Cinematography Books You Need to Read + Video – Top Ten List

1) Lighting for Cinematography

We can’t shoot good pictures without good lighting, no matter how good the newest cameras are. Shooting under available light gives exposure, but lacks depth, contrast, contour, atmosphere and often separation. The story could be the greatest in the world, but if the lighting is poor viewers will assume it’s amateurish and not take it seriously. Feature films and TV shows, commercials and industrial videos, reality TV and documentaries, even event and wedding videos tell stories. Good lighting can make them look real, while real lighting often makes them look fake. One of the best Cinematography Books out there. 

2) The Five C’s of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques

With the aid of photographs and diagrams, this text concisely presents concepts and techniques of motion picture camerawork and the allied areas of film-making with which they interact with and impact. Included are discussions on: cinematic time and space; compositional rules; and types of editing.

3) Cinematography: Third Edition

Since its initial publication in 1973, Cinematography has become the guidebook for filmmakers. Based on their combined fifty years in the film and television industry, authors Kris Malkiewicz and M. David Mullen lay clear and concise groundwork for basic film techniques, focusing squarely on the cameraman’s craft. Readers will then learn step-by-step how to master more advanced techniques in post production, digital editing, and overall film production.

4) Painting with Light

Few cinematographers have had as decisive an impact on the cinematic medium as John Alton. Best known for his highly stylized film noir classics T-Men, He Walked by Night, and The Big Combo, Alton earned a reputation during the 1940s and 1950s as one of Hollywood’s consummate craftsmen through his visual signature of crisp shadows and sculpted beams of light. No less renowned for his virtuoso color cinematography and deft appropriation of widescreen and Technicolor, he earned an Academy Award in 1951 for his work on the musical An American in Paris. First published in 1949, Painting With Light remains one of the few truly canonical statements on the art of motion picture photography, an unrivaled historical document on the workings of postwar American cinema.

5) Notes on the Cinematograph

The French film director Robert Bresson was one of the great artists of the twentieth century and among the most radical, original, and radiant stylists of any time. He worked with nonprofessional actors—models, as he called them—and deployed a starkly limited but hypnotic array of sounds and images to produce such classic works as A Man EscapedPickpocketDiary of a Country Priest, and Lancelot of the Lake. From the beginning to the end of his career, Bresson dedicated himself to making movies in which nothing is superfluous and everything is always at stake.

6) Grammar of the Film Language

This unique magnum opus — 640 pages and 1,500 illustrations — of the visual narrative techniques that form the “language of filmmaking has found an avid audience among student filmmakers everywhere. This “language” is basic to the very positioning and moving of players and cameras, as well as the sequencing and pacing of images. It does not date as new technologies alter the means of capturing images on film and tape. Basic to the very scripting of a scene or planning of a shoot Arijon’s visual narrative formulas will enlighten anyone involved in the film industry — including producers, directors, writers and animators etc.

7) Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors

The world of cinematography has changed more in the last few years than it has since it has in 1929, when sound recording was introduced. New technology, new tools and new methods have revolutionized the art and craft of telling stories visually. While some aspects of visual language, lighting and color are eternal, shooting methods, workflow and cameras have changed radically. Even experienced film artists have a need to update and review new methods and equipment. These change affect not only the director of photography but also the director, the camera assistants, gaffers, and digital imaging technicians.

8) Film Directing: Shot by Shot – Visualizing from Concept to Screen

A complete catalogue of motion picture techniques for filmmakers. It concentrates on the ‘storytelling’ school of filmmaking, utilizing the work of the great stylists who established the versatile vocabulary of technique that has dominated the movies
since 1915. This graphic approach includes comparisons of style by interpreting a ‘model script’, created for the book, in storyboard form.

9) Lighting for Digital Video and Television, 3rd Edition

Enhance the visual quality of your motion pictures and digital videos with a solid understanding of lighting fundamentals. This complete course in digital video lighting begins with how the human eye and the camera process light and color, progresses through the basics of equipment and setups, and finishes with practical lessons on how to solve common problems. Filled with clear illustrations and real-world examples that demonstrate proper equipment use, safety issues, and staging techniques, Lighting for Digital Video presents readers with all they need to create their own visual masterpieces.

10) Film Lighting Talks With Hollywoods Cinematographers And Gaffers 

Film lighting is a living, dynamic art influenced by new technologies and the changing styles of leading cinematographers. A combination of state-of-the-art technology and in-depth interviews with industry experts, Film Lighting provides an inside look at how cinematographers and film directors establish the visual concept of the film and use the lighting to create a certain atmosphere.

Kris Malkiewicz uses firsthand material from the experts he interviewed while researching this book. Among these are leading cinematographers Dean Cundey, Dion Beebe, Russell Carpenter, Caleb Deschanel, Robert Elswit, Mauro Fiore, Adam Holender, Janusz Kaminski, Matthew Libatique, Rodrigo Prieto, Harris Savides, Dante Spinotti, and Vilmos Zsigmond. This updated version of Film Lighting fills a growing need in the industry and will be a perennial, invaluable resource.

What is Mise en Scéne? – Definition and Examples

Working in the film business you hear many “inside” terms on a set like Apple box, MOS, montage don’t cross the line (to learn about the 180 degree line in a past article), etc. One such term is “Mise en Scene” or the translation “placing on stage.”

This is a French expression that refers to the design or the arrangement of everything as it appears in the framing of a film i.e. actors, décor, props, lighting, costumes and others. The term essentially means “telling a story” both in poetically artful ways and in visually artful ways through direction and storyboarding state design and cinematography.

It is also used to refer to the many single scenes that are within the film to represent the film. The term is broad, and it is also used among professional and experienced screenwriters to show descriptive or action paragraphs between the dialogs.

This is because of its relationship to shot blocking. The term mise-en-scene is called the film criticism grand undefined term. The term is so broad, and it defines and classifies a lot in the filming industry. The term roughly means to put into the scene or to place on stage.

Mise en scene is used to describe filmmaking and the process involved in the filmmaking process. In filmmaking, the first process is creating ideas for the film. Here, the right books or plays are bought. These are the source of the initial ideas of the film.

Production Design

Production design is a broad term that covers all the steps involved in putting together a production. It includes everything from sourcing the location, hiring the crew, designing the set and costumes, to lighting and sound effects.

A good production designer should be able to understand the big picture and work closely with the director to bring the vision of the film into reality. They also need to have a solid understanding of film theory and history in order to make sure the visual elements of the story are translated accurately on screen.

There are many different types of production designers, each with their own unique responsibilities. The most common position is that of production designer (also known as production supervisor), who is often responsible for overseeing all aspects of the production.

Another option is that of art director, which involves overseeing the overall look and feel of the production and helping to ensure the film is visually coherent. Other options include production manager, set decorator, costume designer, and others.

Production designers also work closely with the cinematographer, writer, director, actors and other crew members. In fact, if there’s a problem with the set or costumes, it’s often the production designer who is called upon to fix the problem.

The set is the main space in which the action takes place. It can be built before or during the shoot. The set decorator (or set designer) creates a series of set elements and props, or other items on the stage that will be used to create the desired atmosphere.

The set designer plans out the appearance of the set, determining what furniture, decorations, props, and any other elements will be needed for the set to appear as desired. Once the set is designed, the set decorator may build the set, creating any necessary fixtures.

They are responsible for ensuring that the set elements are in the correct locations and orientations on the stage and for making sure that the set elements are functioning correctly. The set decorator may also arrange the set in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.

He or she may also be involved with the construction of the set itself. The set decorator may supervise and direct the crew who are building the set. He or she may also choose which materials to use and how they will be installed.

They may design the lighting scheme and oversee its installation. The set decorator may also be responsible for creating and maintaining the set’s props.

Costumes Designer and Staging

Costumes are the only aspect of mise en scene that is easily noticeable by almost everybody. It includes makeup, hair, and clothes or wardrobe choices that are used to show the personality of the character.

It is important that a costume designer chooses the costumes that will best convey the image, personality, and emotional status of the character. Special effects are another aspect of mise en scene. They are used to make the film more interesting and captivating.

A costume designer is a person who designs and makes costumes for movies, TV shows, and other films. This is a different job than a fashion designer. Fashion designers design clothes for the human body.

Costume designers design costumes for actors, dancers, and other performers. A costume designer is responsible for designing costumes for both men and women. They are also responsible for designing costumes for different types of people. They are responsible for bringing a character from the page to the screen.

You can think of a costume designer as a stylist on a big budget. Their job is to make sure the characters and actors feel like they fit into the world of the film by working with the director, production designer, and sometimes other designers to create the look of the film.

Staging means that you’re setting up your movie or TV show before it’s shot, but only once the cast and crew are ready to shoot. This is why many movie scenes start with a long take in which the actors are introduced to each other and the set.

This allows the director to get a sense of how everyone fits together, and this way, the actors will play off of each other’s body language and expressions as they start to develop a natural chemistry.

Make-Up Artist

The makeup artist is responsible for making actors look perfect. That may sound simple, but it’s actually much harder than it sounds. The main thing a makeup artist does is to make sure that the actor looks natural in front of the camera. There are some subtle things a makeup artist can do to enhance a actors looks.

For example, the actor’s eyes can be made to look bigger and more attractive by darkening the outside corners of the eye. It’s also a good idea to have an assistant or friend help with this job as well, because having someone else see how well the makeup artist did can give a much more objective opinion of the process.

One of the most important aspects of a makeup artists job is getting the right color scheme on the actor’s face. In order to get a good look, the makeup artist must use the right colors and shades. The colors and shades that makeup artist should be using will depend on what type of make up they are wearing.

For example, if the makeup artist is wearing foundation, then they should be using a light or medium shade of foundation. If they are wearing concealer, then they should be using a light or medium shade of concealer.

If they are wearing lipstick, then they should be using a light or medium shade of lipstick. The makeup artist can also use various tools in order to achieve the right look.

Film Lighting

If you’ve ever been in a movie theater or watched a movie on TV, chances are you’ve noticed that when actors appear on screen, they often use a different kind of lighting than you would see if you were watching them in real life.

Film lighting is used to create and emphasize specific things about a scene, object, or actor. The goal is to give the audience something to focus on—something to make them remember. This is why light, whether it’s from a spotlight or a lamp, is so important.

For example, actors appearing on screen may have some highlights (bright lights), some mid-tones (medium lights), and some shadows (dark areas) to them. A typical home light fixture produces only one of these three elements at a time, but movie lighting is controlled with a lot more precision. Lighting engineers call this “film lighting.”

Film lighting can be used for both front lighting and backlighting. Front lighting refers to the illumination that comes from the side of the subject. Backlighting refers to illumination coming from behind the subject.

Backlighting is used to create effects such as the golden glow on a subject’s face, or the bright highlight on a subject’s hair.  Front lighting can be used to create effects such as the deep shadows in a subject’s eyes, or the blackness that appears around the subject’s nose and mouth.

When you watch a film, you are seeing the front-lit image projected onto the screen by the projector, which is a combination of both front and backlighting. Backlighting Backlighting is a technique used in film production to create special effects in the form of highlights and shadows.

The lighting effect is achieved by using a light source (usually an electric light) that is placed behind the subject to be lit, and is aimed so that it shines on the subject. The amount of light that reaches the subject is controlled by the light’s intensity and its distance from the subject.

In the case of backlighting, the source of light is placed at a distance from the subject, so that it does not cast a shadow on the subject.

The Producer

The producer selects the story from the books or a novel or the idea can even be an original idea or based on a true story. The producer then takes the idea to the writers, and they work together to create a synopsis.

They then break down the story into simple paragraph scenes or the step outline as it is called.  The one-paragraph scenes are the ones that concentrate on the most dramatic parts or structures.

After this, they prepare a good description of the story together with its moods and its characters. This stage has little conversations, but it mostly consists of drawings that help them to visualize all the key points. This is also the stage where the screenwriter comes up with a screenplay, and this takes a period of several months.


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The Screenwriter

The screenwriter has all the time to rewrite the screenplay if need be to improve clarity, dramatization, character, structure, and dialogue. At this stage, the film distributor can be contacted and informed of the project for him to assess the financial success of the movie and look for possible markets.

The producer and the screenwriter will then prepare the treatment or film pitch, and they present it to the financiers. The financiers will go through the movie and also assess the likelihood of the moviemaking any profit.

They will contact some known movie stars to get them to feature in the film for publicity purposes, and after this stage is successful, the film can now go to the preproduction stage.

This is the stage that determines if the film will continue or not because, without funds, there would be no cast or crew to work in the film production. The parties involved in the financing will draft the appropriate contracts and also sign them to make a deal.

After this, the preparations for the shoot are made. This is called pre-production where locations for the shoot are selected and prepared before time, the cast and the film crew are hired, and the sets are built.

Here, all the process in the production of the movie is carefully outlined to each and every involved party, and they are also carefully planned. Even with a lot of funding, if this process is not done carefully, the film production can halt or even fail.

The most critical crew positions are outlined and the people to take those positions are named before anything else goes on. The most crucial crew positions that must be there to make a good film are:

These are crucial positions in the film production, and their roles cannot be ignored if there is to be a successful production of the film.

The Production

The production stage is the next one after preproduction. Here, the film is created and shot. There is the recruitment of more crew in this stage due to the complexities of some roles. This is the most complicated process of film production.

Everyone involved in the film production has to take their roles seriously here for the production to be successful. A regular shooting day begins by the arrival of the crew at their call time. The actors usually have different call times, and the crew has to arrive early enough to prepare everything in advance before the actors come.

Set construction, setting, dressing, and lighting is done before because it can take many hours, and sometimes it can even take days. For efficiency purposes, the electric, grip, and production design crews are always a step ahead of the sound and the camera departments.

When one scene is getting filmed, these crews are already preparing for the next one. This means that the filming process will face no problems, and if there are any, they will be easily solved ahead. After the crew prepares the equipment, the actors are already in their costumes, and they attend the makeup and hair departments.

The Actors

The actors will then rehearse the script with the director, and the other departments make their final tries or tweaks.  The assistant director then calls “a picture is up” to let everyone know that the take is about to be recorded, a “quiet everyone” call then follows, and once everyone is ready.

He then calls “roll sound” if that particular take involves sound and then the “roll cameras “call is called by the assistant director who is answered by “speed” from the camera operator once he starts recording. The assistant directors then call “action” once he makes sure everyone is ready. The take is over when the director calls “cut” and the sound stops and the cameras stop recording.

In the film production process, we see mise en scene representing the film production in every step or every setting or arrangement. It, therefore, refers to the staging and acting where it is well known that an actor can make or break a movie, and it doesn’t matter how captivating the story is. It also refers to the lighting and setting of the production stage.

The setting creates a mode and also a sense of place and it can also reflect the emotional state of mind of the character. Lighting is essential in the production of a film, and there are different types of lighting, but each depends on where the lighting is coming from and the kind of illumination it is providing to the stage setting.

This video uses two scenes from the movie American Beauty to show how elements of how cinematic techniques related to mise-en-scène and cinematography can be used to help visually tell a story.

What is VFX? Ultimate Beginner’s Guide: Definitions & Examples

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In Hollywood movies, visual effects (or “VFX” for short) are a huge part of the storytelling. A lot of the time, it doesn’t matter how well written the script is, if the special effects are not convincing enough, the audience won’t believe it.

There’s even a special Oscar® category just for them. But what about those visual effects shots—how do they work?

If you’re a fan of movies, chances are you’ve seen some really awesome visual effects. These are the special effects and computer-generated imagery that make movies like Star Wars, Avatar, and Titanic so great. Now, there’s a whole new wave of tools that allow for even more exciting and engaging storytelling.

As we all know, VFX is an expensive process and takes years to create. It’s also incredibly hard work. There are over a thousand different VFX artists and engineers working on each Hollywood blockbuster movie.

VFX (Visual Effects) 101

Visual effects are an essential element in movie production, especially Hollywood blockbusters. They  are a key part of today’s films, whether it’s for a Hollywood blockbuster or a television series.

They can give viewers a better understanding of the story being told and allow filmmakers to add a sense of scale to the experience. Visual effects are a key part of today’s films, whether it’s for a Hollywood blockbuster or a television series.

While visual effects have been used in film since its inception, the recent explosion in popularity and development of computer-generated imagery (CGI) has revolutionized how visual effects are created.

As a result, many visual effects artists now specialize in creating visual effects using CGI rather than traditional techniques such as stop motion, puppetry, claymation, etc.

The most common use of visual effects is in the creation of special effects such as explosions, fire, creature creation and the destruction of objects to name a few. If the director can think it up in his or her mind, VFX artists can bring it into reality.

History of Visual Effects in movies

The history of visual effects in film can be traced back to a French inventor named Louis Le Prince. His invention, an automated stage for motion pictures, was the first ever movie camera.

In 1902, Georges Méliès, a French inventor, began the first known use of stop-motion animation. In 1908, he introduced the first known use of a “double exposure” technique in film. In 1927, the process was further refined with the introduction of the first practical optical printer, which allowed for the creation of three-dimensional images.

The 1930s saw the introduction of a new technology, optical compositing, which allowed for the production of the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional image.

This became the standard for all visual effects in Hollywood films until the 1950s, when computer technology made it possible to create special effects that were previously impossible or impractical.

By the 1960s, these techniques became commonplace, and visual effects began to play a major role in the production of feature films. The 1970s ushered in a new era of visual effects. The advent of digital technology allowed for the creation of more realistic special effects.

This led to the development of computer graphics, or CGI, which is now a significant part of the visual effects industry. The 1980s brought with it another technological revolution: the introduction of the digital camera.

This gave rise to an entirely new genre of visual effects, known as “digital compositing,” which combined digital image manipulation with traditional visual effects. In the 1990s, the “look” of visual effects was greatly refined through the use of digital technology.

This resulted in the development of photorealistic visual effects (or PFX) which, in turn, inspired a new generation of visual effects artists. The new wave of visual effects artists came from backgrounds in film, animation, television, video games, and digital media.

The 2000s have seen a new round of technological advances. Digital photography has advanced to the point that real-time digital compositing is possible, making it possible to integrate live-action footage into CG-generated images.

What is a VFX Pipeline?

The VFX pipeline involves every stage of a movie’s production and post-production. Let’s go down the rabbit-hole as we explain the steps of the VFX pipeline in more detail.

Storyboarding and Animatics

Storyboarding and Animatics in movies is a process where the script is broken down into individual scenes and each scene is then animated. This process allows vfx artsits and animators to see how each element of the scene will look and move onscreen, before all of it is assembled and put together in the final cut of the movie.

The same method can be used to help you visualize the various sections of your content.

What is Pre-Vis?

Pre-vis is a process where visual artists will begin to draw out storyboards of scenes before a movie is even shot. This serves to help directors visualize what they want to achieve visually.

This process helps the director stay focused on the overall story while giving him or her a chance to refine it. Pre-vis is a very important step because it allows the director to see what the finished movie is going to look like before they shoot the actual movie.

This helps the director keep his or her eye on the big picture while the visual artist keeps his or her eye on the details.

Film director Alfred Hitchcock famously loved to storyboard ever single frame of his films. He has so much confidence in the pre-vis process that he rarely ever looked through the camera, he would just have his cinematographer follow his storyboards to frame the scenes.

Concept and Design Process

Concept art and design are two different aspects of the process, and sometimes they’re used interchangeably. When we think about concept art, we imagine images from movies, video games, or comics.

In fact, a concept art piece can be something as simple as a sketch on a napkin, to an elaborate rendering on paper or canvas. While concept art is typically not directly tied to the final design, it’s a crucial component of the entire creative process.

The movie director or designer may use a concept artist to help guide them in their artistic vision. The designer’s job is to bring those images to life. This is an important stage of the process because it often takes a few iterations to get to the final design.

Ralph McQuarrie was a famous concept artist for the Star Wars franchise who created a number of highly-recognized concept images, including the Death Star, Yoda’s home, and Darth Vader’s helmet.

His style can be seen in many of the most recognizable images of the original Star Wars trilogy. In addition, his work can be found throughout Disney history as well, including a lot of concept art from the Indiana Jones and James Bond films.

What the Heck is Matchmove and Camera Tracking?

Matchmove is an important tool in the VFX artists toolkit. While it was initially designed to match the movements of actors against a green screen background, its use has expanded greatly and can be used to create all sorts of amazing effects in post-production.

Matchmove is a software tool that matches the movements of an actor with a background image. It’s most commonly used for green screen effects, but it can be used in many other ways.

Matchmove works by using the information from a green screen tracking camera and combining it with the image from the source footage (usually a video or photo). The software will try to figure out where the actor is in relation to the background and create a composite image with their movements.

As for Camera Tracking, it’s a process of creating a virtual camera that follows a real camera around while capturing video or photographs. It’s often used to create the effect where the camera is actually moving inside a scene.

Layout and Production Design

One of the key aspects of film production is the art of layout and production design. With such a large amount of information being presented to the audience, the director, editor, producers and other staff must ensure that all elements are aligned and fit together in a way that is pleasing to the eye.

The process begins with the production design of the overall look and feel of the movie, which should be inspired by the director’s vision. After the design is completed, it’s time to lay out the script and the scene in terms of visual elements: camera angles, lighting, set dressing, etc.

The layout stage continues with the development of each shot, including editing, color correction, compositing, and any special effects required for the film.

What is Asset Creation and Modeling?

“Modeling” refers to the creation of a digital version of your real-world object that will be used to replace that object in the final product. The digital version of the object needs to be very realistic and detailed.

For example, if you’re creating a car in a movie and you need to model the body of the car in order to replace the real-world body in the final product, the body of the car needs to be 100% accurate. The same applies to modeling any other physical object in the movie.

If you’re making a video game or animated movie, the more accurate your models are, the better the final product will look. In addition to modeling, you also need to create digital versions of all the elements that go into your real-world objects.

For example, you need to create digital versions of the wheels, tires, lights, engine, etc. These items are called “assets” and they need to be created with the same level of detail as your models. You can have assets of any type: 2D images, 3D models, textures, sounds, animations, etc.

In the film industry, R&D refers to the process of development and production of visual effects and motion picture animation. Most often used in the context of feature films, the term “visual effects” includes the processes of creating the final composite of a set piece such as the background or foreground of a shot, the 3D models and animation for a set, matte paintings, special effects, optical effects, and more.

Motion picture animation involves creating the visual effects and motion for a motion picture.

R&D is not restricted to film; it can also include computer animation. The process of motion picture animation begins with a storyboard. Storyboards are the preliminary drawings that visualize a scene from start to finish, showing all of the actions and camera angles for a sequence of scenes.

The storyboard is then used as a guide for the design and creation of a three-dimensional model or animated figure. A director, producer, and other members of the creative team use these tools to come up with the visual style and theme of a motion picture.

A common problem in visual effects is called “rigging”. A “rig” is a complicated device that controls, moves, rotates, or otherwise manipulates a character or object in the virtual world of a movie, video game, etc.

