IFH 010: How to Produce Your First Feature Film – Part 1

In this episode (Part 1 of 2) I’m excited to have uber independent film producer Suzanne Lyons. She has been living in the indie film space for over twenty years. Working on SAG Ultra Low Budgets to over $15,000,000 budgets she has seen it all.

Suzanne Lyons takes you by the hand and walks you through what it takes to produce your first feature film. She goes over the pitfalls, legal concerns, deliverables, selling to foreign countries and most importantly of all how she gets her financing for her feature films.

She laid out such amazing information that I had to break the episode up into two parts. I spoke at one of her famous indie film producing workshops and learned a ton while I was there. Suzanne Lyons also wrote an amazing book called Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking. I suggest you all pick it up. It’s better than film school!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So today's guest is Suzanne Lyons. She's an independent producer have known for a few years, she's done. Over a dozen feature films produced over a dozen feature films, and wrote a book called the indie film producing the craft of low budget filmmaking. She lives in the low budget world. Even though her some of her first films were 10 or $15 million or more. with huge stars, she's actually made her bones in independent film and low budget independent independent film The 5 million and below budget film. So Suzanne was giving us such amazing information that our interview went almost an hour and a half. And what I've decided to do now is anytime it breaks an hour, 10 minutes or so, I'm going to start breaking it up into two parts. So people have a chance you guys have a chance to, to digest it all. And you don't have to sit down for a full hour and a half to enjoy it. You can break it up into 245 minute pieces. So this is going to be part one of our interview with Suzanne Lyons. Enjoy. Thank you Suzanne for coming on to the indie film hustle podcast we really appreciate it.

Suzanne Lyons 2:02
Oh, you're welcome. I'm excited.

Alex Ferrari 2:04
So can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself?

Suzanne Lyons 2:08
Oh my That's a hard question. Because you know, I like to talk but no. Okay, sorry, Alex. Yeah. Anyways, I've been in the industry now I came out my husband I came out here in 93 wanted to be here for the earthquake, you know, 94 I miss anything. That's funny, that's not that bright. But anyways, so we came up with the intention where I was going to jump right into features and he was going to jump into into you know, television. And then I got sidetracked, you know, as you know, for a number of years for probably about five or six or seven years, just because I started teaching marketing because I found it was missing in the entertainment industry, it was driving me crazy that people could not get out there and promote themselves. Nobody was thinking of themselves as the president and CEO of their company. You know, people were saying, Oh, I'm gonna wait to my agent gets me a job I'm gonna wait to my manager gets me a job. Oh, it's not my job, Suzanne, that's my attorneys job to manage my life. And it just made me crazy that people kept, you know, handing their power over, you know, from their life to somebody else, and really disempowering themselves. So my background was a lot in marketing. I was VP of Marketing for a TV network in Canada for years and years, before we moved here. And so I started this company with Heidi wall called flash forward Institute. Back in 1994. I literally have been here three months, and we started the company. That's how much it was driving me crazy. And even watching my husband, you know, who was just this amazing writer, amazing writer, who came out here, we came out we were in Philly for five years, and he had 17 feature scripts and TV scripts in his, you know, in your case, right? Honest to God, they sat in the closet, because he kept waiting for the agent to call. He waited two and a half years, you know, my phone, I'm not lying. And I kept saying please take my class, please take my class within, within literally three months of taking the class. He was on staff at the Highlander series and that was almost 20 years ago and yeah, I remember that. That was a showrunner and I mean he's now a showrunner and he's doing Steve has been going strong ever since then. So I kind of got sidetracked and then my business partner in film Kate Robinson I started in 98 I think it was we finally started snowfall films and develop some screenplays and then in 2001 I think it took us about three years to kind of you know launch our first film and and we did and it was great. It was a little bigger than planned in terms of the actors and in so on, and it was called undertaking Betty and we shot that in Wales our first one so I kind of my very first thing was learning International Co production and then I did another International Co production, Jericho mansions. Those first movies were were like, you know James Caan and john via bujo and Jennifer Tilly and then Chris Walken, and Naomi Watts and Brenda Blethyn and Alfred Molina and Lee Evans is really great Robert Pugh, really great, great, great people. I had the privilege to work with and then jumped right into Bailey's billions of kids movie so from romantic comedy to thriller to a kids movie with Dean Cain which was so much fun and who else oh my god anyway some other great names in it and then came back and did help do the financing for another project called the heart is deceitful above all things and so that was great experience so that was with another bunch of huge stars so those my first four movies were all bigger than what Kate and I had planned usually people start you know at a little one and move on so

Alex Ferrari 5:36
Yeah, I was gonna say it sounds a little like yeah my first my first independent film Yeah, we went to Wales and then we had these stars in it yeah I'm like this is a fairly non traditional way of doing things but I'm assuming you learned so much in those first few movies

Suzanne Lyons 5:52
Oh my god it was honestly because to do that five to 10 million which was not our plan trust me at the beginning you know it was like being thrown into the fire and thank god there were two of us because to have to be able to have somebody to bounce things off of you know it was it was it was really tough you know to go through that learning curve at that budget level with those kinds of actors but we were older you know, I mean it's not like we came out here you weren't easy Yeah, exactly. I was in my you know, probably early 40s at that point and and I just thought no kind of took one day at a time and and I'm all about kind of trying to relax and have some fun and and made sure that no matter how crazy things were getting on the outside that people didn't need to know about on set you know that what we were dealing with with the studios and financing lawyers and attorneys and all of that stuff till two in the morning I get up and get on set you know at eight in the morning and smile and bring candy to everybody and you know take the actors to lunch and you know I acknowledge the crew every day and you know I just made sure that people knew as little about all the chaos as possible and just job that's the job of a good producer. Yeah, really I mean it was all about let's have some fun let's be creative let's you know let's make a great movie here. And so just making sure everybody was looked after and didn't feel the stress and strain and that's something that we took home with us and made sure we stopped at the grocery store and picked up a bottle of wine to help with those calls with all those attorneys around the world. Right right. And everything and eventually I think that bottle of wine became a case of wine at one point I think daily daily would stand outside Yeah. Put it in the trunk for us.

Alex Ferrari 7:27
Oh they're back looks like they need a drink. So you were saying that so you were saying that your budget for that first movie is between five and 10 million which is almost a unicorn at this point and non existent budget at this right is it right what is it that the budgets generally top up at like two to 3 million tops right now and then and then it goes into 20 plus right?

