What is Rotoscope Animation? (Definition and Examples)

Rotoscoping, What is Rotoscoping, A Scanner Darkly, A Waking Life

Rotoscope is the term used to describe a type of animation process, which involves tracing over a still photo or moving footage. It’s an old technique that has come back into vogue in the past few years, with animators turning to it for a variety of reasons, including to speed up the production process.

A rotoscoped shot is a special effect that uses an animated version of a photograph or video, instead of using actors and live-action footage.

What is Rotoscoping?

Rotoscoping is an old-school process used to create animation from live action footage. The technique involves drawing over the live-action footage with a series of still images, which are then placed onto a background track of movement to form a finished animated scene. Rotoscoping is most commonly associated with the early silent film era, when artists would work by hand, creating scenes that were later composited together.

A digital copy of the main actor’s face is created by using a computer software to duplicate the motion of the original actor’s face, which is then composited onto the original live action footage. While the process of rotoscoping requires lots of manual labor, it can be quite expensive, time consuming, and difficult to achieve a high quality result.

This is because the main actor’s face needs to be precisely duplicated on the computer, which can be difficult to accomplish even for an experienced operator.

The History of Rotoscoping

Rotoscoping in film began in the early 20th century, when the advent of cinematography created the need for a way to paint over live-action shots of actors to create a more stylized look. Rotoscoping in this case means using special equipment and a paintbrush to replace or modify specific areas of a scene. The idea behind rotoscoping was to have the artist use their creative skills to make an area of the shot look more interesting or dramatic.

A popular animation technique from the 1930s. The rotoscope technique was invented by animator Max Fleischer in 1915, and was used in his groundbreaking Out of the Inkwell animated series. It was known simply as the “Fleischer Process” on the early screen credits, and was essentially exclusive to Fleischer for several years.

Rotoscoping was a very labor intensive process, which led to it becoming a job for people with artistic skills who could not be hired as animators. In later years, rotoscoping became a much simpler process due to the introduction of computer graphics.

The live-movie reference for the character Koko was performed by his brother (Dave Fleischer) dressed in a clown costume. In other words, there is one word in each paragraph that can be swapped out with another word. The same word should be replaced in both paragraphs to preserve their meaning.

Rotoscoping is used to create the animation, which allows for the removal of the background and the placement of an actor against the original background. A projectionist is used for the project, and the tracings are then used as a guide on the animation disc to rework the roto tracings.

Hollywood Studios Take Notice

Fleischer’s patent expired by 1934, and other producers could then use rotoscoping freely. Walt Disney and his animators used the technique in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs during 1937. The only thing I love more than a great pair of shoes is a great pair of shoes that are well-loved. I’d love to see myself wearing a great pair of shoes that were well-loved. Rotoscoping was first used extensively in China’s first animated feature film, Princess Iron Fan (1941).

Most of the movies produced with it were adaptations of folk tales or poems—for example, The Night Before Christmas or The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that animators started to explore very different aesthetics.

Another example is Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Animator Ub Iwerks created the bird scenes in Hitchcock’s thriller, “The Birds,” which earned him a nomination for an Academy Award. He used rotoscoping to animate the birds’ terrifying movement.

Filmmaker and animator Ralph Bakshi used rotoscoping to animate his films Wizards, The Lord of the Rings, American Pop, Fire and Ice, and Cool World. He first used the technique because he couldn’t get enough money to finish Wizards after he requested a $50,000 budget increase in finish his opus.

Next Generation Rotoscope Animation Software

During the mid-1990s, Bob Sabiston, an animator and computer scientist veteran of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, developed a computer-assisted “interpolated rotoscoping” process, which he used to make his award-winning short movie “Snack and Drink”.

Director Richard Linklater subsequently employed Sabiston and his proprietary Rotoshop software in the full-length feature movies Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Linklater licensed the same proprietary rotoscoping process for the look of both movies and was the first filmmaker to make an entire feature film using the process.

As rotoscoping gained acceptance, Sabiston’s company, The Rotoscope, Inc., was awarded the contract to develop a commercial version of the technology.  The software was subsequently licensed to major studios such as DreamWorks and Warner Brothers, which used it in many successful animated films.

Notable Rotoscope Movies

  • Loving Vincent
  • Waking Life
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Fantasia
  • TRON
  • Cinderella
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • A Scanner Darkly
  • The Beatles Yellow Submarine
  • Cool World
  • Sin City
  • Heavy Metal

The Art of the Title Sequence: Stranger Things

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s breakout smash Stranger Things you are missing out. Being a huge fan of the show I noticed the amazing opening title sequence that takes you back to the glorious ’80s. Then I began to think about the importance of typography and design in creating a feeling in film. The remarkable title sequence was created by legendary title house Imaginary Forces.

Title sequences should be used to create mood, tone, tell a story, and of course list the credits. Take a look at this amazing mini-doc by VOX on the opening title sequence of Stranger Things.

The Stranger Things logo probably looks strangely (no pun intended) familiar, returning you back to a time when Stephen King reigned supreme. The show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, said that they were directly influenced by King in the creation of the show’s logo, having sent tons copies of Stephen King’s novels to Imaginary Forces.

The Font

The font used in the creation of the title sequence is ITC Benguiat, and it’s hallmark of the era that Stranger Things is paying homage to. It was used on the cover of countless Stephen King novels, The Smiths used it on the cover of their album ‘Strangeways’, and it was the title font for those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books you loved growing up.

The glorious 1980s revived retro typography from various art periods in a way that brought new meaning to their use. By reintroducing them again in 2016, as the Stranger Things team did so remarkably, we are reminded of the power of typography, the transcendental property of design, and the nostalgia that lives forever in our hearts.

Indie filmmakers should take notice of the power of design in title sequences, posters, and website design when creating new content. Typography is a very powerful tool in the indie filmmaker’s toolbox.

If you haven’t watch Stranger Things yet, here’s the skinny on the show: This thrilling Netflix-original drama stars award-winning actress Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, who lives in a small Indiana town in 1983 — inspired by a time when tales of science fiction captivated audiences.

When Joyce’s 12-year-old son, Will, goes missing, she launches a terrifying investigation into his disappearance with local authorities. As they search for answers, they unravel a series of extraordinary mysteries involving secret government experiments, unnerving supernatural forces, and a very unusual little girl.

Title Sequences in Indie Film

I’ve always loved title sequences and insert them into my films every chance I get. Take a look at this remarkable title sequence created by my main partner in crime Dan Cregan of Numb Robot for my short filmCyn: A Twisted Tale“. This title sequence was shot by me and designed by Dan Cregan. It’s his homage to those amazing James Bond opening title sequences.

James Bond Title Sequence

Below is ALL 23 James Bond Title Sequences. A study in art and storytelling.




IFH 597: Can Short Films Make Any Money? with Kim Adelman

Kim Adelman began her producing career with the indie feature, Just Friends. She then launched the Fox Movie Channel’s short film program, where the 19 shorts she produced won 30+ awards and played over 150 film festivals worldwide, including the Sundance Film Festival four years in a row.

Kim Adelman currently teaches Low Budget Filmmaking  at UCLA Extension and Cinema Production II at Mount Saint Mary University. In 2014, she was named UCLA Extension’s Entertainment Studies Instructor of the Year.  In 2016, she won its Distinguished Instructor Award.

In addition to guest lecturing at UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal State Los Angeles, she has also taught filmmaking workshops across the US, Canada, and New Zealand. Most recently she led creative writing workshops for kids at UCLA’s Hammer Museum via 826LA and filmmaking for teens at Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum.


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Over the past two decades, Ms. Adelman has also reported extensively on festivals and short films for Indiewire, co-programmed the American Cinematheque’s annual Focus on Female Directors short film screening series for fifteen years, and co-founded FFC: the Female Filmmaking Collective.  She has also been a jury member and/or a panel moderator at numerous international film festivals, including Sundance Next and the Los Angeles Film Festival during its final year.

Her short film book, Making it Big in Shorts, is on its third edition and has been published internationally in Spanish and Mandarin.  The three pop culture books she wrote for Penguin Random House are The Girls Guide to Elvis, The Girls Guide to Country, and The Ultimate Guide to Chick Flicks. which was also published in Japanese.

She has recorded a five-part educational podcast on independent filmmaking for UCLA Extension and co-hosted the 15-episode movie adaptation podcast Book to Screen, available on iTunes. She has also appeared as cinema expert in the ARTE documentary From Weepies to Chick Flicks, E!’s Hollywood & Sex special, and the DVD extras for Love Me Tender and Ghost.  She was profiled for Women Transforming Media and appeared on

Kim Adelman was also Director of On Air Creative Production for Style Network until that network shut down. She has worked at multiple cable networks including FX/FXM, E!, G4, PopTV, the Game Show Network, and Cinevault.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Kim Adelman 0:00
I think it is that it's just a matter of getting through the no's until you get to yes, it you know, it's so hard to hear that and it's so hard to constantly run up against the no's. But the reality is as soon as you get that, yes, you can stop. You've achieved it. And everybody can do that. Right? You know, the most dedicated person can go 90 through 99 no's until you get that 100th yes.

Alex Ferrari 0:23
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma Elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading lots vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog textures, DaVinci Resolve presets, and much more. After working as an editor colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10 to get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's enigmaelements.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Kim Adelman. How you doin Kim?

Kim Adelman 1:16
Hi, nice to see ya.

Alex Ferrari 1:17
Nice to see you too. Thank you so much for coming on the show you are, we're going to talk about something that's very dear to my heart. Because that's how I got my start short films. I always want to talk about short films. And I have an extensive amount of experience in short films. I've done many of them I've, I've made a lot of money with short films, I've been in a lot of festivals and short films, I think my shorts have probably gone into two to 300 festivals in the course, it's been a lot. So I do understand a lot about the marketing and selling of short films and things like that. I'm dying to hear your perspective on everything and how we're gonna get into it. So first question, though, how did you and why did you want to get into this business?

Kim Adelman 2:00
I liked that statement and why? This is why I love short films, because it's not really a business per se, right. But I grew up in Los Angeles might nobody in my family is in the entertainment industry. But you know, it's kind of a default thing. And sooner or later you fall into doing entertainment stuff. And I'm actually one of the weird people who did a feature first. Yeah, I produced a feature with friends of mine. And as a result of that, and totally no budget feature. As a result of that I got the gig producing short film. So I'm one of the rare people that didn't reverse present starting with shorts to go to feature. And then after that, I just love short film so much. I didn't want to go back to features and I just kind of fell into teaching. So I've been doing teaching primarily for the last few years.

Alex Ferrari 2:43
So that's why your IMDb is just plump filled with shorts. Like I said, there's never seen somebody shorts in somebody's IMDb before I was like, wow, she really talks a talk here. She loves short films.

Kim Adelman 2:56
Well, in fairness, I was also one of the very lucky people that got paid to make short films. So I didn't find out.

Alex Ferrari 3:03
How did you do that? I have to know how that happened.

Kim Adelman 3:06
Yeah, exactly. I was very, very lucky that I was there's a television cable channel called FXM movies from Fox. It's a sister channel, tap X. And back in the day, they didn't have commercials. So they had to do something interstitially which means fill up that time between movies. And so because they didn't have any original production. The guy who was in charge with interstitial time was like, well, let's make some short films. We'll use that to fill up the time. So I was very lucky that you know, ultimately Fox paid for these short films and paid for me to produce them so it was kind of a Nirvana situation.

Alex Ferrari 3:40
Oh, that's right place right time on that situation that doesn't. Everyone listening that doesn't happen?

Kim Adelman 3:45
No does not happen. And of course, they're no longer doing that. And people always say well, who can I get to you know, produce my films or finance like films and there's really not organizations that are doing that and therefore they will

Alex Ferrari 3:55
Not here in the states not in the States.

Kim Adelman 3:57
Yeah, good point.

Alex Ferrari 3:59
Yeah, in Canada and Europe that will be in but it also in Canada, in Europe, it's more of an art they kind of support the arts more New Zealand and Australia. There's government actually support the film industry here.

Kim Adelman 4:13
To raise up there are filmmakers right and perfect way to make room to groom a new group of filmmakers is to have them make short films. So they're smartly investing in infrastructure to make new filmmakers where we're just like, yeah, people will pay for it themselves.

Alex Ferrari 4:27
Right here we're just Stuckey like you're on your own.

Kim Adelman 4:32
Yes, so many people make short films. So in a way, they're kind of right.

Alex Ferrari 4:38
Every year Yeah, I saw somewhere in your in your book. There's like as a 5000 or 8000. shorts were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival.

Kim Adelman 4:47
So this is always very public with the numbers. So we kind of always use those as kind of a way to look at how many shorts are being made. And of course, these were international and us but over 10,000 short films were submitted last 2020 Sundance Film Festival. And so that just blew my number one, it was the highest number yet. But number two, all those were made during the pandemic. So think about that

Alex Ferrari 5:07
Records are not like 10 year old shorts. These are all fresh shorts.

Kim Adelman 5:10
Yeah. So it's like over 10,000 people made short films during the pandemic in one year.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
Wow. That's insane. Insane. So are so you've seen so many, you've taught a lot about short films, what is the biggest mistake short filmmakers make when they attempt to make a short film?

Kim Adelman 5:28
Well, there's actually several mistakes they make. But obviously the biggest always is the shorts are too long.

Alex Ferrari 5:35
So 52 minutes short.

Kim Adelman 5:37
I think that's a good time for a short, right. Well, you know, a lot of people who don't see short films in their vision of it, they think of those 25 30 minute films, and they think, oh, people won't take me seriously unless I make one of these long films. But the reality is, unless you're in school, sometimes school, there's requirements, and you have trade. But if you're doing it on your own, nobody wants to see anything that long programmers still want to program anything that long. And really, you can prove and you don't want to invest in producing something that long, you can prove your talent in five minutes, 10 minutes, you know, I've always said the sweet spot, I started noticing when I was reviewing films for indie wire, and watching a lot of short films that way. And I kept noticing the films I really liked were 12 minutes long. So it's like sweet, sweet spot, including credits. And that's another mistake filmmakers make their credits are too long at the front and too long at the end. But anyway,

Alex Ferrari 6:29
So it's interesting, because when I made my first short, that I was able to generate over $100,000 selling the DVD and how I made it back in 2005. There was no YouTube, there was no information about it, it was a different time. But that was a 20 minute short. And also in 2005, there wasn't nearly as much competition for short films and film and film festivals. So I was able to get into like 150 I think under 20 550 festivals with that short, I just kept going for like a year and a half,

Kim Adelman 6:58
Which also was probably good.

Alex Ferrari 7:02
I mean, Roger Ebert reviewed it and it wasn't, it was it was it was very well received. I went I did the water bottle tour around LA with it. And, you know, and all that kind of stuff. That's there's, there's more than enough information on my show about that. That short. I don't want to talk about that much about that short, but, but that was 20 minutes short, then my next big short was 10 minutes. And I you know, 10 minutes short is really sweet spot, because it's the one minute shorter two minutes short, like, yeah, it's gonna get maybe get programmed easier. But the 10 minutes, sure it has enough meat on the bone, I think sadly, to do something to show you off. And programmers can program it. Exactly. And that's the thing that filmmakers don't understand. Like, I sat once I swear to God, it was it was an I was at Holly shorts.

Kim Adelman 7:45
Fabulous Film Festival

Alex Ferrari 7:46
Danny and Theo had been on the show, I was at their first festival that's short for I'm one of the original Holly short shorts, and I'm the only one that they still talk to. And I've been there a million times. So sitting there watching a movie, and it was big. I'm not gonna say the movie. But there was it was the opening night and it was very big star very, very big star starring in it. It's 45 minutes. And I was sitting there like, Oh, my God, this is molasses. This is horrible. And then my action short comes on. And everyone's like, Ah, thank God. But it was just as brutal. I was like, I don't care if it's a big giant star in it. Right? It was brutal to watch. So anyone thinking about when you're at 45 minutes, just keep going?

Kim Adelman 8:32
No, I believe that too. Like, if you have enough money that you can do that, then this needs to be a feature. And maybe you can make a 68 minute feature or something like that. Doesn't have to be 90 minute and double it or whatever. But yeah, if you can afford that you can definitely afford a feature. The other thing I will say, you know if it's a short documentary, then you can go a little longer to it's different.

Alex Ferrari 8:51
Yeah, documentaries are a whole other world you could do 30 minute 40 minute documentaries comfortably. But narrative is very difficult. Exactly. I went I went to I went to the School of Mark Duplass when it comes to the length of a film he goes, Yes, anything over 70 minutes is a feature film. So when I when I made my, my, my two features that I've made, both of them are like 73 minutes and 75 minutes. I'm like it that's that's enough story. Yeah, exactly. Just Just get in. But you know, I think anything with a seven in front of it is technically a feature when you're at the 68 I'm like just extended the credits just to get more credits. Do some bloopers at the end, just do something that just extends it just a little bit.

Kim Adelman 9:35
I also say No, I think features are too long as well. You know, I get very tired when they're like 22 hours and 22 minutes or something like that. You're just like, Oh my God, how much more of this is gonna go?

Alex Ferrari 9:45
I was watching was it the new Bond film, the last one film and it's like that's a two hour and in that no two hour and 30 minute movie two hour and 40 minute movie. It's a long movie. But there's action every 16 minutes To the Batman was also almost three hours. And that was like, I think it could have been a little shorter. But generally speaking, that there's action going on on that stuff. So you have to keep that going. Now what a lot of filmmakers want to make a short film, what kind of shorts should they make? What genre is? Is something? Is it? You know? This is my problem with shorts and filmmakers with shorts. They put a lot of pressure on short films, yes, tremendous, I did it. I've done it. So many times, with my short films, I put an enormous amount of pressure like this is the short, that's going to change my life. This is the short that some polywood producers gonna see. And like, all you want to do want to do the next Marvel movie, because it is a visual effect. So let's bring it in. That's the kind of pressure most filmmakers put on shorts. And I made a, I made a $50,000 short with sets built, don't ever do that. Everyone was like, Don't ever, ever do that. But I was like, I'm gonna show everything off, I had top Hollywood, I had an Oscar winner in the movie, like I had tons there was like a big event. And it was very stylistic. And I was like, I'm going to show everybody what I could do. And I put so much pressure on that thing. It just crumbled all the shorts crumble under the pressure that filmmakers put on it, as opposed to like, let me make the best thing I can make me put it out into the world and just see what happens.

