomer 11:51
But it's got strong arm and postproduction, you know?

Alex Ferrari 11:58
Of course you did, because we're what we're making a movie about spirituality and the quest for enlightenment. And yet my ego says, I must have full credit. So

Adam Schomer 12:09
Correct. I got kicked out of the office for three weeks once you know, like, planning.

Alex Ferrari 12:13
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that's, that's a great holocaust. Great Hollywood story for filmmakers. And there's to understand that that look, it happens. It happened to me when we first started, it happens to it's amazing. The Eagles that are in this business, it's fascinating.

Adam Schomer 12:28
And I'm remembering I was consulting with a non timber, like, how do I deal with this? This is a spiritual movie, I'm in post and like, This is crazy. He's like, Look, you have to look at the good parts of someone. They they had the intent, they saw that, you know, we should produce this thing. This is a great, you know, they had that enough there, but not everybody's perfect. So on some level, you're dealing with a five year old, you really are and like that, you have to approach it that way. And would you try to explain yourself to a five year old? No, you just kind of maneuver in some ways around the five year old. And then you know, that's it. It basically it just keep it simple. And I give him the film, he's like, just keep it simple. You're dealing with a five year old and move on and do what you can and make the movie.

Alex Ferrari 13:10
Yeah, that's a fascinating way to approach it. Because I believe I've I've dealt with many five year olds in this business. Many, many, many of them over the years. So how did you so how did you shoot in that intense environment and like it's it's insane.

Adam Schomer 13:27
It's insane. And for a first first to be we were 21 people total meaning the seven riders plus and on and crew. Three, three cars, seven bikes. No scouting, I had never shot in India. We're going over crazy roads. It's so how did I do? I mean, first part of the environment to deal with is the fact that you might die every day being you know, so that's really when comparing producing and death it was death was the main focus, you know, like Oh, I'm in the film, right? I'm writing first and foremost is like how about I survive and let's hope everybody else survives. So that that was the most challenging thing for me was writing and then producing To be honest, like I was calling on great people right and directing it was like okay, I leaned on my DP a lot you know, when it came to the shot I might have know what I like but I'm like show me what you think would be good here. Awesome. I like it too. Let's move forward you know keep it very simple lien on your people that know what they're doing I came from a story background so I knew what I wanted story wise and but God and in packing up and moving no scouting just shooting you know huge credit to the DP huge credit to the whole crew of just like winging it like a documentary is okay, let's go ahead of the let's go ahead of the bikers by half hours in one car ahead. They find a spot they think is great, and we all get a shot as we go by, you know, that kind of stuff now and then we would say Hey, can we Turn around and do that entrance again and have everybody right into this, you know, lunch place.

Alex Ferrari 15:06
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Adam Schomer 15:15
But for the most, most part, you get what you get. And I mean, it was 21 days. It was scary as hell and and you know, sleep was at a total minimum, I remember the first, because in the first few days, you're in the flat and you're in the hills. And then you come to where you see the Himalayas. And this is what can pass the first pass, right? And it's called pile of dead bodies is what rotating is translated as. So again, the story. The writer's mind is like, what? And so, you know, you doing research on the internet is not helpful, because pilot dead bodies and you're thinking I'm going right off the cliff. And that's that. And, but, and before that, I remember like, Oh, my God, like what fight with my co producer, we leave at 5am. So I slept probably two hours before we're about to go into the Himalayas. And it's again, it's just like, okay, so be it. Alright, grab some chai, Alex and some coffee and put on your masks and your gloves because freezing and and off we go. And as you see in the movie, that that whole moment was tough, because we made a decision where the roads really weren't quite open yet before rain started into the Himalayas at that point. So it was it was scary.

Alex Ferrari 16:27
You guys were going on basically, basically, at the seat of your pants, literally and figuratively. Because you're just shooting. So I was watching as I was watching this, I'm like, This is insane. This is an insane kind of doc to be the same same movie. And I see what they're going through. I've been at 12,000 feet, I think at one point in somewhere in Colorado, in Colorado. And it was in summer, so it wasn't freezing was still probably like 60 when it was nice, like 100 down at the bottom. But I had been to to Park City a whole bunch. And so I understand that the oxygen declaration but I can't even comprehend. Traveling at up to 18,000 feet.

Adam Schomer 17:14
And one of our crew went down like way to send them home. You know?

Alex Ferrari 17:17
Yeah, it'll hurt. He'll kill you.

Adam Schomer 17:19
Yeah, that was one of the, you know, my audio engineer. He helped to get it produced good friend from Michigan. And he, it was great, because he was telling me what audio equipment he needed, you know, and stuff. So I'm trying to source it in India, and I could not find an eight channel mixer anywhere except Mumbai. And then maybe my second DP would bring it from and I call him I'm like, do you really need a challenge? Like, Oh, no. He's like, I just, he had never actually been in the field. He told me later, he was just going by the seat of his pants, because he was more sound mix in the back, you know, in the studio. So here I am searching for equipment that he was kind of like, yeah, that's industry standard. And I couldn't find it anywhere in India. So we compromised, of course, but he ended up coming a little a few days late. So I had a second audio engineer from India. And that can beg to come on the trip with us after seeing like the prep. He's like, can I just help in any way? Like, let me be with a non let me be with you guys. This is a trip of a lifetime. So we brought him it's a good thing we did because Andy, my audio engineer, when we were up at the 16,000 foot pass, and we did this part of the film where we went up and check the paths out talk to the generals and the general said, No, it's close for two weeks right there. This passes closer snow. And if you watch the film, you'll see we ended up by carrying bikes over snow and it's crazy. But during that little pre pre meeting Andy art, my sound engineer went down hard with altitude sickness, and we had to send them home the next day. And so thankfully, we had the second audio engineer backup guy. Yeah, backup guy and did his best. And that's kind of the craziness of filming. Like we got lucky, you know, and Andy got lucky that he wasn't hurt, per se but you never know who's gonna have audio. It doesn't out to sickness, it can be in great shape. And

Alex Ferrari 19:07
Ohh, yeah, it doesn't matter what shape you're in it. They'll they'll bring anybody to their knees. It's it's just a weird.

Adam Schomer 19:13
We all had it at some we all had it at some point. And then when you get down to like 11,000 feet, you're like, oh my god, this is amazing. I can brain you know and take a moment compared to sleeping at 15 when you're climatized it's hard. It's really difficult. It just if you haven't acclimatized

Alex Ferrari 19:31
Wow, that's insane. So that so with that film, you released it. You went theatrical with that as well, right?

Adam Schomer 19:37
We did. Yeah, we were lucky enough to win some awards at festivals and distribution company. said let's take it theatrical. We took a theatrical here in LA and went on to Netflix right after that awesome back when Netflix was a little different.

Alex Ferrari 19:49
It was a little it was little starting a little startup. Back then. Now did you did you get any? That was your first experience with distribution

Adam Schomer 20:00
Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, the distributor and see what happens,

Alex Ferrari 20:03
And what and what happened?

Adam Schomer 20:06
I mean, you know, thankfully, the theatrical was good meaning we had a run here in Santa Monica and in in LA and people saw it. And we got to write up in the LA Times like a full page, right? Which hasn't happened since on any film I've done. Like, we found a reporter that somehow was into it. Suzanne carpenter and got what would be like a $40,000 ad, kind of wow. You know, in essence, because it's just like a full page, huge photo and great article. So people came out and saw it. And a lot of people actually from that, then go went on the road of dharma. They saw the film sauce and a q&a and said, If you do this again, tell us and so we did. And when that's when we filmed the road to dharma series, and a lot of those people from seeing that film then came into the next series, and we can talk about that later. But it did it did well in the theater, and it got on Netflix and all that, you know, I mean, financially for the investors. No, not so much. But in the, you know, the distributors did their thing where they come up with expenses and all that.

Alex Ferrari 21:03
No, stop it.

Adam Schomer 21:05
So I learned a little bit.

Alex Ferrari 21:09
I just I always like asking, I always like to ask him these questions, because I can never stop reiterating. This fact is that this Hollywood accounting is always Hollywood. It's just the way they do business. It's just the way the industry has done business. And it's, in many ways. I don't even think people who who do it these distributors who do it think they're bad guys, I think they just, it's just inherent in the system, the way the system is built. They're just like, yeah, we're going to give you an MG maybe back then you might have gotten an NG. So you got to know we did not even mg right. So yeah, but then the Oh, you made 10,000 This month, but 11,000 It's inexpensive. What are those expenses? I can't. So those kinds of things. I was curious about if that was your case, as well.

Adam Schomer 21:57
Now, this was they weren't you know, stimuli were they weren't like horrible by any means. But okay, you know, they were still cool. And they you know, they even believe it again, it's like, the good part where they believed in it, and they took a theatrical ego came and as the first film like, you celebrate your wins, and then you take the take the learning on the shoulder and go, Okay, that's fine.

Alex Ferrari 22:14
And so then the second the series wrote the Dharma, which just got released, and when 2020 2020 2020 that released, but you shot it in.

Adam Schomer 22:27
When we did shoot, we shot it in 2012, to be honest, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 22:30
So you shout it out. So it took eight years for that to come out. And that was because it couldn't find financing or couldn't get the thing, you know, funding financing.

Adam Schomer 22:40
Yeah. I don't usually tell anyone your podcast as the scoop on we have the scoop.

Alex Ferrari 22:46
I appreciate that. I don't think it's gonna hurt. I don't think anyone cares. Outside of people like you and me. No one. No one watching it. Like, oh, this has been shot eight years ago. I can't watch this.

Adam Schomer 22:55
You can't tell it. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 22:57
You're in the Himalayas, with bikes that look like they're from the 50s. Anyway. So everyone's jacked up with all sorts of motorcycle gear, no one can tell. And you're going into towns that don't have any technology anyway. So you have no idea if it's 2012 or 2020

Adam Schomer 23:14
That's for sure. And it's shot well enough where you're you're you're in there and you have a feeling of like you're part of that journey. That's a good thing. There's that authentic ness of like you're in it with us It's good like that.

Alex Ferrari 23:24
Exactly. So you shot the the series I wanted to ask you because you since you released it recently, and I think it might have been for the best honestly. I think if you would have released it in 2012 2013 2014. There wasn't as big of a market for doc series as there is now so I wanted to hear your experience as a documentarian Do you see more doc series being more valuable in the marketplace or a doc by itself?

Adam Schomer 23:51
That's a great I mean we all see more doc series in general more ducks in general. And I think the other part of the market that is like like your pocket spirituality has grown right oh huge there is there's more of a market for people that might be on the edge you know, the average guy that maybe comes across and sit or the wife says hey watch this and because you know women tend to be 80% of the yogi community so to speak and so they sometimes bring guys into and like

Alex Ferrari 24:18
I don't know about you I look fantastic a yoga pants but that's just I should say I should I have I have little lemons on right now so

Adam Schomer 24:28
Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 24:30
Just just the socks

Adam Schomer 24:33
This bank is just this bank so suspects you know, it's on video to what we're doing. So where were we what were what were the doc series doc series? Yeah, that's here. Yeah, I think more valuable I know me personally. I find more value in wanting to tell more of the story more of people's stories more of the wisdom of what goes on there we go into more depth and you know, there's a certain pacing with a feature doc feature length doc that you have to keep up. And that's great and all watching out for my cat walk in my butt. Yeah, I can't say let's say, you know, for the filmmakers out there making an independent series, if there's more value, meaning like it's easier to sell that or make money on, I think that it's incredibly hard what what I've done and your last guest was talking about it too, that she did a independent series, not a doc series, but a narrative series. And I think it's a strange way to go. Not many people do it and then to sell afterwards. But I think inherently on a meaningful level, it's incredibly valuable. I'm still waiting for some of the big boys to kind of come along and say, Hey, this is great on me back to do a season two and a season three before one of the big boys says, okay, everyone's ready for this now. All right. So I hope that kind of answers your question.

Alex Ferrari 25:50
Yeah. It is hard to say because I've seen I've seen people be very successful with duck series. I mean, docks docks right now, are extremely valuable. And they have been probably for the last decade, and they've been growing in popularity. And I've talked about them heavily in my book about finding niche audiences. And if you make a knock about a niche audience, whether that is plant based diets, spirituality, surfing, skateboarding, whatever it is, there's a built in audience that you can target much easier than a broad spectrum narrative. And Doc's have been getting more and more, but I've been noticing, there's been more doc series on Netflix, and on Hulu, and on these other places where they will do a series because inherently there's just more value, there's more content for them to read. So that's when I wrote the Dharma Miko that makes all the sense in the world, because that's a story you can easily tell in a series, you have more than enough content story to fill. That's why when I saw that, and I was lucky, I saw rotor Dharma first. Then I went back and saw the highest pass. And I was like, okay, so they went, they shot that. And then they obviously went, you know, 10 years later, I said, Why did they wait so long? At least the series, but I enjoyed the series much more because you get if you're taking the motorcycle trip up to the Himalayas, with a yogi, I mean, that's more than 90 minutes, man.

Adam Schomer 27:16
I mean, there's there's just so there's so much, there's so much to see so much done to the history, you know, we don't go too much into the history. But the teachings Yeah, all these characters, right?

Alex Ferrari 27:27
Yeah, everyone's fighting their own demons and trying to find their egos. And they're all they're all trying to tell themselves stories of why they shouldn't do this. And I thought there'd be more yoga on this retreat, and all this kind of all this.

Adam Schomer 27:37
All this guy like yoga, stretching or not like Yoga is not stretching, you know, if you want stretching and a massage, go to a spa. You know, he's like, right out of here, you come here to transcend. And that's what you've come for. It's like sweet, you know, that's a good It's to remind people Yoga is not the studio thing.

Alex Ferrari 27:54
No, it's not. It's the it's one of the benefits of yoga is the physical, but it's yoga was never built, as, you know, yogi's, weren't running around in that Lululemon, you know, back in the day, you know, they were, they were, it was a form of transcending spiritually. And I just love him. He's like, I'm here to challenge you at every step of the way. I was like, This is great. So you've got a built in conflict. You've got built in conflict, which is so wonderful. We were able to build out this whole story and then how did that go? How did how did selling that? The series go?

Adam Schomer 28:25
Yeah, I mean, it is a long journey, right? Since we built filmed in 2012, and raised enough money to go shoot it on a on a shoestring, so to speak, and was hoping that when I came back, I'd be able to put a sizzle together and go out to somebody's network and say, hey, look, I have the footage I already have it's here you don't even have to buy into the idea I already shot it. So this was my my thinking was no problem. Right? I'll go shoot it come back and they'll have no choice but to be like, Oh, of course we'll give you the money to finish it. That didn't work. So that couldn't get anyone to to bite on that. And then you have to year goes and I start I was making heal I got brought into produce heal. And while I was producing heal, we had like a couple week break on something decided, yes, you know what, I'm going to go brush up and learn, Premiere full on and did so on my vacation and then started editing. The first two episodes, episode one and two of the road of dharma. Wow. I think that yeah, the whole end of post and distribution, which is a crazy time for a documentary film. I was also editing two episodes, I was really pushing myself to make sure what the demo was ready when he was done. So that you know that's a lesson that people sometimes you got to work your ass off on the side right to be ready. And so when and I think to be honest, I mean, I'm really glad that I had some time as a filmmaker to grow in between and be able to like, show my vision a bit better. And, and to make those first few episodes to be able to show us Don't worry, this is what I'm talking about.

Alex Ferrari 30:02
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Adam Schomer 30:12
You know, this is the style, I want to be able to mix it being entertaining, and character driven, but also have that spirit there. And I'm not putting a man on a pedestal as his guru, I'm trying to make them approachable. And if you resonate with what he says, great, but this isn't a movie of a series about a guru and how to follow him. No, it's about people seeking freedom in our demons, like you said, so I really wanted to get that across. And maybe that was holding back, you know, holding us back with some of the networks is like, you know, we can't go that spiritual yet. But, you know, it's still like a real reality and authentic reality show, in many ways. Like, so. There's danger. So then, yeah, and invest. I showed an investor a couple episodes. And actually, it was more like a friend that I didn't know had the ability to invest. Any and he pulled me aside, he's like, I want to talk to you about the road to dharma, I want to invest. Like, when does that happen? All the time.

Alex Ferrari 31:02
It happens all the time. Oh, all the time, money is easy to get in the business. Don't you know?

Adam Schomer 31:09
It create No, I happen on the highest pass at 1.2. Because we were all the way through posts. And we know we needed a second cut. And I was at an event. And it was a Cornell like event. I went to Cornell University and one of them, one of my buddies says, Hey, I'm looking to invest in film.

Alex Ferrari 31:26
Which, in normal scenarios you would have done you don't want to do that.

Adam Schomer 31:31
No, no. And he's like, I just want to learn, I just want to learn a little bit, you know, I'll perfect and I'm at a great place less risk, because it's already kind of done in and you can see, and so he threw in some money, you know, I know there was the universe, given a little nudges. So it's, it's helped out on the way in its own timing, to use some woowoo language, but it's a way that we got an investor there and then I got another investment we rolled up you know, finished the series on our own and, and take it out on our own digitally and still be able to keep pitching it to networks, we still do to this day, keep keep pitching it internationally to different places. Like we're signing with a network in Germany, signing within sign with a network in Brazil, talking to a network in France, we're on Gaia as well. And then I had to get a little creative and I even caught it create a course around the

Alex Ferrari 32:19
Yeah, I saw that I saw the course on Anons website. So that was really interesting. Is he it's like you read my book. It's exactly what I say is like he create the product and then create other ancillary products that generate more revenue than the movie next exhibition of the movie is it because the future of the future of our business is not 2299 rentals, it's courses it's workshops, it's other businesses as other services wrapped around. Yeah, things that can serve that audience that that niche audiences so for you it'd be the spiritual audience.

Adam Schomer 32:52
And also I knew from I knew from here but things like like an online summit or an online course you can you can access other people's audiences for those things more than you can film so I could say to here like I'd say to Gregg Braden people I knew well and say you can be an affiliate of this course you can make 50% revenue if you promote it to your your people. And you know, there's something free they get to watch the free free episodes and it's something you believe in, you know, and we know each other, so then okay, now you're getting someone personally blasting. And now you're reaching 500,000 people or a million people personally with a course and even if they don't bite the course they might try the free episodes or they might then go find the series and you got some advertising and every it's a win win, they make money. Your list grows too and anyway, so that's another thing you can't do as easily with just a film.

Alex Ferrari 33:44
Yeah, and so that brings me into the next movie heal which i i saw heal before I saw Raja Dharma or the highest pass so I had watched him just purely because I was interested in the concept of the movie The doc and it was down in my wheelhouse. I was like, Oh, let me watch it. So I watched a really enjoyed the film. I knew a lot of the people inside inside the film like you know the people that that are you interview and stuff in the show, but yeah, all those guys. Um, yeah. I just known all of them. And I've read their books and things like that. But he'll was I remember he'll being I met one of the other producers at a summit once I forgot the name of the producer, but one of the other producers I met and he was just at the brink of the Netflix deal. And I just remember that was like this is actually doing it's doing. It's getting a lot of attention. The doc got a lot of attention. So tell me the story of keel and what the movie is about generally, but then how you read it because it kind of almost hit. It almost kind of was the fork over knives of that of that movement. If you're anyone who doesn't know what Forks Over Knives is is what it was basically the I think the first documentary that really talked about plant based diets and in exploded and built multimillion dollar businesses around it to make a magazine even, oh, magazine, food products, it's built, they've done fantastic off of that dock. And heal, I feel is that for its niche in the space? So can you talk a little bit about what it is?

Adam Schomer 35:17
Yeah. And thank you for watching it. And thank you for speaking so highly of it. So where do we want to start? I mean, he'll in general, what it is, is a film about really that, that we have the power within to heal, and that through our emotions, through stress through our thoughts, that we have a bigger part to play in our healing, than just giving our power away necessarily to medicine or to a doctor, or to any healer, to be honest. So it ends up being a, we hope, a very integrative film, not super woowoo saying it's only emotional, we're just saying that's part of the puzzle, and that it shouldn't be talked about. And that's what I like about the film is saying, let's open our, our perception a bit in terms of healing and realize that thoughts do play a part emotions do play support plays a part, your life purpose might play a part. And you might need to move or change something in your relationships to help your body get out of a stress mode, so he can do its thing and help heal your disease. And you also might need to change your diet, you might need to do chemo, you might need to do some other things, right. But it's part of it. And we wanted to just dive into that. And we use a lot of experts, we use a couple stories. One of the stories isn't isn't a happy ending. I liked that about the film. It's, it's it's chronic illness, and it's a damn tough space. And she doesn't know what's wrong. And she's not really willing to make the changes. And the system, as we talked about the film system not necessarily set up, right, or distributors just do their thing. Our health system isn't set up exactly correctly to support the mind body healing. You know, it's, it's not there to help you pay for that stuff. So resources is an issue. You say, Oh, why don't y'all just change this? And you're like, Well, I'm just trying to survive. And so that stuff we continually look at and then heal. We realized after the film, there was more we could offer the audience. So the film did amazing. We, you know, if you want to talk strategy, in terms of what we did distribution, I can Yeah, please, please. Because it's helpful. And I've used it with some films afterwards, when they've come to me, and I usually don't consult, it's not like my job. But when something falls into a niche that I've done, and I feel I can help them and they're primed for it. And I liked the film's like, okay, you know, let's do it. So we realized, of course, we needed an audience, like you've talked about before we release, you can't wait until you release. So as soon as we started filming, we started building a fan base and with a website and getting emails out there and attracting people to the film. So by the time we launched, I think we have 50,000 person email list, which isn't huge. But

Alex Ferrari 37:49
You know what? It's not it's not a joke, either. That's a huge email list for a movie that had nothing at the beginning. That's enough. That's a that's a fairly massive email list. And that's how big this audience is. That tells you volumes of how big this audience is.

Adam Schomer 38:03
Right! Right. Healing in general. You know, people are,

Alex Ferrari 38:07
I don't know about you, something hurts on me right now. Is a little bit hip. I, you know, my ankles is hurting because it's about to rain. So there you go. There's always someone we're all hurt as you get older, something hurts. So hey, who's the audience? Everyone who's in pain from people who are, you know, on the brink of death, because of a chronic illness to my hip hurts.

Adam Schomer 38:30
And it's not like it goes away, you know, like meaning meaning it takes a lot of audience every year, no meaning like,

Alex Ferrari 38:37
The audience. The audience doesn't shrink.

Adam Schomer 38:39
They don't shrink. It's only growing in awareness. And like, we've been out five years, I think, and you know, 12 million minutes a month, we're on prime, you know, like, people were still in the charts in the UK in Germany when it comes to digital sales.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
People are looking for people.

Adam Schomer 38:59
Yeah, one of my good buddies I play soccer was like, Hey, I watched I finally watched a movie here. I'm like, Thanks for the support, you know, five years later, but he's like, it's great. So people, on their own time come to these things. Anyway. So distribution wise, back to that 50,000. We built the audience, we knew we needed to do that.

Alex Ferrari 39:16
Did you self distribute? Or did you go through a distributor,

Adam Schomer 39:18
We did a hybrid type thing. And this is something again, by the time I was working with heal, Kelly Kelly Gore's film Kelly Kelly came up with it. She's a director, she brought me into produce and I'm very thankful that she did because now we're like, co producing partners and great relationship. And so she knew she had done like a horror flick kind of before and you know, so she knew the problems and distribution and what a distributor dusty, we both knew that so that was cool. And so we're gonna do anything in our power to not be in their power. So I knew from the beginning, let's build an audience beforehand so that we could go out you know, independently and have some money to support us. We There was an organic audience of email. So we knew it people that wanted they personally said, I want you to have my email Keep me posted, okay, they'll probably by, you know, the the probably jump in in terms of all that growing and you know, we went to a festival that we knew was our audience and we were the opening night there and there are 700 people and so our investors also get to see that and then see oh, wow, there's, there's an audience here. And it's palpable, and that helped them put a little bit more money for independent distribution. So in terms of strategy, what we did, we decided to do like theatrical on our own and, and screenings on our own. So we brought in a screening guy to handle the small screenings and get people talking about it out there and do you know that's what he got organic press for us? Because some church in Iowa that's going to do a screening is going to tell their people about it, okay. 100 people show up but you know, 1000 people got heard about it and heard about here and maybe it's on their radar next time they see it or hear about or someone you know how it is right, you have to talk about it. Talk about it talk when finally you watch. So we did a lot of those screenings, probably 100 We did a bunch in Australia. Definitely made a little money there. But you know, sometimes it's just break even with the screenings and all that that's great. Definitely made a little money in the screenings, broke even on theatrical, and we came out in I think, eight, eight to 10 cities, you know, hired a consultant to help us do that. So I was like, the point man brought in the screening guy brought him this theatrical guy. And then for digital, we signed with what's called 1091, you know, distribution company. They back then they were the orchard. Oh, yeah, another 1091. And they've had a lot of success digitally come out with some spiritual films, some Alien film, niche films by King films. So they, they knew and we had we, we structured a good deal with them to be honest. And they support us and gave us a little bit of money for even a trailer and all this other stuff that we didn't want to dump a lot into. And so we also then planned it like Kelly and I, neither of us wanted to do this long, protracted distribution cycle of like, Let's do screenings for a year. You know, like the film awake with Yogananda didn't work. We don't want to do that.

Alex Ferrari 42:11
They were super successful theater in Apollo.

Adam Schomer 42:13
Yeah. Yeah, I met them because of the highest pass way back, right.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
Yeah. Well, I would imagine you guys this paths crossed. They've been on the show and been on my show, like three times already. I love them. I love what they did with that film. It's amazing. They actually are a case study in my book, as well.

Adam Schomer 42:32
So Peter came we were they wanted to see Michael Molera, who's the composer of the highest best they wanted to hear his work. So when I showed him a cut of the film, and there again, I'm this is so cool, like, and then I ended up bringing Peter into help edit like the second cut. So we became buddies. And, and I love his story mine and they're great. And then I gave them some footage for a week from the highest pass to us in the film, which was just like, an anon does in a week. I don't know if you know that.

Alex Ferrari 42:55
I think he might. I think I might have seen them in a week. You're absolutely right. That's a week. Yeah.

Adam Schomer 43:00
So becomes a kind of like a small little, you know, a nice little family. And I mean, just an honor to have some of the footage from one of my films with Yogananda in that film. Anyway. So back to the heel distribution thing, we decided, let's not do the long thing like awake, let's do condense. So we pushed the utricle screenings and digital as close together as possible. So we came out in October in theaters. And then by December 5, we're out on digital and of course, we had to do all that you know, independently when it comes to theatrical and all that so that we could have control of all of our dates.

Alex Ferrari 43:36
And and I just want to just stop you for there for a second. So when people listening, the reason why awake, which is a documentary about the spiritual master Yogananda did their long, their long theatrical and screenings was because they had direct CO production or relationship with Yogananda, his organization which basically had access to every Yogananda disciple around the world. So it would be foolish not to stretch that out as much as you could because it was just such a such a built in audience that it may did very well if you stopped millions and they did really, really, really well. So but for you hard, hard to replicate, yeah, hard, very difficult to replicate. I think. Hare Krishna, Hari Krishna, they tried to do something similar, but didn't have the same great film. So I love that film, but didn't have the same access to that because it literally just like touch a button and they can talk to everybody. So with heal, from my perspective, look, listen to what you're saying. It's an audience but it is not a dedikate it's not like people who are just like, you know, religiously about this. It's a much broader, diluted audience. So what your tech your your strategy makes much, much more sense. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. Sir. And now back to the show.

Adam Schomer 45:06
Yeah, we built that audience build the email list and got everyone excited for okay. If you can't see in theaters not your you're not in one of the main cities don't worry, or you didn't get a small screening in your area. It's coming December 5 on digital and DVD even to DVD. And

Alex Ferrari 45:22
Did you do on DVD by the way?

Adam Schomer 45:23
We made like 150 grand on DVD.

Alex Ferrari 45:25
Of course you did. Because What year was this? 2017 17?

Adam Schomer 45:30
The end of 17. So call it 18 2018.

Alex Ferrari 45:33
Right! Still, like CD DVD still sell? People don't listen, people still buy DVDs. If you're at a screening, and you love the movie, and you had a DVD with some bonus stuff in it. Somebody would buy it.

Adam Schomer 45:48
We could I mean, I guess we could believe it. But we couldn't. But you know, a little older audience is a little more has the illness and they're still with DVD at that point. And it's so correct. And that was cool to see that. And we did really well on digital when we came out and our goal was to be honest 1091 But the orchard had already pissed pitch Netflix and Netflix had said no. To the to the Okay, they did this was in the fall before we came out theatrically and all that then we come out theatrically and do this big push. And we hit number one on iTunes. And versus the charts. And stayed there for a few weeks a documentary

Alex Ferrari 46:26
Or an doc in document in that document. Yeah,

Adam Schomer 46:29
I mean, gone, you know, competing with everyone else, almost impossible. But

Alex Ferrari 46:32
Yeah, but still, number number one Doc is no easy thing to do.

Adam Schomer 46:37
But then to stay there. Because usually, we stay for a few weeks. And then in the in the top three for about three months. So we had like the staying power. And then we went back to Netflix and said, you know, the distributors like look people like this thing. It's making money. It's, you know, you should really reconsider it. And then and then they did come up with a two year deal. And it was It wasn't anything great either, to be honest. But it was, it was for us to it was more about exposure. Of course, of course, most of our money was made on just digital sales.

Alex Ferrari 47:08
Really. So most of the money was done still until on transactional. But But this movie, because I always tell people transactional is dead, generally speaking, but but the difference is that your topic, someone will rent it for 399. Some will buy it for 999 to give extra bonuses or extra interviews on it. Because it's such a there's something like I want to heal myself. I'm going to spend 399 It's a horror movie. Oh, wait till I find it somewhere else. There's 1000 other horror movies, but there is no other healing documentary. So you have this really special place. And that's why that makes sense for transactional. And I'm glad that you actually waited. Yeah, I'm glad you actually waited for Netflix as if you would have gotten that Netflix that first deal. You weren't have made as much money.

Adam Schomer 47:56
Yeah, I mean, they said no, to be honest, you know, right. And so my strategy for some other people is like, well, if if you can't turn the dial, show them that you can by trying to get get yourself to number one, I have to in some way, which is hard in itself or just show them there's an audience by selling and who knows, you might not even want to be on Netflix but or go on prime or even know Prime has gotten a little crazy with what they lead on there with docks. Right away prime dropped recently. So after Netflix, we went on to prime which then is just by minute and they're paying you by minute. And that ended up being very lucrative. Also, you know, people,

Alex Ferrari 48:33
You would probably be at the you'd probably be at the higher end of that minute per minute, because there's a range of a penny to 12 cents or something like that. Yeah, yeah, probably higher. Seven, maybe

Adam Schomer 48:44
Sounds we were making per minute. And that's great. At one point, you know, I don't mind sharing this that I one point we were making, there was like 12 million minutes a month, basically is what recently, then prime minutes big, you know, like shove off of dogs. Right? We they dropped us in the UK dropped us in Canada dropped us in France. And we're like, geez, you know, like, what's up, I, you know, what's up, and then suddenly, during COVID, they dropped us in the US. And so we had our distributor, ask them He's like, he's like, they don't even tell me why. I've never had them, overturn it. With all the docs that have they've taken off of ours. And with he'll, for some reason, like a week, two weeks later, they put it back on. So something clicked in their head, like why why do we randomly take this off, you know, oh, it's alternative health and we're in COVID. And that's dangerous, too. Who knows why they turned it off. You know, there's nothing about COVID in there. Obviously, there's pre COVID. And even so, I think people should be able to talk you know, it's a little strange out there. That's a whole nother topic. But distribution wise, you know, Netflix a little you know, a little chunk but the awareness with Netflix went crazy. And then we pivoted to prime after and that's helped a ton and still transactionally you know, people still buy a transaction you But he'll is a you know, kind of an anomaly like we're talking about people are always sick and they're looking for resources and they're motivated. And, and we think it's a very balanced film. It's not too woowoo. So so it has a broad audience, which is what we wanted.

Alex Ferrari 50:12
That's awesome. And then you also, like started building out other product lines and services around heal, which I found fascinating as well. So you had I think a book came out. Yeah, Kelly, so she has a book based on it. So now you're leveraging the audience of the people who've seen the movie to like, oh, the heal, the book is out. I'll buy it. Like I bought the I bought a wake the book. Exactly. I saw the awake book, it was just like the movie companion to the book. I'm like, I'm such a fan of that movie. I was like, I bought it. And then Peter was like, seeing him in the background of my, of my shows. Like, that's, that's amazing. I'm like, yeah, so it's great. So you have the book, but then you also did something, which was really interesting to Summit. So can you go? Can you go into the summit a little bit? What is the how you were able to partner with a very big self help publishing company? And if you don't mind talking about the financials of that, not details, but just general?

Adam Schomer 51:07
Yeah, yeah. Because it is fascinating. And it's, it's something that jumped out to me, as we're making it, where we're like, we have these interviews that are an hour, an hour and a half with these top experts, Chopra, Dispenza. Braid and, and Anthony William Medical Medium was very huge now and was just kind of growing at the time. What are we going to deal with these interviews, we should do something. And so I was, we were super busy, of course of the film, but I was whispering to Kelly, like, we should put these together and sell them in some way or put them for people that want the deep information. So we were considering doing it on our own. And then, and I, you know, we just start all my rallies, people, our Hay House authors, you know, a lot of these, you know, who, let's approach Hay House and see if they want to do something together, because they would have an audience too. And that could be helpful. So we just call them up and had a meeting sat there, you know, with the CEO down in San Diego, and he's super nice. Like, that sounds great. Let's do it. You know, it's like this. Yeah, it's a win, win. 5050 Cool, let's put them out there. And they had their strategies of like affiliate partners and all that. We had all the footage, they had the marketing team to be able to make it happen and get it out there. They had that system. And that's, you know, we just had a really delivering support and make sure it was in our brand that they didn't, you know, make it to Hay House, that it still had the heel ethos to it. And that's something we wanted to keep. And it's a great partnership. I mean, we love Hay House. And we ended up doing a summit two and a summit three, I mean, the summit, finances did fantastic.

Alex Ferrari 52:43
So those are those based on old interviews that you shot for the movie? Or did you have new stuff come in?

Adam Schomer 52:48
For the for the first summit, we took all the interviews from the film, and I don't think we added anything new because we had a team that we filmed. Maybe we did. And so that for somebody that amazing and the you know, the great byproduct that came out last summer of 2018, after the film was out, but then we walked away with an email list that was about 300,000 people.

Alex Ferrari 53:12
Right, and so you're talking dirt, you're talking dirty to me now, sir.

Adam Schomer 53:17
I mean, they were blown away, we were the best we did the summits that year, they were blown away, we were blown away. Financially, I won't go into the details very, very well. The summits alone that we've done, have more than covered the budget of the film. And that makes you kind of think and you go oh my god, you know, like, you put all this effort into editing a film. And you could have shot 18 interviews, and not edited anything and put a summit, but you needed the film to create the buzz. And the film really is the entry point. And here we are, though in 2022. And there's a lot more summits and it's a little more saturated now. So like doesn't that yeah,

Alex Ferrari 53:56
It is it is it is a little bit more saturated. But still, if you've got an audience, and you've got a topic, people, it'll cut through all of that. And it's literally exactly what I was writing about, in my book Rise of the entrepreneur, it's like, the movie becomes a giant trailer, a giant, a giant marketing piece, as and I said in the book, even give the movie away for free, right? Because it's all about driving people to I don't care about 399 for a rental or 999 for you to buy the movie, I care you to buy the summit, that's gonna be $100 or it'll be a couple 100 bucks, or you or my services or my consulting or my books or my other things that have bigger, bigger, you know, interest in, you know, financial interest in as opposed to the movie that I might have a distribution deal that I don't, as we talked about might not get all the money because of expenses and all that stuff. But they don't take money away from summits. They don't take money away from books, they don't take money away from services or other things that you can provide. It's fascinating and that you leveraged the people inside of them. Movies audiences by making them partners with an affiliate program. Yes is the future. It's, I mean, why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't they, if they liked the product, don't push it out for them. It's not that hard. And they just make they make money and they help their audience. So it is a win win. It's a wonderful ecosystem. It truly is a wonderful ecosystem. And there's a

Adam Schomer 55:23
Yeah. And there's, there's a podcast now we did 38 episodes of the pocket. We did three summits and you know, and internationally, like, we push that summit out in Germany and France, and it's still going, you still go and we have great partners over there we work with and, and yeah, in a podcasts, what else did we do? Podcasts, we've we've, we have 38 episodes, we're going to start up again, probably in July, we've taken a little pause, and now we're developing series and going to end to go out with a series hopefully,

Alex Ferrari 55:55
Like a like a, like a, like a 10 episode series, or it's

Adam Schomer 55:59
Like a premium doc series. That's that's always been kind of in the back of our mind. It's just been again, like timing. And we think like now is is a good time.

Alex Ferrari 56:07
I'm just saying, Guys, this is I mean, it's everything I've been saying. For years, it's so really, I wouldn't be writing the book right now you'd be a case study. And maybe in the second edition, I'll put you guys in as a case study, because it's just, it's so brilliantly done. But this is the future for independent filmmakers. And in you've I mean, you've been down the road so much already. You've done I've done a ton of work, you know how hard it is to sell a movie? And how to make it to make money with a movie. Yeah. And the future is I keep saying is you have to be that entrepreneurial filmmaker that takes control, creates other products, creates other services creates other revenue streams off of the film you're doing, and you can't do it with a narrative. I've seen it I have many examples of it. But Doc seems to be so much easier. Because the audience is right. Like they just want it it's a different audience,

Adam Schomer 56:57
Then then that makes sense if the audience the niche and also usually the passion behind the doc, somebody that's doing it has some expertise in that topic or passion. And I mean, you gotta have that right. If you're gonna stick with something and make it big and brand like you have to be in to cycling. If you're going to do a cycling movie or right we're the road to dharma, like motorcycling in the Himalayas, I'm into yogic thought, I'm into freedom. Freedom is important to me. And wisdom is important. I can't write a course on freedom to go along with that. If I'm not into you know,

Alex Ferrari 57:28
You're like this Yo, he's out of his mind. He's trying to kill me like if you wouldn't have been in the vibe with the story. You can't so you have to be something that's true to you as a filmmaker or that interest you as a filmmaker because you're gonna be with this for a while

Adam Schomer 57:45
For a while you know, we can't Americanize everything be like, Hey, let's market the Hell, if you don't have any passion for it, you absolutely won't happen or won't work. Like, I'm looking at some other films and like, like the polygon that we did, like, there's not much we could have. I mean, that's about nuclear testing in Kazakhstan, and

Alex Ferrari 58:02
Very small niche.

Adam Schomer 58:06
It's still a film, you need to get women another way, Buffalo we just released Tuesday, which is about Native American women and the history of Native Americans and, and really the wisdom of the matriarch that's coming through. Now. Could there be some other ancillary products or maybe a summit? Yeah, maybe the main pushes, like, let's just get some awareness of this thing going. But Deborah, who directed it, she's been working her butt off for years. And her ancillary thing to be honest, is photographs. Because she's a photographer, she has some amazing photographs of this. She sells for, you know, big pieces and big money. So, you know, that's her passion. That's what she's good at. That's what she's going to do along with the film.

Alex Ferrari 58:46
Yeah. And, and I imagine that with that, if I was gonna ask you about that film, because I know it just came out this week. Women are the white buffalo. That is, you know, talking on a market research, audience base, there is an audience for this film. In Native Native Americans, many Native American Americans around the country would be very interested in probably some in in overseas, you know, people who are interested in in some, but this is your, this is your market. So, could you do a summit with interviewing? Join the full interviews? Absolutely. You know, is it as big of an audience as he'll probably not know, but it's still an audience. And it's bigger than nuclear testing. Like that's, that's a passion project. That's I want to get this get this out there. And that's fine too. But when you make a movie like he'll or other projects, they give you the freedom to do whatever you want. So if you want to make a small little movie that's really just about getting it out there for people and doing the bet that's fine, too. Is every everyone always filmmakers? I always find the thing that like you got to make $100 million to be a success. No No, not at all. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. It's most, most movies, most filmmakers 99.9% of filmmakers don't make $100 million. You know, I always tell people if you made a movie for $50,000 And you made $100,000 Man, you are success. You know, if you happen to make a quarter million dollars, fantastic. Now you can go finance another movie, live for a little while while you keep going. Doing it

Adam Schomer 1:00:36
And redefine success a little. Now we all have to as you interviewed a non nones in both worlds, right. He studied economics at university and he's a guru, right? I studied with Masters in the Himalayas boasts, we have to be able to survive, you can't deny the fact that we need money and we need we're in this society and we need to play in this society. It's not time to go in the caves. But but at the same time, we want to do something that's meaningful. You know, we're gonna do something like if we can redefine success, meaning okay, yes, we have to be sports I was but how about a teacher that had a few students like learn and grow out of their shell that year? And like, What a success, they had a few kids really get something from that teacher and go on, and it really inspired their lives. Okay, do people watch women in the white buffalo or watch Rhoda Dharma, a lot of people watch rode the Dharma or do the course. And they're like, I'm going to India man. It's like, cool. Now is it reached 3 million people? No, but like, 1500 people have taken the course and, you know, have 100 or 200 of those said, I'm going to India now sweet, like, I'm going to change somebody's life. And that's successful. Like, I got to share my story and push somebody else to do the same. But to me, it's like, a success.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:47
Exactly. So you and you have to define success for yourself. And I know for a long time I define success. As you know, I have to be the biggest director in the world to find success. And I was very angry for such a long time about that, and very depressed. And I think a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters and actors, all of them go through the same process, because they all like we all got to be Spielberg or Nolan, or Fincher or James Cameron and like, two, there's only there's only one of those. And there are anomalies. They are masters, they are.

Adam Schomer 1:02:16
Yeah, it's not gonna be for psychosis. It's a recipe for sadness and pain.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:20
Exactly. So I when I started this show, seven years ago, I started to redefine what success was to me, I'm like, Oh, I get to do what I do. Every day, I get to talk to people like yourself and share this information and help other people and be of service to my community. And I'm like, that makes that makes me happy. And like, and then I can go off and make my little movies when I want to go make them with that really caring if they make a tremendous amount of money, though they all have been very profitable. And they all done well. That's not my concern, per se. You know, it's not like I need to make money on this film in order to eat. Now I've built another inference infrastructure that allows me to go off and do whatever I want.

Adam Schomer 1:02:58
That's all for your identity. Like your identity is not so wrapped in

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01
It's not anymore. Absolutely not. Yeah. It's so that's what I try to teach here at the show on the show, and try to really have people understand what success is for them and really define it for themselves. Because if not, you will, you will go mad. And you will absolutely go man, and this business is tough enough. It's just his brutal enough without without you having to do like, Oh, God, I'm 23 I didn't make Citizen Kane yet, like Orson Welles. Oh, I'm 27 I haven't made Jaws yet. Like Spielberg, I'm like, Are you out of your mind?

Adam Schomer 1:03:37
Yeah, I stopped, I stopped watching reading a lot of the trades or, you know, like, I don't read them, but and watching a lot of award shows, because it's like, it can't be the focus. It can't be like I have to, you know, it has to be like, No, how do we define ourselves as success? And how do we have this internal dialogue of gratitude and what we're doing in our life, and, you know, America tries to really throw other ideas down your throat. I mean, that's part I think, why why we're both here, Alex is because changing that culture, in some ways of saying, let's give meaning in a different way to our lives and to media, and maybe not keep throwing the same stories of success down people's throat, like once you get this and the girl on that, then you're happy. No, you know, it sounds cliche now, but it's really still out there. You know, and it's really still a story motif all the time.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:28
I mean, because like I tell people all the time, Hollywood is fantastic about selling the sizzle, but they suck at selling the steak. And that's what that's all about. And I always and I've said this a ton of times in the show, so everyone please forgive me, but I'll say it again. Adam hasn't heard this. The greatest analogy for Hollywood is going down to Hollywood Boulevard. And I don't know if you've been down to Hollywood Boulevard. I'm sure you have. It is a cesspool. But on Oscar night, it looks like oh my god. It's Hollywood glitz and glamour and look at the staircase and look at this Look at the stars. But the second, the award shows over, they take up the red carpet, and the drug needles are still down in the alley. So it's just, but that is the perfect analogy of well, Hollywood is because they show something. But what's really going on behind the scenes is probably not what they're showing. And that's what they built that they've done since they started the industry. So but people get caught up in that in that mentality of sizzle, sizzle sizzle, and I need this, this, this and this, and I'll be happy when this happens. You can't be happy when this happen, because life is not a destination. It is a journey. And I've talked to Oscar winners. And I've talked to Emmy winners, I've talked to very successful people who've reached the top of that quote, unquote, mountaintop, and then they go now what? And a lot of them get depressed because they've been working all their life to disaster and they get the ask them to like, I don't know what to do now. Like, where do I go from here? Because they haven't enjoyed the journey up to the top highest pass the highest pass and then just like, I don't write, I don't understand what I do it.

Adam Schomer 1:06:02
That's why I did that movie first. Oh, I see it's the journey. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:08
It's all part of the plan. It was all part of the plan the entire time, I'm sure.

Adam Schomer 1:06:13
Gonna do that. I'm gonna do the hardest question, you know, hardest job I could possibly do first that would teach me everything so that I can then have a sane career making,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:23
Because I'm assuming he'll not so difficult, comparatively?

Adam Schomer 1:06:27
No, comparatively, no, you know, no, no, no life threatening moments.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:33
You know, you just we go to a house we go to myself, we should staff.

Adam Schomer 1:06:37
But I'll tell you, you know, the adventure is like, oh, what's the adventure of the people that are going through the healing art? Yeah. You know, I could not be as a filmmaker but all we're watching them and like it is everything when you're sick. It's every Oh, so does you know as much as I love adventure, it has a little bit out in the film. But no, for me as a filmmaker, not as not as crazy wrote a Dharma. Yeah, I'm still at risk again, even though I know how to ride a motorcycle.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:02
And this is the insanity of filmmakers. You're still thinking about trying to do a second third season one day of growth? Because you're insane. We all are. Because normal human beings wouldn't do that twice. Film it twice. And then go, you know, I think I could do this two or three more times.