Suzanne Lyons 7:51
That's right because then once you hit a certain number then you're you know then it doesn't make sense anymore because you'd need to have well Tom Cruise you know or be need to be at the studio level which is you know 20 and over so I encourage people to do the lower budget ones in fact what Kate and I did after those first four just kind of it all happened you know, simultaneously as England was kind of shutting down their incentives which affected the rest of the world dramatically because that was kind of the base for a lot of us as indie producers because that's where that first 40% came from and then you attach on another country and then you do your gap and pre sales back then member the pre sales those exist anymore No but they did then in a big way. So you know Germany was $500,000 Spain was 500,000 I mean you know, before you even blink you know if you had a couple of actors on board you know we did 2 million in pre sales and then our investors were two and then you know then we have a gap and you know from the Lulu Horowitz I think everybody used back then that was that gap but you know a lot of the a lot of the money was soft money that you would shoot you know get from from the various countries and the incentives and so on so really was not very hard that the structure was so beautifully set up at that time. And Kate and I kind of had the benefit of starting at a time when we were able to use that those incentives in that structure in that format but then when that shut down in 2004 just this is completely ironic but what happened at the same time as section 181 was passed after six years of the Directors Guild you know a lobbying in Washington that job creation act for the entertainment industry for the investors to get 100% tax write off at that certain pay you know, scale of course was was a godsend and something we haven't had here I think since the 70s in the US so Kate and I were able to come home you know with our wonderful husbands and and who we missed because we were doing a lot of shooting in other places. But to come home and be able to to shoot on American soil was really fun for a change and and then some When the state started adapting you know what Toronto what Canada and the UK and Australia and Romanian those countries were doing by creating these incentives and you know you'd have you know a lot of different states i mean now many many states but back then you know there was a couple of them which were great also the union's started to really work toward stopping runaway productions so they started making it doable you know here to be able to hire sag actors you know, which of course you couldn't at the budget levels that you know, we were wanting to come back and work on. So it was really fun and then at that point, the horror films were very very popular so Kate and I said, you know, what's let's start doing Sega ultralow $200,000 budgets, quite a change from 9 million but but it was so much more fun because you know, we still have to put your name in there or your you know, giant spider or something. But it was a you know, you it wasn't as kind of crazy as it was when you know, shooting that the bigger budgets and the stress that goes with that I'm not saying it's not a big job and still takes, you know, a year or two of your life, but it was a lot of fun. So we did four of those right away in a two year period after coming back and then the market Of course, you know, collapsed like everything in the world. And you know, when that recession hits. And so I use that time to write a book for focal press called indie film producing, I started doing blogs I think I did sorry, video blogs, which were I think I did 125 of those which are online and call the 10 tip series I did three and a half years worth of monthly newsletters called the 10 tip series. So I started using all those, the courses I used to teach in Flash forward and turned it all into a 10 tip series just for fun, it was all free. And then they started teaching an indie film class, which is what the book was based on for about three or four years. So I kind of had some fun there I still did a movie in the midst of the recession. Probably one of the only people I think 2010 New Orleans SIOP, which was great fun a children's movie, and that budget was around 5 million so that was a little bit bigger and some really wonderful people that I worked with on that as well

Alex Ferrari 12:10
Now in 2010 you had a budget of 5 million

Suzanne Lyons 12:14
I know Isn't that crazy? That's nice It's crazy, but it was with the WWE and there they were really wanting to shoot all their movies in New Orleans at that point. And their budgets were all pretty similar three to five across the board and

Alex Ferrari 12:32
Oh yeah that's the WWE yeah like the the marine and

Suzanne Lyons 12:36
Yeah, the wrestler yeah the wrestlers Yeah, sure. Sure it's right in our brass. We had it Yeah, we had Triple H was ours. Okay. The dad and Ariel wind bus

Alex Ferrari 12:44
Right on the market. He's, yeah, I saw the trailer. I saw the trailer that is Yeah,

Suzanne Lyons 12:50
It's totally cute. We had a very great director and great writer it was it was a really really adorable movie Ariel Winter from modern family. She was a little girl at the time. Oh, my God, she was 12 I think so that was great fun. So I did that in the midst of just kind of taking time to like I said, Do these video you know blogs and, and write my book for focal press and, and that sort of thing. So just kind of regrouped and had some fun and then decided, you know what was next and then what I did after that was started working on another project that shot two years ago with Susan Sarandon and Donald Sutherland and Topher Grace and some wonderful, incredible people. And then right after that, I got a call from our visit has gone into pitch to them a few around that time, actually 2013 I believe I went into pitch. And about a year later, last May I got a call saying would I come in and kind of do their first genre film for them. So they chose one of the ones that I had already had by Laura Brennan phenomenal writer. So I went in in my line producer on a bunch of my other movies join me as a producer this time and we went in and did that last fall, which was so much fun. It's called most likely to die. Of course, my God. We kill people in such great ways. You've just got to when it comes out, you have to see it. It's so much fun. As long as you don't get too scared, I barely could watch it during the screening here and I knew it was gonna happen and I was scared. Close my eyes right. And then I just finished a movie with Mark Rossmann. I've been worked on it work with Mark for years now on this project called time toys, and bought a group of boys who are 13 year old kids who find a chest of toys from the future so that we're in post right now literally meeting with sound designers next week. We have our composer we're doing spotting next week on that on the music and doing the visual effects at the moment. So our goal is to be have the movie complete by mid December. So we're yeah heavily into post at the moment. So

Alex Ferrari 14:53
You're so you're a busy lady.

Suzanne Lyons 14:55
Yeah, that was my 12th just finished my 12th film. Yeah. In that time since yeah 2002 so it was it's been it's been fun so now I'm kind of just taking a little bit of a break now that I'm in post and seeing what's next you know I just am looking at what's the next direction you know is it doing more of the of these that are kind of under a million to say modified the StG ultra lows having some fun with that still? Or is it going back to more of the of the bigger budgets you know, I mean, there's in fact one of my friends you know, who's on partnering with me on a project is at a meeting today with investors in Northern California and that's a $15 million budget because it's based it's based in World War One so

Alex Ferrari 15:41
A while but I'm assuming there's some stars involved with that

Suzanne Lyons 15:44
Yeah, yeah that will be that will be bigger Yeah, they're out there already. We'll see how that pans out right now it's we're trying to do this independently of the studios Okay, so yeah, and the gap because I mean, we were apart I mean, the studios were interested but it meant a tremendous amount of changes and we're trying to see if we can stay with the storyline given what couple of stars would like to stay with the storyline so we'll see you know, if not, then we can always go back to the studio, but I'd like to see if we can have some fun with this but I'm not in any great hurry. Like I said, I've got I've got the fall committed to to post on time toys and, and yeah, so that's, that's where I'm at right now. I'm not I'm really kind of almost taking a little bit of a break. Well, thank you. I'm not reading scripts or anything at the moment. I'm just focusing on one thing, we're just nice virgin.

Alex Ferrari 16:34
Thank you for taking the time out to do the podcast. I appreciate it. Welcome. You're welcome. And I go back a long way we have we have Yes, absolutely. So let me ask you, can you explain to the audience the two hats that a producer must wear when working on a film?

Suzanne Lyons 16:49
Yeah, it's great. You mentioned that that's actually the chapter I think that's first chapter of my book, okay. Because I think the problem I think, why Kate and I kind of started fairly successfully versus some other people who were you know, who we knew at that time. A lot of people that we knew at that time is because we both come from business because we were a little older and she was a stockbroker. You know, her background was was that and mine was a VP you know, so I wouldn't conferences in business and taking programs in business my whole life I even taught business in Philadelphia if you can imagine to small businesses there. So my background was so business oriented as was hers even though she was a brilliant writer and she had won the Chesterfield fellow I mean, the biggest you know, Spielberg competition ever and, um, you know, it's not that we weren't creative, but we really knew early on that you couldn't just be creative. Yes, you had to have a great script. Yes, you had to develop it. Yes, you had to wear that creative hat. And that was critically and crucially important, but at the same time you know, you had to wear the business hat I would say equally it's called show business. And the word business is even you know, double the number of