Kim Adelman 11:28
You know, obviously, you have to make the right short for you. And at that time, I'm sure you had enough connections. And people were kind of expecting you to make something big and expensive and not like shot in your closet, you know, whereas somebody else who doesn't have all those elements to them shouldn't pay money to get all of that they should make the short film that's appropriate to where they are. And really what people are looking for. In short films are like a unique voice and some talent and something but and that's why I love short films. And I'm more interested in shorts and features because features. So cookie cutter, and so rare that we see an exciting new voice, we're in shorts, there's always something new and thrilling and exciting and memorable. And that's what people really want to see. But I also think if you you know are looking at this as something to say this is who I am a world, you should make something that really says this is who I am. So for example, I could say to you, you should totally make a horror short, there's a whole bunch of horror film festivals that would play it, you know, you can actually probably make the leap from a short to a feature with horror data. But if you hate horror, this is not the thing you should do. You know, and if you love comedy, you should do a comedy short, you should not do you know, a structured drama short. So I really think you should think hard about who you are, and where you want to go and make something that kind of announces to the world. This is what I this is my voice. And the nice thing about shorts is that nobody's there to telling you, you must do more, you must do comedy, you get to choose everything you want to do there as opposed to later on in life where somebody will be giving you money and demanding you do certain things or pigeonholing you in some way, this is your chance to define yourself.

Alex Ferrari 13:02
And I think that shorts in general. You know, like that short that $50,000 Short got me a lot of jobs in music, videos and commercials, things like that it didn't do. It didn't do what I wanted it to do. But it did other things for me. And still to this day, I'm making money, I make money with all my shorts to this day. Just selling them in giving access and stuff.

Kim Adelman 13:26
And actually, just to go back to when you said what mistake filmmakers do. They don't do everything correctly so that they could if there isn't any possibility to commercially exploit that film. Like for example, they use music they don't know. And then, you know, then they can't do it. And they can put on YouTube because YouTube will you know, do they're realizing that there's illegal music and pull you up. Or they don't do the right deal memos with their actors. And then all of a sudden, that's a problem. So I mean, I do think, although there isn't that much of a market for short films, you should always do it right. And be ready in case there is some interest in some way or you know, later on when you become famous, somebody's like, I'd love to put your short film, you know, put, you know, show your shuffle now that you're famous, but you don't have the rights to do it. So, you know, do everything correctly the first time,

Alex Ferrari 14:09
Right. So when Criterion Collection calls you exactly, that's why they're doing a retrospective on your work because you are amazing. As a filmmaker, you want to make sure that you don't have a Rolling Stone song in there that you can't afford. Exactly. Basically, and that was one thing I was very conscious of even back then when it was started with my shorts that all the music was either originally composed and I had agreement signed for it. I was a little delusional. So I had I, I really approached it. I think that delusion helped a bit because I approached it as like this is gonna blow me up. So then I made sure like I'm good. This is going to be huge. And I'm going to have to make sure all these contracts and agreements are in place so I can and that's exactly what I did. So that's the reason why I'm able to explore it and I was able to sell DVDs on there, all that kind of stuff, because I made all those agreements and so the delusion helped a bit But hopefully you can do everything I did without the delusion.

Kim Adelman 15:03
Well, I'm gonna say you're obviously a very confident person, but in a certain way, that's great, because certain filmmakers really have no idea what they're doing, right? I mean, that's why I ended up writing about a book for short filmmakers, because you're a novice, you just don't know what's right, or what's wrong, or what mistakes you're making or whatever. But a lot of people are so insecure, where it really it's a short film, how wrong can you go, you know, and even if you do make all those mistakes, okay, you made the mistakes on that one film now, your next short film that you make, you won't make those mistakes on. So I do think, you know, to a certain degree, it's smart to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. But it's also great to just jump in the pool. You know, don't question a little while I'm moving right or whatever. Make a short film. It's fun, you'll be fine.

Alex Ferrari 15:43
Exactly that no one's doing. We're not curing cancer here, guys. Exactly. Let's just let's move on. The one other big mistake I feel that filmmakers make with shorts is that they try to be somebody else. And that might be worth debating. That might be okay. At the beginning. We all do it. Every filmmaker copies and steals and is inspired by the filmmakers that came prior to them. All of them, even the greats, they all they all do it. You look at Nolan's work, you look finches working go right back to Kubrick. I mean, it's, you know, and Kubrick can go back to other people, and so on and so forth. But the mistake I made, and I've talked about this on the show before, but the mistake I made with that $50,000 short film is I was trying to be somebody else. Now my voice was in there. But I was truly trying to be a little something else that wasn't 100% me I was trying to create something that the marketplace wanted, and not as much something that I wanted to make it things like that. So I think something like whiplash, which is a really great short film example, of a movie of a short that turned into a movie. And there's, there's less of that nowadays, shorts generally don't jump to movies as much as they used to. But whiplash specifically, it's so clear, Damien's vision. And that, I mean, it's so so clear. And it's so original, and it's so him. It just you screamed out voice, new voice. And a lot of these, a lot of these filmmakers that do make the jump from shorts to features, whether it's a feature version of their short, which doesn't happen as much, but a short filmmaker that jumps into television off of a short, or things like that does happen a lot, but they need to hear your voice.

Kim Adelman 17:25
And also, you know, painters did that all the time, they would paint in the style of somebody else. So that's the learning right? So I always say shorts are a learning experience for everybody. That's the learning aspect. And in reality, maybe it's not just for short film that does a lot for you maybe that short for short film as little Are you copying somebody just to get to feel confident that you could do it. But it isn't like hello world this is me. This is my voice. Your voices don't come right away. You see people when they write screenplays, it takes them a while to to get the screenplay to the point that we're the third screenplay finally says this is who I am. And this is you know, something worth paying attention to.

Alex Ferrari 17:59
Yeah, you know, when you start writing, you might be writing like you know, Terrence you try to write like Tarantino or Shane Black or, or Aaron Sorkin. And then that might, you might have a couple of those scripts and you get it out. And then slowly your voice starts to come out. And that's the thing with shorts. And that's the wonderful thing about shorts, is it's close to writing screenplays you can get because it's a candy, very inexpensive. And you can knock out a short in the weekend with your iPhone, and it will look and sound great if you do it properly.

Kim Adelman 18:26
Exactly. And that's the thing that, you know, because I came from when it was very hard and expensive to make short films. I'm so jealous now that everybody there's no excuse not to be shooting something. You know, it's like you've got a fabulous camera in your pocket. Use it. But it doesn't necessarily mean what you're shooting every weekend with your iPhone. It necessarily needs to be shared with the world. But I think just the same way writers should be writing I think filmmakers should be filmmaking.

Alex Ferrari 18:53
Right. And a lot of people look at someone like Robert Rodriguez, yes, who was a you know, he's he is who he is, and you know, a legend in the indie film space. But a lot of people don't understand that he made 20 to 30 Shorts before he ever made El Mariachi. So he was he was shooting it all on VHS with his family as a cast. And he was working it out. He was editing between two VCRs. And he was he was learning the craft. And then when he made his school short film, which was called bedhead. He had learned so much as far as sound effects. And it looked like when somebody saw that like Jesus, this kid is super talented. But he made 20 films, and no one ever saw other than his family.

Kim Adelman 19:37
Yeah, it was rough drafts kind of thing. They nobody ever saw those elements.

Alex Ferrari 19:41
Right and that's the thing that a lot of filmmakers I feel that they are so precious, right but they're with their shorts that they like and I was like I can't make something unless it's perfect, though. You got to just you got to turn on the faucet. Let all the mud clear out of the pipes before the Clean Water Water comes out and all that good stuff starts coming out.

Kim Adelman 20:02
I hate when people look put a lot of pressure on themselves anyway because you know filmmaking could be joyous. And with a short film, you're hopefully making it with your friends, you know, or people who support you and want you to quit job with it. And it should be a story that you're dying to tell. So how exciting for you that you're getting to hang out with your friends and do a story you're dying to tell and, and realizing it from your head to now existing in the world. It's truly an exciting thing.

Alex Ferrari 20:28
Yeah, without without question. So Alright, so let's say we got our short done. All right. And this is this is the Opus like we've already done. We've done our 15 shorts, can we've done our 15? Shorts? We feel comfortable. Our voices out there, I think we have a clearer idea of our voice. There's so many options on how to get this into the world. Yes. How do you launch a short?

Kim Adelman 20:51
Well, I mean, I because I come from festival world. And I spent a lot of time reviewing festival shorts, my inclination is always like, put it on the festival circuit. Now, not every short is a festival kind of short. But I always do kind of encourage people if you think your short might be a festival short to try it. Because you know, when we're talking about how fun it is to make films, it's super fun to have your film show in front of, you know, in a theater, with people who you don't know who do and, and also you get to meet other filmmakers. And when you're meeting them, you meet them as a filmmaker who has made a film you know, it's like all of that, even if it was just a stupid thing you made in the backyard, you know, and you're at the time you're like, This is not gonna be nothing. And yet somehow it turns into being something, how fabulous is it that you're showing this something to people, and they're excited for you, and you're excited for them and the festivals thrilled to have you there. And you're going to parties, and as you said, red carpet is just you know, such a lovely experience for a short filmmaker, whereas feature filmmakers have all the stress about festivals, because it matters to them, you know, matters where they premiere, they're trying to get their film picked up, they're trying to make the next, you know, Introduction to make their career go a huge way short filmmaker will be very happy if anything happens to them. And they happen to meet somebody who wants to represent them, or they get some sort of offer to license their short film. But the reality is more short filmmakers should think of the festival is just a fun time, you know, a time to actually be a filmmaker, have your film seen by the public, meet other people. And also, you know, establishes some credits for yourself that you've been to all these festivals. And then you know, if you make another short film, you can go to these festivals again, hopefully, or if you scrape together money and do an independent feature. Now you already have a base of people who know your talent and have supported you wants to want to support you again. So you know, that's the type of things about the festival world that I think is great for short filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 22:40
And I think the festivals, I always when I talk about film festivals, you know, they don't have the same juice that they used to, you know, in other words, in the 90s, you got into a certain Film Festival, two or three of them, you automatically got sold, you automatically got a deal. There was all these stories every every day almost in the 90s have these magical stories coming out of Sundance or South buyer, or these kinds of these kinds of festivals Tribeca or something like that. But with festival with shorts, I always warn filmmakers and like festivals are exactly for what you just said they are experience. If you've never gone down the road, you've never had a red carpet, you never had an audience Oh my God, there's so much fun. The after parties, the the the web, the seminars that it's great. And it's like most of the times we live in a bubble unless you live in LA, you live in a bubble of not being in business and the festival is the first time you're surrounded by people that love movies or in movies and things like that, but not to put any pressure on that experience. Because firstly, because festivals are everything you said they should be. But don't think that like oh, just because you got into a major festival, which if you do it's great. It's not that it's a bad thing. But it's not going to open the doors to think many times they don't open the doors the way they think you can but but you can go to a Moose Jaw international Short Film Festival, which doesn't exist. And and there might be an acquisition exec there. There might be an agent that happened to be there. I forgot what was the story I heard I forgot there was Oh god, I forgot the movie. It was it was one of these famous indie movies that couldn't get seen. I don't know if it was Napoleon Dynamite or one of these films. But they were playing this film feature at this. Nobody festival like in the middle of nowhere. And they were playing it at a bar at the hotel.

Kim Adelman 24:29
Yep. And sometimes yes.

Alex Ferrari 24:31
My first first award by the way was at the at the Crab Shack best director and I was like Zizi, but and fun and fun. So that was a nobody festival. Nothing just no written in the middle of nowhere. There was a Hollywood acquisition exec who was on vacation and was staying at the hotel and they had nothing to do that night. And they're like, hey, there's a film festival going on at the bar, let's just go down there, have a couple of drinks and watch something that went down and watched it, and acquired it. So those are the magical lottery ticket stories you hear, but you just didn't ever know what's going to happen. But I just want filmmakers to walk in understanding, have fun, and if anything happens, great,

Kim Adelman 25:23
Exactly. But also the people you meet to you never know, connections among your peers to then you will then all of a sudden meet all these other filmmakers who might, you know, help see faster than you do. And then they help you or you can hire them for your you know, there's just a lot of once you're, you're a professional filmmaker, now you're meeting other people who are in that world, as you said, in where you live, you might not have that opportunity. And so now how great is it that you will so that so that's what I love about festivals, but you know, festivals are not the be all and end all. And there are, I know many people who like apply to a lot of festivals, and it costs money to so you know, this is a money drain, and didn't get into anything, and just were really upset. But you know, festivals have a certain sensibility. And maybe you're the thing you made is more like something that people would enjoy on the internet, you know? And then how great is that, that you can put it on Vimeo, put it on YouTube, do your own little promotion to it, and have people see it and you never know, you know, how that might work out for you. But more importantly, if you if you made a film because you want to communicate with people and say to them, this is a vision that was in my head, and I've now executed it and I want to share it with you. And I hope you get something out of it and you enjoy it, then, you know, the the way that that happens shouldn't bother you. You know, it might happen via festivals, it might not happen via YouTube, it might happen via you and your buddies putting on your own screening so that people can see it that way. You know, you've made something share with the world however you can.

Alex Ferrari 26:52
Yeah, and I just I just had the filmmakers behind Marcel show,

Kim Adelman 26:57
Which was a short films.

Alex Ferrari 27:01
Of course, I didn't know that when I when I had him on the show, I discovered that in my research after I saw the feature, I saw that movie first was fascinated. I'm like, how on God's green earth did this get financed? How did a 24 Get involved? I just told I told the PR people I'm like, get on, I'm on my show. I need to know what how is this a thing. Then doing research, I found out that it was a short film that they put out 10 years ago, too short to me, it was two or three I think they have three in the series. But but it was like two years apart or something like that. And then they had books. So they created an IP based on a short a to three minutes short that they did as a kind of like, and and from what I understood it was a short film that they showed their friends and family. And then they're like, hey, is there anywhere online? That we could so I can share this with my grandma. I think she'd really like it. And then she's like, oh, yeah, I'll throw it up on YouTube and throw it up on YouTube and 54 million plays later. That Okay, so we got something. Yeah, that that whole story is a fascinating, it's a really great story on on how powerful the internet is, which is my next question, YouTube. So so many filmmakers are so precious with their shorts, they're like, I can't put it on YouTube. The festivals are gonna like it. Oh my god, this or that?

You know, again, there's a couple ways to go about I know festivals are a little bit more loosey goosey with that nowadays than they used to be. Especially with shorts, not features. But shorts. Yeah, exactly. But at a certain point, like, you know, at a festival, you're gonna get 2050 eyeballs on it, you know, maybe 100 If you're lucky, you know. So it's a very small audience where if you put it up on the internet, it's It's millions and have access to millions doesn't say you're gonna get millions. But it could go viral, especially if it's something very specific. It's something very cool. Visual effects are really cool stories really interesting. Even fan films, short films, which we'll talk about in a little bit, all of that kind of stuff. So is YouTube a viable option? And by the way, Vimeo, I'm not sure if you know what's going on with Vimeo. Vimeo has kind of gone away from shorts, and are going away from the creators and they're really more now. Their corporate structure has changed more towards corporate, like video stuff. Before they were trying to do it with all the artists is the home for the artists. Exactly. They realize that artists have no money. So So Vimeo was once a place to put short films and it was like you showed it the week and that's kind of gone now. Yeah, so Oh, yeah, exactly. But now YouTube is still a place to go. So what's your opinion of YouTube? How should you approach YouTube? What should you do?

Kim Adelman 30:10
Well, there are, like you said, some festivals do care. So and the old days, I'd be like, I don't even tell them. But you know, one little Google.

Alex Ferrari 30:19
Not that hard nowadays.

Kim Adelman 30:21
You can't hide so much. And you don't want to hide, you know. So if you, if you think you want to go to festivals that do care about it, then you shouldn't put it online, because you know, online is for the rest of your life. So what's the big deal if you hold off for a year while you try to do festivals, and then put it the other thing is Oscar consideration, they still care for Oscar consideration when you have your broadcast debut. And YouTube is considered broadcast. So if you thought, any chance, you know, I made 19, short films, none of them got Oscar nominations. So it's like that was not really going to happen. But I cared. And so I waited. You know, if you care, and you think there's even a slight chance, you want to be smart about what the Oscar rules are, but the odds are so minuscule.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
And I want to bring I want to, I want to just point on something on that, because I've seen so many films, like yours, myself included, wait a year, two years, because of their delusions, and I say that with all the love in the world, because I was a delusional filmmaker in that sense as well, where like I can, I'm gonna get into this Oscar qualifying Short Film Festival, and I have a shot I'm like, it's, it's like 20 or 100 times easier to get into Sundance than it is to get an Oscar nomination for a short film, you know, and it's astronomical, to try to get into Sundance, just to understand the, the ratio that we're talking about here. So,

Kim Adelman 31:45
And also, just the Oscar films tend to really be, as we talked about the better funded ones from other countries. Americans get through, but you do occasionally. And so you know, it's one of those. That's your dream. I mean, I know Oscar nominated filmmakers from the shorter film category. It's totally doable. You don't just in a miracle kind of way. But you know, it's your decision, what you want to do, but in reality is if this is the year that you're trying to get people to pay attention to your short film, do you really want to hold off putting it on the internet for years? What kind of your point that you know? Exactly. So, you know, people want to, you know, give them what that easiness of like, Can I see it and you want to be able to quickly be able to show it to people not to say that you can't do password protected kind of things, you know, that's different.

Alex Ferrari 32:29
Yeah, that's different. But also I do agree with what you're saying is like, if you want to do a festival run up, like six months, you know, go go go six months, go eight months, go around and enjoy yourself, go to red carpet, if you haven't gone down that road, oh, my god, it's so much fun. Especially it strokes, the ego in a way that is so beautiful, everyone, you're the greatest, someone gives you an award, you're like, Oh, my God, I've arrived, all this kind of stuff. By the way, once you have an award, you are an award winning filmmaker. And that's how you should promote yourself.

Kim Adelman 32:58
I 100% agree with that.

Alex Ferrari 33:00
I mean, my first festival was the Ocean City Film Festival in New Jersey, which was played in the back of the Crab Shack, where I won Best for best first time director. I was an award winning filmmaker,

Kim Adelman 33:12
You still claim it. So there you go.

Alex Ferrari 33:13
I still have the certificate that I've got somewhere in Pakhtun way, but it was a big, it was a big deal for me. And Ben, from that point on, I was an award winning filmmaker. And people will laugh at that. I'm like, you're an award winning filmmaker, you can promote yourself as such.