This is usually done using a computer program. To the untrained eye, the end result might look as though it was created by magic. However, many animators and artists spend weeks, months, or even years learning how to rig a character or object.

So why does a rigger do what they do? If you have ever watched a movie where there are visual effects and you noticed how unrealistic something looked, that’s because it was rigged.

When a character walks, you notice how their legs are moving in a way that doesn’t make sense, but a rigging expert can do that for you.

What is Animation?

When we animate things in movies, it’s usually a sign of something special going on in the movie. For example, when someone flies off the roof of a building and falls to his death, that’s a pretty dramatic moment.

If you think about it, when a character flies off the roof of a building and falls to his or her death, it’s actually quite realistic because we don’t see it very often. And yet when it happens, it’s an incredibly dramatic moment and makes people stop and watch.

It’s similar to how many of us are affected by a sudden burst of laughter or a funny story. It’s an instant response that draws us in.

That’s what animation is all about: drawing us into your story. We’re interested in how a character responds to something, and it’s fun to see how things develop. Animation is the art of drawing pictures to make a story happen. It’s not limited to movies or TV shows, but it’s probably the most well-known form of animation.

It’s also one of the oldest forms of animation. It’s been around for more than 100 years. In the 1920s, animation was very different than it is today. There were no computers, no special effects, and no special characters. In fact, when animation began, it was pretty crude.

It looked like this: Nowadays, we can do so much more with animation. We can have special effects, 3D environments, and animated characters.

FX and Simulation

What’s the difference between simulation and FX? While both are used to create the look of the movie world, they are slightly different in how they are used. FX is used to create a realistic look to the scenes.

You see, the things that you see on film, such as explosions, fires, etc., were all simulated, which means they were created digitally in the computer. Simulation, on the other hand, can be used to create almost anything.

It can be used to create an environment, a landscape, or even an object. If you have ever seen the movie Avatar, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The movie’s environment was simulated because it was so realistic that it was actually real.

There are so many uses for FX and simulation, but one of the main ones is to create the look of a scene. You’ll see movies like Avatar where the environment is completely simulated and you never question the reality of world of Pandora.

Lighting and Rendering a Scene

You’ve heard of lighting, right? The “flickering light bulbs” on the ceiling in your living room? Well, lighting is the light source in a shot. And when you add a light source to a shot, you need to render the scene.

Rendering is the process of taking images and objects from a computer screen into the 3D space of a virtual reality world. Lighting and rendering in visual effects are used to make objects look more realistic.

Lighting and rendering in visual effects are also used to add depth to images and create special effects such as glowing faces and eyes.

The first step is lighting. If you don’t have an accurate model of the environment, it’s impossible to render a realistic image.

The second is rendering, which involves applying shadows, colors, and textures. In the third step, the rendered image is sent back to the camera and then put into the scene for the final product.

So how do they get that? They use software called RenderMan. RenderMan is a collection of programs that allow artists to create a digital model of a scene, then tweak the model with lighting and other effects, and render that into a movie file.

Digital Compositing: The Unsung Heroes of VFX

Digital compositing is a process used in visual effects for special effects in movies. It is often seen in scenes where there is some action or special effects happening.

This is done by combining various images together in a seamless way. A lot of work has gone into making these seamless transitions. The key is to make sure the images are aligned properly and also making sure that they don’t move, which can be tricky at times.

Compositing involves using software and hardware to combine images together.

It can be done manually or with automation. The software is used to blend two images together to make them look as if they were one. The hardware is the part that actually makes the image transition possible.

This hardware can include a green screen or a studio backdrop. This allows the image to be blended seamlessly. This is usually done with an array of lights that are used to project light onto the backdrop.

This makes it easier for the software to blend the image together and make it seamless. There are many different ways to composite images together.

Green Screen vs Blue Screen?

Green screen refers to the part of a movie set where a background is used, usually for visual effects. In live-action movies, the green screen background is often painted on a special stage, while in animation, computer graphics or 3D movies, the image can be projected onto a blue screen.

Blue screen refers to the black backdrop that is used to hide anything that would be distracting, such as people, lights, or other objects. It’s used in both live-action and animated movies, but its function is much more important in live action.

The blue screen can be built into a set or used as a portable screen that fits over existing sets or actors’ faces.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I hope you have enjoyed your journey down the rabbit hole of visual effects. In conclusion, for VFX movies, the entire look of the movie is created using computers. Special effects are used to create a virtual image of what is happening in a scene in a movie.

The goal is to create a new image that was not possible before the development of VFX techniques/ When a filmmaker makes a movie, they have to tell a story in a limited amount of time.

It’s not always possible for a director or cinematographer to tell a story without using some sort of visual effects. VFX can include things like creating a new setting, changing an object, or removing something.

Up next: What is Rotoscoping Animation?

The Ultimate Guide to Stanley Kubrick’s Lenses Collection

When you hear Stanley Kubrick, you think of images. One of the many reasons Kubrick was such a remarkable filmmaker was that he came to the film industry after years working as a professional photographer for publications like Look magazine. There he learned about composition, light and of course lenses.

Not many film directors worry about the latest camera tech–cinematographers usually take that job up–but Kubrick was no ordinary director. Even though he wasn’t the first filmmaker to use the Steadicam, on The Shining, he was the first to have the rig modified so it could hover close to the ground in those legendary shots of Danny on the big wheel.

In the video below, Joe Dunton, owner of one of the biggest camera rental facilities in the United Kingdom and worked extremely closely with Stanley, takes us on a guided tour of Kubrick’s lens collection. For those who went to the traveling Stanley Kubrick exhibit (see the videos below) two to three years ago, you might have seen this video playing in the exhibit.

Kubrick rarely rented film gear or lenses and preferred to own his own. Stanley lit mostly with natural light when he could–because of his photojournalism career. Sometimes the flicker of a candle is all the light he would have, which led to the use of the legendary Zeiss lens designed for NASA as a way shooting the deep darkness of space–Kubrick used it for the evening dining room scenes in Barry Lyndon in order to capture candlelight on the slower film stocks of the day.

One of the unsung heroes in all this, it’s a man named George Hill, who was Stanley Kubrick’s go-to-guy when he wanted to create a custom lens for a project. George was also the only guy he trusted to clean his lenses collection. Enjoy!

Stanley Kubrick’s Favorite Cameras & Lenses

I’ve always been fascinated with how some of the filmmaking masters got their start. How did they break into the business? What gear did they use on their first films? What events shaped them in the early days? As many of you know I have a love for Stanley Kubrick and his films. I always knew he got his start as a photographer for LOOK Magazine but I never could find out what cameras he shot on.

I did go into a pretty lengthy post on Kubrick Lenses but now, thanks to CinemaTyler’s ongoing “Kubrick Files” series on Youtube, we can now see what cameras and photo lenses help shape this master. If you are interested in Stanley Kubrick’s early days as a photographer I recommend two amazing books on the subject:

  • Stanley Kubrick: Drama and Shadows
  • Stanley Kubrick at Look Magazine: Authorship and Genre in Photojournalism and Film

The video discusses 20 cameras and lenses including the famous Zeiss Planar 50mm F0.7, the lens Kubrick used to shoot the candlelight scenes in Barry Lyndon. We also discover Kubrick’s most beloved camera was the Arriflex 35 II, which he shot A Clockwork Orange, Barry LyndonFull Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.

Here are a list of the cameras and lenses discussed (via IndieWire)

1. Garflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic Camera
2. Kodak Monitor 620
3. Rolleiflex Automat 6×6 Model RF 111A
4. Rolleiflex K2
5. Rolleiflex Automat 6×6 Model K4
6. Rollei 35
7. Polaroid Pathfinder 110A
8. Leica IIIc
9. Pentax K
10. Hasselblad
11. Nikon F
12. Subminiature Minox
13. 35mm Widelux
14. Polaroid OneStep SX-70
15. Arriflex 35 IIC
16. Kinoptik Tegea 9.8mm
17. Novoflex 400mm f5.6 lens
18. Cooke Varotal 20-100mm T3
19. Cinepro 24-480mm in Arri Standard Mount
20. Zeiss Planar 50mm F0.7


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 551: Sundance 2022 – La Guerra Civil with Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria, La Guerra Civil, Sundance

Today we have the award-winning actress, director, producer, entrepreneur and activist by the name of 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.

In my journeys as a colorist, VFX and post production supervisor  I had the pleasure of working on a film Eva starred and produced Without Men years ago. I had a ball working on it.

The women of a remote Latin American town are forced to pick up the pieces and remake their world when all the town’s men are forcibly recruited by communist guerrillas. The only men left in town for years are the priest and Julio who was disguised as a woman.

As an trailblazing actress, director, producer, entrepreneur and activist, Eva Longoria has become one the most significant trailblazers behind the camera. For over a decade, she has been directing and choosing projects that have purpose and are focused on elevating the stories of the Latinx and other underrepresented communities.

Eva past television directing credits include the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Versus, as well as episodes of Ashley Garcia: Genius In Love, Grand Hotel, Black-ish, The Mick, LA to Vegas, Jane the Virgin, Telenovela, Devious Maids, Latinos Living the Dream, and the short films Out of the Blue and A Proper Send-Off.

She was also nominated for a 2021 Daytime Emmy for her directing work on Ashley Garcia: Genius In Love.

As a Global Brand Ambassador for L’Oreal Paris for over 15 years, Longoria has become a frequent director of the brand’s commercials, she recently upped the ante by self-directing the first ever hair color TV commercial created at home on a smartphone at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eva has also contributed writing to publications on the subject of education. She also has a contract with L’Oreal and has been named one of the most beautiful people. Her latest documentary La Guerra Civil is in this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

This feature-length documentary follows the epic rivalry between iconic boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez in the 1990s sparked a cultural divide between Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans. A chronicle of a battle that was more than a boxing rivalry, and examining a fascinating slice of the Latino experience in the process.

Here some of why Eva took on this film:

“In the Mexican and Mexican-American communities, boxing is so much more than a sport. It is a cultural expression of who we are. The 1996 “Ultimate Glory” fight between Julio César Chávez and Oscar De La Hoya will forever be an iconic memory in our lifetimes. At the time, Chávez was a Mexican national hero entering the 100th professional fight of his career and De La Hoya was a Mexican-American boxer about to enter his prime.

Given the distinct differences between these two men and their respective fandoms, nowhere has a rivalry been more intense while also transcending borders to bring everybody together to root for the art of boxing. Many of these same issues of cultural identity dramatically parallel what we are dealing with in our world 25 years later.

This is why I wanted to tell this story: to remind people that we can find commonalities amid our differences to bring us back together.”

Eva and I discuss her struggles coming up as an actress, transitioning into directing and producing and her new film La Guerra Civil.

Enjoy my conversation with Eva Longoria Bastón. 

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Eva Longoria. How're you doing Eva?

Eva Longoria 0:16
Im good, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:17
I'm doing fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on the show as a fellow Latino, or Latin X, as they say, nowadays. Latina, Latina, I appreciate everything you've done for for us as a community in general. And, and you know, growing up has been, it was very difficult to really see a Latino filmmaker in general. I mean, it was Robert for me. When I was coming up, it was Robert Rodriguez. And I was just like, oh my god, there's a director, who's Latino. So that's amazing. It was the first time I saw so I just wanted to start off by saying thank you so much for all the stuff that you've done for our community and the film industry. So thank you.

Eva Longoria 0:53
Thank you, thanks for talking about this amazing documentary.

Alex Ferrari 0:59
I loved it. By the way, I absolutely loved it. I knew about it. I knew about the story, just being Latino in general. And I would tell like I told my dad only Do you remember this Franco's who, if you're Latino, you remember that fight. But I didn't really understand the whole back and forth between the subcultures if you will of Mexico, Mexican American. But before we get started, we're going to talk all about the documentary, is it how did you go from almost becoming a physical therapist to becoming an actor?

Eva Longoria 1:33
My dream was to work for the Dallas Cowboys. Like I was like, I'm a physical trainer for the Dallas Cowboys. And I've arrived ever. I was in a beauty pageant. It was a Scholarship Pageant in Texas. And my final year in college, I ran out of money, I ran out a Pell Grant, like, I had no way to finish my senior year and my friends like, hey, why don't you enter the Scholarship Pageant? I was like, what's that? And she's like, you know, you. If you win, you get money for school. So I did. And I was like, I've never been even. And I'm from Texas, like, we're born and bred football and pageants. And I never seen one. I never been in one and, and so my goal was to win fourth place, because I was like, if I could just give fourth place. It was like books. Right? Okay, I've covered my books. And then like, third place was like, books, tuition. And then, you know, second place was books, tuition boarding. And then the first place was books, tuition boarding and a stipend. Like I was like, Look, I am in high. I just want, I just want my books, right. And then they called the winners, and they were like, fourth place is so and so. And I was like, Ah, man, I didn't get it. And I ended up winning the whole thing. And I was like, oh, okay, that oh, cool, cool. I got I can pay my senior. And then that pageant made me I had it was like a feeder to go into the next level. And I was like, Oh, I don't I'm not make this a thing on my tuition. And so I had to go into the next one, which was Miss Corpus Christi, where I'm from, and I won that one. And, and literally, my mom was like, This is not your food, like you cannot enter one more page. And I'm like, I don't want to I don't know what's happening. I don't know what especially growing up as libreria FEHA, which is the ugly dark one. And I in that prize package, Miss Corpus Christi was a trip to Los Angeles. And that was the first time I was like, Oh, that'd be fun. I've never been outside of Texas. And, and it was like a talent competition in LA that we had to go to. And so I came and then i i won the talent competition. And I was like, What is going on? I don't know what I'm doing and and literally, agents and managers wanted to sign me and because it was like, it was like the Latin craze. I remember. It was like Ricky Martin,

Alex Ferrari 3:53
Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias. Yes. Yeah.

Eva Longoria 3:57
Livin La vida loca was, you know, the hit song at the time. And they were like, Oh, my God, if you're Latina, you're gonna like clean up here in Hollywood. They're looking for Latinas. And I was like, Oh, okay. And I just live on one day to the next set. Okay, I think I'm gonna be an actor, just like that. But it was because I had my bachelor's degree that I was like, I can get a job anywhere. It's not like I'm going to be a starving actor, I can go get a job. So I had a lot of confidence that I would be okay. But still not knowing, you know, the industry or anything. I had $23 in my bank account.

Alex Ferrari 4:27
Now the in you decided that, you know, you just like I heard somewhere that you just called up your parents is like, I'm staying. I'm not I'm not going. I'm not flying back.

Eva Longoria 4:35
I didn't even fly back. That's when I moved. I didn't even fly back to go, Okay, let me prepare for this move. No, I just, I came here for three days. And on the third day, I said, I think I'm going to stay. And my mom and my mom was like, Okay, you're going to do what I said, I think I'm gonna be an actor. I mean, I don't know what that means. But I think I'm going to, I'm going to just stay a little longer. See what happens. And my mom said that, well, you know, at least you can get a job. You have your degree, and I said, Yeah, I'm going to Go get a job. And, you know, went got a job and then became a background actor. And, you know, atmosphere actor for a couple years. I was like, let me let me be on a set. I don't even I've never been on a set. Maybe I should figure that out.

Alex Ferrari 5:16
Right. Now did you? Did you feel because I mean, everything seems very serendipitous that you've just a story you've told me did you feel like there was some for something guiding you during this process?

Eva Longoria 5:29
It's so funny you say that. I always say that. I was like, I don't know what it was. But there was something just that felt right. Every step of the way. Like, they were like, I said, I'm going to stay. I wasn't scared. I didn't know anybody. I didn't have a place to live. I didn't have money. And I was like, I'll be okay. I maybe it's naive, you know, naive. It's youth. is bliss. Like if I knew the dangers

Alex Ferrari 5:58
Right, exactly. No, it's like so any any actress is living listening right now. Please don't do what Eva did. Don't just

Eva Longoria 6:05
Don't do it. No, I had like five roommates in a one bedroom of people who like hey, come live with us. I go okay, like not knowing them. I was like, I could have been murdered. I mean, you know what I mean? Like

Alex Ferrari 6:16
Something was sometimes guiding and protecting you during this process, because the story that you just told me it's ends and Dateline.

Eva Longoria 6:27
Well, that in like, there's no recipe for success in Hollywood. So let's say you do exactly what I did. Yeah, he wouldn't get the same result. It doesn't work that way.

Alex Ferrari 6:36
No, it's different timing different plays different everything. I mean, you hit that the right point, right time, but like you were saying, it took you a little while before you started getting some jobs. How did you keep going? Like just I mean, I'm assuming like, I always treat that when I'm ever I'm casting for a movie. I'm always treat. I treat actors with such respect, because it's so hard, and going out on auditions and getting beat up and, and people just walking in and like, Oh, you're to this or you're to that, and it's just so it's so rough. How did you keep going when there was no real signs that this was the right path for you?

Eva Longoria 7:09
Right. 100%! Well, you know, I, when I came to Hollywood, I went to a temp agency to get a job because I was like, well, they'll have a job for me tomorrow. And that company said, Why don't you work here? And I said, What is What do you guys do? And they were like that were headhunters. You find people jobs. And you know, it's like matchmaking job, people. You know? And I go, Okay, I mean, not knowing anything, but I was so good at it. I made a lot of money. So again, I wasn't ever the struggling actor, I was so good. I was like, This is so easy this head on. But I just like I knew how to find match people up with jobs and all my actor friends were jobless. So I'm like, I got tons of supply, you know. And, and because of that, I got an apartment, I had a car, I paid off my student debt. I paid off my credit card debt. I had headshots, I took acting classes, I you know, I really invested all anything that I made back into myself. Right. And, and it was through one of those workshops or seminars or something that a casting director saw me and said, Hey, you should audition for young and the rest of this and I was like, okay, and, and did and then that was like my big break was young and the restless. And, and it paid so badly. It was like two cents for the week that I kept my head hunting job. So I was a headhunter in my dressing room at young in the restless, because it just it was like I was not making enough young, the restless to quit my job for for two years. I did this did both jobs.

Alex Ferrari 8:46
Talk about hustle.

Eva Longoria 8:47
Yeah, I know. That's another thing is like it is about hustle. And it's about, you know, being resourceful. And that's life, by the way that if I if you dropped me in the middle of Paris, I'm going to figure it out. Right? I speak the language, I don't know. But I'm going to eat how many well, and I'm gonna, I'm gonna figure it out. And that's I think what's missing a lot from a lot of the younger generation today is they're just not that resourceful. And they have all the tools in the world at their fingertips. I didn't have an iPhone. I had a Thomas guide, and a printout from Google that I had to follow, you know. And so, yeah, it was like, Oh, if I had the tools that you have today, you know, God, I would have gone far.

Alex Ferrari 9:28
Oh, my God. I mean, same here. I mean, my first directors will cost 50 grand because I've to shoot an on 35 You know, and it was like, now we just grab a phone because you'd be shooting commercials and music videos and short films all day. There's so much technology. I think it's because you know, you and I are of similar vintage. So you know, we when we were when we grew up there was there wasn't anything like I remember there's no internet I remember very easily there was no internet. I remember printing out the Google Maps in LA and having the You know, the directions like printed out line by line driving around LA trying to drop off a demo reel for, you know, an editing gig or something like that.

Eva Longoria 10:08
Stage West. I submitted myself in for auditions and I would send my headshot, and I would use the postage from the company I worked at, so I didn't have to buy stamps. And so I like, at the end of the day, I'd sneak off and I go on, I put postage on, like 20 submissions, and I saw I was like, oh, yeah, I was a hustler. I did background work just to eat. And I would steal the bananas and apples and take it home. Because I was like, well, I might not eat tomorrow. So let me let me take some of these bananas. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 10:38
And so I mean, you struggled but you you were you something, again, was guiding you and giving you these opportunities that normal, normal, the normal acting story in LA is not yours by any stretch of the imagination. Even at the very beginning. Like you're you're living you're eating, you're you're leaving Well, you have a job, you have a car, you've paid off student debt, like this is unheard of for a struggling actor. But yeah, even then, when you got your first big break, you're like, I still want to keep my day job.

Eva Longoria 11:06
Yeah, I still like my car. So I think I'm, I'm gonna I like my apartment. Let me let me just keep doing this. Also, you know, I what you said like what kept you going because there was no signpost to say successes a year from now hang on. I felt it. And I remember my boss at that company. He goes, you know how much money you can make here. You're so good at this. Give up that dream. Like, you know how many people make it in Hollywood one in 1,000,001 in a million, like, Come on, just focus over here and forget that stuff. And I said, I know. And I'm that one. Like I'm taking up that space. So I've got to hurry up and be prepared. Like, I really thought that I really I never gave myself up. Until if I don't make it well, by 30. I'm moving back home. Like I never had a plan B I was just like, No, this will happen. And I also approached it like a business I knew exactly how to invest in you know what I need to classes. I don't know how to do that. I'm not good at that. I'm going to do this. So, you know, in that time, we know when you're going out for Latin roles are like, Can you do it with an accent and I'm like, I don't I don't have an accent and like there's other levels of target. And there's other levels of Latinos zero and it was like Rosie Perez, yesterday, okay, but there's other levels of dimensions of Latino that don't sound like Rosie Perez, you know, and, and so I was like, I gotta I need an accent coach. I don't I don't have an accent. I need to get one. And when people come to Hollywood, they try to lose their accent. I was like I was trying to get an accent. Like,

Alex Ferrari 12:48
Now, so it sounds like the you really put an intention involved. You really had an intention, and almost manifested what you were trying to get like you'd like no, I'm I'm there already. In your mind. You were already successful, even though there was no signs at all. And there's a difference between delusion because we all we all understand. We all

Eva Longoria 13:08
I might have been a little delusional. I might have been a little

Alex Ferrari 13:11
Listen, listen, Eva to be in our business. You got to be insane. You got to be insane in general, it's an insane business. It's like running off with the circus, basically, you know, so it is it is an insanity to be with. But yeah, there is a little you need a little delusion to even think you can make a movie is a delusion. It's insanity.

Eva Longoria 13:30
Yeah, I mean, it is a little delusional. But the other thing that I had on my side was an I'm an insane optimist and a hard worker. So I knew those two went together. But I also felt I felt like I have very tough skin. So the nose didn't affect me. And I got 1000s 1000s The day I got desperate out the day I auditioned for Desperate Housewives. I had nine auditions that day. And I was changing in my car driving from Disney back to Warner Brothers back to Disney back to Sony back to Culver City. And it was like, Oh, my I ran out of gas that day. That's how many auditions I had. And Desperate Housewives was at eight at night. It was the last audition. I'm changing in the car. And I get there and I'm exhausted. And I just was like, you know it you know, the other seven auditions today said No, I already knew I didn't get them. And and it was like, you know, in the car, doctor, okay, lawyer, okay. Yeah. And then Gabby was like, sexy, and I'm like trying to put on this tight dress in the car. I get down and Mark cheery is an audition and he goes. So what do you think of the script? And I was like, I didn't read the script. Like in my head. I'm like, I read my part. Like, who has time I had eight auditions a day. I'm not gonna read eight scripts. And I said, you don't want and I was just done. I was done for the day. And I said, You know what, I didn't read it. I didn't read the script. But I read my part and my parts really good. And and he he told me Later, he knew I was Gabrielle in that moment because it was the most selfish thing to say. I don't know what everybody else but I'm amazing. And I was like, so can I just do the audition? So you can say no. So I can go like, I it was just, you know, and then you did it again the next day. Yeah. And you started all over. So I had this and I have very thick skin even to this day, I really never take things personal. If I'm if I you know, if I get reviewed badly or this I'm like, Well, you know, it's not your cup of tea.