Alex Ferrari 18:01
Letters of show

Suzanne Lyons 18:05
Ever saved to Kate that must mean something you know, so we really paid attention you know, when it came time to opening our LLC we did that properly. You know, I read ppm like crazy operating agreements. I learned I took courses legal courses at UCLA on entertainment law, from Mark lick whack just to make sure I could read contracts even though we had an attorney on the first film, I wanted to know what everything meant. I literally typed my own ppm 26 pages and my own operating agreement 26 pages were 27 pages because not because I couldn't copy you know somebody else's template or whatever print out a template. I wanted to force myself to know every word honestly. And then even after I typed it and printed it, I read it again and I probably read it 20 times since and I put those you know, I mean, I those were part of my class that I used to teach on indie film producing you know, I just think all of that paperwork is so important the minute that you start talking deal with somebody write something up, do up deal memos, I would see so many people when I started teaching the classes, you know who whose movies fell apart because there was no option agreement done. There was no deal memos are also saying that person's my friend, or that's my sister, I'm not going to do an option agreement with my friend or my sister. I don't care if it's your mother, you know, you do an option agreement. You know, so I really knew early on that the legal elements were critically important and the business aspect was very important. We did a presentation a sales presentation, I couldn't even find a template for a good sales presentation. They were so fly by night I even went to other people's sales presentations, and was almost embarrassed by them to tell you the truth. And I said to Kate, you know, we've got to do this properly. So I created a phenomenal template for a sales presentation. extremely successful. I have to admit, we probably raised the money for those film's in record time compared to well oh my god i mean compared to other people I know people talked about there's you know the same budgets as ours back then the 200,000 and I remember years later meeting up with those people and they were still talking about it and not taking the proper action so I think we just went about things in such a professional way that once investors I think they when we were on the phone or in person with investors or at a presentation I think they just saw that we were people that they could trust with their money you know, we were serious we were business women you know, we were going to take this very very seriously and do everything we could to try to get them their money back as well as make a creatively good movie and have some fun doing so you know, if that's what's the point, that's exactly when we were also very open that's the other thing because anytime I did up an operating agreement or a ppm or a business plan of any sort and when I was in sales presentation of any sort, I always stood in graciousness and generosity and abundance because what happens in this industry even a couple of my early mentors, I remember listening to and thinking this is not okay, they kind of stand in scarcity and lack of abundance and it's kind of me against them and there's not enoughness you know sort of thing going on and I think that a scarcity mentality is what's going to kind of kill you and you're not going to be an opening to great possibility so when I would be with investors and you know one of my investors for example was saying one time you know, I'd love to put a you know, buy I'm thinking of buying a share on your movie Suzanne and but you know, I just wanted to see if it would be okay you know, a couple of my sons are are musicians and they'd love to write a song for the end roll credit and of course I said yes right away but I was an opening for that conversation if I had been one of those people where you know, like shutting people down like so many times you see happening he wouldn't have even asked me that question he ended up buying three units three shares in the movie because he was so excited and he and his wife came out to the set you know, and another guy you know, bought six units because I offered the possibility of being an executive producer. You know, I said, if you buy six or more units, you can have an executive producer credit on not just on the front roll on a single card, but also on the building block on the posters and DVDs and so on

Alex Ferrari 22:27
Is your question. What is I don't mean to cut you off, what is a block or unit is using,

Suzanne Lyons 22:34
Like a share? Like let's example if I'm selling 35 shares on a movie that some Oh, here's another y'all I'll just answer that. And I'll go back a little bit to because a lot of times just going back to the business hat versus a creative people would say, Oh, well I had my line producer make up the budget, you know, when the budgets 165,000 so I'm going to raise 165,000 But what they don't realize is on top of that you need operating expenses because what's not in that budget are going to be things like you know, your attorney, your photocopies your sales presentation getting the room you know, the table read room, like a lot of those kinds of things. So you need to set aside a little money for that your taxes you know, your $800 that go to the state your accountant for that first year afterwards, because no money is going to be coming in yet. You know, so all that also delivery, nobody ever thinks of delivery, which is around $25,000 I know that alone is $5,000. So you know, and then finder's fee, you know, you know, back then it was called finder's fee now to be probably associate producer fee for those people that are part of your team. They're also introducing you to investors, where you're going to be giving them you know, a percentage. So that was set aside. So my instead of the $200,000 budget, my I raised 262,500. And what I realized when I did the math and I kind of worked the numbers around the math because I was at the time doing accredited and non accredited investors, you know, people that make a lot of money, obviously 200,000 or more. And then my next door neighbor who was a teacher, you know, I wanted to go to both. So my units were only 7500 or shares, you know, as you would call them. So I had 35 of those. So I did the math to get an even number and it came to 262,500. So that's what we raised $200,000 was the budget and then of course you had your delivery which came much later. And you know the operating costs was paid for it. Like I said your taxes for next year and things like that. And, and then and then any kind of finder's fee or today would be called associate producers fee for people on your team that are introducing you to investors and you're getting to know those investors and so on and I made everybody active by the way. Everybody was active people always worry about passive and active investors. I made a point of putting everybody to work, not just my finders, but my investors. I mean, one woman called from Denver, Colorado. An investor is and she said, You know what, what do I do now I've sent my check in. And I said, Oh, I said, Well, how are you at ironing? She said, I'm okay, I'm a mum. And I said, good. I said, Well you come on out to the set and I'm going to just put you in with the costume designer and you're going to have a ball. And she did and she iron for two solid weeks.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
And she was just it's just like I'm in the movie business a ball and

Suzanne Lyons 25:25
Her daughter came out and her daughter was in the movie her daughter was in all three all the all those movies, we killed her daughter multiple times just changed her hair color and threw back on set again. And, and the same thing with one of my other investors, a great guy who owns a lot of businesses here in Burbank, and he and his son are in every scene, we just would change their their look and throw the back in and kill them again. So, I mean, we had, you know, people really had fun, our investors had a great time they came, they flew in from New York, from Seattle from Denver. I mean, they really had some fun and and like I said, I put them all to work, you know? So that's kind of how I did my, my presentation is standing in abundance, what do what harm does it do to if you bought three units, you'd get an executive producer credit on a shared car, you know, I mean, that when the six unit thing got a lot of people excited, because a lot of those people this one millionaire from Philadelphia, he wanted to start his own film company, but he had no credit. So this kind of got him involved, got him, you know, entered, you know, educated a little bit, got him a credit on a movie, you know, got him on the billing block on the poster. So he was unable to then promote that when he was then going out to do his his first film. So it was a win win for everybody. And it's sad that people don't think like that, you know?

Alex Ferrari 26:43
Yeah, they're always just trying to think about themselves or like scarcity, as opposed to abundance. I see what you're saying. Yeah, exactly. So what do you what do you look for when you're hiring a director? I know that's a thing. A lot of directors like to, to know, myself included?

Suzanne Lyons 26:56
Yeah. And yeah, um, I and I made some mistakes along the way. And, you know, just so you know, I think what I'm always trying to tell people is that, first of all, I'd like to, I want to always see the vision, you know, when Kate Knight would interview a directors, for one of just one particular project, I remember, it was fascinating to hear the vision, you know, how far off of you know, we thought they were from the script, you know, I mean, how completely far off and sometimes how amazing was their idea is how it added to the script and enhanced the script like crazy, which is what you really want, that's what a director is all about, is how are they going to enhance it? So to me, it's like, you know, what is that vision and I think, as the director coming to that meeting, is really kind of get a sense of, you know, a really clear sense of that vision, you know, before coming to that first meeting and, and seeing if you're kind of on par with what you think, you know, the producers are looking for, and that sort of thing. And also be honest about where you're at, in one place, we had a director who had come from television, great television director, and it not not in the US and different country and, and he was very well known for that, and very good. But what he didn't tell us was he hadn't, I knew he hadn't done a feature yet, but we didn't know his level of insecurity. And I don't even know if he knew so maybe he wasn't going to be honest with us because maybe he didn't know the level of his insecurity. But even if he knew a little bit I wish he had shared that with us because I find you can deal with anybody as long as you know their weakness because then you can all work together on the strengths so what happened during that movie is that he screamed and yelled at people on a daily basis for weeks. Really hard on the crew really hard on the cast to go through that abuse and obnoxious behavior for that long and unnecessary at all of our ages all necessary at any age. You know, it's not even elementary school Is it okay? And where you might see some of it on a playground there. But this is not the playground you know, that you get to play in at that age. This is a playground where people want to be empowered and inspired to be their best be creative, and it shuts people down you know when they're being abused. So you know if he even if he had said Listen, I'm nervous girls, you know, I'm nervous about going into this. I'm brilliant at television. I think I can be brilliant at this but I need the team I want the support you know I want my support of everybody if on the first day if he said listen guys I need everybody's support. You know I've worked with directors since who have said that who literally said I want your support. I don't know if somebody has a better idea please let me know because here's the way I see it and here's my vision, but I'm open you know, I'm cuz it's my first time doing this or my first time that you know or even you know, like, I was I was teaching a class the other day where they were doing a q&a to a writing class. And that readers were asking the same thing as you know, and I saying, Listen, if you're an asshole, there's nothing wrong with it, just tell the person up front, because we can all assholes that at some, it's some degree, right? We've all got those insecurities and fears, God knows. But if we tell each other, if we kind of tell one on ourselves and say here, you know, here's an area that I know that I'm working on right now, because it's a weak area, and I'm strengthening that so I can be the best person I can be. I'm a great writer, or I'm a great director. But you know what, when it comes to certain skills with people, I'm not as great I'm great with actors, but sometimes with crew, I'm a little bit short with crew and Suzanne, I'm working on that right now. Because I'm not gonna let that happen on this movie. And if you catch me, being an asshole, call me on it.