Kim Adelman 33:28
The one other thing I will say is it's really hard to get on TV. But there are people you know, there are organizations like short TV that will get your film on television. And so that also might have be some issues about if you've been online that there might they might not wants you so much for television, so a very small percentage, and but how bad is to be on TV too? So you know,

Alex Ferrari 33:48
And also depends on how bad they want the short. Yeah. So if it's a really, you know, if it's also a really, really mean the world that we live in with so much content and so much media. They're much looser than it used to be before there was always exceptions.

Kim Adelman 34:04
For example, if you had made Marcel and then they're like, hey, we'd like to put Marcel on TV now, because feature has already had 54 million people view but sure, why not? You know, people want to see it. So if you want to want to see aspects to your film, then, you know,

Alex Ferrari 34:18
No question, no question about it, make your own rules.

Kim Adelman 34:21
And you should and you know, because it's short film, because you're used to kind of not necessarily breaking the rules. But yeah, so let's just say breaking the rules or making their own way and making their own rules. Never think there's you know, no, you can always turn a no into a yes. Right.

Alex Ferrari 34:34
Exactly, exactly. Now, the big question that so many filmmakers asked me all the time, can you make money with a short film?

Kim Adelman 34:45
And I will always say no, it's really hard to but you're selling examples such as make money off of for sure. So we can be the opposite ends of the spectrum. I'll be the person who has known that you can sell you buy Yes, but you know, number one again, you have to be able to have your film camera. Actually exhibited, which we talked about previously, there should be no impediments to that. But you know, there is places to have a license short films. And if you have a film that also, I should have said the thing for the festival circuit, it is a way to connect with the people who do license short films, they're looking for the short films on the festival circuit. So it's your kind of way of being in the marketplace. But anyway, you know, should you get an offer, you know, the money will not be what you expect it to be to.

Alex Ferrari 35:30
You mean, you mean I getting that 100,000 mg, you're not getting,

Kim Adelman 35:34
I'm buying a house, I'm gonna share it. I mean, it could be as like, they do it per minute, and they're gonna give you like, $6 per minute, if you have attended a long film, and you're like, oh, from pulling up getting 60 bucks to be.

Alex Ferrari 35:46
You said Poland for a second. That's another thing I want people to understand, especially here in the states that that there is a market for short films outside of the US much more so than in the US. Can you talk about that?

Kim Adelman 35:55
Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, in the US, again, I mentioned short TV. And then there's also PBS, you know, locally does short films, there's all these little small pockets in the US that potentially could, but they definitely are also, I should mention, too, some festivals have prizes that if you win that prize, and you know, yeah, but you are you go on to HBO, or something like that. But that's part of the deal. Because they're looking for new talent certain way. But anyway, the money still will not be great. And so it's very rare to meet a filmmaker, whoever earned their money back on short films. I should also say real quickly to on festivals, sometimes you went prize money. I know, people have won more money from festival prizes than the cost of making their films. So they actually benefited that way from being on the festival circuit. You probably would earn more money on a festival price, and you'd win on licensing your film elsewhere. But, you know, remember I mentioned that our short films at Fox were made for social purposes, that still does exist in some other countries that they'll put them on TV in between other things if they don't have commercials. So you know, there are opportunities out there, different countries and different amounts of money. And that's also what's so nice about short film, like you're learning about international exhibition the same way you would learn with your feature film. It's just much smaller, much less money.

Alex Ferrari 37:13
Right, exactly. So I'll be on the other end of this, this conversation where I've made a lot of money with my shorts over the years, but I've also thought about it very much like a film trip earner, an entrepreneurial filmmaker, where See ya see how I did that film entrepreneur. Product placement, product placement? No, but honestly, though, it's like I had made a short film. But and the real quick story behind that first short film that we made over 100,000 with, which is I made a short film action, sci fi a lot of visual effects, at the time, very kind of cutting edge in the visual effects world, especially in the indie Space Shot on the mini DV, dv x 100, a Panasonic fantastic camera. And I put it out and I made it edited, put it all together. And I'm like, Alright, we have something cool here. I'm like, how am I gonna make money with this? And I'm like, Who who's gonna pay for this and like, I can't sell this to the general public. No one cares. I'm nobody. I have nobody in movie. I go. But you know, who might be interested as filmmakers, on how I made this, because I made it look like a film. I color graded it in 2005. using Final Cut Pro, I use visual of as you shake the same program that they were using Lord of the Rings, to do the visual effects, we had over 100 visual effects shots in it, there was a lot of stuff like that. And it was action, which is very hard to do in 2004, with gunplay and fights and all this kind of stuff. So I was like, I think people will pay for this. So what I did is then spent six weeks editing together three and a half to four hours of kind of a bootcamp film. And then I put it all on DVD, because there was no other place to make money with it. And I created an email that this is all instinctual, create an email list and start posting a message boards about it. So we put the trailer out there. And people were like, when's this movie coming out when I want to see I want to. And then when I launched I still remember the day with Pay Pal I was just get all these emails are thinking thinking thinking. It was fantastic. And then we just kept selling and selling and selling these at 20 bucks a pop was selling at $20 a pop. But they weren't but they were. So it was a different time. That would work today. But in in the time that I did it, it did work. And then now I've created educational so I use education as a way to make money. If it's really a high end visual effects movie. I know Film Riot, the YouTube channel. They make a lot of short films, their entire business models about making really high end short films with high end visual effects. And they show you how they do it. So that's how they're doing that as well. So you know it's

Kim Adelman 39:48
Also maybe you have but after the people are very interested in and maybe you know people would be interested like you could make your own website and try to get people to pay to see it or whatever. It's just hard in this world was so much as free You know, I always tell people, you know, personally paid to see a short film, you know,

Alex Ferrari 40:06
it can work if you hire like if you hire an actor, I had a, I had Robert forester and one of my films, I had Richard Tyson, who was the bad guy from Kindergarten Cop, if you remember that, I had him and some of these, some of these actors have massive fan bases, right? Who will go crazy for anything they do. So if you can hire someone like that, or hire somebody who has an audience of some sort. So let's say it's a YouTube influencer, I'm just using that as an example. Or a YouTuber, social media star wants to be in a movie, they have 3 million followers, you have cast them in your movie, and you go, look, let's partner up, we're going to sell access to this to your audience. And we're going to sell it for five bucks, and you and I are going to split it. And now you have a marketing machine putting it out into, you know, behind a paywall for the first 30 or 60 days behind a paywall so doesn't hurt any festivals doesn't hurt any broadcast, and you're making money with it. So there's a lot of different ways of doing it. But it takes time, and also niches and things like that, and I talked about it in my book a lot with features, but it can be applied to short. So there are ways to make money with shorts, it's just a lot of work. And you really gotta it's not going to there's no turnkey situation. In other words, there's like, oh, here and you make money,

Kim Adelman 41:17
You know, and I was also gonna say, The Academy Award nominated shorts, they now put them out in the theaters, and people pay to go see these films in theaters. So as much as I'm like, Who pays for a short film, though, people are very excited to pay money to see the academy nominated short films in the theater, you know, which is a fabulous thing that I never would have thought that that would come to be and it has. And so there's interest that way. And, you know, there might be new venues or new ways to do it in the future. And, you know, the beautiful thing is you've created something you own and you can do anything you want with it, no one's gonna tell you no, you can't do that. So why not try different things and see what happens. And you know, you never know how, how your break is going to happen, or what's going to happen, or how you might potentially make money. It's all just wanna give it a shot and see what happens. And you know, keep your expectations low, and be happy with anything, right? So let's say you make $60 You're like, Oh, my God, I made $60 off of this, I'm now you know, making a profit, not profit. But you know, I'm making money. And people are seeing my film. Come on. Great.

Alex Ferrari 42:19
Exactly. So it really all depends on how you what's your approach to the making of the film. If you're making it to get rich, I'm sorry, this is not going to happen. If you're going into it with that, is there a possibility that you can make a lot of money with it? There's very few examples of short films making. I think I'm one of the few honestly, yeah, they've made, you know, I've been actually in case studies and books on short films about, understandably so. Because it's a rarity. And I know that and but doing the shorts that I've done over the years, I've seen what they've been able to do for me. And if you look at shorts as a way to get your career moving forward, express yourself as an artist, get attention for yourself, all that kind of stuff. And then the festival circuits, all the other stuff. That's the way you should approach it.

Kim Adelman 43:05
I think, you know, I've also also animation is a whole nother ballgame. Oh, that's a whole other world. People will pay for animated shorts, you know, that sort of stuff. But I know people who have banded together and put together programs and kind of put that on the road of short films and you know, rent it out for a while theaters and totally turned it into, you know, their life, basically. But you also have to kind of look to like, how much time are you going to put into this as well, I feel like a lot of that kind of stuff you should do for your future. You know, if you're talking about your future, that's the time to invest in all those.

Alex Ferrari 43:35
And then if we're talking about documentaries, that's a whole other conversation. Because with documentaries, there are a lot of places where documentary shorts can make money. And you can do a 3040, even 50 minute short, which could get broadcasted Yes. And if it's in a specific niche, you can actually go on the road, going to different organizations. So like if it's a documentary about a swimmer with one leg, I'm just saying, or a surfer with one leg or a skateboarder with one leg. You know, those are the kinds of things that you can team up with organizations to set up screenings, charge, there's a lot of ways you can make money with documentaries a lot easier to make money.

Kim Adelman 44:14
And also people are dying for short documentaries on the festival circuit. They don't have enough, you know, so it's hard to do a short documentary, I will say that I've seen so many people fail at it. Just because you know, with a long documentary, you've got a long story to tell, but the short documentary have very little time. And so what are you actually saying and showing and doing? It's a it's a hard skill

Alex Ferrari 44:35
There was there was one short that was on Netflix because Netflix does shorts every once in a while. Every once in a while. There was a documentary about end of life and about like just hospice and how to approach end of life. And I had a friend of mine who's a social worker, and he's like, Hey, you should look into the short and I'm like, is it on Netflix? And he's like, Yeah, watch it. And I watched it. I was like, Oh man, this A day as an organization go around using that short as a way to kind of introduce people to end of life conversations. Because it's not something it's not something you want to talk about, generally speaking, you know, it's not a conversation you want to have. But that's that documentary did, apparently that sold to Netflix. So, Netflix, that means Netflix knew something that it was valued.

Kim Adelman 45:23
And Netflix does, I should have said that to Netflix definitely has a category of short films. And you'll see a lot of the ones that are Oscar contenders are close to being an Oscar contender show up there, and they liked the longer short film too. So that's a very positive thing. And they've done a lot have not done but they've acquired, you know, short documentaries. I don't know if any of those original Netflix productions. I think all of them are acquisitions, but they're definitely short films that are showing on Netflix. Again, I don't know how much money people made off of that. But come on to be able to say your short film was on

Alex Ferrari 45:51
1500 bucks. 1000 bucks. 2000 bucks. Are you kidding? It's, it's fantastic. Yeah, depends on the there was. So another another great story on how a short film that turns turned it into a feature to turning it into a feature. And they made obscene amounts of money was Kung Fury. You familiar with Kung Fury? Yeah. So Kung Fury is a short out of I think it's Sweden, or Norway or something like that. But it was a homage to 80s action movies. Dawn in the most ridiculous obscene like, you know, heads been blown off. Dinosaurs going back in time with North got Norse gods. And, you know, like, Thor's there, it was fascinating to watch a 30 minute short, lot of visual effects, all 80s based, these guys put it out, and they got millions and millions of views. But they had the original soundtrack. They had merch they had because it was all connected to a niche that so many people were they love the shorts so much. Then I saw a pop up on Netflix. Then I saw a pop up on El Rey, that people were it's just it was such high production value that people use. And then they they now are in the process of making the sequel that Arnold Schwarzenegger has. They literally he's playing the President in the sequel, or the feature version. And even they were so understanding of their niche I talked about, I actually use them as a case study in my book, that they got David Hasselhoff to do the soundtrack. They paid. They paid David Hasselhoff a good amount of money to write a song for the movie. And then they released a music video with David Hasselhoff.

Kim Adelman 47:39
That's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 47:40
It's amazing. So there's so much creativity with shorts, you could do so much with it. It all depends on you, and where you want to where you want to go with it. So there it's it's an endless pool of opportunities, which, um,

Kim Adelman 47:53
You had mentioned IP earlier. You know, that's the other thing you do when you are creating an IP when you make a short film.

Alex Ferrari 48:00
Yeah, you do create IP. And if you're able to like Marcelle with the show on, they actually released three shorts over the course of three, four years. And they released two best selling children's books on it. So when Hollywood came calling, they, they were like, Hey, let's put Ryan Reynolds with the shell on the like, no. This was before Pikachu. They were basically pitching and Pikachu. That's what they wanted. But they stuck to their guns. And they made the movie that they wanted to make it took 12 years to get it off the ground, but they got it with, but they were able to make money with it and generate revenue off the shorts. And then not to mention off a YouTube even just YouTube ad AdSense off these things. I mean, first it was like 54 million, the other ones like 34 million. And that's something that a lot of filmmakers don't know about as well as if you have a monetized YouTube channel. You can make money, especially if it goes viral, you could make serious money with it. Or if there's another channel where shorts or the kind of short that you're trying to do, maybe team up with that creator, have them pump it out, and they maybe have two or 3 million followers and share that share the money that comes in. There's so many ideas, so many ways.

Kim Adelman 49:08
Hair, love is another example. It's an animated short film, but he didn't book after to. There's many things that there could be opportunities for if you're short film gets attention that gets asked about Oscar nominated. But the other thing too, that we should definitely talk about is you can put spend all that time and money and do all that. But then when people say well, what's next? Because it's like you could spend all that time doing all that for like, Oh, now I've got 100 bucks that I profited off of that. But what's next, you know, what am I going to do next year and when people say to me, I loved your short I'd love to talk to you about doing something together or whatever you need to have it what's next.

Alex Ferrari 49:46
And so if I may tell you the painful backstory of my experience, I got I got I did the waterfall tour I was being called by Oscar nominated or Oscar winning producers and I was it CIA. I was all This stuff went by first short, was going around. And everyone asked me, so I'd love the short we'd love what you're doing. What's next? And we're like, Well, I have ideas. Yeah, that's not enough on the scripts, not ideas, scripts, you need to have two or three of them ready to go. And that's what? Because you could you could pitch them or have this movie about this, this. Yeah, we don't want what else you have. Yeah, because that window, that window is open for that door is open for so short amount of time. And if you don't take advantage next

Kim Adelman 50:31
Exactly, there's always another hot film that people are getting attention to. I mean, not that you can predict you're gonna have that moment. But why not set yourself up for success and have something ready that you want to do? So that you can be like, hello, I'm so glad you love my shirt. Here's my feature film that I want to make next, or whatever else it is that you want to know, do next. And you know, maybe, for example, you really wanted to run commercials or something like that, you know, be prepared with a reel of other things that look like commercials that you can be, you know, whatever you want to do be prepared.

Alex Ferrari 51:02
I think that there's a higher probability of somebody seeing a short at a festival, or online and offering you hey, I love your style. I'd like to work with you. That happens more often than anything else I think we've spoken about. Because it does happen. People are like, oh, I want to work with you. Or what do you want to do next there, those opportunities do present themselves. But most filmmakers aren't prepared for those opportunities when they create, which is what we're talking about. It does, it does happen. It does happen a lot, especially if it's commercials or music videos, or documentaries or things like that. There's always I hear story after story after story about filmmakers getting opportunities based on a short film that someone saw somewhere this or that, and boom, boom, boom. Having that? I mean, Napoleon Dynamite.

Kim Adelman 51:46
Short film. Yeah. Oh, there's many examples of short films. And actually, there's another recent film called emergency that was a short, and then they went on the vessel circuit. And people were like, oh, we'd love to talk to you about the future version of it. And they hadn't even been thinking of that, which is kind of, you know, more power to them. But then they're like, oh, yeah, we're working on that. But if you you know, if you thought there was a future version of it, you should probably script out the feature version of it before you go on the festival circuit. You know, I mean, the you can control when you start the festival circuit. And in theory, if you think of this as launching yourself, well, then you know, have stuff to

Say you are the studio, you know, you need to think of yourself as a studio that will be making things. So, you know, think about when you want to release things, think about what your next project is, think about how you want your studio to be thought of, you know,

Alex Ferrari 52:36
Exactly, exactly. Now, tell me about your book, making it big, in short, shorter, faster, cheaper.

Kim Adelman 52:43
Don't you agree that short should be shorter, faster and cheaper? Absolutely. This is actually the third version. And this is my version. My subtitle that i system for the third version was the shorter chapter the shorter and cheaper faster because if you had to ask me quickly, advice, you know what filmmakers should do? It's like you make a film shorter, cheaper. I mean, Paul's me when I hear how much money people spend on this grant.

Alex Ferrari 53:06
But I did but I'm, I'm an anomaly. Don't that don't do what I do.

Kim Adelman 53:11
I really don't think so. Also, things are so much cheaper now to you know, I think if you're done, and now it wouldn't be as expensive as it was then, although I also teach, and one of my students is making her short film this weekend. And you know, it was it's 2500. And she's under budgeted, you know, I'm like, you just don't have enough money here. And people always think I can do it for a nickel. And it's like, well,

Alex Ferrari 53:34
If someone like myself, who's been in the business for almost 30 years says I could do it for nickel and more than likely I could do it for nickel because I know your favorites. You can call him I know how to do I've done it. But if you've never done it, I say you It's like someone in putting someone on set global fix it in post, like no, no, no. Only the editor or someone who's been in posts can say you can fix and post no one else is allowed to say that

Kim Adelman 53:55
Or have zero budget and and post.

Alex Ferrari 54:00
What she had, oh, really, she was just gonna do it on her laptop while she

Kim Adelman 54:06
Was just, you know, fine for student film. You know, you probably can get away with that. But even so, they're planning on shooting for three days and you've been feeding people for three days. I was like, I don't think you're gonna have enough money. feeding people

Alex Ferrari 54:18
Don't don't don't feed people the spinning wheels of death. You know what the spinning wheels of death are?

Kim Adelman 54:22
Yeah. What are the spinning wheels of pizza?

Alex Ferrari 54:24
Don't. Don't it's because they just they just, they're cheap. But you get what you pay for it and your your crew starts to slow down. It's sluggish. You want to give them food that keeps them energy going and pizza does not.