Adam Schomer 1:07:22
I was just in India with a non right. And I was like, Well, are you open to? Because it always starts from Are you open to letting us walk film? Because he's gonna do this no matter what with people. It's authentic. It's not for the show. Can I come along and film the next one? And he said, Yes. So where do you know we're talking? When in 2023? We can do it again. And then I have the filmmaker crazy madness. Like, like I said earlier, you know, once we've done season two and three, then Netflix will wake up and go, Okay, we'll take off. That's still a little psychosis illusion.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:51
This is the delusion, filmmakers were actually delusional. Because it's so funny that you're like, you're not a newbie at this dude. This is like I hear that kind of talk from like, someone who just like, you know, I'm just gonna do this and this and then Hollywood will notice me or Netflix will notice. You still have that mentality, even after over a decade. And just like, you know, I think if I do three more, four more seasons, I think Netflix will finally take notice.

Adam Schomer 1:08:16
And I do believe it. I absolutely in my heart believe it because like, oh, no, this spiritual audience is growing. And it'll have and if not, you know, so I got me to go keep doing it. Absolutely. And, you know, I just love I, it's my baby, you wrote it down was

Alex Ferrari 1:08:31
Like, Oh, it's wonderful. It's wonderful. I tell everybody. Yeah, no, and, of course,

Adam Schomer 1:08:37
Somebody else will pay the bills. You know, somebody else would be and I'll just keep doing that because

Alex Ferrari 1:08:40
We're carnies. We're carnism we're all we are is carnies. And we just are insane. We're, we're so we're circus folk. We're so we're circus folk. That's basically what we are. I've said that so many times. It's so true. We are so Casper, we put up a tent, we put on a show, and then we leave the town and we go on to the next town. It's the same thing if a film sets the exact same thing, and the people on the crew, very entertaining people. Very, very entertaining very unique people that you meet along along your journey. But it is a I call it the beautiful sickness. That's what it is being a filmmaker being a creative it is a beautiful sickness, because it's a sickness you can't get rid of he can't so fun.

Adam Schomer 1:09:23
Quantity, you know, it's the want to teach you share and maybe, yeah, for you as a documentary. As a documentary, there's no I noticed a little bit me that's that, like my own subconscious that wants to be heard. You know, that maybe it wasn't heard enough as a kid. Okay, I see that part and let's not operate from that part. And then the other part is like the natural teacher, I've taught soccer forever. And you know, the natural teacher that has found a format to do that is called film and entertainment adventure. And I get to hopefully share in that way too, and I don't stop teaching like I teach yoga on the beach to my friends. stuff. So like, that's not

Alex Ferrari 1:10:01
That stretch. It's all about stretching that really.

Adam Schomer 1:10:05
And like, you know, I often remind myself in terms of life skills, like if I had the Oscar and a million dollars, would I still be here at the beach doing yoga with my friend? Absolutely. Would I still be eating here? Absolutely. Will I still be, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:19
Would you go back on the road to dharma,

Adam Schomer 1:10:23
I would, I would still be doing everything I'm doing. So like, I better not wait to be happy because it's going to be the same. Actually, there's just going to be in maybe a couple more projects going or more money or blah, blah, in so you just you have to kind of wipe away the Bs in the mind. You have to?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:39
Absolutely. Listen, I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked on the guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Adam Schomer 1:10:48
You know, I'm, I don't. Because I don't see it is a breaking into the business.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:56
Largely. It's larceny. It's larceny. Sir. It's larceny. This business is larceny, we have to break our way in, or make it or make it.

Adam Schomer 1:11:06
I just, here's what I did when I first got to LA and this might work for people and might not I, I went to things and did things that I like to do so that I made friends with people that I liked, so that I didn't network for the sake of networking, so that the people I'm close with, I'm actually close with. And there had a core and still do now have a core group of people that I actually trust. And maybe it's a little different, because it's the dark world consciousness world. But the consciousness world can be as crazy as Hollywood, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:36
I mean, it's your first movie, I need any full credit as a director.

Adam Schomer 1:11:42
Right! Exactly, exactly. The gun and there's plenty of stuff. So maybe that's my advice is to be yourself in the in the lifestyle way. And then that way, you you have a core group of people support system as you're going through hard things that you actually call friends. And that way, you're not pushing so hard to network, you know, and if you're going to something like an event, it's something you might actually connect with someone with you. So that's my only bit of advice, because the way I did is so strange and absurd. I'm not going to go to India, find a guru and make a move, like best I can to work. It's been done.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:22
It's been done already. It's been done. Now it's totally. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Adam Schomer 1:12:31
Yeah, let's let's talk about recent Ben, what happened going on my, in my head is, is that, you know, these, this propensity for us to look back at a conversation, I want to redo it right down, we'll call that doubt, to change the way what I said what I did, or this the thoughts that projecting the future, I'm going to do this and that still, even my last time in India was just looking at where that's all coming from. And I decided just to re engineer all that. So that lesson was, if I'm engineering the future, or engineering, what I should have said in the past, what needs to be re engineered is right now. So let's flip the engineering on now and say, Okay, what is it? I'm feeling that's making me have those thoughts? Oh, I'm feeling some lack or something. So let's use that engineering mind of redoing future paths, and look at an engineer that feeling and say, what's going on in there? And can I shift my perspective to, to break it open now, rather than this false story making the past and future and, of course, I've known that through awareness and meditation for years, but to really use the wording of engineering and just say, I'm going to engineer the moment and look deeply at the feeling when those thoughts come up. It's just really hitting hard right now. And I think that's super super helpful to not get lost in our minds.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:56
And three of your favorite songs of all time.

Adam Schomer 1:13:59
Yeah, I saw your ask this and I have to at least that I logged in life was beautiful because I just because of that ability to help someone else right. And that to bring us out of our own suffering in some ways really, it can speak to us all when you heal other people or help other people does lift you up. The Princess Bride because it got me through college, you know, just memorizing

Alex Ferrari 1:14:25
My name is Andrea Montoya my father prepare to die.

Adam Schomer 1:14:31
And then my third eye hadn't figured it out. So let's just see what comes into my consciousness right now. What? Yeah, okay, well, I guess Star Wars would have to be in there because it pushed me to want a Yoda in my life. And as you know, I'm not my guru. I think we all growing up want it? I think I even say that in the highest pass like,

Alex Ferrari 1:14:55
we I think we all look guilty. I mean, I just I have lifesize Yoda right there he was on my show. I have lifesize Yoda right there. I have a little Yoda right here. So I have a baby Yoda right here. The bobble head. If people are just have a bobble head, a bobble head, baby Yoda over there in a full size, maybe you're above me. So I am a Yoda fan. But you're right, we all want someone wise to guide us through this insanity that we call life. Because it is we're all trying to figure it out from the moment we come out and we're slapped in the butt and we start crying. You know, we're just like trying to figure this out and having someone who can answer questions for you, someone who's maybe been understands things that you don't understand, or maybe a much deeper level that you don't understand, is something I think we all long for, in one way, shape or form, whether that be your parents, whether that be a guru, whether that'd be a you know, a friend, whoever, we're all looking for that in one way, shape, or form. And some of us have the ability to do it ourselves to be our own internal gurus, and learn just by life and life is the guru that teaches you, unfortunately, for better and worse. But right. But listen Annabelle, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you, man, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to my audience. Man, I, I truly appreciate it. And I recommend everybody watch all of your films, even polygon.

Adam Schomer 1:16:28
It's not as depressing as it sounds, but it needs to be seen. No, thank Thank you, man. Thanks for this podcast for having a Nanda and sharing the soul that you're sharing on the next level. So just sharing your heart on this podcast. Thanks for having me on. Appreciate it. It's such a cool journey. And the next one I'm working on. I can't talk about this doc, but it has a built in audience. And of course, I'm giving it a consciousness and a meaning to it. So like, you know what we're starting to find how to do this, how to sneak in the good messages into something that's commercially viable. And I'm excited to talk about that once it comes out. But again, thank you so much. This is awesome.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:06
Thank you, my friend.

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IFH 577: Directing & Showrunning Halo with Steven Kane

Steven Kane is an American television and theater writer, producer and director.

Personal Life: Steve Kane was born in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where he graduated from Cherry Hill High School West as a proud member of the 1985 and 1986 New Jersey Knowledge Bowl Championship Teams. His rock band, Next Century, almost came in third in back to back “Battle of the Bands” contests (Kane played key-tar) but he did manage to win consecutive “Best Director” awards in the school’s annual One Act Play festival. He also had a girlfriend.

Flush with these early successes, Kane went on to major in English and French at the University of Pennsylvania before attending graduate film school at the University of Southern California. His USC Masters Thesis, a short film entitled Heroic Symphony, garnered awards at film festivals around the country. He had several girlfriends during this time.

Career: Kane got his start in the entertainment industry writing and directing independent film and theater. His first feature film, The Doghouse, won Best Director at the NY Indy Film Festival. His collection of One Act plays, Out of Your Mind, had a successful run in Los Angeles at the GuerriLA Theater.

His television credits as a writer and producer include The Closer (for which he received an Edgar Nomination), Major Crimes, Alias, NCIS, and Without a Trace, as well as comedies American Dad and Curb Your Enthusiasm. From 2012-2018, he served as Creator, Executive Producer, and show runner of TNT’s The Last Ship, a post-apocalyptic drama based on William Brinkley’s novel of the same name.

In 2019, it was announced that Steven would join the HALO series at Showtime as Showrunner, Head Writer, and Executive Producer.

Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, Halo the series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future. In a war for humanity’s very survival, our deadliest weapon is our greatest hope.

See Master Chief, Cortana, the Covenant, and the other Spartans of Silver Team more in this epic trailer for the new Paramount+ Original Series, Halo. Find the Halo, win the war. Stream the premiere of the new original series Halo on Thursday, Mar. 24, exclusively on Paramount+.

In its adaptation for Paramount+, HALO will take place in the universe that first came to be in 2001 with the launch of Xbox®’s first “Halo” game. Dramatizing an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant, HALO the series will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future.

The series stars Pablo Schreiber (the Master Chief, Spartan John-117), Natascha McElhone (Dr. Halsey), Jen Taylor (Cortana), Bokeem Woodbine (Soren-066), Shabana Azmi (Admiral Margaret Parangosky), Natasha Culzac (Riz-028), Olive Gray (Miranda Keyes), Yerin Ha (Kwan Ha Boo), Bentley Kalu (Vannak-134), Kate Kennedy (Kai-125), Charlie Murphy (Makee) and Danny Sapani (Captain Jacob Keyes).

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:52
I'd like to welcome to the show, Steve Kane, how you doin' Steve?

Steven Kane 4:01
Im doing great. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 4:02
Thanks for coming on the show man. I'm excited to get in the weeds with you about your process and that new little show you you the new show little thing that you put up to.

Steven Kane 4:12
It's a little indie thing I've been working on

Alex Ferrari 4:15
Little indie thing I think called Hey, hey, hey, Halo. Hey, something.Wow, look, it's looking nice for you know for an indie production. That's not bad for.

Steven Kane 4:25
No, you do a little this but some big

Alex Ferrari 4:29
Is that 3d printed? That's nice.

Steven Kane 4:30
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 4:34
You've had a very career. Let's go back to the beginning. And how did you get started? And why did you get started in this insanity?

Steven Kane 4:40
Well, it's funny. I'm from New Jersey and southern New Jersey suburbs. And I think like most kids, you know, we get into movies. The love affair starts early, right? So I just love going to the movies as a kid I go to truck character just drop me off at the mall and I'll just go and see any movie that was playing. Come in the middle of the movie and Then stay for the changeover and watch the beginning of it. You know, I've watched them over and over again. And I, you know, had many similarities, some moments where I just look at the light coming through the window and think, how's that magic happening? What does it mean when someone says written by you know, it just didn't make sense to me. So you know, as I got older, I got more interested in it. I just started watching everything I could VHS is were becoming a thing on the on that old where they became a thing. There was a library and watch movies and I watched like the Michael York Three Musketeers movie over and over again. And I discovered the godfather. I remember the first time I saw that, Michael shooting the sellouts in the restaurant, I was, you know, 13 or something watching at home, by myself, you know, after school. And I wish I could have that experience again, for the first time seeing it because that, you know, that's that moment. And jumping ahead. When I was in film school. I remember Walter merch was going to come talk to us about film design editing down. And I said I want to ask him about that shooting scene because there's this great elevated train sound that just fills the soundtrack, even though you'd never see the train. And the first thing he said when he came in was I want to talk about a thing I call Michael screen. And he said that train was the sound of Michael soul screaming out, you know. So anyway, my love film started early. And then I had a great teacher in high school who was an English teacher, but also taught them appreciation. So you know, we're reading James Joyce and third period, and then watching the Strada or landmark ordinance shame and fifth period. So, you know, I made little films with my friends, you know, on Super Eight cameras, video cameras, that I went to college and just studied literature, and French, but I knew I was always going to go into movies. So after college, I went to film school at USC. And I got three years just to live and breathe movies. And while I was there, I did like an internship at the Cannes Film Festival, met all these amazing people that Robert Altman, you know, I think I said, Nice to meet you. He said, Get out of my way. But nonetheless, I met him

Alex Ferrari 7:03
Wasn't a deep conversation.

Steven Kane 7:05
We didn't talk cinema like, that doesn't mean I'm not still borrowing from him every time every chance I get. And then I met Oliver Stone, I met his assistant and I got a chance to be his intern during Natural Born Killers. Again, I think it was more impactful in my life that it wasn't his. But you know, again, just as a kid, you grew up watching his movies, and then you get to work with these guys and more around these people, you know, and then I got to be on sets and studio lots and meet real working filmmakers and just get that, that thrill of being part of the process of filmmaking. I got I got I made a student film and you know,

Alex Ferrari 7:44
And the rest is and the rest is history, as they say, yeah, yeah, no, I have to ask you man, What was it like being on set of Natural Born Killers man? Like, you know, that's what, honestly, it's one of my favorite stone films. And yeah, you know, when you know that we had him on the show, and, and I had the pleasure of talking to him. And but I remember I was in film school, when Natural Born Killers have come out. And I had the sound designer, came to talk to the whole school. And they showed us the first 10 minutes of natural born killer. Yeah, before anybody else had seen it. And we were just like, Oba like the whole, like, the diner scene where the finger falls off. And it's like the dropping and, and I was just like, so what was it like, you know, being a, you know,

Steven Kane 8:28
Well, I have to say, I wasn't ever on set. I was there during the prep, which is actually to me, the more exciting because I you know, I drive around Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. and, you know, take him to the done Ranger, they didn't have to use the weapons met, they'll die and those guys, but also, you know, he would be working on a research so he would send the intern out to get things. So, literally, he was watching Clockwork Orange over and over again. I was reading certain books, I was like, they're just delivering those kinds of things in watching, trying to get a sense of how his mind worked as he built the thing. I was able to be around as they were rehearsing, you know, again, I'm like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I'm sort of on the edges of what's really happening. But, you know, now when I have interns and assistants and stuff, I always try to include them as much as I can say know how exciting it is to learn. Sure, and to sort of take away some of the mystery of it and let them see out. It's actually just people working very hard. And for all of all of us, you know, reputation. As you know, it's an ad genius. He worked really hard. Everything was built from the ground up. And so it was fascinating that, you know, collating the scripts and see the revisions coming in. So yeah, just just amazing. I've been very fortunate because I've ended up working for some big name directors, first as an intern then as a partner. You know, I made the student film, SD, which was sort of my homage to the male maj to the godfather. It was the Godfather Stryver basically is like a 20 minute version, you know, a knife And that little storyline about this young kid low level hood, he thinks he can make his bones you know by and achieve his life dreams by whacking that rival my mod mob boss for his bosses. And he gets everything he wants, and it destroys, you know, and it's all set at Symphony. So it's got this great music playing. And it's just like, all my influences were coming into one place. And then James Cameron saw the film, but his people didn't showed it to him. And he took me under his wing for a short time, we talked about making my short into a feature, but ended up doing something else altogether. back about John sales is writing a script for him, he hired me and a friend of mine to write a movie for him. I was like 26 years old, he sent me to Moscow for a month to do research on the Russian mafia. And this was like, the time when Yeltsin was in power, the Russia was the wild, wild East was opening up to all kinds of crime that was the formation of the oligarchs, and that whole thing, and I just was there for all of it, you know, in Moscow for a month. And while he was making Titanic, I was reading the movie, Titanic, sort of his little indie film, so it took off as well. So the film that we got made, but it was it was exciting. And then, you know, I wrote a bunch of more feature scripts that got bought, but didn't get made, which is sort of par for the course. And as a person who actually likes to make films, it was very frustrating for me. So that's when I actually friend of mine said, you should try TV because you write something and they actually put it on the air and not that long. They shoot it not that long after you read it. And so that's when I made my switch and haven't looked back. But again, even in that regard, I've worked with Michael Bay on a show where he was good, we're going to show so all my heroes are the people whose work I just admire, I get to sort of be around them still, which is great. And, and now, TV so cinematic, that I'm still making movies, you know.

Alex Ferrari 11:42
So I have to ask you, what was it like working with James? I mean, that must have been a James during Titanic.

Steven Kane 11:50
Yeah. So I was 26, his, one of his people saw my film invited me into Lightstorm at Santa Monica is company. I'm waiting. I have a friend waiting in the car. I think I'm just dropping off with VHS. But suddenly, he comes out to talk to me. And he's like, loved your movie. And I'm like, I like your movies, too. Yeah. And you said, What do you want to do next? They said, Well, you know, my mind, I had a 10 year plan when I was 15, or 16. You know, I'll go to film school and make a film. And then I'll get to be a director. I guess that's how it works. Right? wasn't quite that way. But you're I was at the end of that 10 years and lived in Cameron. And, you know, he, he said that they would, I'll give you an office here. And at the time, I was working with a friend of mine writing stuff. So we brought us both in and we had an office on the second floor, surrounded by Titanic, stuff like a scale model of a ship, maybe 15 feet long, with little penlight cameras that you can put into, you know, so looks like you're actually in a doll's house in a room, and pictures of you know, of the era and wardrobe. And so I was around as he was writing the script as he was casting Leo DiCaprio. You know, it was amazing. But as far as my interaction, you know, I pitched him stuff. And he was what was great about working with him. Even working with bae, like, these people, they really work well with writers, they, they respect what you're doing, and they want to help you achieve that. So no, I didn't get a lot of cameras time. But what I got was valuable and supportive. And that's bold, try that some more. That's great idea. It was it was like being in a writers room. You know, it didn't feel like I was talking to executives, or, you know, it was just filmmaker to filmmaker. But you know, with this great disparity at the time, of course, and ended up working on it for a year, I went to Russia and learned some Russian, again, these things happen to some doesn't get made, but they will experience and you know, he his watching his cuts, watching his works to having studied his work, and then being around him. He I took him with me, just like I took a little bit of all the stone with me, I take these mentors in these lessons with me as I do my own work. So you know, you'd be amazed or maybe you wouldn't be when you're on the staff of Halo or last ship or anything they've done. You know, the directors come in and you're like, you know, this is reach out the Kubrick did or this is really cool shot that so and so does let's copy that. Let's make this find our own way. So you know, it's it's an ongoing process of learning and being inspired. And I just don't get such a kick out of it. thrill.

Alex Ferrari 14:11
I mean, you mean you have probably one of the most interesting beginning stories of like, oh, yeah, so I was hanging out with stone and I was interning this and working with Spielberg and work. That's a pretty, that's a great start to a career.

Steven Kane 14:25
And the guy understood it at the time. Because

Alex Ferrari 14:29
You're probably like, oh, this happens to everybody. Right, everyone?

Steven Kane 14:31
Well, yeah, I mean, I remember being in someone's office and thinking you got a nice office, not really realizing I was talking to the head of the studio, you know, like I just, I, I sort of just thought this is how it's supposed to be and then I hit obviously rough patches and patches where you can't get arrested, you know. But yeah, I think you know, people I get all kinds of younger people now asking for advice, and I'm just like, just don't give up, you know, and always stay enthusiastic and just knock it down. Just get up again and keep trying and so yeah, I mean, it's that It isn't like I've gone from success to success. But these are the highlights of things that I experienced, you know. So as I said, when younger people come in, if I can give them a chance to have any kind of eye into what's going on, you know, at the higher levels and inspire them, that's, you know, paying it forward.

Alex Ferrari 15:28
Now, what was the biggest lesson you took away from working with all these giants in the business was like there was that one thing that you like? This is a common thing I see with all of these great filmmakers.

Steven Kane 15:41
Yeah, you know, it's actually a lesson I keep trying to teach myself because I'm naturally very affable, collaborative person. And I think it's worked well for me. But it's also it means I have to seduce and convince, sometimes 1000 People have the vision that I'm going for. And of course, you have to always compromise and you have to work together. And I'm not saying those guys don't do that. But what I was impressed with was their level of self confidence that at least whatever their demons might be, that everyone has their secrets, but whatever they have going on the inside, they evinced a certain confidence that this is the direction we're gonna go. And you need that you need to be a leader, with the plan. Because and have confidence and believe in yourself, even when things don't go your way. So even when you fail, don't turn around and destroy yourself over it, somehow find a way to learn from it and prove yourself, but keep your ego and your strength, have confidence in yourself. That there's a reason why you're doing this. And so, you know, those are sort of examples. Usually, they you hear about egos and sort of larger than life personalities. But I think do the stuff they do to be bold like that, you know, there was one moment, I saw two moments, I saw Cameron. Again, I didn't get a lot of time with him. But I saw some vulnerability. When he first finished the first draft of Titanic. He had this script man, it's like 85 page. It's famously driven. Yeah, he finally finished the script. Now he had so much on his plate, because it was already planning on shooting it. So the script was just like getting it off his chest. And he says, he walks by, he goes, Well, it's done. Like, I don't know if it's any good kind of thing. And yeah, he was struggling with it. And you know, it's nice to see that kind of human side. But at the same time, he put his career and his own money on the line to make that film because he believed in it. And he got, you know, hundreds of people to go along with it, and to finance it, and to make that come true. And it could have fallen on his face. Instead, you have this three hour movie that kids are coming in watching three, four times, you know, and I think it takes that sort of conviction, that strength of conviction, obviously have to back it up with talent and back it up to the hard work. It takes just having all ego no challenge doesn't get you very far. But I think the lesson I learned from the biggest players out there is that if you don't believe it, and you don't show you believe it, no one else will. And the bigger you dream, the more you have to be confident that that dreams don't work because we're asking people to risk their own time and money and reputations to Bali, you know, so I try to tap into some of that, that and not lose who I am and not be brusque, rude to people but also recognize that like, sometimes I have to fake it till you make it to you even if you're not sure it's going to work. You got to go forward and you know, find that balance between all the ego being a dick did wrong, you know? And so yeah, I think those guys they just showed what having vision is. In film school. Milosz Foreman came to one of our classes. Because Yvonne pastor, the great director, who was very close with below specking and Jeff's Avakian, 60s, they made films together he taught a class and he brought in Barbie Schroeder, Milos Forman, Dustin Hoffman Bogdanovich just a lot of great people. And again, it was one of those things where I wanted to ask you a form that the scene where they start the Requiem, and they cut to castonzo driving back and the coach racing back to him that's the first thing he brought up which I was so psyched about. But he was watching we're watching it on like a DVD player or something and all sudden you go stop and the whole room you know stops and that's a director right there. You can keep controls the room, you know, and it's a weird thing because you it's you know, even writing it's personal first but then it's not personal. Now everyone's involved in it. And if you don't stick to your guns and believe in it, no one else will. So I got inspiration from those guys.

Alex Ferrari 19:49
That's that's a that's a great answer to that question, my friend. Very good. Very good answer. Now you so you decided to go into television because you know, television you get stuff done quicker. And as they, as the old adage says, The money's in television. So money, you know, it's yeah, it's the closest to a business,you have your

Steven Kane 20:13
Middle class existence, right? You get a job, you can go to work, you can you know,

Alex Ferrari 20:17
Right. And it's it's opposed to the filmmaker that makes one movie every two or three years.

Steven Kane 20:22
If you're lucky, right? If you're lucky, otherwise, you're having lots of meetings to take meetings about meetings, and you're like, literally like, Oh, I'm very excited. Congratulations. That was a good meeting, you know? Exactly when he was definitely you know, where it was at when I started.

Alex Ferrari 20:36
So when you when you got your first job as a staff writer, coming into a room, what was that day like for you, like me, you had already been writing, you've been obviously hanging around with some some reputable people. So you weren't a complete noob. But still walking into a room. It's like the first day of class. And like, you know, who I don't know these people? Who am I going to be friends with? Who don't have to look out for? What's the room? Is the teacher cool? Or is he not? He was cool when it hired me. Right? Right. It's kind of like that football coach is really sweet when he's recruiting you. But the second you get on the field, he destroys you. How was it for you on that day?

Steven Kane 21:17
Well, it's a really good question, because actually, everything I just told you about finding a healthy ego and sticking to your guns, goes out the window, when you're a staff writer at a TV show, you realize your job is to make the boss happy to tell their story with them to contribute, but to recognize your place and coming out of independent film coming out of features, I was ready to just like, This is what we should do. And Joe Wyman, who's a great writer, and showrunner, given my first job on a show called keen, Eddie was a very short live show, which I think just got at that time slot, frankly. And it was set American American cop in London, very stylish, very fun. And, you know, I had just that a lot of enthusiasm. And so I was pitching and pitching and pitching. And at one point, he said, you know, we don't all swim in Lake Kane. And I was like, oh, man, and the water is warm, you know. It was humbling, but we ended up becoming really close afterwards. But it was a good lesson. I think that the great thing about TV if you if you're lucky. And you can start at the bottom and work your way up, you actually learn the politics of a writers room, learn how to be a contributor who doesn't, you know, them up the works. A friend of mine told me about a metaphor that people have used. When you're in a writers room, you're all pushing the rock up the hill, the same rock, and user are pushing it while you're watching it go up the hill, but you just don't want to be the guy who sits on the rock. And I said, my question of course, was doesn't have to be a rock. That's the person who sits on the rock, right? So you learn to to constantly adapt and adjust to what the showrunner is thinking. For him or her, they have a story, they want to tell you're trying to pitch to them something to make their story work. Sometimes it's a brand new idea that makes them think differently, and they're just totally into it. And sometimes they're like, No, I want to go this direction. And so you learn how to be a civilized human being in a writers room by being that kid who gets told to be quiet for a second and load your place and then work your way up and build trust. And so I learned how to be a show runner by working on those early shows, especially when I got onto the closer where the show on the gym stuff. And the producer director Michael Robin, were such classy people still collaborative, but at the same time, they you know, it was their show. So you learn how to write their show and how to be produced their show. And they also let you go on to set so you can you're involved in casting and locations and, and wardrobe and props, and you know, working with a director, so I had a lot of experience in filmmaking that other writers don't. But every writer gets a great experience if you can get on a show that actually teaches you how to run a show. So by the time I got my first chance to pitch, a show that I was going to run, I had all this experience in the politics of the writers room, and how post production works, how production works. And so I was extremely prepared for that. And again, having been at the lowest part I know now how it feels it helps me have more empathy for the younger writers on my staff. And I really believe firmly in promoting from within and giving people a chance I've had several assistants become writers become producers, you know, go off to do their own shows. And that makes me really happy and proud.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
Now, can you discuss a little bit of what those unspoken rules inside of a writers room? You mentioned the politics of the room. I love talking about the politics of the room because it's not something they teach you at school. It is it is something that you learn either the easy way or the hard way when you're in the room. So are there any kind of unspoken rules or advice you can give for writers, young writers that if they find themselves even if they're a writer's assistant in the room, whoever's in the room, what the what to do and what not to do.

Steven Kane 25:01
Yeah, I mean, it's part of it's just probably like high school and how to you know how to get along. But, you know, one of the things I was taught early on is it never has to be anything, the story doesn't ever have to be what you want it to be. There are many ways to skin a cat. Even if you don't like the idea, you can make it work if you can do something to make it work, right. So to be the person in the room, who gets locked on and fixated on one way of going, can get you into trouble. Because now you're not being flexible. You're not being part of the group, you're not helping. You're just being the person that shuts things down. There's that saying and improv Yes. And you know, so it's that idea of, okay, that and why don't we do this? And that can make that work. And maybe you're solving six problems. At the same time. Do you notice now focusing on the problems but focusing on the story. Other ones are don't pitch the problem, pitch the solution, which actually, I think works in lots of businesses. But you know, you can say like, I don't like the way the story is going, I don't like to it's too easy the way he finds this and that okay, well, great. Thank you for your criticism, any ideas? So you try to say, you know, I'm struggling with this moment, to here's how I'm thinking that we can make it work. Or admit I don't have a solution for this. But this is bugging me, I'd like to maybe ask if we could talk about it for a couple of seconds. And just you know, being respectful, catching the mood of the showrunner, who's got, you know, a million things happening at the same time? You know, I know from my point of view, keep leaving the room to be told, we just lost the actor. The sketches burned down, you know, they're shutting whatever it is, you come back into the writers room, the pandemic. Exactly. You don't want to come back into the room and have some guy going. Yeah, I don't like the story. You're like, No, tell me how to friggin fix it. If you got a problem. Otherwise, this is the way we're done.

Alex Ferrari 26:50
Act 2 is horrible. I don't even know is this horrible? Yeah, this is horrible. Well?

Steven Kane 26:56
Exactly. And you know, like any skill when you first do it, you're very methodical and deliberate about it. And then it becomes second nature. So at this point, you know, I can pitch a scene that is probably doing nine things at once. But I'm not elaborating on what those nine things are. But when I have younger writers, I try to explain to them that this allows us to push the story forward, to get back to this character to solve that plot hole to give exposition here, now we've Let's bury the exposition. So there's a lot of skills that you can learn if you're open to learning them. And again, you can be the greatest writer in the world, you can still learn a lot from being in the writers room. And you can also recognize that production needs will change your story in a heartbeat. Literally, on Halo, we lost an actor. The day before shooting a big episode, it was an actor who not only was important to that episode, but who have been established in previous episodes as being important. And I didn't have to think about what to do at all of this experience behind me, I thought about it, but I didn't have to curl up in a ball and die. I quickly rewrote 35% of the scripts and brought in a character in smaller part and even bigger, and I think actually a script ends up being better as a result. But I think that's the thing is, if you're a newer writer, you might just collapse like, oh, I guess we can't shoot the test. We gotta shut down, like, the show must go on, right? So I think if you keep your eyes open, and you've just watched the people with more experience, do their job. You learn from it, you know, and then pretty soon, like, I used to be on sets early, where we shoot the whole scene. The director returned to me Look at me, and I'd be like, Yeah, let's do it. Sure. Now, and then the last part of it, and then we'd walk away. And I'd say things like, Gee, I wonder if we should have done XYZ, or this and that, and the director looked at me and be like, Why didn't you tell me? I'm like, Well, I don't know. I didn't want to, you know, get in the way. You know, you're I was so nervous about like, being obtrusive. And so I had to learn how to, you know, stand up early and make these make these notes. But that's what you get from experience, because then you get to the place where you have confidence in yourself and you go, you know, guys, I think we should do another another take, and here's why. And that takes you know, some people come with lots of arrogance and confidence early some have to develop it with experience, but I think I you know, a lot of people now sell shows off the bat, and they have no experience working in TV and they become a show runner. And I think they're better served if they've had more experience with the politics of the room with the the way the

Alex Ferrari 29:25
Politics of the studio politics. Yeah, notes and exactly everything, all of it.

Steven Kane 29:30
Exactly. And to be to be that showrunner you do have to be as I was saying about the those big directors I work for, you have to be harvested competent in what you're doing. You have to be a cheerleader for your show. You have to be able to get people to go that's the way we're gonna go. On the last ship, which was a huge Navy show, I had, you know, Michael Davis, my partner, he had a lot of experience being, you know, working with the Navy and stuff, but he wasn't involved in the day to day basis after the first season and so

There were times when I needed to get the Navy to give me the entire, you know,

Alex Ferrari 30:13
So you actually, you actually had the Navy working with you.

Steven Kane 30:17
We shot on the ship for two, three weeks every season to all the exterior stuff. We had Navy people in the writers room, sometimes we had them on call, if I needed a navy subject matter expert on any subject, Navy Seal, a flyer, air, submarine or anything, I can call them up and get their help. And we got assets from them, you know, and they were very nervous because they said, you know, this is tolerable. We don't want you guys to show us in a negative light. Because why are we going to bother giving you any support course, of course. And I said to them very, and they didn't trust me whatsoever, or at least I'll tell you what I said to him, guys, look, this is not going to be commercial for the Navy. But if you let me do my job, it'll be the best commercial for you guys ever, because we're going to show you guys we're going to test all your values, the honor, courage and commitment, the way you guys work, we're going to forge the strongest deal in fire to come out even stronger, we're going to test those values, right, so we're not gonna make you guys perfect, but when you're gonna come out on top, and once they saw that that's what the show was doing. Because it was set during a global pandemic. And it was. Yeah, but they were they were trying to be heroes, but they're also human beings. And by the third or fourth season, you know, even the second season, they were like, look, what else can we give you. But I'd have to walk into the room and convince the, you know, marine Commandant that I need to get access to a beach landing I want to do Saving Private Ryan on TV at the end of my series, and I want to shoot, you know, marine storming the beaches of Camp Pendleton in an exercise, you know, and so they give us full access. We showed that up there with 12 cameras and drones and GoPros filming that entire beach landing then went back there six months later with our actors when I was directing it, and and they still brought in, you know hovercrafts and stuff for us. And we shot this amazing sequence that we you know, it looks like $100 million movie, you know, just because of that stuff we had. But again, that that took, being able to look them in the eyes with competence and say, This is gonna be great. This is gonna be really great. And have the buy in and buy it. Yeah. So it's, you know, but again, that confidence doesn't come from just blind arrogance that comes from you know, having done the homework, you know, but you still have to present it in a way that makes them feel confident.

Alex Ferrari 32:32
So I was going to ask you about the last year because it was a pretty awesome show, man. And it was, it was it was so big for television. It's a fairly large looking show. Now I know why? Because I didn't like there's no way a TNT show is gonna I mean, I get topped out it's gonna get it I get that right. Michael Bay's gonna get it for his movie that again, I didn't think that I thought it was, you know, oh, they make decommission ship. I didn't know the Navy was actively working with you. So that explains a lot. But so January 2020. Hits. And you're going, Oh, God, because you just spent four years prior? All right, a couple of years, I think when it ended what 2018?

Steven Kane 33:15
And then like, end of 17, beginning of 18.

Alex Ferrari 33:17
Yeah, something like that. So then you had two years. Right! So for a five year run. And then you stayed in that five year run in a in the mind of a pandemic. So when pandemic actually hit? What was your reaction internally, like, because you knew things about pandemics that most people walk in the streets didn't because you had to do the research to write all the shows and so on. So So what was that like for you just as a am I gonna get up today?

Steven Kane 33:45
Yeah, yeah. Well, first of all, the last ship, you should know, it started with Michael Wright, who ran TMT at the time it was a brilliant programmer and brilliant studio network had. And he talked to Michael Bay and had this book called The Last Ship and said, this is this would be a great Michael Bay show, we want to do a pair of Spielberg's Falling Skies and Sunday night, you know, big movie night kind of things. And days, people found a writer hengstenberg, who I grew up with, who came to me and said, This is your cup of tea, you come on board, and I said, okay, but the book is about a nuclear holocaust, which is obviously still timely, but it felt very dated. It was right 80s, you know? And I said, you know, what scares me more is pandemics. And I said, Can I change it? And he said, Sure. So I came up with this whole thing. I cold called a bunch of virologist who all said, this is our worst nightmare. And we started talking when we built this virus. And we talked about the effects on society as well, you know, I don't think I got I got some of the craziness that come that came out of the pandemic in our second or third season. But

Alex Ferrari 34:49
Was there was was there a scene of toilet paper hoarding, did you

Steven Kane 34:53
There was no hoarding of toilet paper because we were we were with this navy ship and that's true, but they did loot they did lose a lot. had different cruise ships with a bunch of dead people on it. And they had to get, grab, grab, get all the food they can get and get out. So, yeah, so I was very aware of pandemics and had a lot of conversations. So I remember being on the set and hungry, we were in some boy scout camp, shooting a sequence, and people are talking about this virus decided not to hurt. It's in Italy and might come to Austria tickets gonna come here. And I said, guys, we're going to we're going home soon, we're going up. So they said, What do you mean, I said, it's going to be here. And what I'm reading about, it's, it's serious. And so sure enough, two weeks later, we took our two week hiatus, which lasted six months, and I called home, I said, I'm coming home. And this is gonna sound weird, but you should go out and buy toilet paper, staples, water, because people are going to think that they're going to run out and they're going to start to afford it. So you might as well do it too, you know, can't fight it. And so I came home and hunker down for six months and talk to my biologist, friends who, who told me, you know, there's going to be an mRNA vaccine, you know, in six months, it's been this and this and that, and I sort of followed what they're talking about. The one thing that I thought will be worse, but seems to have crept up crept up over the last six, eight months is the supply chain stuff. I thought it would live in more instantaneous. But you know, not a lot of people didn't didn't get sick or didn't take the shots and didn't stop working. But you know, the idea that the supply chain is still messed up. It's a natural recurrence. But what's fascinating is the way your mind shifts to the reality. And during a pandemic, we obviously had a much worse pandemic in the show. So we shifted people's minds more, but it's, yeah, it was. I was sad to be right about that. But now even now, I watched the first episode of Halo, and I rocked watch it at Austin at the film festival, and actually made me cry because it reminded me of Ukraine, obviously, this fiction is is not as serious as Ukraine, but people being slaughtered by an enemy that they can't control. Like, suddenly I started for no reason, residences, you know? Yeah. And I started kind of thinking about the just as you get older, I think these things they don't feel like make believe anymore. They feel like no possibilities of life. And it's, it's frightening.

Alex Ferrari 37:23
You used to and you start thinking about your kids and you start thinking about in like the next generation and you like there's a shift as you get older, where you stop thinking about yourself only because you're now you're like, Okay, I'm, you know, I'm past my 20s now. Yeah. And you just know a little bit more. Could you just walk the earth a little bit like cane? Yeah. So you've walked the earth a bit more, and you start to you're like, wait a minute, how is what I'm doing now gonna affect my kids? And, and then I need to get my grandkids. And that's when it starts to get so yeah, you start thinking about things and what's going on now. It's just horrific. And you know that. I don't want to get into that, because that's not the show. But,

Steven Kane 38:06
But on the bright note. Speaking of my kids, after we show we have the la premiere of Halo we show two episodes. And my 16 year old 18 year old who there and afterwards, it also has to be good job, dad. That was really cool. So when your kids think you're cool,

Alex Ferrari 38:23
That's the better better than a monster.

Steven Kane 38:24
Yeah. I did a dumb dance throwing up. Nevermind. Not cool. Not cool at all. Yeah, not that cool at all.

Alex Ferrari 38:31
I don't think you could. I mean, I was always I always wonder like, does Brad Pitt's kids think he's cool, right? Like, you know, does you know, these cool, these cool icons. Do they think their kids think they're cool? They're like, now they're just nerds. Now, is there something that you wish you were, you were told at the beginning of your career, that if you could go back in time and go, there's this one thing that I wish I would have told myself? Or I wish someone would have told me?

Steven Kane 39:00
Yeah, I think I've told this to younger people. I was so single minded and fixated on making it in the business and being a director and being a writer and filmmaker, like the ones I admired. And I was stubborn about that. So a couple things. As a result, I stopped enjoying the day to day. Imagine being in your 20s and not just realizing I'm in my 20s This is awesome, you know,

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Oh my god, I wasted my I wasted my 20s is certainly Steve Harvey say something was so brilliant. He's like, You waste your 20s and you make so many mistakes in your 20s that you end up your 30s you end up fixing all the mistakes you made in the 20s Yeah, but if you would have and then the flat and then the 40s you start doing the things that you should have been doing in your 30s Right, because if your 20s you're screwed up. I was like, that's fairly brilliant.

Steven Kane 39:50
I remember being 25 Turning 25 and being depressed and saying Orson Welles made Citizen Kane. Oh, I mean Ha, ha, right? And so

Alex Ferrari 40:02
Spielberg 27. Did Jaws Oh yeah, we all do. And isn't it so stupid? We all do it all filmmakers do it. We all click click the times like, yeah, I only got two more years before 27. So I better hurry up and make jaws.

Steven Kane 40:15
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So so I look back, and I don't, but you know what to throw. The fun thing is you can tell, like, working for Oliver Stone was I mean, I have some great stories, right? All these experiences, appreciating them now and saying, I wish I actually enjoyed them more when I was going through them. The other thing is, as I said, like being flexible was, you know, for a while if I wasn't making feature films that I was writing, directing, I wasn't doing anything else. And then as reality hits, you know, I literally found myself because at a young family, I was making industrial videos for cancer hospitals and engineering schools at USC. And thinking, Am I going to be the, you know, James Cameron of, of

Alex Ferrari 40:55
Industrial

Steven Kane 40:56
Fundraiser dinner videos. But you know what, as a result, I actually learned that's where I met my first virologists got interested in that stuff. So I learned stuff that I brought to my writing, but also going to TV, I would thought I'd never do TV when I was going to be a young filmmaker,

Alex Ferrari 41:12
TV. TV was taboo. I mean, let's be honest, like when we, when we were coming up, TV was like, you know, TVs, like, you go there, if you got no nothing else to do. We're not

Steven Kane 41:23
Exactly, but if you flexible to things, you'd find yourself getting alternate routes to the same place. So, you know, I wanted to direct I made this film, I was gonna be a director. And then I was doing work as a writer, which is, again, how great is that, but at the time, I thought, but I'm a director too, you know. And so my directing was kind of put on hold. And so I didn't get my DGA car until my mid 40s, you know, and I was like, You can't believe I thought I'd be a director and I'm, I'm just a writer of shows. And, but then when I got to be a showrunner and they got to be really, you know, in charge of the whole process of directors are working with me, everyone, and I'm able to tell because I feel like filmmaking is writing is the most important part of it. Without that you don't have anything to work with. But it's it just lives on the page. It's not really a thing. It's like an opera, it's got the music, it's got sound, it's got everything you know. And so, being a showrunner, and doing these shows, allows you to be the filmmaker in a graceful way. And then I got to direct I got to hire myself as a director anyway, eventually, you know, on the last ship, so a little bit on Halo. So, you know, it's, I think I tell younger people, don't sweat it. Don't take yourself too seriously, enjoy what you're doing. Now, never lose focus on what you want to do. But recognize that there's many ways to get to get there and go with the flow go with follow your bliss. All those cliches are all true, though, with what makes you happy, you're enjoying it, and I still get a thrill of walking onto a set, you know, that throw those away, but I'm gonna quit because everything else is so hard about the business that I only do all that to get back on the set. So if that's not fun, then do something else, you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:57
You know, and as a filmmaker you you work, like we said earlier, three, three years to be on set for if you're lucky 45 days, and that's a hell of a nice budget. If you're in a studio, it's 60 or 90 days, right? But you spend most of your life chasing the ability to be on set and televisions a little different and television you can be on set all the time. And I think that's a really much nicer place to be. I do like that. You said that in your 20s nothing hurt. people listening who are in their 20s Enjoy it. Yeah, it will end. If you go to Taco Bell right now at three o'clock in the morning, eat whatever you want.

Steven Kane 43:38
Yeah, you're in Hungary filming. I was like, Can I get a salad and my script coordinator was like 20 times eating like goulash and pork this and rooster testicle and I'm like, Yeah, I'm like, No, I have to get up in the morning. I gotta you know, give me some seltzer water, you know?

Alex Ferrari 43:56
Oh, no, no, it's the two old fogies talking now. Yeah, my, my sciatica. Ah,

Steven Kane 44:03
Listen, not to betray competencies, but I did have to buy orthotics for Oliver Stone for issues.

Alex Ferrari 44:08
Hey, listen, listen, listen. That is some of the most directing kita directing and a Steadicam operator good shoes. Right good shoes. I talked to the guy who created that steadicam. Once I was taking a class, a class up in Maine years ago. And he was teaching the class and I go What's the best advice? You could give a Steadicam operator he's like, good shoes. I was like, and as your onset you real and I've been dragged direct it's onset with that use? Yeah, because you're 12 hours sometimes.

Steven Kane 44:41
Yeah. camera operators are my heroes on? Yes, I've seen you know, it's like Ginger Rogers. They do it backwards and in heels. They're running backwards being shot at blanks and stuff. And they're and they're catching the shot and the great ones. They know how to tell the story with the camera. It's the great partners on the set. I mean, I just I just love the whole process.

Alex Ferrari 45:00
So let's get to that little independent film thing that you just did Halo. I, you know, there's been a beautiful, beautiful moquette there's been, I mean, Halo has been in development for what two, since basically the damn game came out. So many different, you know, directors and, and projects is going to be a feature, it's not going to be a features this or that. And it's come and gone so much. So when I gave up on it, I truly like it's never it's gonna be production hell or developmental forever. So then when I saw the the news that you were doing, and I was like, I still don't believe it till I see a trailer. I've been I've been burned before. So so how did you get Halo? Like, that's a pretty big, you know, feather in the cap, because everybody wanted to do Halo, some of the some of the biggest filmmakers, you know, in the business wider to Halo. So how did you come to how did a little get dropped into your lap sir?

Steven Kane 46:07
Well, I kind of did, actually. I mean, I had been following the project's development like everybody else hearing about it. And actually, some friends of mine were writing scripts for it at one point when I was doing the last ship, and I was kind of jealous of that. But I was busy. And last ship had ended and I was developing and working on my own stuff. And my manager, my agent called and said, Look, they're they're making the show. The guy who they were working with does not want to continue does not want to get too hungry to make the show. And you know, he's been working on stuff for a while, but there's still a lot of room for you to come in and do something. Would you be interested? It's it might mean going away for a few months. I didn't realize it'd be two years.

Alex Ferrari 46:48
A few months for production.