Alex Ferrari 30:49
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. Now back to the show.

Suzanne Lyons 31:00
You know, I mean, that's we have to support each other in bring up those strengths, as opposed to hiding them because when you hide them, then those insecurities rear their ugly heads when you're on set. So sometimes we don't know until it's too late. And until we've signed those contracts or whatever, and then you have to live with that. So my thing would be I say is just be honest with people, you know, do your best work treat people like gold on set as directors. I mean, most of the directors I've worked with, like I said, have been fantastic. I would say 95% of the my relationships with those directors and their relationships with cast and crew have been amazing and empowering and inspiring. So I mean, I just went to see Sean McNamara's movie last night I went to the opening of the Burbank Film Festival, which was so great and he's and I was chatting with all the cast and crew afterwards and and they were just saying what an honor it was to work with him because he just was so treats people so great that they just want to be their best every time they come to work. And like I said, I just finished the movie with Mark Rossmann. And the same thing. You know, where people were saying the same thing and I watched it before my eyes, you know, where they were just being their best because he was kind of setting that stage for people to you know, to to be empowered. So

Alex Ferrari 32:16
Let's just say, life's just too short to deal with.

Suzanne Lyons 32:24
And the older I get the more impatient I am with people about that. Really, I'm like, Listen, let's just all be honest with each other. We've all got our flaws, let's use and, you know, take each other's advice on strengthening those areas. And let's just do the best we can do and make the best movie ever.

Alex Ferrari 32:41
Too short. Do you know the comedian of Wanda Sykes?

Suzanne Lyons 32:44

Alex Ferrari 32:45
You never heard of Wanda Sykes?

Suzanne Lyons 32:46
No, I think I've proved that I haven't seen

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Okay, so Wanda has this great bit that she tells about it she's like I can't I'm not gonna curse but she's basically says as you get older you just don't give enough you just Yeah. Like things that you really cared about a 20 you could care less about 40 things you cared about a 40 you could really care less about a 60 and so on. That's why older people that just don't just they do the crazy the walk on public and underwear like I don't care Yeah, I'm 85 I don't care i'm getting really good at all to me um look I'm in my early 40s and I'm in that I'm in that I'm like oh my god the stuff that I will put up with it when I was in my 30s in my like I couldn't I couldn't even look at now so yeah,

Suzanne Lyons 33:31
Exactly it's so true and it's all about empowering each other so absolutely your best in this industry you know it's not about belittling each other but

Alex Ferrari 33:39
You're but you're a rare producer in the film business I have to say because I've been I've been in this game for 20 years and I've worked with a lot of producers a lot of filmmakers as a general statement but as a producer just the way you speak about the process is so unique Believe it or not that I'm I'm in I'm in power just listening to you about it. No seriously like most most producers don't think the way you do so that's a it's really refreshing so so let me ask you another question. What is uh what what are some things that turn you off when you're reading a screenplay? I know that could be a whole podcast by itself

Suzanne Lyons 34:19
Yeah but just well one of the I it's funny I just two Fridays ago I was doing a q&a you know with a writing group so with screenwriting you hell brought me in to do a q&a and the asset question and the I think couple things that came right to my mind for me was to to kind of be the same thing with with producing and directing and makeup artists and anything is no your trade. Yes, a lot of people think they're great writers. But they don't know the trade. You know, I got a script recently that was 170 pages. I

Alex Ferrari 34:56
Could have. It didn't have Quinn Tarantino's name on it. If it did.

Suzanne Lyons 35:02
So I called the writer he was in New Jersey. And and he said, and he said, I know is not great, you know, we like he was very proud of himself. I said, Have you even read another screenplay? Did you? You know, go online and find some or buy some, you know, did you? Did you take a class in it? I mean, did you do anything other than just, you know, write this? And he said, No, no, no, no, because I had my own ideas and my own vision for how I wanted it to look and I said, Are you sending me the 5 million to make this movie is there you know, is there something that goes with his insanity? And he said, Oh, no, of course not. I'd like you to you know, develop and then raise the money and call me back in a couple years, you know, go and take some classes and I recommended books and classes and but I'm not. I don't I shouldn't be the one recommending that. It would be equal to me telling you Alex that I bought a new set of knives. They're not great. Okay. One of them. You know, they're not that sharp got my heart surgeon. And Alex, if you don't mind, okay, I let you know, since we know each other and hopefully you trust me a little bit, then it's not that sharp, like I said, but I'd like to practice on you if that's okay. I haven't done any training as a heart surgeon. It's something I'd like seen

Alex Ferrari 36:17
On TV.

Suzanne Lyons 36:20
I did I want so you can feel confident in that, that I watch I did watch one episode of VR where they were doing a heart thing, just one episode though, just a piece of one episode, right? Like this guy hadn't even read another script, right? That's what I mean, as I'm talking. Wow, Suzanne, you're insane. But yeah, that's what I get all the time. It's like, Well, no, no, you know, and then sometimes they'll come with the breads that are those little skinny breads where they fall out the minute you open the screenplay, I'm thinking if you don't care enough about your profession, that would be like me handing out packets at my sales presentation to investors sitting there, you know, with messy, you know, crooked, you know, labels on it, or, you know, in typing mistakes, or, or that sort of thing. I mean, it would be equivalent to all of that, not to mention what I see in scripts, sometimes with the typing mistakes, and all kinds of spelling mistakes. And I'll say to the person I found, you know, about five or six spelling mistakes in the first five pages, it's Oh, yeah, they said, I know I said, but I hope you overlook that. Because I really want you to know the story and thinking, but I kept being taken out of the story, because I kept having to correct your spelling. So you know, it's like, How can I be present in the story, when you don't even care about my hour and a half of time that I'm going to take her two hours to read this. So I couldn't even be present. I give it 10 pages at the most and if I find those kinds of problems, I stop, because it's like, if somebody doesn't even respect their track their their craft enough, then you know, and my time enough, then why continue? So those things sound like they would be so simple, but yet I have to tell you, it's I would say probably 80% of the screenplays I get are like that,

Alex Ferrari 38:02
Because most, most most people want to just want the they want to be on entourage, they want that lifestyle, but they don't want to put the work in and don't want to learn a craft. Yeah, and I think a lot of that has to do with just people not not wanting to do the hard work, which Yeah, this is a really hard job. I mean, we're not digging ditches, but it is it is a hard, you know, a hard gig to to make a movie.

Suzanne Lyons 38:26
It is and I think with writers too, is they don't see it as, as a collaborative process. You know, I mean, if you're gonna send me a script and be prepared to have notes, because I'm somebody who's on the other side of the table, I'm in there talking to studios and agents and, and people, you know, in sales agents and buyers around the world, I go to markets, I mean, I kind of know what's what's needed. And so if you're not open to the notes, or anybody's notes, then they should be writing poetry or novels or plays, right, you know, don't be writing screenplays, which end up becoming something that you know are probably it's probably going to be 20 rewrites later it's, you know, gonna be good enough to send out to the investor You know,

Alex Ferrari 39:10
There's very few screenplays or screenwriters have who have that kind of power to maintain that screenplay. As is I remember I just read the Unforgiven. That was one of the only screenplays that clints ever not touched. Like it just literally did. It did it like verbatim not one thing was changed in the script. So it's one of those words, can you imagine but you know, a heck of a good screenplay to say the least.