Kim Adelman 54:37
You will also she made the mistake of telling me she was going to up and she was the purchaser of it. But she was going to make the food herself. I was like,

Alex Ferrari 54:44
Oh, are you and she was the director too.

Kim Adelman 54:47
Now she's only she's only the producer, not only the producer, she is the producer. But still you can't be making food and doing everything else. As a producer.

Alex Ferrari 54:55
Oh, no. That's a rookie mistake. Unless Unless I mean, look, I've talked to some really big producers who have done that, because they had to do it. But you know, it was a different conversation,

Kim Adelman 55:08
Raise a little more money, put a little thing, buy something on the credit card. Yeah, just, you know, you get

Alex Ferrari 55:15
Free by the way you could get by the way, this is another trick I learned is you can get free food, food is easy to get for free. You walk in and go, Hey, we're making a short film, we'd love to promote your place. One, can we do a scene in your place? Or can we shoot at least outside of your place where we can promote your place or two, if you give us a free meal, we'll promote you through social media will promote you through the lot of local businesses will give you free I got free food, constantly making short films.

Kim Adelman 55:43
Soon, I do believe that everything for free concept of like if you have the time and the the right personality to do that, and the right connections, because again, you're gonna get know a lot too. But if you figure you get you're gonna get know a lot. But there are going to be places that no, you are want to support, you have the right mentality, and you will get a yes out of it. So, you know, it's just a matter of time and the right personality to do that kind of stuff. Right? And

Alex Ferrari 56:06
If you're in a small town, I've had filmmakers on the show that that had the entire town help them, right. Because they know you and it's a small town and it's you're making a movie. That's super cool. Like a lot of people still get freaked out when you're like, Oh, you're making movie like, people who are in LA, they just get like, they're jaded. Okay, another movie,

Kim Adelman 56:24
Real people who in their small town, they wrote a newspaper wrote an article about them making a short and I was like, I love that. How fabulous is that?

Alex Ferrari 56:31
Exactly! As you get a lot more attention. It's actually better to be outside of an LA or New York in that scenario, because people are super excited about like, Oh, you're making a movie. You know? Like, yeah, do you want to have a, you know, you want to sit in the background, and this one shot in the diner? What all we need is like three meals, oh, that's fine. Little tips of what you do, you know, I have just haven't done this in a year. So it's not the front of my head. But going back, I'm like, I used to do that. The biggest thing I used to do believe it or not, when I was doing it was in school is I heard that every day, the bakery would get rid of their stuff that's about to expire. Now they'll bread dill muffins, do everything. So I would walk in every day. I'm like, Hey, do you have anything do you want to get rid of and they would just give me a just bags full of breads, and pastries and cakes. And I would go and sell them at the school to make money. But you could arguably use that. It's fine. You can eat it. It's not mold, you're like it's not bad. But it's like going to expire the next day or something like that. So they can't sell it. But it's good for another two or three days. You could take that and use it on your set. I'm just saying that's service right there.

Kim Adelman 57:45
You are indeed Mr. Hustle. I mean, that is seriously, that is the hustle mentality of we're gonna get this done, we're gonna make it happen. We're gonna make our own rules, we're gonna do anything we need to do. And that is exactly how you need to be really to do something for no money.

Alex Ferrari 57:58
Absolutely, absolutely. Now I'm gonna, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today Kim?

Kim Adelman 58:08
I think you know, the right answer is you should always just be making something that you know, nobody's going to stop you. And you never know what the right thing is. It's going to really make or break you or, you know, help you develop your voice. So just constantly be making something.

Alex Ferrari 58:22
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Kim Adelman 58:28
I think it is that it's just a matter of getting through the nose until you get to yes, it you know, it's so hard to hear that and it's so hard to constantly run up against the nose. But the reality is, as soon as you get that, yes, stop. You've achieved it. And everybody can do that. Right? You know, the most dedicated person can go 90 through 99 nose until you get that 100 Yes.

Alex Ferrari 58:51
If there's one lesson that you can, if anyone listening to one lesson, if you can take from this conversation is that the noes are a guarantee. You're always going to get knows. But if you can get past that, and understand that that's just the rules of the game that you're playing. And that's life. In the film business that's life knows are the general that's the default. If you can get past that, then you open yourself up for those yeses, but you have to understand not to get derailed by the nose because you're gonna get nose constantly throughout. And it happens to everybody at every level. Spielberg got nose, Nolan, he doesn't get nose, but everybody. Nobody did get a no because he wanted things to happen for 10 and it didn't happen. Spielberg couldn't get Lincoln Lincoln financed, you know, so you're gonna get Schindler's List finance and he was frickin Steven Spielberg. So everyone gets knows it's about how you deal with those knows how you keep moving forward. So understand that that is just the default. Don't think in And also don't believe that you are not the Great, the great hope of the film industry. You are not the next Stanley Kubrick, you are the next you. And all of those people that you admire. Are they all are the true versions of themselves. And that's how you should approach shorts and the film business. Do you would you agree?

Kim Adelman 1:00:19
I understand. You said, That's so lovely.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:23
And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Kim Adelman 1:00:27
Can I say short films of all time?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:29
Well, I mean, nobody will know them. So you can, but I wouldn't like it like, oh, yeah, Bob's ever than no idea. But go ahead. It's your it's your answer. Unless a very famous shorts that people know, it's up to you.

Kim Adelman 1:00:48
There are shirts that are totally, you know, I'm sure. Well, for example, is just telling somebody else that tecnova tikka, that's the first time I ever saw him was from a short film two cars one night, and I'm pretty sure that is on YouTube or somewhere if you look for it. It's a great short film. And you can totally see his voice in that and the kinds of films that he made later. And that same year, he was he was nominated for Academy Award for that short film that did win that year was Andrea Arnold's short film, wasp. And wasp is like one of my favorite short films of all time, although it is long, but it is great. And I'm pretty sure that one's available to you can Google that one. And of course, she went on to be a fabulous filmmaker as well. And then Jane Campion, her very wasn't her first short film, I don't think but one thing that got her a lot of tension was called peel. And that's a fabulous and short film as well.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:35
There's one short film that I found, as you were thinking, like, what's my favorite short film? There was a short film I saw years ago. I've had the producer on the of the feature since then, I've become friends with him. And I was when I brought it out. He's like, holy crap, you saw that? I'm like, yes, yes, I did. I heard about it. years ago, there was a film called darkness false. released by Universal is a horror movie, the director of that made a short that had nothing to do with the movie. But the short was so good that they gave him a shot to make the movie. There's a different time period. But it was universal for God's sake. So it wasn't like a huge deal. And his feature didn't went on to do very well. But the short was about what if it was a story of basically baby Hitler. And and that they could have, they actually were fighting to give birth. And to make sure that this baby was born and it was baby Hitler. At the end of the movie. We're like, oh, it was such so good. So well done that the production design was excellent. That digital camera, it was beautifully lit. It was really high production really highly produced shot on 35. It was gorgeous. But it was like this emotional thing that you're like, Oh, God, the baby has to go the baby has to get born. Oh my god, all this stuff is happening. And then it's baby Hitler. You're like, Oh, my so good.

Kim Adelman 1:02:53
There's so many films, short films that have Hitler or Jesus is one of the characters. It's always like, Oh, another Hitler shirt. Oh, no Jesus shirt. But it's because it's a character we all know. Right? Right away. So when you tell me baby healer, I totally know. You know what you mean? Why that is etc.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:10
We all know. Absolutely. And one of the famous, the most famous, I argue the most successful short film to ever launch anything. Is the spirit of Christmas. Spirit of Christmas spirit of Christmas. Yeah. So the biggest short film of all time, I'm going to argue to say I don't think there's any film that has generated more revenue than that short film, the spirit of Christmas. A little bit of cardboard, a little bit of a construction paper cut out animated. And it was Jesus versus Santa Claus. And it is built. I mean, what did they sell HBO? I think they said he's 150 million or 250 million.

Kim Adelman 1:03:50
I mean, think of all the merchandising alone that's come off of that they I think

Alex Ferrari 1:03:53
They get I think they get 10% and they still are loaded.

Kim Adelman 1:03:58
Can I just tell you something real quick, because I know we're running out of time. But I had a very good friend who's short film played Sundance in the same shorts program as spirit of Christmas because they did invite spirit of Christmas to play at Sundance. And nobody remembered during the screenings, like nobody wants to talk about my film. Everyone wanted to talk about that. And Jesus

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
Versus Santa Claus.

Kim Adelman 1:04:18
Water Festival situation.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:22
I still and this is a power of the short back then this is before the internet. I walked into a comic book store. When I was at that age, whenever that came out. I was I think high school or a little bit. I think it was in high school or a little bit younger than high school. When that came out. And the guy behind the counter, the comic book guy said, Hey, man, you want to see something busted out a bootleg copy of spirit of Christmas because it was bootlegged all over the place. And I saw it and my mouth was just like, What did what did I just see? So I said Jesus finding Santa Claus. This is amazing. This is so you know and if You want to talk about voices Jesus? Yeah. Matt and Trey I mean, there's nobody else and boy they've written that horse Haven't they?

Kim Adelman 1:05:10
Yes, they have to

Alex Ferrari 1:05:12
I've been riding that horse until the wheels fall

Kim Adelman 1:05:16
When people recommend love a sword from so much they want to tell you about it encourage you to see it. That's just that's winning right there. That's now

Alex Ferrari 1:05:23
And now it's a Click now to VHS going and now it's a click Email it's a social media posting guys you gotta watch this.

Kim Adelman 1:05:30
The fact that somebody's promoting it that way with no you know, financial in on it, just want to share with you something that they love. That is wonderful. That's the highest.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:38
And Kim, where can people get your book and find out more about what you do?

Kim Adelman 1:05:42
Well, making big insurance available bookstores near you. There's not so many bookstores anymore, so let's just say sadly, Amazon

Alex Ferrari 1:05:51
Hey, Jeff needs to send some more rockets up into space, we got to support him. Some oddly shaped rockets. Anyway. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your knowledge about shorts. Hopefully this has helped a few filmmakers avoid some pitfalls. And maybe we maybe with this conversation, we help launch a few careers. Let's hope making sure you'll never regret. Thank you again so much for being on the show. Kim, I appreciate you.

Kim Adelman 1:06:19
Pleasure talking to you.

5 Stages of Indie Film Production: What You Need to Know

Film Production is created in 5 phases: development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution. Each phase has a different purpose, with the overarching goal to get to the next one, and ultimately on to distribution. Each stage varies in length, and different roles suit different stages. Sadly, some projects don’t make it all the way, as some fall over in development and pre-production.

If you’re serious about working in film, you’ll slot into one or a few of these stages in the role you pursue. Here is a useful outline of each of them, to give you an introductory glimpse into the film process.

1. Film Production – Development

This is where the project is birthed. It is the creation, writing, organizing and planning stage of a project. In development, a preliminary budget is made, key cast are attached, key creatives are chosen, main locations scouted and multiple script drafts may be written.

It’s all the groundwork to show what the project will be and how much it will cost to make. It starts the moment a Producer thinks of a project or a Writer starts penning words on a page.

Development can take months or even years to get the project green-lit by a studio or funded independently and move into pre-production. Green-lighting a film means the studio has approved the idea and will finance the project and move into production.

The crew involved in the development stage is quite minimal compared to all the other stages, as it’s just a small group of creatives and executives crafting the story and associated budget. Once a project finds finance, it will move into the pre-production phase with an emphasis on shooting dates and time frame for the project to be finished.

Once the project has been approved and financed, a preliminary budget is developed by the production team. It’s a rough outline of how much money they need to make the film. The amount of money required depends on the type of film being made.

For example, a studio-backed project will require more money than a self-financed film. The budget also includes the total amount of money needed to shoot the film. The budget is created by a Production Executive and the Producer. The Producer will oversee the budget and ensure it’s accurate and is met. They may work with a Finance Executive and a CFO.

Production (Budget) Once the preliminary budget is approved, a detailed budget is developed. This is when a Producer and the Director, along with a small crew of creatives, begin writing and developing a detailed budget. The budget is broken down into three key areas: production, post-production and distribution.

These are the three primary costs of making a film, although there are many other costs such as location scouting, catering, wardrobe, props, equipment, set construction, legal fees, advertising and much more.

As a Producer, you will need to be responsible for all three areas. You will have to oversee all aspects of the budget and ensure they are met. The Producer may also need to be involved in negotiations with vendors, distributors and financiers. The Producer may also need to work closely with a finance executive and a CFO.

Finance (Budget) Once the budget is approved, the Producer will need to secure financing for the project. There are many different types of financing available, including: Equity Financing – A Producer will need to raise funds from investors. This is the most common type of financing available. – A Producer will need to raise funds from investors.

This is the most common type of financing available. Debt Financing – A Producer will need to raise funds from lenders or banks. A Producer will need to raise funds from lenders or banks.

Tax Credit – A Producer will need to apply for a tax credit on behalf of the film. Some states have tax credits that are available to filmmakers. A Producer will need to apply for a tax credit on behalf of the film. Some states have tax credits that are available to filmmakers.

Government Funding – A Producer will need to apply for government funding. This can include:

Federal Grants – A Producer will need to apply for federal grants to support the film’s production. – A Producer will need to apply for federal grants to support the film’s production.

State Grants – A Producer will need to apply for state grants to support the film’s production. – A Producer will need to apply for state grants to support the film’s production. A Producer may also be involved in negotiations with vendors, distributors and financiers. The Producer may also need to work closely with a finance executive and a CFO.

Casting – Casting a film is the process of finding actors who fit the roles in the script. Once an actor has been cast, they are required to sign a contract with the Producer. A Producer may also need to negotiate with the Actors Union to obtain union membership for the cast and crew. A Producer may also need to work with the casting director to find the right actors for the roles.

Casting directors will need to review resumes and headshots of potential Actors, and then schedule a screen test or audition with potential Actors. The Producer will then decide whether or not to hire an Actor.

The Producer may also need to negotiate with the Actors Union to obtain union membership for the cast and crew. A Producer may also need to work with the casting director to find the right actors for the roles.

Casting directors will need to review resumes and headshots of potential Actors, and then schedule a screen test or audition with potential Actors. The Producer will then decide whether or not to hire an Actor.

A particularly well-known example of troubled development was Mad Max: Fury Road. Development & pre-production on the fourth installment of George Miller’s Mad Max franchise, which first launched in 1979, began in the late 90s with a script penned and shooting planned for the early 2000s. A plague of bad luck followed.

You can learn more about this stage of production at our sister site Bulletproof Screenwriting.

The Gulf War deterred filming in the initial scouted location, and when shooting was relocated to the barren landscape and perfect post-apocalyptic desert vibe in Broken Hill, Australia, a decade-long drought broke.

Dirt and dust were replaced with lush greenery and wildflowers. After over ten years of planning and delays, the film was finally shot in Namibia and South Africa, with pick-ups in Australia. During this time, George Miller directed both installments of the Happy Feet films whilst waiting for the right time to finish his initial project.

The film was released and received massive critical and box office success – proving that sometimes the wait can be worth it.

2. Film Production – Pre-Production

Pre-production (or ‘pre’ as it’s called) is where scripts are amended, budgets are adjusted, actors are cast, locations scouted, the crew employed, shooting schedules amended, sets designed and built, costumes made and fitted, and everything to do with the shoot is planned and tested.

Pre-production includes all the steps taken before the actual shoot:

  • Casting
  • Rehearsal with the actors
  • Budgeting
  • Scriptwriting
  • Location scouting
  • Wardrobe
  • Prop shopping
  • Set design
  • Pre-visualization
  • Pre-lighting
  • Pre-composition

The pre-production stage can last many months from the initial greenlighting of a project to when cameras actually roll.  As this date draws closer, the crew grows with many people being employed about two to eight weeks before the shoot starts.

There is a big push in these weeks to finalize everything that needs to be prepped before cameras roll. Although years of deliberation, concept molding, writing and staring into space in a dreamlike daze is likely to occur in development, once shoot dates are confirmed the work becomes extremely focused on adhering to budgets and shooting schedules.

In some cases this is achieved by hiring in additional staff as needed for each department, and in other cases it’s achieved by bringing in crew who have worked on similar projects. If you’re an actor, you’ve probably been involved in pre-production at one time or another.

For many actors, pre-production marks the beginning of their acting career, so the process can be exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. It’s a great time to meet people, and to get a feel for what it’s like to be on set. The pre-production period also gives you a chance to meet other actors and crew members who are working on your film.

There are a lot of things that can happen in pre-production that might not have occurred if you were shooting the film months or even weeks later. If the budget is too tight to allow for a lot of people being paid, the director or producer might have to cut corners on certain things.

Pre-production is also the stage where directors, producers and screenwriters begin to work closely together on a project to establish a good working relationship. They will have many meetings, phone calls, emails and texts to discuss and finalize all aspects of the script, storyboards, locations, cast, crew, etc.

A common misconception about pre-production is that it’s the time when everything has to be finalized before shooting can begin. This isn’t always the case. There is usually plenty of time to go over and revise things that aren’t perfect. Ideally you need to be sure that you are absolutely certain of everything before filming.

The pre-production stage can last anywhere from one month to a year, depending on the size and complexity of the film project. It can start with an initial meeting between the writer and producer (or sometimes a director and producer) to establish a basic understanding of what the project is about and how it should look.

3. Film Production- Production

The production stage is where the rubber hits the road. The Writer, Director, Producer, and countless other creative minds finally see their ideas captured on film, one day at a time. Production is usually the shortest of the five phases, even though it is paramount to the film and where most of the budget is allotted.

Production is the busiest time, with the film crew positions swelling to hundreds and the days becoming longer in order to be as efficient as possible with all the gear and locations on hire. Let’s go over a few key areas of the film production process.

Line Producer

A Line Producer (LP) is responsible for all of the logistics of getting a film from start to finish. This includes hiring the crew, setting up the set, and making sure that the entire production is running smoothly.

The Line Producer is often the only person who has to deal with all the problems that occur during the shoot—which can include everything from finding a new location to handling legal issues. The Line Producer is also responsible for ensuring that everyone involved on the production is paid and that their contracts are in order.

First Assistant Director

First Assistant Director (1st AD) is a position in filmmaking where a person helps an assistant director and also takes care of other aspects related to the film such as, production office tasks, equipment management, budgeting etc.

1st ADs are a very important team member in a film production and ensure that all the elements of the production are in place and ready for the director to use. The role of First Assistant Director is to ensure that the director is happy with the work of the crew, so that he or she can focus on directing the film.