Steven Kane 46:51
Right. So I was like, Okay, I didn't know what I was getting into. And but I walked into a situation where you could feel there was a lot of history in terms of the development process. Yeah. And I had to put that on my head and say, This is the show that I think we should make. Well, you have here you a lot of great stuff, Kyle killin. And his team did some really good stuff, which I kept a lot of us a great guy, we had a good partnership for the time we overlapped. But I said look to make this thing work. Both story wise, and production wise, these are my opinions. But again, had to show, you know, everyone that this is the way to go. And it was it was hard. Because there's a lot of money at stake. A lot of people involved a lot of pressure. And everyone really wanted this to be great. Especially of course, the people 343 Who whose baby Halo is they wanted to make sure they didn't disappoint. The loyal fan base that they also expanded their fan base, it just was a lot of I felt for all of them that there was an impossible situation.

Alex Ferrari 47:49
And I have to ask that I have to stop for a second. How did you deal with the pressure of dealing with such a huge character like masterchief? The franchise? The budget, I don't even know what the budget is. But I know it was fairly, fairly disgusting. So that pressure on the showrunner, how can you be creative? In that scenario? I mean, I know you're built for them in the last the last ship was no joke either. Right? But But yeah, it was a big show, you know, but this is a we're at a whole other level here. So how did you even function and seriously,

Steven Kane 48:23
You know, I compartmentalize my body did a lot of the reacting for me, where my mind ignored it. So suddenly, I'm like, What is this rash? You know, things like that, you know, like, why, why haven't I eaten anything? But now honestly, it was, it was I was, uh, I was alone a lot and hungry too. So I was kind of homesick it was emotionally and psychically difficult. But I think what I always focus on no matter if the show is, you know, $10,000 or $10 million, or whatever, it's still about how do I tell the story. So you know, making a big show. You just have a bigger budget to play with, right? So if you if you're a family of four with us fixed income, and you have to make sure you can have food and gas for your car. That's what you do. If you're now a billionaire, and you had but now you got 17 houses, you have to manage just, it's just bigger problems, right? But it's the same issue of like, okay, we have X number of days, what you've written is gonna take five extra days, we can't do that. Can you rewrite it and make it suitable? That happens even when you're doing a $3 million chef or a one. So you focus on the stuff you can control, which is the filmmaking process. Trying to take on everyone else's stress as your own. It's hard because an empathetic person and I feel the stress and I know they're counting on me. So I honestly don't know I think I just did a lot of compartmentalizing, focusing on what under what the work is for today. And also again, it goes back to having that joy because like when you walk onto the set instead of looking at the hundreds of people on the set, and that all the equipment and And my days are gonna rain. I think, holy cow, we thought of something that now we're shooting it now man is jumping off of a mountain top of the hook landing on a Styrofoam purple thing that's gonna eventually be a spaceship. You know, I mean, like, so you focus on the exciting stuff. But yeah, I'm not gonna lie to you, it was balancing the desires of 13 different partners. All there before I got there, dusted in this show. You know, last ship, the first season was also stressful, because it was a big swing for TNT and Michael Bay show, blah, blah, blah. Everyone was watching everything we did, debuts on our on our button making sure we were not making them look at. So let's similar in that regard they keep the bigger, the bigger the arena you play and the more pressure you're gonna get. But if you look at it, the same way you look at making something small in terms of this is what I can control. This is the creative. You know, you just, you can get through it. But I remember one point, saying to the people at Showtime about the budget, they've given us a number we are over that number. And they said, I said, well just give me a number. And they go, we didn't give you the number. I said, Oh, you were you were serious about that number. Okay, all right. Well, we'll figure it out, you know, when we cut the budget, and you know, it's just about like, honestly, I want to go from here to there, how am I going to get there, and everything else is just an obstacle to getting there. But you know, you also you're not alone, you have tons of people supporting you. You've got a crew, which is amazing. You got producers who want to make this thing work. No one wants to shortchange the show. So you know, it's my job. That was one sequence in an upcoming episode, where half the show is supposed to be shot in snow. That's for outdoors in snow driving these were hogs having conversations, nothing about it made sense practically. And frankly, the story wasn't does that say to me anyway, so I said, you know, why don't we save $10 million right now. And we'll shoot that entire sequence, a whole storyline, I'll change the storyline, same principle idea. We'll put up on our sets, we'll focus on the characters, we use this as an opportunity for these characters to get to know these characters, and really enrich and deepen the sort of the emotional stakes. And we'd want to be outside not to look for snow, and literally will save millions of dollars. And so that's the kind of decision making process that happens in every show, you know, you decide like, well, if we shoot it outside, you know, I'm the last ship, I used to make these giant opening episodes, and we'd be $2 million over budget from the first day. And everyone's like, Oh, my gosh, we're out of control. And guys, don't worry, because the fourth episode, I've already planned it, we're gonna be in the shift the entire time at night. Literally no visual effects, no guest cast, no extra sets, we'll shoot it in nine days instead of 12 days. And we'll save a million dollars in one episode. You know, of course, they didn't first believe me. But once we did that a few times they started recognizing, okay, at the end of the season, these have to be net zero. And we actually ended up being on budget the entire time. So you gotta you have to think nimbly, and be on your feet and just let the pressure excite you and not crush you. There are definitely times when I wanted it to crush me, but I think I was gonna let it crush me. But I think you just gotta keep your eye on the prize and just say, Okay, I can't go left, we'll go, right, I can't go up, we'll go down first, then we'll go up. And you know, usually, like when I suddenly lose an actor the day before shooting, you just, you pivot, and in the end, sometimes that makes it even better.

Alex Ferrari 53:32
I found that it always, you know, at the moment, it's the worst thing that could possibly happen to you something. If you lose a location, you lose an actor. Every time throughout my career, it always ends up being better. It only always ends up doing something that you never in a million years thought of. That's so much better than what you had in mind. I've never lost something and just like it ruined it. Yeah, I've never had that happen in any of my projects.

Steven Kane 53:58
So all those cliches are true like you asked what the advice you give people again that making lemonade out of lemons Absolutely. Is a big COVID was a huge blow for the whole world. And it shut us down and it cost the studio a fortune and they were such champs about making sure we stayed safe and get bring us back safely. And it was hard. We were hungry now couldn't go home family can visit me couldn't visit people at night with curfews, so I was literally in a van with a mask, going to work going home, barely having any social interaction, but we pulled it off. But even so the six months that we were shut down, I use those six months. So we all did to get visual effects to get editing done to re examine the scripts and rewrite them so we took a terrible situation and we spun it and made the most of it. And I think the show actually is better for it again, I would never trade that. I'd rather have no COVID But sure, sure, of course you take the the bad things and let them crush you. Then you get nothing out of those bad things. You can take the bad things and spin them around some positive, then at least you've made.

Alex Ferrari 55:03
Yeah, there's no question about it. I always find it that what I had on, I sat down with the firm with a script of mine with the first ad of a really seasoned first ad from like he's been doing, you know, work with Fincher and all these kind of crazy people. And he's sitting there and he's looking at he's like, does this have to be at night? Yeah. Why is this at dawn? Right? Why? Why is this at dusk? You need in those little tricks, the budgetary things, because as a writer, you're just like, it's gonna look so good at sunset. Sure it will. But you've got 15 minutes. Yeah, exactly. You're on the Mandalorian. Then you have a sunset all day. But unless you're. But other than that, yeah. So those little tips that they don't teach you, they don't teach you those things. That's just practical, everyday stuff. So that's what you were saying. Like, let's take all the snow. Like, you know, the rain. Why? Why is it raining? Does it need to rain? Do we need to have rain that's going to add so much money to the budget.

Steven Kane 56:03
On the last ship we used, we decided season four, we've never had any storms at sea. That's ridiculous. We're, we're a ship at sea. So we we wrote that storm episode. And we planned it six months in advance. We were looking for footage of storms to be able to use for CG, we were retrofitting the ship to make it be able to water water cables. And you know, you plan for it. But you don't just go like rain, you have to go okay, we're having a meeting. today. We're talking about rain. And I think the other lesson for young writers is you can write anything you want when it's on spec. But when you everything you write, some department head is highlighting it. And they're going to try to get you what you want. So I've been on sets where they say, we're having a tough time getting sharks. I was like, what's that? They said, Yeah, you said that sharks I said, Oh, no, that was just I was just writing now. That's fine. You don't need sharks. Okay, cancel the shark Wrangler, you know? Yeah, I told you our visual effects died. In the last ship, I had written that the enemy I wanted to show the enemy was badass. And that as they're being fired out, they were like acrobatically, diving out of the way. So I wrote Matrix style, meaning like that like that, like, what time bullet time, suddenly we're having board time conversation. So I'm like, I'm so sorry. I hope you didn't spend any money on this. Yeah. So even as a show when I was doing the making those mistakes. So the point is, is that everything you write has to have a reason. And you're better off not writing something and letting the let's say the wardrobe department come to you and say, What are you thinking about for the scene, or here's what I was thinking, having read the seat, but if you write she's in a purple MooMoo, they're gonna go get a purple. Yeah. And if you were kidding, or you really were thinking, you're just making it look pretty on the page, then you know, you're going to cause people a lot of work. So that's the thing is, especially when you're a young writer, you think no one cares about your stuff. Guess what, when you're on staff, even if you're the lowest person on staff, you write a script, it gets to a set, it's the Bible. Now every department is going to make what you wrote come true, which is why you got to be appreciative of them, you got to be collaborative with them, you got to be smiling and thankful with them. You have to respect them and their time because they're trying to make your dreams come true. You know, the guy pushing the dolly doesn't always have the same. Look at me on the screen. They're just pushing Medallia for the day. But the good ones do they take pride in it, they only take pride in it is if you welcome into the process. So if you raise your camera team, embrace your electricians and say, we're all going to make this amazing show together, then you get better work from them and happier people.

Alex Ferrari 58:37
Right, and I think I'm gonna get that I'm gonna get what you said on a t shirt. Cancel the Shark Wrangler. I think that it's a great crew t shirt.

Steven Kane 58:46
We actually had a cricket wrangler on the last. And I actually was so lucky because I the time and I still have my son was obsessed with his lizards. I was always buying crickets for him. Sure, I learned you don't want to buy the large crickets because they're the ones that make all the noise that the medium and small, don't, don't croak. Whatever the word is, they don't make that noise. So of course, you're on the movie set. You don't want to have noise. So I said no, no, no, there has to be medium crickets because the large ones make a lot of noise. I know this because my kid. So those kinds, but we had a cricket Wrangler. And after we were done, she had to collect all 1000 of them make sure that they were all okay. And they all got their, you know, the per diem. Exactly. I think a few of them may have gotten you know, didn't quite make it, you know.

Alex Ferrari 59:30
I mean, no, of course they all made it. No crickets were harmed in the making of your show, sir. There was done cricket, so they were fine. There was cricket made out of little Styrofoam. It was amazing. Hollywood magic. So was there a day and I know the answer is yes, but I'm gonna ask it anyway. Is there a day on Halo that the entire world came crashing down around you? And you said oh my god, what the hell am I doing this entire thing is gonna go down and smoke. I know we've already talked about the losing the actor But is there another moment? It wasn't every day?

Steven Kane 1:00:14
Well, yeah, I don't think I don't think we ever I ever had an experience where I said, the whole thing is gonna come down crashing, there were times where I thought, that's just too much to do right now. Because what happened was, by the time I came on board, the train was already speeding out of the station. So they were sort of building and looking for locations based on old material that I was gonna be changing. So I keep giving them new drafts, like the story that got out, you know, they said glibly, one day to get two out of the 65 drafts, which I did. But that was because literally, I would get to work on Monday, and the producer would say, we need another draft for props or for locations to start their work or so I printed out another draft in 24 hours and get it just for that department, you know, and I'd say it's not done yet. It's just enough. But I had to get every script ready at the same time. So I was working on one and then two, and then three, four, then five, and then nine, and then seven. And then you know, so I was constantly having to shift gears. And remember, remember where I was in the season, and deliver because they needed production needed the lead time to be able to prep for whatever I was doing? So again, that's also why were the COVID break helped a little bit where we could do some planning, but so I think every day felt like you're being chased by an avalanche. Oh, great analogy. I love that. But at the end, when you kind of get to the bottom, you kind of go through and it goes right by you're like, that wasn't so bad, you know, but, but look, I'm still I'm still mixing shows as we speak, you know, and still doing score and visual effects as we speak. And, again, if you take it, sorry, you know, dogs barking. The if you if you can take it day by day, and just sort of say I can only do what I can do. You know, I didn't I had some help here. Once in a while a writer come out producer with a mountain helped me. But otherwise, there was no writing staff. Once I got to Hungary, so it was literally like just a stack next to me of like, okay, now I have to deal with this now. Oh, we lost this after. Okay, let's get to work on that. So the risk for me was I had to show my ass a lot, right, I did write drafts that weren't perfect that weren't great, because I needed to get scripts out for production. So it's, you never want to show work that you don't feel is ready, but you had no choice. So what would happen was you do it then you didn't get like dolts who criticisms and stuff. And I know guys, those is just a temporary thing. So I can get the art department going, or I can get casting going or, you know, like I would get calls? Can you give me some audition sides for Episode Eight? Like, Well, I haven't written episode eight yet. You know, so I have to write scenes for Episode Eight, just to give it to you, you know, that kind of stuff. So it was it was a lot. But again, it was so absurd that I just sort of had to laugh. But in the end, like I said, I had a really strong idea of what I wanted the show to be. I tried to stick to that every single day. And I think, you know, I'm really proud of the season. That's actually when you stick to landing it comes out and we didn't get buried by the avalanche. But yeah, there was some hilarious things, we built giant sets that ended up going, I don't think we're gonna use that now. You know, stuff like that. Lots of lessons learned, certainly ways to save money next season and other stuff like that. But any first year show is like that the last ship was no different. It was, you know, craziness. How are we gonna shoot on the ship? How are we gonna do this? And you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
It just sounds like you said, the train left. So you were like, thrown into a machine, a giant machine that was already moving, and was going to keep going no matter what you were just tossed into the gears and you're just trying to oil things up and try to keep things going. And no, no guys, not East. We were going west. We gotta move the whole ship over. And yeah,

Steven Kane 1:03:53
That was that it was like a train speeding with no tracks in front side to keep throwing down the track there to keep us from crashing. But yeah, your metaphor is perfect that that's how

Alex Ferrari 1:04:02
It was. And you were the only writer in Hungary.

Steven Kane 1:04:06
Yeah. So when I first took over, I grabbed two writers that I was close with from The Last Ship days, just in had three weeks just to sort of go okay, well, how are they gonna redo this? Because the scripts aren't lining up. Yeah. And so we worked in LA for a few weeks, then I went to Hungary. And then it was just, that was just me. And then I begged them, and I would get one of the one of the writers, Katie would come out for a couple of weeks, and then that would send her home. And then we brought in another writer for Mickey Fischer, a great guy for a few weeks, but then he wasn't gonna be able to stay. And so, you know, a young woman came in and I said, you know, she'll help us work on the Cortana stuff. And then, you know, it was a two week deal or whatever. So it was a lot of like, piecemeal. It wasn't like I had a staff that was like, Okay, you're covering Episode One, you're covering episode two. It was. I think there was a misconception that well, this show was this fine. It's gonna be fine. It's already written. You're just going to manage it, but it turns out it wasn't already written in There's a lot of story to tell and to make. So it was it was like you know you remodel your kitchen and go Well now that the kitchen is so nice living room needs some work. It's horrible. Now the now that I'm sitting here, what the frick is that on the wall, you know, so it became sort of a full on remodel teardown was what originally predecessors, right?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
It was just the bathroom. But then all of a sudden, like, well, the bathroom looks so nice. The kitchen looks horrible. Now now the kitchen looks so nice. Yeah, I gotta do the second bedroom.

Steven Kane 1:05:31
Like, by the way, none of this is to criticize any you know, who were working on because it was just different is the shot to get made. And, and honestly, it's such a tough show that you could sit there and and ponder every decision until you're paralyzed. Oh, you can say let's just make this show. And I think that in the end, I learned a lot from the stuff that came before me. They learned a lot from the stuff that came before me, we ended up coming up with a story that everyone really liked, and got behind. And what was great too was there were still moments where I could I could surprise myself, you know where I would go. limit what if this happens at the end of this episode that would change the entire story, and give me more work to do later on. But like, there are some moments where I was still able to find surprises and joy and epiphanies and, and things like that. And they even come up down in post production. But this is not to say that this show was like haphazard, or it was just the nature of making this kind of show. It was a battle from start to finish. But there was always a sense of what we wanted wanted the show to be it just was getting it there was you know, at the scale was Jonathan.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:38
Oh, my God, I can only I can't even imagine that the amount of peep amount of people that are interested in making sure this is good at the history of the other kid. It's kind of like, you know, being given Jurassic Park. And it's never been made before somebody who wanted to make Jurassic Park, and it's 1000 Different people trying to and it's been 10 years trying to turn 15 You're trying to make it. I mean, you've done is pretty gargantuan, but at Titane in a Titanic, no pun intended event that you were able to put together.

Steven Kane 1:07:07
And I helping people look like it because I know there's people who are diehard to the game, we're gonna say we are too far away. Others are gonna say we were slaves to it. Others are gonna say something else. Like, you know, we, our hearts are in the right place. I worked very closely with Microsoft, we tried our best to honor the ethos of the game and the feel of the game while telling a story that's cinematic that you know, is different, so you don't just watch the game on TV. And so we try to give rewards to the people who love the lore and also people who don't know the game at all. Or the tannin can also just enjoy it as a powerful story about humanity's quest to avoid being extinguished by an alien race, you know, so.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:50
And then of course, of course, your next year will be Metal Gear. So

Steven Kane 1:07:54
Next one is going to be two people in a room to be waiting for Gadot this series

Alex Ferrari 1:07:58
Dinner with my dad with Andre.

Steven Kane 1:08:02
But I'll call I'll call Michael Bay, and we'll see if we can make it we can judge it up a little bit.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:07
Yeah, I have one last quick question. What do you look for in a writer in a room? Because I know a lot of writers want to get in a room. What do you personally look for in a writer?

Steven Kane 1:08:17
First Person, first thing is, can I see myself spending a lot of time in the room with this person seriously? Like is this person gonna be you know, a fun person to be around, or at least not a bad person to be around? You don't always know that up front. But that's super important. You know, it's a little bit like you know, getting a baseball team together a basketball team, you gotta you look for like, Is this person a good shooter as person, a good runners or whatever. And so some people might be, like, really quiet in the writers room, which is not great, because the writers room is where you want ideas to flow. But if there's one person who's quiet and just takes notes, it's not so bad, because it's kid takes the kid not everyone can talk, right? But if that person is thoughtful, and then one note, and it's great, or their scripts are phenomenal. There might be others who's writing isn't perfect or great maybe takes a lot of rewriting but they're they can be they can be trained, they can learn, but they're fantastic in the room because you're always pitching ideas. Like my thing when I was coming up was I would go What about this? And they'd say no, I'm like, Okay, how about this, then they say no, I'm like, Okay, well, what about that, and then eventually, I never gave up. So my sort of doggedness is what you know people could count on me to sort of always be trying you know, so I think you look for a balance you don't want you don't want everyone to be a big alpha you don't want everyone to be to the meek one. Ultimately, though, when it comes down to writer for writer, you want someone who has a voice has an opinion has a life that's interesting. You want diversity so you want to have people who come from different walks of life because that they bring that into the room. You know, it's amazing how you get different perspectives. You know, if you've got people from on different socio economic, racial, sexual, anything backgrounds, it keeps you from getting into your bubble too much you don't do it to pander, you don't do it to sort of be woke you do it because trying to tell a full story. And so you know, like, you want the young person to want a person with a young family, you want a person who has kids in college, you want a person who's retired, a person who's lost, you know, you just want people to bring their life to your show. And, and then to have a point of view and a passion for writing and for filmmaking. But yeah, I think ultimately, though, it's really about who do you want to be collaborative with? Who do you think you can work with on a day to the basis and we'll you know, we'll have your back to, you know, though, the thing that happens is sometimes you get people who their show didn't sell, it's another working on your show. And they don't really want to be there. And they're like, why your job? Yeah. And they're on the phone with their agent and trying to sell other things. While you're like waiting for a script, like, I want the show to be as important to you as it is, to me, I know, it's impossible, if it's not your show, but I want to feel that way, when I was on the closer, I gave that show all my attention. And you know, really wanted to make it great, because that's where I spending my days. And, you know, I think that also, you rise up faster that way too. Like, I was talking to a young kids every day who's wanting to make it, you know, I was interning and stuff. And I said, you know, if you just show the people you're working for that You are the hardest working person, the easiest person to get along with. They'll recognize that if they're not jerks, they'll recognize that they'll want to promote you. But if you walk in thinking I deserve better, from the very getgo and this is beneath me, you won't you know, I learned that the hard way because I did come out of being my own independent film guy. And then suddenly, I'm on staff. So I'm being told, you know, we don't all swim in late came. And, and once I changed my attitude, I rose really fast. And I had a show runner. I went from executive Story Editor scope to co executive producer in one season. And I've done the same thing for other writers I've had on my show I people start off as staff writers, by the end of the last ship, they were co VPS. Because I could just see it in them. They were dedicated to the show, they were dedicated to working hard into putting in the hours outside of work. You know, it's so I think I've got the question, but I think that's,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:14
Well, like the best advice I ever got. is don't be a dick. Dont be a dick. Yeah. Best best advice you could get is don't be a dick. And I'm gonna ask you a couple questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Steven Kane 1:12:28
I would say you know, there's no excuse these days for not making making products that someone can look at whether it's a script or a short or you know, play. I think that more and more people want to see people with their own unique voices. And they can teach you the business side of things they can teach you can surround you with people to help you. That's always been the case. But now I think with technology and the internet, and it's even more so that you can you can make your own portfolio and your own world. I think you know, Steven Soderbergh. Have you ever had him on yet?

Alex Ferrari 1:13:05
Not yet. I'm trying to. I'm trying. I'm trying.

Steven Kane 1:13:09
I've read a lot of his stuff. And he's, he's great. I met I met him briefly after I made an independent film at a lot at the movie theater, it was so nice. But he has got one of those books, which I always think is a good formula for success. Talent, plus perseverance equals luck. So that, to me is like it's like, literally, if you gave up too soon, doesn't matter how talented you are, you're done. Right? If you have no talent, but you keep trying, of course, that's going to leave you in a tough place because people don't like your work. But even if you have both those things, you gotta you have to get a break. You have to get a lucky break. You know, and I do think you make your own luck. You know, I look back on things. I've made plenty of mistakes. But I'm not here to talk about those. That. No, I remember being in film school, and I was working on a little Super Eight sound film and this young woman I was working with, she was applying to the Cannes Film Festival as an intern. I'm like, that sounds cool. How do I do that? I applied and I did not get the job. I called the guy up, was a publicist. And I said, Come on, you gotta send me I speak French. I'm a film student, I have to be helpful. That could be a translator, whatever you need, got the job and went there. And that'd be Oliver Stone, this assistant, you know, like little things like that kind of workout. If you don't give up. You know, I also had several years where I couldn't get a job. You know, I couldn't get arrested. I would get a freelance episode of a show, but I couldn't get staffed. I'd have great meetings, but then nothing happened. And then, you know, actually, I got the job and the closer up till the story a million times. But I met the showrunner team stuff after having a long week of rejections. And I was like, complete mope. In the in the interview, I was like, whatever, you know, it's great. Sure. Nice to meet you. I'm sure I'll get the job but whatever. Thanks for the free water and he for some reason, we still talked about to this day, he called my agent and said, What happened to this guy? And they said, he's just going through a tough time, he can't get a job. He's so good. You know, we think he's great. But whatever is like, well, please have him come back and be normal. I want to make sure he's not crazy, because I like his writing. So I went back, I was myself I was, you know, I pitched some ideas. And I ended up working on the show for like, seven years, you know, and we would joke about, like, why do you do that? Why do you give me a second chance? And he's like, Oh, I couldn't have done it. I am so glad I did. It was good for me. I said, What was was good for me too. So, you know, don't get down with things. Don't take things too hard. every setback is only a pause before the next success and literally be resilient. Just bounce back, be nice and be resilient. Because eventually, someone's gonna notice that and go get your shot.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:58
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Steven Kane 1:16:02
Still working on it! I still working on, you know, not getting too down on myself. But things don't go well. I'm still working on. You know, as much as I present to my partners, then like, through that this is the best thing ever, and we're going to do great. There's always that doubt of is this really a thing, you know? Imposter imposter syndrome. You know, at one point, after we sold the last ship, one of the producers turns to me, I sold it in the room, literally, Michael Wright said, Let's do this, let's shoot this as soon as possible. One of the producers turns to me afterwards and says, This is really a show. I'm like, wait a minute, I have to write this, you know, so. And that. And I don't need to hear that. Because I'm already hearing that myself and hearing my, my my grandmother saying, Are you making a living? Like, you know, that kind of stuff? Like, why don't you get a real job? Yeah, so. So the last thing I need to hear is that you're an imposter. So it's hard sometimes, because you really are putting yourself out there. I mean, in fact, the most frightened I've ever been, was when the stakes were so low, I wrote a couple of plays, when I placed in there put together as a show in LA, I ran for like six months, like 10 years ago, or more. And, you know, a small theater, and an Arab being in the audience and being so anxious, couldn't sit still, because I felt so exposed. Because it was me, that wasn't on a staff, there wasn't I couldn't say when my boss rewrote me, or, you know, this is what the network wanted. And it was, it was my personality, on display my works on display my thoughts on display. And, you know, it felt so great when people liked it. But at the same time, I hated the fact that I had put myself out there to be so vulnerable, but at the same time, that's what you have to do. Right? And so how do you protect that, that piece of you and still present to the world in a business where you know, people are cruel, or, you know, Doctor, do you read your reviews? You worked on something for three years? And someone does? Yeah, it was all right. They should have talked to the Navy, or they should have talked to you know, what? So I think that's something I'm still learning just how to keep a thick skin. And also keep that part of you. I look back at that kid who used to read some comment at 15. Wow, yeah, I want to be in more Birdman. Or I'd want to be you know, and I think who's this kid from New Jersey who could thinks he could be more Bergman? Right. So yeah, you just gotta, you gotta keep faith in yourself and surround yourself by people who are supportive and loving. And you know, and then turn around and hope that your kids like your work.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:37
Exactly. And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Steven Kane 1:18:42
Ah, I would say Amadeus, Barry Lyndon, Oh, wow. And I would say the toss up between. This is a little pretentious, I know. But in my bourbons persona or Ecuador's contempt, like when I watch when I want to get rich, super inspired again, Amadeus because I just love music. I love the way that film is directed. I relate to solitary too much sometimes I feel like a fraud. Yeah, Barry Lyndon, I keep putting it on for people and then watching the entire thing with them. That's the beauty of it. And then I just I just love I love persona and shame by Bergman, because they're just so stripped down just about the faces and about the interpersonal stuff. And like, I borrowed from those movies in ways you would never expect for the stuff I'm making. And then And then other the other kind of, sort of North Star for me is has always been Hitchcock because I like making films that are entertaining and unpopular and like you can eat popcorn and just enjoy them. But that if you wanted to, you can look deeper and find something into like you could read a paper about them, you know, we're Windows appropriate sample it's it's just this great mist Three story, but really, it's about one guy who can't commit to a relationship, right? And he's paralyzed because of the cast is that this beautiful woman and wants to be his girlfriend or wife? And what does he see out the window he sees the young newlyweds. He says Miss lonely hearts, He sees the sad sack he sees the Playboy sees the young couple doting on the dog that gets a job. All these things are sort of built into the story. If you want to go deeper and realize the metaphors, but it's also just fun. And I think like, that's to me, great filmmaking. Redox. So just saying, This is my message and being pretentious about it, you're telling the story. First and foremost, you're entertaining people. But then there's deep, there's depth beneath that, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:36
That's the it's amazing that Amadeus and Barry Lyndon are the favorite films of the guy who just put Halo out like, that's awesome. That is an awesome, because, you know, it's like, no Blade Runner and this and that and stuff. I know. That goes that goes without the Godfather we could deal with you can list them all off. But it wasn't a sci fi heavy list. And that's what I love. Because that's, that's where you get the more interesting stuff like you're gonna do. Yeah, when you start colliding genres and colliding ideas, and you know, things like that is is remarkable. Steve,

Steven Kane 1:21:11
I'll say one more thing. I 2001 has always been one of my favorite films, and I was able to honor it. In episode two of Halo, I was able to do homage to 2001 by casting here delay. Who was such a joy to work with such a sweet guy? Somewhere I have his autograph with a picture. 2001 But so yeah, I like I'd like to be able to speak to some history. You know, you listen to Spielberg talk about the movies or reference references when he makes, you know, Indiana Jones, whatever, it is the same thing. Now we're referencing those people, right, so the next generation, so I'm always trying to honor and pull from those greats.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:54
And someday some kid is gonna go Halo, I was watching Halo and I pulled the shot from Episode Three in

Steven Kane 1:22:02
That shot, that was an accident. We were running out of light, and we had to do something.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:07
And that's the funny thing. So when I've talked to some of these amazing filmmakers, I'll go, yeah, that's shot and they're like, Oh, God, that was horrible. It's so amazing. When you see from a different perspective. Yeah, it's the best we could keep talking forever. But I appreciate you so much for coming on the show. It has been a joy talking to you are you are a match, sir, you are a match. So I appreciate that. I appreciate you. And thank you for getting haloed out man finally,bringing it out to the world.

Steven Kane 1:22:34
I love it. And honestly, I'm honored to even have been invited on the show looking at the people you've spoken to before me. They're all legends. So it's a it's a thrill to be part of this. But I hope that helps add to the conversation. And you know, to anyone out there trying to get into the business, you know, welcome aboard, man. It's great. It's a great ride, if you can get into it.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:55
Thank you, my friend.

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IFH 576: Inside Making One of the Most Insane Indie Films Ever! with The Daniels

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as DANIELS, have been writing and directing together for over a decade, initially with a slew of viral music videos, commercials, and short films, then with feature films and TV directing.

They’ve developed a reputation for combining absurdity with heartfelt personal stories. Oftentimes they incorporate a unique brand of visual effects, and visceral practical effects into their genre blending projects.

They have directed music videos for Manchester Orchestra, Foster the People, and won a VMA for their video for “Turn Down For What,” which Scheinert bullied Kwan into being the lead actor in. Kwan is a really good dancer.

They wrote and directed the feature film Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, which went on to win the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival, received multiple nominations, and gained a large cult following.

While they were writing & developing their new movie Everything Everywhere All At Once, a kung fu sci-fi dramedy starring Michelle Yeoh, Scheinert went and directed a small redneck dramedy called The Death of Dick Long, also released by A24.

When an interdimensional rupture threatens to unravel reality, the fate of the world is suddenly in the hands of a most unlikely hero: Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), an overwhelmed immigrant mother. As bizarre and bewildering dangers emerge from the many possible universes, she must learn to channel her newfound powers and fight to save her home, her family, and herself, in this big-hearted and hilarious adventure through the multiverse.

They both live in Los Angeles. One of them has a son. The other has a goofy dog. But to be honest Daniel does most of the work.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:44
I like to welcome to the show The Daniel's. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert how you doing guys?

Daniel Kwan 3:45
Good. Thank you for having us.

Daniel Scheinert 3:47
Pretty good. Hello!

Alex Ferrari 3:48
Good, guys, thank you so much for coming on the show I am. I am a fan of what you guys do you guys are insane. And I love about you. It's, it's, it's such a wonderful thing to see the work that you guys have been doing over the years. That's the only word I can use is insane. But in the most wonderful way humanly possible. So when you guys got into the future game, I was so excited to see like Swiss Army Man, Miranda Bailey was just on the show a few weeks ago. And she was like telling me the whole story about Swiss Army Man. I'm like, how the hell what the how is that? How did that get financed? What happened? It's just like, it's her fault. Exactly. She told me, she told me the whole story and is it was fascinating. But before we go down that road, how did you and why did you guys want to get into this insanity? That is the film industry?

Daniel Scheinert 5:50
I just did whatever my brother did as a kid. So like, he did like math team. So I did math team. And then like, he and his friends started making movies. And so I started making movies, with with my friends in high school, but but there's that's a very different thing than the industry, you know. And it's interesting, like, I did a lot of theater as a kid. And then the older I got more, I was like, Oh, I don't actually want to be an actor that industry seems not for me, you know, and, and the film industry is, you know, there's, there's a lot of warts, there's a lot of problems and things but like, you get to like, especially as a writer and director on your own terms, collaborate with friends and tell stories, you know, like it was the funnest thing I'd ever done. I was I just got hooked and and we're so lucky that our careers we still get to do it in a way that's pretty similar, you know, to like the the high school college version of making movies.

Alex Ferrari 5:50
No, no question.

Daniel Kwan 6:56
For me, I I'm like the, in the heroes during the talk about the refusal to the call, you know, you run away from the thing, and I feel like I've been running away from your bio pics can be more interesting than mine. I guess, though. Yeah, cuz because I get yeah, as you refuse the call. Exactly. The setup is so much better. But I, I grew up really disempowered for some reason. And I don't know where it comes from, like, I did not believe in myself, I didn't believe that I had worked and, and yet people would tell me like, Oh, you're pretty good at this, or you're pretty good at that. And I wouldn't believe it. And I just kind of run away from all of it. Especially coming from my mother, you know, my mother would be like, you're a good storyteller. Why don't you write some more? And I was like, No, Mom, you know, that's like, that's stupid. That's a waste of time, that's not going to help me get into college, I was a very nervous person had a lot of anxiety. And so everything was about what was the most practical route forward. And I was miserable because of it. Because I wasn't how I my brain, you know, wasn't built for practical, it was built for, you know, wild, insane storytelling. And apparently, my mom, when I was younger, met a Christian like a fundamentalist Christian fortune teller, for lack of a better word. And she saw me apparently this this, this soothsayer, and the great bio, exactly. So wild is fast, and it's fast. No. But she she said to my mom, your son, I was in like, third grade, just like your son is going to be a great storyteller one day, maybe even a filmmaker. And he's going to spread the word of God. And my mom never told me this story until much later until, like, as an adult, she's told me now, but now I understand why she was pushing me to go to film school, which is so funny. Anyone who is a Asian American kid who is the kid of like, the son or daughter of immigrants will understand how profoundly strange that is. To have a Yeah, to have a Chinese mother, say, Son, don't go to business school, like go to films go to film school. And so I did what, you know, all children do. And I ignored my mom and I went to business school. So again, I was like, fuck that. I don't want to do that. Sorry. I don't know if we're allowed to swear on this. Fine, it's fine. Art that for that. I don't want to go. I don't want to risk my life. I don't want to be a miserable starving artists. I'm gonna go to business school. And I was miserable. I was I was I hated every minute of that experience. And that was like, well, maybe I should go to maybe I should try this out. And so it's even when I went to film school, I didn't want to be a director because I looked around. I was like, I'm not a director. I don't know how to talk to people. I don't know how to command 100 people in a crew. And so I was like, I'm gonna become an animator. I'm gonna learn how to animate and just make things on my computer by myself. And that's where I met this guy. And and this experience of meeting, Daniel shiner has been one in which every single time I feel like I don't belong in this industry, kind of like going back to your question of like, how do we get into this crazy industry? Anytime either of us felt like we didn't belong or the way that we worked and processed, our arts felt incongruous with, with how the industry worked. shiner being such a contrarian, we'd be like, so what, let's do it anyways, and I think was one of the biggest, most satisfying lessons I've learned over and over again, with every project is like, Oh, the way things are, aren't, aren't exactly how they have to be. And in fact, we can find better ways to suit ourselves. And I think if more film students learned that like that they can build a film process suited to their specific style. Just like every painter has a different process. Every poll has a different process. Like growing up, you learned about all the tours in film school, and I didn't see myself in any of their work, you know. And so I'm sorry, yeah, we have a it's all good. It's all good. If a dog in the background, it happens. It's all good. And so anyways, yeah, it was it was a series of accidents. And we have slowly built a career around this project of trying to figure out how can we be ambitious filmmakers who make great work that we're proud of, while still staying grounded and human and not not be assholes? I think that's one of the things that for some reason our industry has really built up is this idea that like, in order to make great stuff, you have to be a really mean person.

Daniel Scheinert 11:33
But in order to have a good biopic, I think we might have to turn me into the villain for the second half. I'll be like the manager of Brian Wilson. Yeah. Mercy. Oh, me, Paul Giamatti. Like taking advantage of you. Like you should take more drugs more ADHD

Alex Ferrari 11:53
That helps with your creative process. Absolutely. It would be the equivalent of my Cuban parents going go be a filmmaker. Yeah, go ahead. Because when I told when I when I told my parents I wanted to be a filmmaker my mom's like okay, let's do it on my desk like what what do you what? Yeah, what is that? What is that I'm like I can be a PA I can make $100 a day. That was that was my pitch to him to be

Daniel Kwan 12:14
It's so practical. You know how to appeal to an immigrant father I can 100 bucks a day dad come on

Alex Ferrari 12:20
$100 Cash a day. That was as far as my vision of my career had gone now you guys you guys obviously got a get started with shorts and and and then made made your bones and music videos. By the way, some of the music videos, some of the most interesting music videos of the last decade have been directed by you guys. And I'm not just smoking smoking

Daniel Scheinert 12:44
Smoking our butt

Alex Ferrari 12:46
Smoking your butt blowing smoke up your butts. I came. I came up in the 90s with Fincher and rubberneck and all these amazing films, I love music videos, especially in the 90s, late 80s, early 90s is when the form really took took you know, they took it to other places. So when I saw what you like, you know turned down but what I was just like, What is this? This is I mean just the clocking of the gun cocking as she sits on his face is a level of brilliance I have not seen very often in music video so thank you sirs.

Daniel Scheinert 13:23
Creative peak.

Daniel Kwan 13:25
That sound effects was

Daniel Scheinert 13:28
On your face

Alex Ferrari 13:29
It was just such a beautiful thing. It's such a small thing and only I like everybody else might have seen other things but when I saw that, I'm like they're filmmakers.

Daniel Kwan 13:40
That is to our audience. That's where the metaphor or the the term smoking your ass came from.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
So you guys did some amazing work in music videos. What lessons did you bring from your music videos experiences into the feature world which are obviously two different though I could argue to say that Swiss Army Man and and your current film both are just really long music videos, in the sense of the visuals are just insane.

Daniel Scheinert 14:09
Like the fact that like there's music nonstop. Like,

Daniel Kwan 14:13
We rely on music a lot.

Daniel Scheinert 14:15
Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I mean, we learned a ton. Obviously, like some, some incredible music video directors do kind of like non narrative aesthetic tone poems. And we always did like short films, we always like tricked a band into paying for our short films, you know, like, they were very narratively driven. So we, we kind of were honing our voice as writers while doing music videos. And that made the transition a little, like, more organic, I guess, you know, because we were like, Oh, we're, um, you know, a lot of videos have like a beginning, middle and end turned out for what doesn't have much character development. But you know, there's a little bit of a linear story, you know,

Alex Ferrari 14:59
I'd argue to Say there's a lot of character development. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Daniel Kwan 15:14
Notes you see the world right bends around the protagonist over time. This is the constant in the world is when you don't turn down in sales turns up exactly. But to piggyback on what he's saying, like, we didn't think of ourselves as writers like I again, I don't even think of myself as a director at the time we first got hired for the for a dancer or a dancer. Yeah, there's so many things that I we did not

Daniel Scheinert 15:36
He's the star have turned down for what that's him.

Daniel Kwan 15:38
Yes. Yeah. In case you didn't know.

Alex Ferrari 15:39
It's fantastic.

Daniel Kwan 15:42
Thank you. But so we treated every project as, as Film School in some ways to be like, Hey, we've never worked with a DP before. What's that? Like? Let's let's bring a DP on for this one. More? Oh, well, you know, what is what is the production design team supposed to be? In? What's that? What's that relationship supposed to be like? Let's let's bring on a production designer. And every project, we just built our family out and started adding more and more people and learning new skills. You know, we like I've always wanted to play with motion control camera rigs. And so we did that for a battle's music video. We've always wanted to do

Daniel Scheinert 16:18
We started out doing a lot more like visual effects. Yeah. And we slowly learned more and more practical effects. gags Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that's so much more fun when you can actually like, blow up in the air mortar have a breakaway prop,

Daniel Kwan 16:30
Right. And then like, we wanted to play more with stunts, and just see what that was like. So we did a foster people video about car chase. And we learned that we hate shooting car chases, you know, so every every project was was like a selfish way for us to learn something new. And then by the time we were ready to do features, like we had accrued a team with a very specific skill sets that, you know, really supported our process. And we felt like we were ready. The only thing that was really hard, I'd say the hardest part of the transition was the timeframes of, of music videos versus features, you know, music videos, you prep, pitch, write, shoot, edit, and release within a month. With features, you know, it takes you a year just to write like the first draft sometimes. And that was a that was a real struggle to like, slow down, and step back and say no to everything and basically turn off the faucet that we had of work coming in. Because we were at the peak of our of our music, VO careers. And we had to step away from that and say, You know what, I've always we've always wanted it to be filmmakers, who did features and narrative. And that was probably the hardest part. And I see a lot of contemporaries, who are in the music industry, who never did that. Never had the I don't wanna say discipline or self control. It's more just we had each other to keep each other accountable. So we, we were the ones who were able to say, Hey, should we pull back and we had someone who, who basically was there to keep us accountable and not get tempted to get pulled back into the whirlwind that is music video,

Daniel Scheinert 18:09
And we got lucky. You know, we know friends that do turn off the faucet and write a screenplay and can't get it made.

Daniel Kwan 18:15
Yes. It's hard out there.

Daniel Scheinert 18:18
But yeah, yeah, we learned a lot. We still use all the same tricks and work with all the same crew.

Alex Ferrari 18:24
Yeah, that's the thing is once you once you find people that you can work with you hold on to them for dear life, because it's, you know, there's a comfort level there. You could you could just look at them and they know exactly what you want. Or they're, they know what you want before you know what you want. So once you walk into like, perfect, exactly the aesthetic I want. Famous.

Daniel Scheinert 18:43
Now we're going to like, quit working with them, although,

Alex Ferrari 18:46
Obviously, obviously, obviously, that's what you do. You let you leave them alone. And you go get high Oscar winners. Just Hi, Oscar winners.

Daniel Kwan 18:53
All of this. This is the this is the industry way.

Alex Ferrari 18:55
Yeah, exactly. Now I so you guys have done some insane projects. What is your writing process? Like? Were you two working together? Because I write but I write by alone. I've never written with somebody else. So how do you guys go back and forth with the writing process?

Daniel Kwan 19:10
Yeah, it was a real that was a real learning. Like that was that was a lot of growing pains in that like leak from music videos to screenwriting, because neither of us thought of ourselves as writers. But when you're a musical director, you're constantly having to write new ideas. And so our process for music videos was actually pretty organically formed from the fact that we just had to be constantly pitching. Like we put out two or three pitches a week to different songs, and we get rejected 90% of the time, but that really like the exercise a part of our collective muscles where we were basically throwing ideas back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until someone laughed or someone gasp or someone emoted and then we're like, okay, what is that? Why, what like, let's let's latch on to that. And then we would start to throw ideas back and forth until they became these snowballs that kind of kept attaching more and more or conceptual ideas, narrative ideas, visual ideas and like we would start putting on different visual references that we'd pull up from YouTube or Vimeo. And we would never write anything down, it would all just be in our heads and just be ping pong back and forth for a couple of weeks, you know, without writing anything down, just seeing what stuck. And then finally, when it came time to pitch, we just write it all down and send it out. Which is great for music videos, because you have to have that speed. Once we transition to features that became really hard to do to ping pong the feature back and forth without writing down without you know. So what is our process? Now I feel like he changed.

Daniel Scheinert 20:36
I feel like it changes on every project. And that might be the lesson you know, is that like, we're cons. It's almost like a weird therapy exercise. And if you do the exact same thing, each time, you're not going to like make discoveries, you're just going to like, kind of create, figure out a pattern of how to make a similar, but not as good thing because it's not as like authentic and heartfelt and, but we still bounce ideas off each other a lot. We spent a lot of time apart. And we're each other's biggest fan. And also like biggest like, critic, because we built kind of a common vocabulary and trust of each other's thoughts. So it's a lot of like, time apart and coming back and being like, I have this thought it really resonates with me. I do I write very poorly by myself. And so like, sometimes I'm hungry to be like Dan, hang out with me. I want to throw ideas out.

Daniel Kwan 21:33
Sometimes Daniel Daniel Scheinert comes from like, an improv background. So everything about that world is about like reactions and

Daniel Scheinert 21:39
Collaborative and a sort of an extrovert who's feeds off other people's energy. And then Kwan is like, introvert extrovert. And so like, every once in awhile, he just disappears. It's like, nope, leave me alone. I'm writing, you know, and he'll come back with, like, really great stuff. But sometimes, you know, the great stuff is five times longer than we agreed it was gonna be back to the drawing board of like, how do we do we keep it all which parts do we keep? You know, it's an editing process. And just a lot of trial and error.

Daniel Kwan 22:09
Yeah. So with our first draft for everything everywhere, we spent a long time outline together, throwing things back and forth the ways that we have been talking about and then shot it went off to do his other movie Death a dick along with not a porn. Yeah, not respectable.

Daniel Scheinert 22:29
Exactly. It's misleading, I understand.

Daniel Kwan 22:32
But I wrote the first draft while he was gone shooting that movie, and it came back and it was like 240 pages, you know. So it's, I'm definitely I have ADHD, I realized, while writing this movie, and I think because of that I'm different, very generative. I'm just constantly writing constantly, I have notebooks that are always open, I have like five different. I write stuff on my phone, on my notebook on my laptop on my, you know, I just need to be writing constantly on things. Otherwise, my brain will explode. I just need like, let them out. And so I handle a lot of that over to shiner. And then China just like points out things that are working and points and like, tries to help form it into something that like makes both of us excited. So it's so far it's been more like scares the producers less. Right. Exactly. That's, like I'm, I'm very ambitious. And China is very practical minded. And so I think the combination of our brains has been very, very good.