Suzanne Lyons 39:35
Yeah, yeah, exactly. But you're right I mean, a lot of times even those really really good ones that you think that's the way it started out probably went through what somebody was telling me I think how at the meeting at screenwriting you a couple weeks ago, somebody mentioned something like 62 rewrites or something, some famous movie that we've all seen, but I guess by the time it got there, it had gone through that because, you know, things change over the years too, and And you know so who knows but I mean if they're not open if people aren't open to that and aren't open to that kind of criticism and then sometimes people will send me scripts and I'm going What did your coverage person think? Have you already done the rewrite based on your coverage person? And they would say what's covered

Alex Ferrari 40:16
And seen.

Suzanne Lyons 40:18
And they said well we were hoping that you would give me I said I'm not a reader I'm not a coverage person are you paying me? Are you paying the last person you come to write? Exactly if you

Alex Ferrari 40:27
Are you're going to hear a funny story I actually at school I had a professor of mine who was the associate producer on pretty woman. He knew Gary he worked on happy days with Gary Marshall so that's how I got on pretty woman and he told us the story of the script which I don't know if you know the the lore behind the the Pretty Woman script as we all know the movie just you know, monster hit a classic now. But when it was first written, the screenwriter called the script is called 3000 bucks. Wow. And at the end of the movie, Richard threw the Julia Roberts out of the car. Yeah, and literally tossed the 3000 bucks in her face and drove off that was ending I did hear that part. Yeah, that was the ending and the guy when Gary came in and rewrote it all the screenwriter was like this is horrible I can't believe this is not my vision blah blah blah. After it made $200 million at the box office he's like that's all my idea and he got ugly and he got a four picture deal out of it so it was just oh my god but that's that's the way the business

Suzanne Lyons 41:32
Rolls exactly look it goes Same thing with ghost

Alex Ferrari 41:35
I mean, I don't know that ghost lately. I didn't know the story what's the ghost that was that was a

Suzanne Lyons 41:39
Very very very very dark movie. And then I don't know who was the director of the studio or where his

Alex Ferrari 41:44
Injuries the airplane guy the airplane had airplanes and they could go Yeah, Jerry's are suckers

Suzanne Lyons 41:50
And that's when they mentioned the whole twist on it about bringing the Whoopi Goldberg kind of character and creating that whole comedic thing and lightening that whole element up and and just more user friendly you know, because it was not that supposedly to begin with not even close from what I understand but I don't know the whole story but I mean and look at now i mean that ended up being one of the most amazing you know, movies I think I've seen it probably five times just like pretty woman five more exactly where yo if you had mentioned that I probably wouldn't have seen it even probably once the first time you know it was given what you said

Alex Ferrari 42:23
Is that of course that so often what so what is the proper way writers or filmmakers should submit the work to a producer because I know that's a big kind of mystery

Suzanne Lyons 42:32
Yeah that's well that's the other thing too and that's what I The thing that I was going to mention is you would not believe on a weekly basis or sometimes daily how many emails I get I don't know the person from Adam I swear to god why not? Sometimes it doesn't even have it'll say Dear Sir or Madam or EULA most the time dear sir I'm thinking what century is that person from right right first of all dear sir sometimes Dear Sir or Madam but there are maybe you know maybe you know miss you know, you know, you know snowfall films, but sometimes my maybe my name, but once again, even if it's you know, dear Suzanne or Hi, Suzanne, I've got this great screenplay. I, I don't know who they are. I don't know anything about them. There's been no relationship base whatsoever. And secondly, a lot of times they might have gone on my website and saw that maybe, or say maybe on I don't know, whatever site and saw that. I may be shooting a horror film. Let's say it was last October, November, when I was doing the horror film from our VISTA. I was getting a bombardment of horror films. Well, by that point, by the time I was finished shooting, I was done killing people for a while, you know, I wanted to move into something fun, I only kept saying to people was you know, give me a family film or a romantic comedy. That's all I want to read right now. is, you know, family faith, or, or, or romantic comedy. And but yet everybody was enough. But if somebody had taken the two friggin seconds to call or email and say, What are you looking for? Now? I hear you're doing a whore. I happen to have some horror, but you may be thinking you may be tired of that. What are you looking for? Because I'm assuming genres? Or is there any, you know, I mean, just I don't know, just something or create some foundation of relationship. I mean, at one point when I was teaching the flashforward workshops, I used to get some or any workshops I used to do speaking engagements, hundreds of speaking engagements, all over. I mean, there's I don't think there's any place I haven't done a speaking engagement in these last 20 years. And on the break, people would say, oh, Sam, I you know, you mentioned you were producer, I'm an actor. Here's my headshot. Oh, Suzanne, you mentioned your produce. I'm a composer. Here's my reel. Okay, I'm a I'm a DJ, here's my, and I'm thinking, well, Who the hell are you, right? Christ and then tidy, but sorry,

Alex Ferrari 44:54
It's about relationships. It's a bit about building a relationship with at least the connection of some sorts.

Suzanne Lyons 45:00
Have some sort of first order of business I used to teach business in Philadelphia and the very first thing they said if your business I promise you will fail if number one is relationship first you know then there was possibility opportunity and the fourth thing the last thing was action. The first was relationship the last is action, but people would reverse it into action first and finally it got to the point where it made me so insanely crazy that I said to Heidi at one point my business partner and flash forward Institute I said Heidi, I can't take it anymore we have to create a program called the relationship seminar because people have to get the distinction relationship or they're going to continue to fail and I can't be part of it anymore can't watch it it just breaks my heart not to mention make me crazy so on the plane to New York as we were going up to teach a class up there we designed this program six week program called the relationship seminar and here's what it was in a very simple simple way I'll tell you what it was I'm done winning oh god probably 15 years anyways I should because it was so damn much fun Yeah, or more than 15 years but and even now more than ever oh my god I honestly I people literally because how I think did it when I was in when he was asking me questions last week in that class and he said oh my god, Susanna, it was so much fun. It was a huge class and you know what it was was six weeks long. The homework was to have a party every week for six weeks. I didn't care if the party was with three people at Starbucks or 300 people in your backyard I didn't care but it had to be a party. And for six weeks you are not allowed to talk about your career are not allowed to pitch yourself or your projects unless somebody asked you if somebody said you know what do you do Alex and you could say well you know, I'm a director and so but you were not allowed Alex to for six weeks not allowed to tell anybody else you did not allowed to talk about your resume not allowed to Pitch Anything like that. And it people were just freaking out I remember out crying with 160 people in the class 162 I'll never forget it do huge seminar and people were like oh my god screaming at Heidi and I and Jordan saying we can't do that and you know we've moved out here from Idaho to you know, to start my acting career and what are you saying and screaming and you've been nobody walked out because I said there's the door guys right? One person left and I said okay, is that a promise that I made everybody signed a contract. And and and I said but you know, have a party and those of us that have parties of things that you love to do, because out there in the business world when the guys are getting together on Sunday morning to go golfing they're not talking about their business right away. They're talking about golfing. They're talking about the football game that's played yesterday they're talking about their kids, their wives the food that they ate like the dinners that you know I said you know you've forgotten who you are for the love of God you forgotten out of conversations you forgotten talk to talk about your hobbies and your loves and your passions in life outside this industry. That's what creating relationships all about. That's what outside the city in Hollywood, outside our little you know, borders, people talk about their lives. We don't do that in here we are god damn resumes.

Alex Ferrari 48:12
That's what my wife says. She's like, I can't go to a party with you anymore. Because every everybody's like, what do you do? Here's my next project, blah, blah, blah. She's like, I can't stand it.