A good 1st AD can make or break a film. They also have to get into contact with the cast and crew of the film. This includes working closely with the actors, as they perform their roles on set. It also includes working with the other departments like art department, sound department, costume department, makeup department etc.

The First Assistant Director also has to coordinate the various departments of the film.

Director of Photography

Directors of Photography (or DOP) are responsible for the overall look of your production. You may hear DOP referred to as DP, Director of Photography. A DP is the person who is in charge of the camera work, which includes the camera operator, lighting, and set design.

He or she is responsible for all the photographic elements of the production. It’s important to know how to communicate effectively with them and make sure they understand the vision that the director wants to achieve.

This is essential to avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes. It’s also essential to know how to communicate effectively with your DP so that he or she can give you the best advice possible.

Your director may have specific ideas on how to light a scene, which is fine, but he or she needs to understand that the DOP will be making the final decisions regarding lighting.

The DOP will be responsible for knowing what type of lights are available and how to use them. He or she may have a preferred lighting style that you should be aware of when making your choice of camera equipment.

Production Schedule

If a director can not make his or her day then the production will fail. Every day on a film set the director is responsible for shooting a number of pages from the script a day. This schedule is created by the first assistant director.

The production schedule is where the information about the scene is listed. It usually contains the scene number, whether the scene is indoors or outdoors (INT or EXT), the day or night, the cast, the shooting location, the page count of the script, the estimated shooting time, a shot description, and other details.

The production schedule lists who the actors were who were present on set for the scene, as well as other cast members who may have been present on set. This list also includes crew members, such as camera operators and gaffers.

The information about the crew is found in the production crew section of the schedule. If the director is even off by a 1/8 of a page the production is in danger of not finishing on time and on budget.

Costume, Hair and Make-Up

The actors need to be fitted for their costumes and makeup after being brought in.Costume design is also key. The costume department needs to be ready with the right clothes for each scene. If you can imagine the person, you can probably make a costume that will help you get there.

The first thing to do is make a list of all the things you think will be important in the film. This includes everything from your character’s appearance, to his or her personality, to how he or she might react in certain situations.

Also be sure to include the kind of clothes your character wears and where those clothes are worn. If you’ve got a lot of clothing to choose from, you might want to see what your character would wear in everyday life. This way, you can base your costume choices on the clothing your character would wear if he or she were just going about his or her day.

The makeup department has to get everything set up for each shot and ready for the actors, including wigs, prosthetics, and makeup. The hair and make-up artists are the experts in their field, and they need to be ready for every type of role.

Production Design

A production designer (also called a set decorator or set dresser) is responsible for the overall look of a film, TV show, or commercial, including the sets and props. They create the environment for each scene, including the furniture, décor, and lighting. Their job is to make sure the set is as realistic as possible, but they also need to think about how it looks in the context of the story.

A production designer might be responsible for designing the sets on a movie, TV series or commercial, or might be asked to give an opinion about the sets created by other designers. Production designers can also work on location, such as shooting a documentary, but most are based at a studio.

In this case they will have a set built before filming, and may have to make changes during the shoot. A production designer’s responsibilities include:

To design a set, production designer must consider many different factors, including:

  • The budget The director’s vision
  • The nature of the project (e.g., a comedy or drama)
  • The type of set
  • Whether the set is practical or designed for visual effects (VFX)
  • How the set will be used in the story
  • How the set will look in context with the rest of the film, TV show or commercial

To create a believable environment, production designers need to pay attention to small details, including:

  • The size of the set
  • The materials used
  • The lighting, especially if it is night-time
  • The background, such as a wall or a street
  • The scale of the set
  • The furniture and décor
  • The placement of props and extras
  • The position of the camera and any special effects
  • Production designers may work alone or as part of a team
  • In the past, they were often hired by directors and producers, but now they usually work with production managers
  • The work of a production designer depends on their experience and what they are hired for

These are just a few positions of a film set. Now onto the next stage Post Production.


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4. Film Production – Post-Production

So you’ve thought of an idea, written a script, raised the funds, employed a bunch of crew to get it made, spent most of your budget, and hopefully have shot some decent footage in the process. Now it’s time to move into post-production. This is where the footage is edited,

This is where the footage is edited, the sound is mixed, visual effects are added, a soundtrack is composed, titles are created, and the project is completed and prepared for distribution. Although the shooting crew has done a lot of hard work, now the post-production crew face arduous hours of work ahead of them to piece together the scenes and craft a stunning story.

Post-production begins while the shoot is still going, as the footage is gathered as soon as the first day of shooting commences. This helps see the project finished as soon as possible, but can also help identify problems with the footage or any gaps in the story while the shoot is still happening. If needed, shots can be picked up on later days without too much interference in the shooting schedule.

While there are some elements of post-production that can be done ahead of time – such as editing a script or creating a visual effects breakdown – most of it is done after the shoot ends.

Once the shoot is over, the footage is stored on media such as hard drives, DVDs, or on a server depending on the kind of shoot and the budget. The footage is then loaded into a software application called a “digital video editing system” (DVES). Some popular editing systems are AVID, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere and Davinci Resolve.

Most DVES are very similar, but they have their own quirks and workflows, and are designed for specific purposes. Some of these DVES are better at handling certain types of footage, while others excel at certain tasks, and are not as good at others. A lot of what makes DVES work is how they handle footage.

What is footage? As discussed earlier, footage refers to any recorded information. It can be anything from a still image, a moving picture, or even sound. While you can use a smartphone or other device to record audio or video, most people use dedicated equipment for that purpose.

Durning the post production process you edit the footage you have shot with sound, then add sound effects and music. Then you go to the color grading process where you adjust the image to correct lighting issues and stylize the color. You also add any visual effects that are needed.

5. Film Distribution

Without a stringent and robust distribution strategy, the other four stages of production are somewhat redundant, at least from a business perspective. Distribution is the final stage in a project for producers looking to make a return-on-investment. This can be from cinema distribution, selling to a TV network or streaming service, or releasing direct to DVD.

Whatever the distribution plan is, the producers will have spent many hours planning and marketing their piece to ensure the biggest audience and largest return. With the digital age and rapidly converging technologies, viewers are watching content in new and different ways, meaning that the distribution phase is constantly evolving.

Although distribution is the final stage of the project, the channel of distribution and marketing of the project will be planned in pre-production. If it is planned badly and fails to garner good distribution, then all the other phases will be wasted as nobody views the final product and covers the cost of the project. Hopefully, a project moves through all stages smoothly and efficiently and thus a Producer begins the cycle again on another project employing both myself (and possibly you!) once more.

If it is planned badly and fails to garner good distribution, then all the other phases will be wasted as nobody views the final product and covers the cost of the project. Hopefully, a project moves through all stages smoothly and efficiently and thus a Producer begins the cycle again on another project employing both myself (and possibly you!) once more.


Are you Tired of Paying Film Festival Entry fees?

Learn the techniques that worked in 600+ film festival entries. Download our six tips to help you get into film festivals for cheap or free.

Matt Webb is the author of Setlife: A Guide To Getting A Job in Film (And Keeping It). He is an Assistant Director with credits including The Great Gatsby, Mad Max: Fury Road, Hacksaw Ridge, Pirates of the Carribean and Alien: Covenant.

Setlife: A Guide To Getting A… is a must-have guide designed to prepare you for what happens on a typical day on a film set. Matt Webb’s no-fuss, practical tips are essential reading for anyone chasing a career in the film industry. The book is available for $25 from Amazon.

8 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid on Your First Feature Film

Filmmaking you say? Making your first feature film? But I only have one feature (Blessid) under my belt and one other in development. Who am I to give you advice? Correction: I am not giving you advice. I am merely telling you about mistakes and why you don’t want to make them. And on that topic, I am very well qualified.

Mistake #1: Not knowing your purpose.

You’re going to be spending the next five years of your life – if you don’t give up, that is – making your movie. So you better know why you’re making it before you spend the time and money. Is it for art? Then spend way less. Is it for exposure? Still, don’t spend much. Is it for commerce? Okay, but unless your name is “The Heir” try not to spend over $100,000. If you are a 5-tool film guy (writing, directing, producing, editing, deliverables) you can make a great film for under $50,000. But if you’re a writer looking to direct … you’re going to need to pay people to carry you to the finish line.

So if it’s art – do it for under $5,000 and try to get it crowd-funded. And do a short under ten minutes long so you’ll improve your odds to get into film festivals. If it’s for exposure, spend $10,000-$20,000 because you’ll want to make it a bit more polished with good music, sound, and video. And you might even want to pay a known actor to make sure people watch your movie. In that case, make it $30,000-$35,000.

Mistake #2: Not getting legal representation.

Some will say that not allocating the funds to obtain proper legal representation is often a first-time filmmaker’s biggest mistake. And it can be a fatal mistake. An entertainment lawyer will run 3-5% of your budget, and it’s worth every penny. Especially if you it’s your first film, you are getting investors to give you money, and you are winging it.

You will need your entertainment lawyer every step of the way – from pre-production (business plan, investor agreements) to principal photography (actor and crew agreements, location releases, appearance releases) to post (post supervisor, composer, sound/foley agreements) to distribution (distributor agreement – definitely have a lawyer review this for you). Fortunately, somebody has already written a book about making a low budget movie when you’re outside of Hollywood.

This is it: Independent Film Producing: How to Produce a Low-Budget Feature Film. Buy it. Read it. And thank me later.

Mistake #3: The non-perfect script.

Writing is hard work. But revisions are necessary. In fact, you should expect to re-write a script several times with the assistance of a professional script advisor throughout the process. The steps might go something like this:

1) Treatment

2) First Draft

3) Advisor Input

4) Second Draft

5) Advisor Input

6) Third Draft

7) Live Actor Read & Input

8) Final Polish

Taking a year to write a film script is not uncommon – unless someone is paying you to write it and wants it much quicker. Then do 1) Treatment, 2) First Draft, 3) Revision and 4) Final Polish.

Mistake #4: Rushing through pre-production.

Often a filmmaker will not schedule sufficient time for pre-production. He/She moves too fast through pre-production. Rushing into production will unavoidably lead to mistakes. Unfortunately, these early mistakes are built to last, and hard to overcome at the low-budget level where the money that you and any financial backers have to “fix it in Post” is likely non-existent.

Mistake #5: Under-manning your crew.

Before I made Blessid I never thought much when I saw an “Assistant Director” credit on screen. I sure do appreciate what this person does now – which is basically managing the set so the Director can focus on making the film. A bad AD can ruin the mood of the whole crew – adding tension to the actors and crew. A good AD is like a good composer, seamlessly improving the flow of the film from beginning to end. Line Producer is another person who will save your budget (and your butt) in pre-production through the end of principal photography.

A Script Supervisor(to take notes for continuity and missed content) is also important to have. And finally, a Digital Imaging Technician(DIT) is an important link between the set (or the cinematographer) and the post-production house (or the editor), configuring the media and hardware as per the need of the project.

Mistake #6: Not leaving an appropriate amount of time to become a SAG signatory.

Even if you plan to do an ultra-low-budget or micro-budget film if you use SAG actors your production company will need to become a SAG signatory. And there really are no short cuts. So leave yourself a good three weeks, as SAG recommends, to get the paperwork squared so you can start your production in good order. What are the steps involved? I will spare you the details, and instead, simply provide a link.

Mistake #7: Not setting aside funds for the SAG Actor Bond.

I’d never even heard of a SAG Actor Bond. I just thought that when I was finished with the paperwork to become a signatory I could yell “Action!” and be on with it. But if you have negotiated salaries with SAG actors for your film, you need to set aside certain monies in a bond that SAG holds. And you need to do this before you begin filming.

If you are using a payroll company who can demonstrate you have set the appropriate funds aside, this is usually 40-50% of negotiated SAG actor salaries for features. So if you are paying SAG actors $5,000 – you need to come up with an additional $2,000-$2,500 dollars to let SAG hold throughout principal photography.

If you don’t use a payroll company you could very well be expected to pony up the entire amount in bond PLUS 10% (pension) PLUS 15.3% (health and benefits). And SAG may not inform you of this until a few days before you begin shooting. So rather than having $5,000 set aside in your budget for SAG actors, the true cost would be $11,265 ($5,000 to cut checks during filming and $6,250 for the SAG Actor Bond before filming begins).

Mistake #8: Not getting a name actor for SAG productions.

I truly believe SAG actors are the cream of the crop. And I am thrilled with the performances in my first feature. But if I were to do it again – I’d keep the same actors and get one recognized name for a small but necessary role (1-day shoot) to give my distributor extra “oomph” when they try to market my film to broadcast TV or in foreign markets. Bottom line: If you are going through the paperwork and hassle of a SAG production, get at least one familiar name to make it that much easier to sell the film later on.

About the Author:

Bob Heske is a multi-award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic novelist and indie comic creator. By day he churns out compliance marketing content for financial services; by night he is maniacal at his keyboard – creating characters and dramatic conflicts far more interesting than he is. You can watch his first film BLESSID on Amazon Prime here. Blessid is directed by Rob Fitz and stars Rachel Kerbs, Rick Montgomery Jr., Gene Silvers, and Chris DiVecchio.

Coen Brother’s Blood Simple Investor Pitch Trailer

blood simple pitch trailer, coen brothers

We all have to start somewhere and the Coen Brothers are no different. When they were struggling filmmakers trying to get their first feature Blood Simple off the ground they had an idea, why don’t we shoot a pitch trailer to show investors what we can do.

The Blood Simple pitch trailer starred unknown actor Bruce Campbell. Joel Coen discusses the trailer’s origins on the Criterion Collection’s 4K Restoration of Blood Simple.

“Sam Raimi taught us that if you call on the phone and ask people to invest in a movie they’ll tell you to go hell. But if you tell them ‘I have a piece of film to show you,’ then some of the would let you come into their living room and set up your little projector and show it to them.”

I had the pleasure of speaking to director and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld who lite and shot the trailer.


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Christopher Nolan’s Micro-Budget Short Films: Doodlebug

In our ongoing series of spotlighting famous director’s first micro-budget outings, we present Christopher Nolan’s Doodlebug. Doodlebug was shot in 1997 and created the film during his university days using 16mm film.

This psychological short-film has gained a cult following, especially given the heights which Christopher Nolan’s now climbed since making it. The film concerns a grungy man, in a filthy apartment. He is anxious and paranoid, trying to kill a small bug-like creature that is scurrying on the floor. It is revealed that the bug resembles a miniature version of himself.

He squashes the bug with his shoe. However, every movement the “doodlebug” makes is later matched by the man himself, and he is later squashed by a larger version of himself.

Download Chris Nolan’s Screenplay Collection in PDF


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Top 10 Acting Podcasts (Oscar® and Emmy® Winners)

Top 10 Acting podcasts. actor podcasts

Podcasts have been so important to me over the past few years. Indie Film Hustle entered into the podcast space in 2015 with the launch of its first original podcast series, The Indie Film Hustle Podcast.

The response to the podcast was so amazing that after a few short months the show became the #1 filmmaking podcast on Apple Podcasts & Spotify, and still maintain that honor. I’m truly humbled and thankful by the response.

The show is only as good as the filmmakers. screenwriters, actors and industry professionals who listen to it. Thank you all for the support.

As a bonus I have put together the Top 10 Actors Podcasts from the IFH archives. Many of these Oscar® and Emmy® Nominees are legendary! These episodes discuss not just the craft of acting but origin stories, the film business and so much more. This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.

Click here to subscribe on Apple,  Spotify, & Youtube.

1. Billy Crystal 

There are performers that impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas in the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies.

2. 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.

3. John Leguizamo

Fast-talking and feisty-looking John Leguizamo has continued to impress movie audiences with his versatility: he can play sensitive and naïve young men, such as Johnny in Hangin’ with the Homeboys; cold-blooded killers like Benny Blanco in Carlito’s Way; a heroic Army Green Beret, stopping aerial terrorists in Executive Decision; and drag queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

4. Edward James Olmos

Our guest today is 80s star, multiple-awards film, and theater actor, and activist, Edward James Olmos. Olmos’s roles in films or TV shows like Stand and DeliverBattlestar Galactica, broadway musical and film Zoot SuitBlade Runner as detective Gaff, and many others are some of the most memorable of all time and he’s still dominating our screens. While I could not resist talking about his iconic roles over several decades, we mainly discussed Olmos’ new must-see film, Chasing Wonders.

5. Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria has long established herself as one of the most sought after television directors in Hollywood. Named by Variety as one of their most anticipated directors of 2021, Longoria continues to hone her craft, seek new projects, and expand opportunities for others by paving the way for future women and minority producers, directors and industry leaders in Hollywood and beyond.

Her strong work ethic coupled with her passion for storytelling has led to a pivotal moment as she prepares for the release of her feature film directorial debut with Flamin’ Hot. She recently wrapped production for the highly anticipated Searchlight biopic about the story of Richard Montañez and the spicy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos snack for which she beat out multiple high profile film directors vying for the job.

Eva became well known worldwide thanks to Desperate Housewives, where she played a main character, Gabrielle Solis.

6. Kyra Sedgwick

Kyra Sedgwick is an award-winning actress, producer and director. She is best known for her Emmy and Golden Globe-winning role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on the TNT crime drama “The Closer” and most recently starred on the ABC comedy “Call Your Mother.” She recently directed the feature film SPACE ODDITY, which stars Kyle Allen and Alexandra Shipp.


7. Lance Henriksen

Lance has been in over 300 films through-out his remarkable career.He’s mentored Tarzan, Evel Knievel and the Antichrist, and fought Terminators, Aliens, Predators, Pumpkinhead, Pinhead, Bigfoot, Superman, the Autobots, Mr. T, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal.

He’s worked with directors James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Sidney Lumet, Francois Truffaut, John Huston, Walter Hill, David Fincher, John Woo, Jim Jarmusch and Sam Raimi, but this is just skimming the surface.

8. Robert Forster

This week we are joined by legendary actor Robert Forster. Robert has been a working actor for decades, appearing in a classic film like Medium Cool, the iconic John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye80’s action classic Delta Force (love me a good 80’s action flixand Disney’s The Black Hole (one of my favorite films growing up).

He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which he credits with reviving his career. Since then Robert has been on fire in the second half of his career, appearing in The DescendantsLike MikeMulholland Drive; Me, Myself, & IreneLucky Number Slevin and Firewall, just to name a few.