Alex Ferrari 23:33
You know, it's funny when I had Miranda on the show, everyone listen, you gotta listen to Miranda, the producer of Swiss Iron Man. The stories that about how that movie got me because I was fascinated and like, how in God's green earth did anybody put money up for this film? Like, In what world is this movie exist? Apparently this this and this universe? It exists and others it might not, but in this universe exists? And she said that she said, like she talked to I think somebody intercompany and they like she'd read they're like, we're not gonna make this right. We're not gonna make the movie about the farting with a dick. And that, really? She's like, No, we're, we're really gonna make you gotta you guys got to listen to that interview. It's so fantastic. That pitch Yeah, no, yeah, there was like, how did you? How did you come up with the idea? It's such an insane idea. How did you come up with it? And how in God's green earth do you pitch that in a room?

Daniel Scheinert 24:24
Which ones was Army man? It was Army man. Yeah. The idea started work were the same way. Like all our music videos started it was kind of like an an image or a gag or a little scene that like, made us laugh. And it was just the opening scene of a guy. Initially the idea was like, feeding a corpse beans. Like it's fuel, and then writing it's far it's off a deserted island to freedom,

Daniel Kwan 24:53
But it was like very beautiful and like it was very

Daniel Scheinert 24:57
And then we were like, that would be a funny like the

Daniel Kwan 25:00
The music that shows, right. Yeah, the music I was listening to was Ben Zeitlin, you know who did be some Southern Wild, his short film that he did before that was called glory at sea. I don't know if you guys have seen it, but it's fantastic. They have best ambitious indie film, made on with no money. And like it was such an aspirational thing for us to watch in college. But the score is incredible. And Ben, you know, worked on the score, but I was listening to that score while we're on an airplane. And just imagining the beauty and the catharsis of a man riding off on a farting course was like making me laugh. But I will say that, like, a lot of our stuff, as wild as it is, comes from a very practical place. Because, you know, you mentioned in the 90s, the great music players like Fincher and Romanek and Spike Jones and Michel Gondry know, they had big budgets, you know, $5 million stars, stars who, you know, millions, when we were when we, by the time we got into the music industry, you know, Napster and streaming had decimated the industry, so that, you know, we were working with $10,000, you know, most of that 10 20,000, or whatever. So, we got to, we got stuck in this really interesting mode of, of filmmaking, which was very practical and based off of problem solving. So like, we happen to be flying to Alabama to visit his family, and do sort of a mini writer's retreat for another movie we thought we were going to write, and we were asking ourselves, what resources do we have there? Because we should shoot something while we're there. That'd be fun.

Daniel Scheinert 26:33
And they live on a lake in Alabama, their neighbors had a boat. And so we were like, maybe we could do a weird gag with a boat.

Daniel Kwan 26:40
And I was like, Okay, there's two of us. Okay. It's a short little thing with two people on the water. What could that be? And that's where this idea came from. And I think like, a lot of our work is kind of coming from very practical, like, problem solving. And so yeah, so that's where it came from. I pitched it to him. And shine, it was like, that's amazing. We have to make it and I immediately regretted pitching it to him, because I was like, I don't want to make that though. You know, like, I don't want to show that to my exactly the person, the person that Miranda's company who said, we're not really going to make that as like, oh, yeah, that's that was what I was saying to it's not Yeah, they weren't. They weren't crazy for thinking that. And then it just, it just kept grew. It really was like a cancer in my brain, and are both our collective brains. It doesn't have growing and more ideas kept latching on to it.

Daniel Scheinert 27:28
And then it became a long short film about like, the amnesia, the like, the amnesia corpse, trying to figure out what happened to it and learn about life. And then that short film got bigger and bigger. And we were like, maybe it's a feature that would be hilarious. Like an almost as like a joke. We started fleshing out the feature, and then

Daniel Kwan 27:47
You know, as a joke, we pitched it to a in a general meeting, we were actually speaking of industry. So we're getting we're getting passed around Hollywood, doing general meetings, and we kept pitching our joke ideas, because we didn't have any ideas that we thought would appeal to most studio heads or to any producers. And one day, we decided to pitch this movie to a producer almost as a joke. And he leaves

Daniel Scheinert 28:09
Like, do you really want to make that? Yeah. And we're like, yeah, he's like, why haven't you written it? And he's, and we're like, oh, because we don't think it would get made. And he's like you. If you believe in it, you should make that no one else. No one else is ever going to make that movie. Like, mysteries are true. And it was like, it was a good kick in the ass.

Daniel Kwan 28:26
Yeah. So yeah, that was Lauren. singly, one of the producers on our on that film was the one who kind of liked Miranda. Yeah, he kind of like pressed the button to turn, turn that part of our brain on and say, Don't do it. Why not?

Alex Ferrari 28:41
Yeah, but I have, but I have to ask, like, you guys did some pitches. Right. So did you What were some reactions from the pitches? Like I gotta believe that somebody's like, I could just see the pale white skin of a of somebody, like just all the all the blood flow coming out of their bodies, like, you guys. You're not serious. Sorry. Yeah,

Daniel Scheinert 29:01
Were pretty good at pitching our ideas because we're also like, self deprecating, and, like, totally ready for the, the criticism, you know, I agree and like, and sort of have the attitude of like, you know, if you don't get it, it's not for you. Don't please don't, please don't give us money. Like, I don't want you in a great you know, regretting this or, you know, just every draft and every screening. Like not getting it but but it was hard. Yeah. And it took like someone with a weird sense of humor like Miranda like to say yes, that got the ball rolling. And then I will say something we discovered later that really helped was we we got the band Manchester orchestra. Robert and Andy to start making some songs for us when we were developing it. Before it was Even though officially greenlit, And then we started pitching it with music. And we were able to pitch the opening scene and press play, and just start describing it as you heard this, like, oh, gorgeous music. And it was such a different feeling in the room where like, people were suddenly like, what the hell's going on? This music is making me emotional, and it's so beautiful. And what you're describing is profane and stupid and should not I should not give you money. But I think it helped, that really helped crack the pitch in that case, just to be able to, like, you know, play music, which is something we still do sometimes.

Daniel Kwan 30:49
Yeah. The other two things that really helped us was the fact that two things happened. While we're in the middle of trying to get funding and trying to get actors. The first thing that happened was we somehow got into the Sundance Institute, like the Sundance screenwriters lab for the screenplay, and we were like, what? Like, who at the sun, like, you know, right? Think about Sundance, you think about so many other movies, and not so sorry, man. That's not what you think about when you think about Sundance. But you know, to their credit, they saw something really earnest in our work, and they saw our past work and saw that we were trying new things, and you know, what is Sundance if not a place to foster new voices. And so they brought us in, and it was, incredibly, creatively, just exactly what we needed at that point in our careers, regardless of whether or not the movie was gonna get made. It was so healing. And it also showed us that there was a place for us in this industry in the way that we were talking about at the beginning, where we were talking about, maybe we don't belong here, it's like, oh, the Sundance Institute was one of the first places that we went to were like, Oh, this beautiful, creative environment can exist. And it does exist. And we should be chasing after this. And so that was really great. But we got the stamp of approval from Sundance, which made suddenly our foreign corpse movie people had to like, really lean forward and and process and then maybe have

Daniel Scheinert 32:13
Robert Redford so this. So this is a good move.

Daniel Kwan 32:15
Exactly. Yeah. Robert Redford, his stamp of approval. And then, oddly enough, while we were at the Sundance Labs, we were so fed up with how intellectual we had become, we had been talking way too much about themes and characters and, and all this stuff that is really important. But after a while, as filmmakers who want to be on set who want to be making things and really expressing things that you can't even put into words, it was very frustrating. And we happen to get a song in from Columbia Records from one of our Commissioner buddies, Brian Downes, who, who works at Columbia, he sent it over, and it was turned down for what and he was like, What do you guys want to do with the song it's kind of a wild song. And so we were like, this is perfect. Let's turn off our brains. And let's do the opposite of what we'll be doing no theme, no character, no, just like pure ID, let's create something so wild and so frenetic and beautiful and strange. And then basically, will basically will hold nothing back. And will will will say to the, the label, like I dare you to let us make this. If they actually let us make it and we'll have to go make it. And so we did that. We put that online, instantly a viral hit. And so we got the viral hit, we got the Sundance stamp of approval, and suddenly making the foreign incoax movie made a lot of sense to you know, certain investors obviously, we still scared away a lot of people but yeah, we're really lucky.

Alex Ferrari 33:41
No, it's it's it was the right place. Right time. Right product. And also, the thing is, a lot of people might not see this in your films, but there's so much emotion in the characters. There's like, you know, everything everywhere. You're you know, you're tearing up like it's yeah, they're hot dog fingers. But there's so much emotion behind what's going on. Same thing with Swiss Army Man, like you tear up watching that film. So it's not just insanity for insanity or gag for Gag sake. You know, there's, there's heart behind it. And that's what stick makes you because, you know, I can't say anybody can come up with a 40 corpse idea. But in the wrong hands. It's a movie about a 14 corpse total but yeah, and what you guys did you elevated it and that's because what Sundance saw in your work, you're like, Oh, there's more here than just the gag. The gag is just super It's interesting. It's no one's ever seen this before. And that's what's really beautiful about what you guys are doing. Now. Now you guys, you know we all as directors, we're all on the onset. And there's always that one day on set if not every day, but always that one day specifically the the entire world is coming crashing down around you. The world is coming to an end. You're not going to make your day you're going to lose the actor. The sun has gone the camera fell in the lake What was that day for you on Swiss Army Man? And how did you overcome it?

Daniel Kwan 35:06
We probably have different answers for this. But yeah, go first. Yeah,

Daniel Scheinert 35:10
We shot sorry man in like five weeks and a bunch of we had a bunch of travel days in there too. So it wasn't even like five days of shooting per week. And week four, we did four night shoots in a row. And it was like all the bear stuff and like, and we just burned the candle at both ends and started going insane. And

Daniel Kwan 35:34
I thought I was gonna want everyone's getting sick.

Daniel Scheinert 35:36
Yeah, I thought I was at rock bottom at that point. And then I got sick after that, as we traveled up to Eureka, with a small crew to get all the beautiful redwoods stuff. So like on day one or two of wandering around the redwoods that morning, Quan like wanting to rewrite the scene, again, we were constantly rewriting while shooting on that one was not a good idea. And so like, and he was like, we don't have time to rewrite it. Oh, well, but it's a bad scene. Let's go shoot it. And I was sick and sad and demoralized. And that was how we started our day. And then we went out into the woods. And while shooting it, I just started feeling like I was gonna pass out like just, and like hopeless. And we were just kind of a boring scene where the camera we're just doing normal coverage. But I was like, the movies going to be a disaster. It's not going to work. That's not going to work. Dan hates it. I don't even know how to give notes on this scene. I like walked away and walked up to my producer Jonathan Wong. And I was like, I don't think I don't know if I'm I don't know if I'm gonna make it. And he's like, what's up? Apparently, I said something. Like I said something where he he interpreted as like Daniel thinks he's gonna die. But I thought what I was saying was that I couldn't finish the movie, but I'm not sure what if I was speaking English. I was like, I was like, You were gone. I was like, close to a mental breakdown. And that seemed turned out great. It's great. The writing was fine. Like in the edit. We like our met him edited it together. And we watched him. We're like, What the fuck is good. That day was so sad. I guess I don't have to direct I guess the key to directing is to walk away is to walk away and get sad. And it'll turn out good. But uh, but yeah, we did. We learned a lot of lessons on that movie about how to manage morale, you know, and, and that that's a huge deal on a feature that like, it's not just about do you have a good idea and a good plan? It's about like, are you taking care of yourself?

Daniel Kwan 37:35
Are you take care of your crew?

Daniel Scheinert 37:37
Are you taking care of your crew and, and we and we left that one being like, whew, a lot of room for improvement. You know, like it got too hard.

Daniel Kwan 37:46
My quick stories last day, or sorry, the last scene of the movie is everyone on the beach. I'm sorry, spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen it. There's a beach. There's A beach. Everyone's on the beach.

Alex Ferrari 37:57
There's some there's some beans.

Daniel Kwan 37:58
Yeah, exactly. And then we, you know, a small budget, no lighting equipment. Nothing. We literally we had to wait for, you know, the 1520 minutes of magic hour to shoot that entire scene. And it was Radcliffe's birthday. I remember. And Radcliffe really wanted to lie down in the water, even though it's freezing cold. Like we're like Daniel we have, we have a dummy. And he's like, no, no, no, I want to be here. I want to like I think it's important for Paul to see me here to be part of this and like, okay, great. And so we neurotically blocked it all out and tried to like come up with a plan to shoot that whole scene, which is like, you know, 1213 It feels like 12 setups, right? It's like everyone has their own Spielberg pushing on like in the medium shot plus three or four wise plus a couple of very specific shots between Radcliffe and Paul. Anyways, it was a lot of set shots. And we had to do it in 15 minutes. And so we literally we just our anyway, I think we on our No, I feel like we once by the time we started shooting, it was like half an hour and we basically just didn't cut we went we basically we made the plan and Larkin was operating for the whole movie or DP. And so he knew exactly like when, where to move from each setup. And so we'd be like, Okay, we got it. Next up. Okay, we got it next. Okay, we got it. Next up, okay. Now, everyone, all the actors get ready, you're gonna shoot your one shot and we're just gonna do a couple takes back and forth and we move on to the next person. And like I said, I don't know how many times we cut but we really like there was no time to sleep. You know, we just went like, Okay, now you're close up. Okay, now you're close up. No, you're close up. And then we missed the last final interaction between Paul and and Daniel. As the sun was setting, we cranked the our ISO was cranked wide like like as high as possible.

Daniel Scheinert 39:50
Real bad. And Larkin was just muttering we have to stop.

Daniel Kwan 39:53
Yeah, it was it was so grainy and like, and we're like shit I think we might have last week. I don't know. I don't know if we got our funds. Only and it was just like a really just scary feeling to have to like, we didn't nail the ending. And, you know, we like like Shannon was saying we were kind of already, like, burnt out from the process of making this film. So that was definitely like, that was week two. Yeah, that was.

Daniel Scheinert 40:19
Yeah, that's the end of week two. Yeah.

Daniel Kwan 40:22
So that was really scary. And you know, we ultimately finagle some some

Daniel Scheinert 40:26
Was it week one because maybe on Friday, I sort of remember the schedule in my head, but it was fast. I remember as being like, Oh, my God, we just started and now we're shooting the ending.

Daniel Kwan 40:35
Yeah. And we're exhausted. And we're exhausted. And like, yeah, I guess it's a short film. We're Yeah. So we just learned a lot of the limits of of our, you know, of our budget versus our ambition.

Daniel Scheinert 40:46
But we've been, I will say, like, you know, I hear stories of films that's gone wrong. And I've and makes me feel so lucky. That like, like, it's, it's been hard and things have gone wrong, but just because it's just because it was ambitious, not because of like, we've been so lucky that, you know, we haven't worked with assholes. And that, like, we've had good producers and that we've headed off a lot of the really disastrous types of things that can go wrong before. You know, we got to set so we're Yeah, we're such lucky filmmakers that you know,

Daniel Kwan 41:22
These are our horses.

Daniel Scheinert 41:23
These are ours. Like I was tired, and it was hard.

Alex Ferrari 41:26
Yeah, it's not like Coppola on apocalypse. Now. You're not in the jungle for three years with a gun to your head. So it's not putting things into perspective.

Daniel Kwan 41:34
Yes, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 41:36
That's No, those are no, I feel but I feel both of those. I love the Best Directing tip just walk away depressed, and it'll come out fine.

Daniel Scheinert 41:46
Weird. I mean, we did kind of thing this was starting man, there was a part of a masochistic part of us that we're like, it's about a guy kind of losing his mind in the woods. I think that might happen to us while we do this, but maybe that'll make it an interesting movie. This will be our Apocalypse Now.

Alex Ferrari 42:05
I was about to say this is very Apocalypse Now a very method directing. It's very,

Daniel Scheinert 42:11
I don't aspire to do for that. Yeah. Now, I like having fun.

Alex Ferrari 42:17
So speaking of fun, I just was I had the pleasure of watching everything everywhere, all at once. A couple of weeks ago. I think at this point, we can we can half ago, I saw it. And as I'm sitting there watching it in theater. I'm just looking at it and going. I'm so glad this is in existence. I'm so glad somebody put this out into our art mold over our universe. And then hotdog fingers show up. And I'm like, oh my god, I love this film. There's Hochberg fingers. I have to ask, how and it's such a beautiful and I joke, but it's such a beautifully done movie. And, and I'm not smoking about again. But that's it. I promise you there'll be some YouTube comments saying no. Smoking uh, but no. But honestly, though, I'm watching it. And it's, you know, Michelle Yeoh is a is a goddess. Data from the Goonies oh my god, what a powerhouse actor. I was not. When I saw him. I was like, Oh, look, it's data from Goonies Oh, he got work. Fantastic. You know, that's why that's the first thought. And then I'm like, holy crap. He's really good.

Daniel Kwan 43:26
Yeah. And then underestimate data.

Alex Ferrari 43:30
I heard his voice when I heard his voice. For the first time I have this data. He's like, I just because I've seen the Guney 1000 times. Of course, yeah. Jamie Lee Curtis, and then just the whole cast that you put together. It is such a beautiful ballet of insanity. And emotion. It's remarkable how. And I have to ask you the same question again. How on God's green earth? Did you guys come up with this idea?

Daniel Scheinert 43:54
Yeah, I mean, I feel like we could do a whole podcast one day about where ideas come from and how it's a mystery and what isn't the human brain? And how does neuroscience work? And this is of the neurons firing that make us giggle? And then at what point does do we then test that against the culture to see if it's something worth putting out there as opposed to just an inside joke? And much of that is, like, with intent, and how much of that is pure luck or just like subconscious, you know? This thing's like

Daniel Kwan 44:26
Like, we're, we're all discovering that genius doesn't come from individual ideas don't really come from individuals. We're all just conduits for this like bigger, mimetic battle that's happening all around us.

Daniel Scheinert 44:37
We're gonna get philosophical with your very simple

Alex Ferrari 44:40
ExI love it. I love it. So you're channeling, channeling

Daniel Kwan 44:43
Channeling

Alex Ferrari 44:43
From the ether from the ether from

Daniel Kwan 44:45
It's all from the ether. And I think the only thing that makes us different and I think the thing that is our superpower is we say, Yes,

Daniel Scheinert 44:51
We say yes to the idea that we haven't seen that sound unproduced. Yeah,

Daniel Kwan 44:56
We say yes to the to the bad ideas, we say yes to the things that should not be A mostly because the moment we tell ourselves, oh, this shouldn't be made. We we question the angles, like why not? Hold on, but it didn't resonate with me. This is interesting. Yeah. Oh,

Daniel Scheinert 45:20
If it sounds on producible, that means no one else is going to beat us to it.

Daniel Kwan 45:24
There's also that

Alex Ferrari 45:24
There's no competition. There's no competition.

Daniel Scheinert 45:27
There is like, I was just talking about the philosophy of ideas. And there's, there's this book impro by Keith Johnstone. It's like an improv book that I read in an acting school. And he has a chapter about creativity and about how, you know, effortless it is for the human mind. But it's hard for a lot of people because it's trained out of us, like our school system, and our culture teaches us how to curate and focus and ignore, you know, playful ideas. But that like, it's, it's like, if you don't do that, like if you talk to like hunter gatherer cultures and stuff, like it's creativity is like, effortless and it's everywhere, and that there was an he loves. There's some anecdote about some like, that's like an Inuit tribe or something that like, one of those tribes that has, you know, 20 words for snow. And they think that there is a sculpture inside of every rock. That is that is that has to be discovered. Not that there's a sculptor who's really good at it's like, and they're like, so instead of being like, Dan Quan is a really good sculptor. The way that the tribe talks about it, apparently, is there like there's a lot of weird rocks around lately, like what's with all the, all the rocks have some really interesting animals inside lately, and I just thought it's such a beautiful counterpoint to how we normally talk about, you know, creativity,

Alex Ferrari 46:52
And not to spoil anything, but you know, there might be a rock or two.

Daniel Kwan 46:55
Yeah, they're pretty weird rock. Yeah. Weird. But yeah, I feel like to sum it up, I feel like every idea we had in this movie, a 10 year old could have come up with, you know, like, it's all it's no hotdog hands and cocking rocks. It's like, there's nothing special about any of this stuff. It's just the fact that we, we chased it, you know, and I think I think we're like there's a sort of naivety there where we like, foolishly chase after these things.

Daniel Scheinert 47:24
Ourreal skill isn't coming up with weird ideas. It's convincing people to invest millions of dollars and to risk their entire artistic reputation out those good ideas.

Alex Ferrari 47:36
You guys should do a masterclass on how to convince people to give you money to do ideas, because you guys are the masters at this because not once but twice with to like, again, the pitch How is that? How do you pitch this? They could such a visual thing? And and how do you attract the cast that you do? Like, it's, that's the other thing is that like, you guys are going off and doing it with some unknown actors. You're bringing in some of the top actors around to do the show yo, was Michelle Yoda how she has not been a lead in a movie outside of Hong Kong is beyond me. Like I could I heard that I was like,

Daniel Kwan 48:12
I know, we felt the same way. We were like, what?

Daniel Scheinert 48:15
We did not know that. And so let's tour

Alex Ferrari 48:18
What she's she's so she says she's a goddess. She's amazing what she does, and how she how she played this part was so beautifully. I mean, it's so beautifully directed. And everything is just, it's, it's just going better. As I'm talking to you. The images are flying back into my head. Hotdog fingers. I still have nightmares, by the way, about duck fingers. When I first saw the motions. I was just like, why has no one ever done this before? And I go, I know why. It's disturbing. It's a wonderful, beautiful way. It's like, Oh, my

Daniel Kwan 49:00
But to our earlier point, like you say, why? How come no one has done this before? Ever since our movie has come out? It's only been about a month now. But yeah, people have been sharing past work that feel like somehow we ripped it off or whatever that we've never seen before. So like there's been two or three different instances where people have sent us hot dog finger scenes from other movies that we've never seen. Or, like, you know, there was a children's book, my friend sent me a children's book, where they're just to talking rocks on a hill. And I was like, This is amazing. You know, like it's all there. It's on the ether. It's just it's how you cook it you know, it's how you it's how you make the stew that's that's

Alex Ferrari 49:36
No pun intended. No pun intended with no look. I mean, it's not that it's not that we haven't seen that before. I can't remember seeing it but like you see like a movie like I forgot one of the Spy Kids had guys made of thumbs, you know and like giant Yeah, you know, like it's not that but the way you guys that fingers in the way the movement and stuff was just so and I don't want to make this a podcast about the hotdog fingers but it's just such Have a just an amazing visual. How did you guys do the quality of visual effects on such a low budget? Because this is, this is not $100 million Avengers $100 million as a catering budget for Avengers. But how did you guys use it to make because the visual effects are remarkable. They really are.

Daniel Scheinert 50:18
Wow, thank you. Yeah, I mean, we, you know, coming up in music videos, we did a lot of our own effects at first. And then like I said, we

Daniel Kwan 50:26
But that was kind of our calling card, like, labels would reach out to us be like, Hey, do you have any cool visual effect ideas that are cheap? Oh, yeah,

Daniel Scheinert 50:34
Those guys who can do like, yeah, like tons of effects for no money, because you just do them yourself. And that was our, our thing. And then we learned a lot about practical effects, mostly by working with Jason because of our day, our production designer. And, and kind of brought all those tricks to this movie. And so a lot of it's like, not that fancy, you know, and, and while writing, we would write gags that we knew could play to our strengths. So we were very rarely writing things that were going to require, like a huge VFX team to strategize and bring on 3d generalists to design myths to figure that out, you know, and instead we're like, oh, no, it's, it's all going to be practical. And when it's not, we know which tricks we're going to use. And they're not too hard to pull off.

Daniel Kwan 51:27
Yeah, we're using a lot of the same techniques that, you know, filmmakers in the 80s were made, we're using, it's the only difference is in the 80s, or the 20s. Or even like wondering, oh, yeah, yeah, a trip to the moon, a trip to the moon, like, just like the match cuts with the with the poof of smoke, like, we're just using those same exact techniques. Except the difference now is, we don't have to do 20 takes to get the practical effect, right, we can do one and a half good takes, okay takes and then we fix it in post with with with our very, you know, rudimentary skills as after effects artists. And so we're kind of cheating every way we can to make the illusion of, of these effects work for as little effort and as little money as possible, which is why I think people say, like, the one talking about the fact that we had about like five to 600 visual effects shots. And it was done with a team of like five to seven people, we say seven, because we're also including ourselves in that number.

Daniel Scheinert 52:26
And there were a couple of people who came on for a few weeks, but the like, core team was pretty small, like really small, the coaching was like our friends were people. And we all just like had synced hard drives. And we would just like, we did it on After Effects. And I think some of it's very impressive what the guys pulled off, you know, and somewhat was very ambitious, like the kind of bagels, bagels. But the other kind of secret weapon is that Kwan has great aesthetic taste. And with a small team, and it all being an After Effects, it was possible for like, Dan to push certain shots over the finish line. And instead of giving like 20 emails to try to refine it, he could just be like, great, give me the project file, open it up, I'm going to spend an hour or two, that's exactly how I want to feel we're done. But like, we didn't have to do all the effects that we also got to put our fingerprints on it.

Daniel Kwan 53:21
Yeah, efficiency there. Because I think one of the reasons why so many visual effects in movies look the same is because they, they there's so many layers of communication between the director and the visual effects artists now that you kind of as a director, you go into these post houses, and you're not really allowed to play that much you're not allowed to explore. And that's really frustrating as directors who love visual effects. And so this was a way for us to be able to have our cake and eat it, we can, we can do it for less money. And we get to have our fingerprints all over and really play with the style of how it's going to feel.

Daniel Scheinert 53:59
But people who are great at visual effects. would listen to your comment about our effects looking incredible. And they'll be like, no, they don't. Because a lot of it's like real, real janky little janky. But there's like a charm to it. And it's about energy not about like, pause the pause the frame. That's a perfect shot, you know, kind of

Alex Ferrari 54:20
I've been I've been a VFX producer, a VFX supervisor, a lot of indie projects. So I mean, I understand you're janky but it's perfect for what you're trying to do. It's not it doesn't have to be Thanos throwing a moon at somebody. But that's not what that's about. And that's why I'm like even at that budget level, it still looks phenomenal. And you're so caught up with the kinetic energy of the scenes. I mean, the bagel stuff and all me you just get caught up with it you just like you're in it because if I'm looking at all that law, that comp was just a picture sort of blurred that a little bit more if they could have just comp that a little bit better or thrown. No, I wasn't there. I was in the story. So with that, I'm sure if I go back and analyze it, I'm sure I'm sure you guys go back and analyze it like, I did I do that 100 $200 million movies. I'm like, how did that get through? Like, obviously see, that's a really, when my wife is looking at a movie and going, that's a bad green screen. And it's like a $200 million movie. I'm like, oh, figured it out. Have a few more at last couple questions asked all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Daniel Scheinert 55:31
Adjust your goals, bro. breaking in. Breaking in shouldn't be your goal, because a lot of people break in and then they're sad. And they make the world a worse place. And they make like upsetting weird content. And they talking about us talking about us.

Alex Ferrari 55:48
Look what happens when you follow your dreams, everybody.

Daniel Scheinert 55:51
Turns out, I'm cynical, this was all a front. All these nice jokes for you kids. As you know, I like to say that, like, if you love making movies, chase that feeling find people that you love making movies with. And, and maybe you'll end up getting paid to do it and and find a niche, and then that'll be great. Or maybe not, and you'll still be happy and, and having the therapeutic beautiful experience of making and sharing artwork, you know. And that breaking in can sometimes be the worst thing for you, you know, if you don't get to make what you love, or with people that you love doing it with. And so, it'll happen. If you just make stuff you love. You know, you'll find your niche in the world, you know, and that niche might mean your local film festival. And that's dope. Awesome, you know, or it might be a 24. And that's cool, too.

Alex Ferrari 56:57
And that and that's fine, too. And let's just give a shout out to a 24 Thank you for allowing and helping movies like this to put on to the world because there's just really isn't your only isn't that there? Isn't that another a 24?

Daniel Scheinert 57:10
Their fighting the good fight getting tricking people into watching provocative challenging things.

Alex Ferrari 57:16
Right! It's fantastic. Now what is the lesson that took you guys the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in lif?

Daniel Kwan 57:24
Longest to learn. I'm trying to think of lessons I'm still learning right now, maybe something I'm trying to figure out is this balance of, of, it's more than work life. Because I think work life is like, that's, that's a given. Everyone has to tackle that. But it's like, it's from a leadership position. Because, you know, again, I never wanted to be a filmmaker, I never wanted to be a director, I never wanted to be a leader. And so a lot of this feels like it's been put upon me in a way that like, makes me very uncomfortable and unsure of but the balance of, of being a a leader, who is also who's just as concerned with the final product, as the process is something I think I'll always be learning and always reflecting on, I think with this movie, we got really close to a perfect process, in that and the fact that like, it's the most ambitious thing we've ever done, it was is like foolishly, foolishly ambitious for how much money and time we got for to make it. And yet, it was the most fun, the most loving the most just gracious environment. And I like I really, I really think it was like, it was so much easier than so sorry, man, even though you know, technically it like it's like, exponentially harder in every way. As far as production goes. But because we went in with the the goal of creating a, an environment that was just really fulfilling, and, you know, all push towards this idea of letting everyone who walked on tourist sets, be able to show off their best version of themselves. You know, that was like one of our goals was to empower people to just, you know, become the best version of themselves on our set. And it was so fulfilling and so fun. And I have so many great memories of the shoot in a way that I can't say the same for our previous work. And I think this is something I think we'll always be chasing after because if we can have it all if we can be ambitious and you know, creative directors who also just build in beautiful environments for peace. able to exist in into Korean like that that is going to be such a beautiful, beautiful thing to prove to our industry, you know. to myself into our crew, but also to the rest the industry.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:22
That's a beautiful answer. By the way. That's a beautiful answer. That was a really wonderful answer. And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Daniel Scheinert 1:00:32
Ah, this is always hard. I like giving different answers, you know,

Daniel Kwan 1:00:37
You go first.

Daniel Scheinert 1:00:42
I love I love a crazy documentary. Love American movie, the movie, boys trying to make their movie not available for rent digitally anywhere. For some reason. You got to figure this out. But

Daniel Kwan 1:00:56
The first thing that my brain went to was Magnolia, probably. That's why I just keep returning back to because it's a movie that does everything wrong. And it feels so right. And it doesn't matter. You know, like, and I'm like, I wanted to be chasing that as a filmmaker for a long time. Just that feeling that I got when I watched Magnolia for the first time

Daniel Scheinert 1:01:23
My brain just went to like, Moonlight is insane. It's just like the hype, it pays off is great. So beautiful. And like it was like at the right place at the right time where like our culture was trying to like quit being so homophobic. And like, it was like, here's how like, here's, like, empathize with this person, like 100% successful and it was like, just like this, like, epically important thing for our culture. And for me, you know, to just like to fall in love with this love story. And for a beautiful heart. Yeah, to thing and for it to win Best Picture. Yeah. And then for it to go. And he feels alive. Yeah.

Daniel Kwan 1:02:04
I'll go back to one of my childhood favorites, which was it's probably the movie I've seen more times than any other movie. It's Groundhog's Day.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:11
It's a masterpiece.

Daniel Kwan 1:02:14
Yeah, it's a masterpiece. And it became like a spiritual guide for this movie, because it was a film about, about nihilism about the treasury of existence, but wrapped up in a really fun comedy. And they and then he pulls off both those things wonderfully. And I was like, I want to do that with our movie, The whatever we do with this film, it has to pull off both of those things. It has to be so much fun. And so philosophical and insincere. And so the long answer is only

Daniel Scheinert 1:02:47
Princess Mononoke gay. Oh, yeah, just blew my mind when I was a kid. And then I've been I've been thinking about it lately. And just how like, brilliant. Like the the ambiguity of good and evil is in that and how important it was for me as a kid to like to chew on that, you know, when like, we're usually fed these kind of like violence is the answer beat the bad guy stories, like just go blow up their building was like, is the moral of, you know, a lot of, you know, action adventure movies. And it's like, no, this one's confusing, and it's about people with different interests. And also, you're gonna fall in love with a little wolf girl. It's very confusing and exciting for me as a kid.

Daniel Kwan 1:03:35
For my last answer, I don't want to say this because it's so obvious, but I have to say it just because I need to pay tribute to how much it the movie means to me. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Never heard of it.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:50
Never heard of it. Who's in it? No. No, that's me. boundary is a master. I wish he would be making more movies. Now. I want somebody please listen to give him a budget. Let him do whatever he wants

Daniel Scheinert 1:04:03
Back up with Charlie. He spirals a little like, I think I would if I didn't have Dan.

Daniel Kwan 1:04:10
Yeah. And you got to have a balance is just, yeah, it's the movie that like that. Really. I feel like it changed me as a person and made me understand. Yeah, my world, my the, my place in the world in a completely different way. It was, I think it was the first time I experienced meta modernism in the wild. This this idea of trying to get beyond postmodern, like post post modernism. And it was so cathartic and healing for me to see that play out in a story for the first time. So that yeah, it's incredible. And also, it's just so much fun, like the filmmaking of it. It's just so fun. And obviously we stole so much from boundary when we started making these videos and even in our features, you can see his fingerprints in it as well. It's all there.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:55
Yeah, guys, it has been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you guys so much. On a continued success, I tell everybody to please go watch everything everywhere all at once. It is. It is a brilliant piece of cinema and I'm so glad it exists in the world. Thank you guys for doing you. Thank you for being a conduit for the insane. And to bring it into our universe, my friends. Thank you so much.

Daniel Kwan 1:05:17
Thank you for having us. This was fun.

Daniel Scheinert 1:05:17
Yeah.

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IFH 575: From Clerks to Shooting Boba & The Mandalorian with David Klein A.S.C.

David Klein, A.S.C. (born December 1972) is an American cinematographer known for working with director Kevin Smith on the films Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Cop Out, Red State.

Klein, a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, was the director of photography for True Blood on HBO and for Homeland on Showtime. Klein was hired for the latter position beginning with Homeland’s third season, taking over cinematographer duties from Nelson Cragg who had served as the series’ director of photography for two seasons.

In 2020, Klein served as the cinematographer on Season 2, Episode 6 of The Mandalorian, titled “Chapter 14: The Tragedy” which was directed by Robert Rodriguez. He will also serve as cinematographer on multiple episodes of The Book of Boba Fett.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:28
I'd like to welcome to the show. David Klein, man how you doing David?

David Klein 4:36
I'm good. How are you man?

Alex Ferrari 4:38
I'm doing great brother doing great man. We've been trying to get this ready and recorded for god months now at this point but you're busy you're busy man you're working on Boba you're working on Mandalorian you're, you know saving the world little by little. So

David Klein 4:53
I'm about all that. But the first two things are true.

Alex Ferrari 4:57
Exactly. So I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to come and talk to the tribe, my friend. So first questions I have for you, man, why God's green earth did you want to get in this insanity that is this business?

David Klein 5:11
Probably because I didn't know that the hours were gonna be what they are.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
No one tell you that no one taught you that you didn't that you didn't have this podcast. Back in the 90's

David Klein 5:22
I thought it was gonna be I thought it was gonna be hanging out with cool, famous people and you know, doing cool stuff, which is which is true, these things are true. But man, the hours are crazy. They're absolutely just insane. But to answer your question, I always, you know, I always was into movies. I think it was Blade Runner. I know, it was Blade Runner that my father took me to do when I was like 13 years or so. And he took me to the driver, and we watched it the driver. And I remember leaving and saying to him, you know, Dad, I think I want to make movies and he's like, sure, whatever, you know, do whatever you want to do. And he you know, he was really supportive. And he actually helped me, you know, my grandfather gave me this 60 millimeter Bolex when I was young, and my father, you know, at the time we had the VHS camcorder that would that would actually plug into the, you know, the VCR that you had to take with you, you know, from the top of the TV. And so I had those two devices and started making you know, stop animation films. And you know, funnily enough I was a kid I ordered that special edition Boba Fett, you know, would you take like the Box Tops from from General Mills, I think it was and you got to check for my dad and you send it to somewhere in Minnesota or wherever it was. And you wait like eight to 12 weeks and you're supposed to get this little boat fit that comes with a rocket that shoots out of its back. Right? And it shows up? Weeks and weeks later. And the fucking rockets glued in? Its back. Right? So I blew the Holy hell out of that thing when we were making one of these little 16 millimeter stop animation films. And, you know, it's I think it's fitting that I would end up on some of these Star Wars shows. After that.

Alex Ferrari 7:11
How much and how much. Yeah, how much would that Boba Fett be worth today?

David Klein 7:15
I think about $18,000.

Alex Ferrari 7:18
Yeah, not bad. Yeah, that would be that's a good return on investment, I think. Oh, man, listen, we all do things to our Star Wars stories when we were younger

David Klein 7:27
That was fine. Yeah, you know, my dad used to help me with those, you know, those rockets, the little model rockets that he'd set up, shut up, no parachute. And so one day, I took one of the the engines to him and I said, Dad, if I cut the nozzle off on this thing and put a like a wick in there, will it just explode? And he was like, come again. And I think he thought maybe I should help you out. And, you know, so he became my my, he became my grip, my gaffer my special effects, man, everything. That's amazing. He was not in the business. But he was no slouch when it came to helping his kids out.

Alex Ferrari 8:08
Did you ever invite him on any of the sets that you worked on?

David Klein 8:10
I did. I did. I don't think he ever, you know, he passed few years back. But and I don't know that he ever really understood what I do. Same here. Were there were some times you know, I was doing a show in in Hawaii, actually. And I think that's why he came. But he came to set and he you know, spent a week on and off the set and had a good time, you know, but still, I don't think it's sunk in what what precisely my job is?

Alex Ferrari 8:36
Yeah, my dad, I invited my dad onto a set that a commercial said I was direct and commercial. And he just was like, looking around. And he went back and told his family and friends. Everyone just listens to Alex. That's all everyone. He says something and they move and they move. That's all I know. I don't understand that still, to this day, he still doesn't understand what to write, let alone this. This is

David Klein 9:01
for sure. I think at times I don't understand what I do. You know what I mean? I still have so much to learn.

Alex Ferrari 9:11
So when you started off in your career, my friend you started off in a little film, little black and white movie called clerks with a little unknown director named Kevin Smith and an unknown producer named Scott Moser now we've had the pleasure of having Scott on the show as well. So I I've heard it from his perspective on how a lot of this stuff went down. How did you get roped into this insanity? That was clerks?

David Klein 9:37
Well, it started the way so many stories start Alex I found a girl in college right? And, and about two weeks after we got there she she dumped me for another young woman which you know, totally understandable. Even cool now. At the time for an 18 year old young man it was heartbreaking. Right? And so I was like, fuck this place man. I'm No no film school, which I had always wanted to do anyway, but didn't have the courage I guess, to go and you know, just go for it. And so I found the Vancouver Film School which used to advertise very heavily in American cinematographer, which is where I saw it. And, you know, they were they have a sister school now, which is the Los Angeles Film School here in LA, on Sunset, they're almost identical programs. At the time, there was just a Vancouver Film School, and it was a one year program, and they have classes started every two months. So every other month, a new class started. And this young lady that broke my heart put me on a path to end up in the same class with Kevin and Scott, you know, had it not been for her and all that timing, which, you know, is the luck, part of how you get into this business and who, you know, what put you where you are, I guess she was the luck part of it. And she put me in the class with Kevin Scott. You know, her time that put me there. And and to be honest, after, you know, Kevin dropped out halfway through the program to save the rest of his tuition for the movie, and and Moser not finished. And the reason they wanted to bring me on to clerks, you know, to be told this because they didn't want a cinematographer who knew more than they did. And I had, I think I had focused I know, I had focused more in to the cinematography aspect of the Vancouver Film School. But still, you know, it was a one year program, how much can you can you learn in one year a hands on not a whole lot. But I think the biggest compliment I got from clerks was when we were doing the 16th, regular 16 millimeter 235 blow up. We did a lab called good fonti film lab or defund the homeworks in New York, and the biggest compliment I got was that I exposed the film properly and really well.

Alex Ferrari 11:53
You know, from from my point of view, I mean, watch Clerk's made it multiple times in my life. It's exposed. I mean,

David Klein 12:02
You're right about that. Alex, it is exposed.

Alex Ferrari 12:04
It is exposed. You didn't under expose you didn't over expose overexposed. I mean, it's man, you You did you exposed? And what's so fascinating, I mean, for people listening, the young uns listening, you shot this on 16? Not even Super 16 Just straight 16 Right. It wasn't regular regular 16 Right. Get the 16 Emma wasn't it wasn't MLS, it was

David Klein 12:24
No, no, it was think sound. And we got all the all the, you know, the camera equipment and the audio equipment from a guy named Mike Spera, who had a little company called, it was called Pro camera, I think at the time, and he actually went on to run the studio in a story, you know,

Alex Ferrari 12:47
Oh, yeah. The big one over there.

David Klein 12:48
Yeah, yeah, exactly for quite a few years. And I ran into him years, all those years later, when Kevin and I were there doing cop out, which was, which was kind of cool. But it was basically all we could afford this. This Aeroflex Sr, just an Sr.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
Was just straight up. It was

David Klein 13:04
SR one straight up of SR one. And it was all we could afford. I think we had $3,500 for all the you know, camera equipment and audio equipment for the run the show, which was about four weeks. And so he's like, that's the one you get, and it sounded like a machine gun. And it did. And we had we had the little Barney that comes with it. We also had I would end up operating the camera with that Barney and just leather jackets and all sorts of blankets and whatnot on my head. Just so we weren't recording some of that that machine got on my camera.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Probably because you didn't Did you have a blimp or you didn't have a blip?

David Klein 13:44
We had just, you know, the standard that goes over it, you know, kind of leather thing,

Alex Ferrari 13:49
Which was useless essentially,

David Klein 13:52
It was relatively useless. All the sound is coming out of the lens. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 13:56
Right! I'll tell you Well, I my when I was in film school, the camera I got to use was the SR three. And that was that. Whoosh. We were the first.

David Klein 14:07
That was slick, man. I mean, but I think by the time we were we shot chasing AMI Super 16 on SR three is a great camera was one of the best cameras out there. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 14:17
Oh, yeah. Solid. And you can you can hook up your laptop to get like imports and stuff. Yeah, that was like the big thing. Like, you could hook up a laptop.

David Klein 14:25
I remember that. I remember but not with the SR three. But I remember plugging my laptop into a 535. And oh, yeah, during the speed changes and that sort of thing. And it was that it was that black and white MacBook Pro. Not even a MacBook Pro is a black and white MacBook with 110 megabyte hard drive, you know, which was which was screaming back then. Oh, yeah. You think I'll never fill this up. I said emails bigger than that. You know.

Alex Ferrari 14:50
Exactly. So I see. So I have to like the ins and outs I mean, you guys shot that movie what in what ferrets remember correctly it was like a Just a few weeks. Or is,

David Klein 15:13
It was it was it was four weeks, really. But, you know, the was on nights. You know, that's why Kevin wrote into the script that somebody jammed gum in the locks, because we couldn't, we couldn't have the store during the day. And so we shot nights, and we had the store from about, I want to say we had it from 11pm until 5am. You know, so they were, they were sure, but you know, we would shoot and then Kevin would actually work at the store, either either the community sort of the video store all day, and then we, you know, he finds maybe a little time for for sleep a little bit asleep, and then we get right back to shooting. So it was it was more days than you would expect. But they were shorter.

Alex Ferrari 15:55
Did you? I mean, I did I remember when I was coming up, and I would walk on set as a as a director and I early on, and you just don't know what you don't know. So luckily for you, was there anybody on set that knew more than you about the camera department? Or were you the top of the top of the hill at that point?

David Klein 16:18
I was the top of that very small hill. I was the entire department. So you know, operating the camera pulling focus. And, you know,

Alex Ferrari 16:29
Lighting too right or did you do the lighting?

David Klein 16:31
Well, I had a little we had a little help, you know, there was a cat named Ed half stack, who was a friend of Kevin's and and he would show up and Vinnie Pereira would show up. But they had day jobs too, you know what I mean? So they kind of, yeah, they come in and out. People got to work. But whenever we would go through, we'd burn through a mag, I would shut down and I'd go into the tent and change, you know, I reloaded the mag and unload the current mag. So it was a woman department, you know, oh my god. It's also why if you look at the credit clerks, the boom operator is credited as whoever grabbed the pole first, you know, I mean, because it was literally whoever grabbed it. There was I wish I had I wish I carried a camera around back then that's still camera, because there was one scene where Moser and had half stack and I were in the shot, we play the three people that run out from the funeral home after that whole business goes awry, right. Yeah. And so it was the three of us and Kevin were there. And so Kevin was literally operating the camera, sitting on the ground on the street. He had the Niagra down, you know, by his by his thigh. And so he's holding the boom, he's operating the camera. And there's the three of us running in the shot skewed the intersection. Sorry about that. It's no, but I just wish I had a photograph of Kevin sitting there with the SR one with the boom pole, which was I think it might have been a hockey stick actually, with more likely been attached to it. And one man band at that point, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:07
Sorry. And I know he got the he bought or rented a steam back and edited the whole thing old school because

David Klein 18:14
Right there in the back of the video store.

Alex Ferrari 18:16
Right in there. So I'm assuming you were there. Part of that as well.

David Klein 18:20
Very just the very beginning. And then and then I was out. I had to go get a job to you know what I mean? Right?

Alex Ferrari 18:26
Yeah, cuz I'm sure you didn't get rich off that first job as far as.

David Klein 18:30
No not at all

Alex Ferrari 18:33
So clerks comes out, man, and you I'm imagining, what do you think was going to happen? Seriously, like, I mean, from a DP's point of view, when you do a show like that, you're not going to go, this is gonna go national, this is going to blow up, it's gonna become a phenom. I'm assuming that's not what you thought.