Suzanne Lyons 48:20
Yeah, Isn't it crazy? no place else, no place else in the world. No other industry in the world? Does that people create relationships first, and then they take actions? Well, honest to God. So let's say for example, you loved whitewater rafting, and you knew that I liked whitewater rafting. And you knew Alex that I knew that studio exact that was looking for a director who you wanted to work with. Right? So you're saying that you know that she likes whitewater rafting too. So we all go so you invite us all to go. And the reason I'm saying Yeah, and you say Suzanne, please invite your friend and I'm okay with inviting my friend because I know that you're not allowed to hit her up for any directing gigs, right? Because you're not allowed to talk about directing. Right? Unless she asked you so we all get together and then we go have fun whitewater rafting, or we you know, for In my case, I'm a rah, rah cooking kind of chef right?

Alex Ferrari 49:11
I'm actually vegan. So that's a really interesting,

Suzanne Lyons 49:13
I mean, I've taken lots of programs and you know, classes on on Raw cooking. So you know, I would have like minded people can I be able to say to my actor friend who knows that investor that I've been wanting to meet, you know, bring them along. I know he's vegan, too. And I know that he's looking at raw and I know you're raw vegan. So let's get together and I'm gonna you know, we'll do three or four different recipes together, and it will be a fun Sunday afternoon. And I'm not she doesn't have to worry that I'm going to hit up her friend, you know, on a project because we're going to talk about bacon and Ravi and food, period. That's it, and just have fun, and just have some fun. Then if something happens, here's what's interesting, Alex at the end of the first two weeks, I mean, I'd been leading flash forward at that point for probably eight years, right. And that was a week a month long course where you set a goal and you had a full team where you Know that helps you accomplish that goal and get that agent or get that job or whatever, right? In two weeks of this one new course, we had more people get jobs, I think then all the eight years of flash forward combined, it was frightening. I mean, and nobody was allowed to share themselves. This one guy said he was going to New York, on the airplane, sat beside the guy. They talked all the way there five hours, six hours, talked and talked to talk. He said, I hit it up with his man. He said, we just had the most great fun time, then we watch a movie, then we chatted more, can just chat about life and everything. And he said, then we were starting to land. And the man said, oh, by the way, can what do you do back in LA? And he said, Oh, he said, Well, I'm a writer. Oh, he said, Really? He's the one my producer, what are you writing? But the guy asked him, and he's he's allowed to say it, right? But for five hours, they had already shared about life and

Alex Ferrari 50:54
Build a relationship.

Suzanne Lyons 50:57
Relationship. Exactly. So if we could, if nothing happens, but people get this today from our talk, yeah, you know, I think that in itself is a miracle. And that in itself is gold. You know. I mean, it's just a way to live life, then you'll get more jobs, sell more scripts, get more directing gigs, get more dp gigs, more of that than anything else combined.

Alex Ferrari 51:23
I hope you guys enjoyed that amazing interview with Suzanne, if you like this interview, part two has even more amazing information on it. She is generally a wealth of information. And I loved reading her book indie film producing the craft of low budget filmmaking, I'm gonna put a link in the show notes, as well as other links to her personal site and other things like that to get a hold of her. So don't forget to head over to filmfestivaltips.com. That's filmfestivaltips.com so I can show you my six secrets to how to get into film festivals for cheap or free. Got into over 500 international film festivals. And I give you all the goods on how I got in. So thank you so much, guys, for listening. Thank you so much for all the love on iTunes, and all the downloads and all the shares the podcast, and the website is growing substantially very, very quickly. And I'm very grateful and humbled by that so you keep listening. And I'll keep creating some great content for you guys. So don't forget to come back for part two, which will be released in the next day. Thank you so much, guys, and talk to you soon.




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IFH 009: Suki Medencevic ASC & the Art of Cinematography

I have found over the years that cinematography is one of the biggest technical issues in independent film. Someone borrows a friend’s RED Camera or Arri Alexa and thinks that’s all you need. Cinematography is not only a mystical art but imperative in today’s gluttony of indie films in the marketplace.

Just because you own or have access to a RED Camera or Arri Alexa does not make you a cinematographer. Many first time directors get fooled by this time and time again.

Good cinematography can really make your independent film project rise out of the gluttony of poorly produced indie films. Today on the show I interviewed Suki Medencevic ASC (American Society of Cinematographers).

super 16mm film, Kodak, 16mm film, 16 mm film, 35mm film, 35 mm film, filmmaking, film school, filmmaker, indie film, ARRI SR2 ARRI SR3, Bolex, Eclair film camera, film camera

Cinematography over Espresso

I’ve known Suki Medencevic for many years and I loved talking shop with him over an espresso at Starbucks on the Westside of Los Angeles. I wanted to bring that experience to the Indie Film Hustle Tribe.

He’s a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cinematography, lights, cameras, lenses, and so on. He also is shooting on film, yes 35mm film on the hit FX Show America Horror Story: Hotel.

He works alongside the show’s lead cinematographer Michael Goi, ASC, a legend in the business. He also has a new Walt Disney film “Invisible Sister” coming out Oct 9th, 2015. He’s a busy guy! Prepare to be enlightened in the art of cinematography.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:02
Guys so this this week, we have an amazing guest. He's a longtime friend of mine, Suki. Now please forgive me Suki Suki Medencevic. Suki is an ASC cinematographer. If you don't know what an ASE cinematographer is, you will learn after the show what an AC villain photographer is. He's been a cinematographer for decades now. Not to make them feel old or anything but I've known him for over a decade as well. Suki is a really good friend of mine and I he teaches over at USC at New York Film Academy and a few other places as well. And I thought he'd be an amazing guest to talk about cinematography, the artists in photography, and also working on his new show American Horror Story. Now one thing he did not discuss, or we didn't get a chance to discuss, or I forgot to ask for him to tell this amazing story that he had with Steve Jobs. I always call Suki, the most interesting man in the world. He is a very worldly, he shot all over the world. His stories are legendary, to say the least. And he has this one story with Steve Jobs. He was shooting a documentary for Pixar and Steve Jobs. He was going to shoot an interview with Steve Jobs. The late great Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs came in and started being Steve Jobs. You know, he's like, Hey, you know, I want to move this here. I want to move this there that and Suki coming from Bosnia. I guess the more European vibe of of who is Suki. He just didn't care who Steve Jobs was. And he just like, no, this is how we're going to shoot it. And this is why this is we're going to move this here. We're going to put the lights here and we're going to put the camera here and Steve, Steve from what Suki Tommy Steve basically just looked at him and he goes explained to me why are you doing it? And Suki explained to him the purposes of why he was doing and he goes Okay, no problem. But when Suki said no to Steve Jobs, the entire crew, the director, everyone you could feel a pin drop. And he the director came up afterwards like what did you do? What did you say? And he goes Look, Mr. Jobs might know how to make iPhones but he doesn't know how to light a scene I do. He has no idea about lenses or cameras or anything like that. I do. That's my specialty. I'm not going to go into his place and tell them how to make an iPhone. So that is who you're dealing with here with Suki. And that's why I love him so much. He is very honest, very straightforward. And extremely funny guy. And he's just an amazing amazing not only a talent as a cinematographer, but a great person. So without further ado, here is the world famous Suki. Suki thank you so much for joining us on the on the indie film hustle podcast where we are grateful for you coming on to the show.

Suki Medencevic ASC 3:29
Well, I'm very happy to be part of the show.

Alex Ferrari 3:32
So for you guys who don't know Suki and I are good friends, we go way back. We met over oh god over. It's getting close to almost 1314 years ago now. Something like that. And we've been friends ever since even from my days in Florida. We always stayed in touch. And he always told me to move out to LA as soon as possible. And what was the thing you told me about moving out to LA?

Suki Medencevic ASC 3:55
Well, there's regret the regret of Well, no, the main thing was, I guess if you want to make it in Hollywood, you have to be in Hollywood, California, not in Hollywood, Florida. So that's the

And that the only thing I would regret not moving to LA is I didn't do it sooner. Right? And in many ways you were correct, sir, but I'm out here and I've been out here for a while now. So thank you for that. So let's get into it. Um, so Suki. One thing I you know, when we work together, I you told me about your film school experience, which was very unique film school experience as opposed to film school experiences here in America. Can you tell us a little bit about your school where you went to school and how is it different from American film school?