Alex Ferrari 15:32
Now, do you feel that you getting desperate housewives later and a little bit later in life? Because you weren't? You weren't? You know? 20? You know, I think you were 30 you were like 30? Yeah, exactly. 29 When you got it. So you already kind of had an established, you've established who your identity was at that point. Do you think that helped you deal with the tsunami, tsunami, excuse me of fame, and criticism and love and hate and everything that comes along with that package? Did that help you with that? Because that crushes many?

Eva Longoria 16:07
Yeah. 1,000% I knew who I was, you know, I probably knew who I was when I landed in Hollywood. You know, I didn't drink I wasn't into drugs. I didn't smoke. Like I was pretty, you know, and I was like, oh my god, Los Angeles, you're gonna, you know, get into drugs and travel. And I was like, There's drugs and trouble in Texas like the same thing. But I had a really strong sense of who I was. And so when fame hits you, I think God I was 29 I mean, because I was like, you know, you especially back then the tabloids were like the leading thing not like social media today, but like, the tabloids defined you and so it was like America's sweetheart America Sex Kitten. And then you kind of became that, right? Like, if you look at Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera coming up at the same time, and one was America's sweetheart. And one was the bad girl. And they were babies and they kind of go okay, I got to play the part. Now I've got to be the bad girl. And, and so they tried to do that with me. And I was like, you know, that? I'm not that. And, and I'm very grounded. You know, I have a really great family and I have, you know, great friends, my friends back then. Or, you know, the couches I slept on? And the I didn't have a dress for an audition. And my best friend, you know, let me address. They're still my friends today. They're the girlfriends that, you know, traveled with me and lived with me and you know, but I, I you know, they were there for me when I had nothing.

Alex Ferrari 17:36
So you know, so you know that they're their true friends at that point. Yeah, it's yeah, you know, cuz you never know, famous, such a double edged sword. So many people want to be rich and famous and you like, but look at how many people who are rich and famous who who are destroyed by it. It's just Hollywood is riddled with stories like that. You're an exception. You're like, you're an anomaly.

Eva Longoria 17:56
Yeah, thank you. But you remember EQ Hollywood stories that get worse, of course, that was on E and it was like, you know, she was you know, she was such a pretty girl from Missouri. And then and you're like, and so and then they tell you like the downfall of everybody. And I remember we premiered. And literally three days later, there was an E True Hollywood Story on me. And I go What did I do? Did I fall from grace? Did I do drugs? What happened? Like I was like, the beginning of the end now. Like it's supposed to happen later. It was so funny.

Alex Ferrari 18:27
Oh, God. And then of course, any movies that you might have done before Desperate Housewives they started going into, they go into the archives of the stuff that you did, and like look at what she did back then.

Eva Longoria 18:37
And I did so many student films for real, you know, he did and did so many bad things. And then all of a sudden, I was at Blockbuster. I don't know if people remember there was a blockbuster. You had to physically go and get a DVD before Netflix mailed them to you. And, and my I remember going into Blockbuster and my face is on the cover of this film. And I was like, what is that it was a different title. It was and it was just a student film I had done and this director packaged it sold it on my name. And I never knew until I saw it a blockbuster. But yeah, yeah. And family comes out of the woodworks, right? Like all these people who are related to you. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 19:18
So funny story. When I first started out as an editor as trailer editor, I cut a trailer for one of those films of yours early on. I if I say the name, I won't say the name, but I did. I did. I did edit it. And you were ready. You were ready, you know, Desperate Housewives. And I was sitting there and I'm like, This is so wrong. Like they haven't like you were like, I'm like you're in the movie for like 15 minutes, or 20. Right? And they're just like, bam, I'm like, Oh my God. I'm like, but hey, you know, I had to do a gig. So

Eva Longoria 19:51
A friend of mine who was on another hit show and every time he gets recognized around the world, he gets so pissed off because it's like that's all people know me for And I and every time people come up to me and they go, Gabby so Lise, I am like, Yes, that's me. You know, I'm just so grateful. And so like, so grateful that that director thought I had some sort of value. Because that's what you hope for you don't I mean, you have to have a value that you can make something happen.

Alex Ferrari 20:18
No question I read somewhere that you're an avid meditator. How do you cuz I'm, I've been meditating for years, I meditate hours a day sometimes. And it's changed my life. How do you use meditation, in your balancing your insane world that you live in with all the things that you do? And all the plates you spin, you know, mother, and philanthropist, and actor and director and all these kind of things? How does meditation help you kind of balance yourself? And what does it do for you in general,

Eva Longoria 20:48
You know what, it really centers you before the day I have to do it first thing in the morning, and it makes me more patient, it makes me have compassion, it makes me happy. You know, it really just shifts your energy to a place of positivity and a place of gratitude. That's a big one. You know, I really learned also, do be aware of how you speak, right? So I used to be like, I gotta I have to go to this meeting across town. I have to go to this audition, I have to go. Do you know James Corden, or I have to be on Jimmy Kimmel tonight. Instead, just switching it to I get to write, I get to have a meeting about a project, I want to get off the ground. Like, isn't that what you want? So why are you going on after Oh, you know, I get to be on Jimmy Kimmel, to promote this TV show I was on I get to, you know, I have to get home and bathe my kid. No, I get to make it home in time to bathe my child and put them to bed. Like I get to do that. I get to cook dinner for my family. And just that little word was through meditation, right? Like, be careful of how you speak in life, you know, and people go, how was your day to day you are so busy, I'm so busy. It's like I can't I can't it's just too much. I'm so busy. And switching that word to be productive? How was your day productive? Right, I was so productive today. I had eight meetings. I had, you know, this deal go through I had this conversation with so and so it was a pretty productive day. It wasn't a busy day, you're not doing busy work. Everything you do during the day is towards a goal towards something so so have that gratitude in your words, as you approach your day. And that's what meditation does. It really makes you think about things that are on autopilot that you shouldn't be on autopilot about.

Alex Ferrari 22:39
And I agree with you 110%. You also are an you know, an insane philanthropist that you give back so much. Can you just talk a little bit about what giving back means to you and how it affects your life. Because I started, when I started my show six and a half years ago, I was trying to get in, I was trying to you know, I was trying to knock on the doors and try to get these meetings and try to make connections. And I said I said I'm tired of all that I'm going to start giving back to my to my community, which is filmmakers. And all of a sudden doors swung open. And now I get to talk to people like you and all this kind of things. It was because I gave back and it's addictive to giving back and changing people's lives and whatever which way I can, you know, with the show or with whatever the work I do. So how does that affect you?

Eva Longoria 23:26
Yeah, I mean, you hit it right in the nail. I mean, it's it's studies have proven, you know, giving, giving and being charitable, increases your life's fulfillment, right? Like you're like, Oh, I didn't even know I needed this to be filled. And and then it becomes addictive. Like now I you know, I travel all over the world. I go to India, I go to you know, because I just like love, philanthropy and community efforts. But honestly, I grew up with it in my DNA. I mean, I have a special needs sister. She's She was born with a mental disability. So I grew up in her world, I grew up with other people helping us, you know, charities that you know, sponsored a trip for her to go to Disneyland charities who you know, created after school programs for kids with special needs to have a place to go. And so I always I always like who's charity. She's so sweet. She's so nice. That lady, you know, and, and so I knew before I was even famous that I was going to, you know, do something charitable and give back and and then once I got my platform and my microphone, then I was like, oh, okay, I have something to say.

Alex Ferrari 24:33
And I could and I could do some good in the world. Yeah. Now, when did you decide that you wanted to make the art to add directing as part of your resume? Because so many actresses and actors, they just go on through whole life and they're just actors, and they don't want to do any directing. But I've seen and I've spoken to many actors who've turned director, what it does for them and it also elongates their career. They can direct until they're or whatever and, and just really enjoy that process. What when did you decide at what point in your career did you go? I think I want to direct which is the cliche of everything. What I really want to do is direct.

Eva Longoria 25:10
Yeah, I know, I think I'm better at this than easy. You know, I people think I'm an actor, turn producer, director. And I think I was always a producer, especially producer, I loved the business side of our business. You know, that's why I my approach with myself was like, Alright, I gotta do this. I gotta do it. I like how do I set myself up for success? And, and I remember when I moved to Hollywood, I checked out a bay. I went and bought a book it Oh, my God. Samuel French, right?

Alex Ferrari 25:44
Yeah, yeah, it's through city.

Eva Longoria 25:46
No. And Holly now

Alex Ferrari 25:47
Ohh there's another one. That was a second. That's before they moved, I think. Yeah.

Eva Longoria 25:50
And, and, and how to produce one on one. I mean, I bought that book first over acting, because I was like, Well, I got to create, I got to create my own project. So how do I do that? And there was like, a sample budget in the book and I put it on my Excel spreadsheet, and I was like, pay plugging in numbers. And, and, and then I quickly had a gig with this show called Hot Tamales live with Kiki Melendez at the improv. And he was like, hey, help me book some comedians. And then I said, Well, how are we going to pay them? She's like, I don't know. And then so we asked the improv like, well, how much is it to get the night out of dead night? We want to make it Latin Night. Okay, great. You can have the stage we get the door, you get the drift, you know, and and it was just like, you figure it out, right? And I was like, Okay, we watch tapes, VHS tapes of comedians and to book out the night and, and then we got a sponsor was like, Well, you know, a sponsor, right? We need somebody to pay for this. So we should get a tequila, you get a tequila company to give us money. And then we'll mention the tequila. And like, it was all shooting from the hip, Beto. And how did you went? And I did that first. And then through that, you know, directed some of the sketches we had on stage. I'm like, no, no, you've got to come out through there. And we're gonna hear some props. And you know, and I fell in love with it. And then, you know, became an actor, and then use Desperate Housewives. As my film school. I really used I didn't go to film school, but I was on a set for 10 years. So I was like, paying attention. Pay attention to where the camera went, what lenses What are lenses? What does that mean? 2530 511 10 100. Like, what? Why is that light there? What are you doing? What's a balance? You know? And checking the gate? You know, you said back in the day, taking the gate, what does that mean? Now, you know, I used to load the camera. When we we were one of the last shows to go digital, we shot on film for much longer than other TV shows. And, and so I paid attention. And I really took advantage of all the directors that came through and ask them questions, and I was just a sponge. And so that's when it was on during this process where I said, I think I think I want to direct TV. And and then somebody asked me, Hey, you want to direct this short film? And I go, yes. And the minute I said, Yes, I wanted to put it back into my mouth cuz I was like, why did it? Why don't you? You just said yes. You're not ready. You don't know enough? What are you doing? Who do you think you are? And I think women it encounter that imposter syndrome a lot, you know, like, oh, no, ready? I couldn't possibly do that. No, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not No, no, no, not me. Not me. Not me. But I already said yes. So I was like, stuck. And I had to do it. And and I was good. And I knew I was good at it. And I one of my mentors who directed a lot of Desperate Housewives David Grossman, he came on set and I was like, Well, you just be on set because what if I fuck up the lens choice where he goes, You're not that's not your job, by the way. You know, your job is to get performances. And after we wrapped the DP, and that director goes, I think this is your calling. And they really like gave me that confidence of like, you belong this is you know what you're doing, man, man, do you know what you're doing? You know, a lot more than you think. You know? And I was like, really? Okay. And then I did it again. And then I did it again. And then you know, cut did now or you know, 10 years later, I've been directing and this is my first feature length documentary and my feature like film,

Alex Ferrari 29:21
Which we which comes to. How did this project come together? Like I mean, how did it you know, no one had ever done a boxing documentary about you know, Mexican American that I know of at least anything major. I mean, there's I mean, there's a Muhammad Ali one for every five every five minutes there's a new Muhammad Ali and they're all fantastic. And then there's my face. Then Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray and everything but never really about the Latino you know, which has a fame in boxing.

Eva Longoria 29:53
So everybody did you grew up with boxing I go I'm Mexican. Of course I grew up in boxing like it's in our blood. We have to you have to But no, you know, I've known Oscar for 25 years Oscar and I've been friends. That was one of the first people I met when I moved to Hollywood, me, Mario Lopez and Oscar De La Hoya were like The Little Rascals, we ran around in Hollywood and just caused trouble 25 years ago, and, and so he called me and he was like, hey, there's the anime. This is the 25th anniversary of that fight. Can you direct the documentary about it? We want to do a documentary about that, how iconic the fight was. And I said, Oh, God, what do you mean? No, like a boxing doc, like jabs and punches and stuff? Like, no, no, I don't want to do that. I said, you know, it's so funny. I remember that fight dividing my household. Like, I remember that fight, causing so much ruckus within our community and the fighting. And, you know, we couldn't get the fight because it was closed circuits Do you had to go to a bar, and then kids couldn't go and it was like, it was a whole thing. And people the betting in Vegas in the odds, and I was just like, what is that? Whoa, what is happening? And it was just, I think the biggest fight we've ever had in in the golden age of boxing. I mean, that that time, which was my son era, the mike tyson era, you know, the De La Jolla era, the Julio era, you know, it was huge. It was huge. And I said, that's interesting to me to explore is through the lens of what does it mean to be Mexican enough? And how do you navigate your identity as a Mexican American? That is something I know, you know, I straddle the hyphen every single day of my life. And people go, Oh, you're you're half Mexican, half American. And I go, No, I'm 100%, Mexican, and 100%. American at the same time. And these two things can always be true. And so I knew Oscar navigated that, because when he won the gold medal for the Olympics, he had an he won, he won the gold medal for the USA. And he goes into the ring and holds a Mexican flag up. So he has the American flag and the Mexican flag. And I remember that moment, too. And I remember swelling with pride and going oh, my God, that's me. So Oh, so you can celebrate being Mexican, you don't have to hide it, you know, and, and all the Mexican people in the United States embraced Oscar in that moment. They were like he's ours. You know what pride the Mexican president called him and I added him to Los Pinos, which is the Mexican White House. There was a parade in Mexico for him. And so every fight he had after that, that was his audience that was his supporters. Those were his people, until he challenged Julio. And when he challenged Julio, the Mexican community goes, oh, oh, wait, oh, yeah, you're not that Mexican. Yeah. You're not that Mexican. And then he was like, well, he's

Alex Ferrari 32:51
He's Mexican. He's Mexican Jesus, he was Mexican Jesus.

Eva Longoria 32:55
He's like, he's, he can't touch him. You can't touch Julio. He's our campeón de mexico, you know, company on the Mundo. And so that's the lens in which I wanted to explore this particular fight. Because I think that we still encounter this today, we're not we're not a monolithic group, I get that we're very, we have a lot of differences. But we have bigger fights to fight outside of the ring as a Latino community. So whether you're Puerto Rican, or Cuban, or gentle American, or Argentinian or Venezuelan, Mexican, there is a collective aggregation that has to happen, if we're going to have a political power, buying power, you know, if we're going to flex any sort of muscle, we have to do it together. And so we can't concentrate on how we're different. In order to make change, we have to focus on what what we have in common and the common goal, which is like we should have access to voting, we should have access to health care, we should have access to equal education, there's stuff we need to come together on. And so, you know, the beginning of the documentary, starts with those differences. It's, you know, the, the old, you know, the old lion against the young buck and the Mexican national against the Mexican American and the guy from the Pueblo against the golden boy. And the fight really promoted those differences. Because boxing is a sport that has never shied away from using race, right, like leaned into it, if anything or nationality, you know, the, the Italian, against the, the Irish guy, you know, and the black guy against the Puerto Rican and that it, you know, and so, it did the same thing in this fight without understanding the Civil War, it would cause because of the nuances, they thought it was just two Mexican fighters, you know, heading head to head but it was more much more than that.

Alex Ferrari 34:44
Oh, and I mean, I've, in my culture in the Cuban community, it's very simple. I'm a first generation Cuban from Miami. And you know, my parents came over and you know, you it's exactly the same thing. There's Cubans and this Cubans, Americans and How you how they deal with it? Are you Cuban enough in America, Nakamura flying and flying, you know, like, I still remember watching in the height and I saw a flyer on on screen and I lost my mind. I was like, I never seen a flan in a movie before. And I'm like, I can't believe the flood impacted. But you never see that kind of stuff out there. It was just really interesting. But I understand when I was watching it, I just understood it. So, so clear. And there's a lot of those issues that separate the Cuban Americans from Cubans and all this kind of stuff as well, which is, which is crazy.

Eva Longoria 35:35
We all have it. Every community has it, the Puerto Ricans in New York, you know, in Miami, you know, the Islander the island, Puerto Ricans are different than the New York, New York weakens. And then you know, you have it in the Cuban community and the Cuban American community and then we have it in the Mexican community. You know, we really do a lot to we don't need to do so much to separate the world does it for us, right.

Alex Ferrari 36:02
It's like throwing a few more obstacles on our on our path. It's like, let's it's not, it's not hard enough. Let's throw a few more things on our path, which is always fun. You know, what I found really interesting about watching Julio and Oscar. Both of them seem so and I don't mean this in a derogatory they seem sweet. There's, they seem sweet. They seem like you know, because I've seen boxing documentaries, and a lot of these boxers, they're just brute barbarians sometimes in the way they speak, and they're not articulate. But Julio, and Oscar both are, they said, they seem so sweet that they almost kind of both fell into it. Like it just kind of like, Oops, I guess I'm gonna box kind of like you like, I guess I'm gonna act. And it just seemed that way. And I saw that kind of energy from especially Julio, which I wasn't expecting. He seems so sweet. And I'm like, he was he was a killer in the in the ring. But it's like, I think he disconnected that he was like, I'm a sweet guy, but I go to work. Yeah. Did you find that as well?

Eva Longoria 37:02
100%! And you know, like I said, I've known Oscar for 25 years. So I know he's sweet. And I know him. Well, I didn't know Julio was, I didn't know who they were. I'd never I'd never met him. And I fell in love with him. He is such a truth teller, which is interesting in a documentary about your life about something to happen in your life. You could pretty much of revisionist history, like, Oh, I wish I wasn't bothered by that now. Well, you know, of course, I won that fight. I wasn't whining about it. And he was like, Yeah, I was. There was no way at that moment. I was gonna say I lost even though I knew I did. I knew I had lost, but I wasn't going to say, you know, and you're like, wow. So it felt like he had 2020 looking at 2020 vision, looking back at that fight. He was so open and vulnerable, about his obstacles to fame, His addiction, his lack of preparation, and it for other fights. You know, he's like, look, I December's my party month. I wasn't about to fight in January, but it was $9 million. So I was gonna fight you know, he is very candid and vulnerable and, and kind and it wasn't until 10 years after those fights that he finally gave Oscar the the credit that was due. And then an Oscar side people everybody wants us tacos. Oh my God, my I cried for Oscar. I didn't know he had that much pain going into that fight. He he was he was hurt and then revisiting that. He's like, God, it still makes me mad. Still, as we were interviewing him, I was like, oh, yeah, he's like, God. Oh, I'm so mad. Just thinking about that. You know, getting booed in East LA. Like, what the fuck? Are you kidding me? Come on, you know. So he's over about to read this.

Alex Ferrari 38:43
Well, it's a it's a beautiful film. I absolutely loved watching it. And congrats on getting into Sundance. That must be so exciting. And you get to

Eva Longoria 38:53
That opening night is a film directed by a Chicana. About two Mexican boxers like this progress. This is progress. Let's let's let's savor it.

Alex Ferrari 39:05
Absolutely. Now, I have a couple questions. I ask all my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker? Or a screenwriter or an actor trying to make it in today's business?

Eva Longoria 39:17
Yeah, I think you have to define for yourself what does make it mean? You know, famous say I want to be famous. Okay, well then Go cure cancer. Because if you're gonna be real, do I mean like, by the way, that might be easier than Yeah, but is it is like, you know, figure out what what do you mean by that? Like, I really, I really love directing. I love the creative process. I don't I for this film, I just loved exploring this dramatically and going through the archival footage and did it and I and now that it's at Sundance, I'm like, Oh my God, that's Oh, yeah, that's a big deal. And then the reviews like oh my god, we get reviewed. I told I didn't even think about that. Like, I, I didn't do it for that. So if I had started this documentary, I'm going to get good reviews, I'm going to get into Sundance, like, you have to have goals, but like that, that has to be like a product, a byproduct of really good work. And good work only happens when you're passionate about it. And so if you want to be an actor, if you want to be famous, then I don't I don't care if you want to be a writer, because you want to be rich, that ain't gonna happen. You know what I mean? Like, so define what is make it mean for you. And the other thing is, just do it, do it. I know so many people go, I'm a writer, I go show me your scripts, I haven't written anything. Well, then you're not a writer. Write something. Write a grocery list. I don't care. But like write something, you know, a director shoot something on your iPhone, Shoot it, shoot, work with actors figure it out, put some lights up. I'm, I'm, you know, I'm a producer. What have you done? Nothing? Well, producers of anything can do anything. So do it. You got to do it. You only learn by doing

Alex Ferrari 41:00
And now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Eva Longoria 41:06
Um, it didn't take me. Well, I think lesson to learn that, that I know that I'm qualified and I know what I'm doing. I mean, every time I get a directing gig, I have butterflies in my stomach. I go, Oh, God, I hope I know what I'm doing. Like, I still think that imposter syndrome like imposter syndrome. Yeah, like imposter syndrome of like, Am I good enough? Oh, my gosh, you know, in directing flaming hot. I mean, this is the big budget movie I just directed and going home, I'm so excited to see it. By the way. I was like, I'm in charge of how much money Oh my god. And I remember doing a presentation when I had to get the job. And I'm, you know, I think the movie needs to be this and it needs to be this and we're, you know, we should do this and that. And then I finished a pitch and my agent calls me later she goes, what how are you feeling? And I said, I'm really nervous. I'm gonna get it and have to do everything I said. He's a pipe dreams, I don't know, like, then there's a drone. And we're gonna have a techno green, and we're gonna do this shot, it's gonna look like The Matrix, you know, whatever it is. Great. Go do that. And I'm like, Oh, I have to do it now. Oh, okay. So yeah, it's like that lesson of like, No, you're ready, you're ready, you're gonna be fine. And you're gonna fall down, you're gonna make mistakes. And then you're gonna do it again. And you're gonna do it again. And you're gonna do it again and again and again. And so just, that's probably the biggest lesson. And the other mantra that I live by is, is Maya Angelou quote of like, people will forget what you said, they'll forget what you did, that they'll never forget how you made them feel. And I'm living my life, whether it's with my gardener, or president in the United States, or, you know, do make sure every interaction you have with people or my crew, you know, your, your crew, your prop guy, your boom guy, your DP, like, making everybody feel and not that it's my job. But I just want them to feel appreciated and valued and that they have talent and, and I appreciate you being here and helping elevate my vision. Because, you know, directing is not singular, it's, it's just this whole crew of people. And I meet so many people who go, oh, I don't want to work with them. Because I didn't like that person. I don't like that person. I'm like, yeah, there's a lot of people you're not gonna, like, in this industry, you're gonna have to work with so you know, a get your skin get put your big boy pants on, get some tough skin. And, and flip it, you know, and that's what meditation helps to is like, everybody I encounter today, I want them to feel good. And leave an encounter with me in in a positive way. Even if it's a tough conversation, even if it's, I have to fire somebody or I have to, you know, correct somebody on an edit or give notes on a script like, you know, in a way that they leave that experience going. Okay, okay, I'm good. This is a good talk. That wasn't anything negative, you know?