David Klein 18:50
No, it's not what what any of us thought I think at best, we thought that it would be a calling card, just you know, to a studio or a small production companies that hey, these guys can can get a film made. But so let's hire them to do the next one. Which, you know, that did happen and so much more, you know, we didn't expect it to, you know, go to Sundance and be the little sleeper hit that it was, you know, it took off like crazy. And to be honest, for me, eventually. It was it was a deep hole to climb out of because to have a movie that's successful. And look like that is not great for a cinematographer. The same thing happened years later with chasing AMI, which is a wonderful film, and I stand by it to this day, but it doesn't look great. You know, it's not well, it's not well, lens. We barely moved the camera, aside from some of the many arguments in the movie. But, you know, it was a successful film that didn't look that great. So again, as a cinematographer, it was a there was a hole of time out for sure. Yeah, because

Alex Ferrari 19:57
I guess you were like, Oh, this will be a little thing. I can maybe show around. A little bit, no one's ever really going to see this. And then all of a sudden, you're like, I am known for this, like, Oh, you're the dB of clerks, right? And so that was a bit of a bit of a challenge

David Klein 20:12
It's a struggle, it was a struggle, not as much as I might be jumping ahead. But when Chasing Amy was, was at Sundance, it wasn't in competition, it was just a premiere. And, you know, we had done Mallrats in between and Mallrats had been largely kind of ignored. It has since I think found a huge audience, but at the time, it had been ignored. And so Kevin, and the rest of us were nervous, you know, we were nervous about what was going to happen with Chasing Amy. And so, you know, Kevin and Scott had a meeting with with the morally repugnant Harvey Weinstein before our screening and Harvey, you know, I think Harvey knew what he had. He absolutely knew he had a chasing me, but it hadn't even premiered yet hadn't been screened to a large audience yet, so him was nervous about it. And so Harvey offered him a deal for his next movie. But there were stipulations. You know, Joey Adams, who was lead and Chase, ami was going to be the leading dog when Harvey said, No, he said, that's one of the things and he said, Joe is not gonna be the lead. And you know, Dave's not gonna be a cameraman. And whatever else it was, those are the two that I really remember. Because after that meeting, we were all staying in this condo together. And Kevin takes Joey into, you know, a bedroom, and Moser takes me in the bedroom and breaks the news to us, and then we all go to the premiere. So, you know, it was a very surreal experience to have this audience just adore the movie. And you know, I'm sitting in the back row again, and I don't get to do the bucket. Next one, you know what I mean? So it was it was a kick to the gut, for sure. And then for, you know, Ben Harvey kept me out for about 10 years. And in those 10 years, the first question I always got when I was in a job interview was, why aren't you shooting Kevin's current film, and I would tell them the story, and you know, whether they thought it was true or not, or that I was being kept out, just because I was too inexperienced, and not good enough, that didn't matter. You know, whether they believe this, or that it didn't matter, for one reason or another, I wasn't shooting his movies. And so I had to just get out there and work. And so that's what I did, as I put myself on a 10 year plan when I got to when I moved to Los Angeles, and, and I said, if I if I'm not wearing where I want to be in need to be in 10 years, then I'm gonna go do something else. But I'm gonna give it everything I've got for 10 years. And it took just about all of those years, to finally, you know, I think get a grasp on on, on the craft, and being comfortable and what I can do with the crew and set and telling a story. That's what it's all about, you know, you have all the experience in the world, if you don't know how to tell a story. It's irrelevant. It's all irrelevant.

Alex Ferrari 22:55
It's fascinating to hear that story, man, because it means so many people looking from the outside in, you know, unless like, oh, well, you know, you you worked with Kevin and you did a couple of his movies. And then you know, your career was set. And it's the complete opposite. It was actually you had a hole to climb out of in the first movie. And then the second movie, or the third movie that you did with Chasing Amy, you weren't happy with visually. So it wasn't a great calling card for you visually. And then the movie that might have been the movie that would have taken you to the next level would have been dogma, because you would have had a budget, it would have been a studio project, a real a real Studio project. And it would have maybe opened up a lot of doors for you. But you would literally have to hustle for the next 10 years to kind of whittle your widdle a niche in for yourself. So you feel like no man, I can actually do this, for sure and open and open those doors. That's a really great lesson for people listening because it's like,

David Klein 23:49
It's it's a good thing. It's a hard road to travel. Because I had to learn as I was doing it, you know, I think it's an easier path to work, you know, under somebody with a lot of experience because, you know, everybody you ever meet on a set or in life knows something that you don't and you can learn something from them, especially on a film set. If you work with somebody who's got a lot of experience, you're going to learn so much just by watching just by you know, watching what they're doing. Yeah, exactly. And so to do to learn it on the job was rough. And there are a lot of rough looking projects that I did. You know, it wasn't I don't think it was until 1999 when I really started to figure out and and figure out that I want to say how to light but who knows how to light it

Alex Ferrari 24:50
Until you found a groove that you felt comfortable in and felt comfortable with with the quality of the work that you felt from your own eye that you were comfortable with. Like I feel like I'm getting a grasp of this Take a look. I've talked to so many cinematographers over the years, man, and all of them say the same thing. It's an impossibility to master the craft 100%. There's just so much to understand and learn. And then you look at, you know, you look at someone like deacons, you know, and you see what they're doing. They are, arguably masters at what they do. But there's, you could probably count those on one or two hands that are alive. Yeah, that are just at that level. They're just like a. It's like looking at a director and going up, Chris Nolan, David Fincher, you're like, they are at the top of their game. Like, there's very few of those big Spielberg, there's a camera and there's very few of these kinds of people in the world. So it's tough. I have to ask you, though, man, when you were during those 10 years, did you ever get pushback from crew people? You're like, oh, that's the guy who did clerks. Did you ever get any any shit? Any any like, crap out of that?

David Klein 25:56
I don't think so. I don't remember any behind my back, and I'm sure they're all this guy. This fucking guy shot.

Alex Ferrari 26:07
This guy. This guy shot clerks. Jesus, I'm working on

David Klein 26:10
Funny movie but did you see that GarageBand have a fucking you know, and you know, you know story arcs the reasons why did it because we couldn't afford to balance the lights. Right? We're gonna be shooting, shooting fluorescent. And you know, we had a little tungsten kit and it was gonna be mixed all over the place. And we didn't have the money to either gel, the fluorescence or, or even get like an HMI package or a proper Kino package or any of that stuff. So we shove like wine, which is what gave it I think that GarageBand aesthetic, which I love. And now Now I can sit back and watch it and just adore that movie. But for a long time it was it was rough.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
And that's the thing. I mean, you look at the movie now and it's just so it's so it's beautiful. It's wonderful. It's so it is that GarageBand is that raw on filter, just EQ and all aspects from the writing to the acting to the to the cinematography, the directing all of it. And it's you know, but at the time, I understand your point of view. Look, Robert, Robert Rodriguez had the same issues with El Mariachi. He's like, Yeah, no one was supposed to see this. This is just my test film and you want to release it nationally? Are you crazy? So it's, you know, a lot of those movies were like that when I talked to Rick about slacker you know, is the same thing. And Ed burns with Brothers McMullen. Like all these guys. When you guys were coming up during the 90s. You know, it's just such it's true for people who weren't alive during that time. They won't, and they'll never understand the magic of the 90s. In the independent film space, it is a special it's a very special time from I'm going to say 1990 to 99, that that decade will never happen again. And it had never happened before. And it was the Sundance decade. We call it kind of the it was the Sundance independent film decade was where VHS really started to come up. There was a market for these kind of these imagine it and I asked this to everybody like if parks came out today. No one would even look at it. It would be gone. Maybe, maybe you could catch some fire because of the writing.

David Klein 28:22
Yeah. Well, that's what that movie is. I think it is. It's all writing and it could catch on. But if it came out today, it wouldn't look that way. You know what I mean? It would it's you would have shot? You wish. Yeah, it's easy enough to go get a camera that gives you a really, you know, your iPhone, for example, is shooting HD and, you know, what is it 4k now? Even. And it is it is it's pretty gorgeous. And it accepts mixed light, you know, like the Alexa to shoot mixed light all day long and it

Alex Ferrari 28:54
Low light and low light.

David Klein 28:57
And it would have been so easy.

Alex Ferrari 29:02
Not changing, not changing in the back, not changing the backs of the back.

David Klein 29:06
Non of that. You know, there's a funny story where we shot the salsa shark scene. And we had so little money. Kim wasn't happy with one night but we'd wrapped and I have my fucking hands in the bag in the tent and, and he's like, let's reshoot that tomorrow. And I'm like, What do you want me to do with this film? You know, because we he had decided we're gonna reshoot it. And we had so little money. It was like the sec throw it out. We didn't process it. We didn't want to spend the money to process and print because that's the only you know, that's what we were doing back then. And so you cross it out. Yeah. Deleted Scenes.

Alex Ferrari 29:47
You shouldn't have thrown it out. I should have just kept that maybe, maybe maybe develop it after after Sundance.

David Klein 29:53
We were thinking no one's gonna see this is gonna reshoot it

Alex Ferrari 29:57
So after clerks man after clerks do you have this it was obviously a very big hit. It was it was a phenomenal it was a phenom situation. And then you got an opportunity to shoot a studio movie, which was, which was mall rats, which had a bigger budget, arguably much bigger, bigger movie. What was it like jumping from the one man crew to running a crew of people who obviously, many knew more than you did, if I'm not mistaken is that

David Klein 30:37
Everyone of them

Alex Ferrari 30:43
How do you run the show how do you run a set like that man?

David Klein 30:46
Well, I think you've got to have a little bit of humility. And I was very upfront with with everybody that I was turned on to and basically hiring and I said, um, you know, I remember saying to Andy Graham, who's a really good friend of mine, he's been a friend of mine since then, but I met him on that picture. And he was the focus puller he sent has become an operator and he's operating for me in a lot of projects and a lot with Kevin as well. But I remember telling him that I was green. I said, I'm green man, and I'm gonna fucking lean on you. And he said, you know, this happens a lot. You're the first person that's ever said it. And so I That's it. Yeah. So I owned that, you know what I mean? And Nick McNealy was the gaffer, who had just one of our producers was Jim Jackson, he had just done tombstone, and MC MC Anita was the gaffer on that and so he introduced me to make, I'm like, You did fucking tombstone, we're really afraid. Yeah, I'm on board. And, you know, I was the same way with him. I said, I'm gonna lean on you, man. Because I'm bringing and I'm, you know, I'm in this position. It's very fortunate, I'm very fortunate to be in this position. But if I really want to learn from you, and I learned a lot from, from MC. And it was, you know, across the board, that ever every department, you know, so I think you gotta, you always have to surround yourself with with people who know more than you. But I think you got to be upfront about it, too. You know, and don't try and hide the fact that you don't know anything when you don't know anything. Because everybody's been there. You know, we've all been there. And it's one of the things that a lot of people try to hide, and and it comes out in really ugly ways.

Alex Ferrari 32:23
Oh, yeah, the ego and they start snapping at people. Because if you see people doing that, you can see that they're insecure. insecure, people are insecure people with the loud ones. The white ones are generally not the ones you have to worry about. That is that scenario in that scenario. If there's a bar fight, and there's a quiet guy stretching in the corner, that's the guy you got to apply. Guy you gotta worry. Not the guy swinging is

David Klein 32:48
Not the guy. That's, that's, that's, you know, I'll talk. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 32:53
It's the quiet guy. But when it comes to being on set, like there's a quiet, there's a quiet a when you know, you don't need to show in that way. Like I don't have to be blustery. Like, I know how to do this. And I have if you sit if you're that dude, you obviously have no idea what you're doing. You're extremely insecure. And I'm sure you've worked with directors like that, especially in in God.

David Klein 33:17
We need to get into that. Yeah, yeah, it's like, you know, the showrunner of, of homeland he's, he's in any room is and he's the smartest guy, smartest person in the room. He's also one of the most mild mannered and soft spoken. And so you know, when he's very thoughtful, and he's, he'll talk about seeing when we're when we're prepping and rehearsing a scene, and he's very quiet. And like, everybody leans in to listen to what he's saying, You know what I mean? He never feels deep, never feels the need to be loud. And this is, you know, what I think and that sort of thing. And, you know, I run into that, you know, you run to that all over the place and like, composition or going with Dave Filoni and Jeff Albro. Now, the same way, you know, they never feel the need to be the loud voice in the room. It's the quiet voice in the room that, that everybody listens to,you know,

Alex Ferrari 34:04
Yeah, and when you're working at that level, man with that kind of caliber of people, you know, they've done so much each of them in their own right, that, you know, and I'm sure you've, you've you've had the pleasure of working with some amazing directors and, and collaborators over the years, you know, you start seeing when people know what they're doing, they just, they just are, you know, they just do they don't talk about it, they just very quiet very, like, why don't we move over here?

David Klein 34:31
Well, yeah, also also, I think at this level, Alex, you know, there's, there's an amount of preparation has gone into everything and, and I've done this enough times that I know that I gotta I have to prepare, I have to be ready. And whether that means knowing all the shots that we're going to do or just understanding how we want to like to set up to tell the story, you know, you just have to be I have to be prepared.

Alex Ferrari 34:56
Now after Mallrats which we you said, you know, I actually one of the five people who saw it in the theater.

David Klein 35:04
I actually saw the theater. So who are the other three?

Alex Ferrari 35:07
It must have been Kevin Scott. I actually saw it in a theater while I was in college. And I actually got it was it was a special screening and I got the Mallrats got the book. At the theater, they were handing them out at the feet. I never forgot this. The original book, I had it. And and I saw Mallrats I loved it. I thought it was genius. When I saw it, I was like, This is the greatest thing I've seen since sliced bread. This is amazing. And then it died on the vine. It didn't find an audience at the time. So Kevin was pretty much putting in director jail at that point, correct? No, he was like, Oh, it was a once it was a fluke kind of thing.

David Klein 35:43
Well, you know, he had the script for Chasing Amy. And I think what happened is, you know, we went to Universal for this, this project. And Harvey always wanted to work with Kevin, he knew what he added Kevin. And so Kevin had a script Chasing Amy. And he took it to Harvey and he had a meeting without without Scott Mosier, which may have been a little bit of a mistake, because Kevin agreed in that meeting to do it for a price, you know, without any script changes, and and and so when he goes back and meets with Moshe, he's like, Hey, I got our money, motors thing and, you know, couple, 3 million, 4 million whenever he's like, great, would you get to 50 grand, and motors coming in? What one. And so we ended up making that movement for turning 50 grand, which just, you know, kind of it was a bummer at the time. You know, we all wanted to make movies for more money, which which means more time you know, that's what it means. It means you can actually take the time that you want to devote to each and those things are more time anyway. You never have enough time. Nobody ever has enough time. Even the biggest things I've done, it seems like we're always scrambling, you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:59
Even even if I'm assuming no Marvel set, they're scrambling still. I've heard I've actually talked to some people have worked on this 100,000,200 $50 million dollar budgets. And they're like, Yeah, we stole this shot and like you stole a shot. What?

David Klein 37:12
You guys were shooting for 130 days. Why do you have to steal the shot?

Alex Ferrari 37:16
No, I think was chrome worth. Jeff Grant was on a show also network. He's like, Yeah, I stole this shot. And this shot. I mean, David, like, it was just me, David. And like another guy. I'm like, they needed a shot at Harvard. And they couldn't get it. So they stole it.

David Klein 37:28
That's right. I remember. I remember reading about that.

Alex Ferrari 37:31
And I was like, what? That's amazing. You can't forget your roots. Man. You can't forget that hustle. Man, you no matter how big you get them in the Oscars, you win.

David Klein 37:42
It's true. But anyway, so we ended up you know, we made that that for two and 50 grand. And then what I already mentioned, what happened at that, Sundance was 96. And I pushed out for for 10 years, I went to hustled and the same time, you know, Harvey didn't let Kevin use the same cinematographer. Twice. You know, Bobby almond shot shot dogman. Bobby was excellent cinematographer. And, and Harvey said notes for the next movie. And so then they did Kevin to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. And it was Jamie Anderson, Jamie and another great cinematographer. And he didn't like the way that looked either, and so on. Jersey girl gives them below segment ends up really not liking the way that looks either. So Kevin finally said, Well, maybe it's not the DP maybe it's the director that that you're unhappy with. And so after that, Kevin was basically like, give me my guy back. And so he and I got got back together for cliques too. So we've been apart for 10 years, nine, nine and a half, 10 years. And so we were bringing 10 years of experience of working with other people together to an existing friendship, and it was the greatest reunion I've ever had, you know, and then we went on to do another four or five pictures we did you know, after clerks two, we did Zack and Miri Make a Porno. And we did, you know, cop out and red state and we end up doing a pilot or two and, and it was just, it was wonderful because it was bringing 10 years of experience and and just just getting back together. And we had a language from before. But we had a new way of telling stories from all this experience. And that coming together, I think created some of the best work that we've done. commendation, which was Redstate, I think is our finest hour, you know, can we do together? I love that movie. I love I love it so much and a lot of blood sweat and tears. That was us getting back to our roots. And, you know, I was the Kevin I actually wrote a letter to see the poster, who was the president the union at the time to allow me to operate, you know, because that the union would have to allow this to happen and you know, it's got to be a creative choice. It can't be budgetary, and it was absolutely Be creative. You know, we were trying to get back to where we'd started. And, you know, Stephen understood that Stephen has worked with Kevin actually. And, you know, likes him a lot. And so they agreed to it, the union agreed to it. So I actually operated the camera, and we were literally we were back to where we begun. And it was a much bigger project, it was $4 million. But, you know, $4 million, as it goes far in 2008, or whatever it was 2009 2010 as it as it did back in the 90s. No question.

Alex Ferrari 40:35
And this man, after all the years that you were doing, you've been doing this? Is there anything you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of the career of your career besides beware of the sides, get out? Both sides get out and be beware of the morally repugnant Harvey Weinstein?

David Klein 40:52
You know, I think it's probably one of the hardest things that I've had to learn is that there's, there's an, there's an elegance and simplicity, you know what I mean? Because when you're when you're starting out, or when I was starting out anyway, I can't speak for other people. But when I was starting out, you know, I was, I was really trying to light a scene to tell the story. And I was, I think it was a lot of it was, was forced, you know, and it was just too much. And it took me a while to sit back. And, you know, when you're lighting a scene, you always got to look for the light to turn off. Because there's always at least one, there's always at least one that is unnecessary, and you don't need it. And it's not telling the story. It's just, you know, you're showing off or you're being, you know, you're being cute or something. But, you know, I wish that's the lesson that took the longest to learn. I wish somebody would have told me that just just fucking relax. And there is, there's a real elegant elegance and simplicity. And I think, you know, it's hard to describe, it's hard for me to describe what is simple, or elegant in lighting, because I can't tell you why I like to see in a certain way, it all comes from the gut. And that's another piece of advice. I wish I would have learned that, you know, just just follow your gut, follow your instinct and and don't second guess yourself, and even if it's gonna even if you're wrong, just fucking do it. And you're gonna learn from your mistakes. You know, if you are wrong, you'll learn from it.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
And you can you talk about the happy accidents. Because as cinematographers and directors we all want to control everything at all times, which is insane, and never happens ever. Yeah. But they're these little things you're like, how did that was perfect? How did that like, just hit the I chest? Right? The flare hit at the right moment? Can you talk a bit about that?

David Klein 42:44
Absolutely. I mean, some of the some of the coolest things that I've learned have been complete and total accident, you know, and when, when you're, when you're on a set you keep, you have to keep your eyes open for these things. Because you know, electrician will be moving a light, and it'll be on. And you know, because it's an HMI, it's not going to hot restrike. And so they want to keep it on while it's moving. And you'll still hit something that was completely unintentional. And it comes over here, and you know, it's reflecting off of that it's hitting the set, and you're like, fucking stop, just freeze where you are. That's what we want. And then the grips are like, Oh, great, now we got to contain the rest of it. You know what I mean? It's still off here. Yeah. turn those lights off. When your MO don't let him see the lights and your moon around, you know, turn them off. But you always have to be open for that. And even you know, in life you're you're out at a restaurant, you're you know, you're at a bar, you're at the movie theater, whatever it is. Pay attention to your surroundings because there's always, you know, I learned so much about lighting from being in far too many bars in New York in the mid 90s. You know what I mean? They were all dark. And a lot of them were dive bars and and you just see the way that these dimly lit bars had really cool things going on, you know, and always you always have to be open for that and keep your eyes open for it. Because you can learn just as much sitting in a seedy dive bar in New York, as you can be asked on set when it comes to lighting. Trust me.

Alex Ferrari 44:20
I've been at some time. No, you know, as a cinematographer, there's always a day on set, where the entire world feels like it's crashing down around you. It could have been on clerks, it could have been on Mandalorian are those Is there a day that sticks out in your head? That you felt like, I shouldn't be here, this whole I'm gonna get fired, this whole thing's not gonna work. And what did you do to to kind of go through that and get through that obstacle?

David Klein 44:49
I don't know if there's a day or a handful of days in particular Alex, but all that that happens all the time. Happens all the time, and you just have to push rule, you know, there's so many times when it feels like the sets falling apart and you're behind schedule, and you're not going to make your day and you're not getting the shots the way you want each set to push through. You know, you have to you always have to push through because it, it feels like that a lot. You know, I had there was a point I was going for, and I missed it asked me something else, man, I, I'll come back to that.

Alex Ferrari 44:49
Well, I mean, I, as I've been, I've been blessed to talk to so many amazing people on this show. I've realized that everybody from the Oscar winner to the first time filmmaker, all suffer from impostor syndrome. Every single one of them, even to this day, you know, I'm talking to some Oscar winning screenwriter. He's like, Yeah, I don't even know if this next script. I'm like, you just won the Oscar, what's wrong with you? Like you just are like, you're considered one of the best writers ever? Like, why are you? Yeah, he was I just, I just do. And I think I came to realize that everybody deals with it. And I think it's something that kind of keeps you sharp. I'm assuming that you have the same issues as far as impostor syndrome. Always. And,

David Klein 46:20
Yeah, you have to be I mean, you have to be your most your fiercest critic, you have to be your biggest fan, you have to be your biggest supporter, you have to be, you know, your most most critical eye against yourself, I think, because nobody knows what anybody else thinks all you have is yourself. So and you have to rely on all the people around you. Um, let me sound pretentious for a second quote, was it? Orson Welles said that, you know, a painter needs a paintbrush or writer needs a pen and a filmmaker needs an army. You know, and it's true. And no, no cinematographer, no director, no filmmaker is an island. We can't You can't do this alone. You know, what I mean, you have to have this this support this support system that is, is, you know, it's the most record is the most complicated and sophisticated recording device known to man. You know, and a lot of the times, you know, a lot of times it is like being deployed, you know, I did homeland for for six years, and we were either for seven months, either out of the state or out of the country, sometimes both within the season. And it is like a deployment, you know, I, it's, it's, I can't, I can't equate it to going to war. I can't compare it to going to war. I've never been to war. But in my life's experience, it is like a deployment. And you know, you're just in the trenches for seven months, eight months, you know, and it's nonstop. And it's hard to remember sometimes to get out of the way, you know, because if somebody looks at something that I this is probably paraphrasing, I think Deakins, but if if somebody looks at something that I've shot, it says, Wow, that's a great looking episode. You know, that's a great looking show. That's a great looking movie. Without talking about a story that I've failed. You know, I think it is our it is my job as a storyteller to be almost invisible. And it should be we should be the silence between the notes, you know, and if somebody looks at something about shots, well, you know, that was that was a great story, you know, then that's a success for everybody for all of us. But if they single out the cinematography, lighting camera work, then then I don't think we were, we weren't serving the story at that point.

Alex Ferrari 48:48
Very true. A lot of a lot of times, especially I don't know about you, but when I started out, I wanted to call the shots. And the story was the like, I'm like, I want to do that Scorsese shot and Goodfellas, I want to do that shot. That's Kubrick did I want to do that shot that Spielberg did like we all we all do it but as you get older, you start realizing like what's the story? What's the story because before it was a it was a lot harder to do those shots. It was super hard to do a lot of those shots back in the 80s 70s 80s 90s. To do some of those insane shots that those masters did was difficult. Where now that technology has gotten to a place where you know you could with a ronin you can run around instead of getting a full giant Steadicam up and you can you can you could do some insane shots run again jumping through going through like there's things that you can do

David Klein 49:35
Absolutely, absolutely. It's not and but but there's there's still, there's still always the next level. There's still somewhere to take it, you know, but it has to start the story I worked a lot during manda Mandalorian Season Two I worked a lot with Sam Hargrave. He was the main senior director and then he went on to do you know, extraction and some of the stuff that that he was doing and did an extraction is absolutely insane. And it was a perfect blend of it was a perfect blend of his background, being a stuntman and becoming a second year director and then a director. And combining that with all the new technology of the day, you know, there's that scene you look at the behind the scenes stuff, where he's basically riding on a four wheeler ATV of some sort, and he's actually directing and operating the camera and somebody you know, chasing a car basically going forward and in reverse and, and then somebody detaches him and he runs up and shoves the camera through the window. And then there was a takeover or some sort, they did a CG a visual effects blend, you know, going into the car, and then they're all all of a sudden in the car in another shot, they blend it together and the car drives away. And so it's it was beautiful choreography. And it was it was like, you know, watching a ballet dancer, except, you know, is more punk rock than that.

Alex Ferrari 51:02
Yeah, I mean, there's always a place to take. I mean, look at that shot that Spielberg did and where the worlds inside the car where the cameras just rotating around the car while the you know, the aliens are attacking and things are exploding and you just like when you know, when you and I sit there going? How the hell did they do that? Then they've done they've gone to another place. Yeah. Because we Graeme Jesus, I mean, you're just like, how did he do that? So it's, it's, it's it's pretty remarkable, man. Now I have to ask you about Mandalorian. Brother, like you worked on season one. You didn't work on season one. You worked on Season Season.

David Klein 51:42
I came in and season two as the second second cinematographer to bash anyone and Matt Jensen. So I was in seeking a matt Jensen got a little overloaded with prep work. And so he turned the episode six over to me. And as you know, when I met Robert and I had I had gotten here, I gotten here from an introduction to Fabbro. Through Lesli Linka Glatter, who was my main policy director on homeland and then you know, Matt Jensen also brought me up. And so that's how I kind of came to be here. After season two, you know, Matt and bass were going off to do their own things. They weren't coming back for their own reasons. And so I got, I guess, promoted to the main cinematographer on the Book of Boba Fett

Alex Ferrari 52:33
So so when you're, I have to ask you some technical stuff, man. Yeah. How the hell do you lighten the volume? Because I know, I have a couple of buddies of mine who are VFX people working who work the Mandalorian season one. And he was telling me that he's like, yeah, they shoot a lot. But there's still a lot of cleanup work that we need to do with some of the edges and, and, and creases and things like that, that it's not all in camera, but it's a lot better than where it's not a green screen either. So there's a kind of happy medium. But how do you like that? I'm assuming there's not an HDMI off? Like, how do you do that? How do you light it?

David Klein 53:08
You know, it's, that's a hard question to answer. It's kind of like asking, How do you like, how do you like anything? You know what I mean? It's got its own. It's a, it's a fucking process.

Alex Ferrari 53:21
I'm just telling you, it's fucking hard, dude. It's weird.

David Klein 53:25
There's nothing easy about it. I think I had a, I had a lucky introduction to it in that, you know, I was doing just a few days here and there during season two. And so I was getting to know and I was able to watch bass and Matt do their thing in the volume. And so I had a slow introduction to the volume and in season two, and then rolled right into Boba Fett shortly after that, and was thrown in the deep end, you know, where there's, there's a long prep, there was a long prep to Boba Fett, I think I was on for about five months before shooting started. And it has a lot to do with with lighting the content that's going on volume walls, you know. And so essentially, you're in the Unreal Engine, you're in a VR session, and you're lighting the content, the way you would want to light it practically, you know, and that's, that's one thing that is always a sticking point at Fabbro. Because the tendency for a cinematographer, when you get into the VR environment, and a virtual lighting environment is to do whatever the fuck you want, you know, because you can do just about anything. But you also have to match that in the practical set that's going to be inside the volume. And one of those things is like don't light it however, you could in a virtual environment, let it how you would in reality, or else it's going to start to look like a video game. It's gonna you know, it's yeah, you can put a source the size of the sun out there and do this but could you do that if you were lighting this virtual environment practically no, you could you You'd have, you'd have HMIs and whatever you're going to use, and that's also what you're going to use on the practical set. So, you know, it starts with lighting the virtual environment and, and knowing how to bridge the gap between the virtual and the practical, because, you know,

Alex Ferrari 55:19
You could actually move light sources within the volume itself that meaning the, the VR aspect of the Unreal Engine, you could put a light somewhere in the virtual space that lights through the LEDs on and there is an aspect to that correct?

David Klein 55:35
There is there is you're not gonna get, you're not gonna get directionality, you're not going to get hard light, you know, you're gonna get a lot of soft light, you're gonna get all the interactive stuff like that you get from the environment, but any, any direct a hard light, you're going to have to do practically and so when you're doing it in the virtual environment ahead of time you know, you have to know that I'm not going to be able to do this entire wash of sunlight in here I'm only going to be able to do this you know, these spots and these broken up bits of sunlight so that's what I should do in the virtual and then I'll do that also in the in the practical you know, with HMIs or we've also gone into tungsten now with with some of the loads started doing that on Boba Fett didn't didn't know if it was possible or not. And I've been told that it was not possible to get the tungsten in the volume but then I was talking to everybody from from state trapped and ILM and they said we can absolutely go tungsten I don't know who told you that and I to be honest, don't remember who told it to me either. But once we started using tungsten light in there it I think it made everything feel a little more real because it's just it's a full spectrum you know, light source and it just kind of fills in all the blanks wavelengths you know, and it just it just made it all feel a little more real for me.

Alex Ferrari 56:58
When I was talking to Dean Conde because he was on the show and he was right before he was heading out to Boba I think he chatted he did did you Boba, or do you shoot it shoot some episodes Ababa. He was telling me that he was lighting outside the volume as well getting some lights built it's something like that, or am I mistaken?

David Klein 57:16
No, you're not mistaken one thing that we haven't you know, we haven't been able to do and I don't know if it'll ever be possible is to do abroad, you know, sunlight source or you know, open moonlight even anytime you want to just just fill the volume with light, if that's what the scene requires, you need to take it outside. Because first of all, there's not enough room, it seems like it's a big space, but it gets it gets very small very quickly. And if you did wash it with with, you know, giant HMIs or big tungsten sources, the lights just gonna bounce all over the LED walls and render them useless. So, anytime we need open sunlight anytime we need, you know, say the desert at night where it's supposed to be Moon source, we'll go on the backlog. But if we need pockets, if we need, you know, a skylight here in there shooting some sunlight and then we have some some parts of the ceiling that we can take out big sections of the ceiling that we take out. And there's still there's a lot of rigging up there a lot hardware to work around. And so there's still not a lot of space to get lights, you know, away from where they need to be so you can have good shadows and so we ended up using mirrors a lot. So we'll have an opening you know, opening in the ceiling that might be five by 10 by by 12 Something like that. And then we'll have a big mirror of above and then we'll have an HMI Thompson for now whatever it is, another 1520 feet away so that there's a good amount of distance from the light and whatever's cutting it which is usually I go about hanging beneath the opening in the ceiling so that we're trying to get as far away from the light as possible so that we have good shadows you know, and there's there's just so much hardware to work around that it's difficult but we kind of cracked it a little bit and are getting better at it as we as we learn more which you know, we're learning something every day that were in there

Alex Ferrari 59:13
Right it seems like from season one to Season Two to boba and now hopefully I can't wait to see Season Three it seems that things are you can just sense things are getting a little bit more real and the way it's shot it just looks like the end sequence of you know the famous Luke Skywalker see and the season two like that's it's a masterwork honestly that whole episodes a masterwork it's absolutely absolute masterwork, I've watched the end sequence 1000 times because I'm a geek and and I got to ask you to use your your your your your similar vintages me, as far as age is concerned. So you got to keep out every once in a while dude, like you're like, You got to geek out

David Klein 1:00:00
For sure No, I'm turning into a 12 13 14 rolls very often on set, you know, I mean, you know, throw 10 stormtroopers in front of a camera and I'm 12 years old again.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:26
Yeah, the whole lightsaber, a lightsaber pops up. You're just like, Oh, forget it. I'm out. I can't.

David Klein 1:00:33
You know, it goes back to me blowing the hell out of that little little special edition Boba Fett. And, you know, I had all I had all the, the toys. I have some some of them in my office right now. Little baby clients to start with.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:46
That's, that's amazing. But so you on boba, you got to shoot with Robert. You shot for Robert Rodriguez, who is known very well known for being his own dp. So what was it like shooting for Robert because Robert is not used to working with other DPS generally speaking.

David Klein 1:01:05
I'll be honest, he largely left me alone. You know, he, I think he enjoys not having all the responsibility. Alright, you know, because he's still, you know, he's still he still edits everything. And even when we were prepping, ie, we were prepping remotely because it was the beginning of the pandemic. And so he was in Austin with his kids, and he was shooting basically animatics or a stump is with his kids and with some of his old, you know, Star Wars toys from when he was kid. So he's still very hands on. But when it came to the, the, you know, how are we gonna light this I realized, said he had ideas that we will talk about when we were prepping and when we were lighting some of the virtual environments, but for the most part, he left me alone. He would do you know, like most directors, so he'll tell me if he doesn't like something. But it wasn't like he was pointing me in a specific direction for lighting. You know, we he left me Well, let me do my own thing.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:09
He trusted. He trusted that you knew what you were doing?

David Klein 1:02:11
Yeah, I guess so. I dont know that's true, but he might think it is so.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:17
I saw I think it was in one of the behind the scenes that day. philon It was like, He's seeing the animatic that you're talking about? And he's like, can you stop? Can you stop it right second? Did you just shoot an animatic? With Star Wars toys in your backyard? He goes Yes. Yes, I did. And he's like, that is the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. I think that was the moment that the book of boba he's like, wait a minute, let's bring Robert into the book of boba. And let's bring him into this because this is this is insane. And did you do with the season two? Boba episode or? No?

David Klein 1:02:51
I didn't. That was episode six. That's the that's the one that I did with Robert.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:57
Oh my god. Dude, you gotta I mean, okay, let's stop for a second geek out for a second when you saw boba show up for the first time. On set. What I mean, you guys have to be five year old.

David Klein 1:03:09
Absolutely. We are. That was a tough shoot, though. And, you know, it was I can't say it was anticlimactic. But we had shot a lot of the scenes with Boba Fett, you know, onstage and on the volume prior to the, you know, when he put your ducks up? The introduction? Yeah. And the introduction was was done out in Simi Valley because it had you know, we just needed the travel that scene needed the travel that you can't get in the volume. And it also needed that that open sunlight. And and so it, it forced us to go out to Simi Valley. And might be one of the reasons I got that episode because maybe Basma Matt didn't didn't want to go out there. You know, it was it was not an easy issue. It was It was rough. It was rough. It was five or six days out there. in Simi Valley was a lot of fun, but, and like I said, I can't say it's anticlimactic, but we had already been introduced. And so you know, I can't say that we were out there just to get it done. But there was a certain aspect of we got to get this done because we had a finite amount of time. And you know, what's funny is we only had six stormtroopers out there.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:19
Really? You did an alien style where they only had six aliens.

David Klein 1:04:25
Either that or I mean, there are a lot of complete CG VFX Stormtroopers. Wow, really, if you you know, and they're really good. They are really good. It's because I think it's, it's obviously much easier and the effects to do a stormtrooper than than version of face, you know. And there's, there's one that I'll point out and it's the last one to jump on the transport when the transports are taking off that you can kind of tell it's remember it I remember that one, right. I remember that. Yeah. So that's the One that that and I think it was only because I knew you know going in that that was CG and that only a portion of the the rest of them that were jumping on the ramp were actual troopers you know?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
It's pretty so much fun that out. But when I saw that episode, and I saw that episode, I was just blown away by how how cool it was. And you could tell it was the first time they were off the volume right in the whole series.

David Klein 1:05:28
Well, no, no, not exactly. Because there's a lot of backlot work. There's there's a lot of backlot work Correct.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:35
That was the first locate. That's the first location, first location.

David Klein 1:05:38
You're right about that. And in Boba Fett, we had a lot of a lot of backlot. And we had one location, which was Huntington gardens we went to for a few days, two days. For the for episode six, which was on the band before us, you know, the Luke Skywalker episode of Boba Fett.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
I thought that looks familiar. Like I was watching them like, oh, man, that looks like hunting diver.

David Klein 1:06:05
You know, we did. We did three versions of bamboo forest. In that episode. One was backlot one was on the volume and one was Huntington. And going back to, you know, being the silence in between the notes, some of the band before us that we did on the volume was some of the, that might have been the hardest volume that we did the entire season for many different reasons. But I think it blends in pretty well. And the fact that, that, you know, the transition from backlot to volume to Huntington is seamless. I did is is one is one of the things that makes it successful. But it's also like I was saying earlier, it's getting out of the way. And it's it's making, making that transition, you know, invisible and and just just having a sort of elegance and simplicity.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:57
Well, man, congrats on all the amazing work you're doing with John Dave up there. In Northern California, you guys are doing some good work with the Mandalorian. And we're all super excited to see the new season coming up this year. And it didn't just finish its production. It's not done now. I thought it was I thought I read it somewhere, brother. I'm not trying to get you anything. No, no worries. Don't worry. It's okay. I thought I read.

David Klein 1:07:22
Recently, I've recently finished another season of a Disney plus the streaming.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:29
Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. Now, but no, seriously, man, congratulations on all the all the hard work you've done. And now knowing your backstory a bit more than I did before, man. I respect that even that much more because I didn't know about the 10 years in the wilderness that you had to go through like you were

David Klein 1:07:48
Los Angeles,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:50
Then years in the wilderness trying to trying to kind of carve your way in and climb your way back out of of the situation that that repugnant ly more the morally repugnant Harvey and, and those circumstances kind of hurt you on the way up. So kudos to you, man for keeping up there. And hopefully, this is a lesson for for the lessons for people listening that like, you got a castle doesn't matter where you start, or what happens. It happens, you know, things happen, that can slow your progression down in the sea. And then you have to ask yourself, How bad do you want it? Yeah, that's the question.

David Klein 1:08:25
You know, like I was saying earlier about, you know, advice to the young and up and coming. You know, my father was an orthopedic surgeon, he would not let me be a doctor, because he was a doctor, and his father was a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor, and they were never home. And so, I chose a profession with with ours worse than a fucking surgeon. You know what I mean? It's really, you really got to think long and hard about if you want to be in this business, because it takes a toll, you know, and I've got a marriage that was destroyed. I have a 14 year old daughter who as she was growing up, you know, from, from six to 11 or 511. I was doing homeland and I was gone seven months a year. And so I turn around and she's 12. You know what I mean? And I'm like, we're, we're all that time ago. I missed all that time. So you got to think long and hard about it.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah, it's something that they don't tell you in films will tell you that a lot of men, especially for DPS, even more so than directors, DPS are always working. You know, they're, you know, they're not getting the fat, you know, checks a lot of times, so they have to keep hustling, they gotta keep working, they gotta keep going. And that's time and that does break up. I know, a lot of note a lot of DPS with marriages don't make it. They it's, it's, it's, it's tough. So you really got to love what you're doing. You really really really got to love what you're doing.

David Klein 1:09:57
I remember being at a festival how Ah, festival in Bozeman, Montana. And they would always have a couple of cinematographers there. One one year I was there as one of the cinematographers in Haskell Wexler was the other. And so we were speaking to a group of university students and we were talking about the hours and you know, he was he was still promoting, who needs sleep, the documentary that he made about the working hours in the business and and we were talking about the hours and one of the one of the students, you know, ask the question, how do you guys make it work? You know, how do you how do you? How do you have a life live a life and work these hours? And Haskell just goes? I'm on marriage number three guys. You know it sometimes it doesn't.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:40
Bam. Oh, that's a drop the mic moment right there. That's, that's it that is raw and truthful as as it gets. That's so awesome, man. So awesome. I didn't I know you wanted to do a dress the the accidental shooting that happened on the set of Ross with your friend, can you can you discuss that a little bit.

David Klein 1:10:58
You know, I've known Halina for a short amount of time, you know, about a year. She was a wonderful person she was I thought she was a great cinematographer, I'd introduced her to some some members of camera department that we're actually working with her unrest. And I'll be honest, Alex, I, you know, when we were first getting into this, it was so raw, and I had a lot of emotional opinions about it. And I don't remember exactly what I wanted to say specifically. But I'm not, you know, I didn't see a letter that was going around at the time but a lot of cinematographers about No, no actual weapons ever again, you know, no, real firearms on set the suit all the effects. And I'm not that guy. You know, I've probably photographed 2 million routes, you know, obviously blacks in, in, in my day, and she was she, you know, she was a friend of mine. Like I said, not a longtime friend, but she was a friend of mine. And it's a it's a horrible tragedy what happened. But I think what needs to happen is there just needs to be a safety officer, you know, there needs to be a position created that that oversees all safety, because you can't you can't put that on the abs, you know, you can't put that solely on the armor, you know, you there has to be a checks and balances. And that there needs to be a new position, I think created that is that is safety. And we've seen it for the last two years. During the pandemic, we have safety officers that have been going around, you know, and for the first year of it, it was put your face shield down, keep your mask on, put your face shield down, and now it's now it's just masks, but still, there have there has been an entire department created. So I think there should be a safety officer, you know, there should be that, that at least that one position that is in charge of the thing, the things that we all think the long squarely on the shoulders of the abs, you know, you can't you can't put it on them because that it's just not right. I think we need a new position that oversees all the stuff.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:13
I agree with you on that because, you know, working with a DS all my career, man, it's a big, they can handle a lot, man. They handle a lot on their shoulders, and they should be one layer of protection, but it shouldn't stop with them so that the ad should still have some sort of say in what's going on and let everybody know. And you know, I'm shooting on set and he stopped it said, Hey, we've got a live live arm on set. Everyone be aware, this is it. This is that I get that part. And the armor should definitely also have, you know, have some sort of another layer of protection. But there should be the last stop gap. Someone who just finally goes, let me see the gun. Let me check it, make sure everything's good. All right, and go for it. You know, I've done both of I've worked with live rounds, and I've worked with VFX you know, the airsoft guns, and, you know, it's it. Can it be done? Yeah. But I,

David Klein 1:14:13
Here's the problem I have with Alex you know, even even a quarter load blank or a half load blank. An actor doesn't react to the way they act react to a full blank. You know, I don't even I don't like how it flows. I don't like quarter loads. I like full of blanks, because that's that gives them the correct reaction from the gun for them to respond to you know, and that's that's exactly and that's, that's my main thing. And like I said, you know, I hate it when people say I've been in this business for this amount of time. They usually lose me when they say that but I have photographed a lot. A lot of blank rounds and blanks and never had an issue never had a problem.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:56
I mean listen and I got called by variety in Hollywood for You know, quotes and trying to, you know, the asking my opinion on what was going on and I will be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. said, Listen, guys, and they got this from a few other industry vets who said, how many stunt men have had been hurt in the course of the last 100 years on a set? Do we now do away with all stunts and do everything virtually? No, their safety, there was mistakes, you know, what happened in the twilight zone? You know, that horrible, that horrible accident that happened there? And there's so many other you list, you know, accidents that happen in the State Department. Things happen sometimes. But there has to you can't just wash everything away.

David Klein 1:15:46
Like, you can't, and I'm sorry to interrupt you. But I'd be willing to bet. I'd be willing to bet the Condor lighting cranes have hurt more people in the last 10 years than stunts. Have you ever been agreed? We have so many new there are so many new, you know, new safety rules and regulations regarding condors all the time. You know, I remember back in the day when they didn't need a harness.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:15
I remember I remember. Oh, just remember, you remember the cranes? How about the cranes when you're sitting down? I mean, those long cranes with the camera at the top, and you see the pictures? And I got up on one of those plans? Once I'm like, where's my seat belt? Are you are you? No, I'm not doing this. I'll do this from the bottom. I'm not gonna do this.

David Klein 1:16:33
Well, you know, going back to the 90s, Alex, we used a lot of those cranes, you know, the Chapman, the Titans, the Nikes, all that stuff. Because they were so much cheaper, when the remote heads were new, you know, remote heads were coming out in the late 80s, early 90s. And, and so they're very expensive. So we rode those trains all the time, and there usually is usually our seat belts.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:55
Just cheaper

David Klein 1:16:57
But you are you're up there, you know, you're 50 feet in the air or whatever it is, like, wow, this is this is, you know, it's the most treacherous thing I've probably done, aside from, you know, being being in stock cars, you know, as a camera operator being sent cars is pretty wild, too. But along with that, I've been, you know, what's more dangerous than any of the any of the work with blanks that I've done over the years.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:22
Wow, man! Well, I hope that I hope that there is some changes made, I think there will be I hope they're not just a knee jerk reaction, I hope there's a really thoughtful way of moving forward with it. Because, like, I agree with you, 100%, I think there has to be some sort of position created to help this to help this scenario, because obviously, there's a problem, especially with so many low budget, non union, you know, situations, which I've been involved with a lot in my in my day, I get that. And it's a while it's a little wild, wild west, no pun intended, because that was a question. But it's a little bit wild, wild west, in the sense that, oh, yeah, we'll do this, it's gonna cost too much, we're not going to do that. And there has to be some sort of rules has to,

David Klein 1:18:05
There has to be an account, you know, accountable accountability. And I think the way to do it is to assign a person to, you know, overall safety, as we've been during the pandemic, you know, our COVID safety officers will will give a speech, you know, to us about mask wearing and social distancing, and all that stuff. And so, it's easily done, you know, that position is easily created. And I know everything comes with a price tag, but there's no price tag as big as the one. You know. What? Oh, no, that's bad. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 1:18:39
Amen, brother. Amen. I appreciate it. I appreciate you will be willing to talk about that and bring that out to light. Now, I want to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests now. Yeah. What advice would you give a young cinematographer or filmmaker trying to break into this vicious business?