9. Adrian Martinez

Being yourself in any situation in life is hard for many people. Actors do make a living playing other people but the art of being comfortable in your own skin is a lesson we can all learn. I invited on the show Adrian Martinez, an actor, writer, producer, and soon-to-be-director, with nearly 100 film and TV credits.

Adrian’s career began as a high school track star on NBC’s “Unsolved Mysteries“. Some in casting have called Adrian, “the sidekick to the stars,” as evidenced by his recent sidekick trifecta– Will Smith’s sidekick in Warner Bros’ “Focus,” Ben Stiller’s sidekick in his Fox remake of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Will Ferrell’s sidekick in Lionsgate’s “Casa de mi Padre,” to name a few.

10. Joseph Reitman

Filmmaking during these crazy times is tough, if not impossible in some areas. Imagine acting on a set in the age of COVID-19. I wanted to bring a veteran actor on the show to discuss how these insane times are affecting actors and I could think of no better person than 25+ year acting vet Joseph Reitman. Many of you might recognize him as the co-star of my first feature film This is Meg.


Martin Scorsese’s Rare $70 Million Short Film: The Audition

The Audition Martin Scorsese, The Audition 2015 short film, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio

Director Martin Scorsese’s celebrated collaborations with legendary actor Robert De Niro are the stuff of cinematic legend– TAXI DRIVER (1976), RAGING BULL (1980), GOODFELLAS (1990); to name just a few.  Each project they undertake together seems to bring out the very best in the other, even if the finished products don’t quite meet expectations.

To a somewhat lesser extent, this is also true of Scorsese’s more-recent string of collaborations with Leonard DiCaprio, an acclaimed performer in his own right.  GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002), THE DEPARTED (2006), and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) may not be on the same level as Scorsese’s earlier classics but they too constitute a body of work that has seen both director and actor feeding off the other’s highly-attuned creative energies.

Most directors are lucky to get one muse in their lifetime, let alone two, so it’s understandable that many in the cinema world viewed a collaboration between both men under Scorsese’s direction as something of a cinematic holy grail akin to the long-anticipated team-up between De Niro and Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s HEAT (1995).

In 2015, this dream scenario finally arrived, albeit not in the form fans were expecting.  Instead of a sprawling feature with characters these actors could really sink their teeth into, we would get a 16 minute short film called THE AUDITION.

In 2015, this dream scenario finally arrived, albeit not in the form fans were expecting. Instead of a sprawling feature with characters these actors could really sink their teeth into, we would get a 16 minute short film called THE AUDITION.

Commissioned by the owners of the then-unbuilt City of Dreams and Studio City casinos in Manila and Macau, respectively, at a cost of $70 million dollars, THE AUDITION is nothing less than the most expensive advertisement ever made. With RSA and Ratpac Productions serving as his production team.

Written by Terence Winter, Scorsese’s writing collaborator on BOARDWALK EMPIRE, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, and the then-upcoming HBO show VINYL, THE AUDITION plays like one big meta joke.

De Niro, DiCaprio, Scorsese, and even Brad Pitt appear as highly exaggerated versions of themselves, with De Niro and DiCaprio running into each other in a Manila casino and discovering they’ve both been summoned by Scorsese to audition for his next picture.

For the ensuing 16 minutes, the two actors expend a great deal of energy trying to one-up each other and prove they’re the right choice for the part. For some reason, this effort takes them from Manila, to Macau, and finally to Japan, where Scorsese realizes (erroneously) that Brad Pitt is actually the man for the part.

Scorsese brings his signature visual style to the proceedings, collaborating with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET’s cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto for a high-contrast, glitzy look that crosses CASINO (1995) with BLADE RUNNER (1982.

It’s unclear from this particular viewing whether Scorsese acquired the 2.35:1 image photochemically or digitally (I suspect the latter considering the heavy use of CGI backdrops), but other signatures like a dynamic, zooming camera and a rollicking jukebox soundtrack make it clear that his employers hired him for his unique style just as much as his famous name.


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Indeed, the concept hinges on the audience’s cognizance of Scorsese’s most high-profile artistic trope– his consistent collaborations with De Niro and DiCaprio. It milks this central joke for every ounce of comedic juice, never mind the fact that their age difference alone makes the idea that they’d ever compete for the same role a patently absurd and unrealistic one.

THE AUDITION serves as further evidence of the iconic director’s playfulness in his later years as well as his recognizes of his own place in American pop culture.

Author Cameron Beyl is the creator of The Directors Series and an award-winning filmmaker of narrative features, shorts, and music videos.  His work has screened at numerous film festivals and museums, in addition to being featured on taste making online media platforms like Vice Creators Project, Slate, Popular Mechanics, and Indiewire. 

THE DIRECTORS SERIES is an educational collection of video and text essays by filmmaker Cameron Beyl exploring the works of contemporary and classic film directors. 


Want to watch more short films by legendary filmmakers?

Our collection has short films by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Chris Nolan, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg & more.


IFH 584: Secrets to Creating Great Character Moments with Chris Riley

Chris Riley is a screenwriter whose first film, After The Truth, an award-winning courtroom thriller written with his wife and professional partner, Kathy, sparked international controversy in 1999 when it was released in Germany.

Other credits include 25 To Life, a dramatic thriller for Junction Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures; The Other White House, a political thriller for Sean Connery’s Fountainbridge Films and Intermedia; Aces, an action-adventure romance for Paramount Pictures; and a screen adaptation of the book Actual Innocence for Mandalay Television Pictures and the Fox television network. A veteran of the Warner Bros. script department, Riley is the author of The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style. He serves as professor of film at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego and previously taught in the MFA program in writing for screen and television at Pepperdine University.

He served as creative director at Yellow Line Studio where he executive produced the web series Bump+ and produced the feature Red Line. He is a founding partner of the online Story Masters Film Academy.

His new book is The Defining Moment How Writers and Actors Build Characters.

Aimed at both the head and the heart, The Defining Moment plumbs the depths of the most memorable characters ever to appear on the screen, the stage or the page. The book focuses on those moments so pivotal in a character’s formation that they create a distinct boundary of before and after, moments without which the character couldn’t exist and moments through which characters can transform before our eyes. Writers, actors and storytellers of all stripes will discover a powerful new key to unlock any character they seek to develop, write or portray. They may even unlock a deeper understanding of themselves.


  • The first in-depth study of the essential principles that will redefine the way storytellers understand their characters and themselves.
  • Essential insights into the forces that create character
  • Dozens of examples of character-defining moments from film, television, theater and literature
  • An exploration of pivotol moments: birth, death, discovery, decision-making, injury and healing
  • An examination of how writers and actors employ defining moments in their deepest and most unforgettable works
  • Insights into how directors, editors, cinematographers and composers dramatize key moments
  • Practical exercises for defining and redefining character
  • Tips for discovering the moments that matter most
  • Deeply personal stories from the authors’ lives to illustrate the variety of moments that define us.
  • For every storyteller, no matter their medium, The Defining Moment will redefine the way they understand their characters and themselves.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Chris Riley 0:00
Well, I think you do start with that kind of question. Like I know I have a character who's going to dress up like a bat and fight crime. Why?

Alex Ferrari 0:08
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Chris Riley. How're you doing, Chris?

Chris Riley 0:24
I'm doing well. It's good to see you again Alex.

Alex Ferrari 0:26
Good to see you. My friend. Last Last we spoke we talked about formatting and the Hollywood standard and how to format a script properly. And it was a very successful conversation and episode people really loved it. And when you wrote your new book, The defining moment how to write was it how writers and actors build character, I had to have you back on the show to talk about it. Because it's a really fascinating book on the process of character development.

Chris Riley 0:55
It's been a fun book to write. And it's, it's fun to talk about. Talking about script format is a little dry topic. But yeah, in this book, we get to sort of go straight for the heart,

Alex Ferrari 1:10
The more sexy parts of writing, it's like, that's the formatting not so sexy.

Chris Riley 1:14
Yeah, without, you know, it's necessary. But that's not what draws us to stories. It's the characters. And that's what this book is about.

Alex Ferrari 1:22
Absolutely. So let's get into it. How do you build deep characters in your pitch?

Chris Riley 1:28
Well, it's a, it's such an important part of the work we do. as storytellers, characters, are the most interesting thing. And it's, it makes sense characters represent people and people are the most interesting thing. So the challenge for a storyteller for a writer is the people and characters are complex, there's an infinite amount of stuff you could know about them. But what do we really need to know to go deep with characters and the idea of the book is that there are a small number of moments that define each one of us that define a character. And if we know what those moments are, that have been the moments that have most profoundly shaped a character, then we can get a deep understanding of them without knowing a million details about them.

Alex Ferrari 2:28
So you're, you're talking so so that so that the definition of a defining moment, or what is the defining moment,

Chris Riley 2:34
So a defining moment would be one of those moments that creates a before and after for us that, you know, we were one thing before that moment, where something else after it, so it can be a moment of birth or death, like literal or figurative, can be a moment? You know, we're talking to filmmakers here, the moment when the birth or the dream of making movies was born. And you're one way before that, and then after that, you're you're hustling, you're obsessed, and, and you but like nobody really could be said to understand you deeply. If they don't know what that moment was.

Alex Ferrari 3:18
So So Bruce, Wayne, was hunky dory until that night of the theater.

Chris Riley 3:24
Exactly. So that's a moment where something died, literally, his parents died. But something else was born in him what which was his drive, to stop crying to prevent other people from suffering, the way he suffered, it was also the birth of his lifelong emotional agony.

Alex Ferrari 3:48
I mean, he's got some issues. I mean, he's dressed up to the bat. So there's, there's other psychological things that he's going to have to deal with growing up. But but you know, I think the great defining moments in in Hollywood history are in films. A lot of it comes around death, the death of of a parent the death of Uncle Ben for Spider Man and Star Wars, the death of his his family, and forcing him to go with a with the Obi wan to, you know, train and so on. That seems to be the big catalyst. Can you give me example of birth and how birth? I mean, obviously, when a child is born into your life, life changes. That's in real life because I know I was one person before my kids were born. I'm definitely a person after the kids are born. A few more wrinkles and a few more gray hairs. But, but in movies, though, are there examples that you can kind of give for the audience as

Chris Riley 4:49
Well, so we can think about the events in Finding Nemo surrounding the birth of Nemo? There's deaths that precedes that Um, it's it's really a traumatic scene to open a children's movie with a barracuda shows up and eats mom and several 100 of the babies and just leaves dad Marlon, and one little egg Nemo. And so Nemo is birth represents the opportunity for life to go on for Marlin to build a family. But he also carries with him the damage of his losses. And so often, you know, birth and death are linked deaths, clears the decks for something new to come. The death of Bruce Wayne's parents leads to the birth of Batman key as you can understand, Bruce Wayne, if you don't know that moment of death that has defined him,

Alex Ferrari 6:02
Yeah, because if you look at you know, I use Spider Man as example. I mean, he was so brilliant at what Stan Lee wrote in that first step. And that first issue was, what would you do if you had superpowers as a kid? The first thing you're going to do is not fight crime. First thing you're going to do is like show off, and how can I get rich? How can I get chicks? How can like that's a teenage boy's mind is exactly what he did. And he went to go fight and he won. But when he was so self involved, he let that that burglar or that robber run by him, and then later that guy kills servitor. Spoiler alert, everybody kills Uncle Ben, which then sets him on his paths. So that was so brilliantly done, because you needed that catalysts are else who knows where spider man would have gone without the death of Uncle Ben, he might have gone into debauchery, and gone down a dark path, where he could have very easily turned into a villain. If he wouldn't have if he would have just kept going down the self indulgent ego state stick way of going about things. So Uncle Ben's death was absolutely necessary for his character development.

Chris Riley 7:11
Yeah, it was absolutely defining. And really, we've got two defining moments there. In that story, we've got the death of Uncle Ben, which sets Spider Man's course. But before that, we have the moment when Spider Man is born in response to the bite of the spider. So we have to understand both of those moments, if we're going to have an understanding of what's up with Peter Parker.

Alex Ferrari 7:37
And why and why does he do what he does and how he does it, and so on. Yeah, it's fat. And what I always find fascinating about story it is it's such a complete analogy for our own journeys. The Hero's Journey is our journey, we everything that characters go through in movies, and books, and novels and comic books. I mean, you know, to a certain extent, we go through in our own lives, we all have birth moments, we all have death moments, we all have defining moments of what makes us who we are. I was so funny when I wrote my first book shooting for the mob, which is about me almost making a $20 million dollar movie for the mafia. I said, we could talk about that later. I said it when I announced it on the show, I go, if you guys want to know what my origin story is, this is why I do what I do. And if it wasn't through that horrific experience that I went through, and all of the shrapnel that I've picked up since being in the film industry, that's what prepared me to do a show like this, to speak the way I speak about the business because I'm speaking from a place of being in the trenches, and going through it and and also having an urge to help others not have to go through those things. So if I said it out loud, this is my origin story, if you want to know where the grizzled voice comes from, this is it.

Chris Riley 9:03
Yeah, and it's, you know, it's so fascinating when we learn those things about one another or even about ourselves. And so I think it's fair to say that your closest friends, the people who understand you most deeply know that story about you. And if they don't know that story, they're more of an acquaintance. And to the extent that we can excavate our own defining moments, and face up to them, sometimes they're painful moments that we don't want to look at. We we understand and know ourselves more deeply. And we can then draw on those things. When we shape and develop character. So whether we're actors, directors, writers, we are then drawing on the real stuff of life rather then being derivative of something that we saw someone else do.

Alex Ferrari 10:04
I mean, those moments in our lives when we are tested, you know, like, the metal gets stronger. The more that you beat down on it, the more it's heated, the more it's beaten, the more it's it gets stronger and stronger. So those defining moments in our lives really do shape who we are. And if you could take those, those experiences in your own life and add them into your story. That's when you have really deep characters really deep story. That's not like you said, derivative. I always and I've said this 1000 times in the show, and please forgive me audience but Shawshank Redemption, again, it's one of those movies that has no reason to be as good as it is on paper. Not anything, particularly, you know, mind blowing, horrible name, one of the worst titles of a movie, ever. And yet, when you watch it, it touches you in a way, and it touches everybody no matter. I saw it when I was a knucklehead in my early 20s. And my knucklehead friends even felt something, you know, and I was like, if it can connect to that kind of mentality, what did Darabont do in the script that made those characters so, so vibrant, to the point that they connect with us on such a almost spiritual level, honestly. And if we want to look at Andy the frame, I mean, his defining moments, the finding of his wife, his wife is cheating on him to find the moment number one, to being charged with a crime he didn't commit, I pretty much said those are two big defining moments. But there are some defining moments within the story that he decides I'm going to fight back. And I'm going to, and then also the the moment that he finds out spoiler alert, that the rock is weak. Those are those defining moments in that movie,

Chris Riley 12:03
I think they are, you know, some of them have to do with plot finding out that you can you can cut into the rock wall is the, you know, the opportunities are different after you know that. There's this, you know, beautiful, defining moment when he makes his escape. And it is, it is a we can think about all the ways his life is different before and after. He's a prisoner. He is without hope. We actually believe that he may have taken his own life.

Alex Ferrari 12:45
Oh, that's a beautiful

Chris Riley 12:48
Yeah. And so he has at a moment of death. But he goes through this. We can all different kinds of transformative imagery. He passes through a birth canal. Oh, yeah. Into life. He has a baptism. It's a baptism in the sewage,

Alex Ferrari 13:07
Of life the sewage of life.

Chris Riley 13:10
And then he comes out, he comes out clean, he says, that is a that is a life transformed when we see him. Next on the beach in Mexico. He's a new he's a new man.

Alex Ferrari 13:24
Yeah. And so it's red. And so it's red.

Chris Riley 13:28
Yeah, red is also transformed. And red is also at that place where he could tip into death for a while. And and so he, and he has wrestled with this idea of hope and the danger, how dangerous is hope. And he's a guy who rejects hope and the before version of himself. But when he decides that he is going to go and get that message that's buried in the wall, he is choosing hope he's choosing life, that is a defining moment of healing. Now, I think the reason that it reaches us knuckleheads is because it's credible, I think it's drawn from life. And that's the great thing if if I can identify not only moments where I got broken, or where I got damaged, but moments where I actually grew and experienced some restoration or healing, then I can draw on that and create incredible moments for my characters that the audience will recognize and say, oh, yeah, me too. That is how life is.

Alex Ferrari 14:51
Yeah, I've said that as well that I feel that that story specifically is an analogy for life in many ways that we many times feel like Things are thrown up, like we're accused of things we didn't do, which could be or things happen to us. And we're punished and it's not our fault. And how he's able to transcend that almost again, it almost be I love the spiritual imagery that you use is like going through the birth canal, being baptized, you know, being coming up free. There's such there's so much subtext in those that imagery, and and that story that connects with arguably, almost anybody watches it, because I mean, it's not considered one of the, you know, ranked according to IMDb, even sometimes higher than the Godfather, you know, so it's really interesting, I always love using that as an as a movie to look at. Because on paper, it makes no sense that it's just like, it's a very basic, it's not a horror, like, okay, guy, you know, he, he's accused of something he didn't commit those through jail, escapes. Life is good. It's not, I mean, complex on paper and the pitch.

Chris Riley 16:05
The plot is not what's great about it, is the characters with the character transformation. So we both reveal character, but we also then transform character and defining moments are the basis of who we are when the story begins. But they are also the way then that we are transformed. So there, they both form the character, but also transform the character and storytelling concerns itself with both of those processes.

Alex Ferrari 16:38
So when you're writing a character, how do you discover what their defining moment is? So like, when when Bob Kane or I forgot, they just discovered someone else who wrote Batman? You know, writes Batman, like, what's the thing like I got, I want to dress this guy up isn't bad. But what does it cause this guy? What is what has to happen to this guy to dress up isn't bad, and fight cry? So like, how do you discover that moment for your characters?

Chris Riley 17:06
Well, I think you do start with that kind of question. Like, I know, I have a character who's going to dress up like a bat and fight crime. Why? Why? So that's both a a dream or a drive a goal. But it's also there's, there's damage. And so what sort of moment what sort of experience gives rise to that? The way that you find the answer, I think, is not by resorting to reading other people's comic books or watching movies. Because then your work is just derivative, I think you look to your own life experience. Why do I do what I do? Why do I go to the crazy lengths I go to achieve my goals? And why am I so messed up? And how did how does that happen? And out of that, you end up with something that is real? And that is relatable? Because, like, don't we all swim through a river of sewage hoping to come out clean? On the other end? Aren't we all? Yeah, as you say, we're suffering with shame, much of which somebody else dumped on us? And yet, how do you get clean? And so we can look to if, if we will do the hard work, first of looking at our own moments that have defined us and then pausing when we have this great idea of a man who dresses as a bad what a great vigilante, and we can just rush headlong, without pausing and asking ourselves the question you asked, why, how did he get to be this guy? And if we do that, and we think, yeah, there's probably a handful of moments that have defined him. And we look for those until we recognize a moment that rings the rings true to us. And then you grab on to that.