Alex Ferrari 44:04
Well, I want to first of all, I think you are a absolute force of nature. And thank you so much for everything you do. And for my my twin daughters, they say they said tell you thank you for Dora. They loved it and watch it all the time. So thank you so much for that.

Eva Longoria 44:21
I love that movie.

Alex Ferrari 44:22
I love I saw it in the theaters with them. I went to the theaters with them, and it was back when used to do things like that. But I do appreciate you and thank you so much for for coming on the show and continued success and I hope this movie gets out and is seen by everybody. It's such a wonderful film. So thank you again so much.

Eva Longoria 44:39
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.



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IFH 550: Building a Hollywood Directing Career with Brad Silberling

Brad Silberling

Today on the show we have writer, producer and director Brad Silberling. I had the pleasure of meeting Brad back in 2005 at my first Sundance Film Festival. He was very kind with his time and gave me some great advice.

His feature films include City of Angels starring Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage, Moonlight Mile, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon; Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, starring Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep; 10 Items of Less starring Morgan Freeman, Land of The Lost starring Will Ferrell, as well as his debut film, the family classic Casper, produced by Steven Spielberg.

In television, his growing stable of hit series include the critically acclaimed comedy Jane The Virgin as well as the period drama Reign, contemporary reboots Dynasty and Charmed, and the new Disney Plus series Diary of A Future President. He is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater Film and Television where he earned his masters degree in production, following his bachelor’s degree in English from UC Santa Barbara.

Brad and I had an amazing talk about the business, warts and all, what it was like having Steven Spielberg as a mentor and how he built his directing career.

Enjoy my conversation with Brad Silberling.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show Brad Silberling. Hey, doing that, Brad.

Brad Silberling 0:16
Excellent, man, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 0:17
I'm doing great, man. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Man. I am. I am humbled and honored as I was telling you before you and I met in 2005, at my first Sundance, and you were speaking had a fantastic panel and I got a picture with you. I'll see if I could put it in the show notes. I have it. I have it in my archive somewhere. And you were always You're very kind to a young filmmaker just asking price stupid questions. Like, how do I get an agent? Like, you know, like, dumb pie stuff at the time, but you were very kind. I never forgot you. And I followed your career as as you moved forward. And I just the other day, I was like, you know, I got to get Brad on the show, see if he'd be interested in coming on the show. And here you are, sir.

Brad Silberling 0:59
Here I am direct from the San Fernando Valley to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:04
So how did you so how did you get started in this ridiculous business that we we love so much?

Brad Silberling 1:13
I you know, I'm not alone. I was a kid with a camera. I was a kid with a Super Eight camera here in the Valley. And it's interesting because I so my dad, who passed away eight years ago, he was a documentary producer. He was born in DC because he was working for the US IA, which is actually our government's propaganda arm. We do have one. No, no, no, he was producing documentaries during the Kennedy administration. And only in the 60s would logic have dictated that he would move from that job into network television. Don't ask how they made that leap. It was a smaller business then. So we moved out to LA and 67. And he started working at at that point at ABC as a programming executive. So oddly enough, they thought his skills would translate. So he worked as a network executive the whole time I was growing up. But he always loved production. And so I took advantage of that by I would go beg to be dropped off at a set at any point I could, from probably about age nine. When I was old enough to ride a bike, I would steal over to universal, I'd met a really nice secretary who would like slip me call sheets and a drive on which was a bicycle. And I would spend every Friday afternoon there, but I just was fascinated by the process. And again, my dad was always coming at everything from from a story perspective. But I'm that guy who, you know, I still hadn't really picked up a camera I was just absorbing. And then I was there that first day. In 1975 First day for showing of jobs I made my dad dropped me off, there was a theater called the Plitt. That was in Century City where ABC was where he was working and I begged him to just drop me off. It was like an 11am showing. And I'm sitting there alone The theater was not full even though obviously days to come. It was going to be incredibly full, huge airplane kind of recliner seats. I'm alone in my row. And I get to the the the attack on the little Alex Kittner the kid on the raft. And I'm just having a heart attack. And I don't know if I can make it through the movie, looking around to see if there's anybody there. But I hung in thank God. And by the time it was done, I had that feeling which was who got to do that. Who did that? Who took me through that ride. That is something I will never get out of my system. And I went home that day and snuck into my dad's photography closet. It's still his he had a Mac it was a it was in a Minolta Super Eight camera and I started shooting that so that day I it was just like the switch was thrown and Stephens really funny about this because I'm not alone. I mean, I can tell you the number of other filmmakers who were switched on in that moment by that movie. And so I started shooting Yeah, so I was shooting all I did two things. In junior high school in high school, I shot movies and I played soccer and that was what I did. And this was to parade again where it was. I mean, I look at everybody now with their phones in what's possible. And back then you're shooting three and a half minute cartridges. Every second counted. You had to really so you're cutting in the camera. Are you really thinking through your material, your splicing your little, you know, super aid splices. But I, so that's what I did. And I was very obsessed. And I did that right up through, I got a lot of good advice to not do film as an undergrad. But to try to actually learn anything else have sort of more of an open humanist mind. Start writing. And so then I went to grad school and went to UCLA. And made you know, SC is more famous for its, you know, thesis, final films, whatever they're called. But I made, I made my thesis film, and I was fortunate we fought to have our first industry screening because UCLA was super egalitarian, and they didn't normally like things like that. But we did. And so coming out of that screening, I ended up going under contract, I went under contract universal. There had been a woman there who's still a great friend, Nancy Nayar, she ran casting at Universal, she was there just to troll for actors. She saw my film, and she said, Would you mind if I took your film Back to the studio and I was like, yeah?

Alex Ferrari 6:14
No, please, please don't.

Brad Silberling 6:17
Please, no. Can I walk you to your car. And so I got a really funny set of phone calls. One was from the TV group, and one was from the feature group. And again, at that point in time, they did not communicate, they still don't often. And they basically both wanted to try to put together some sort of deal. They hadn't really done term deals for directors since like the early 70s, like Spielberg, so when Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner, a number of these guys who basically were on term deals. And so they dusted off an old term deal. And they, they just like, he's young, he's cheap, hopefully, you know, some talent, let's do this. And they covered everything from writing, directing, producing, you know, making omelets, they, they, they had me, but it was incredible. So I was prepared to start, you know, parking cars at a grad school. But I went under contract. So that meant immediately trying to figure out who's producing on the lot is their television, who's making movies. And that became home for the first two and a half, three years that I got started. And then ironically, Steven bochco and his then sort of in house director, a really great guy named Greg Havlat. Saw my graduate film, and they said, Come over here. And universal was very wise, because they're like, good, let him go. Fuck up on their, on their dime. So but I so my first three years of work or directing television, primarily over budget goes company,Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 8:02
Oh, so I have to ask you though, because looking through your filmography, you have the distinct honor of being one of the directors, who directed an episode of the infamous cop rock.

Brad Silberling 8:14
I'm one of only 11. And the original order was for 12. And they killed it. I remember Stephen coming down that set one day. And he was like, well,

Alex Ferrari 8:27
This didn't work.

Brad Silberling 8:29
That was my second hour of television. It was crazy.

Alex Ferrari 8:33
I beat so for people. So people listening if you don't know what comp rock is, Google it on YouTube and watch a scene of cop rock. It was this musical cop show, which is it is such an oddity in television history, you know, from such a big I mean, Steven bochco was like he was the he was the dude, he was it. So it you know, it'd be the equivalent of I don't know, whoever nowadays, you know, big show runner, Shonda Rhimes doing a cop, cop musical. And it was I saw so I mean, I never seen a full episode because I wasn't I didn't see it when it got released. And I don't whatever's on YouTube. But I just remembered this cops just like singing about drugs. And it was just the weirdest thing. And when I saw it, I had to ask you, what was it like being inside of that?

Brad Silberling 9:23
Here's the truth of it that Steven had seen there was a great British series called The Singing Detective. And I think he was feeling his muscle and feeling his strength and thinking I can do anything. Let's do that. The problem is, Steven didn't really and God bless him. He passed away a few years ago, he was an amazing guy. He didn't really care about music. Didn't really like very much. So this was the problem. And you know, the whole idea of musicals is you only you only burst out into song when you have to when when when basically the spirit moves and the story needs it but He didn't approach it that way this, the cop rock outlines were like, normal Hill Street, it was like procedural procedural, maybe a song in here. And also a problem they weren't raised in, which meant that in production, they came very late. So it wasn't like you had this great champion, Steven Spielberg talks about this beautiful process. On my side story about working for six months, even as you're doing the choreography and just copra you would be shown the number on the day of shooting, because the music had only just gotten to the choreographer who's kind of winging it. And so all the actors like the fuck and and but it was recorded live in terms of the singing, which also is usually you do, you know, like a pre record? It was crazy. And and yet there there would be. There were numbers that kind of worked. And then there were a lot of them called groaners that were just like, Oh, no. And you just fell for these actors who had to commit. And you know, so it was a, it was an exercise in insanity. And like I said, it was not it. If somebody who just loved the musical form, had tried it, maybe before. But anyway, yeah, it was good. But that was my second hour television.

Alex Ferrari 11:25
So so this is his this is this, what I'm doing? Is this is this?

Brad Silberling 11:31
Great. Okay, you go over there. You danced a blocker, you get your gun, let's do this.

Alex Ferrari 11:36
And you've never directed a musical at this point in your life.

Brad Silberling 11:38
Oh, of course, of course.

Alex Ferrari 11:41
Because how many people have really directed musicals? So that list is fairly checked. All right. So you're there as a young How old are you at this point 22 23?

Brad Silberling 11:52
I was probably 25 20. Yeah, I was probably 25

Alex Ferrari 11:56
25 years old. Second time. My God. Alright, so let me let me ask you the first day because I always love asking this question the first day on the first job that you got after you signed that deal with Universal. When you walk on set, I gotta believe you're losing your mind. Your your imposter syndrome is running rampid you're like, any moment now? Security's gonna escort me off the lot. How did you like walk on and like, do your job with all of that? I mean, I'm assuming so am I correct?

Brad Silberling 12:30
You, right, you're assuming and your assumption would be correct. But for three, they all tell you two different stories, but for three things. One is I, you know, I even remember, when I got my contract, everyone was like, Oh, my God, are you losing your mind? And I wasn't, it wasn't hubris. But I felt like I'd been doing what I was doing for a long, long time. And I trusted myself. I felt like okay, I've got more than just the kid next door to be my crew. Now, this is good. So my crew got bigger. But the single biggest reason my Canadian friends are gonna kill me. But the single biggest reason I didn't fully have that was my first episode for universal ended up being in Toronto. They were doing a second batch of Alfred Hitchcock present, right. And so I i finagled my way into one of those. And I swear, I don't know what it was, but I was not intimidated by the Canadian crew. And I was working with awesome. I was working with Mike Connors, Matt Mannix, he was the lead. And he was couldn't have been more dear and awesome. And so I just thought, of course, why not me. So it that part didn't really overwhelm me, I felt fine. I'll tell you the moment that you're thinking of it was less imposture than just like, how did this happen? So that's my first directing job in television. My first feature directing job is Casper, and we're shooting in 1994. As I've told you, I picked up a camera because, um, Steven Steven ended up becoming my mentor and giving me my first feature job. And the first morning of our shoot, we were shooting in the big kitchen, there was a big long kitchen sequence that was gonna end up having more CG, then all of Jurassic Park was insane. He's awesome. He shows up at call to be there for my first shot. And we'd go into the hearse, and it's awesome. And when the time came to call action. I just sat there and he's next to me. And I'm looking at him. I'm looking at this whole situation. And it's like, everything just dropped on my head. I was dumbfounded by the universe. that this was actually the case that he just looked at me and smiled Newman say it as like, action. And it was, it was still one of the most incredible moments and it was just that that thing of confluence, like, how did this happen? I'm grateful it happened. But yeah, so in a weird way, that was my bigger moment. But I did, yeah, I had, maybe unfounded. But I did always have a belief that if you have the story, and you know what every setup is, and you're there, the crews gonna follow you doesn't mean that there's not going to be testing and that they're not going to sit there with their arms folded at times. You get all of that I had the DP on that very first. Alfred Hitchcock episode, by I don't know, it was like night number three, like wanting to quit. Because I'm very hands on. I don't just say, Yeah, let's go do a nice to shot and I'm going to go get some coffee. I, I'm still a kid with a camera. I set every shot, I, you know, I rehearse with the lens in my hand. I'm just who I am. And this guy wasn't used to that. And it was really funny. I've had that a few times, even in some of my movies where to pay. So I now my litmus test for whom I'm going to collaborate with as a DP in particular, it has to feel like a friend from film school. That's not a GISTIC. They can be 90. But it has to be that spirit. We're in this thing together. Oh, look, what I'm seeing. What are you seeing? Ooh, look at that. But those who work in such a way that it's like, I'm the director of photography, you go sit in your chair a little man. I'm just not there. So that was that was an interesting early moment for me with my confidence, but how to keep a collaborator close without losing them.

Alex Ferrari 16:54
Now, I heard I remember years ago, when Casper came across when Casper came out, it was a fairly big. It was a fairly big deal, because CG was just starting.

Brad Silberling 17:06
We were the first character with dialogue. CG animation. So Steven had done Jurassic and 93. And as he Yeah, that first morning, when he came to my set, and kitchen, he's like, Dude, you're about to blow through more spots than we did in the whole movie. And he's but he came, he came like week three. And he's like, oh, man, if you'd known what you're getting into, you'd never would have said yes to this. And I laughed. He said, You're now directing these characters. There's dialogue. There's monologues, there's soliloquy, he's, I just had to have the dude's turn and roar. And it was a deal. It was a deal. And it was we there was an early glimpse of motion capture that was experimented with, but it was not ready for primetime. So unfortunately, I didn't have that to go to. It was all here. And then I basically had to go with a with a old school 2d line animator, I had to go and basically, after making the movie, direct every performance in pencil sketch, right, then hey, then take those to ilm, and go through the whole so it was very handmade.

Alex Ferrari 18:23
Now what watching some behind the scenes or an interview that you did, was it true at one point that you turned down and said, I can't do this, and that Steven had to literally call you off the ledge?

Brad Silberling 18:37
Yeah, so he we met again, it's it's only he could have done this we met because he happened to see some television that I directed not a bochco show, but Gary David Goldberg who's passed away and he was amazing. We did family ties, but then he, Gary did a show called Brooklyn Bridge. That was really memens remembrances from his growing up in Brooklyn in the 50s. And I happen to direct an episode. I can say this because I'm a tribe member. But Gary said, yeah, you directed the least Jewy episode that we did. Because it was it was an episode about this kid and his family going to Ebbets Field to try out for this thing. And it was so non Jewy that it was more of an Americana episode. And they ran it and it's crazy. I was just thinking about this this morning. It was in thanksgiving of 91 So 30 years ago last few you know a month ago. It they ran this episode because they needed to fill the extra half hour after the first running CBS did have et so Stevens movie ran. They needed to fill a half hour they thought oh, this is very heartwarming, very Americana apps. So Gary called me the next week and said you're not gonna believe the phone call. I got that. And I said, Yeah. And he said, my friend, Steven Spielberg was obviously watching his own movie, and stayed through the commercial break. And he saw your show. And he called me and wanted to know who did it. So that's how I met Steven. So I went and sat down with Steven. And he happens like a Schwab story. He happened to see that episode. And he walked in his office and Amblin. And, you know, my hearts through my mouth at that point. He's the most disarming kind, warm human ever. So that goes away in 30 seconds. But he didn't even let me say anything. He said, Okay. Let me tell you about your last three years. And I look at him, and he proceeds to tell me exactly what I had been going through as a young director, under contract in television. And I'm like, my jaws hanging open. And he's loving it. And he said, Yeah, I know, I cuz I experienced that. And I saw what you did, I could see you were making a movie, but you only had a half hour to make it. And I'd like to help you make a longer movie. And so that, yeah, so that's what started us. Originally, he had in mind, much more reasonable first movie, it was like a little Louis mall film, there was a thing called the divorce club that we were going to do. That was about kids and divorce, kind of comedy drama, is Warner Brothers. And so when he went to go make Schindler's List, I was starting to prep that movie. But I noticed some real foot dragging from the studio about hiring like crew. And so I called Lucy Fisher's great producer now was the executive and I called her I said, Lucy, is there a problem? She said, I think you should call your friend Steven. I don't think they want to make this movie. And so I called him in Poland. And he was like, Hey, how's it going on your first movie? Isn't it amazing? Isn't it great? And I was like, Dude, I It's wonderful. But I don't think they want to make the movie. What? That's crazy. I'll call them and he called Terry Semel and Bob Dale. And he called me back two days later, he said, I'm so sorry. You're right. They don't they're scared of it. They think it's it's the subject is too sensitive. And he said, I don't know what to say. I'm so sorry. I'm like, don't worry about it. Go back to my day job. Thank you for trying. And that was the timing where I went back to bochco to direct one of the first 10 episodes of NYPD Blue so that Steven takes credit for my marriage because I ended up marrying Amy Brennaman who was in the cast of NYPD Blue the first season. But then he called me and he said, This is months later, I was doing a pilot in Hawaii for bochco, and he said, Okay, starts the call saying, Okay, this one's really going to happen. Promise it's gonna happen. With start date, I have a release date. And the moon is gonna, I said, the movies what? He's like, can you say, it's Casper? And I said Casper? Like is in the front? Yeah. Yeah, yeah. But it's gonna be live action. It's gonna be CG. I just did these dinosaurs. You're gonna be doing this and that. And I'm dumbfounded, you know. And I said to him, you know, which Brad you called? Because I was like, Dude, I, you know, I had no animation background, I'd done some small visual effects work in television, but I dated an animator at UCLA. It's like i i But I really didn't have any clothes. And he was amazing. He was like, know what you do. You're technically savvy, what you do and emotionally what you do and what this movie needs, is you? And so but I didn't just say yes. On the call. I had to take a weekend. Because I was overwhelmed by the prospect of mass failure.

Alex Ferrari 24:04
Yeah, because that's a that's a huge that was a that was a big movie when it came out.

Brad Silberling 24:08
Huge movie ended up where we knew would be it was like $65 million. At that point, this is in 95. And all of a sudden, they're in Hawaii, and I'm just thinking, Okay, if this movie works, Steven Spielberg presents great, great, great. If it doesn't work, I'm like one of those direct first time directors littering the beaches of Malibu who can't get a second job. And so I was really anxious about it. He did a very shrewd thing. What he did was he sent the young producer Cullen Wilson who was going to do the movie. He sent him to Hawaii with a trunk of basically, almost like illustrations from ilm, about how this could work. What the modeling would be like, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I'm just driving around to scout my pilot with calling the whole weekend saying, I know this can't work I, you know. And then it was awesome because I had a conversation with with now my wife then girlfriend, Amy. And she's like, okay, it's like pros and cons. Why, you know, what are the pros and like, well, it's an incredible opportunity. And I love the fact that the movie is actually embracing this idea of loss and that there's an emotional storm. And she's like, okay, so what are the cons and like, I could tank? And so that's when I just realized, okay, the only thing keeping me from this is fear. I gotta fucking dive in. And so yeah, I called him back. And I said, Okay, let's go. And it was just like, lightning from there.

Alex Ferrari 25:50
That's amazing. Because I mean, I still remember when that movie came out I love the movie, when it came was such a heartwarming and touching film. But it was technically they everyone was just talking about the character and was just a first real use of animation as a as a talking characters. And yeah, they were go so you, you know it's not avatar. But but but without Casper, it's hard to get the avatar like you need a minute. It's part of the evolution. But it was so beautifully, even. It still holds to this day. It's still holds.

Brad Silberling 26:21
He, I was waiting. I was waiting for the big Yoda moment. And I was when I was in prep, to talk about the effects and about the effects work. And we're getting closer and closer to shooting. I'm like two weeks out. And Steven slows and talk to me about he had at one point said to me, oh, yeah, I'll have the office send you a couple of tapes of work sessions with ILM. You can see how I gave them notes on the dinosaurs. And so you'll know how to like yeah, okay, great. We shouldn't done it. So finally I said, Hey, can we grab five minutes? He's like, Yeah, great. Great. I said, Okay, well, first of all, I think this affects budget doesn't really reflect what it's going to be. And he looked at me with that great grant, he said, I wouldn't worry about it, just go shoot your movie. And I was like, Okay, this is the guy. This is his, like, Close Encounters thinking. I know, it's gonna be pretend it's the other number, but it's really going to be this. But more importantly, he said, again, what you know how to do you know how to stage beautifully, you know, how to, to really you know, where the camera goes, You know what to do to do an elegant job. in live action. Don't treat this any differently. You have to basically, just don't try to like compensate. Do it just as you would, but only you're going to know where those characters are. And you're going to have to communicate that. And that was exactly the right advice. So I stopped thinking, Well, I have to kind of put on a different filter. And I treated those four ghosts, just like any other character in the movie, and I'm going to stage with them, I'm going to counter the camera, the focus shift is going to happen because there's the moment it made me look like a madman on set. Because it's like orchestrating, you know, it getting the crew to understand where these ghosts were, how quick, they were moving, getting the camera operator to tilt at the right moment to an empty part of the set. And then, so I was doing this all the time. It was, it was crazy. But it felt completely natural. And that movie made me fearless. Because once you've done that, you can't throw anything at you that you know, and also it it I have friends who are live action directors who still have this envy of going to do a big effect strip movie, right? And it's funny, I for me, it's just another tool in the tool kit. I don't thirst for that. But I know how to, I know how to basically use those tools, and how to communicate with with lighting to you know, lighting, TVs and animators. And so it was like this incredible two year learning curve. That was invaluable.