Well, the school I went I actually went to film schools. My very first film school was in Yugoslavia in Belgrade, which was a capital of Yugoslavia. And it's a school of Dramatic Arts that pretty much covers theater, film, television, and acting tool. So cinematography is one of the one of the just departments there. Unlike schools, United States or most schools in other states, that particular school basically has a program master program for every department that you actually major in right away. And you're studying for four years, your field and you're basically whatever you choose editing, cinematography, directing, that's what you get massively beautiful thing about the school is that's free. And like most of the schools in Europe, but the biggest challenge is to get in the school because the school is very limited, they take only five students a year per cow, per department. Yes, so that's kind of competition is huge. And it's like,

It's like fame.

It is, you know, because it's so you know, the, it's very expensive school, so therefore, they cannot have like 2030 students of cinematography and also the program is scheduled. And structured, the whole curriculum is structured in a way that graduates from the School can immediately get a job in industry or in production. So they will be not like unemployed cinematographers or directors, basically, there is a certain guarantee that you will be employed right after school. But one thing I did was kind of a little bit unusual. As I was already in a third year, in school in Belgrade, I went to Prague to visit a friend who at the time was at a very famous one of the most famous film schools in the world, pharmo, which was a National Film School in Czechoslovakia back then. And I came to visit my friend over at Prague film school. And I instantly fell in love in school with a city with all white with all energy, and basically decided to drop out from the Belgrade school, even though I had only one more year left to get my degree, go to Prague, start from the beginning, and basically repeat my school for another four years, four and a half years. And it was kind of crazy at the time, nobody believed that there was any logic in it. And to me, it was just kind of a gamble because I felt if I go to if I ever get accepted in that school, that school will get me far better preparation. And and really, you know, make me ready for for my career as a cinematographer, which proved to be true.

Now cannot Can you tell me that story? You told me this years ago? I don't know if you remember it or not? How they prepare you for? Like the kind of questions they asked on a test about the girl with a bra in the by the lake, like, how long do you have between the time she takes off the bra to shoot a scene? Yeah, yeah, explain that. Because I found that fascinating. When you told it to me years ago,

One of the questions that you will have in the written test if you're filming the girl, by the lake and in the morning, and how, how much earlier, she has to be ready for the scene to be shot properly. And of course, you have to think about all these details on the light composition. But also detail about the wardrobe because if she's very tight outfit, and if she's very bright, if she takes it off too soon, there will be there will be marks like Rama is of course, yeah, Brian marks and then of course it takes about please well in an hour for Brad marks to kind of fade out so you have a nice smooth skin that you can photograph. And these are kind of important things you have to, as a cinematographer, think about so it's not always about lighting and composition and movement, and it's much more much more kind of like comprehensive approach to cinematography.

Now, I know a lot of you're you're an ASC member. And I know a lot of people, especially in the indie film hustle community might not know what ASC stands for or what it is or how even you get in into this kind of exclusive club. Can you explain a little bit about that?

Well, ASC stands for American cinematographer society. And it's the organization founded in 1919 by a group at a time, Hollywood, cinematographers with a goal to preserve the artistry and integrity of cinematographers profession. So it's also support club that creates the community of highly respected professionals. Were in very friendly and relaxed environment. We can exchange all our ideas get advices complain about to get a drink, you know, things like that to be it's a fraternity almost it's kind of fraternity. It's kind of like place where you have like safe haven and and it's been also place which really nurtures nurtures artists of cinematography and keeps the level of our craft and our art to the highest standards. And based on American cinematographer society's structure, many other countries have formed the same organizations basically modeled of the American civil society. And, and I think it's a great way to keep keep cinematographers especially nowadays, when everything so global, keep us all together and keep exchange of ideas and information to the maximum. So how do you become there? Well, who become a member of American Cemetery for society, it's the organization that is by invitation only. So, you cannot apply for it that there is no application form, you have to be invited by at least three members, three active members of the ASC they have to invite you and then they have to write a letter of recommendation to the membership board, American cinematographer, society is very active in many aspects. They have education, board, science and technology board, which is one of the very, very important groups also has educational, reach out international dinners, you know, we have our dinners when we have movies and discussions and so there's a lot of a lot of sub committees within the American Astronomical Society. So one of the subcommittee's for the members, the group which is open and any member of American cinematography belongs to that group basically, everybody has a right to interview and ask questions any prospective candidate and find out if the candidate meets standards and requirements of the ASC not only based on on their work, but you know, you have to share certain certain values which are common among amongst cinematographers and and if the committee finds your suitable candidate The board has to approve but then it goes to all the members of the FCC to finally give agreement. If there is one. If there is one, basically you have to be alone unanimously accepted. If there is one objection, you will not be able to Wow, really? Yes. And that has to do with if you if you treat it down the line in your career at some point if you treated your crew members or somebody unfairly, unprofessionally, you never know when this can come back to you and haunt you, and maybe a very high price. So professional integrity is one of the highest values that Americans have our society holds. Very cool.

So I was always I always fascinated how you got in and what the process was. So thank you for sharing that. Now, when you're working with a director, what do you look for in in a director, indie filmmaker, or indie director or just regular director?

Well, either we'd really like it varies like I I'm looking always, with every director, I'm looking for a partner or somebody who can speak the same language, I do visually, cinematically, somebody who is passionate about what they do somebody who is who is able to challenge me and I will say probably the most successful collaborations I had came from directors who who would challenge me in like, in a way that as a cinematographer, I will have to come up with a with a with a solution to the ideas that director might have. And my job as a cinematographer is to facilitate this idea into facility division. And, but also I like to challenge director also if if I see the director sometime is going very safe, safe path in process of filmmaking. You know, playing it safe, it's never a good option never gets you anywhere. So you have to be able to find, find your own identity, find your own language, find your own way to to express yourself, but be slightly different. And that's when you look at all these great directors, why they are who they are, is because they have a recognizable style and that ever played it safe.

Very cool. Now when you're when you're choosing a camera for your project, what how do you choose a camera for your project? Is it budget is it look what's what are the factors?

Well, it's really interesting how things have changed. When it comes down to the position of cinematographer an older practice it used to be not long time ago that cinematographer is the one who decides what camera will be used. What this what of him stock, water lab, water processing, water finishing, basically cinematographers will completely in control of all visual and technology aspect of the filmmaking with arrival of digital technology and an arrival of the new category called owner operator basically, market gets flooded with people who were able to afford and purchase equipment, equipment cameras, they became much more affordable and much more accessible. So the choice of the tools for your for your work became something that sometimes would be already decided before cinematographer gets hired. And especially during the read craze, about 10 years ago when everybody was really trying to jump on a bandwagon and buy the most amazing digital camera that can provide you with 4k whatever resolution for is

25k now 25k

There is going to be no more k the better picture

Of course you don't even need a cinematographer revenue for

The character we have this new cameras which doesn't even need a light so

I've seen those cameras to actually quite incredible

Like today's cinematographer, you just press the button and make sure you have fresh battery but going back to the ask for how you chose your equipment I still decide I still on I was fortunate to most of my project to to insist that we use particular camera or particular lens or particular approach or process or post production workflow because it is part of what I do as a cinematographer so how the image is captured in many ways defines how the final look after the post production and color manipulation color correction we will how the image is going to look like so yes I always try to brings my expertise and my knowledge of course within the budget and and very often people specially production they think if you are asking for some higher end piece of equipment that's out of price range which is not true You will be surprised that sometimes much easier you will be able to afford something that is really high and it's something that everybody wants so the only advice I could give to any filmmaker is to think about the story think about what you really need and then take it from there I remember somebody recently some of my colleagues from from the SEC talk about shooting a film on Super 16 very very good budget this budget but decided to go super 16 for aesthetic reasons wow and and it made perfect sense to go super 16 because they want to get this kind of like old grainy kind of like the wrestler yeah like the wrestler for instance. This one is particularly talking it's called the paper boy

Yeah, I've heard of it. Oh yeah,

Yeah, yeah shot by Roberto shaper. So I mean, it should be your aesthetic, aesthetic creative choice and like currently I'm working on American Horror Story as additional tandem units cinematographer with amazing Michael going a see cinematographer who was Emmy nominated and also used to be president of the ANC So Michael goy created actually style for the film for this particular TV show is by shooting on film on 35 millimeter and and we are actually shooting on 35 millimeter film is already the the the TV series is already in its fifth season being shot on polyhedral cameras 35 millimeter quarter film, and

It was one of the few shows that is being shot on film right?