Alex Ferrari 19:17
It's fascinating. I'm gonna I want to bring two characters to the very famous characters into the conversation, Indiana Jones, and James Bond. Now, James Bond had multiple movies, without really is knowing anything about him. Indiana Jones had two movies, before we really truly knew why he does what he does. And which was going to bring me to my next question, can a character have a defining moment outside of the current story that happens before the story? And I think the answer is I'm going to answer my same question, I think is yes, if we use those two examples, because if you look at Indiana Jones The third part, we discover his relationship with his father And that that one moment when he was a kid, where he did the cross and all of that stuff with a guy in the, in the quasi Indiana Jones that he met when he was a kid launched him on his path. And then with James Bond, it was Casino Royale. And those are two probably, I argue, because it was probably the best Bond movie because there's so much character in it. And it's not just, I'm cool. I have a gun. I sleep with a lot of women, which is basically what James Bond was for decades. And then Indiana Jones you have that loving back and forth between him and Sean Connery is probably one of the most beloved of the Indiana Jones series. Do you agree with what I'm saying?

Chris Riley 20:37
I do. And I think that when you you know, when you find out the defining moments for your characters, you don't do it in a in a sort of a cynical Oh, that'll be a good scene and that I can put that you know, great ending back to, but you're seeking to understand the character, you don't know how you're going to play those moments, or if you're going to play those moments. In the book, I talk about my experience on the set of the movie Twister. And that movie was rushed into production before the script was finished. Helen Hunt plays this obsessive storm Hunter who's trying to place scientific instruments inside a killer tornado, which is a dangerous, obsessive thing to do. And there's a scene from her childhood in the movie where you come to understand why she does that. Well, that scene had not been written when I was on location with them. And they had decided we'll write that later, because we're not going to shoot it until later. So you can imagine, Helen Hunt the actor, running around chasing tornadoes, putting herself at risk. And you could imagine that it would actually help her performance,

Alex Ferrari 22:05
She might have done it in her own head that she created that.

Chris Riley 22:08
She's a yeah, she's an Oscar winning great performer. So she probably created that for herself. But wouldn't it be better? If she knew that, wouldn't it potentially shape her performance? If she knew that moment, even though it might never appear on screen, and for for writers and directors as well as actors? I think that knowing those moments that have shaped your characters, whether or not they appear on screen, helps you know what they'll do, what they'll say, and why they will say and do it. Many of those moments do end up coming into the story one way or another. But I would say maybe half of the moments that I developed for my characters. Really, I'm the only one who will ever know them. But I can write that character so much better. And I have more compassion for that character. So I'm not writing even my antagonist, I'm not writing with contempt for them. I'm writing with a sense of empathy for them, because I know what they've been through.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
Well, and that's the thing about writing good villains, and is that a good villain is not a villain in their own store. Nobody is the villain in their own story. We're all the heroes in our story. Even if you're doing gnarly stuff in the world and bad stuff in the world, you are that you're the villain. So I always find it. When you have the villain that is twisting their mustache at the railroad tracks. That's not very interesting. But you got someone like Thanos, who truly is actually trying to help the universe, but he's going about it the wrong way. Snapping half of it in existence is probably not the smartest way of going about it. But he actually has good intentions, if you will. The Joker, his I mean, the movie Joker, my God, you go into such deep understanding of the torture of that soul and you get it. You just you actually identify Joker as the hero of that movie. Which is is the antihero, Wolverine and other anti hero, Deadpool The Punisher, these kinds of superhero characters. But the greatest villains are always the ones that have the most traumatic or damaging backstories that you feel for them. You feel for Darth Vader, you don't feel for him in Star Wars, then you hope when you first see him, you start to feel a little bit more an empire and then you truly feel in return to the Jedi. And then when you go back to the prequels which we generally don't like to talk about. But but there are some moments in those films that you go, Oh, okay, I get why he is the way he is. So those are listening, please, when you're writing villains write something they have to have. They want it, they have to have a good reason for doing what they're doing.

Chris Riley 25:18
They really believe in the justice of their cause, even though it may be twisted, completely evil and destructive in its outflow. Michael Corleone is another great example of someone who does horrible things, destroys his family in the name of saving it. And yet, because that storytelling so brilliantly brings us along his journey, including in that moment in the middle of the first Godfather film where he picks up a gun, and guns down, the two men responsible for his father's shooting. That is the moment that that makes Michael, the godfather. And without that moment, you don't understand it with that moment. You go with him on that journey, even though you're kind of, you know, you're watching through your fingers, and you're recoiling at what he's doing. And with K, at the end of that first Godfather film, you recognize, Oh, Michael is now a monster. But like, I'm fascinated, and I get it. And it's because I was privy to the moments that shaped and transformed him.

Alex Ferrari 26:37
I mean, well, Tony Soprano, I mean, look at Tony Soprano. And there's a scene in, I think, episode five or six, that HBO had a major problem with it was a moment, it was a defining moment in his character, where I think there was a rat, or something along those lines, and he found the rat, and literally killed him on screen choked him to death. On screen, vividly, the camera was in, no one had ever done that before. I'm on a television show. Like, it was so brutal. And that's the defining moment for that character in the series, because it's also a defining moment for the audience. Because you gotta go, am I gonna follow this gut? Like, am I gonna keep watching this, this, this monster, you know, because he's not a good guy, and the whole shows about him and his family, what he goes through. So I feel that there was that that was such a wonderful moment that David Chase brought in, and he fought for it big time. That because the HBO says, like, you're gonna lose the audience. And he's like, No, we're not, he knew more about the character in the audience than, than anybody else did. Even the audience didn't even know what they wanted until they saw it,

Chris Riley 27:51
You know, exploring interesting characters who are like us in some way, revealing their secrets. I mean, that's such a draw to us, as an audience. I, I really think that, you know, one of our, one of our giant drives as people is to, to know to connect. And that's really hard in real life. People don't share their secrets with us. You know, you're at Starbucks. And you got so, you know, what was your most wounding moment that defines

Alex Ferrari 28:26
Those conversations all the time, Chris, I don't

Chris Riley 28:29
Tend to edge away from you. Right, but great storytelling, great movies, great television, allows us to know some characters better than we know, our closest friends. And I really do think we're hungry for that.

Alex Ferrari 28:45
And I think that's, I think that connection is your right, we all want connection, you know, we're all striving to connect with other human beings, and in a deep, meaningful way. And when there's lack of that, in our lives, we connect with the characters in movies. I know I did when I was growing up. You know, when you don't have friends, you can still pop in a VCR tape. That's how old I am. And and watch Indiana Jones or watch a movie and go on an adventure and connect with those characters. I mean, look at the Brockie I mean, I mean, Jesus, you you know, a movie like that, that still holds up from that there's very few movies from the 70s that can be watched today. And it still has the same impact that it did back then. Rocky is that that story? I mean, if you want to talk about defining moments in his in his story, I mean, the moment Apollo Creed shows up and says, Hey, do you want a shot? Pretty, pretty big, defining moment.

Chris Riley 29:45
Absolutely. He was he was a failed boxer sleepwalking through life, and someone opens a door of opportunity for him and he would He would talk about his life, if you, you know, interviewed him later on, he would say, well, before Apollo came along, this is me after, this is me. And that, for me is the great telltale sign of any defining moment that it creates this boundary of before and after. So, you know, your family would talk about, oh, that was before the house burned down. That's that was after the house burned down before the diagnosis after the diagnosis, before we met, after we met, not, it's not all sad. Some of them some of the stuff is good, you know, before therapy after therapy. And it is in discovering those things that we we recognize the person and we also recognize ourselves and and realize, Oh, I'm not the only one, I'm not alone. And that is, that's the great relief that comes from connecting with characters is just discovering. Like, oh, other people are, are struggling, like me, and then when Rocky Balboa is able to find meaning and triumph in life. Maybe I can do maybe I can't tell exactly

Alex Ferrari 31:31
What I mean. Isn't that interesting, though, that story is something that is so integral to us as a species. We're the only ones on the planet who tell stories. Truly tell stories. I'm going to show what some of the Apes do, but I don't think they'll you know, they're not they're not telling Batman stories. But we tell stories, it's not only that, we tell stories, it's that we need story in our life, we need that expression of this journey to help us understand what the hell this whole life thing is, it's a way for us to grasp on to something because we show up. And it's a this is a mess. And most of us walk through life as this is a mess. All this stuff is happening to me. I'm going through tragedy and going through highs and lows. What does this all mean? You're trying to find meaning in what you're doing. And story provides that, and it doesn't have to be a complex novel or movie or comic book. It could be like, Did you hear what happened to Bob down the street? That little little gossip of what might have happened? A tiger ate them around the corner? Well, there's a value to that concept, like don't go down the corner, because they're Tigers down there, and that can eat you. So there's that that function of it. But I think that I mean, without story, I don't even know how we function as as as a human being. Yeah,

Chris Riley 32:51
I don't I don't think we can. And I think that one of the insights of neurology is that when we lose track of our own stories of ourselves, and we can't remember, if we've got say Alzheimer's disease, we can't remember our stories. We're not just losing contact with our history, we're actually losing contact with our identity. Because our our identity is built out of our stories, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. And as you say, we're also looking at the cause and effect of like, why did that happen? And what does it all mean? So a story that could look like a very lightweight comic book story may really be like, philosophically, undergirding our whole sense of the meaning of life. That's, that's what it's getting at is, what does it add up to? And the most satisfying stories help us understand what the events of the story add up to?

Alex Ferrari 34:02
And also, when you are able to go on a ride with a character and live vicariously through the character, it's a way for you to kind of almost disconnect as well, obviously, from your day to day stuff. But there's some times there's some times when especially when you're younger, you watch a movie and it just hits you in a way that you can't let go. I mean, Shawshank was not for me, believe it or not, I mean, I know it's it's just one of those movies that doesn't let go of me. The Matrix was one of those films, doesn't it doesn't a Fight Club was one of those from they don't let go of you. There's concepts in it that connect with you in a weird way you, you know, I don't connect with Tyler Durden. You know, but a lot of the concepts and ideas that Fincher and Jim rules and the writer Chuck was trying to portray in that story, connected with me personally. And in The Godfather and those kinds of things. There's just those things, but at the end of the day, it always comes back down again. Correct, because how many people say how many people can truly remember? plots from James Bond?

Chris Riley 35:07
Yeah, I mean, interesting.

Alex Ferrari 35:09
How many plots do we really remember from James Bond other than maybe something you just saw? You don't really remember plots? I vaguely kind of remember the plot of Temple of Doom, vaguely. But I remember key moments that have to do with character.

Chris Riley 35:26
Yeah. Yeah. Kathy, my wife and co author of the defining moment, and I draw heavily on Band of Brothers. Yeah, World War two series. There's so many life lessons from those characters. We think about there's a battle scene with a terrible leader, who, who sort of bogged down in the middle of battle. And winters, our main character, just keep shouting at him keep moving forward, you have to keep moving forward. And that refrain of keep moving forward in the face of Battle of danger of resistance. That's, that's something that we we draw on. And then there's, during the Battle of the bolts, there's the troops that just been there being shelled, for days, and days and days. And there's just a little line in narration that says, If a man could just get off the frontlines, even for an hour, it made such a difference. And, and we will, sometimes when we're engaged, and it feels like we're on the frontlines of the Battle of life, we'll look at each other. And so I think we need to get, you know, 45 minutes away from the front lines just to catch our breath and decompress. Yeah, and so those, those lessons of life, don't stay on the screen, we incorporate them into our actual lives.

Alex Ferrari 37:14
I mean, I mean, George Lucas said it very, very distinctly when he wrote Star Wars, and he used the hero's journey that Joseph Campbell laid out, he did it so perfectly, according to Joseph Campbell's work. He's like, stories are the meat and potatoes of society. And, you know, that's what keeps these big lessons, these big ideas moving forward. You know, there'll be generations who will watch that movie or read that that story about Star Wars, and there's obscene amounts of life lessons, that maybe you and I will look at and go, Oh, that's we completely understand that we know that we've been through, it's not that big of a deal. But imagine you're 15 Watching that for the first time. And you really haven't had those kinds of lessons before about life. That's pretty profound. It really is.

Chris Riley 38:02
Yeah, for me, when I was in that age range movies are some of my defining moments, because they taught me things about life that I didn't know. They were the first really well made. movies that I had ever seen. And the impact on me was, was life changing. I can say, you know, there's, there's me before, I saw ordinary people in the deer hunter, and there's me after, yeah. Wow. And the me, the me after, wants to make movies. And to do that, the me after also understands that I'm not the only one who struggles because those movies taught me that. And the me after also understands that because other people struggle, even though they don't look like it, they look like they have it all together. I gotta treat people with more compassion. And so I'm a different person in those three important ways after watching those two films, but I mean, these are defining moments,

Alex Ferrari 39:11
But according to Instagram, everyone's having a fantastic time. It's just me that's having horrible life. I'm just saying.

Chris Riley 39:19
Right, right. And so Instagram will not tell you the truth. That's either a news flash or a spoiler alert. But yeah, but stories can I mean, I think stories can also lie to us and send us chasing after mirages. But good storytelling can tell us the truth about us about life.

Alex Ferrari 39:46
Now, you speak about in the book, the awakening of longing in a character How do you awaken longing in a character? Because I know so many of us just as human beings walking the earth in so many ways where we're lost looking for that meaning in life looking for that thing that we're here to do. And it's so painful, become bitter and angry because you're not getting what you want. But when you happen to fall into the thing, that the door is open, that you happy, you wake up in the morning, and you're happy to go do it. That's what we're all searching for. We're also searching to be happy with our day to day business. Truly, I mean, in every way possible in our relationships with our family, you know, career based, we're looking for happiness. And but to find that meaning, and to also awaken the longing to find that meaning is not very easy. Took me a minute to figure out some get it when they're born, they get there, they know at four years old, I'm gonna sing and they become Mariah Carey, or they're 65 and start KFC. Like the Colonel Sanders did you know he started at 65? He's like, I'm thinking I'm gonna start a new company. And he was 65 when he started it. So obviously, it took him a minute to figure out what his purpose and purpose was to make chicken.

Chris Riley 41:10
Yeah. delicious chicken.

Alex Ferrari 41:13
Yes, very healthy, very healthy.

Chris Riley 41:14
I think that was one of the characteristics of defining moments is that we don't make them happen. They sort of happened to us. Bruce Wayne's, the death of his parents happened to him. But, and so the like a moment that awakens, deep longing in us, is not something that we can order up. But I, as an example of a moment where a longing was awakened, I think of my wife, Kathy's story of as a child. She had a dad who was not warm, who she cannot recall him ever saying the words, I'd love you. And I don't know that she knew what she was missing. Because, you know, life is normal to you as a kid, whatever it is. And then she was at a wedding sitting between her uncle and her aunt. And her uncle was the handsome uncle, the cool uncle. And he looked at that Kathy, he looked at his own wife. And he said, I'm sitting between the two most beautiful women in the world. Kathy had never been spoken to that way. And as soon as she heard those words, something woke up in her that said, Oh, that's the kind of man I want to spend my life with. Now, this is a little bit of a self serving story. Since I'm the husband,

Alex Ferrari 42:55
I was about to say, How did you how did you how did you end up in this story, Chris?

Chris Riley 42:58
So we'll leave it to her to say whether that longing was satisfied. But that was something that stayed with her. Forever. Sure, it wasn't there, the moment before. And then it was there the moment after, not because she chose for it to be because that experience, awakened that longing at her now she can write characters who have a moment like that drawing on her own experience. And it will be credible, because it draws on that authentic emotional experience of her life.

Alex Ferrari 43:40
It's so funny, because I look back when I was 18. And I was like, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And one day, I literally sit that sat down in my bedroom. I looked around, I had 3000 VHS tapes that I had collected, I worked in a video store. So I collected about 3000 in my collection at the time, I looked around and I said, I like movies. I guess I'm going to be a director. And that was it. And that was the moment. And this was also in a time that it wasn't cool to be directors. There wasn't YouTube, there wasn't a lot of information about writing or direct. I don't think so. I think Syd field might have just come out. Like there wasn't a lot of information within

Chris Riley 44:17
The first one though. And it was it was tough to learn anything, right?

Alex Ferrari 44:20
There was just it was not so it wasn't like in the zeitgeist of like, filmmaking, that's a that's a career option. You know, my parents were like, what do you what? Like so, but that was the moment I never forgot that moment. I was like, I guess I'm gonna be a director. And that was, I was before that moment. And after that moment, and that was it.

Chris Riley 44:41
Right. And it's, and it's lasting. I mean, it's we're here we are sitting about

Alex Ferrari 44:45
For better or worse, better or worse, or for better or worse. It's because it has been and it's, you know, I've documented well, and I think every filmmaker and screenwriter goes through this. It's not an easy path. It is not an easy path to go down. How to be an artist in general, it's not an easy path. But that is speaking of defining moments. That was the moment that I decided. And then there was other defining moments that you decide, do I want to keep going or not? How do I keep going or not? And that's also very difficult to, to understand. And like, again, we'll go back to Shawshank How does and it uh, Frank keep going 20 years of, or 30 25 years, whatever it was, he was in there. Going through that day in and day out and read just that little, that little montage, so beautiful one red light. Some days were good. Some days were bad. You know, some days he fought off the sisters. And one, some days he fought off the sisters and lost. And he goes, I would have feared that he wouldn't have made it if things kept going that way. But one day this happened. And then this character gets introduced, and his whole life changes inside the prison because now now he can go off and he needs someone needs to cook the books. He's good at that his life change that from that moment on. But those are those things.