Alex Ferrari 29:11
I've had I've had a lot of I've had the pleasure of having some amazing guests on my show. And I doesn't cease to amaze me, I can probably count 20 instances that Steven Spielberg launched their careers, or help them along their career. He is one of those, those guiding forces in Hollywood, he doesn't get credit for that he has helped so many filmmakers off the ground, either to start or later in their career or one point. He's always kind of the man behind the curtain in a lot of ways, just giving that nudge helping a little bit out here. And I've heard nothing but the nicest wonderful things about I mean, the craziest stories. It's amazing stories, but and I know He, that's why I knew that he worked with you on Casper. But your story about him doesn't surprise me the least.

Brad Silberling 30:07
Yeah, he it comes out of sheer love of film and filmmaking and storytelling, and it's what keeps the ego out of it. He just wants to push, good work along, you know, a couple of movies mine that that weren't ones that he was involved with. He's just the best like on City of Angels, which I did over at Warner Brothers. He, he said, when's your first preview? Can I come? And I was like, oh, yeah, let's do that. That's gonna freak them out. And so I literally took Stephen to my first you know, audience recruit, they didn't see him. But he wanted to come because he felt so you know, proprietary, and we felt like family. And indeed, like, the studio was freaking out. They're like, Oh, shit. And yet, it was the best because he just had this reaction. And then he's like, Hey, I carved out a day, next week, you know, you want me to? I'll run the picture with you. You want, you know, you want to hear some thoughts. I was like, Yeah, man. He's done that a couple times, three times on movies where he'll come and spend the day just run the picture in the cutting room, again, offer up thoughts. And no, no, you know, no ties to any of those, like, here's what I see. Do with that? What you will, I'm so proud of what you're doing blah, blah, blah. Um, and that's actually what it is.

Alex Ferrari 31:38
And I just heard a story, a friend of mine who released a film. And he's like, dude, do you know I just got a letter from the producer. I just got a call from my producer, who got a letter, a handwritten letter from Stephen saying, Hey, I saw his my film. And I just want to let you know, I really liked it. That was it. Like, there's nothing? No, I don't want to do anything with you. Like I don't want to like, and there's no agenda just like, I saw the movie. I thought you'd like to know that. I liked it.

Brad Silberling 32:09
He's like ahead of the curve. Because what I have found, I think was after City of Angels came out one day, I remember I got a phone call. And I thought it was a friend playing a prank. It was Dustin Hoffman, good cop with only me. And I thought, wow, somebody is doing a really weird Dustin Hoffman imitation is this bread. And he he called me because he'd seen the film. And he really, really enjoyed the movie. And he said, You must like actors. He like actors. I feel like he like actors a lot. And so we talked and I finally said to him, this is so kind of you to do, do do do this. And he said, You know, I didn't for many years. I didn't I was too competitive. He said, But I'm getting a holder. And I like to acknowledge great work. And that was the most incredible thing. And then of course, I took that because then I built him into my next movie. But I Stephen has been ahead of that curve. And I think it is because he, he knows the the pain. You know, people forget his first directing job for him was a nightmare. You know, the the knight gallery, sent him back to Arizona for a year and a half. He was like, I'm not ready to do this. So he knows what it's like to get real support. He knows what it's like to. He always he always says that to me. When I made a film, a film mine moonlight mile, again, was something that I'd written and he's like, it is your DNA. It's you through and true. I feel you in every frame. That is what we're here to do. And so he's it's, it's an incredible thing. And I knows he I know he knows it. But I remind him of yearly I'm like, you know, in Yiddish like what a mitzvah it is you do for your kind every every day you he loves movies, he loves television, he watches everything.

Alex Ferrari 34:18
It's It's remarkable. And the thing I always find fascinating about him is that he's like, he doesn't have to anymore like he had he could have stopped decades ago, you know, after et you could have a lot. He didn't have to do this, but he does it without agenda without quid pro quo. He's just been truly wants to help and wants to and he knows, he knows, in a very humble way that he's the 800 pound gorilla in the room. He he knows that very, very, very well. And he uses that power for good.

Brad Silberling 34:53
Well, and he'll also tell you, which is really funny, I remember between movies at one point he was a was Amblin television or maybe it was DreamWorks Television and they were producing one of their first TV shows. He was like, there all the time. He was like, Hey, come meet me. I'm on the set of so and so out in Chatsworth, come, come hang. And I was like, and I went there. I was like, What are you doing? He's like, Oh, this is like my methadone. He said, If I'm not actually shooting, I need to be really close to it and get a fix. And that is. So he calls he calls, the movies he produces or the TV shows his methadone. And I've always thought of that, because I share that it's my favorite thing. I'm the best director ever. When I go visit a friend set, I got no pressure. I'm really happy with the snacks. The actors look really nice. I'm really just loose. You know,

Alex Ferrari 35:46
Ohh anytime you visit a set, you just like it's not my, it's, I'm just I'm a passenger on this ship. I don't have to I don't have to drive. It's great.

Brad Silberling 35:54
A friend, a friend of mine is starting a movie next week in Boston. I'm going to go visit him. And he said, what day you coming? And I said, I think I'm coming on the blog goes, Oh, that's really funny. That's Guest Director day. That's amazing. So he's like, I'm like, nothing. Doesn't work that way, my friend.

Alex Ferrari 36:13
So one of your, as you mentioned City of Angels, which I absolutely adore. I watch that film every few years because I absolutely adore that film. And it was obviously made a remake of a masterpiece of a film, which is Wings of Desire. How do you approach remaking is really a masterpiece. I'm not exaggerating, winds of desire is a masterpiece.

Brad Silberling 36:37
Oh wins the desire. So you want to go, you want to go on a bad blind date, go see Wings of Desire, which is how I saw that film. I, I went on a blind date. And I went to see wings desire. And I was I couldn't move out of my seat at the end of the movie. And I looked to my left, and the woman that I was there with clearly was looking for her popcorn remnants or whatever it was, and there was like, no response. And I couldn't, there was a really short date after that, you know, it was poetry. And it was just life humor, and observing nuance, and it was an incredible movie. The only way you make that, that film when we did is you you you can't approach it as an actual remake? Because if it were you What are you doing? You know, you can't do it. And so when I got a call about the film, I was really interested, my agent then said, Oh, Dawn, steel. producer Don steel is doing a remake of Wings of Desire. And I was like, what? I couldn't put those elements together, Dawn, who's been gone now. 20 years, was arguably one of the most commercial movie brains as a studio head and then as a producer. So I went into meet her. And what I realized, and I say this lovingly, I don't know if she ever saw the original film. And that's what that's what set me free. I was like, oh, okay, she's thinking of this as a high concept premise. And had engaged Dana Stevens who's a wonderful writer, Dana as well was late to the Dana was not a vendor's efficient auto was not. So they were freed up at the initial stage of development by not chasing that, but by trying to come up with a story. And I knew that for me, if I could bring the emotional response I had to VIMS film and some of the the tonal play, but but also be able to just own it and just think, again, we're not doing because obviously Windsor desires like gossamer threads. It's there's that much story and and the incredible thing is so Nick Cage and I had a real instinct, because I remember asking Dawn steel, I said, So tell me about your conversations with them. What does that been like? And she's like, Oh, I haven't talked to him as a really you've never engaged which goes, Oh, no. Wow. And so when Nick had signed on, he and I both were like, truly loved to get the script to famine, just sort of who knows get any thoughts but more so just reach out and say we want there to be a continuity because we we really are so indebted to the initial impulse he had. And he was amazing. And he read it quickly and responded. And then he ended up becoming like a beautiful kind of godparent to the movie from that point on, or, or an angel, if you will, or an angel, guardian angel, a German guardian angel. He was great. But what he said to me and Nick at that point, which was amazing. He said, This is crazy. Do you know that in my original concept for the movie, it was going to take place in a hospital. And the female lead, of course, who's a trapeze artist was going to be a doctor. He said, My dad was a surgeon. That's where I wanted it to take place. We couldn't afford it. We couldn't afford a location. And we couldn't afford it. That's why I think about it. That's why she's a trapeze artist. We've put a tent up. And we were like, Oh my God, that's the beauty of film. It's like you can't imagine that film any other way. That can, you know, the visual, concede a flight and all that goes and none of that was budget. We couldn't afford it. So again, so vim came to my first test screening with his wife. And they were fantastic because I you know, the way test screenings, good lights come up at the end, you you as the filmmakers Studio, you leave the room. Everybody gets handed their little note cards, and they fill out shit. And Vim and Donati, his wife were really funny because they, nobody knew who he was. So they're like spying on people's cards, and then they would come running out to me, ooh, it's looking really good. And they like this. And they like that. And then he run back in. And so he was awesome through the whole process. But again, didn't expect it to be, you know, a xerox copy, appreciated that we weren't just doing that, but still felt really happy to be connected to the film. And that was the only way i i was able to do it. Otherwise, it would have just been.

Alex Ferrari 42:09
Yeah, cuz you can't, you know, I had John, Panama. I had John Batum on and I talked to him about point in return. I'm like, how do you take the Femme Nikita, and like, redo it like, but he didn't have a guardian angel from France. He was on his own.

Brad Silberling 42:26
John, I know what you're talking about.

Alex Ferrari 42:29
You know, John's, John's that I'd love, John. Absolutely.

Brad Silberling 42:33
And he's and you've seen his book, which he's written, He cares so much about the craft of directing and what directors go through. And he's the best,

Alex Ferrari 42:44
Absolutely no question. Now, how did you How do you approach taking a popular children's series and turning it into a series of unfortunate events? Like how? Because that was at that point in your career, the biggest budget you've ever worked with at that point? Correct?

Brad Silberling 43:02
Yeah, yeah. No, for sure. Cabin Casper and CD of angels were probably within $5 million of each other somewhere in the 60s. And well, yeah, Lemony Snicket by, you know, over two fold, partly because Scott Rudin and Barry Sonnenfeld had been in early development on trying to make the movie at Paramount. And they spent some money. They spent some money, and the studio got very scared because the script it's interesting handler is a friend of mine, and Daniel Handler, who's the real Lemony Snicket. And Daniel had done an adaptation, but the adaptation was like, bonkers. It wasn't, it really wasn't honoring his own work, which amazed me. And I think because he's so prolific and he's so imaginative, I think. He thought, why am I just gonna go recreate what I've done, I want to go do some other stuff. So what I remember asking if I could read where they had been headed, and it was crazy town, but it was also very expensive. So that's how DreamWorks got involved was, they basically decided they were going down the wrong path at Paramount, reached out to DreamWorks to partner on the movie. And it was mutually decided that they would bring on a whole new filmmaking team, new script director. And so I was in Europe. I was with Dustin Hoffman. I was in Europe, promoting moonlight mile when I got a call from Walter parks who was then running DreamWorks under Steven. And he said, Are you familiar with these books? And I said, No. And he said, Go get your hands on them and call me back. And I went to the biggest toy store hat have I think it's called in London and bought the first three books. And was so again, for me it's like, tone, and character. And I was so blown away by, you know, the essential premise of those books, which is that the kids are the adults, the adults are idiots. And that there's a real straight look at darkness that there's a real straight look at loss and perseverance, and what that means. And so I was reading these and just the, again, the sense of wisdom, huge intelligence tone, I just thought was fantastic. So I called him back and I said, this is great, what's the situation? And he said, Well, when you come back, come sit with me and Steven, but if you want to do this, we should do this. And so that began the process, you know that there's 13 books at that point, there weren't 13. But it was decided that we would tackle the first three. But by nature, they are like serials, they're episodic. And my, for me, the biggest challenge was going to be making it still feel like a three act film, and not just like, and then we're here, and then we're here, which some of it is naturally still that way, but that there had to be some sort of a bigger arc. So we spent a good bit of time. And thankfully, handler, was willing to come back into the process because I didn't want to lose his voice. I didn't want to lose his, you know, just I'm sort of sweet and sour thing that he does. And then we had to put Yeah, I mean, it was a very expensive movie, I asked Sherry Lansing, not to make my life harder. But I said to her when I met her, don't you want to, frankly, given the money you're spending? Don't you want to do? It's, you know, expect the future two and three? Don't you want to do two back to back and amortize the cost? These sets are going to be insane amounts. And shares awesome shares like, oh, no, honey, I'm very superstitious. I'm too superstitious. I let the first one come out. And then we'll decide I was like, okay, and I had over the course of early, the you look, you pick up one of those books, there is a sense of there's like a sense of that everything being handmade the illustration. Yeah. And I wanted the film to feel like an illustration. And so when I started scouting, and trying to kind of design the film with Rick Heinrichs, who's awesome, we were actually going out into the real world looking for locate and we both were like, huh, can't do it. This is neither the hunter we have to find a way to make everything feel handmade. It times more two dimensional and three dimensional. That means we have to control it all. That means we're gonna have to be on set the whole time, including for exteriors. And so that's how we approached it. And again, the studio back did but yeah, it was, it was it was an expensive movie,

Alex Ferrari 48:07
It was now how do you direct a force of nature like Jim Carrey? I mean, he's he, I mean, obviously, he's very similar. And energy to Robin Williams, you like this kind of kinetic energy that you just like, you can't control it. All you could do is corral it.

Brad Silberling 48:26
What you do? It would be like if you did a two hour interview, and you hopefully made great prompts, and let that interview go and then sit down together and say, That's salient. That's great. This not so much. What I realized early with Jim Well, two things when people know about Jim Carrey, everything seems like like Robin Williams, like Oh my God. So he is a preparer. And he feels most grounded and safe when he's prepared. So what I realized was like, Okay, how do I do that and still, capture all that's Jim. And what I realized was, I want to basically get the most out of his freedom, and then create. So normally when you do makeup, hair wardrobe tests on a film, there is no sound recorded. You just put an actor up. I had this crazy idea that I got from actually John Slazenger doing this on Midnight Cowboy, which is I brought the sound mixer and I decided to interview each of these potential characters that Jim was going to do meaning. Jim's off and then Jim's Stefano and then Jim is I'd asked him about public policy. I'd asked him about his thoughts on on, you know, secondary education, you know, on Las Vegas, and he just had a great And we're recording it. And we looked at each other after the first day and thought, it's all in there. That's amazing. It's all in there. And so what we did was I went and took from these really, hopefully well prompted, but great improv, I took the best of what we thought could play within the story. Because I did bring it around often to the kids into the situation and what see what he's going to do with the money and Titanic sucked, I could do better. And so what you do is you, you, it's, it's less hemming him in and more like, here's your pasture, let's go play. And I'm going to take your best moves. And we're going to bring that into the story. And so that's what we did, we brought all that material back into the script. So the script, what you have on screen is all material that that derived from improv that we did well ahead of the time. And again, it's like a kid, you know, teenagers with a camera. He and I responded on a really fundamental level, like pals, and I realized that I had to make him feel safe. And, but also, not just pulling surprises, but let's go through let's prepare, he would know, if he had to work the staircase in that mansion. He knew how many steps there were, how many he was going to take before a gesture. And if God forbid, the night before the construction crew change the number of steps. That's where he gets thrown. Because it was like no, I'm so I'm so I'm a dancer, I'm so prepared. And so if you know, that's the animal you're dealing with, you lean into it, and you make him feel safe. The studio got very scared, they got scared off into the process about you know, what the reason kids love those books and why they love the series, because it's super honest, it goes really dark. They get very scared of that at times. And like, the 11th hour, they got a little worried about camera loss makeup. And I said to them, oh, we're past that point. And this is exactly what it's supposed to be. You know, and they, they, but they, I forget what they did. And they they asked Walter parks to see if there was anything he could do. And I was like, Oh, this is not going to end well, because we've committed, it's going to get in his head. And it's gonna blow up. And our first day of shooting, Jim never got on camera. Because I think one of the producers had gotten in his ear like, well, maybe we can have a little less darkness under the eyes. And I remember saying to the producers like that is gonna come at a cost you wait. And sure enough, I went into Jim's trailer and he was like, Wow, are we are we just making a mistake? What's going on? And I said, Absolutely not. You are the character. This is the makeup. Go home today was a great rehearsal for printing from putting on your makeup for three and a half hours. Go home, get some sleep, we're gonna start tomorrow morning. Fuck them. And that's what we did.

Alex Ferrari 53:16
Yeah. And that's, that's awesome. That's an awesome story. Now is there you know, as directors, there's always that day. And it could be at the beginning of your career. It could be at the end of the career. It could be the middle of your career, on a day on the set, when the entire world is coming crashing down around you. And you're like, Oh, my God, like the actor won't come out. Like you were saying before we started like the actors drunk. He's getting she's getting a divorce. We're losing the sunlight. The camera fell on the lake. And every minute that goes by, it's literally 1000s if not hundreds of 1000s of dollars going by. What was that day for you? And how did you overcome that obstacle that day?

Brad Silberling 53:58
Wow. It's so funny because I'm smiling when you're saying that day. It's more like days.

Alex Ferrari 54:05
Every day I asked that question often is like you mean every?

Brad Silberling 54:09
Well, I'll tell you here's a here's a really, I I think I think I'm happy that I don't have a litany of them in my head. Partly because, listen, you the days that you think are going to be a cakewalk slam you like a ton of bricks, right? And then you're like, Holy fuck, how did this get so hard? And then the days that you're anticipating hell become like joyous so it happens throughout the process. I think as you do it more what you know I always say it's a shot at a time. You go one shot at a time I when I would in my golf cart drive myself to set on Lemony Snicket, we shot I think we shot 146 As on that movie, it was 146 days. And I remember, like a third of the way into it thinking this could really become overwhelming. And I remember just driving my cart with my happiest moment was like driving my golf cart to the stage with my little one cup of coffee. And I thought, I think I'm just like a minor, I go into the mine. And I come out with film each day, I can't even begin to think about the end of this journey, because it will take me out, I just have to go in and really concentrate one shot at a time, one performance at a time. And that's how you can persevere and not get overwhelmed. I over the years have gone to sit, just again, my method and I'll go sit with Steven on a set. And it's what's always given me the joy of one shot at a time. Because as much as people like to prepare, he prepares, but he still comes up with it. It's like jazz, he comes up with it a shot at a time on set. And if you do that, you could be shooting 10 days or 100 days and as long as you're getting some sleep and you're eating Okay. And you believe in what you're doing, you can get through it. The one i i I remember one day that was pretty amazing on Lemony Snicket that is about as close to what you're describing, as I've probably ever come. Where we had, we were doing a sequence with Billy Connolly. And there's a character in the books, the incredibly deadly Viper says huge Viper, of course, is harmless, but looks really neat. So we had a giant prosthetic version of the Viper created just to basically be able to rehearse and to for the camera operator scale. And the babies with these were babies who were playing Sunday, they were 14 months old. There were twins when we made the movie, and one of them on the rehearsal in rehearsal, do I always shoot my rehearsal? So everything's always on film, or digital? Because why not? It's like, I'm not going to lose a great performance. So I don't like just a camera rehearsal, I always roll and it gets everybody focused. So we rolled on the rehearsal in the grip who was sort of manipulating this huge, fake snake got a little too overzealous and his performance. And like, what views and the gait of this pen that the snake was in was, you know, fly's open. It goes right at the baby, who's being held by the kids. And she said, it's all it's in the movie. She looks and screams bloody murder. And she's toast. She's like, I'm off. They got to take her off the set, she was scarred. I still feel that she was scarred from that for the rest of the movie. Most of the rest of the movie was her twin sister who was just like a joy baby. She though freaked out. And at that point, when you're dealing with with infants, you only have so many minutes on set. Her sister had already worked that day. I had nowhere else to go. There wasn't another scene we could jump into. There was it was one of those where it was like, and I remember, I just, it was that moment, like, holy shit. I turned to my ad who's done every movie with me. And she's amazing, Michelle than he does. I turned to her with this look. And I said, I need to take a walk. I've never in my career left my set. I never leave the camera. I was so overwhelmed. By this wall. We had walked into that I literally walked out the stage is a paramount. And you know, on a big movie, you've got it feels like 1000 radios all around. There's PDAs. Right? And what I hear on as I'm walking out of the stage and I'm walking down, you know, I hear don't let them get to Melrose don't let them get to Melrose. They literally thought I was gonna walk and never come back. And I don't know if I think about it, but it was amazing. So I got like, halfway down and take a deep breath. You know, like, Okay, again shot at a time. It's their mood I sometimes too, in my head. I think it's their movie too. Meaning I take it all on my head. I take responsibility for everything. But everybody has come together they want to tell this very challenging story with real babies and real this and that. It's their movie too. We'll figure it out. You know, and the more you do it, this friend of mine starting this movie in Boston next week, I was mentioning, a lot of it takes place at a boarding school. He just lost two weeks out his primary location, like incredible Primary School location, all the architecture, because it COVID the Board of Directors, I guess got together and we're like, No, can't do it. And I was on the phone with him when he got the other column, the other line, and he's like, and I checked in with them next morning. He's like, You know what, this is what happens. We do this long enough, we kind of get unflappable. And you do you it's not that you don't care. You just know, there's gonna be a solution. And as always happens in film, you look back and think it couldn't have been any other way. So there's a faith in the process. Yeah. Cast. recasting.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:53
No, you're absolutely right. There's there is that thing that you're like, Oh, why did I lose that? Well, like the trapeze thing. In Wings of Desire. Perfect example. Like, I mean, that he wanted a hospital, but he couldn't afford it. So we got the trapeze. It's, it's, it is such an insanity that we do. I call it the beautiful sickness, because it is. Because it is it is. And you know, which is once you get bitten by that bug, you can't get rid of it ever. It really it's always inside you. And it's beautiful. But it's I've spoken to so many filmmakers over the course of my career, that there's an insanity to what we do. We have we have gone to the circus, we've ran away with the circus.

Brad Silberling 1:01:38
Yeah. And it's a compulsion. Yeah. And there's a and I've had it again since I was younger. So when I was making my little super eight films, lived in a neighborhood that had turned over and really there were not a lot of younger families. There was one kid next door to me, who was younger, was the only actor I had. He was in every movie that I made. And he got really smart. At one point, he started saying, I'm all tired today, like you hold this handout, I have to give them five bucks. And you know, it's my first time dealing with unions. But it was funny because he the compulsion he would look at me some days ago, oh, no, you got another one. Because you just get bitten and you want to tell another story, and you want to go do that thing. And I always say different with different filmmakers, I can look at their movies. Paul Anderson, another fantastic director from the Valley, we are Valley people. Here in LA. I adore licorice pizza. And I looked at it and I said he wanted to make a movie. Meaning he was very excited to create a feeling. It wasn't that he was sitting there chiseling out a story that was just like this. And just like that, he got really excited to go make a movie. And sometimes our movies are that it's like, I want to go make a movie, and I'm gonna find enough that I can care about to hang on this movie. And just enjoy the process. Peter Weir, who among you know, the pantheon of living directors is one of my faves. And I sought him out after Caspar, actually because I was gonna go to Australia. He happened to be in LA and he's become this incredible. Again, friend and mentor. He said a really brilliant thing about he made a movie called greencard with Dr. Jia and, and maybe I missed out. Yeah, that's right. And the movie flopped, and just got kind of panned. And he just had the greatest attitude. And he said of it later, I realized that the audience was in the wrong place. They should have been with us while we were making the movie. Because the process was so pleasurable, we had such a great time. And I guess I wanted them there, maybe less. So sitting in a theater watching the movie, and I, I knew exactly what he meant, which is, you know, sometimes it's just, I want to go and have this great experience. And so, but But it's all from that root compulsion, and part of your job, if people do it with more or less success is how do I manage that compulsion and have a life? You know, for reason that most these marriages go down with filmmakers and other artists. And it's like, you have to find a balance, and we're always working at that. But the bug is still always there. And you know, it's this I call it the great Harrumph. It's this creative Harum for you're unsettled, because you're searching for that next thing to just lock into.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
And I'd imagine, you know, being someone like yourself, who's had success as a director in your career, when you start getting those first big jobs, you know, when you're on the set of Casper and on the set of City of Angels and that I guess helps to amplify because the high is so much higher for someone directing, with all the toys in the world like unlimited tickets. That high must be pretty immense for someone like yourself, as opposed to an independent filmmaker who is used to making 100,000 $150,000 movies. Don't get me wrong, it still could be a high for them as well. But I could only imagine the level of flike height you get you get your movies get released, you get huge audiences, you're working with the the best collaborators in the world, you have Steven Spielberg sitting there visiting the set, I could imagine as a director, you that that that compulsion must be even more. So I think that's probably why you do so much television, because television you're constantly working, as opposed to features that take forever.