David Klein 1:18:58
Still fucking do it! An actual an actuality, you know, I would say, take a long, hard look at this industry and really think long and hard about whether you want to commit this much of your life to to this because it'll take every every minute that you get this industry will take every minute, every hour that you give it and then so think long and hard about it and because none of them will listen to that piece of advice. I will then say, you know, you gotta get out there and work you have to learn. As I said, before everybody on a film set everybody in life knows something that you don't So learn from them, you know, and when you're when you're new in the business, you have to just get on set every in any every way that you can, because you'll learn more in a day on set, you know, being that fly on the wall, then you will In a year of film school, you know, at least in terms of the day to day hands on practical way of telling stories, you know, and that's what it all comes down to.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:13
Absolutely no, I learned more during my internship at Universal Studios, Florida than I did in going to go into my college. I would skip school just to go and hang out on on stages and just watched the grips going, go on tangled that cable, and I'm like, All right. All right. Um, this is so cool. You mean that big pile over there? That's been sitting there since 1976? That pile of cable? Okay, sure. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

David Klein 1:20:44
You know, I think and we, we touched on it earlier is, I think the longest lesson it took me to learn is that is to get out of the way, you know, and that there is an elegance and simplicity and the you know, don't, don't, don't lie things just to light them, you gotta you got to serve the story, you have to be telling the story, or all the experience, and all the knowledge that you have is irrelevant, you know, and all the slick lighting that you can do is irrelevant. You know, unless you're serving that story, if you want to be, you know, if you want to shoot just just slick images, then then do commercials. Absolutely. You know, because that's what they're all about. And that in and of itself is telling you a story as well, it's telling you a story of how to buy Bud Light, or whatever it is. And so it has to be flashy in in your face and and you know, high key and, and whatever else it is, but but just just tell the story and otherwise get out of the way, you know, be the silence in between the notes.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:54
And three of your favorite films of all time?

David Klein 1:21:57
Ooh, that's a tough one. I gotta say Blade Runner. That's that's one of the films they got me in this into this business in this industry. And not only do I think it's a great movie, but it it it looks amazing. And it's look is relentless, relentlessly devoted to its story. I mean, it's it's creating that world of what was it 2019 Los Angeles.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:27
Not too far off. Not too far off. I'm still waiting for the Jetsons.

David Klein 1:22:39
But it is relentlessly devoted to its story, the look a bit it's after that kind of target. Three favorite movies. There are so many. Number two, I'd say everything that Conrad Hall ever shot. You know, everything and just about anything. You know. I've been devoted to studying his his work for a long time. And

Alex Ferrari 1:23:03
He did Bobby Fischer. Right?

David Klein 1:23:07
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it's, again, talk about somebody who was relentlessly devoted to telling the story. You know, it's some of the things that he did with his lining, I still blowing my mind. And I don't know how he did it, or where he came where the idea came from. And I don't know that he knew either. It seems like he was somebody that that didn't shoot from the hip. But, you know, it all came from from the gut from the heart. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:23:34
He was channeling, he was channeling somebody.

David Klein 1:23:37
That's for sure. That's for sure. So, you know, that takes up my next two answers. I think it's all of his movies. Otherwise, it's it's so hard. It's so I mean, would you choose something like Susan, can you choose something? You know, like, like, 1917? Even, you know?

Alex Ferrari 1:23:54
There's, there's too many. There's too many. Well, that's, that's a good, that's a good, good start. And can you tell us what you're up to next?

David Klein 1:24:04
I'm prepping a new Disney Plus series yet to be announced

Alex Ferrari 1:24:14
Yet to be announcedokay. Fair enough. Fair enough. All right. So it's going to be the Jar Jar series. I know. I know what it is. It's a Jar Jar series. You could just you don't have to admit it. No, it's the Jar Jar series. Rather than it has been an absolute honor and privilege talking to you, man. It has been so much fun. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us and the tribe today and continued success. Brother, you're you're an inspiration out there for us, man. So thank you.

David Klein 1:24:42
Thank you, Alex. Thanks for having me, man. Appreciate it.

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IFH 574: Disrupting the Unfair Hollywood System with NFT’s with Adam Scorgie

Adam Scorgie’s plan A has always been to work hard, be humble and take chances; and it has worked tremendously to date.  A father of 3, a loving husband and an acclaimed documentarian, Adam has an astonishing ability to balance his relentless work schedule and his invaluable family time.

Born in Trail, British Columbia, Adam has also spent time living in Australia, Singapore and the Unites States of America. Primarily growing up in BC’s Okanagan Valley, Adam was inspired to move to New York City, where he spent 3 years studying film and television at the renowned William Esper Studios in Manhattan.

Upon his return to Canada, Adam invested every dollar he had to produce his first feature documentary, ‘The Union: The Business Behind Getting High’. ‘The Union’ exceeded all expectations by being selected to 33 film festivals, where it won several best feature documentary awards.

The success of ‘The Union’ demanded a follow up, which lead to the crowd-funded sequel, ‘The Culture High’.  Upon request in 2012, the film, which focused on the war on drugs, would go on to screen for government officials in Canada’s Parliament Hill during the country’s preliminary steps to legalizing marijuana nationwide.  Adam was very fortunate to be a two-time guest on Joe Rogan’s to talk about the impact of both films.

Being a Golden Glove boxer in his teenage years, Adam’s interest in hand-to-hand combat lead him to spend 8 years developing ‘Ice Guardians’, a film examining the enforcer role in the NHL. Adam’s high school was also home to many players for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, which opened the door to conversations with NHLers such as Stanley Cup Champion Scott Parker.

After many years of production, the film premiered to rave reviews in 2016 – the film landed at Netflix, where it can still be streamed worldwide.

To date, Adam has produced 12 feature films, with another two feature documentaries currently in various stages of production ‘Breaking Olympia’ and “Direct to Dolph: An American Dream” along with a three-part doc-series also in production titled “Thunder: The Life & Death of Arturo Gatti” it’s safe to say Adam and Score G Productions has been able to stay busy during the global pandemic.

Adam is a shining example of how powerful a person can be by simply putting in the work every day in order to achieve their dreams.  His leadership and loyalty to his team has ensured that his future films guarantee to impress and inspire those who watch them.

Creative Hustle Key NFT Give Away

Adam and his partner Shane are doing a limited run of 999 early-supporter NFTs that offer a ton of utility and access to our team and documentary stars, as well as lots of chances to win super unique filmmaking experiences; all expenses paid.

Phase 1

In April 2022 we launch the Creative Hustler Key – a collection of 999 early-supporter membership tokens handcrafted by our 3D designer and brimming with community access and rare experiential giveaways.

Phase 2

We bring the community more behind the scenes than ever before, continuing to reward those who hold a Creative Hustler Key, while announcing new opportunities to connect with ScoreG documentary talent.

Phase 3

As legacy media becomes more centralized, we see the growing possibilities of decentralization in Web3. In Phase III we will break the conventional model of film financing, bypass the gatekeepers, and fund future projects through Web3, giving creative freedom back to artists and opportunity for the community to be more involved than ever before.

Indie Film Hustle is giving away two NFTs to the IFH Tribe. All you need to do is go to The Creative Hustler Key NFT Giveaway and sign up for one of our FREE masterclasses. The winner will be chosen at random. The winner will be announced next week.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:04
I like to welcome to the show, Adam Scorgie. How you doing Adam?

Adam Scorgie 3:29
I'm doing good bro. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 5:47
Hey, man, thanks for coming on the show. Man. You, you and your producing partner Shane reached out to me about some really cool stuff you guys are doing. And you know, I get I get asked, I get so many requests to be on the show. Now think I'm very blessed that way. And I for someone to get on the show. Now I really have to be intrigued about what you're doing. So I was fairly when I saw what you guys are doing like this is a new angle. I haven't seen this before. And I think this could be valuable to the audience. So welcome, sir. I can't wait to get into the weeds.

Adam Scorgie 6:21
Well, thank you that that makes me feel really cool. Yeah, we, we do think it's special. So it's always good to see that so far going out in the industry that it's been received that way because we are even with our work. I know you got to watch a couple of our films. But you know, we've been we've been like you fortunate where like, so many people are coming to us the state of work. And you know, it's nice to be in a position where you can be like, hey, like, if I'm not passionate about it, if I'm not intrigued by like, then it's a polite, sorry, I'm too busy. Or it's a pest, right? Like, we're with dogs. Now, you know, when you're starting your film career, you're trying to take anything and everything you pay the bills, right? You're like, someone's like, I'm going to do the worst job, like we're going to film something on the sanitation units of toilets. You're like, Okay, I'll do it, right. But now we're at a nice fortunate thing where it's like, man, if we're not passionate about the subject matter, and it's, you know, some great feedback we received recently with like, a lot of the talent we work with that like, man, we could just their families, like they're their friends now. They're family to us, right? Like, we knew that that's what I think we've kind of fallen in love in the dark world is that you spend so much time telling these real stories of a Danny trailer of Michael Bisping that, you know, you feel like you know them and you become family where like, when you see them, it's hugs and like, it really is like, it's like, oh, man, so good to see you. And thank you for you know, honoring my story correctly. So it's great that you're interested in what we have going now because I think that's you know, Shane really brought this to me it you know, is this an expansion or evolution of our company and I was kind of, I was hesitant at first like I'm an old dog, right? I don't want to date you but I'm I'm I was kind of like,

Alex Ferrari 7:54
We're similar vintage, sir.

Adam Scorgie 7:56
Similar vintage. I like that similar vintage right. Legacy is what they call it now. Right? We're looking at the legs here. All right. So Right. You know, when chambers I was like, man, NFT's and like the web three and like, Dude, it's

Alex Ferrari 8:08
So before we get into all of that I wanted to start off before we get into the into the nuts and bolts of NFT's and what you're doing with them. Why God's green earth did you want to get into this business?

Adam Scorgie 8:19
Into the film business?

Alex Ferrari 8:21
Yes. Yes.

Adam Scorgie 8:22
So I can I there's two moments. So I think like many I started in front of the camera in New York, I went to film school and stuff like that. And I was okay, I would I realized quickly being in New York, where there's a lot of talented artists that I was way behind the eight ball as far as like, you know, I was in acting classes with people that could speak three to four languages. They could do dialects, they could sing, they could play four or five instruments. They were classically trained ballet dancers, and I was like, I have a Canadian accent and I can barely act so I was like, I am like, okay. But originally I always wanted to get into because I liked to tell stories. And I did like the part of acting and like, you know, being truthful in imaginary circumstances. I thought all that was pretty fascinating. But then, when my my biological father got sick, I came back to Canada and I inherited his strip club, which was a nightmare. We won't go down that road, but it led me to produce in my first documentary called The Union The Business Behind Getting High. And I specifically remember the moment when that kind of shifted for me as we we originally I you know, it seemed Supersize Me and I wanted to just make something like that like something about the marijuana industry. I knew I had access to guys that were growing. And then like most dogs who grew into something just so much more. And I remember the first time we premiered at a sold out screening at the Vancouver Film Festival and you're in an audience watching something you created for the first time and you're seeing people get emotional and people laughing and having a true experience that that's affected them. And I remember sitting in the theater and it was like watching the movie for I'd seen it 100 times between the edits and other releases, but it was like watching it entirely. For the first time we've seen the audience reaction, I remember saying to myself, I'm like, oh, Adam, you better find out a way how to make this a living because you're never going to be able to do anything else. And I remember for many years, I was working two to three jobs, to try to make film, not a hobby, but a business. And it took a while to do that, because you can't just go after a dream. Well, not like, you know, I had to get my daughter was young, then I had a family, it couldn't just fit well, I'm gonna make it happen to yours, like, No, you got to pay bills now. And I remember just how empty it was looking at paychecks, it's like, wow, that's a piece of paper with numbers on it. I slaved for three months. And that's all I get. And all I can think about is what bills I can pay off. And this not that. I knew, at the end of the day, I had to figure out how to make film my out of make my living rather than being a hobby.

Alex Ferrari 10:44
And I tell you, man, Doc's are, and I've been doing this for, again, close to 30 years now. And Doc's are a lot easier to make money with than narrative features.

Adam Scorgie 10:56
I would agree, especially nowadays in the digital age, it's really, because nowadays, what we find we found a nice niche is, you know, we partner with the talent, I don't try to come in and be a greasy producer, like, you know, because things are 50-50 partner, Danny was our 50-50 partner, because I'd rather own you know, 50% of an amazing project and 90% of a shitty project. And when you're dealing with a doc and a factual story, there's nothing better than the person themselves promoting it, right. So if you shortchange them, then they start like, you know, if they're like, Okay, you, you, you want to nickel and dime, your back end or whatever else, and they're like, Okay, I'm only going to do one tweet, I'm going to do they're like, because, like, that's not the film. That's promotion, right? So that's what separates us, like when you do a feature film, a lot of actors for them, that is like a regular job. They're like, Okay, I'm gonna come out for my seven days. I'm gonna do my seven days. Don't ask me to do anything outside of my you're paying me to act for seven days, you're not paying me to promote it, to talk about it. Those all come extra. And normally, you only get those bonuses like, you know, for free. If it's like Scorsese or Tarantino or something that benefits like,

Alex Ferrari 12:06
Because because those guys are getting paid 20 million bucks. That's kind of it. Yeah, like Yeah, dude,

Adam Scorgie 12:11
And a lot of times it is negotiated in the contract watching the films, it's like, but we Doc's like everyone, like even people will look at who we're interviewing. They're like, How'd you get all these interviews were like, we just asked them and because they love the person or they love the they all do it for free. We don't pay them. So we're already in a different place with a lot of these people. Even when we get like big name athletes or celebrities or something donating their time. They're in a much different place than for a scripted film because they're donating their time for like, we just did interviews. We're doing Dolph longerons documentary now. We just did interviews. Wait, I know right? Like Like, I grew up with that. I know I grew up that is my duty. If you Amir from the same minute. Like I grew up where it was Arnold Stallone Van Damme golf. Those are like cars. That's my childhood. Right? Like, yeah, so to know golf is like my boy now and he's Texans. What do you think about this, Adam? And then, you know, we sat down with Arnold and Stallone within like a one day period. Oh, and I was trying to be yet to be professional, right where it was like, but I'm geeking out like I called my like, I was like a little kid. I called my dad from setting like, Dad, we're about to interview Arnold, like and he's like, Oh my god, I'm so proud of you. And I'm like, I'm proud of myself. This is amazing. I was like I did around the corner. And

Alex Ferrari 13:22
Exactly, but it's so funny because I've talked to so many people who've worked with some of these big giant stars, and legends and the icons and the Arnold Arnold and Slayer icons in the world. And but they're Arnold and sly every day of their life, and they are completely aware of how people react to them. So generally, they know what it's like to walk into a room. And they suck the air out of it. Because it's yeah, yes. It's and they're aware of that. And they and from the best, the best actors and icons. Put everybody at ease quickly, and they guys say listen, I know I know Terminator. Got it. I'll have some fun. Take some pictures. It's all good man. It's okay.

Adam Scorgie 14:10
We are talking about how much of an of an adrenaline and energy dump was like so because both of them we only had like half an hour right because they're donating their time. So but you know, a lot of prep goes into that we're there for hours ahead of time we're setting up we're dealing sound issues where's he going to sit down where it's going to, like Gold's Gym Venice was nice and up there like they let us shut down the whole half of the gym right there like we never do this for anybody else. But it's Arnold. We will right so they let us do like everyone was so accommodating but then we were so excited and then you want everything to go smooth Right? Like you only have half an hour and you you are dealing with a real person and they're somebody you know stone that is publicists there. Arnold just rolled in by himself, but when it was all over and we did our photos and it was done it was in the bag. The footage was backed up like everyone's like, are you guys gonna go on celebrate? No, like we had dinner and a beer and we were done by like nine flocked because even though the interviews were all the prep and emotion and the anxiety of like, some of them go wrong, are they going to cancel is some like you're trying to go and then when it's all over, you can just like, oh, like when you talk about the breath coming out of the room when the interviews were over, it happens with all our big interviews. Like we're like, we're kind of like, man, like, I didn't even work out this morning. Like, feels like I ran a marathon. I'm exhausted. Because you just want it to go perfect, right? And then Arnold did it perfect, where he was busting busting everybody saw this fall on their bus and people's balls and they came in to get everybody laughing like Arnold came in and raid where our sound guy wanted to like, the sound might pop out and like we want it to be perfect. So he's like, Sorry, I gotta come out. He's like, Oh, these fucking sound guys always words like like anybody's gonna care that Swartz. negar sound like sticking out, carries like, he's like, I'm kidding. He's like, I wanted to be professional, fix it. And then I thought director, you know, our director was like, Okay, I got one more question. It's like, you said that three times now? Okay, let's go right. Like it was awesome. And then you never know with like photos and stuff, because it's always interview first, of course, me and the team always wanted to try to get those and do that. But, you know, I was like, should we get as COVID main things weird right now? Is COVID It was we shot this a little while ago where people are still. But you know, I had to because Arnold is just like, talk to us. Like, Hey, Mr. Schwarzenegger is like, really appreciate the time. He's like, of course, anything for dolphin like, and I trouble you for one more thing mean that to me, like to get a photo is a cause. Let's go, let's do it. So we got a wicked photo, I'm gonna put it in my office, it's, you know, feel very, I'm sure like yourself, after years of grinding it, it feels you feel so blessed to be able to do something you're passionate about and be able to support your family is like, truly when you when you're younger, and you have those aspirations of what success is, you'll learn that it's like, oh, man, I get to go to work every day and love what I do and go on these journeys and meet these icons and legends and travel. So I just I honestly, when people are like, Oh, what do you do for a living? I'm like, I have my dream job. Like I really do. I love what I do. I love being able to tell these stories and travel the world. I wouldn't if I could script it, I wouldn't change anything of what we're doing right now.

Alex Ferrari 17:19
I'll tell you, man, it's I agree with you 100%. Because I've had the pleasure of meeting some of my heroes during the show. And you just you're trying to be professional, like I'm doing the interview. Like I'm interviewing them I'm on camera with them. And you just like it's hard. Sometimes he's the geek comes out a little bit

Adam Scorgie 17:39
The geek comes out and it's okay, you realize it's okay,

Alex Ferrari 17:43
They enjoy they actually I mean, as long as they're not they generally enjoy. Generally, there's a couple who didn't, but most of them are very enjoyable. Now, what I love about this idea, because you have a very specific way you're doing your docs, which I haven't seen, like this before, one I didn't know about the 5050, which makes so much sense. And why people aren't doing that more often. For some of these bigger subjects. It doesn't make any sense. Like why would Bespin Michael bizben Do any promotion for 10% of this? Like, why why? Where is he if he puts everything into it? He's going to his his his niche audience, which is fans of Michael bissman. He's the best getting to them.

Adam Scorgie 18:34
Yeah, you can't pay for nobody's better, right. No one's better. And I said why not?

Alex Ferrari 18:40
So that's your marketing budget in many ways.

Adam Scorgie 18:42
Yes. That's that's where he was funny because with universal the way they kind of do it so release with Universal Pictures. It's our second studio release, which is amazing for those that are in like it's, you know, for a doc to get that like back. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 18:54
I was noticing that.

Adam Scorgie 18:56
I think we're the only ones in Canada that have accomplished it. I'm kind of putting that out there to be challenged. And I don't think any other indie company out of Canada as accomplished back to back studio releases. I'm happy to be corrected. But as far as I found out, that's all I know. But and it really comes from and now adults came from that because bisbing and Dolph hadn't the same agent. And just like visiting was like, you know, when we talk to adults, manager Craig Bisping did a movie with him never back down. And he was like, hey, what's the team? Like, like, were adults interested in doing a dock and buildings like, dude, they're like, family, those are my boys. No, like, I want to just hang out with him. Like I miss actually, that we're not filming now. Like, I want we spent so much time together and he's like, and they're transparent and they're honest. And they just become your partner. So his team and then his agent was the same like it was it was one of the easiest gilsdorf segment I saw your work. I love your work. Everyone around me says that you guys have been fantastic to work with like, let's let's go like I was like I was ready to this big pitch and also like Man, I've already sold like everyone close to me, has already worked with you and your team, my manager, my agent, they all say that you're guys and I can see the work for itself. I need no explanation there were men getting to know adults like him and his fiancee. really emotional. Last couple interviews, hugs and tears and just feel like we're so thankful that you guys are doing our story. And, you know comes from that old adage your parents tried to teach you like treat others as you want to be treated. And when I was early in the film industry, I'm sure you were like a lot of producers, man. They're scumbags. Like I remember looking underneath mocking stuff. I remember just even being treated, I remember producers snapping their fingers at me and be like, I was so broke at the time of being like, but I had I needed the money when I was like, fucking snap your fingers at me again, I will break it off and stick it, you know, like, but I hated that. And I wanted to change that culture. I wanted to be like, Man, when I'm running a crew, I want to be like, the young guy comes up as an idea. I'll listen, I'm not gonna be like, No, and I hated the whole thing of like, I can't tell you budgets, I can't tell you how you do it. Because somehow if I tell you that will take away from what I'm doing. I always thought that was such an idiotic way to look at it.

Alex Ferrari 21:02
Because there's only because there's only $20 in the entire world. And if I tell him like 10 of mine, right?

Adam Scorgie 21:07
To me, that's such an insecure, stupid. And I've had it like the other way where I've had young filmmakers reach out and I can see they put in the homework. They're like, Adam, could you look at my proposal? Could you look at my budget, when I'm like, Man, I liked this guy's energy or her energy and I, I'll respond to them, like, Hey, here's the budget we had for this. Here's our audit. Here's what we did this year. And they're like, Oh, my God, I can't believe you are that candid and gave me all that information. And then they've gone on to get finance, and they've come back and hired me. They're like, Adam, you didn't ask for anything. When you did that. You just gave me some of the best advice I got. So now that we're finance, we just want to give you a producer credit or something. I'm like, Wow, I'm like, see, that to me? Is the Pay It Forward? Rather than being like, Well, no, I can't tell you budgets or who or who to go to at the network, or how to finance this. Because you might have a good project you might take away from what I'm doing well, that says your project is shit. Because if your project is good, the network's gonna get it, especially if you have experience like helping others that are, you know, again, there's like in any business, there's the crazies that come to you these wild and crazy and you can lead them out pretty easy, where they don't have a lot in the I was doing the homework, but when they come correct, and they're like, look, we tried to put this together, and I can see the script or the pitch deck or these things and I say, look, tweak this up. Here's some examples of ours come back. And when they come back that a kit I listened to, he said, here's all the examples that I'm kind of like, wow, you get it, okay. Here's, here's your you go to a super channel, or here's your you go to a bell, or here's my contact at Netflix. And people are like, I can't believe you give away your contacts. I'm like, man, you're putting in the work. You know,

Alex Ferrari 22:36
Netflix is only going to buy the two document.

Adam Scorgie 22:38
Yeah, there's only there's only two projects, right? Like, I just gave it to him. And now I'm screwed. God dammit, I shouldn't give it. But that's a stupid mentality. That was the producer, you're I grew up in, like Jordan, learn when you're starting as like a line producer, and you're grinding, you're trying. I remember as the line producer for a project, I won't name the company. I would ask how much we had to spend on things like, well, what's the budget for this, but I can't tell you that just give me quotes. And I'll let you know if they're good or not. And I'm like, this takes that takes twice as long. So now I'm going to reach out to 10 places try to get quotes. And even then they would be like, Well, what's your budget? I'm like, I have no idea. I don't know. Because the producers won't tell me so could you just send me a quote and I'll see if they can approve it or not. Like, I was just like, this is such a stupid way to work. But that was I guess that's how they were brought up in the industry. And that's kind of how it used to be is keep everything close. Don't share that information. It seems outrageous. Now when you think of it,

Alex Ferrari 23:34
I mean, that's one of the reasons I started the show was because nobody was telling the truth about what happens in the business. I couldn't find any shows that would telling people the realities of what was going on in the business and I got a lot of strap. No, I know you got a lot of strap. Oh, yeah, you know, so I was like, You know what, I'm gonna throw my hat in the ring. And I just like within like the first two three episodes, I was just like, saying stuff that people were like, what? I've never heard that before. I'm like, because we talk about it when we go out for drinks after a shoot. Yes, but no one's puts that information out there. So that's what I started doing in that show blew up within like three months it was number one and then it's been going ever since. And it's and I just constantly am trying to tell everybody the realities of so I always ask why did you start this crazy freakin business like it's it's this is an insane, insane business if you why someone would come into it now. Like I don't even know if I would start now. To be honest with you like if I if I was 18 Right now I would probably be dumb enough to just go I'm just gonna go do it. I'm gonna you know and people can check out my my create my genius. The Find my genius. I'm not saying nobody should that everybody shouldn't go for it. But really understand what you're walking into. And that's what I didn't know. If you're going to walk into a fight with Brisbane. Understand who you're walking into the fight Yeah, one that you're in a fight. Secondly, who you're fighting with? And don't think you're just like, hey, man, this is really cool. And then a punch just comes in knocks you off in your ads. And then

Adam Scorgie 25:00
I couldn't agree more but that that naivety, when you're early in your career kind of helps you, it helps you to but and that really tests if you're if you're made out for this, if it's really what you want to do, because you're going to stumble, you're going to get punched in the face, you're going to make those mistakes. And you either quit and go off that wasn't for me more you find a part of the industry that you really love. And then you say, Okay, this is for me, I'm going to make it work. Right and you so that's where creative hustle came from me as people like Adam, you always just your team, you find a way. Because I wasn't I think like most I don't know, like, I wasn't properly trained. I didn't graduate from prestigious film school I didn't. I did acting classes I studied at William Esper Studios in New York, right? It came from like the front of the camera, I learned that I was much better at producing and connecting the dots and putting out fires and I wasn't performing, you know, which is a realization in itself that you have to really challenge yourself like, hey, is this for me? You don't know. I realized, like, I'm not as talented as a lot of other people. But I realized what my talents were. So I'm like you though, I always said that about the union. When it came out. It became this like, cult classic. And it was rated like so much luck comes into things too, right? Like tiny. The Union came out right before like, right when it was releasing us, right when social media was starting to connect with people. And this was before, like, I remember going into meetings for like, yeah, we got a Facebook page, and we've got like, over 100,000 people and distributors would laugh at me. They're like, Oh, that's so cute. He has a Facebook page. Look at him. Aren't you cute? And then I was like, and then we did a follow up film called The culture i, which because of the demand from our online wanted us to do a follow up. And I remember throwing that right back in the series, right? Cats. So cute. We raised a quarter million dollars in 42 days of that cute little Facebook page. And their faces were like, what? Like, yeah, it's a business tool. If you guys are not getting ahead of it, you better and I wasn't even ready for the evolution of like Netflix streaming and how all that came about. But it caught everybody by storm. Right?

Alex Ferrari 26:54
Yeah, and let's not talk about distribution, because I'm sure you've got a couple stories about that. Anybody on the show knows my history with distribution and what we've discussed on the show before. But anyway,

Adam Scorgie 27:07
I've got funny I'm sure you do too. But the funny stories there, it's nice when you know a little bit about it. And I can go in without saying names. But I remember we were fully financed on inmate number one Danny traders doc and, and we and the way it kind of our market we do in Canada is that like we we only pre sell Canada to get in production. Again, this is why our partners like where it's like look, we can get a really healthy budget to start, I can pay you a fee up front. So not wasting your time, right. I don't have the last dance Michael Jordan dollars, I can give you 4 million, but I can give you something that's like, you know, an average payday for an indie film right for doc, but then your 50-50 partner will mitigate 70 to 100% of the risk coming out of Canada. And then our international sales is split 5050 If we can get all the grant money we hit that's direct 50-50 other than maybe a few like, you know, corporate overhead costs. Otherwise, we might have a gap of like 150 to 200,000 Canadian or 150,000. Us and then anything above that we split in the MG that we get upfront from either Netflix or so everyone, when I always present this to, to, you know, the agents, the talent, they're like, Man, this is awesome. So there's a distributor that came on with Danny right? They were like they wanted to come in early and they were like, Man, I love this thing. It's gonna be a big one. And they gave me their sales projections right, which are always bullshit right? But here's the best part brothers they gave me like a high medium and a low right? Low was like 2 million right there. Medium was like five to 7 million their high was like eight to 11 million for doc right now. It's kind of like, okay, that's pretty high. Oh, it's ridiculous. Right? So. Yeah, top 50 Docs of all time. Like if you're in that, above 10 range. You're in like the top 510. Like, it's crazy, right? So

Alex Ferrari 28:55
That's Michael Moore Supersize Me world.

Adam Scorgie 28:57
Yeah, it's crazy, right? It's like, it's like putting lottery tickets in your business plan being like, well, this lottery winner, right. So. So I'm listening to a thing? No, I, you know, I've gotten to a place where I'm listening. And then they go, Yeah, you know, they, we definitely think you know, it could hit here, but really, depending on how you guys deliver, it would be no less than, you know, the mid range, the low of two to 4 million and the mid range like awesome. And then then they gave me their waterfall and this was ridiculous thing on the back.

Alex Ferrari 29:23
It just for everybody, you know, just because we're gonna actually get into the conversation about what they're the cool stuff they're doing. But this is just so valuable. This conversation right now. For everybody listening. A waterfall is how the money is distributed as it comes in because it's like a waterfall of money. And then people start grabbing cash before it ever hits the bottom of the waterfall. So go ahead.

Adam Scorgie 29:43
Oh, no. Now to summarize what I just said. So we already have the film financed out of Canada, right? We have a small gap of like 200,000 Canadian. We've got just over 800 $900,000 budget 800,000 I think it was at 18 Canadian, or like 750 us. So then this this guy were me thing which shows me the waterfall. He's in top position, obviously distributors in second position. And then we're in third position. And who was the guy who was one of the sales rep. He was a former No, no, he was a former NBC executive that was now got his own distribution company. Right. So

Alex Ferrari 30:17
Personally gets money first, then

Adam Scorgie 30:20
His company is going to name the company, his company Yep. Then the distribution company got another distribution company? Yes. Because he was going to sell it to a distribution company, right? We're paying a

Alex Ferrari 30:40
Middleman of a middleman. Got it? Got it. Okay.

Adam Scorgie 30:42
And then us, right? And I remember going wow, okay. It's when it's called a waterfall. Looking at the numbers. I'm like, Well, you guys must be putting up a significant mg or minimum guaranteed to be putting yourself at the top of the waterfall because we're finance we'd already shot right. I'm like, what? Why would you go to positions ahead of me? And he was like, Well, no, no, no, he goes, you were able to mitigate all that money out of Canada. So that's why we're and I was like, so why the fuck would you get that benefit? That's me understanding the system. Why would you and the distributor get to benefit before I did? I'm like, You have to at least cover the gap that we have in here. Now in order for you to go to top position or else why would our investors be like, I was like, I have no idea. But he was so used to taking advantage of filmic he didn't even have answers for me when I had this is like, Oh, well, you know, you're able to get you're able to get tax money, money and grant money on my Yeah, my benefit and worse. Yeah, like, I was like.

Alex Ferrari 31:36
If grandma if grandma died and gave me a million dollars while your grandma died, and you got a million dollars, and

Adam Scorgie 31:42
Yeah, like it was, so I couldn't, and he really didn't have I was like, I was like, well, and I'm going by your projections, you just said worst case scenario, two to 4 million. So I think a minimum guarantee of a quarter of that right now would be a great win. Like if if worst case scenario, you think it's going to do 2 million? Show me that right now with 500,000. Right? Like, that's only a quarter of the worst case scenario. Either way, you're making money. And he's like, Well, no, that's not how it works. And I was like, Well, no, that's how general business works. Like, if those are the projections, you putting up 25% of the worst case projections is, I should ask for 50% Actually, right. It's like, well, it's like, I'm hedging the bet too. And then you could squirmed and I was like, ultimately, I remember it was like so you want to take that deal. I'm like, Dude, I wouldn't take that deal. If there's a gun to my head. It's like pull the trigger. That's ridiculous. I'm like, our investors would go to positions below somebody else. We're already fully financed and like nothing's, and sure enough, we just took it directly to universal and did the sale ourselves. Like, why would I give you and the distributor positions ahead of that when I could go there myself. But these are things you learn? Oh, yeah, way down the road, right?

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Or you or you listen to the podcast,

Adam Scorgie 32:51
Or you listen to the podcast, you can learn it, that I was always very fortunate. And this is where luck comes in. But I didn't you know, that old term of gotta be good to be lucky comes in because I was very lucky that really early on, I met young sales agents or sales agents, assistants that saw how sales agents and distributors were ripping filmmakers off and kind of like me with the producers that I worked with, like, man, there's got to be a more ethical way that I can look after the filmmaker, but not fucking gouge him like some of these people are doing right. So I kind of when I was up and coming, I'd meet these guys. And a simple thing I didn't even think was a big thing. But I'd walk into the office and I'd always I know the assistants, I'd be like, what's up, Joe? What's up, like, I knew them, right? I'd see them at film markets and all the bigwigs were busy, we'd always be hanging out. And they're like Adam did like, you know, you're one of the only filmmakers that like even remembers my name or takes time to know me. I'm like, what? Like, but dude, you're always looking after me. And you're on emails, like, yeah, you would think, but a lot of people are like, Oh, you're not the decision maker. So screw them or screw this person, right? So and so we kind of built up together. So then when we are making films together, they're like, Adam, I've been the assistant for years. I've got all the contacts, I'm ready to go. I'll give you a better percentage and won't gouge you. We've been homies I was like, dude, of course. And literally JOAD, my sales agent now and upstream flicks. I really call him he's more my producing partner because we're way closer than, but he is technically a sales agent. But we are like family now where he'll literally be like, Adam, this one is going to be a tough one to make money on. You might want to let it go with this one. I'm sure we can make money on and I couldn't have done it without him. And I but that comes from being like, I didn't mean to me it was just how I was raised. And you treat everyone with respect, whether he's the assistant or the decision maker like, he's just, I'm just a grinder to why would I talk to like, but I couldn't believe when he told me stories of people would walk in there and be like, Yeah, I'm only going to talk to so and so. Oh, yeah. No, you did it. Oh, you know, you didn't hear that. And I was like, really? So I built it up together.

Alex Ferrari 34:48
I listen man I'm an East Coast guy. I lived in LA for 13 years. And I just moved to Austin. So I'm in Austin now. Oh, nice. freaking love. I love it here and I Love to LA for the time I was there but when you're braised in that environment the ego gets out of control people are not like you know the walk over they won't piss on you if you're on fire it's like it's just a whole other world so that you are outside of the system outside of LA probably the best thing that could have happened to you you know

Adam Scorgie 35:19
That's you know I knowing that now because I go to LA for work all the time and I enjoy them there I'll do Jones's I'll go do the local hangout, and then I and then I can't wait to get back home. Right. I'm done with the traffic after a week. I'm done with it. Like I love how la can just literally go should go. Do what how did you last night like oh, I flaked. And like, looks like they just say they flake? They're like, Oh, I just flake to Mike. I remember the first time that was sent to me and like, what did you get sick or something? Like no, I just flaked it into like, coming. I'm like, so you didn't text me or anything to be like, not coming.

Alex Ferrari 35:50
You're not a human being a human being?

Adam Scorgie 35:52
Yeah, I was like, you can't just you can't just not be a piece of shit and just say hey, story, things came up. I'm not coming like I

Alex Ferrari 35:58
Have the decency to lie to me. Yeah. What make a story

Adam Scorgie 36:04
If you're just weren't worth me making the time to come out with like, I wouldn't like that better. Right? Then you just saying I flaked. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 36:12
I would. I would truly I would truly respect that answer. Like, dude, you just not important enough for me to get Yeah, I was. I was binging on Netflix. Dude, I just couldn't I just

Adam Scorgie 36:22
I was good. I was good. I was comfortable on my couch. I got tired. So I yeah, I guess I guess you saying that. But I do. That's why a lot of people always be like, Why are you in Edmonton, Alberta of all places. Now look, I'm not going to plan to retire here in Edmonton. And the weather is not great. But

Alex Ferrari 36:36
Winters are fantastic. I hear I hear the winters

Adam Scorgie 36:38
Oh, it's spectacular. If you love arctic cold for 12. You know, 10 months out of the year. It's mid April, we had snow today. So

Alex Ferrari 36:46
Listen, with the global warming happening, dude, you're gonna have some really good real estate and about 10 15 years.

Adam Scorgie 36:50
Were gonna be good. Global warming was good for us before this winter. It was good until this winter, and it's not been good to us.

Alex Ferrari 36:57
So listen, first of all, thank you so much for that amazing conversation about the business. But well, one or the other. It was great, man. It was great. I love I love having conversations like this, because you just have no idea where things are gonna go. And I keep talking about that stuff for another hour. Maybe I'll have you back on the show just to talk about the realities of the bits.

Adam Scorgie 37:16
That absolutely we got, we got a spinning top you get me going, there's lots we can get into there. And help your listeners.

Alex Ferrari 37:23
I appreciate that very much, brother. Now the reason I wanted to get you on the show is because you've got something called Creative Hustler Key. Yes. What is telling me about what Creative Hustler Key is in this new kind of way of what you're doing with it. Yeah,

Adam Scorgie 37:37
so this is a great segue into you know, kind of what we were just talking about as in my partner came to me, it was like Adam, look, you know, we need to get into web three in the NFT space and I like many other people's like Hawkman NFT's I don't get it was a digital art and this and that. He's like, listen, Adam, that is just step one of the evolution of this technology and all the things that can be used for. And again, I kind of put it off and he was doing a ton of research and getting into and looking at how we can add value is like okay, and then when all the distribution like universe Netflix when everybody started putting these into their contracts, right that they now started wanting these rights and they want to start having NFT's and web three. I was like, okay, they don't want to make the same mistake that Netflix and everybody said streaming will never be a thing digital media will digital in all the theaters not going to happen social media that's for kids we're never going to use in the film industry right? Well all those things happen and overtook the industry right? Everybody now you have to fight for those rights. Now where's just a year ago, nobody could give a shit. They were all available. So then if Shane kept bringing these like, listen on him, let's not just make artwork let's do you and our team have always been great at when young filmmakers reach out you're always willing to help you're a mentor and tell a story hive you speak at Panels and then afterwards of the panels everyone comes running up to so I had never met any in the industry so candid willing to share budgets and do all these things. Why don't we take that one step further, where we make a creative hoster key which has the art element the thing that all the NFT's do, right, which pays homage all their films, we did all these Easter eight things like can you point out and people were like, it was really cool what the designer came up with, there's like every one of our docs, there's like a little character, even us were digitized and put in them and we can you find us. But we wanted to add that utility and community that's where for me is a bit of an older vintage like yourself, or more legacy vintage, if that's more cool words, right? Is like how can you add a practicality something that like I can touch and make make realisation of in addition to the artwork, and when Shane came with me with that, I was like, dude, now that's what I want to get into, say, Adam, how about everybody has creative hustler key, like you already do this for everybody for free. But how about now the people that have it, you'll give them context, like people at Netflix and superchannel you'll give them a little bit more time because they've been part of your community. I was like, I love it. He's like and then if they get three and become a try keyholder you will literally do introductions to those people. And I was like, like, hey, they've got a project you think is worthy of going front and ethics, you'll actually say, hey, got this great guy. He's part of our team, you guys should have out or right and not ask for anything, right. And I was like, now you've got something that I'd be willing to get into. So we reached out to all the local film, like communities in our province, like, which is ampia, the Alberta Media Association, and ESA, or the Edmonson screen industry office, who said, Look, we'll give you a couple to give to your brightest students. So you can do a competition to give out because when you come out of these film institutions, a lot of the time you've learned, you don't really know what it's like to be on a production, you've done the mock ones, and you've done the things but you haven't really gotten to the nitty gritty like you and me talked about, like where you really learn. So I'm like, why don't we fast track your work, you'll be right in our community, you want to reach out to me my co founders and say, Adam, like I'm working on this project. Do you know anybody? superchannel? Absolutely, I'll connect you, right, here's what you're going to run into. Let me see your budget, your finances wrong, I'll show you how to do it through the Alberta model or through the BC model. Connection. All this says, kind of doing what the DG, like a lot of these guilds are supposed to do, but they're so big now that they and that's why fitting the NFT model, we kept it very limited. There's only going to ever be 999. And there's only going to ever be 333. Try keyholders, right, because you can combine your other ones for a try key all three of the different worlds because we have chaos competition and the three different worlds that you can combine into a try key, we wanted to make it Ultra selected, because obviously we don't have enough time to do this. We don't want 5000 or 6000. We want it's not about a cash grab for us or what the mid price is going to be. It's about creating a great community that

Alex Ferrari 41:32
I don't want to cut you off because I understand every single word you're saying. But a lot of people listening don't even know what an NFT is don't understand. Blockchain is don't understand what meant is

Adam Scorgie 41:42
I'm starting to get I just got stabbed to those. That's why I'm thinking I can throw it out that lingo because I know all that stuff.

Alex Ferrari 41:47
So can you just really quickly what is it NFT for those who don't know?

Adam Scorgie 41:51
So an NFT is a non fungible token which is backed by the blockchain, right? And where this technology is going to be very valuable for all us creators. If you're someone that's like, I don't get it. And you like the art pieces, the digital art pieces, I too, was like, someone's like, Okay, what's digitally, I could take a photo of that I can get when you back things by the blockchain, with all the problems you're having with piracy, with films and all these things is as this technology continues to evolve, this is how you'll be able to secure it in a better way where you'll be able to prevent better privacy or piracy issues and stuff like that, like indie guys like us get killed by piracy. The most right wing people are like, who cares? And I was like, dude, 1000 downloads for us is like the difference of the distributor wanting to sign us again or not, right? Like the the marvels and stuff. Yeah, they can afford it. Us guys like it. Nothing's more painful when somebody rips off your thing. And then they tweet at it to like, oh, yeah, I've pulled this off of VPN, whatever. You're like, dude, killing me.

Alex Ferrari 42:45
Dude, my last few. My last feature was was booted in nine hours. Nine hours, nine hours, it was already up on it was already up on the board. So it's just like, wow.

Adam Scorgie 42:56
So these are where like the technology. That's where when my partner brought it up, and he does a great analogy. He's like, Look, we all have smartphones nowadays, right? We know how much they make our life better. But how many of us actually understand how they operate? I'd say less than 1%. Right? Probably very few. Right? And that's kind of where web three and non fungible tokens and things being on the blockchain are at like, you know, this came up recently with a friend of mine was or my wife was trying to redo her resume and she couldn't get her diploma. Right. She's trying to call her old school and nobody's answering. And I was like, Wouldn't it be great if it's just on the blockchain? And you could just log in and pull it up? And it's there for a lifetime? Right? Like, these are where the practicalities and this technology, whether we want to accept it, which was presented to me like it's like social media. It's like streaming for movies. It's coming. Whether you're ready for it or not

Alex Ferrari 43:43
It's like the internet and 94.

Adam Scorgie 43:46
Exactly, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 43:47
Because everyone was like,

Adam Scorgie 43:48
But internet was going to be a fad. Right?

Alex Ferrari 43:51
Dude you remember Do you remember those? Like those commercials are like, what is this email? What is that? You hear that? The struggle is real, bro. That struggle was real back then. But yeah, you're absolutely right. And, look, I've had multiple, I've had probably about four or five episodes dedicated to NF T's blockchains in this space and what people are doing. And and I think we've become, we have we have a lot of information about that stuff on the website. If you guys want to learn about more about blockchain, that it's specifically for the film business, because there's so much there's there's so many blockchains there's so much then you start getting into crypto, and which blockchain Are you on? Are you on Aetherium? Are you on you know, are you on something else? And I created my own blockchain. Well, what's that about? So you're an Aetherium right? Are you Yeah,

Adam Scorgie 44:42
We're on Aetherium. We're going back to this was but we also created a fiat system because we know a lot of people from the sports stocks we did our big memorabilia collectors, right and this is the creative hoster key is only phase one right? Then we've got phase two we're already in brand fear about doing like a custom design. As the same with like an iconic artist and him. And then you know, if you got some of the ultra rare masks, we would do an in person screening with grants himself, the artists and you'd be able to forge three copies that you'd be able to make, you could put on the blockchain that you could then sell as a collector and do as your own. We're talking with this thing about this, we're talking about golf with this so that we can always engage in the community. You know, an offer this utility and community outside of just a digital art piece, right. And that's also what the great imposter key gets us it, you know, we're going to do drops where you get a chance to be on set for a day. So you can come and be with us with dough because a lot of people now go Hold that thought it but like, at dinner parties now people are always especially I'm in in Alberta, I'm in an oil state, like you are a province, right? Where a lot of people have great paying jobs, but fucking hate what they do, right? Where they have anxiety on Sunday, knowing they have to go to work on Monday, right? So when it comes up, and people ask what I do, and they see the passion, and they see that we're like, man, you're traveling to Sweden with golf, and you got to interview Arnold, I'm like, so now we're giving you the ability where you could do that you can have that experience by being a creative key. If you're try keyholder, you'll win those chances, we'll do one or two trips a year where you'll get to be a producer for a day, you'll get to come on set, you're automatically VIP entered into all of our red carpet premieres, and all of our after parties, you will also get to be in a community like that's what we wanted to build. This is one of my partner brought this to me, I'm like that I can get behind. Right? We're, we're helping filmmakers. We're providing community in addition to the cool artwork and collectibles that we know like a lot of people when we did ice guardians we did making cocoa people wanted to sign poster by Grant and they wanted to be there with him that night, and they wanted those experiences. So this was just the next logical step. But then you can add ownership to that too, right? We're not only You're getting to be involved in this, you can have ownership in the artwork, you can own some of the the new NF T's that we're going to be having coming down the future. And that's where I was like, Okay, you got me, I mean, let's expand.

Alex Ferrari 47:08
So So for people listening, I'm gonna, I'm going to translate everything you just said. It's easy. I know, I'm fast. I'm like, passionate. So no. So translation is an NFT is basically a digital baseball card or comic book, let's just put it this for people. That's a good way of putting it. It's a digital version of that there's only one of them, you could throw that up on on something called the blockchain. And if you want to know about blockchain, you have to go type of blockchain.