Chris Riley 46:08
Yeah, I'm life, I'm that quality of life, that there are these seismic moments of of shifting, right. And then there are long periods of silence. And that life consists of both things. The moment the volcano erupts, or the default ruptures, and we have an earthquake, those are the exciting moments. They're terrifying, dangerous, but exciting. It's much harder on film to render the long expanses of just keep at it, just keep scraping away with that rock hammer, dig in that tunnel. And yet life, you know, to be fair, consists of more of those moments. But those are not generally the ones we tell. I talked to students about that. So you can look at my CV or my list of credits. And it looks like I've had this, you know, great, exciting life. But I have to tell you, you know, look at the dates, there are gaps. Five years here. I talk about my Time Warner Brothers in the script department, and I was able to write the Hollywood standard based on all that I learned there. But there were long days of me, you know, just reading script after script. That's, that's finding finding typos or sitting alone in the middle of the night. We've got 300 copies of script revisions for the Dukes of Hazzard and someone has to paperclip them. And that doesn't end up in the credits list. But most of life is that in between stuff. And so yeah, I admire Shawshank Redemption, for finding a way to give a nod to that because that's where like most people listening to us right now are in those in between moments. If they're in the middle of a defining moment. They don't have time to talk listen to

Alex Ferrari 48:21
Maybe this podcast is a defining moment. For them.

Chris Riley 48:25
It can be I think it can be.

Alex Ferrari 48:27
It can be like wait a minute, I listen. I've listened to podcasts before and I'm like, I've never thought of story that way before. You know, I remember talking to John Truby. And I was like, oh my god, he just something clicked after I talked to him. I was like, I never thought of story that way the plot the way he he explained it. I was like, oh, and other people will read other books and other people will watch a movie and go, Oh, I get I get something now. So there are moments that could be this could be a defining moment. I'm not putting any pressure on this episode, Chris.

Chris Riley 48:55
But I think it can be and, and and if you know if today is one of those in between days, then we have to take that lesson from Band of Brothers and keep moving forward.

Alex Ferrari 49:10
Yeah, it's like Rocky Balboa says How Hard Can you get hit and keep moving forward? And that's what in many ways, what life is all about. It's about being able to take the hits, and keep moving forward. And it's such a great talk. He doesn't end the movie Rocky Balboa, he does this like three minute monologue. And it's all about life and how hard life hits you and it brings you to your knees. And what are you going to do? Are you going to get up and keep going? Are you just gonna lie there and in your, in your story, all that mundane work that you did in the story department sometimes sometimes I'm sure it was a lot of fun. But all those in between moments. That is what prepared you to write the Hollywood standard. Without that stuff. You couldn't have moved in the direction that you are right now.

Chris Riley 49:52
That's That's exactly right. And all of those scripts I read are what taught me how to You write scripts. So I couldn't have gotten to where I am now, without that, and you know, writing a book, there's a lot of sittin alone. I wonder what the next word is? And oh my gosh, there are a lot of words on the page of a book compared to a script page. That's mostly air.

Alex Ferrari 50:24
Yeah, I remember it's like, how many were 50,000 55,000 words? I gotta do. Okay. A lot of words. All right. But we're trying to do 500 to 1000 a day. Let's just start cranking it out and just start, keep going, keep moving, keep moving and keep moving and keep moving. Take a bite of the elephant a day.

Chris Riley 50:40
Yeah, exactly. There's, I don't know where this phrase came from. I heard it from my wife. And the phrase is embrace radical, incremental ism. You're just going to take one bite of the elephant a day, you can eat a whole elephant that way if you keep it up over time, so I've learned, even working a full time job at Warner Brothers. If I, if I wrote every day in whatever minutes, I could scrape together, I could write a movie every year. And over time, that added up to my career breakthrough. And the script that was the one that we sold first. But we were, you know, overnight successes after 14 years of taking a bite of the elephant. And that's, that's the difference between the people who get there. And the people who don't is the people who get there just kept going.

Alex Ferrari 51:43
Well, and I think you can attest to this, in this business. It's not the most talented that wins. It's the one who doesn't stop. Because there's a lot of people who are not as talented, who are working in the business right now making big movies, who aren't the best writers in the world. But they're the ones that just kept showing up. And they just kept pounding it and kept pounding, kept pounding, grinding it out, where someone who was very talented, just maybe didn't have it in them to keep going. It was too hard for them. But they were more technically more talented. And I've seen it, I've seen it.

Chris Riley 52:19
Yeah, no, I see that as well. Though, the one who quits cannot when they definitely take themselves out of the running is only the ones who keep going, who are in the place where they can develop their skills. So level, they need to be there, and they've done the work. And they you can't sell a script that you didn't finish. And and in almost any case that I'm aware of you can't sell a script, you didn't finish a bunch of drafts. And you know, if you're a director, it's so many things that you have to figure out and get to go right to to finish any film to finish a good film. Oh, my gosh, it is a miracle. And then that there are great films is that shouldn't be possible. And yet we know there are great films.

Alex Ferrari 53:18
Yeah. And I just want to put a myth to rest. The rocky story of the script being written in five days or something like that. You've heard that story, obviously, right?

Chris Riley 53:27
I've heard other stories along those lines, but usually involve like the back of a cocktail napkin,

Alex Ferrari 53:34
Where he wrote that he apparently wrote the script according to sly, he's like I wrote, I wrote rocking five days. That was draft one. But he did get the first draft out because it was so he just he just didn't stop. And it wasn't like three hours here, two hours there. He sat down for 12 or 15 hours a day and just beat it out. And then beat the hell out of the drafts again and again and again and again afterwards. So there is no, there's no genius. There's no one who just there's no Mozart's of screenwriting, there's a couple who feel like it like Tarantino and Sorkin and Kaufman. But all of them work at all of our people.

Chris Riley 54:17
People work really hard. And I I think any good movie or television episode consists of hundreds of really good ideas. And it takes time to have those good ideas to collect them to squeeze out all the hot air all the stuff that's not brilliant. And so you end up like reading a great script, seeing a great film and going oh my gosh, that person's a genius. No, they just work harder than you. And they just kept at it until they had enough good ideas to fill the thing up.

Alex Ferrari 54:52
Well, I mean, if you look at Tarantino who everyone's like, everyone tries to emulate his writing. No one can ever emulate his writing because he had what 20 years of reading, every novel watching every movie doing, the amount of work that he put in, to be able to have the the bass and the ability to retain all that information in his head and retrieve it at will, is a talent that doesn't exist. He's a he's an anomaly he is. He's a genius in that sense. But even that I know people who work with him, and he is fairly brilliant, but he does work. Like he doesn't just Inglorious Basterds wasn't written in one pass, like he could go back, you know, Eric Roth and write Forrest Gump and one pass, he goes back and beat it up again and beat it up again and beat it up again. But someone like Tarantino like that you all those years you're reading at Warner Brothers. It's him working at a video store him reading every novel. Without all that information. He can't she can't be who he is. You can't write Pulp Fiction.

Chris Riley 55:59
That's yeah, no, that's exactly right. I, I was at the Disney Concert Hall recently to hear Itzhak Perlman play his violin. And for him, it looks like it's effortless. And in that moment, I think it's sort of is effortless. But that's because it's built on decades of practice, work, mastery. And then yes, you get to go and you get to play. And you you're able to do it, but only because you've done all of that work, to reach mastery, where you can sort of dance on top of all of the skill and the discipline.

Alex Ferrari 56:48
I listen, I feel very comfortable having a podcast now after doing 700 plus 800 podcasts at this point in my career. And I can I have no no issue in first first year, a lot different conversation much more nervous much. But you start building skill sets on how to talk to people how to feel them out, all the all this stuff, just, it just comes in, but it's just grinding it out. It's just grinding it out to the point where now they're like, oh, I can jump on with it. I'm not intimidated by anybody. When I interviewed and trust me, I've interviewed a couple intimidating. But you feel very comfortable in the space, you're in like, no one's going to come to you. You're not going to feel uncomfortable about format. There's nothing really that can be thrown at you about format that's going to shake you generally speaking.

Chris Riley 57:38
Yeah, yeah, that's right. I'm very comfortable. I'd stand up in front of any audience and and feel formatting questions because I spent 14 years fielding formatting questions. And so I have learned how to answer those.

Alex Ferrari 57:54
Now, in the book, also you talk about Dr. Showers, eight character traits. Can you talk about those?

Chris Riley 58:01
Yeah. So Sidney showers is a Minnesota based pediatrician who came to LA to learn TV writing, and is really a very good writer. And she talked to me about these eight character traits that she just kind of collected this list, they come from different places. And some of them overlap. You know what other people talk about. But I think it's a really useful grid to use to think about a character just to get prompt yourself to have more good ideas. So she thinks about what is the character's drive. And that's not that's different from their goal. Their drive is just what keeps them going. Whether or not there's a story happening. So for Michael Corleone she thinks his drive is to please his father, whether or not anything else, whether or not his father is still alive, he's still driven to please his father. And then the characters goal character, you know, has to be going after something. She thinks about a character's genius, which is really interesting to think that every character is really strong in some area. So Forrest Gump genius, obviously is not high IQ. But he tells us what it is. He says, I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is. So Forrest Gump genius is love, the way he loves Jenny, his purity of heart. That's a great thing to think about. And then what is the character's most closely guarded or embarrassing secret? That assumes that we all have one and I'm going to think that's probably a safe bet. You know, what do we most not want people to know what question do I most hope you don't ask me. What What will reveal me as a fraud and So that sometimes will certainly motivate a villain to protect a secret might motivate a protagonist to protect a secret. And then there's what's the character's flaw? What is their weakness? So the flaw might have the more of a sort of a moral failing, there's selfish, they're arrogant, whatever their weakness is the Achilles heel. It's not a moral failure. But it's, you know, it's their kryptonite. What is that? What's their redeeming quality? Why do we forgive those other things the way we do our friends? Yeah, he's a bit of a jerk. But he was there for me when I was in the hospital. And so that redeeming trait is is also useful to know and I don't know if I've hit all eight of them, but it's just an example of a way that we can give ourselves prompts when we think about a character to give ourselves the opportunity to discover more.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:02
So Hannibal Lecter, what, there's something so beautiful about his character, because we'd like him, but he's a cannibal and a murderer. Some others that yeah, there's that. But yet, there's something redeeming about him. What is redeeming deeming about Hannibal Lecter? Why do we? Why do we cheer that he's going to eat somebody at the end of the movie? Yeah. It's insane. But you're sitting there going? Yes. That's

Chris Riley 1:01:36
He's charming.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:38
There's that's a superpower he does.

Chris Riley 1:01:42
He's really smart. Yeah. Right. So his genius is his genius that. And so we admire someone he's working his plan. You know, Clarice is using him. He's using her. And that's brilliant. And so we will be attracted to somebody who is very smart, and who has a plan. Now, you know, why do we want him to eat someone at the end, I think that has more to do with will root for someone if they're up against someone who's even worse. Even more horrible. And that's just sort of the the sense of justice. There is a little bit of justice. Yeah, I will root for any football team. That is, you know, going up against Tom Brady, because for me, Tom Brady is the ultimate supervillain. Sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:37
And the Yankees were that for the Yankees were that?

Chris Riley 1:02:40
Exactly. And you know, and I have to, I have to admire the guy. He is a great, great athlete. But, you know, for me hearing that he's coming back. It's like, well, of course, it's the zombie movie where he's just you can't kill the guy. And I said,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:56
Listen, as as a guy who's just a couple years older than him. I'm rooting for him. And I did not like the Patriots. I'm a dolphin fan. I'm a very depressed dolphin fan, for many, many years. And when he said when I heard he was coming back, I'm like, you know, what, just makes me feel good. That dude in this age is out there doing it at that level. And that's just my connection to that story.

Chris Riley 1:03:15
Well, and that's another huge key to understanding why we connect with characters we we relate to them, we identify with them. And now there's a bit of an underdog quality to he's he's fighting the clock, he's he's fighting age.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
He's, he's not, he's not Superman. He's an aged Superman, who is now fighting against youth against other other football players who are in better shape, I guess. But he's at such a level of mastery, that he can pull off what he's doing that nobody had ever pulled off and has ever pulled off in the history of the sport. So even though I wasn't a Tom Brady fan growing up, as he's now passed over that level, and you're right, he's now an underdog. I'm like, can he take a team back to the Super Bowl? At his age? Can he fight that 22 year old kid from Kansas City? Like, who's arguably one of the best quarterbacks playing in the game today? So it's, it's fascinating, but you're absolutely right, I think. And I guess the older guys are looking at it a very different perspective than the younger guys are. Because they don't understand what he's going through. They're like, ah, get him off the field. He's old. And we're like, Nah, man, look what he's doing. He's giving us all hope that they're still caught for the rest of us.

Chris Riley 1:04:36
Yeah. Right. And so because we identify with him, then we were able to project ourselves into him as a character. And yeah, and then we, for me, like, I know people are gonna hear me say this, and I am so I shudder to say it, but I think I might route for a little bit of, of Tom Brady's success too, for that reason, in a way I never would have in the past.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:00
And same and same here. I mean, he's caused me more heartache over the years with my dolphins. Anybody else as and you were speaking about, we are attracted to you genius. I mean, I think one of the reasons genius or superpowers of one's word, and it doesn't have to be fifth like real, real superpowers, like superhero superpowers like Superman and things like that. But someone like Maverick from Top Gun, who's the new Top Gun movies coming up? Who's I'm really interested to see what they do with that character. Because in the first Top Gun, his superpower is his abilities. But he's arrogant. And there's all these flaws and weaknesses that he has to deal with. He has a fight the defining moment of his father's history, that baggage of him carrying his body. But but we're, we're attracted to greatness. We're attracted to highly skilled characters. So Rain Man, you know, Dustin Hoffman, who is you know, artistic is artistic. Right? Yeah. It's artistic, artistic. We, and he has no other superpower, other than what he's able to do. He completely deficient in every other way, socially, that he can be. But yet we are attracted to him because of what he's able to do with his mind. That no, that seems on, it seems super power like, and we're so attracted to that. And it was just like that, that movie. If you people who are younger, have not seen rain, man, please go watch it. It's it's an It's a masterpiece.

Chris Riley 1:06:32
It's fantastic. And it's a script that we had in the the came through the script processing department of Warner Brothers as they were working draft after draft after draft to crack the ending. So that's an example of a movie that was written over a long period of time. And then paradoxically, why we're attracted to people's genius, we're also attracted to their vulnerability. And going back to Tom Brady, he's now vulnerable, he never was before. And now because of his age, he's vulnerable, and that for the first time, to me, it makes him seem approachable and relatable to me. And so then that, that sort of combination of his genius and his humanity is vulnerability makes him interesting. And maybe James Bond is another example, you read my read more interesting to me when he's vulnerable than when you know, bullets bounce off of him, then how can I worry about him? Or relating?

Alex Ferrari 1:07:40
Well, this is one of the reasons why it's so difficult to write for Superman and make a good Superman movie because he's a god, he's walking around as a god and, and that's issues with all the DC characters. They're all very godlike, you know, and where Marvel characters are much more, much more vulnerable. There's not really many Marvel characters who are Superman indestructible at all levels. They all have powers, but they all have weaknesses, you know, Peter Parker, super strong, but he can get shot. He and he also has acne. And he's a teenage boy dealing with teenage boys stuff.

Chris Riley 1:08:19
So make him relatable to teenage boys.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:22
Right. And that was the genius of Stan Lee that he was able to do with all of his the characters he created. He made it. Even Thor, who was a god are literally a god is very vulnerable, extremely vulnerable. And in a way that Superman has difficulty being. I think it was one I think one of the writers of Superman said, you know, we knew we had a problem when we had him blow out of star. Because at that point, you just like, it's not interesting seeing someone win all the time. You need to have some sort of adversity to make it interesting.

Chris Riley 1:08:59
Yeah, you want a fair fight you you don't want to know how it's going to turn out.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:04
Exactly, exactly. Now, Chris, where can people pick up your new book, The defining moment?

Chris Riley 1:09:10
Well, they can find it on Amazon, they can find it at the publishers website, mwp.com. Or they can go to thisdefiningmoment.com, which is the books website.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Chris it's been a pleasure talking to always have a great time talking to you. This is more interesting than formatting. I'll give you that, as far as a conversation is concerned, but I appreciate you putting this book out and hopefully this episode will be the defining moment in some screenwriter filmmaker slots. So let's help him pray.

Chris Riley 1:09:41
I would really hope that that's true. Thanks for a great conversation Alex.

What is Auteur Theory? – Definition and Examples

What is Auteur Theory and Why Is It Important?

Auteur Theory is a way of looking at films that state that the director is the “author” of a film. The Auteur theory argues that a film is a reflection of the director’s artistic vision; so, a movie directed by a given filmmaker will have recognizable, recurring themes and visual queues that inform the audience who the director is (think a Hitchcock or Tarantino film) and shows a consistent artistic identity throughout that director’s filmography.

The term “Auteur theory” is credited to the critics of the French film journal Cahiers du cinéma, many of which became the directors of the French New Wave. However, according to New York University professor Julian Cornell, the concept had been around for a while prior. The Cahiers critics simply refined the theory.

“In the French New Wave, people developed the notion of the filmmaker as an artist. They didn’t invent the idea, but they did popularize it. A German filmmaker who started as a German theatre director, Max Reinhardt, came up with the idea of the auteur – the author in films. He came up with that around the teens….So, [director François] Truffaut and the French New Wave popularized it, or they revived it.” – New York University Professor Julian Cornell

A filmmaker singled out by the Cahiers critics who was the definition of the idea of the auteur is Alfred Hitchcock. By many Hitchcock was viewed primarily as a “vulgar showman” who made commercial thrillers.

“I liked almost anybody that made you realize who the devil was making the picture.” – Howard Hawks

However, his obsessions that showed up repeatedly in his films and the distinct imprint of his personality that appeared in all of his works made him a prime candidate for critical focus within the context of a theory that fetishizes the idea of a singular, distinctive vision that can be seen clearly throughout an entire career.

In all of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, the audience can see certain ideas and images that pop up again and again. This is where the term the “Hitchcock Blonde” came from.

Think of Spielberg, Scorsese, Kubrick, Coppola, Fincher, Nolan, PT Anderson, Burton, Tarantino, Wes Anderson or Cassevettes, they all have such of unique style all onto themselves. Many of them have such a strong visual style that you can recognize one of their films from a few frames of the film.

Check out the videos below to go deeper into Auteur Theory.


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The Origins of Auteur Theory

Auteur – it’s a favorite term of cinephiles around the world. But what exactly is Auteur Theory? In this Filmmaker IQ course we peel back pages of time and explore the origins of Auteur Theory from the economically tumultuous adolescence of French Cinema to the culture war waged in the columns of competing American movie critics.

Auteur Theory in Hitchcock’s Work