Brad Silberling 1:05:44
Well, this is this is right. Pilots, and I love making pilots because pilots are little movies that have to be done by May 2. And they have to, they're not going to wait for the actor because they can't they have to have it on their schedule. No, it's true, though. I'll tell you, and I remember this. While I was shooting Casper, Kevin Reynolds who made another thing Waterworld Kevin's an old friend because he married one of my oldest friends. Kevin was on the universal lot. And he got I don't know if he was in post on Waterworld or

Alex Ferrari 1:06:20
95. I think it was in post around that time.

Brad Silberling 1:06:24
And I remember he came by, and I was like, you know, famous at Waterworld, the first movie to ever break the 100 million dollar figure on a budget. And I said, God, that just must be amazing and crazy and great. And champion. And he's looked at me said you know what? It's still all the same problems. He said, I'm still fighting to make my days, I still don't have enough for certain things I want to do. He said so yes, it's great. He said, But don't don't have an illusion that it just suddenly changes. And so when you're talking about the size of the Minister to, I'll tell you where we're all in the same spot in a beautiful way, the first time we walk in with that first audience. We're sitting there if the movie costs $2 million, $200 million, or 20,000, your heart is here, because how are they going to receive this? How are they going to laugh? Are they going to cry? That's the great equalizer. And for me is still what I'm most excited about. It's one thing to sit and just go make a film for myself, but it is an audience experience that I crave. Nothing is better or can be worse, but usually nothing is better. And that's kind of an interesting equalizer. The rest of the sizes, again can be great at times it can be like I say like oh shit, I just got to put on my mining cap because this thing is you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:07:54
Cut cut wood carry water, cut wood carry water, solder to time, carry water. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Brad Silberling 1:08:08
Okay, so you remember that great line from Glengarry Glen Ross? Always? Closing? Yeah, mine is always be writing. And if you can't write, always be dating a writer. Seriously, because in the end, it is all about content. And for somebody trying to break in somebody's trying to sustain it. So it's the rocky story. It's like Stallone saying yeah, you can make my movie but I'm going to star in it. And the only way for filmmakers to get to guarantee their place unless they're coming off of you know John Watts last movie. The only way you're going to guarantee your place is primacy of and this was Steven has said to me many times too. It's like that's the thing when it's your baby. They mean they don't want to make it but if they make it it's only going to be with you. Always be writing always be dreaming and like I say truly if you're not a writer then find somebody to collaborate with. It's going to be the I mean, I will say without a doubt my most enjoyable experiences be the larger small have been on the films that I've written I've done both and I've loved my other movies too but the experience of it I'm the most free in a weird way. I'm not like I remember Dustin Hoffman on moonlight mile was waiting to see if I was going to be like Mr. Letter perfect. And I was like Oh god no i cuz I I've already written it. Now we can play if we need to play. So but but that it's that it's always in the other thing too. It's like when I was growing up soccer player, you know, we used to watch these Pepsi training films that they would scream and they were always starving. Pele. Pele was always basically dribbling a grapefruit on a beach in Brazil. And his whole thing was, anybody can do this with just a grapefruit. And I think of that all the time, which is if I have that creative, if I to have to wait to pull together $100 million $10 million 200,000 If I have to wait to be creative, because of other people's money, I'm going to be doomed and bitter. And so writing gives me the control there's nothing but keystrokes or a piece of paper or journal. That's gonna stop me from continue. No. And Stephen has a great phrase bill burr he he talks about your your, your your writing I in your directing, I and he has said to me, you know that the reason he knows I love to write is it's, it's my directing I getting to play, but play on the page. So that's, that's the key is I can't stress it enough. Every time I go back to film schools to talk to young people, like you have to be a creator.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:17
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Brad Silberling 1:11:24
Wow, that's a great question. Um, I would say probably, it's an ongoing lesson. You can begin to wait stubbornness with I guess, integrity and stubbornness for many go hand in hand. And I can be super stubborn when I want to do something, I'm going to get it done. It may take two years, 10 years, it may I'm gonna get it done. And it's funny, I have three movies that I've made, each of which had that about it moonlight mile, I wrote a first draft of in 1993. I made it in 2001 10 items or less similar picture I did with Ben Kingsley, ordinary man, I, by the time things got together, fell apart. So I'm stubborn. But what I realized is that I can't be singular and stubborn meaning be open to I was always at the belief that I have to just stay on one project, I can't be distracted by others. And the challenge there is, that's fine. If you literally are prepared to not go and do something for a long period of time, because there are elements that are out of your control. And so I'm both creatively staunch. But I do, it's like you can juggle more plates in it in a successful and enjoyable way. The more you do it, you get confidence. So I might be developing a limited series that might go. But I'm also out to cast on another movie that it would have been once upon a time, I would have only just sat and waited for that cast come together on that movie, Moonlight mile, and suddenly or the money to come with it. And so suddenly, it was from 2008 to two. But when we released the movie 2000 Or sorry, 98 2002 it was like almost four years. And on the one hand, like Peter Weir always said to me, make sure you live your life. Some people just go movie to movie to movie, you need to take time and read and hike and listen to music and fill yourself. So I'm I'm I have both in me I can wait. But I've learned to not to not cut off other opportunities. And so that initially would have been probably more of a challenge for me and I have a bigger view of it now.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:06
And what is your what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Brad Silberling 1:14:12
I mean, well, every filmmaker will tell you, it's like, don't ask me that question. But I'm gonna tell you obviously, JAWS is what lit my little fuse. i You can ask that question and get a different answer every day. I'm going to tell you I love again talking about Peter. We're in a more commercial film of his. Okay, I'm cheating. I'm giving you two. I love Gallipoli and I love witness witnesses this remarkable movie. It's like this. And then I'm going to give you a only because I recently saw it again and I was like God i wish i have made that movie. I'm going to mention ZhongYi movie that most people have not seen and they must see it. And so it's it's the smallest movie he ever made. It's called not one less. He made it with with non actors and a little Chinese village is the most breathtaking, beautiful. It's like, not even Veritate because it's still beautifully controlled the way he can. But it's what movies can be. I come back to it from time to time to you know, reinvigorate me. I'm a big Ozu fan. Love I love floating weeds. Floating weeds is a movie that I come back to, for tone for just what exactly where that camera is on that 50 millimeter lens. So those are movies that always stay with me. But I do have those movies that I call like, oh, that's just a perfect movie that you can go back to from time to time and they can be indifferent. That can be All the President's Men it can be can be the verdict. It can be you know, you name it. So I have a I have a, you know, one of those revolving CD changers. It's not to fix

Alex Ferrari 1:16:13
Exactly, it's absolutely rotation you got rotation.

Brad Silberling 1:16:16
But it's just it's it's honestly to tweak myself. It's God. That's beauty. Every time I see something that I enjoy, it makes me want to go that day and make a movie. And that's what it is

Alex Ferrari 1:16:29
My friend. I appreciate you coming on the show, Brad. I really do. Thank you so much. It's been a wonderful conversation. I hope it's inspired a few people to go out there and make a movie and and scare the hell out of others to not make movies. But I truly appreciate your time my friend. Please continue making the work that you do and good works. I appreciate you my friend.

Brad Silberling 1:16:48
I appreciate it too. This is fun. Thanks so much.


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IFH 549: Sundance 2022 – God’s Country with Julian Higgins

Julian Higgins is a Los Angeles-based director, writer, and producer. His first feature, GOD’S COUNTRY – a neo-Western thriller starring Thandiwe Newton – will premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Julian’s short films have screened around the globe and won dozens of prizes, including the gold medal Student Academy Award, two Student Emmy Awards, and the grand prize of Ron Howard’s “Project Imagination” Contest. His most recent short, WINTER LIGHT, was a top ten finalist for the Oscar.

A New Hampshire native, Julian holds a BFA in Film from Emerson College and an MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute. He currently teaches directing at both institutions.

Based on a short story by acclaimed author James Lee Burke, God’s Country is a character-driven thriller set in the snowy wilderness of the American West. Thandiwe Newton plays Sandra Guidry, a Black professor living and working in a rural college town. She’s also grieving her recently-deceased mother, for whom she’d served as primary caretaker. On the day of the burial, Sandra discovers a mysterious red truck parked in her driveway.

She soon learns it belongs to a pair of local hunters seeking to enter the forest behind her house. Sandra turns them away politely but firmly – her experience tells her these are not the sort of men to welcome freely into her world. But they won’t take no for an answer, and soon Sandra finds herself drawn into an escalating battle of wills that puts her most deeply-held values to the test.

Enjoy my conversation with Julian Higgins.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Julian Higgins. How you doin Julian?

Julian Higgins 0:14
Very good. Thank you so much for having me on.

Alex Ferrari 0:17
Thank you so much for being on the show, man. First of all, congratulations on getting into Sundance, you've, you've won the lottery is all downhill from this point on the money should be the truck of money should be coming in at any moment now. Right. dumping into your front yard.

Julian Higgins 0:34
It's backing up to my house right now.

Alex Ferrari 0:36
Right! And, and the next in your next movie should be about 200 million, right? That's generally well, you could do whatever you want with it. Right? Is that the way it works?

Julian Higgins 0:44
That's what I've observed. That is what I'm expecting? Yeah. Well, it really is, like, he said, It's like winning the lottery, it is is an incredible privilege to be involved at all and to be included. So we are super excited as a team to be sharing the movie with the world this way.

Alex Ferrari 1:06
Absolutely. There's no question. I joke about it. Because a lot of filmmakers think that that's the way it goes, Oh, you got into Sundance, that means it's smooth sailing from this. From here on out. I always like now I've been involved with some Sundance films in my day. And I've seen it firsthand.

Julian Higgins 1:20
It's yeah, and it's also like, it's the the journey was making the movie, you know, and then the catharsis that we felt when we finished it is the best, you know, I mean, I mean, I'm sure we'll get we'll get into the whole process. But yeah, absolutely. No, this is all kind of, honestly, you don't expect anything else beyond just trying to finish it. So

Alex Ferrari 1:42
That you got a movie made is a miracle in itself, let alone in these trying times. And we'll go into what happened in the middle of your shooting of this film. But before we go down that road, man, how did you get started in this ridiculous business?

Julian Higgins 1:59
Yeah, I mean, you know, I, I had a, an instinct, as a really small child to draw. That was sort of the first kind of creative instinct that I had was drawing. And, and I think it was, I think it was just a, you know, I grew up in rural New Hampshire, there was, I was an only child, it was a I was pretty imaginative kid. And drawing was just a natural outlet. But it translated also pretty naturally into acting. I mean, when I was pretty young, I realized that there were actual human beings in these movies that got to go on these adventures, you know. And for me, it was pirate movies. I wanted to be a pirate real bad. And so and then something clicked for me at one point that, you know, you could actually be an actor and go be in a pirate movie. And that became my, my one goal from about second grade onward. That's awesome. Yeah, and like, you know, then that sort of developed into a much more serious love of acting. I mean, that was really it. For most of my youth, especially, I mean, even into college, I thought I might try to actually be an actor, I'm greatly relieved, that I'm not, because that talk about a tough profession. But um, but yeah, like, I think all of that experience, just thinking about acting and, and doing it and learning about it. And honestly, I'm just kind of a geek about acting, you know, I'm fascinated by all the different approaches and, and thinking about the interaction between performance and storytelling, and all these things. So that has been the most valuable experience I've had as a director, and then somewhere along the line it, you know, I think, as it occurs to a lot of actors, maybe I should write stuff that I could be in. So acting led very nicely into writing. And then, you know, it was in seventh grade, my friends, and I had written a bunch of silly sketches. We were all watching Monty Python, you know, and we were like, we should film some of these sketches, just just for a couple laughs. And for me, it was very much like, the first time I had to think about where the camera would go, based on what the scene was about. That was the moment I was like, Oh, I see. This is what it's, this is what I'm going to be doing. Like, it was drawing, acting writing. It was the imagination, the creativity, like all that all that came together into this beautiful puzzle that is so satisfying to solve. And, and every scene you do is completely different puzzles. So it just never gets old. And so I really haven't looked back since then. And as far as like getting into the business, I mean, the, you know, I knew, as I said, quite young, this is what I wanted to do. So I went to a school Emerson where you get to start your major the first year, that's why I wanted to go I just wanted to get into it, you know, start making things. And you know, because I had I had shot some projects in high school and things but I wanted to, you know, get into the real thing as soon as possible and Emerson was, you know, a great, really creative environment, I made a film that I thought represented me really well. And that's what I used to apply to the American Film Institute, which, you know, that was coming out here for the first time to LA and going to AFI was, you know, led to the work that really opened the doors on my career. So that's sort of, I kind of had the classic, you know, find it young and go to film school approach. But yeah, it's been my focus.

Alex Ferrari 5:30
Yeah, I didn't discover my I didn't get bitten by the bug until I was at high school. But I was working in a video store throughout high school. So there there was that so that that kind of like, Hey, I got 3000 VHS tapes around, maybe I should do this.

Julian Higgins 5:45
Yeah, and I should say, like, you know, a major. My parents, my mother writes about film and teaches film and my father's you know, film lover like he just you know, whenever my mom would go to a academic conference, he would bring home some sweeping war epic for us to watch. So I got I got like the sort of Truffaut and Curacao childhood from my parents, my mom teaches the French New Wave. And so I definitely had a very sort of film snobby upbringing, which I'm so grateful for. But, you know, there's a lot of American movies I have not seen yet.

Alex Ferrari 6:20
I, one of my prized possessions is an Akira Kurosawa our autograph movie, still that I got in LA. Like, it was, it was a pre it was a pre baby purchase, meaning that you wouldn't, I wouldn't, I would have a conversation with my wife about it. Now. They're like, really, really, we have girls now what's wrong with you?

Julian Higgins 6:44
Exactly. Before your money had destination from before it was even made? Exactly. I get that, you know, like, my dad was. My dad grew up watching, you know, you know, big American epics of the 50s, as they came out on the big screen, and he has a real kind of nostalgia for, like, the kind of they don't make them like that anymore movies. You know, like, he wanted to make sure I saw Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen as a kid, you know. And I'm, you know, I definitely got my love of sort of epic storytelling from him. And then my mother is so you know, invested in, you know, the filmmakers themselves. And she writes, you know, books on directors and things like that. So, I definitely was very aware from a young age that this was like something you could do, you know, and I think that all that really helped a lot.

Alex Ferrari 7:37
Is there any film that kind of lit the fire? That really lit the fire? Was there that one movie you said, Oh, man, because we had Shea on your co writer on God, and God's country and his, his believing that was rocky for? And I was like, Yes, we understand that man. Don't apologize. It was awesome.

Julian Higgins 7:58
Yeah. I mean, it's funny, because like, I grew up in such a kind of like, movie scholar household, as I've said, I realized my mom had all these films on her shelf. And like, I knew the covers before I'd ever watched them, you know? And then and then like, one day, I was like, Citizen Kane, what is that? Because she keeps talking about that. Maybe I was just watching. I just watched it one afternoon. And I realized this is this may strike some people. That's funny, but like, I realized that I had seen it before. I thought I was watching it for the first time. But I'm actually pretty confident that I saw that movie before it could even like, speak or like, remember, you know, like, I think my mom was, I was absorbing a lot of great films and classics, classic films, as like, as a baby, really. I mean, I think I Citizen Kane was kind of like, I know, it's so cliche to say Citizen Kane, but it really was the case like that That movie was very eye opening, because it has such a fragmentary structure. She was like, Oh, I see, you can tell a story in a totally on, you know, nonlinear way. And I saw that, I would say, probably in maybe like, fifth grade. You know, that's when that's when this happened. And I was already thinking about just like, you know, acting and drama and stuff. And that movie really did make me I watched it over and over again, trying to figure out how it got built, you know? And it's, you know, again, it's super cliche to say

Alex Ferrari 9:29
It but it really, it isn't it isn't because, I mean, you're literally coming from a you know, a family of film scholar, so it makes all the sense in the world that Citizen Kane would be the movie that kind of did it for you, as opposed to like, you know, I mean, I, for me, I think the first time I haven't thought about it was et. I saw it and I was like, I was like, what? In first grade or second grade, I went home and started writing a script, which is basically I wrote for a script that's second grade, by the way, and this is what I wrote, young boy meats alien. And that's pretty much the end of that script. So that's a winner. I think that's, I could sell that for 3 million. I guess I'll guess a 5 million later. But, so Alright, so your first feature you got off the ground was mending the wall? If I correct is that correct?

Julian Higgins 10:22
I mean, it's so generous of you to call that a feature, I really do appreciate it. This wall Mending Wall is a project that I you know, it's one of those. I mean, I made it as a junior and senior in high school. Okay, so it was never released or anything. But at the time, of course, I was like, I gotta get this IMDb, you know,

Alex Ferrari 10:46
I saw that, but it was 80 minutes, but it was 80 minutes. So it's like, it's technically your first feature

Julian Higgins 10:50
I had done. I had done like, I'm gonna call it a feature length video. Okay, so I've done I've done some pretty, like ambitious projects, if you're like an eighth grader, you know, yeah, before, but like, that was sort of the one where I was like, Okay, this time, I'm going to cast grownups in the grown up roles, you know, it's not gonna be my friends playing the roles. So like, I actually had some, you know, really lovely community theater actors from the, you know, the, the upper valley where I grew up, there was like, a great regional theater there. So, you know, just trying to find people that knew more than me about, you know, acting on camera. And, yeah, that was like, an incredibly important project, for me just to like, go through it go through the entire process from writing it to, you know, trying to fundraise it, even though I think it cost maybe $3,000 over the course of two years, you know, like, but but, you know, that's, that has been that has turned into my main advice is, like, I don't think there's any substitute for just getting stuck into it, you know, like, in whatever way you can manage, it doesn't have to be a huge ambitious, you know, project, it can be something quite small, it just need to go through the process as many times as possible. And I'm really grateful that I got to do all those projects, when I was in, you know, even before college just to go through the process, you know, so, it's one of those things where you're the one man band, you know, like, I shot it, I edited it, I was, you know, we didn't even have a boom, or like, external sound, it was all just in camera sound, you know, so it was his homemade as

Alex Ferrari 12:33
Well listen, you know, I feel you, I've been there, I've done that I completely understand where you're coming from. But it's something that you're right. It's kind of like, you know, we're craftsmen, you know, we have to perform our craft, and it's as a writer, you get to write as much as you want. As a painter, you get to paint as much as you want. As a musician, you get to play your instrument. But for directors, it's so difficult for us to practice our art. And, and the thing is, is like, we spent an entire career, not doing our art very much, it's more about getting revved up to get the project up and grow. But the actual onset directing, it's such a small percentage of our careers, that as much of that as you can do as possible, unless you're Ridley Scott, if you're really Scott, you direct five movies a month, and

Julian Higgins 13:26
But, you know, like, I think that has been something that I've thought a lot about, especially in the last few years is how do I create opportunities for myself very low stakes opportunities to just practice the individual, you know, like exercising at the gym, like you got to isolate the muscles and just keep them in shape. So like, one thing that I've been doing that I think has been critical for me is just this was pre pandemic, obviously, but, you know, I'll start it up again, as soon as possible. Just once a week, a few actor friends and I would just get together for a few hours and work on scenes, I would direct them, they would often they're not to shoot them. They're not I'm not is not seen as I'm writing, who just pick good material, and just work on it together just for the exercise. Yeah, and I think things like that are so important, because as you say, it's like, like, in the last five years, you know, I've been on set as a director for, I don't know, 60 days, in five years, you know, and like, I'm thinking about it all the time, and all the time. But like the amount of time we actually get to do this beautiful thing that we are, you know, we believe are the purpose of our lives. You know, it's such a small percentage of that. So

Alex Ferrari 14:35
It's it is the it is it is the sadness, it is the beautiful sadness of being a director. You just don't get to direct you just don't get to direct as much as you want. And that's for everybody. By the way. I mean, it's not just for the Masters as well.

Julian Higgins 14:50
I can see why people are so enthusiastic about television, you know, I mean, you got it. You had a great interview with Dan audience the other day. I mean, Dan is such

Alex Ferrari 15:00
He's a master. He's like, Yeah,

Julian Higgins 15:02
I had the opportunity to shadow him at one point, I don't think he would ever remember that it was on house. And, you know, the the executive producer of the show, Greg Atanas. Who, by the way, no slouch. Greg Atanas is also like a very high level, he poked his head in the door, he was like, Daddy, yes. You know, like, anyway, my point is, I can see why doing, you know, 300 episodes of television, and how appealing that would be to just constantly be working, constantly solving problems and constantly getting into new material. Like, that's extremely exciting.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
Now, let me ask you, I mean, so I'm assuming that you know, out of college, you didn't go straight into, you know, a career and making a lot of money and just directing all the time. But either like now. Now, now, you're obviously you arrived, you've arrived already, you've arrived? You're standing on bricks of $100 bills stacked? I understand that. So no, but generally speaking, but you were more you're more established. Now. You have actually have you directed union? Have you directed features, you've cut television, and so on. But when you're starting out, what was the thing that took you? I mean, from from mended wall, to Mending Wall to all the way to God's country? There's a there's a lot of even up to your first episode of House, which was your first TV job? It took years? How did you keep going? Because it's so much of what we do is the resilience of just showing up and keep going, even though there's no hope of making it the way you want to, but yet you keep going. So what did you was it? What was it for you?