Adam Scorgie 47:35
I could even explain that to you that much. Research on that,

Alex Ferrari 47:38
Yeah, do some research on blockchain. But you when you sell an NFT, you can also sell experiences or hard products or real world products along with that. So let's say there's a digital MMA card of this person, let's just throw that out there, right. And then if you buy that NFT, then you can also get an autographed poster. And if you buy two or three of them, then you could pass it, then you can go to a screening with him, things like that. So you know, you're selling experiences with practical products, and digital all through the NFT. And once it's purchased, it goes on the blockchain where now it's it lives forever. And you can resell that you can't, I'm not sure you can resell the experience, or the physical products. But you might want to be able to sell the physical products as you

Adam Scorgie 48:28
Were making it. So the physical products we make, you can sell and there'll be there'll be chips, so they can still be on the blockchain so that if you want to do that, you can do that the experiences that some we're figuring out, we don't really like maybe you could gift it to another, like creative, Hustler, keyholder. But we don't really want this, we're hoping that the people that buy these, like, we're worried for ours as much of course, we know it's going to be great art, we know what's going to have value, but it's less about trying to just get five times what you paid for it and sell it. It's more about the community and the utility of what we're going to be providing afterwards. The the NF T's that are coming down the road, like the partnership with Grant fear, and those ones, you know, like some of the artists we're reaching out to come on board, definitely. And those will be ones that will be you know, really, really valuable and probably be two 5x 10 Next time, especially if you get the ultra rare, but for the creative husky, it's much more about the community and utility. So we're still working out the fine tuning if someone's actually hey, I want to give this to somebody else. I think they'd benefit from it more. I kind of love that spirit. So I'm sure we would honor something like that, as long as they're also a creative foster keyholder. As far as selling the experience, I don't want to do that,

Alex Ferrari 49:32
Like 10 years down the line. You can't sell the experience, the experience is over.

Adam Scorgie 49:35
Yeah, we want you to be there. Like if you're if your key gets picked, and you're the one that gets to come on set with doll for a day. Like we'd say, oh, we'd love to give this like if you're in the film community here in Alberta, and they're like, look, I have someone that's the biggest doll fan. He'd benefit from this more than me. Great. We can make that work. But you putting that experience up for sale, we probably we probably not allow that because that isn't in the ethos of what we're trying to provide.

Alex Ferrari 49:58
Right, exactly. And then it Once you buy that NFT, you can then resell it. But the great thing about NFT's is that once you resell it, a portion of that sale goes back to the original creator of the NFT. So if I go, if I buy it for $100, and go sell it for 10,000, you get a percentage. Yeah, do you as whoever created the NFT. So get to 10%, generally is 10%. For Life for life. So as long as so in other words, if I if I got a baseball card for five cents, back in art in our vintage legacy database, and then I, then all of a sudden that baseball player blows up and it's worth a million dollars, I can sell it. And then someone five years from then sells it for $10 million, the original baseball player or the company who created that card does not benefit from it. So and that's a nice way. And it's that this is why I'm not worried about your company. I'm not worried about the company, like I don't care about tops not getting a piece of it, screw them because their gums sucks. But yeah. True, true story. But if the artist or or celebrity or athlete is the one created them, they can benefit in perpetuity from any future sales based on what they what value they bring. So, Mike, imagine if you would have gotten a Michael Jordan NFT in 85.

Adam Scorgie 51:22
No, and that and that's what, and that's why every single sports collectible company, they're all getting on it. That's that's where I'm starting to see the wheels moving just like social media before it became a regular business practice or when Netflix got streaming rights from everybody because nobody thought streaming is going to be a thing. Right? David? Wait, they disagree? Yes, they were like, they were like streaming no reason want that. For five years. Yeah, for five or 10 grand, take it as much as you want. Then transformers was one of their big titles, they gotten a good screen, then they saw this is when Netflix started hiding their numbers or like watch things been viewed 70 million times or something. And they're like, Well, you gave us the streaming rights, we can screen as many times as we want. So then they tie bar. But then they transitioned into making sure they were doing their own content, right. So this

Alex Ferrari 52:09
They can survive. That's the only way they could survive. Right? It's fast. And it's really fast. So how much is a creative hustler?

Adam Scorgie 52:15
So it's going to be point one three ether roughly 500 Canadian dollars, right. And if you get three, then you can get like I said to try key which is where you'll get free, where you'll get free drops into like our if I'm just like kind of clone X date and artifact ID where there are big NFT company that sold to Nike, like when they did their launch, it was like Michael Jordan converse, Nike and artifact, right. So that's another thing to say like how big these are getting is that, you know, Nike has made three big acquisitions, one of them being an NFT company, that we're doing the same kind of model where if you're one of those holders, when we do like to grant here drop, or we do something with one of these other artists, you'll get a free drop into your wallet, just because you've held a try key, right, in addition to the red carpet bonuses and all those things is we really want you to hang on to them so that there's value we want to continue to offer value. You know, as other things come up, right, whether it's the red carpet events, be on set for a day, you know, contacts of ours that we have our Rolodex will not only just introduce you, or will not just give them to you will introduce you and say hey, this person's part of the creative hustle community, I'll introduce all the contacts that I have and have worked with that will all come as part of the of having a try key.

Alex Ferrari 53:27
So in the future for independent filmmakers, it's, before I ask that question, you it sounds like you're building a community and almost like and the key is almost like a membership into that community, or NFT's and building it up. Since you're working with such high profile actors, athletes, and subject matter from your docks, you're able to partner with them in a way that and provide value to the community that not a lot of people are able to do is that

Adam Scorgie 53:56
Actually we saw Yeah, that's where we really saw that like, even recently, it was interesting because like when bizben came out, right, we reached out to all of the other guys. So Dolph shared the bisbing trailer on his thing, and Danny Trejo shared it on his and all these guys were like, look, they scratched your back when your trailer came out, you do the same and again, it's different than scripted films because their Doc's are all everybody when they're happy with the finished doc. They want people to share their story. They're hoping it inspires people and gives a good message, right, like, so we constantly are leaning on each other. So it's the next logical step is like Man, if we already have this kind of community built in, why don't we because again, we're always like, look, let's be 5050 partners, we're not trying to say like yeah, we're doing part of the heavy lifting by creating the back end of the blockchain and the NFT and whatever artwork we're going to do, but you know, we're splitting in three ways if we do one with Danny it'll be like Danny the artists we work with in us right split equally all go there like we're not trying to be like Well 90% is like so that you know and I'll everyone who worked with this already experienced this from the films we've done. So they're like, man, totally open to proposal, like bring it our way, right. We're looking forward to it. In addition, so that's just expanding. Know the community not only with the talent, but also the film community that we want to give back to them, right? Like, I know how hard it was when I was hustling. And I wish, you know, you probably had this too, when you met that one great producer that DOP or someone that really like helped you, it's like, man, here's how you do your budget, you should really go to them with your project, I think it'd be like, they were diamond. There wasn't a lot of them. But when you found or that diamond in the rough and say not a diamond doesn't, when you found him, you're I remember being like, man, thank you so much, like your information help so much where we're like, and then we know, then, you know, as this as the creative, hustler keeps evolving, we're hoping to maybe down the road, the way the technology goes, the we can bypass distribution altogether. Community gets big enough, and everybody's making money and the NFT's then we can say, Hey, guys, are you interested in the subject matter? Why don't we all like, well, we'll sell NFT's to fund it and get things together. And then we'll just release it for free. Right? We'll just say, hey, we'll fund it with the collectibles and everything in the pieces of the moments that we want to sell. We're just going to give it because screw going to some decision maker that's sitting there going, hmm, I don't know if you have enough females or you don't have enough Christians in there or things that they're going to determine make what they think is going to make your project sell, right where it's like, Screw it, no, that will feed like I remember there was something with Danny's project that drove us crazy that critics are like they missed a real opportunity to talk about the hardships of the Latino community and what Danny went through. And like, what that wasn't Danny's story. That's not what he wanted to tell. Why would we force that narrative that you think we missed? When that wasn't Danny's story? I was like, How dare you tell Danny or like one of them said that he was too macho and aggrandizing when he talked about surviving in prison, I'm like, that's what it takes to fucking survive in prison. Tell him that he was too macho in prison, like, oh my god, like, I'm like, these are the people that dictate what projects we can see on television these days. So they're like, No, Danny's a little too macho for me. I don't like it. And I was like, what? He's actually if you actually paid attention to the film, he's super charming and funny. And super sweet. Yeah, he actually had to break down that Macho. I think this also made me I'm like, did you actually watch the fucking film because he talked about having to create that when he was in prison. But then he talks about having to break that down when he got out of prison and be welcoming. It was like, but that's critics boring. We're kind of like, what are you talking about?

Alex Ferrari 57:17
Because because people were terrified on onset, because he has that look. Yeah, that look that killer look that. I mean, I don't know if you know that or not. But I My first book was about me almost making a movie with the mafia. When I was really no, I didn't know that I'll tell you about. I'll tell you all about it after we get off. But I know what it's like to look into a killer's eyes. And there's a thing that's there. That's terrifying, even when they're not being scary. And Sandy had lived that way for so long that he just scared and actors and movie folk, hey, they're brittle. Let's just put it trying to be well, they're trying to be they try to be like,

Adam Scorgie 57:58
Well, that's like the famous part of the Danny tells when he came on to the movies, right? He went because everything good that happened to him as a direct result of helping somebody else, right. And he, frankly, and he can narrow that down to like, taking garbages out when he first got out of prison. And he went to go help a sponsor, because he's still a recovery like sponsor an addict. He's been sober for 50 years ago, he went to help somebody and it was middle of the night and he wound up on a movie set. He said all these guys were doing push ups and trying to look hard, and they had these fake tattoos and like, does this make me look tough? And Danny was like, Yeah, you'd be my pitch in prison, man. But Sure. You're right. And like, just because like you said, he just came with a natural heat gun this and then someone came up to me right away. They're like, wow, like, can you be an extra? And he was like, an extra one. They're like an extra movie. And he's like, What do you need me to do that? Like could you look like a convict and he just served 10 years so he's like, you just make that work? Right? Yeah, that's what they when they put the blues on him for like the sink is they're meant to play San Quentin where he served time and then he's like, you guys don't know but these blues they fit just right on me right were just a natural and right away of course in the Director Song and was like, and he makes jokes where they're like doing the you know, the squares like the the frame and, and Danny was like whispering to his buddies. Like, I don't know what gang sign that is. That's a new one. What is that? Right? They're like, No, that's like a movie frame. Right? He's like, Oh, and then they're like, you be in my movie because he was so natural, because he's like He lived it. But there's a part that didn't make it into the film that he talked about that really resonated with me that he said I had to untrain like I was involved in several prison riots one that almost got him sent to the gas chamber right when he's like when you're staring across the yard and you know, there's about to be a prison riot. You try to look so intimidating, that when the the crowds go together and fight each other that they're like, I'm gonna go to the guy next to him because that guy looks like he would bite my ear off and enjoy it right where he's like, so yes, when I came out, I didn't even realize at times that I had that look of protection because in prison, you can't show weakness. I had always looked like I kill anyone anytime. Don't fuck with me, right? So he's the guy took yours when I come out, and you'll see it now. He's 75 years old when people come, he always like sparks himself up to where he exhausts himself. Because when you introduce you, but hey, nice to meet you, Hey, nice to meet, because he's trying to deflect all the time that like he's not that guy anymore. In fact, I find he's really a big child now because he didn't get much of a childhood right because he was in and out of juvie when he's young, he was in prison very young. That he's like a big Joker and always making fun and he's you're really like, man, like, I know in his eyes if it went serious like you'd want to be the only guy you're scared of was him like was such a big kid or and Joker now that like he really was just a treat to work with.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:51
It was so funny because in the movie that he was on the set of Con Air. Yes, kind of air. There was so much machismo and yeah, so my testosterone so test so much testosterone that said, I could only imagine and everybody is on the set, like while they're setting something up talking about like all the tough times, and who's toughest and like all I went through this or that, and Nick Cage stood stands up and says, You guys can say whatever the hell you want. The only guy I'm scared of here is Danny. And Danny wants to say anything that is required in the corners like,

Adam Scorgie 1:01:26
Yeah, Danny was like, Why me? Man? Why are you picking on me? They're

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
Like, we know. We know. We know. Nobody. By the way, you're I got to see Bridgestone Bespin and Danny's movie. And dude, I love the way you shoot the docks. It's there because I've seen a million docks. And I've seen a million docks about you know, and actually, there's been docks on Danny before I've seen them. There's been many, but yours, it's so cinematic. And the way you do things it was they're very well done, man, you don't need me to tell you that. But

Adam Scorgie 1:02:01
It's always it's always great to hear from people in the industry. It's nice to get you know, it's what I always say about the awards, right? You don't do it for the awards. But it is nice to get recognized by your peers every once in a while because we've all been through the trenches, right? Where you're eating nerd for years, and you're getting. So it's always nice to hear that because I know we put a lot of emphasis in that like there is I will say for lack of better terms. I don't like to like say the score G brand. But there is a quality that is like, you know, it's why people are now coming to us like Man, these guys are out of Canada. They're ethical in their business, they treat you right, they care about the story. They're passionate about it. But of course there has to be a quality there if we if we had all those other elements, but we weren't delivering on the quality. We wouldn't continue to be working so but I really do appreciate that because we put so much into like always making sure that our lenses and like we're trying to make it feel more like a movie than it is although it is a doc we try to shoot it very, very cinematic.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:53
Yeah, the the interviews, the interview setups, the sets where the interviews are set up the the B roll that you shoot that I know, it's all the stuff that you shoot, it's really it was just really well, I was really impressed with how well it was put together, man, thank you.

Adam Scorgie 1:03:05
Because we put a ton of effort into that to the point where like, a lot of times when we're setting up the interviews, we're like, you know, when it's a big high profile people, they're like, oh, yeah, they just think that like, Oh, come on pop a camera or like, so we need access, like four hours before right in there, like four hours. We're like, well, like our lighting dates, two and a half hours, we want to

Alex Ferrari 1:03:23
It's like a movie, it's looking like

Adam Scorgie 1:03:26
We and there and then they you know, they always respect it once a year. But it for me like look, we don't need the talent there. We just need access to the location, right? So if you don't want it at your house, and you want us to get a studio, like we'll do that and then and then that part always drives me crazy, then the directors will be like, well, we'll provide them like 35 locations like three I'm not sure if any of those are gonna work. I'm like dude, you got to pick one here like we only have so much we can we're like we're trying to get it where there's no sound issues and we can control the lighting and like it

Alex Ferrari 1:03:53
It looks great, but we need to Subway it's underneath the subway. It's gonna be a problem. It's looks great though. It's just gonna be problem

Adam Scorgie 1:04:01
We've had that before.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:03
Of course we have of course we have cars. Yeah. So with the future of NFT's how can NFT's help you raise money for your film?

Adam Scorgie 1:04:14
So this is an interesting one where we're really looking like again that's kind of phase four for us right now where basically any money we make us the creative hoster key we're planning to just put right into the experiences in the community right if you're investing in us we want to invest it's right back in you. This way we have the discord and everything we're for those who don't know discord I kind of I was new to this. It is another app God forbid another one on your phone. It's kind of like Reddit on your phone. But you can get directly in contact with anybody from our film team. Me and my co my co founder mainly Shane were the ones that answer where if you have a question you want to sign say like, Hey, Adam, like how did you put your financing together for inmate Would you mind no problem. I'll get your email. I'll send you budgets I'd like soon as you're in the discord I consider that a community where I'll reach out to you and communicate as best I can. Now I am a father of three and that I don't know not maybe That incident, but it will be within a day. But where we think this can go, and we're still learning is that, you know, if the community comes big enough, and we keep investing into and we do these things, and then we can do these drops, we can do the custom grand pure maths and maybe like bizben gloves and things like that, where we can say, look, let's sell you an item and an NFT, where you can make money off of it, it'll be worth more than you paid for it, because we're partnering with all these big parties that will make it like opening a Wayne Gretzky rookie card for the first time, right? That we can take the money from that and say, hey, look like now that you bought the NF T's for this space, whether it be like somebody like doll for Bisping, or somebody that has built an audience, well, now we have the funds to do we're just going to go make the movie, and then we'll release it to our community, right? Like we already have the money through making sure the NFT's that we can do it that way and say look, distributors don't want to do it, or they don't have too many other greasy fingers and how they want to release and do all that. But we can do it ourselves. And then we've done like, I've kind of done this where at the festival things kind of an interesting thing for me, where, unless it's the real top tier festivals, which helped the sale of your film, correct. A lot of times now when people are like, Hey, want to come to the festival like dude, I know how to sell it, I haven't had it, we haven't not had a sellout. Like for COVID Everything of our things is sold out, I made 1000s of dollars from kind of like a the film festival gives me 150 bucks, or maybe 500 where I can sell it out and we could bring the talent and we could make 20 grand in one night and make an experience so you don't want to miss that. You know, why do I want to give that away? So we can then say hey, we can go to our community this is where we'd want community voting and stuff to be like how do you guys think we should release it we're thinking about doing you know, one solely for all of our our members of the score G Community let's throw a big party Let's invite the talent to do their do a q&a, where we could do all that in house and keep the profits and everything within our community rather than saying, Okay, let's just give it away to distributor that's going to overcharge over Marquette overspend, and we're never gonna get out of the hole. So that's the long game goal, right? And we don't have everything. I'm not gonna lie to your to the audience and say, I have all that figured out right now. Right? But that's where we see the evolution of NFT's in the film world where That's where it can get right was it we're all sick of the distributors and people telling us what's going to work what's not going to work and having to you know, if you deal in the scripted world, you know, where they're like, No, you need this actor and you're like, No, but this actor is perfect, right? Like this guy because they were on Twilight is going to sell more. So we have to put them even though they're not perfect not to disk Twilight. My kids love it, but you can.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:24
Absolutely you can absolutely disk twilight.

Adam Scorgie 1:07:26
Okay, it's like but that's, that's where for me, just like when people said crowdfunding would never work or this would never. That's where I see the long term coming is that as this constantly evolves, and the blockchain and cryptocurrency and and NF T's are able to allow ownership, as well as just like someone said it perfectly like web one was reading web two was interacting with three allows ownership right where then it's secured by the blockchain allows ownership is that's where we ultimately see that it could go right, it's not there yet. No one's done it yet. But I definitely think just like when we did crowdfunding, and nobody understood before crowdfunding was a term when we build social media pages before those were like regular business tools. I definitely see the practicality coming in. Especially, I see it in the dock space. I don't know specifically, I'm sure it could work in the scripted world, too. I just don't know that world as well. But I've just seen how like when we did visit things premiere in Manchester, like, like it was funny, because universal set it up with the Manchester Film Festival. And originally they put it in one of their modest theaters in the UK, right? Well, this one posted one thing it sold out, like insolence. So then they're like, Well, shit, well, we need, we need to put more so then they put a bigger theater, then they upped the ticket prices and put it in a bigger theater, right? Because we ended up selling out the biggest theater they had. And there was not a empty seat of great because bisbing was going to be there during the q&a and do it. And he was so good about every photo, every person wants to talk to him. Like the movie started half an hour late because everybody wanted photos. And he was funny because I knew the moment he came in because they had this great red carpet media. And they had us all lined up the director and myself and the other producers to do questions and interviews. And all of a sudden, there's this big crowd in front of us stadium, and then all of a sudden, I can see them all just go over here. And there's like the two people interviewing me laughed, and I was like, Oh, bisbing must have come through the doors, right? Because all of a sudden, they were like, Oh, over here, which was awesome as it should be. It's about him. I don't really it was nice to only have to do those interviews normally mean the director doing more, but when the talents there who needs us? We're not as important but even that seeing how the theater like you could do that where we could go on tour this thing and I know it's his schedule he would sell out even did just to like a kind of comedy behind the cage. It's called the tour over sold out in the biggest venues all over the UK, where you're kind of like how hard is that as a producer? You're like, well, I can call venues I can set up insurance and fire and I'm like, that's what I have to do for a movie. Right? Like that's all and distributors now because the streaming they've gotten so lazy, where a lot of them were like No, we're just gonna put on platforms like they'll want those rights from you, but they won't do anything with them. Right? They'll be like, we want all the rights and then so we now we're in a fortunate position because As again, that talent is our partner, we tell them that we say hey, like if you want other promotion like, are you going to do anything with theatrical rights? Well, no. Then we're going to take those back. Right? Are you going to do anything with the pay per view? Vote things? No. Okay, well, then we're going to take those back, right? If you don't, you're not going to use them. We're not going to include them in the sale because we know we're creative hustlers we'll do it ourselves. We'll work with the talent will put good money in his pocket, good money in our pocket. And we'll make life experiences that everybody's like, man, like that was one of the coolest things. All the people that came to Manchester that I do, they're like, I drove three hours like I'm so glad that is the best movie experience. Like, you know, imagine you watch this being that emotional roller coaster in the real life, Rocky, that accomplished become a world champion, one fuckin AI. But then he's there. He's crying. Like he's so emotional now. Like, he's not. It's funny, because he's like, I watched his like, look back and I'm like, I was crazy. I can't believe I did all that shit. Because he's retired. He's comfortably retired. He's doing very well.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:56
Do movies now?

Adam Scorgie 1:10:57
Oh, yeah. And every time he saw his kids on screen, he was great. And then even for the talent a lot of times like sure, they've seen the rough cut, but to watch audience and they see all these people talk through stories. They're like, visiting was an emotional wreck that night, right. And he was like, he kept crying and try to be an everyone in the theater. Like, you know, they're like, man, like, he got two standing ovations, one when the movie ended, and one when the q&a ended, when I've been to Sundance and South by Southwest, and I've been there where, you know, they're sold out, and then the actors come on, and they talk, you know, most of the audience will stay, but a lot will leave. I am not exaggerating, that not a person left for that q&a. Foreigner Vicey beater, one guy got up like 20 minutes into the q&a, went to walk out visiting jokes, I finally got sick of my face to my voice and the guy's like, Oh, my, I just gotta go take a piss. And we'll be right back. Right? Like, we're just figuring that like down the road. It's like, okay, well, we already know how to do that. Like, I can call the theater, I can get insurance, I can line up the talent. There are 50-50 partner if distributors don't want to take us, right, like we can do this with our entity community provide ownership to our audience, as well, where, you know, they'll have an NFT and then they can forge it, make it real, come meet this thing, get it signed, make it one of a kind, do all those kinds of things where it's like, look, we can bypass the distributor that overcharges for marketing and publicity and all the shit right that just, I don't want to talk about which distributor but recently, we had a film where we did great this last quarter. But somehow, of course, their costs were more than the quarter were like, quite shocking, but it's been out for two years. Like what the fuck are you spending marketing and then miscellaneous charges of 70,000 I'm like, What the fuck is that 70 thousand in miscellaneous?

Alex Ferrari 1:12:37
Thieves, man, they're just such thieves.

Adam Scorgie 1:12:39
So this is where when my partner really kind of broke it down to me shame fantasy wasn't on today, my co founder when he was like, Adam, that's the long term goal in addition to providing like we can do some really cool collectibles. We can offer the film community and the utility part of it. I was like, Okay, I will put my name in Baghdad completely because I just like we did with the Kickstarter campaign raising quarter million dollars we satisfied all our backers there. We've always been good at connecting with our community and writing back that's how I I didn't even know that's like a business tool. But when I was first doing our first films and just responding to everybody that would reach out through Facebook and Instagram, always reaching out even the negative people early on, I don't reply to the negative people now when people hate on it, I don't know. Yeah, but you know, when you start and you first get that you put so much emphasis Oh, it's like your it's like your four year old it's like I think is a movie you know, our first movie took four years maybe removed stupid and you're like what we're gonna learn and you go on there but you learn you're like, Dude, that's like it's sad because they need that attention that you don't waste your time take the time to respond the nice people that took time to reply to you so negative and then I you know, as I thought I had matured and evolved I would just respond with bone people like your movie sucked. I'm like, Thank you for tuning in. They're like, No, I didn't like your movie. I'm like still thank you for tuning in. Like fuck you. I didn't like your movie. You're like that's fine.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:57
Because you just can't let it go Adam.

Adam Scorgie 1:13:58
Just couldn't let it go. Again. Now I find me now that I have gray hair.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:04
Are you enlightened? Are you are you enlightened now Have you have you transcended

Adam Scorgie 1:14:08
Yes I think I have quite quite sophisticated now as I'm in the legacy market that I'm able to just let that one go into the roof.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:16
Oh my god I first my first film came out man i every single negative review today that I adjust dates days of life that I will never get back from wasting my time on bitter feeling bitter people and angry bitter people. But it's it's all good. I have to ask you a question Do you with with a movie like let's say Trey hill right with Danny Treehouse movie. You're, I'm assuming you're gonna create some cool like trail tacos and FTS or something. Did like that. Um, the thing that's cool about it is that yeah, there's a time limit. I mean, there's a there's an expiration date, quote. record on undocks generally speaking on films, you know, things that were around 10 years ago, you know, even things I want to ask because you're not going back very often and go see, you know, there is a time limit. Yeah. But with the NFT aspect of it, you could arguably continue to release collectibles on the park because a person doesn't have the expiration date. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You know, but, you know, so in five years, this is still going to be Bespin. Yeah, in five years, Danny, God Willing will still be Daddy, you know, and, and Dolph will still be Dolph, and all of those things. So you can constantly almost continue to build that ecosystem of collectibles and other things and experiences with that talent. You could partner with them to almost be the exclusive place where the NF T's for them are built purely because you've built that environment up, you've built that trust up, you're handling all the heavy lifting for them. And you have the audience as well that not only their audience, but the other audiences that you've built together. So you got Danny's this Ben and Dolph. Let's say so then when Danny comes out Duff's people that don't want to get dan in business, people like that. Because you're all within the same kind of world. It's not like you're doing a ballet dancer, and a hockey player. You're doing everything that sits in the world. So it's a very, that's the way I see it for my

Adam Scorgie 1:16:38
No, you hit the nail that that's what we, that's when my producing partner Shane brought it to me say, Adam, we're in such a great ecosystem. And we're forever when you do the bio doc for them, like even hear that you are like forever connected to them. Like people always just get random stories from our friend be like, Look, I saw this Danny trailer article. I'm like, that's cool. Yeah, there's lots of articles because they're just, I'm associated with him now, right? And then I'm associated with Grant fear. And I'm associated with, like, I just got a text while we were on here saying, Hey, man, can grant still play? Like we're trying to do a charity game? Do you think we could sue them up and get stuff laid out? Like, we're forever associated, like, all the time, like, my business was always just the film. So like any business that came to these guys, I would just throw it to them like a Superbowl commercial. The NFL reached out to me because Danny, and I was like, here, I'll just connect you with Gloria like, I like his manager. And like, I didn't just GLORIA Yeah, like I was like, I don't have it's like, just reach out there. Right. So it's, it's we are ever forever connected. And is we constantly take care of our teams like we do feel it's a family and you build a bit more of that, like kind of we mentioned earlier in the podcast, there is a special connection built with the doc is you're doing their story. And you're, you're you're in a way, not that they do it for brand. But when you tell the story, right, and you inspire people, it only helps them in their other things, right? So when you say look, we're going to bring this we're going to do a continuation, we're going to do an inmate shoe, right? Because like for Danny work has his number at the beginning of the dock is is my number was B 948. Because I know actually artifact which they're looking at doing something like that, because universal didn't lock up the NFT rights on that one yet. It wasn't in there called eight showed up in the bizben contract, which made me looked at I'm like, Oh, they're getting savvy to this, right. They're starting to not they want to lock this stuff up. But that's where we keep going. If you don't, are you going to do anything? What's your plan, because we're now educating ourselves in that industry. So if you're not bringing anything quantifiable or anything valuable, you're going to create something stupid that has no utility, no community is going to die off after just a you know, like a stock dump, right? Where they're like, Oh, we're just gonna create these art and then it just dies afterwards. Right? Well, we're not interested. Right? We're

Alex Ferrari 1:18:44
NFT's are really about community. Yeah, it's about it's about community. And yeah, I mean, when you look at it, like a comic book or baseball card, that's, that is a community that's a very massive community that everyone likes Batterman everyone who likes you know, a baseball player, a hockey player, football player, but this is really about building an ecosystem for yourself, and that you have all of this this cachet with all of these all this talent allows you to build this all out. It's like a just a wonderful ecosystem that everyone eats everyone is everyone's take.

Adam Scorgie 1:19:20
And that's and that's what we're trying to make sure that we're really and that's where again, like, unlike if you because people say okay, well it's like joining the guild I'm like on Except unlike the guild, if you want to get rid of your creative hustler key you can just go to open C and you could sell it right you don't get that with the guild fees right what you have to pay annually This is a one time fee we're not going to tack on any of these bullshit things ever it is okay well now there's going to be a yearly fee that gets saying no, if you're not happy gonna open see and sell it right if you don't like that if you're like, hey, you know I'm out of the film industry now the you know, the experiences and the communities not for me, no problem go. You know, I'm confident we can never guarantee it but I'm pretty confident you'll at least get your money back if not make more because they are good. it'd be a finite resource, it's never going to be made again. So you will be able to sell them. So that's where we even said to the film communities that we're going to give them to him like it's the best scholarship you could get. You can use it for a couple years and if you find it's not for you and go sell it afterwards, the other scholarships usually like $1,000, to Walter to whites lighting company, they can only use in Burbank, if you're in Burbank, and you're like, that's fucking useless, right? Like, I'm gonna be there to do that. So when I'm trying to provide something that people really do find valuable. And by being on the discord, we're open to suggestions and how we can evolve and how we can change it. We're not planning to come out of the gates and nail it. We think we have an 85 to 90% there, because we're ground guys. That's even why we called it the creative hustler keeper, three guys in the basement suite that defied the odds and made it work. Our first film was a cult classic. When everybody said nobody wants to see a cannabis film. We're like, okay, they did, and it made money. Then every said nobody wants to see another Cannabis Film. We went to Kickstarter, we raised $242,000.42 days. Clearly the audience did want to see another one. And both those films were invited by the Liberal Party here in Canada to help draft the legalization bill that is now in place in Canada because cannabis is federally legalized here. Both films were invited by the Liberal Party to screen for bipartisan screenings to draft the bill that is now in place. So three guys in the basement suite made a giant impact again. Now I'm not saying the film's did everything. But the Liberals have told us that they received so many emails and hard mail because it was a combination of the time that they had to bring in the film and they had to take a look at it. And to be honest, I don't know how well you guys call Justin Trudeau but he is not a popular guy here in Canada. The main reason he won the popular vote was the cannabis vote. They did pay attention to the film, the film brought in those two films brought in so many letters and emails, that it was enough for the Liberals to go hey, we might actually win the youth vote based on this right which is always top voter group, right? In the United States or Canada. How do you get the youth to vote? How do you get the youth vote? So they try to trigger them with emotional things gender, religion, all those things that you know the youngsters all ages get into but how do you get the youth to vote? Cannabis was the one like shit that's why I voted for Trudeau and I'll never vote for him again because he sucks but he got me on the marijuana thing and like always no legalize cannabis got me there. Right. Well, it's legal. So yeah, it's federally legal. So he did and the sky didn't fall we've all the propaganda this like it said for years, it doesn't mean mass shootings in the sky. No, the sky didn't fall. The sky fell more with COVID than it did with that. That was where the sky fell.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:29
Bro man, I'm gonna ask you a few questions that asked all my guests, man. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Adam Scorgie 1:22:36
Whoo. That's a good one. I like that one. Probably the best advice that I would recommend is that, you know, when as we talked about in the podcast, when you feel that there's you're working with a scumbag producer get out of there sooner than later, right? Like, if you have to do it for money, I know I did that. But try to find that one that really is producer, a director or someone that doesn't mind taking the extra five to 10 minutes to help you when you find that diamond in the rough stick to that person and be loyal and work hard for them. Don't get clouded by just the big name company. Because if you're the big name company and you're surrounded by scumbags chances are you're gonna learn, you know, scumbag habits and night, you might end up being something that you never want it to be. So that fortunately, I've been lucky enough that I've never had to go down that path. But I know others that went down that path. And I don't think they meant to be malicious. I just think when you're kind of like live circumstance, and that's how you're kind of born and raised or trained. And now you're going to get into the industry, you're going to just think it's normal to overcharge indie filmmakers, and steal their rights and do those things because that's just how you were trained to do it. So that would be my thing, if you can find and there are and it does seem to be that culture shifting, that when you find those people stick with them. Stick with those people.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:50
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Adam Scorgie 1:23:56
I'm still learning how to be a good husband? I think my wife reminds me every week I'm failing on that so

Alex Ferrari 1:24:02
if I may quote bill, but if I may quote Bill Barr, a bill Bill Burr Bill Burke's union Bill Barr, the comedian the standard comic is like, why is it that in our relationship with my wife, they're always I'm always the project. I'm always working on me always the one working on me. Yeah, he's perfect, but I'm the one that's got all the problems.

Adam Scorgie 1:24:26
Yes. So I if we're talking work related though, like in my life, I'm still learning how to do that even like I think I figured out you're pretty good dad. My kids who will say I'm okay they're the husband thing I'm constantly working on me me. In I'm the project I'm the cause I am the ever evolving project. I can deliver world class award winning movies, but I can't seem to deliver me in an award winning fashion. I'm working remote.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:53
We're remodeling you all the time on your kitchen, your the kitchen or the bathroom that needs to be remodeled all the time.

Adam Scorgie 1:25:02
In the industry, the thing that probably took the hardest to learn in Canada, it's the financing system. Right? And two reasons. One is they said early on, there's very few that were willing to teach you because they felt thank God for guys like Gord riddle and Michael Bob Ross, guys here that showed me how to do it. And to the other part of that is to be honest, it's the lazy part, because it's the unmagic part of filmmaking. Nobody really wants to read government here in Canada, like government bureaucratic, like, how do you apply for a federal tax credit? How do you provide provincial and how do you combine the two, that is miserable reading, but if you're coming from the Canadian system, or the American system, understanding the finances is the key to a killer producer, right? That is now everybody comes to me, and people like to hear you're the Whiz. And I think it's hilarious because like, I'm the guy that had to cheat in math class, and I still barely passed. And now I'm considered the Whiz and I'm doing air quotes for your listeners of like, financing because I had to learn the hard way. And there was days where it was really tough. Because, you know, I think like a lot of people I struggled to focus, I probably add and stuff where you know, it's put the phone down, have a coffee, turn everything off on your browser and read this boring shit and understand it. Getting the talent and pitching. That's the fun part, right going out there and the excitement going to markets. Everybody wants to do that part. It was like that real realization, when you turn the light bulb on, you're like, oh, that's what high school is trying to teach me for five years. Embrace the suck, so that you're ready for the moment when it comes and you can crush it. Right? So that was the hardest part for me is really learning. Like, I hated that stuff and always tried to put it off. And then I realized, like, well, I don't know how to do that. How good of approved reusser am I if someone starts asking me finances, and I don't know how it works, I had to learn the shitty stuff. And I realized once I learned that, then that's when this was no longer a hobby. And it became how I supported my family because now I understood every aspect. I knew how to go to the banks and get the money. I knew how to deal with the federal provincial government. I knew how to do all that stuff where panels and stuff were paying me to come do their where it was the stuff I least wanted to learn, but had to do going back to our boy Arnold, he's like, do the stuff. You want to do least work on that because the other stuff will come. So for me when I focused on that, that's when I found my business took off.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:20
And three of your favorite films of all time.

Adam Scorgie 1:27:23
Oh, man, do you know this is like impossible because there's genres or different types.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:28
Just three that come to your mind right now, sir.

Adam Scorgie 1:27:30
Okay, right now because I'm working with them. Like, I know, everybody knows, most people know Dolph Lundgren for Ivan Drago. But for me, it was a very different movie. That was a huge part of my childhood that I've watched a million times is Masters of the Universe. Yes. I fucking loved him in that like when I first saw him turnaround in that scene, and then he kills like the two guys and he's good. I was like, That is Hema, that is who I pictured as him and like when he was in, he was jacked. He was like, the hair. I was like that yeah, that that's talking to you, man. Like he cut me off. Like it's funny because like, a lot of people don't know him as human. And I'm like, How did you meet all my cousins? watch that movie a million times? Like, I know it didn't do good in the box off. It did not pan but but as a kid, I all loved it. I like so that's up there for me. I love masters in the universe.

Alex Ferrari 1:28:17
Red Scorpion red scorpion.

Adam Scorgie 1:28:19
Oh, I love red. I do I've watched all dolph stuff I love dark Angel.

Alex Ferrari 1:28:23
Oh geez you leave I come it's actually called I come in peace because I'm working at the video store. When it came out they changed it to this dark angel crap but yeah, I come in peace.

Adam Scorgie 1:28:34
It's got two titles depending what territory are in some is right easy. Other ones it's like daddy's like and leave in pieces. Like genius. I love so so I was big doll fan. That's why the opportunity to work with him. I was like hell yeah, but it's amazing. We're just most people know him because Ivan Drago and Expendables right? But mass was a universe. I got to put Goodfellows in there. It's one of my all time favorites, right Joe Pesci he's like just hard to to beat there and then oh, if I'm going like I do, like the adventure ones II I'd say let's go like either will or T two are right up there for me.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:09
Ooh, wow. Those are two

Adam Scorgie 1:29:11
I think Val Kilmer is mad Morgan that er Doc Holliday are like two of my favorite characters that he ever played. And then obviously Terminator Judgment Day when you can get a thumb going down and lava make you cry as a kid. Like I was like, and that's what I was just

Alex Ferrari 1:29:27
I was just watching Ready Player One. Oh then and then the Iron Giant when he was going down

Adam Scorgie 1:29:38
You see easter eggs and that is like it just makes you like that movie is very underappreciated To me that's out there. Thinking of things thinking like obviously a never ending story. That's the first movie ever cried to bawled my eyes out. Oh, no. I saw that for Bambi. So I wasn't the typical Bambi

Alex Ferrari 1:29:57
The horse man come on You can't kill the horse. Sorry. Spoiler alert, the horse dies

Adam Scorgie 1:30:06
He comes back at the end though he comes back in the end.

Alex Ferrari 1:30:08
Yes, yes, he does. Yes he does. But brother man listen, it has been such a pleasure meeting you and talking to you and I'm excited about what you guys are doing and I hope it inspires some people to figure out what they want to do and how they can use this new space to kind of raise money for their films, sell their films, build a community around their films, build a career and a business around their movies which is what I'm all about is trying to help filmmakers actually make a living at this insanity.

Adam Scorgie 1:30:34
Yeah, that's like you heard me say like turning it from a hobby to a business right is always the toughest part when you can do that I'm always down to help other people to do that too. So I love that we connected man I really appreciate you having me on I do and I enjoyed the hell out of this I'd like I would love to do it again just to wrap even if we're not recording we're not come down in Austin. We're gonna hang out man, we're gonna go question to barbecue and I know the holiday thank you very, very much for having me on and for your listeners. If you for those of you that are interested in the creative hustler key, you can go to creativehustlerkey.com the presale is going to start this weekend on the 16th you have to join our Discord and saying that you're on this podcast, say like, Hey, I heard and from the podcast, just acknowledge yourself in the general chat. We'll put you on the whitelist for the presale because we do anticipate these to sell out like I know just here in Alberta alone, like all the communities are chomping at the bit just to just for the Rolodex access and stuff like that, right? People are wanting to get in there. So you know, please join our Discord. If you go to creativehustler.com You'll be able to find we've got it step by step all laid out. Even if you want to just come and don't want the carpet just be part of the community and be in the discord like please, by all means do that as well. But yeah, and then the regular sale will go April 17. So but today, if you're supporting the hustler podcast, the end then you will if you announce that you came through there in the discord, then you'll get whitelisted to get into pre sales on 16.

Alex Ferrari 1:31:52
Awesome, brother. I appreciate you, man. Thank you again, buddy.

Adam Scorgie 1:31:56
No, thank you appreciate it.

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IFH 573: Vampires, The Devil and Working in Hollywood with Brian Nelson

Today on the show we have screenwriter Brian Nelson. 

Nelson holds degrees from Yale University and from UCLA. He worked as a drama instructor at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia in the early 1980s, where he taught Gilmore Girls actress Lauren Graham, Little Miss Sunshine screenwriter Michael Arndt, and UCLA screenwriting instructor Brian David Price.

Nelson’s numerous writing credits include episodes of the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict, JAG and the Disney television series’ So Weird and In a Heartbeat as well as the feature film Hard Candy. He also wrote the play “Overlooked” and co-wrote the script for the vampire film 30 Days of Night, which was released in late 2007 and helmed by Hard Candy director David Slade.

Nelson wrote the script for the M. Night Shyamalan-produced thriller Devil. Nelson wrote episodes 3 and 8 of the Netflix original series Altered Carbon, as well as executive-producing the show.

His new project is Agent Stroker.

AGENT STOKER is a paranormal thriller – part Raymond Chandler, part Philip K. Dick, and all macabre all the time. AGENT STOKER is the love child of The Shadow and Black Mirror, it’s “The X-Files with a drinking problem.”

AGENT STOKER is the tale of a wounded man working for the Night Brigade, tracking data points that might just indicate coming apocalypse. AGENT STOKER is scripted supernatural fiction created by Chris Conner and Brian Nelson (both from Altered Carbon). 

Brian and I had on heck on a fun time talking shop. Enjoy my conversation with Brian Nelson.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome the show Brian Nelson. How're you doing? Brian?

Brian Nelson 0:14
So far so good.

Alex Ferrari 0:16
We have been talking for I don't know, 20,30,40 minutes before we even got started. So I have a good feeling about this conversation. I think we're gonna have a lively, a lively, you know, trip down the rabbit hole of screenwriting in the craft and a few other surprises, I'm sure. So before we get started, how did you get? First of all, why? And how did you get started in this business? Like, this is a ridiculous?

Brian Nelson 0:42
Why would anyone get started?

Alex Ferrari 0:44
This is this is an insane business. Like, you know, it's insane. How did you get started?

Brian Nelson 0:49
I had the fortune not to know how insane it would be before I am.

Alex Ferrari 0:53
Fair enough,

Brian Nelson 0:55
You know, long version or short version, which would you like,

Alex Ferrari 1:00
Whichever you'd like to whichever one? Whichever, whichever feel you feel like you like because we're gonna be here for a minute

Brian Nelson 1:06
I make my own grave.

Alex Ferrari 1:07
Right, exactly.

Brian Nelson 1:08
Right. All right. Um, for for various reasons that are part of the long version, I had this notion that, oh, maybe I'll try to like work a number of different jobs over my life. So I worked for a little while as a high school teacher and I worked for a little while as a theatre director. And then I'm thought, you know, I'm gonna move into writing. And of course, once I moved into writing, that means working in new jobs all the time. So I didn't have to actually continue that model. Because I was constantly as a writer, you were, you know, reinventing yourself all the time, and you are taking on new territory and responsibilities all the time. 10 years ago, I had to learn everything there was to learn about Florence and the Italian Renaissance for Da Vinci's demons. Little later, I had to learn everything there was to I read every word we still have written by Lee Harvey Oswald, because I was doing a deep dive into the Kennedy assassination for 1122 63. So so that is part of it was that I had this sort of sweet, idealistic notion of, oh, let's just live a life where you're constantly reinventing yourself. And then I stumbled upon this career where I'm, in fact, already constantly reinventing myself. So get Be careful what you wish for. You know, having said that, I mean, I've always on some level, you know, I was that kid in first grade, I was writing little episodic stories, like, wow, yeah, I know, I stumbled upon this one day. And I was like, I did this. But yes, here's like, in my little first grade handwriting, there's chapter five, where there's like a team have, like, sort of Mission Impossible type, operatives. And, and, and they all kind of happened to be my friends, but they all had code names. And I was x five, who was secretly the robot, which, what does that say about my like, self image, and we'll leave that for later. At any rate, so So I've always, you know, since since my earliest memories been, sometimes despite myself, I've been a storyteller and, and, and to get like, a little more thoughtful about it, you know, I think that on some level, that's our job as humans is to take a universe that seems without reason frequently and figure out the reasons make things make sense. You know, that's our gift as humans is to be able to interpret a possibly meaningless reality and ascribe meaning to it and make sense of our lives that way. So I figured out somehow within all that, how to actually make a living doing the thing that I think humans should be doing anyway, so, so far, so good.

Alex Ferrari 4:22
Yeah. And you're absolutely right. I think it's, it's, it's it for a writer, I think it is our responsibilities to to be able to give some sort of meaning to this insanity, that we are just our life and why we're here and what's going on and doing these deep dives, especially you know, going you know, doing research on your career. And you just mentioned a couple like the you know, the Renaissance and the the Kennedy assassination and there's those a couple of vampires in there and there's a devil in there as well. There's a few other things that you've you've really delved into a lot of things but as storytellers you're absolutely right. It is our job to kind of do that in an entertaining fashion because That's what we were doing around the campfire. You know, 1010 20,000 50,000 years ago, it's, you know, and stories I always tell people stories are they saved your life because if you didn't tell the story about the tiger who ate that guy around the corner, down by the river, if that story didn't get out, the tiger would still be eating people left and right.

Brian Nelson 5:22
Well put, and you know, I have a friend who told me once, like, I actually get into that whole campfire thing when I'm pitching a story to executives, like, I channel all of like the 1930s radio drama energy that I can. Yeah, a friend says, Yes, Brian, you have this, what he calls this, your dark campfire Mojo, where you're telling this story and you're making it clear that like, if people don't listen, something terrible might happen. So yeah, your your best, Orson Welles, your best Orson Welles. This is not the first time that that analogy is true.

Alex Ferrari 6:06
Now, you did a movie called Hard Candy in back in 2005. I remember when it came out. And it kind of it was very risque for that for its time. I remember, people were like, what? Like, they were really It caught? It really caught a lot of fire. How did you get from the How did you get from the script, to production, to Sundance and then and then you know, finally getting it distributed.