Julian Higgins 16:42
Yeah, I mean, so it's interesting, because like, you know, I, in film, school, or whatever you hear stories about, you know, like, I remember hearing, Derek, Shawn, France took him 10 or 12 years to get Blue Valentine made. And at the time, I was like, Oh, my God, I don't know if I could do that. Yeah, it took five years to get God's country made. And it was so enjoyable. Like, even though it was really difficult at times, and like, it definitely presented all kinds of unforeseen challenges. You know, the fact of engaging with a project that you really care about, that means something to you, and is, you know, deeply personal in that way, carries you along through thick and thin. So it's, it never really feels, I mean, here's the thing. I was extremely fortunate to have parents that weren't trying to talk me out of being a filmmaker, they were, it goes back to the parents again, as always, you know, like, they were so encouraging of my creative interests, they never tried to say, well, we want you to be a doctor or a lawyer and the classic story, you know, and then I had a school system around me, that allowed me to do the things that I was excited about within the program, you know, that my high school had an independent study elective, where you can work on your own project, you'd have to propose it. But you know, if you've got, you know, ran to the opportunity, you can work on, you know, like, that's what, that's how I made Mending Wall, you know, right, it's like, and so and then Emerson, and, you know, it's such a nurturing environment. And then AFI is a very brutal environment, but it's like, you know, it puts you to the test, you know, the learning curve is very steep. And so really, what the thing that has carried me along is, I have never felt like there's no hope, when I'm working on a project that I feel is is extremely personal to me, and, like, emotionally compelling to me, because then I have something that keeps my eye on the future, you know, and, and so for me, if you look at the, I mean, you referred to the years that I spent, I mean, for me, it was a sequence of projects, I don't even think of it as yours, you know, like I don't, I kind of lose track of how long things take. But what I know is that I made a string of projects, that at the time, I poured my heart and soul into and did the best I could do, you know, whether they were whether they came out, you know, I don't know, I don't know that there's objective like, Oh, this is great. This is not great. But you know, obviously, you always have complex feelings about your work, but But you know, like, I don't regret any of it. Because I, you know, you always try to find your way into the project, whatever it is, and what speaks to you about it. And then you grab that and you develop it as much as you can. And God's country is no different.

Alex Ferrari 19:30
Now, so. So you got your first when your first TV director, Job was house, not bad first TV gig, by the way. Not bad at all. You're coming in on the tail end of I think it was last season, right? If it wasn't mistaken

Julian Higgins 19:46
It was actually, there were only seven episodes after mine. Right. So you were so I really didn't catch the tail end.

Alex Ferrari 19:53
You got the tail end of it. And so I have to ask you the question, because I know how it felt when I first walked on set up Real set? What was it like? You were what, like, how old were you?

Julian Higgins 20:05
At the time. And, you know, the, the, the director that I mentioned before, Greg Atanas, is the one who really, you know, made that opportunity happen for me, he was the producing director on house at the time. And he, once again, like, it really does come down to the work ultimately, like, I would not have been able to even enter that, that sort of that opportunity at all, if I hadn't made a short that really represented who I wanted to be as a director, which was thief, my piece of foam. And Greg, just, you know, this is not, you know, a plan you can make, the plan has to be, I'm going to do the best job I possibly can with the projects I choose to work on, you know, with the resources and the people that I have at the time to work with. And, you know, so thief was at the time, I felt like, this is the best I can do. And putting that out in the world is kind of where that ends, you know, even you have to start thinking about the next one. And but Greg was actually the presenter of an award that the movie won. And i i That was the first time I met him was I saw him on stage, he presented the award, I happen to win. And then backstage, he was like, Hey, are you interested in TV directing at all, it never occurred to me, and I don't think it occurred to him at the time. I can't put words in his mouth, but that I would actually end up directing house, he just wanted to know if it was something I was interested in. And, and, you know, one thing led to another we had conversations that months went by, you know, he was like, why don't you come shadow me on an episode, you know, it's just sort of slowly built this relationship over maybe six months, you know, and I showed up on the show a lot. That's when I watched it, it is direct, a lot of other excellent TV directors that I got to kind of learn from and watch. And, and, and then I think through that process, he got to know me what my priorities were like, what how I thought about directing and the work. And he saw that I was really committed to being there and learning as much as possible. And then he actually dropped out of an episode that he was going to direct and gave it to me, which is in addition to being very generous. It's also kind of like the break that people dream of, you know, now that walking on set for the first time as the director, it was Friday the 13th. It was a massive, massive scene in the LA Convention Center downtown with 300 extras and worse, you know, techno crane and steadycam going up and down escalators and like all this stuff, I knew that was going to be the first day. Obviously, I'm so excited. But you know, the answer to all the director stresses, in my opinion, is prep. You know, I mean, that so I knew was gonna be a big day, I prepped the hell out of it, you know, and, and that, that, that I think really helped. Because I came in with a plan, I knew what I needed, I knew I didn't need, I wrapped the day on time, which is the most important thing you can do. Anyway, you know, what I found, which was surprising to me was that the actual job of the director, you know, and what I have to deal with, doesn't actually change that much, whether it's a pretty small, short, you know, an independent feature like God's country, or, you know, big television show like house, I'm still at the end of the day, I'm communicating with the heads of department communicating with the actors. I'm trying to tell the story cleanly and clearly and effectively, you know, it, it's always kind of the same job, just the scale of it goes up and down. But you know, and by the way, directing house was a real treat. I mean, I don't want to it was it was difficult, like everything, but it was, it was a really wonderful show to work on.

Alex Ferrari 23:58
Now, did you ever I mean, because I remember being the young guy in the room, that that doesn't happen anymore. Very rarely, it does happen every once in a while now I'm still the young guy in the room, which I always find like, am I the youngest guy in the room here? That's awesome. But I remember always being the young guy in the room. But when I walked in certain sets, there was the politics of the set that they don't teach you in school, the the DP that might be like, No, I'm gonna shoot it my wicked, or the production designer doesn't want to play or the actor who doesn't want to play. Can you kind of touch a little bit on how if that if that ever happened to you? And how did you deal with it?

Julian Higgins 24:31
Yeah, I mean, it makes sense to me, that people would be skeptical. I mean, I think you you may be referring to two different types of things. Like obviously, there's people that are gonna act a certain way no matter who it is. Sure. But then there's, you know, it's just like the, I think, a perfectly natural skepticism of someone who, either visually or for whatever reason, just appears to be kind of young, you know, and I think it makes sense actually, because you know, especially if Care, the more you care about what the work you're doing, the more you need there to be trust, you know, and for me, like, like Hugh Laurie, who I grew up watching his work. I love you, Laurie, you know, I mean, he's just an incredibly intelligent actor. And, you know, he carried that show on his shoulders, like he, he was the one who need to make who needed to make everything work. And so, when, uh, you know, I had been on the show hanging out, like, I don't think anybody knew who I was, I think they maybe thought I was an intern or like, somebody whose nephew or something like that, you know. And so then to be referred to as the director, I could understand why that's a little alarming, you know, like, wait a second, that's the director. Now, again, the way that you win, the trust of people you're working with, in my opinion, is you do the work before you ever walk on set? No, I mean, the way you show people that, you know, what you're doing is you execute the work. And slowly that goes away. But there's absolutely that, like, for me, I made some strategic decisions. One was, I bought a big fat pair of director glasses. You know, like, I needed to look like I could make bold decisions.

Alex Ferrari 26:21
So like, Tony, so Tony Scott glasses. So Tony, Tony Scott glass,

Julian Higgins 26:25
Ridiculous, like, hunt down some stills from that episode, you'll see these are some big big glasses. Now, it's like, that probably doesn't make much difference. But I actually think certain people didn't recognize me, which frankly, helped, you know, but honestly, what it is, is like, there is going to inevitably be discomfort. I mean, I don't know that there's any way you can solve it in advance, like, there's always going to be a part of someone with news, a new director on a TV show. You know, if you're working on that show, every day for months and years, a new person shows up, you're like, Okay, are we going to be safe? Like, are we good? And it's totally understandable. You know, and so a big part of, especially the TV directing job, but any scenario where you're, I think working with new people is, you know, come in ready to work. Because that's how you show people what your priorities are, you know, and like that you're paying attention, and you are going to listen to them and say yes to their ideas. And like, you know, I mean, the problem would be is if I walked on, instead of house and tried to tell people what to do, like, it's not that it's always a collaboration, if you're the director, you know, so

Alex Ferrari 27:37
Now, I always love asking this question of directors, you know, we all when we're on set, there's always that one day, that the entire world's coming down upon you. And then I always get from directors do you mean every day? I will? Yeah, there's, so every day could be but like, there's always that one moment in a shoot or in a movie or on a show that the camera bro, you love you losing the lie that you're at your actual broken ankle, a COVID head? Something, something happens? What was that day for you? And how did you overcome that day,that situation?

Julian Higgins 28:12
I do tend to be more of the happy warrior in these in the process in general. I mean, I do think I'm very aware of just what a privilege it is to even be able to do this at all, or even consider spending my life force on this, you know, so like, even the challenges, I do think I do a pretty good job of bouncing back quickly. I think the answer, of course, that comes to mind, when you ask that question is, you know, we were making God's country and Montana. And we were in that perfect window, where aardige thing three weeks later, the entire world shut down because of a once in a century pandemic, you know, so, and of course, my it was like, oh, yeah, of course, of course that would happen. You know, like, are we ever going to make movies again, much less when we finished the movie, you know? And and, you know, we had to make the decision which was the only decision obviously, but you know, to shut down production with about half of the schedule remaining to shoot and kind of pack our bags and go home with no no idea when or even if we would get a chance to finish it you know, and on top of the all the other uncertainty of that time you know, that was that was definitely a dark night of the soul for me. Because I don't know because I for everybody, but

Alex Ferrari 29:39
I can't even imagine. Like you've got an amazing star amazing cash. You've got the movie you've been working on for five years. everything's running smoothly, and all of a sudden, yeah, we got to shut the entire thing down because the world is ending, essentially. Yeah. And what I love and what I love about you said something very, very It's a sickness that we have as filmmakers, you said, Will we ever be able to make movies again? That is where your mind goes first is that like, not that the world's coming to an end? Like, wait a minute, am I going to be able to finish this? And that is that is the sickness. That is the beautiful sickness of being a director.

Julian Higgins 30:18
I mean, for me, it was like, I just don't know who I am. If I am not going to be able to make movies, like I really did spend some time thinking like, Okay, if this continues forever, like, What if we never come out of lockdown? You know, like, who am I going to be? And you know that that was a moment, I haven't really experienced a moment like that before. But, you know, to my credit, my manager, Jake Weiner. We were on the phone, like maybe two weeks into the pandemic, and he was like, I was like, Jake, are we ever going to make movies again? And he was like, Yeah, we will, you know, and, like, he had no reason to say that, in my mind. Like, that was completely we didn't have enough information to say that. But I seized on those words. And I like trusted my manager, you know. And, anyway, so yeah, I mean, that decision was clearly like, not a difficult decision to make. It was it was difficult emotional decision to make, but we had to send everyone home, especially Tandy way lives in England, like, we needed to make sure that everybody could get home before it shut down for real. So they pulled the plug on the movie. And like you say, like, it's really about overcoming it. You know, I had a couple of weeks there, where we, you know, where I've talked about what I was feeling, but, um, but then, you know, I will say, in hindsight now, it really was largely upside. And I will say, the reason for that is, we got to stop in the middle of the project, and reflect on what we had done, you know, which you don't get to do normally. And the way I would want to work, maybe not a year, maybe not a year of interruption, but like, you know, to stop and be like, Okay, let's look at what we have. Let's, let's start editing it, let's see how it's working, like what decisions are, you know, what choices are we making, that are really panning out? What choices are we making that, you know, aren't necessary? How are the performances coming together, and then Shay, and I, you know, we started rewriting things. And we involve Tanya in that process as well, like, we were talking, the whole time we were down, the cinematographer got to weigh in, like everybody was looking at the footage, and the value of that I cannot overstate how much that helped the movie is such a better movie now. Because we had that time to think about, you know, what we had done thus far. And, and we did have to wait, you know, we shut down on day 17 of the shoot. And then 367 days went by, and then we started rolling on dating. And so we had, and like, that was an important year, you know, 2020 was an important year, for the world, obviously, for obvious reasons. But in America, you know, so many things, I think, provoked by the pandemic really came to the surface, and we started having conversations that were very much the meat and potatoes of the movie anywhere. And, and so, you know, finally, a lot of stuff came to the surface, as far as, you know, racism and sexism and misogyny, and like, the interplay between those things, and the way we have heard, we've set up our society, you know, and the movie felt more relevant than when we started even. And so we really, really went back with a sense of purpose. It was, it felt even more important than ever to finish telling a story. And I think it was also more sorry, I can go on about it. But I just want to say one more thing, which is the, the crew all the way down the line, I think, because we were all working on it. At the moment when the world ended, you know, it was so much more to to it meant so much more to come back and finish it. It wasn't a gig to anybody that worked on this project. You know, it was we went back pre vaccine, you know, we had to implement the strictest safety protocols, you know, and everybody was so committed to doing it. I think finishing it was like, you know, it may sound a little corny but like, finishing it was the kind of gesture of we can overcome this stuff together if we work together.

Alex Ferrari 34:36
That's yeah, I can only imagine like I said that when Shay told me the story as well, I was like Jesus you guys had you went through the wringer. But it was upside. It was a lot of time to reflect and filmmakers don't generally don't get to do that. But I also saw your film, Winter Light, which is essentially the precursor to God's country. Correct.

Julian Higgins 34:59
It's really interesting. Seeing how that happened, because like, you know, the film is based on this short story. James Lee Burke wrote the short story, Winter Light in the early 90s. And I read it in 2010, after I finished AFI. And my mom handed me this book of short stories, because she's a fan of James Lee Burke. And, you know, when your life's the first story in there, and by the time I finished reading it, I knew, it was one of those things where you just kind of know, like, this is speaking to me, in a way I don't even understand yet, you know, but I know I'm gonna have to engage with this. And so for a few years, I tried to figure out how to make it into a short, it is such a contained story. It's a wonderful story, but it's it's very abrupt. It's very short. And it's very, like internal character study. So, you know, the whole time I was working on the short, because it was kind of an expensive, short to be honest, like,

Alex Ferrari 35:58
You shot 35 millimeter, like, how did you guys even get the financing? How did it get off the ground?

Julian Higgins 36:02
Yeah, I mean, you know, the financing came in from a bunch of different places, from individuals from groups from grants from we did small crowdfunding campaign, like, it was the typical story of doing a short, but just trying to get, you know, trying to kind of pull out all the stops, you know, and my cinematographer and I have a very good relationship with Panda vision. So like, you know, you call in your favors when you're making a short, something like that, like, you know, and anyway, so we pulled off the short, but the whole time, I was like, you know, I don't think there's enough story material here to turn into a feature. Because, you know, the short was so expensive, it was like, Okay, why don't we just make a feature, and I genuinely did not think that was, there was enough material there. So it kind of when I finished that short, I just sort of felt like that was the end of my engagement with it, you know, and flash forward a couple years. After the 2016 election, the the sort of themes of the story, really, like, bubbled up for me again, I was driving home from Whole Foods. And it like really struck me like, Oh, that is a very relevant story. Again, and, and I had this idea, which I'm sure she talked about, as well, we basically decided to, you know, as a way of kind of incorporating the things that we were seeing happening in the world and in the country that we were, they were making us moved and angry and, you know, just sort of agitated as a way of talking about those things. We decided to repurpose the story. And, you know, change this sort of aging white male protagonist to a 40 Something black woman in order to have a different view on what's happening. And, you know, I'm the whole subtext of the story, changes with that change. And suddenly, we were able to get into these things that were making us feel so motivated. I mean, it's Shay Shay says that that choice was our was our kind of activist choice. And I think that's, you know, it was a huge responsibility to tell the story from that perspective. And it took us a really long time and a lot of, you know, attention to translate one thing to another, but it's not exactly your classic like, short to feature story,

Alex Ferrari 38:37
Right! No, no, without Without question, but I was just curious about that. When I saw it. I was like, it was a beautiful winter short was Winter Light was beautiful. And I was like, Okay, I just figured out where it came for workouts country came from, okay, this all makes sense. Now. I always love asking

Julian Higgins 38:53
It's kind of like it's two adaptations, completely the same source material. Yeah, but like, you know, when we were when the script was circulating, if someone had actually seen the short, they would get very confused, because these stories are about completely different things, you know, right. Like they have some special elements in common that are shared by this source material, but it's a it's a it's a rat pretty radically different meaning and intention. Sorry.

Alex Ferrari 39:22
No, I always love asking people who get into Sundance what it was like getting that phone call, because it's just like, it's like it's the it is the lottery ticket. It's every every filmmaker wants to do it. You know, ever since the 90s of mariachi and Tarantino and everybody else, Sundance is the holy grail for independent film. It's so what was it like getting the call?

Julian Higgins 39:45
You know, it's funny because like, it was a text.

Alex Ferrari 39:49
No, it was no way they didn't text or they called your manager.

Julian Higgins 39:54
And no, a programmer texted me directly saying, Hey, could you just chat quickly? And I happened to be on the phone at the time with our producer, Amanda Marshall. And I was like, what does this mean? You know? And she said, Well, it's very early in the process. So they're probably checking to see like, how you're coming along with the movie, and you're done in time and stuff like that. So I was like, very kind of relaxed. When I, I was like, not prepared to be told the news. And I honestly, I couldn't process it for like, days. You know, I, it took me it took so long for it to sink. And it did not feel real at all. I didn't think it was like a practical joke or anything like that. But my reaction to it was like, oh, because a new thing is like, we didn't really, we were not done with the film. You know, like, as I'm sure you've heard many times before, like, you know, people are working on their movies, right up until the last second. I mean, we were not done. We, we had picture picture locked to the film about a week before I got that call. So we still had sound mix VFX color, like score, like all this stuff to do. So to me, it was like, Oh, my God, like, what are we going to do? Now we have, we have our work cut out for us. So once again, that was kind of like, just got to keep going because we want this thing, which right now feels so kind of, it feels like a fantasy of something that could happen in the future. You know, did not it did not feel real until we actually started getting, you know, programming emails from stuff, you know, really sunk in a long time after. I know, that's not maybe the story that is the most exciting like, but, you know, that's really the reality of it. For me, it was I immediately thought, Oh, well, now we have to finish the movie.

Alex Ferrari 41:45
Oh, shoot, this is serious now. Yeah, well, I'm gonna I'm gonna ask you, if this just got real. Let me I'm gonna ask you a few questions asked all my, my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Julian Higgins 42:00
I mean, I did touch on this a little bit earlier, as far as like, you know, trying to find ways to go through the process as much as possible, even if it's just for yourself, you know, but I do think that you have you have control over very few things. As a, as a filmmaker, you know, I do try to really keep my eye on the ball of like, what do I have control over? What don't I. And what I think it boils down to for me is, there are basically two things that you actually have control over. And one is generating your own material that you care about, in whatever way that works for you. Whether it's writing shorts, spec commercials, like getting together with your friends, making music, video, or even, you know, trying to get an independent film off the ground, like whatever you can do generating material for yourself to direct or producer, whatever, you do have control over that, you know, you can generate that those ideas. And then once you have those projects that you know you want to do, you have to announce to the world that you want to do them. You know, you have to share what you're faking as widely as you possibly can. And like, what that means is like, every time you finish a short, you should be sending it to everyone you know, and you don't even need to like hear back about it, you know, you don't know never needs to watch it. They just need to know that you're out there doing things and generating things, you know. And then what I what I have found is if you keep doing that you keep your eye on the ball of actually making things and whatever way you can manage, you share it as widely as possible, where people will start thinking of you for things, you know, because they know like, oh, once every six months, like something's showing up in my inbox. Oh, yeah, right. Like Julian, that's cool. He's still out there doing things, that's great. And then that's how they start to think of you and you know, what they do with the material that you share? You don't have any control over. But I do think those are the things that matter the most.

Alex Ferrari 44:00
You know, it's funny, I actually, that's exactly what happened to me when I got a TV gig to do a series. It was a high school friend of mine, who followed me on Facebook, he's like, Hey, he was an exec at this place. He's like, Hey, man, do you want to come in and like, talk about making this show? And I'm like, yeah, why did you call me he's like, I've been following your short that you did, like in 2005. And I know you can pull a lot, you can squeeze a lot out on $1. So that's what we need for this project. And it's so true. It's just literally someone just following me. He's like, Yeah, do you want to? Do you know, do you want

Julian Higgins 44:34
A beautiful story about this one point, which is a friend of mines. Grandfather, was a big fan of Charlie Chaplin when Charlie Chaplin's movies were coming out. And it was that I guess that was the time when you could just write a fan letter on your paper with a pen and like put it in the mail and it would show up at like Charlie Chaplin's office somehow. So he would just write these letters. So You know, every time when we came up with right Charlie Chaplin a letter, just send it off. And, and then I guess, later on in his life, you know, you, I guess was visiting Paris and he saw Charlie Chaplin sitting at the back of a like little bar in Paris. And he was like, Okay, I can't just can't just leave, you know, so he walked up to Charlie Chaplin, he was like, you know, Mr. Chaplin, I haven't read any letters for years, I just want to say, I'm such a big fan of yours. You know, and they talked a little bit. And Charlie Chaplin was like, why would you stop writing? You know, and I think that's kind of how it works, you know, like I do, I do think that is sort of like, the basic concept is, if people don't know what you're trying to do, they will not be able to help you. You know, so you do have to let people know, if you finish something, share it with you, or trying to raise money for a short film, let everyone know, you just don't know. And you have no control over how that's gonna, you know, work its way through the world.

Alex Ferrari 46:00
Absolutely. You've no idea what what little thing you do here will affect that little thing. It's kind of like the butterfly effect. You just don't know exactly how it's gonna happen.

Julian Higgins 46:09
And by the way, like, everyone has stories like that, oh, that's not like, like, that's just how it works. When it works. That's how it works is you keep your your nose to the ground and make your work. And, you know, keep doing that, because that's that should be the focus.

Alex Ferrari 46:23
Is it? Is it just me or did you also go through the process of deconstructing every successful director that you looked up to, on their path of how they got to where they are, and maybe even tried to? emulate it? So like, Okay, I'm going to make a $7,000 action movie in Mexico. Like, like, I didn't.

Julian Higgins 46:48
Yeah, I didn't really like I would, I would, I would get really fixated on certain directors, and of course, watch everything they did. And, you know, and then I would go in and like, frame by frame, trying to figure out like, how did they achieve that effect? You know, I mean, what one director that was really important to me, even though I don't, I don't think I will ever make anything that's in that kind of vein is Terry Gilliam No, because yeah, because because his movies are so inventive. And you can see that he has had his hands on every aspect of the movie, you know? And I have no idea what he's like to work with or anything like that. But his movies were so inspiring to me as a as a young filmmaker just because they were so specific. And I think that's what I responded to was when people were able to do something that felt really really personal and sort of their own strange little V worldview Sure, but with you know, with a bigger budget or something like David Fincher obviously like his movies are so so David Fincher and yet he's able to do that that thing that he does in a big

Alex Ferrari 47:52
Well like um, I mean, Time Bandits. Let's not even get going I've ever seen bandits in the theater when it came out and blew my mind. And Fincher features basically a scalpel. Like he is so precise as like, there's sharp edges on everything he does. It's so perfectly constructed. And I had the pleasure of talking to his DP Jeff Cronin, well, coronal well, and I was just like, dude, how'd you do fight? Like, how do you do Fight Club? How did you grow up with a dragon that did like, and asking them all these questions and how David works and how he worked with David, it was just like, Everyone listen, you gotta listen to that episode. It's absolutely mind blowing if you're a David Fincher.