Brian Nelson 6:35
I mean, hardcat it was a tremendous experience. For me, I had been working as a writer for a little over 10 years where I'd done I've been in a writers room on a series, I'd written a miniseries written a mini series that did various freelance gigs. But also, I was like, trying to figure out how to, like, let things catch fire. And, and honestly, I had no idea that hard candy would be the thing that caught fire, but a producer named David Higgins had read a play of mine and head said, let's figure something out. And and he had a sort of clever idea. He was at the time a development executive himself who wanted to move into producing and his thought was I'm going to sort of see if I could come up with like, logline sentences for movies that could be made for like $15 and and find writers and develop them that way. And so we kicked the idea, various ideas around and one day he said, You know, there's this there's this story that I read about in Japan where these underage teenage girls would lure businessman up to their apartment with the promise of illicit dangerous sex, and then beat them up and rob them. And and we talked about like, it's really interesting, this dynamic of you start the story thinking, Oh, I should be afraid for this person. And then you realize, except maybe I should be afraid of them. And that was a felt like a juicy dynamic to consider and so we kept talking I shaped out really of a shockingly miniscule treatment I think it was like maybe four four and a half pages. And and David managed to say you know, I think we got something here but of course, I have no money but if you thought about specking it I bet we could sell it and it happened to be New Years and so I was like well, resolutions Fresh Start Sure. Let's give it see what happens if I give two or three days a week to just seeing what happens if I move forward with this story which at this point on the on the treatment was called Vendetta is very lame.

Alex Ferrari 9:17
Very beat very be very 80's be movie

Brian Nelson 9:20
Yeah. How to call it something. And fast forward on the title theme when we eventually were in production. We were like, well, we need a new title. I pitched her a while the idea of let's call it snip snip. Oh, and amazing. Always get some reaction but Hagen's Hagins to his credit, maybe not the reaction a

Alex Ferrari 9:52
Little too little too far.

Brian Nelson 9:54
So so he said, You know, there's that there's that movie where like the cheerleaders robbed the bank where it's called Sugar and spice. And maybe there's something in that vein where we talk about the like, bad dynamic. And so, along those terms, I pitched hard candy and as the title and that's what it became. So I've written the script, the script wrote remarkably fast. I mean, I, it just felt like I'm onto something here, it was one of those situations where like, you know, you, you set a certain quota for yourself of how many pages you want to try to draft a day. Sure, routinely, I was like, exceeding my quota and like, hitting dinnertime and going, I could keep going, I'd maybe I should stop now, while I still know what the next lines will be. I mean, it was just, it felt very fluid. I was at the right point, I think in my life and career to like, channel a lot of different influences. And it came also partly out of my theater experience. I had trained as a director in theater, Hagen's his plan B was, if we, if we never get any money to make this, then you know, Brian, you know, actors, we could just, you know, max out our credit cards and rent a digital video camera, and shoot it in my house. And so while I was writing, I was actually had in the back of my mind, right things that can shoot in David's house. You know, I was sort of choreographing it. I was writing it sure, you know, like a stage director thinking, Alright, now we should move to the kitchen, or when in fact, one day I got a ladder, and I walked up on the roof of David's house, you know, to see what that would feel like. David lived in a house all that also at that time that had a little interior rock garden with that, that we were like, there could be a safe under there, and so forth. So So I wrote it in a way for production, which I think was smart, something that helped. We sent this script around, we got a lot of great response. We got we got people who were like, people from studios were like, This is so great. Don't send it to us. Because we'll only screw it up. You know,

Alex Ferrari 12:26
That's just what you want to hear. Just what you want to hear

Brian Nelson 12:29
Fascinating response. And I mean, on some level, they weren't wrong, that they were like, you know, they they were basically saying, no, if you, if you do it here, then like you'll the development process will make will bleed everything special out of it. And it will turn out to be not a movie, where you know, this, this young kid executes this diabolical revenge, but she'll turn out to be Holly Hunter pretending to be a young kid or, you know,

Alex Ferrari 13:00
But isn't. But isn't it amazing, though Hollywood has I've never, I've never found another industry or another place where Hollywood, other than Hollywood, that they give you the nicest efuse I've ever heard. I mean, it's it's artistic. It's art. And that was that is I agree with you, although in this case, I prefer not to think of it as it No, it was, it was a little bit of it

Brian Nelson 13:23
Like wise, you know? Sure, counsel. So we started looking into how to how to make this independently. And Higgins thought, you know, if we find a director ourselves that we like, then we could present ourselves as a package. And frankly, a great aspect of this as well was that then the directors relationship would be with us. Because it turns out that you're your biggest loyalty is is often to the people that you saw as bringing you into the project. And so having that bond with a with a director that way was was tremendous for us. So we looked at reels of various people. And, you know, one of 17 Incredibly lucky things that happened on this project was we ran across the work of David Slade, who had been directing commercials and music videos, but had not done a feature was looking to do his first feature. And you know, we'd like very quickly realized, Oh, my God, here's a here's someone who could, as you see in hard candy, he could take a teenager looking through a file cabinet and make it look like The Bourne Identity.

Alex Ferrari 14:43
That's what commercials and music video directors have. They have that eye

Brian Nelson 14:47
He knows he knows how to shoot the hell out of something. And so we became this package. I will refer to them by their last names a lot since they're both David and but we became this package of me and Higgins at Slade And we looked to various indie funders. There was one group that actually gave us offered us twice the money we made it for. But their deal was, but you'll have to, like make it with our people. And Slade had very strong feelings about know if I'm going to make this for a price, it has to be my team that I know. Right? And I already have shorthand with that I can work with instantly. And so we were funded by Vulcan production productions, which was Paul Allen's company. And and they basically wrote us a check for a million dollars, which was a lot and not much at all. And we we hired an ingenious line producer whose job was to lie to us and tell us there was not much money left. Right. And, you know, we kept coming at him, he would eventually say, Well, I did squirrel away some money. And

Alex Ferrari 16:11
Yes, I love I love like producers who do that they're like, Well, you know, I I hit a little bit of money and put in design, so you can pull that out there. Oh, and props. I threw a couple extra grand over there. Oh, it's the best.

Brian Nelson 16:23
And, and so I'm gonna try to angle my camera here. Yes, yes. If you could see it,

Alex Ferrari 16:32
Oh, it's an amazing poster. That's an amazing poster. Yes,

Brian Nelson 16:35
That is this kind of collector's item. This is the poster that we made ourselves to take to Sundance

Alex Ferrari 16:45
Amazing, amazing design amazing design.

Brian Nelson 16:48
You know, equally amazing was the Lions Gate design when Lions Gate eventually picked us up?

Alex Ferrari 16:55
Oh, yeah,

Brian Nelson 16:56
That design of Haley in the hoodie, standing of that giant bear trap. Oh, unbelievable design. And I have that right and elsewhere. But this particular poster is always special to me, because it was seen only by, you know, 190 people at Sundance.

Alex Ferrari 17:14
So I'll tell you what, in 2005, we did you guys go into the it was the Sundance 2005. Sundance, right? Yes. That was my first year at Sundance. And I remember walking, and I was walking, I was walking Main Street. And I remember seeing the poster. And I remember hearing about an A here and we were there promoting our short film. And it was just like, Man, that's a great idea. And I just like in the in the marketing for that looks really cool. And it was just, you know, for people, Sundance was a whole lot different in 2005 than it is today. It's just a whole other. It hasn't turned into what it is today. And but I do remember oh five, and I remember walking the streets. And I remember seeing the poster and I remember hearing about that movie. So yeah,

Brian Nelson 17:57
It felt I will say it felt like a lot today a lot lot in 2005 Even I mean, it was it was that the place was jammed. And, you know, Sundance is is also I will take a moment to say, you know, wonderful in many ways and helped launch as and at the same time. Boy, they are focused on directors. So like, you know, the artists so much on the writer, not so much the writer. No, no, the artistic director introduced the film as written and directed by David Slade and David had to say I actually. And Sundance had not made a badge for me.

Alex Ferrari 18:38
Oh,

Brian Nelson 18:41
I tell that not to shame send it well, no, a little bit, just a little bit. But actually, not having a badge turned out to be great. Because they were like, well, we have a badge, but the name of your film. So I walked around town all week. And my dad said I was hard candy, and take that the wrong way. But I'd be on a bus and people would see my badge and they'd go, Oh, my God, I love that film. And, you know, whereas had I been wearing a badge that said, Brian Nelson, I just, you know, I wouldn't have any nobody would have talked to me, but I actually was wearing my own PR. And really that turned out to be honest. You know, if I'm at Sundance again, I probably want to do the same strategy and not have a badge but just have a badge with the name of my film because that was magic.

Alex Ferrari 19:43
Oh my god, that must have been amazing experience. And then it goes on to to do you know, well, it got picked up and it does well it gets critically acclaimed. So now how does the town treat you? Because you've been around you've been around for a few years. You're not you know, you didn't just show up with Your first spec script you've been writing.

Brian Nelson 20:03
It's interesting, because, you know, I got about three years later, my previous agent left the business and I signed with new agents. And when I'd see their resume that they'd send out on me, it began with hard candy. And I was like, Oh, that's interesting. For you guys. I didn't really exist before that. Right? That's fine. But um, you know, the fun thing about going on meetings in the wake of Hard Candy was that people read it. And they tell me all their experiences of reading it. They'd say, it was like Sunday at 1130 at night, and I was tired. I thought, I'll burn off one more script. This looks fun. It has candy in the name. And then I'm like, 20 pages in and I'm like, What am I reading at this hour of the night? Why am I all alone? And not very dressed? I should put on more clothes. So people loved telling me those stories. Oh, that's awesome. But also, I'd walk in and people would meet what you're seeing now people would meet a guy whose looks and sounds like me. Right! And they'd go. You're not who I saw.

Alex Ferrari 21:34
What did they? What did they think

Brian Nelson 21:36
Hard candy so they expected Marilyn Manson.

Alex Ferrari 21:39
I was about to say, like, with some emo kid to walk it

Brian Nelson 21:43
And I Yeah, exactly. And, and, you know, so I walk in and I mentioned I'm amusing and not right, you know, come in with a kind of a light touch and I'm easy to talk to, and I'm not like glaring at them. Like why you think you have the right to exist? No, no. So that was but maybe that was that was a surprising like comforting to people that oh, we wait to be scared of this guy.

Alex Ferrari 22:17
Now, so after you made your rounds in town, you and David Slade worked on another project shortly thereafter. A little vampire film independent vampire film that we call 30 Days of Night, which is a fantastic I mean, I love love, love that movie. And I love the shot. I love the way it was written. How did you approach adapting? Uh, this was a graphic novel, if I'm not mistaken. right it was .

Brian Nelson 22:44
It was a graphic novel, graphic novel created by the amazing Steve Niles. Yeah. With with art by the equally stunning Ben temple Smith. Yeah. And you know, it had been a sensation in comics. I'm one of those guys who you know, knows way too much about comics for someone my age, you know, here's this wall you see behind me with like Shakespeare and pincher, but literally on the other side of this wall comics are 29,000, Marvel and DC comic books. And so

Alex Ferrari 23:20
Well, we can get we can geek out then

Brian Nelson 23:24
Fair warning anyway, So So I, you know, I certainly knew of the project it had been through. It had been through several writers and the studio had reached a point where they'd said, we're not sure what to do with this, maybe we hire a director, and then the director sort of supervises a writer. And yet, this is Studio thinking for you, then they were like, but maybe we shouldn't hire the writer that the director wanted. Because then the writer won't listen to us. They'll only listen to the director which you know, having heard my you know, thesis about who hires you into your loyalty. I mean, that certainly makes sense. So therefore, I even though Slade wanted to bring me in on this, I still actually had to, like enter a derby for this. I was one of three riders pitching it I have never pitched two more people at once. 11 people included on the pitch including two on the phone, you know, from from the studio and two production companies and the publisher of the graphic novel. And so, so it was a lot but somehow, luckily, I won through and was tremendous fun to write. I can imagine and and what I what I look, Steve Niles had this brilliant premise for his story. So Like, the first, the first 20 pages, like, we're already home, and he had a brilliant ending. The challenge of various writers along the way was that, you know, there was there was not there was not much in the way of character arc yet or a second act. And so that's a lot of what I brought brought to that. But it was an interesting case, because also, you know, Josh Hartnett had been cast and won as part of his deal the right to like consultant script and, and, you know, we were like, holding our breath about, oh, what's, what's this actor gonna say? But Josh brought interesting ideas to it. Josh said, this is a small thing, for example, it's hardly like, when people list the the things they love about 30 Days of Night, nobody says, oh, and his inhaler. But actually, you know, Josh was like, I want to be an ordinary guy. I don't want to be a secret superhero. And so, so like, Could we just, you know, give me like, a little asthma issue and silver so that, like, when I run around the corner, we're not going to do the scene of like, must get inhaler, right. Yeah. You know, it would be great. If I just had to take a moment every once in a while to just puff, you know, I just need a little help. I'm human. I'm an ordinary god. That was an example of something that's actually suggestion suggested that I thought would be great. Josh also suggested, what if? What if I have like, a little brother, because the little brother was not in the graphic novel. And and Josh suggested, you know, if I had a little brother, then that would be go to like the themes of family in the story. And when I thought about that, I thought, Oh, this would be great. Because if his brother is like, 1719, he is like, Josh is the sheriff. Josh plays Evan Evans good at his job. You know, so, so Evan didn't have technical challenges of can I really do this, you know, he, he steps up to the moment, but his little brother is his little brother. And so like, having to watch his little brother have this coming of age where it's like, Oh, my God, I just killed a vampire. Maybe I need to go throw up. Now, you know, that was a tremendous dynamic to have. And, and, you know, watching watching that character have that little arc, again, not something that a lot of people when they, when they list things about the movie, they nobody ever says to me, oh, have a little brother. But it was part of the texture of that, right? It actually made it so human and so rich, and that to me, in everything I write, I'm looking for that humanity. I'm, I'm, I will often say to people that regardless of what genre I'm writing, I write about people who find themselves someplace where the rules have changed. And now suddenly, it's up to them to decide, whoa, what are the new rules is going to be? And when they make those decisions about what's what's going to be right and wrong in this new paradigm? What did they discover about themselves, that maybe they didn't want to know? So that's what I love is taking people putting them in a gray area where they have to make those hard choices, look in the mirror and go, Wow, that's who I am, what the hell do I do with that? And that is hard candy. And that is 30 Days of Night, and that is altered carbon, and that is Agent Stoker. And it's and so you know, even though I write in various genres, and have have, you know, a sort of complicated resume, that's my sort of unified field theory of what I write,

Alex Ferrari 29:21
And that's a that's a really great point of view. Because I mean, I've never heard it illustrated that way before. Because, you know, obviously, the the ordinary world and you go into the, you know, the New World, and that's the concept of that, but putting them in a place where the rules of their environment have changed, like in devil or, or like in 30 days a night where you were, I mean, obviously, you know, you've got vampires in the sun's never coming. Like that's a great such a such a wonderful concept for a vampire movie. It's like, if you're going to do a vampire movie, it's such a great thing but that and then also I just love the idea of the vulnerability of Josh's character, not only because of the inhaler, which is a brilliant mood, brilliant, brilliant idea. But having the brother and having to watch his brothers back as well gives him another vulnerability. He's like, he's not only dealing with asthma, he's not only dealing with a town full of vampires, he also got to watch his little brothers back and take care of them as opposed to so it's just all those little, those little parts of the tapestry add so much to the character. You're absolutely right. But I love that idea of the throwing them in a gray area where the rules have changed and see what they do when you apply these new, this new paradigm to them.

Brian Nelson 30:39
I mean, not that, you know, my feeling is sometimes the gray area happens for various reasons. Sometimes it's thrusting upon you, without your being prepared for it or having asked for it other times, you semi wittingly or unwittingly created it because you were pursuing something and then guess what it puts you now in this new territory? Right? You know, you to be careful what you ask for kind of situation, like so people, people can find themselves in the new paradigm for different reasons. But, you know, on some level, I'll even say that that's, you know, that is me as a screenwriter, that I was a guy who was like teaching school and directing theater, and then I entered screenwriting. It's like, whoa, the rules are different here. I have a lot to learn. Even though I thought I was pretty smart, man, there's still a lot to learn. So

Alex Ferrari 31:34
And the game change, and the game changes almost weekly.

Brian Nelson 31:39
Always asking myself, am I capable of what am I capable of a while I and and surprised? I didn't know I could write that. But I guess I just did. So yes, exactly. And it's fine.

Alex Ferrari 31:54
Let me ask you. So I always love asking writers this, about the flow about being able to tap into their creative. Well, I believe that we all have a creative Well, I think Spielberg said it best is like ideas float in the universe. And they will come to you. And if you don't do something with that idea, it will go to somebody else. And that's why he's like, Oh, I had that idea. But I didn't do anything with it. And like six months later, oh, it's in production. Damn it. I have a great print store, if you want to hear Prince story about her. So Prince, Prince, I was writing as

Brian Nelson 32:29
Another Nelson. So, you know, I'm automatically in sympathy.

Alex Ferrari 32:33
So prince, the the late great prince called up his, you know, he has like 1000 songs. And yeah, he's got a new album up into the year 3000. So a new album every year up into the year 3000, we will continue to have prints. So he would just call up his his backup singers and his musicians at whatever time whenever he got struck with with inspiration. And one night he calls up his his, uh, his back of one of the backup singers and says, Hey, what are you doing? It goes, I'm sleeping Prince, it's three o'clock in the morning. Like, I need you to come down to the to the recording. So we're gonna record it. What can you just wait, like, for four hours? Like, no, I've got to get it now. And I got to get it recorded now. Because if I don't Michael Jackson's gonna get it. And that was such a amazing, like little peek into his creative process. He really understood when he had an idea or an idea came to him. If I don't act on it, it's gonna, I'm gonna lose it. So I always like asking writers What do you do to get into the creative flow and how to tap into that well, of creativity that is that is yours that you get that that Muse if you will, to tap into that?

Brian Nelson 33:46
I mean, that's a very interesting question. Because like, I'm, I want to answer it in at least a couple of different ways. And this may be my, like, Libra quality, you know, my wife's complaint about me? Is that the answer to every question that she asks me as well, yes, and no. You know, and so there's a part of me that wants to say, actually, no, you don't have a choice. There's nothing I do. I it does me, you know, that, like, I, I will just have to come downstairs at 1230 at night because I can't sleep and I know, I have to write it down so that I can sleep. You know, because otherwise, you know, the ideas just gonna keep kind of going, hey, hey, anything about me? You know, so, so there's that, you know, having said that, I will also say obviously there are you know, I mean, like I you know, spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to work Pandora to find a way to curate for myself a collection of music. That would be only so interesting. to keep my mind occupied a little, not so interesting to distract me.

Alex Ferrari 35:07
So find balance.

Brian Nelson 35:09
But interesting enough that when my mind goes on, do you want to think about something else? I've already fed it. This, this minimally interesting music. Okay? Yeah, no, yeah, I was too if I were writing in silence, I would go and, and, you know, go do something else. You know so so knowing you know, knowing something about how your brain works and what your capacity is, uh, you know, I I'll arrange various treats for myself, you know. I'm a big believer in you know, the, the animal moths book Bird by Bird and then feeling like, you know, you don't have to do it all at once, break it down into little chunks, Bird by Bird. And lo and behold, you write about enough birds and you got an aviary. I don't think that's quite the way she put it. But brick

Alex Ferrari 36:05
Brick by Brick a piece of the elephant a bite of the elephant at the time.

Brian Nelson 36:08
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So um, so those are, you know, that I certainly have my, my schemes. Having said that, once I had two kids, I also got really good at writing whenever there was the time, because, oh, yeah, I used to be a guy who like, and still am somewhat a guy who like I love writing, you know, in the middle of the night, when the house is all asleep, and I have everything to myself and no distractions it's over. But being a parent, man, I learned to write in like, the little time from 1005 to 10:23am, or whatever, you know, that, that, you know, being a parent of young kids meant you were signing on to a life of none of your plans going like you thought. And so, so as a sort of evolutionary survival strategy, I acquired the ability to write when I got the shot.

Alex Ferrari 37:14
And it was very much like Stephen King, you know, when he was writing carry on a typewriter on his lap, in the laundry room, you know, and he was just like, as he's doing laundry, he's just typing away on carry his first novel, and you just do what you got to do. And if it's five minutes, it's five minutes, it's it's five hours, it's five hours, it's whatever you can, but you just got, I think the key is also just writing, just just write in, all the bad stuff is gonna flow out

Brian Nelson 37:37
Absolutely. And, and, you know, the world is full of people who want to have written,

Alex Ferrari 37:46
Oh, they want the glory, but they don't want to do the work.

Brian Nelson 37:49
Maybe not even necessarily glory, but they want that feeling of I have written them. So I am, you know, I'm able to, like, look back on it, and so forth. But you what, what one needs to acquire is the pleasure and the joy of, of writing, as opposed to having written and if you don't have that I enjoy is actually writing. Again, it's got to become an insufferable slog, and you're going to very quickly find a way to do something else. That might also tangentially involved stuff you forced yourself to write, but, but the actual process of writing is, I mean, again, I was I was doing it when I was six years old, without even knowing why I was doing it, you know, right. It's unfortunate in that way that it's, you know, I'm not a musician, I would love to be, oh, same here. But, you know, I have a musical instrument here that my wife gave me that I took some lessons on. But as much as I love the ideas of musician, I don't have music. I don't actually yet, maybe that'll change. Maybe I can tell myself, but I don't yet find pleasure in the actual like, playing in the actual making of the music, whereas I do and always have found pleasure in stringing a mess of words together and seeing what happens and and changing the words that go wait, maybe maybe, in fact, a shorter sentence here and so forth, you know, and that that is is feels like home.

Alex Ferrari 39:34
Yeah, and that's another thing that you know, as creators, we a lot of times want to want to be at the end of the road and don't enjoy the journey and it's always about the like the end the finished screenplay, or the finished movie and but the painful for many people, it's painful to get to that point. That won't you can't sustain a career that way you need to enjoy this process. You need to enjoy any process you're doing because As the bulk of the time you're on this planet is in the journey, it is not in the, it is not the one that is not the one that you win the Oscar. It's the 20 years that you were working towards that process to get to the Oscar, if that's a goal of yours, or whatever, but it's that's it, those moments are so short. And you can live in them for a minute, and then you're done. And you're like, Okay, now what? You but

Brian Nelson 40:22
I mean, I feel secure, saying, Alex, I'm not gonna win an oscar. That's alright.

Alex Ferrari 40:29
You're right, me, you

Brian Nelson 40:31
Kind of work that gets considered for that. And that is perfectly fine. Because I love the work that I'm doing. Right! If it ended up that way, am I gonna turn it down?

Alex Ferrari 40:41
No, no, no, I don't want

Brian Nelson 40:45
No, I'll take it. But

Alex Ferrari 40:47
Give it to Eric Roth again. Don't give it to me. No, I understand. No, I understand completely. And I think you and I are both in that same category. So it's not bad. It's not bad. It's not like most of us are in that category. Now, I have to ask you, you got to work with arguably one of the better, one of the best voices in his generation, I think for as a writer is M Night. And, you know, coming out with sixth sense. And, for better or worse, always having to live up to success with the rest of his career. But he's a brilliant writer, and I'm such an admirer of his because he had reinvented himself a few times. Because there were moments in his career where Hollywood just wrote him off. He's like, up, that's the end of that. But he just kept his head down and kept putting out great work. And then he's had this, this resurgence in the last, you know, five, eight years of just putting out great work, what was it like working? And how did you get involved with nit for devil,

Brian Nelson 41:53
You know, time and again, I find myself saying, Well, I was really lucky. And you know, of course, you know, luck is partly that I kept my head down and kept working. And so you know, the more work you do, the more luck finds you. But nonetheless, I was approached about devil by night. My agent called and said, I'm not channeling wants to meet with you and okay.

Alex Ferrari 42:27
And you're like, who does? Who does? Who does? This is a joke?

Brian Nelson 42:30
Well, well, so he says he's the what I'm told is he's he's in a hotel in town. So go to the hotel, and he'll come down and meet you and was oh, so friendly. It's sweet. It was like, amazing, because I remember being in the lobby of this hotel. And they say, All right, well, here, you can call up to his room. And so I'm on this, you know, the hotel phone saying, Hi, this is Brian Nelson. I was told to call this number and, and I hear this voice saying, Hey, buddy, it's night. And like, alright, we're off to the races. So night hat, the way that he framed it to me was he said, You know, I, I've had two or three ideas that feel like little films that could be fun, but maybe they're maybe their ideas that would suffer under the weight of written, produced and directed by Night Shyamalan there, there. There's smaller films, and I've made this deal with this company, media rights capital that I will produce and supervise writers and directors in this. And we'll we'll make these three films, and I don't I, I'm not sure they all got made. But I was the first out of the box. And he gave me like a 678 page treatment for for what became devil and said, Is this is this something that you would want to write? And I told you earlier about my sort of what I frankly call my mission statement, you know, what, like, is it about a character who like finds themselves? And, and I frankly, I use that as a rubric. So I mean, look, of course, there was a part of me it was like, well, if I'm my channel and asked you do you want to write something? Of course you say yes. But also, frankly, no, I also had to ask myself, does it fit the mission statement? Because I have found in my life that like, if I try to write things that are not in that zone that I've identified as my zone, right, they're not going to go well. Right? But devil totally fit that. And so I was happy to sign up and And I did a number of drafts, I worked a lot in close consultation with the dowels, John Eric Dowdle who directed it and his producer brother Drew, we, we hung out quite a bit talked about the story from different perspectives. And so it was it was a very effective collaboration and a film that, you know, again, I'm, I'm very lucky that people you know, come up to me all the time and go oh my god, I just literally a guy I know. Last month said to me, I was watching this film and I didn't know you wrote it. And at the end of the credits, I was like, ways that Brian Nelson that I know. You know, frankly, it might not be because they're turned out to be a couple 36 Brian Nelson's on IMDb, of which I am Roman numeral two. High up there has because I've been around so damn long. You know I joined IMDb I started logging on to IMDb when it was run by a little college in like Louisiana. And there were two. And I was I was on IMDb too, because my last name is between M and Z. You know, that's how primitive it was in those days. Wow. But there's a lot of Brian houses in the world as it turns out, but I wrote Devil and that my friend was like, I didn't even know. And it still continues to haunt people's nightmares. And, and so

Alex Ferrari 46:43
It's, it's it was terrifying. I remember when it came out, I saw it was terrifying. And and I remember people just talking about it like did you see devil? Do you see that? Like it was just there was a little thing in the air about it. I

Brian Nelson 46:57
I have a very good friend who's a very accomplished director. And maybe I won't mention her name because I'm going to talk about this phobia of hers. But like she called me up and said, I'm so happy for you, but I can't see it because I just got through months of therapy to be able to enter elevators.

Alex Ferrari 47:19
Oh my god, so you've tear up? Yeah, of course, she would never be able to ever, never ever be able to get into an elevator again. Now, you know, working with them night is is Was there something? Was there a lesson or something that you saw in his working in his writing process, and his storytelling process that you kind of nugget that you pulled away from working with him?

Brian Nelson 47:40
I mean, you know, night is a tremendously inspirational figure in terms of like, never be afraid to do the next pass. There's always more to do. You know, we You talked a moment ago about people saying, well, they want to, like, have that finished screenplay. But you know, there is also a saying that, like, no work of art is ever finished, it is only abandoned. And, you know, and and, you know, I remember hanging with knight in his study, and he's got all the drafts of everything in his study, there on that shelf are like 19 drafts of signs there on that shelf are 12 drafts of late in the water or whatever it is and so forth. And and, you know, he, he is a demon for work. And that to me, I always find very inspirational is that, because I believe that at you know, I've talked quite a bit already about you know, that you have to find a pleasure in writing. And that means, of course, absolutely the pleasure in rewriting. And you know, and I remember night saying what's, you know, sometimes sometimes it's interesting, Brian, you'll do a draft and it's got problems and then the next draft has like moved it forward so much and and, and then maybe the next draft will have more problems, but then the next draft moves it again. And it's yeah, you you go through, you know, you go through a sine wave sometimes of of finding things in a story and he was a great companion in those terms.

Alex Ferrari 49:21
Now, you you've written some very suspenseful stuff in your career. What, how can you create suspense in a scene? what's some advice you can give writers on how to create suspense within a scene? Not a whole movie, but just within the scene.

Brian Nelson 49:39
So years ago, I was working with producers at BBC Worldwide. And they asked me to write a piece. I wrote a pilot for them that was about the Georgian era in England. And I said had, I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'm not like that person who would normally come to about this. I'm like, the vampire guy, right? And, and they said, we don't think of you as the vampire guy. And they said something that I was like, one of the nicest things people have ever said about my writing. Because they, they said, you know, we look at heart candy, and we look at devil and we think no, Brian writes about two or three people who go into a room have a conversation. And at the end of their conversation, both their lives are changed. And, like, if that is what ends up is my epitaph.

Alex Ferrari 50:46
That's a great epithet cheese, you know.

Brian Nelson 50:48
And this is part of my training as a stage director is, if something is going to be in front of our eyes, then it needs to earn its key, and it earns its key by in any given scene, something must change. And that change happens as a result of. And I'm going to sound extremely academic here, but each per each character's active intention, what is each person trying to do to affect the other person and create a change in that other person, and then one of them wins, or maybe they both win, maybe they both come to, you know, a realization, or, or their conflict creates a new problem or possibility. But But every time if a character is going to earn their weight in a scene, then they need to show up with a goal and intention, something that they want in that scene, and a plan to get it. And then they change. If that is true of the whole script. The entire script is how did this person change as a result of the choices and plans that they made? And what sacrifices did they have to make. But it's true of any five page scene as well is when characters leave that scene. If that scene was just about, oh, we want to establish the house or we want to show how sexy these people are, or whatever it is, then to me, it's not earning its caveat that that something must the status quo must have evolved by the end of that scene. And the other going to your suspense question. Ideally, I think every scene ends with a question that that that if a scene doesn't have a what will happen next at the end of it, then maybe you need to keep working on that scene. The only scene that shouldn't have a what will happen next is the final scene and even then, you're usually happier if you still have that movie ends and you're still wandering away. Isn't there more what next? Right and so so I'm, I'm obsessed with, with story questions, what do people want and what will happen next?

Alex Ferrari 53:32
Now in your, in your travels, you you've written in a few writers rooms. Couple, the one thing that in schools and in in academia and just general that's not talked about a whole lot at the politics of the writers room. Are there any tips you can give young writers who if they're lucky enough to get in a writers room? A couple landmines they should look out for as far as political, the politics of room and obviously that changes per room and per showrunner, but generally,

Brian Nelson 54:04
I do well in writers rooms, I think because I'm there to be part of a team and they're to engage and I'm not precious about my words, because I know everything's being rewritten all the time. You know, and so, so I really enjoy rooms because I think partly because of my theatrical background that I you know, grew up working in stages where, you know, even if you're a one man show, you're still gonna need a stage manager and a lighting designer and writer and so, you know, and so, so I I really feel at home in collaborative art forms. If I wanted to do it all myself. I would be a novelist or a poet. Right? But I don't actually Want to do it all myself? I want to work with partners and people who will, people whom I can challenge people who will challenge me people who we can all make each other better. The more voices This is partly an exciting time in television, because we are bringing out more voices than we ever have in maybe even the history of culture. And, and so that's, that's a thrilling thing. So, so I, you know, if, frankly, it sounds a little simple, but my my just advice would be, first of all, just be open, be open minded and be willing to contribute. And don't be, don't be precious about oh, this is my idea, or, or what, or this is how I wanted to say it, because it's all gonna change seven more times. Anyway, right? Later. But, but the more that you engage in a spirit of not about oh, what you said versus what I said, and more about, what is the story? What what did these characters want? As long as you're talking about the stories and characters, then you're getting it out of the realm of ego and into the realm of craft. And that's what I think makes a successful room.

Alex Ferrari 56:26
Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What was what was the biggest fear you had to overcome to write the first screenplay, your first screenplay? Because I'm assuming you didn't just go in all guns blaring. I'm assuming there was some, Hey, can I do this? Or you know, things like that?

Brian Nelson 56:46
Ah, you know, I've been around a long time. So now you're asking me to cast my mind back? decades? decades. I mean, I, you know, I, it's, it sounds very simple, but probably the biggest fear I had was, am I wasting my time? Is this something that I could be good at? Right? Um, you know, and I, I gave myself a certain, like, clock by which I needed to see some signs of success, or I would decide, you know, don't knock on a door that nobody's out. On the other side. You know, and, and luckily for me, someone knocked pretty early before that, because I didn't give myself frankly, the longest timeframe for that. So

Alex Ferrari 57:45
What was the timeframe? By the way? Was it like a couple years two three years?

Brian Nelson 57:48
Oh, no, no, no, my charter the math.

Alex Ferrari 57:50
Oh, really? Now, what was your timeframe?

Brian Nelson 57:54
I, I had written I mean, effectively, maybe it to turn out to be a couple years, but I didn't think of it that way. I, I was, I was directing plays, I was making money on the side writing script coverage. I was also working a day job while my wife was in grad school. So I didn't have a ton of time. I wrote two episodic specs, samples, like back in those days, you wrote samples of shows that were on the air. Sure, sure. I sent them to agents, people were like, this is nice, thank you. Send them what status? What else? Everybody else here? Right? I'm like, Okay, I got to do some more. I wrote a spec movie the week setting reaction. And so then I was like, Well, I'm going to write a screenplay. And I'm going to write the best damn screenplay. I can imagine writing and I'm not going to think about whether it's commercial or whatever I should you know, I you know, I people were like saying, but could you write under siege to Shouldn't you think of that and you know, and and I was so so no, I'm gonna write the best possible thing I can write and if it goes somewhere then it goes somewhere and if it doesn't, that will be that then that then that will be that and I will focus on where people seem to be interested in my so you ask luckily for me, that script out my even hardly trying God response I because through theater, I had a friend who worked in script development, his his day job at night, he was working in theater like me, but his day job was he was he was worked in mo W's for for a studio. And I asked to just as a pal, could you give me notes on this to try To help me get an agent, you know, I'm not submitting it to you. Right Man. Yeah, just please. I will benefit of your wisdom, any notes you could give me. And then timidly like two or three weeks later, I poked my head in his door. And I was like, I don't mind. Yeah. Yeah. And, and Eddie said, yeah, no, no, I have no notes. I think it's great. I think we should buy it. Well, they didn't buy it. But He then got it to a producer who actually optioned it and got me an agent out of it. And suddenly I was like, Well, I guess I can do this. And I guess all. So persevere. So so.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:47
So the advice you're giving screenwriters is give yourself 12 months, write one screenplay. That's it. And if it doesn't work out, then go do something else. That's basically what you're saying.

Brian Nelson 1:01:01
All I could do is report my journey. Of course, no, no, of course, I have friends who have worked in this for years. And it is their dream to write movies. I as I think I told you way along was like, there could be a lot of things I do, maybe I'll be a sociologist, you know, I need that was actually something I considered for a bit, you know, so so, you know, I, I love telling stories, but I was also prepared for this not to work out. And, and it's awesome. So, again, lucky for me, because it did.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:45
But the thing is, but the thing is, you've spoken about luck, a bunch in this conversation. But the thing is that you, you created your luck, because you actually did the work. It's not like someone knocked on your door like, Hey, man, do you got any ideas? Hey, I'll pay you to write a script. Now. That's not the way it was you you put in the labor? And then look happened?

Brian Nelson 1:02:05
Sure. So now I will tell you, I've told you my unified field theory of what I write now, I'll tell you my Unified Field Theory of careers. Okay, so these back in those days, I was watching and going, Why are those people who are so brilliant, but they are not. They are not getting their careers are not moving forward. I mean, while some other people who frankly, I don't think are so brilliant, but they are working like oh, what's that about? And so I devised this theory where you have to imagine a triangle. And each of the points of this triangle is a different aspect that might help you get a career. But the secret is, you don't need all three. Your career is a line that connects the two, you only need two of them to have a career. So the three points are talent, perseverance, and luck. So you might have no talent. But if you persevere, and you are lucky, you will have a career. But you might have no perseverance, like writing one script. Wow. But yes, but if you have talent, and you are lucky, you will have a career. And then we all know people that have no luck at all, but they have talent, and they never

Alex Ferrari 1:03:44
Rightand they build something out for themselves.

Brian Nelson 1:03:47
And I constructed this theory at about the same time that I was writing that script so maybe I've always been trying to talk myself into persevering now, you know, that's not fair.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:00
No, that's not fair. Because you you've done a lot sir.

Brian Nelson 1:04:03
I work a lot. Yes, you do. But but the corollary to this triangle is my talent is what it is I could improve I could look study craft I read other people's scripts all the time. I I like watching bad movies, because it's like, oh, what can I learn from this? How did this go awry? You know, but, but at the same time, to a certain extent your eye is your eye you got a little bit what you got through the the vagaries of fate and genetics or whatever else I don't know. Your Your talent is somewhat of a fixed quantity. Your luck, you have no control at all, but that's why it's called luck. So really the only thing you could control Is your perseverance? Absolutely. And so so that is my actual advice to people. Alex Ferrari is persevere,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:13
Or possibly even hustle.

Brian Nelson 1:05:18
Yeah, yeah, you might you might know it's true, because because look, that whole anecdote about that screenplay is on the other hand in the context of, but I was I've, I've been working, you know, since high school in the arts and I've been like, you're reacting directing. You play writing, we're honing out.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
You were honing your craft.

Brian Nelson 1:05:42
And well, I mean, yeah, I guess I don't ever think of it as honing my craft. That sounds so kind of,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
Well, no, but you I mean, but you were telling stories. You were working in the art. So you were you were gathering things left and right.

Brian Nelson 1:05:57
I'm, I'm, I'm pursuing the story. I, you know, I was I was in graduate school at UCLA. And there was a professor named Michael Gordon, who had this amazing career he had worked with a group theater. Then he directed the film of Cyrano de Bergerac. Okay, which one the Jose for? Yeah. And then he got blacklisted. didn't hardly work through the 50s. When he came back, he managed to direct again, but not Cyrano de Bergerac his comeback film was Hello, Taw with Rock Hudson and Doris Day, but he took that job and made the most of it. And continued working for years of years. And so he was a guy who just managed to build his career out of what is the story? What will people what will make people want to wonder what happens next? And I, I looked at the plays that I had directed, and the ones that had we had worked and the ones that have not worked? And I was like, Oh, the ones that work? Or what are the ones about story? The ones that made people wonder what would happen next, right? The ones that were just about a theme or an idea? Yeah, maybe there's people who can make pieces about theme or about spectacle, right? We're without story. There's people who do that.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:36
Oh, and I won't say their names into out loud. But yes, there's there's more pillar to them build careers upon

Brian Nelson 1:07:42
I would never harsh anyone else's jam. Absolutely. But what what makes my work work is story and character. And, and I, I I realized I could be intellectually tempted to work on a piece that's just about like, the fascination of language or whatever. But no, those pieces, those pieces are going to be only interesting to me. Fair enough. Fair enough, you know, and so that's, that's what I learned. And and so so maybe I'll revise my my, my screenwriting origin story to give myself a little more credit.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:24
You should you should, I think a little bit more credit. I mean, though, because you, it's not like you just like you were working fries, at a Burger King. And all of a sudden, like, I'm gonna give myself 12 months in one script to write and I've never haven't barely written anything in my life. That's not what you said, You've been working hard to get.

Brian Nelson 1:08:40
Now, it's totally fair. In fact, even even the day job actually was I got a job in a studio legal department, right. So I was in fact, watching the business of how you were being put together. I was like honing, Travolta get to fly his own plane to the sad why does that matter? Hmm. Interesting. Okay.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:04
So, um, that's a whole other episode. Just what you learned during that process time. If all the inside stuff of those those deals. I have two more questions for you one. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Brian Nelson 1:09:22
The lesson is make sure that Alex asks me in the second question about agent Stoker, which I'm dying to talk more about. Okay. Okay, now ask me that question again. That's all I could

Alex Ferrari 1:09:38
Well, tell me about yourself at first.

Brian Nelson 1:09:41
I did last year.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:46
I've heard this thing about HS dopa. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Brian Nelson 1:09:49
Um, so look, this is i This has been such a fascinating, fun journey for me. I met Chris Connor On earth through altered carbon, where he played Poe, our AI who believed he was Edgar Allan Poe. He crushed that role. Shortly into the pandemic shutdown. He was like, Hey, since nobody can like shoot anything. What if we like created a podcast? I have like this feeling that like, I keep thinking, Is there a way to do black mirror meets the old radio plays of the shadow? And I said to him, you know, if someone worked in a lab, and tried to figure out the phrase to fastest penetrate into my cerebral cortex, I don't think they could do better, like very relevant. Yeah, I write that. And so what we cooked up was this scripted supernatural podcast, call it a paranormal thriller. It is called agent Stoker. And it is we have various line log lines for it. One is of course, Black Mirror meets the shadow. Another is part Raymond Chandler, part Philip K, Dick, and all McCobb all the time. Oh, sounds amazing. Another logline for it is the X Files with a drinking problem.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:33
What a great image. That's amazing.

Brian Nelson 1:11:35
Ancient Stoker works for a covert organization called the knight brigade, that is tracking incidents that have no explanation. But maybe the explanation if we can all hook them up is that the end of the world is coming. And maybe we should try to get ahead of that. Just my agent Stoker is facing the loss of his partner and is not really necessarily sure he is up to the job. He is, you might say, thrown into a gray zone where the rules are not clear, right.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:16
And I've heard that before. I've heard of that before.

Brian Nelson 1:12:19
And it's very it's up to him to figure out how to persevere, but perseverance in his case also requires in every episode, the examination of some artisanal cocktail,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:33
Obviously,

Brian Nelson 1:12:36
Which is one of the easter eggs that we put into every episode we also managed to put into every episode a little bit of baseball trivia, we also managed to put into every episode, an actual real world indie bookstore that we're doing a pro bono shout out to ah, that's amazing. And yet in every episode, he also deals with schizophrenic AI and sentience mold and demon where cats and a number of you know terrifying other sounds that this fall into another another one of our loglines for the show, which is think of it as CSI apocalypse. So so we cooked up this show we approached wonderful actors who are not household names but who you know through you know being fans of television and share with you who've been a bunch of people from altered carbon Amy Hill from Magnum P I. You know, we're our biggest name probably is our announcer and and later the voice of the night brigade is is Emily de Chanel. Wow. But also Peter Jason from Deadwood

Alex Ferrari 1:14:09
I do do do do a voice. Do you do a voice in it?

Brian Nelson 1:14:12
I do not do a voice you show you sit back No, no actually because we thought you know what, we're going to do this exactly like we would if it were not the shutdown and we're doing it for live TV. So all the actors are are being paid sag minimums and you know, Chris and I created knife brigade LLC as a SAG signatory. And yeah, it's funny, one of my high school friends just wrote me and said, You Aren't you doing your voice and this and I, you know, actually I, I love all of all of the voices in this coming from the universe of actors that Chris and I know and love that we've just always been dying to do something more with. That's and we brought in and we brought Actually, you know, directors that we love to So, the So, the the, the pilot and the finale are directed by Rachel Talalay from Doctor Who and Sherlock and, and Superman and Lois. Several episodes are directed by us Scott who's done everything from for color girls to swat MJ Bassett, whom I met on des Vinci's demons and nightflyers, and also did altered carbon does does a block of three episodes. So, so we've been having a hell of a time. Our sound design is by our our CO producer, Patrick Hogan, who currently does sound for little things like Cobra Kai and so forth. Our line series and amazing woman named Dana Brower, who I met on nightflyers. Our music we have a theme music by an indie composer we know named Christie Kuru we have entitled music by Portland Indie band, the parson redheads I mean, it sounds awesome. A lot of elements here you should listen I rather

Alex Ferrari 1:16:13
Where and where can and where can people listen to it?

Brian Nelson 1:16:16
Wherever you get your podcasts.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:19
And what's the name of the show again once again

Brian Nelson 1:16:21
It's Agent Stoker.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:23
Okay, so everyone listening

Brian Nelson 1:16:26
Bergerie that you can find on Spotify or Apple or you name it it's it's out there and and you better find it before it finds you.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:35
I will put it I will put it on the show notes. One last question three screenplays, three screenplays every screenwriter should read

Brian Nelson 1:16:47
Ooh you should have warned me because you know this sort of thing that like a certain questions that when people people ask them of course the things that you think go out of your head right you know I literally keep a posted here so that when people say what have you been watching lately? I have the answers so that I'll remember this otherwise you know you go right I have been watching things what are they so look ah we you talked earlier about night nights screenplay for unbreakable. It's incredible. I remember reading it back when I was starting out and I've like saved it I've still got my copy you know, it's it's, it's I would recommend that to anyone. This might not be this might be an unexpected answer. But when I think over the years of like pilots that I've read and blown me away that you know that there there have been there have been shows that there have been pilots that I that I I might recommend but I also when I think about screenplays, I am going to I'm going to toss in the third man I love the third man I think about that all the time. A screenplay that I might not recommend except I love it. It's structurally a mess. Well, it works. The best movie ever made maybe is the big sleep. Oh yeah. Yeah. I was hired on altered carbon in part because I came into the meeting and I said, you know, this story is like the big sleep and Lita calligraphic greatness was like, Yes it is. I'm so happy you know that. You know, so So I think about the big sleep all the time. I I'm not stopping it three. You're doing dirty pretty things. Dirty pretty. Is is is is an amazing script to me. You know, it is exactly what I've talked about. It is a guy thrown into a place where the rules are not clear. And now he has to find ask himself what am I capable of to faceless? I am a giant fan of Days of Heaven. The Terrence Malick masters I I'm a big fan of neem Creek. Yeah, yeah. Which I think is a very under discussed film. But again, a film where people discover what they're capable of that they never wanted to know about themselves. You know, I, that's five.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:11
I think you're good. You're good. You're good. We could keep going forever. I mean, we could do the podcasts of just like scripts you should read. And we just do like 20 every episode. Fair enough. But that was excellent. Brian, I know we can keep talking for another few hours, but I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for coming on the show and dropping your knowledge bombs on on our tribe. So I truly appreciate it. My friend. Thank you so much.

Brian Nelson 1:20:36
It's my pleasure. Great, great to talk and I will see you again when you least expect.

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