Julian Higgins 48:29
Yeah, I do think like, Yeah, I think I think for me, it's like, I get very fixated on directors that I think are consistently expressing how they, how they see the world through their work, no matter what kind of thing it is. And lately my, my, you know, my enthusiasm has been about, you know, interacting with the world. When I was when I started as a filmmaker is more about the pure imagination. No, and just like the excitement and you know, like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen no example. Terry Gilliam is so which is just an extravagant like, you know, fantasy. It's just so much fun.

Alex Ferrari 49:11
Can you imagine that being made by studio today? Like, that's not even a car.

Julian Higgins 49:15
I mean, it almost didn't get made at the time,

Alex Ferrari 49:17
It barely, barely got made then.

Julian Higgins 49:20
And now I find myself you know, focus much more on like, what kind of conversation is the movie trying to have with the audience, right? What is the movie trying to get the audience to consider? And maybe even for the first time, you know that those are the things that really attract now?

Alex Ferrari 49:35
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Julian Higgins 49:41
Oh, wow. Easy question.

Alex Ferrari 49:43
Sure. This is that trick question. This is the tree. This is the tree. This is the tree question. What kind of tree are you that's?

Julian Higgins 49:51
Yeah, that's a much easier question to answer. I mean, the thing is like, I think I'm I think less than that, I think a lesson that I that I sort of understood long before, I could Well, I guess what I'm trying to say is you can hear something 100 times and only understand it on the 101st time, you know. And like, one thing that I kind of knew intellectually, but didn't really understand was this idea that it is better to get the audience to ask the questions than to try to give the answers. And I think like, that is really a life lesson for me as well. Like, one thing that I have just been thinking so much about, as this movie comes to the end is, you know, you can't force it. Really, that's really what it boils down to like it. The the the, as, as I learned, in Dune, the mystery of life is not a problem to solve. But a reality to experience. I think that is basically the truest thing that's been said, you know, and I and I really like is as geeky as it sounds, that trickles down to like, the editing process to me or letter, you know, what we do, like, that's just so that's so deeply true about the mystery of life being a reality to experience. And so, for example, like, the first cut of this movie was two hours and 20 minutes long, the Final Cut is an hour 40. You know, so we cut a lot of movie out of this. And I was noticing that the parts we cut, are the parts that are trying to explain things to the audience. You know, and like, I really feel as a as a sort of value that like, I want to trust the audience, you know, but it's so tempting when you're trying to be telling a story you care about to try to make things really clear, but actually, it's about expressing something and letting the audience consider it.

Alex Ferrari 52:02
I agree. 100%. Yeah, I agree. 100%. And last question, three of your favorite films of all time.

Julian Higgins 52:13
Yeah, I mean, this is another, I mean, how could you possibly but today, today, I think like I'm gonna answer this question in the sense of movies that are really influenced me and like, inspired me. And, um, you know, I think like I mentioned Kurosawa, you know, I think he's made such I am much more of like the epic Curacao fan than the sort of social drama course our fan but you know, Ron is a movie that everybody you know, talks about throne of bloods incredible, but the one for me that really, I really encourage people to go see it, if they can find it. It's I believe it's on the Criterion Collection. It's called Dirceu Zala. And it is a story about a Mongolian guide, leading an expedition in Mongolia, for a bunch of Russian and cartographers. And it doesn't sound like, you know,

Alex Ferrari 53:08
Thrill ride type concept type concept.

Julian Higgins 53:11
Yeah, it's really like, and you should see that the biggest possible screen, this is a movie, they really don't make them like that anymore. It is such a personal portrait of two human beings, these two men who sort of, in a way like become brothers in a sense, there's it's almost a love story. It's like a platonic love story. But it is the like one of the biggest most sweeping epics ever made. So that's a big one for me, like, the the mix of character study and, and scale is something I really aspire to do. I would say foxcatcher is a movie that influenced me very deeply. foxcatcher is like right in the pocket of the kind of movie I want to be making. Yeah, and then I you know, I kind of have to go to No Country for Old Men for so many reasons. I never get tired of watching and I learned something profound from it every time I see it, both in terms of the content and the filmmaker. It's just love. It doesn't mean I've ever seen

Alex Ferrari 54:10
Right and I think that you're I mean God's country is in your western you know, it is a modern Western and there is an Misha, we're talking about it in our episode. There's no one doing better right now than Taylor. Sheridan. I mean, his high water winter when River and obviously Yellowstone I'm obsessed with the LFC. Um, and it's

Julian Higgins 54:34
White from Yellowstone. Yeah, God's country in a very kind of roll as well.

Alex Ferrari 54:39
Yeah. When I saw him, I'm like, Oh, that's awesome. Jimmy got work. He's fantastic. And by the way, he's fantastic in your movie, but listen, brother, I appreciate you coming on the show. I wish you nothing but success. Enjoy the ride. It is going to be it is short. You know, I've talked to a lot of sunrise at Sundance filmmakers that is just like it It's a world win. Unfortunately you won't be able to get there this year because of the world being the way the world is but enjoy all the all the benefits and all the wonderful things that come from being in the Sundance Film Festival. So, continued success, my friend and good luck.

Julian Higgins 55:16
Thank you so much. Thanks for having me and Shaye both on.



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Sam Raimi’s Rare Short Film: Clockwork (1978)

Sam Raimi Short Film, Clockwork (1978)

This is the extremely rare 1978 short film Clockwork by horror master Sam Raimi. The film star  Scott Spiegel and Cheryl Guttridge. Raimi was no more than 19 years old when he embarked on making  this Super 8mm thriller. The film is about A very wealthy, but lonely woman is stalked in her home by a violent serial killer.

According to reviewer Rafael Jovine:

In keeping with the somewhat over the top crime and slasher of his first projects, this six minute short is about a woman who is stalked by a serial killer. Unlike some of his old shorts, the cinematography is good enough for you to enjoy it, and there are plenty of good and interesting ideas when like our lead lady, scared, lie her back against a wall only to have the killer blast his arm out of it and try to stab her.

It’s a quick but the most memorable moment in the short to me. All in all, there’s not much to say about this short but it is a fun slasher film from Raimi fans of the director would enjoy.

Enjoy the early work of this horror master!

The film is available on The Internet Archive


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.

Top 10 Cinematography Podcasts – Oscar® and Emmy® Winners

Cinematography Podcasts have been, by far, some of my favorite conversations on the Indie Film Hustle Podcast.

From Oscar® and Emmy® winning directors of photography to camera lens specialists to members of the American Society of Cinematographer to lighting legends, we have had some remarkable podcasts about cinematography.

I have gathered together the Top 10 cinematography podcasts from the IFH archives. This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.

Click here to subscribe on iTunes,  Spotify, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.

1. Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C.

Today on the show we have Oscar® nominee Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C. 

Cronenweth worked as a loader and 2nd assistant before graduating high school, and then enrolled in film school at USC where he studied cinematography. Among his classmates were John Schwartzman and Robert Brinkmann, as well as [director] Philip Joanou.

After graduation, Cronenweth resumed working with his father, joining a core camera team that included operators John Toll and Dan Lerner, and 1st assistants Bing Sokolsky and Art Schwab.

Jeff worked with father Jordan Cronenweth (cinematographer most notable for Blade Runner) as a camera loader and second assistant camera during high school, working his way up to first assistant camera and then camera operator until the mid-1990s.

Moving up to first assistant, Cronenweth began working with Toll, who was just beginning his work as a cameraman, and veteran Sven Nykvist.

The first major motion picture where he acted as a DP was on David Fincher‘s masterpiece Fight Club. Other notable feature films on which he worked as a DP are One Hour Photo, K-19: The Widowmaker, Down With Love, The Social Network, Hitchcock, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.

2. Dean Cundey A.S.C

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

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

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

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

3. Russell Carpenter A.S.C

I can’t tell you how excited I am about today’s guest. I sat down with the legendary and Oscar® Winning Cinematographer Russell Carpenter A.S.C. Russell has been shooting blockbusters for over 40 years and has shot films like Ant-Man,  xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Charlie’s Angels, The Negotiator, True Lies, Monster-in-Law and classic 90’s action flicks like Hard Target, The Perfect Weapon, and Death Warrant.

He won the Oscar® for his cinematography on the second highest-grossing film of all time, Titanic. We go down the rabbit hole on shooting Titanic, working with James Cameron, crazy Hollywood stories, how he approaches each project and much more. This episode is a treasure chest of behind the scenes stories and cinematic techniques from the highest levels of Hollywood.

4. Michael Goi A.S.C

Today on the show we have the legendary and Emmy® Winning cinematographer Michael Goi A.S.C.

Michael Goi has compiled over 70 narrative credits, including films for cinema and television screens such as “American Horror Story,” “Glee,” “Salem” and “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.”

He has received Emmy nominations for “Glee”, “My Name Is Earl” and “American Horror Story.” He was nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Award for the telefilms “The Fixer” and “Judas” and for the pilot “The New Normal” and the mini-series “American Horror Story: Asylum”.

He also wrote and directed the dramatic feature film “Megan Is Missing” about the subject of internet predators, and several episodes of “American Horror Story” and other shows.

5. Suki Medencevic, A.S.C

Today I welcome back returning champion award-winning cinematographer Suki Medencevic A.S.C. I brought Suki back on the show to discuss Covid-19 and what Hollywood will look like after it passes, how to approach low-budget filmmaking from the cinematography side, and his game-changing cinematography course Light and Face – The Art of Cinematography from IFH Academy.

6. Shane Hurlbut A.S.C

My guest today has done it all. He’s gone from cinematography on small-budget indie films to $200 million-plus projects which is literally goals for many in this line of business.

Director and cinematographer, Shane Hurlbut‘s thirty-plus experience and success as a storyteller is categorically innovative to the craft and inspiring for other filmmakers.

Shane Co-founded the Hurlbut Academy alongside his wife and business partner, Lydia Hurlbut. Their platform offers professional online filmmaking education and mentoring materials, curated by other filmmakers. This interactive library has collaborated with filmmakers to develop about 50 Courses, 400+ Lessons, and 700+ hours of instruction videos.

Some of the top projects he’s worked on include Drumline, We Are Marshall, Terminator Salvation, Act Of Valor, and Game Of Thrones.

7. Philip Bloom

Today on the show we have a legend in the filmmaking blogosphere, award-winning cinematographer Philip Bloom. Philip is a world-renowned filmmaker who, for the past 10 years of his 27-year career has specialized in creating incredible cinematic images no matter what the camera. He started blogging back in the early 2000s before anyone was really doing it. I personally have been following him for years.

Philip even got an opportunity to shoot for the Jedi Master himself George Lucas on the film Red Tails.

8. Jayson Crothers

Today on the show we have veteran cinematographer Jayson Crothers. Jayson had shot two dozen independent features before he joined the NBCUniversal hit show Chicago Fire in 2013.

After serving as the 2nd unit DoP for 38 episodes during seasons 2 & 3 he was asked to helm the show.  Serving as the sole DoP from seasons 4 to 6, he shot 74 episodes of the series for Dick Wolf. He also did additional photography for the backdoor pilot of Chicago Med.

9. Egon Stephan Jr.

The knowledge to shoot film is dying. There’s nowhere online where you can take a course on how to shoot Super 16mm film. The “workshops” available are extremely expensive and don’t really give you practical knowledge from someone who has actually shot in the field.

On today’s show, Egon and I drop some knowledge bombs on shooting film. So if you ever wanted to know if shoot “real” was an option for your indie feature or short film then perk up those ears.

10. Les Zellan (Cooke Optics)

Today on the show we have the chairman of the legendary Cooke Optics empire. For over 100 years, Cooke has been at the centre of the filmmaking business. We’ve been listening to the community of which we are a part. We lead by introducing new products such as /i Technology, and we remember our success is built on a simple idea – do what the filmmaker needs.

Bonus: Alan Besedin

One of the main goals of Indie Film Hustle is to give real-world knowledge and resources to indie filmmakers so they can make a living doing what they love. Film gear is a big part of that equation. I always am on the lookout for the best bang for the buck when it comes to film gear.

I recently began to dip my toes into the world of vintage lenses. Today’s guest Alan Besedin has been running in the filmmaking trenches for years and runs my go-to resource for vintages lenses VintageLensesforVideo.com. I’ve watched every video and read every article on the site. It’s a wealth of info. So enjoy my conversation with Alan Besedin.

Matthew Duclos

Today we are going deep down the cinema lenses rabbit hole. I was lucky enough to sit down and speak to the “Yoda” of cinema lenses Matthew Duclos. Matthew has been working on lenses for most of his life. Most cinematographers in Los Angeles (and around the world) consider him an expert in the field.

I was hearing Duclos’ name on set as far as I can remember so it was a thrill to get to speak and grill Matthew on all things lenses.

The Original Dirk Diggler & The Early Films of Paul Thomas Anderson

I can remember when a young director by the name Paul Thomas Anderson released a remarkably good film called Boogie Nights back in 1997. The film was kind of a small bomb going off in the film industry.

Anderson made by far the best feature film about the groove porn business of the 1970s. Anderson was able to take extremely sleazy topic and elevate it to high art with his brilliant direction, camerawork and amazing performances.

Click below to read the screenplay for Boogie Nights and watch some of his early films, including the original Boogie Nights, his short The Dirk Diggler Story, as well as Cigarettes and Coffee, his hard to find short film.

Anderson is infamous for dropping out of NYU film school after two weeks. Here’s why:

My filmmaking education consisted of finding out what filmmakers I liked were watching, then seeing those films. I learned the technical stuff from books and mags, and with the new technology you can watch entire movies accompanied by commentary from the director. You can learn more from John Sturge’s audio track on the Bad Day at Black Rock Laserdisc than you can in 4 years of film school. Film school is a complete con, because the information is there if you want it.

The Dirk Diggler Story  wonderful mockumentary short film shot in 1988 and written and directed by one of the best working directors alive, Paul Thomas Anderson. It tracks the rise and fall of the fictitious Dirk Diggler, a very well-endowed porn actor. The character is based on legendary porn star John Holmes.

Download and Read Paul Thomas Anderson’s Screenplay Collection in PDF

The Original Dirk Diggler

Anderson’s first work is admittedly lo-fi, filming on videotape partly out of necessity, but also because of the inherent video aesthetic of both the documentary and pornography formats.  Anderson’s penchant for constantly moving the camera is already evident in THE DIRK DIGGLER STORY, seeing him utilize both handheld and Steadicam-based camera moves that roam the space and adjust the composition mid-record to lend a degree of immediacy and realism.

The documentary footage is interspersed with staged still photographs and taped interviews with the characters, further riffing on the style ofTHIS IS SPINAL TAP.

Because the year was 1988 and computer-based nonlinear editing suites had yet to become commonplace, (and editing video on a flatbed Steenbeck was impractical), Anderson had to edit THE DIRK DIGGLER STORY using the archaic, terminally frustrating VCR to VCR method.

The bane of many a young filmmaker’s existence in the 90’s, the method consisted of tediously syncing up a desired take on one VCR, recording it to a blank VHS tape on the second deck, hitting pause and then finding the next chronological shot from the original footage.  Any mistake meant you had to rewind the tape to just before the error and start over again.

It was a horrible process that also completely destroyed the quality of the footage, in addition to probably discouraging a significant number of would-be directors from pursuing the profession.

Several of Anderson’s defining thematic conceits make their first appearance in THE DIRK DIGGLER STORY, like a constantly-moving camera and the presence of an omniscient narrator (best employed in 1999’s MAGNOLIA), who here is voiced by Anderson’s father, Ernie.  What really strikes me about the DIRK DIGGLER STORY is the presence of a palpable family dynamic amongst this group of pornographers.

The family angle would later be played to a more substantial degree in BOOGIE NIGHTS, but already we get the sense that Anderson has a genuine love for these characters, like they’re a part of his own family.  They depend on each other, they need each other, they are not complete without each other.

At a very core level, Anderson’s films are about people trying to find their place in a family unit, and those who actively turn away from the embrace of family are met with tragedies like accidental death (Dirk Diggler in this film), murder/suicide (William H. Macy in BOOGIE NIGHTS), or abandonment (Daniel Day-Lewis in 2007’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD).

As an early draft of BOOGIE NIGHTSTHE DIRK DIGGLER STORY story is already interesting on its own merits, but what makes it even more compelling from my standpoint is how fully-formed Anderson’s filmmaking voice already seems.  The fact that this short follows BOOGIE NIGHTS’ general plot progression shows how long Anderson had spent developing the idea while conveying his gift for interesting, unique stories.

Despite being shot on shoddy video, the film has a certain polish that places it above what 99% of aspiring, pre-film-school directors are capable of.  There’s not a lot of directors that most can say were born to be a filmmaker, but in the case of Anderson, it’s a notion that’s nearly impossible to deny.


When it was time for director Paul Thomas Anderson to go to college, he naturally went the film school route, like so many other would-be directors did before him.  He was admitted to Boston’s Emerson College as an English major, lasting for 2 semesters (it seems like all the prominent Emersonians are actually dropouts).  Unsatisfied with his education there, he enrolled in NYU’s film school, and he was there all of two days before he decided that the institution of film school in general held no benefit for him.

Instead, he decided to make a short that would serve as his “film school”, so to speak.  He scraped together funding with $10,000 his father, Ernie Anderson, had squirreled away for college tuitions, and supplemented that with some gambling winnings and his girlfriend’s credit card.  Once funding was complete, he worked with producer Wendy Weidman to secure a desert diner location for a weekend of shooting, as well as a camera package donation from Panavision.

This one weekend soon ballooned into a much longer shoot as production issues and on-the-job training caused no shortage of hiccups for the burgeoning director.  The final result was CIGARETTES & COFFEE (1993), a weaving narrative about three sets of characters connected together by a single twenty dollar bill.  The film debuted to an incredibly warm reception at the 1993 Sundance Festival, effectively kickstarting Anderson’s directing career into high gear.

In a diner in the middle of the desert, a variety of transient souls come and go, on their way to destinations unknown.  In this particular moment, at this particular diner, several of the patrons are unknowingly connected to each other by a twenty dollar bill that has passed between them.  In one booth, an elderly man (Philip Baker Hall) has met his squirrely younger friend (Kirk Baxter), who reveals that he’s discovered his wife to be cheating on him with his best friend, and he fears it might be too late to stop the hit he’s ordered on them both.

Two booths over, a newlywed couple in the middle of their honeymoon are quarreling over the wife’s loss of a significant amount of the husband’s money at a casino gambling table. Outside the diner, a mysterious lone man has arrived and conducts a mysterious conversation in a phone booth.  The twenty dollar bill unifies the characters in some kind of cosmic conspiracy, all tied together by the time-honored ritual of brutally honest conversation over cigarettes and coffee.

Anderson’s deep knowledge of film history and obscure character actors is highly evident in CIGARETTES & COFFEE.  The piece is anchored by Philip Baker Hall, a venerated performer who has since become a key player in Anderson’s repertory. His calm, collected delivery grounds the film and sets the tone just so.  Getting Hall on board was something of a coup for Anderson, who approached him on the set of a CBS TV movie that the two were on together (Baker as an actor, Anderson as a lowly production assistant).

Anderson gave Baker the script to the short, and Baker was generous enough to take a gamble on this unruly, untested young director.  Anderson also recruited the help of Kirk Baltz, who had previously made a name for himself as the unfortunate cop Marvin Nash in Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS a year earlier.

  Additionally, Baltz acted as a producer and was instrumental in getting the film made.  Scott Coffey and Miguel Ferrer round out the cast, with everyone turning in fine performances that make Anderson’s direction look confident and competent, considering this is his first real time at bat.

Anderson has made a name for himself with his precise, classical approach to composition and camera movement. Unconcerned with modern, trendy techniques like “shaky cam” or rapid-fire editing, he takes his cues from the revered directors of yesteryear.  CIGARETTES & COFFEE is the first evidence of this aesthetic, lensed by cinematographers Vincent Baldino and David Phillips.

  Shot on handsome color film, the short is a far cry from the washed-out analog video of THE DIRK DIGGLER STORY (1988).  At least, I think it is—the only copy available to view is sourced from a rather degraded VHS tape, and I have no idea if a pristine transfer is out there somewhere.

The first thing I noticed about CIGARETTES & COFFEE’s visual presentation is somewhat of an abstract, intangible thing—but there is such precision to Anderson’s compositions in the piece.  Every shot is thoroughly considered, telling the most amount of story with minimal force.  This is echoed in his camerawork, which glides on dollies and Steadicam rigs fluidly and flawlessly.  Like his peer Tarantino, Anderson uses punchy insert shots sparingly, using them as bold punctuation rather than detailed cutaways.

Furthermore, there’s a distinct California vibe here, despite the story itself possibly being set in Nevada.  Having lived his entire life in the state, Anderson’s work examines the nature and psychology of California more so than any other contemporary director.  Almost of all of his work is set in California—specifically the San Fernando Valley where he was born—and explores the weird and wonderful characters that inhabit it.

This part of his style is better realized in his features, but CIGARETTES & COFFEE has elements of California-ca (?) in its dusty diner setting, beat up muscle cars and sunshade-wearing mystery men.

The early period of Anderson’s career was heavily influenced by Robert Altman.  Both men made ensemble films that followed a variety of colorful characters instead of a traditional plot with a singular protagonist.  While these characters initially seem very disconnected from each other and thrust into a sprawling narrative, Anderson pulls the various story threads tighter together to form a coherent mosaic centered around a singular theme or idea.

In CIGARETTES & COFFEE, we have three separate sets of characters who, on their face, are completely uninvolved in each other’s affairs.  However, they are each united by a particular twenty dollar bill that has passed between them.  Possession of this bill brings different fortunes to different owners—some lose everything, some gain only a little, and for some, it’s simply a routine business transaction.

CIGARETTES & COFFEE is undoubtedly the work that launched Anderson’s career.  Its selection into the Sundance Film Festival’s shorts program brought him to the attention of the industry’s best and brightest.  The Sundance Institute even invited him to develop the short into a feature at their directing labs, a program that also helped Tarantino launch his first feature.

In the labs, Anderson got a film education much more valuable than the one he sought and failed to find from Emerson College and New York University.  In Park City, Utah, he learned from the best and honed his skills—all while developing his first full-length feature he liked to call SYDNEY, but we’d come to know as HARD EIGHT (1996).


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