Yes, one of the few not wanting to shoot on 35 millimeter Kodak they shoot on black and white 35 they shoot on color reversal. 16 separate you name it. It's been all used on the Trump

Nice very nice. Yep. Now can you explain the difference between prime and zoom lenses for our audience?

Oh, well. The basic basic difference between prime and zoom lenses is that with a zoom lens you can change the viewing angle without taking lens of from from the camera buddy and zoom lenses well without going too much into history. zoom lens is really our tool of the television from the 50s and 60s when Israel's like Yeah, so the news reels when you need it to be able to get from same vantage point tight shots as well as wide wide shots and that's when really a lot of zooms for 16 millimeter cameras were developed. And then obviously technology unable to, to do the same thing for the motion picture. And as we all know back from 60s and 70s, every movie you see has to start from the zooming in or zooming out, like every piece of equipment that gets overused and becomes kind of like a cliche. So the zoom basically is just more flexible tool to get precise composition, precise framing. And prime lenses, as the name said, they're actually lenses which have set for collect. So if you actually do on 18 or 21 or 2527 32 by 40, or any focal length, you know that you shop will have specific perspective and specific viewing angle and therefore, you have to as a filmmaker, you have to understand right away in your mind before you even put a lens on a camera, what it means to put 21 millimeter or to put 14 millimeter or put the 10 millimeter lens what is the look what is the what's going to happen with the image. If you choose layers or another what's going to happen with the closer if you shoot it on 27 or if you shoot it on an 85 or maybe who showed it on 100 millimeter, what will be relation between your foreground elements and background elements. there's a there's a whole like aesthetic to each of these lenses and that's subject to whole different podcasts about aesthetics of wide or long lenses sure, but it's a known fact that many directors they have their own favorite lenses or something like for instance Roman Polanski did a movie called Rosemary's Baby pretty much with two lenses with 18 and I think 14 millimeter lens and everything's just that way in between

Now the there is some downfalls to using zoom lenses obviously you need more light depending on the scenario because you got more glass that light has to go through. So there is a kind of give and take and obviously primes give you just very different look but there is a little bit of a downside to zoom lens can you explain the data without negatives are

Basically you know basically a zoom lenses just by by its nature they have in order to accommodate a wide range of different viewing angles. The construction and design of an optical elements is much more complex than design of the prime lenses so therefore there is a certain inherent light loss that if there is something you can do about it because light travels through 20 something pieces of glass and only when it leaves the lens and goes to your sensor it might lose half or more of its initial amount of elimination so you just have to that's that's kind of trade off and also because of the large amount of glass that everyone minds has it's very easy to introduce certain mistakes that no matter what lens will do something they don't want the storage room certain level of flaring or loss of contrast or the breathing you know there's a lot of elements elements that can affect affect the quality of of sudden and so, only the highest as most expensive zoom lenses the call can go easily up to $100,000 apiece are very much free of many of these typical mistakes you will have with his own so if I can suggest anything to to filmmakers, especially aspiring filmmakers I suggest to stick with prime lenses and and develop understanding what is basically aesthetic of 18 millimeter and what is that equal 50 millimeter lens and you will figure it out very soon that you do not need 50 lenses in your package that you can actually make very interesting projects with very few lenses as long as you understand how to properly use them

And there are options nowadays before to get a prime set of lenses used the cost you know 3040 50,000 or more to have a full prime set where now there are other options like the rokinon sets which are very affordable for under $2,000 you can get five prime lenses mind you they're not going to be the same quality as as ICER as a slicer or Canon or what the other one the other one besides size which is the other big guy I

Chose the other one oh Sumi Crohns summicron lights like like like Chrome yeah

Those guys so but but this is another affordable way for at least a learning tool and you can get some pretty images out of them and they're not they're not bad horrible lenses but I mean I want to set myself in the second I put it up against some Zeiss. I'm like, oh, or cooks cooks I was the other one or set of cooks. I'm like, oh well there's a difference. But it's a great learning tool. And for someone starting out it's I think a good way to experiment with with products. do great

Oh yes, yes, absolutely I agree and one one thing that you will have to always ask yourself okay, when you're doing a project are you doing it for the big screen of course you always have a vision when whenever you're shooting something well, you want to, you want to end on a big screen. So you have to set your standard as high as possible. Because if you're doing something small and you're just not caring too much about what's going to be the final outcome and you're doing something interesting something for the to be viewed on iPad or or iPhone or some other portable device. Well shooting with the full genomes or some high end, Leica whatever. Hey way overkill and you really don't need it. But if your project ends up being picked up and released, and somebody can see it on the big screen, everything looks great on iPad, and the moment you started the moment you started going past 26 inch mark all of a sudden, all the all the mistakes of the lenses are starting to be more and more obvious. So yes, you can get the decent image from rockin arms or some co wires or some other one interesting thing that happened lately is that a lot of cinematographers are discovering old lenses like oh, all the Bausch and Long's and some other old old lenses some bell towers. Now the bell towers Yeah, yes, but there's always was made like 50 years ago and the reason why these lenses are now kind of popular, you know, as well as the old panavision lenses which they just get to reintroduce is that through the history of technology that was basically trying to get as sharp as possible as contrast the as color accurate image, because of the analog nature of the film, lasers have to be really sharp really light contrast and get to get the performance to the absorb the highest specs. Because dealing with the film, which is analog medium, when the light hits. film grain, no matter how sharp your lens is there certain diffusion, certain loss of sharpness and contrast and quality that that is, you know, inevitable just by the nature of the film. But with the with the sensors with the digital sensors, you don't have that you have very specific precise photosite on your audio chip that is always going to be in the same place and always capture the photons which are coming through the lens. So all the sudden you have all these lenses, when you put them on the digital sensors, they become super sharp. But they're basically over compensated for what Sanders needs. So what we do now well, we have to put some filters, some you know, softening all types of subsidy filters to kind of take away this digital to digital electronic lock or, or you just

Fix it in post.

Order you know or just par by yourself if you're lucky on eBay, you can still find some you know old ball towels and have somebody who can who can actually retrofit it for you then you will be lucky and you will get you will get a true nice set of old lenses. That will work really well. So I mean, yes, I agree that you can get very decent results. But you know, obviously, with a cheaper lenses, you have less forgiveness, which might be actually a good way to train yourself because when you go with cheaper lenses, the moment you start going with a higher contrast we do get flaring in the lens, well you have to take care of it. There is no like high quality coating the globe eliminate any kind of flare that you might get by having highlighted picture so it's really I think it's always good way to start. Okay.

Very cool. Now, I know you get asked you t chat, which will do t chat right now.

USC Yeah, Medical School of Cinematic Arts.

Okay. And I know a lot of you have a lot of cinematography students as well. I know one of the questions they ask you all the time is how do you get started in cinema? Like how do you start a cinematography career? So what would be your advice?

Well, that was kind of question I asked. I asked myself when I came to the United States, back in early 90s. There are basically two ways how you how you break in business and how you start your career. The old Hollywood traditional way would be that you would somehow get a job in a camera department or in any department for that matter and somehow make your way to camera department as camera intern and maybe loader and then second assistant and first assistant maybe operator and then by the age you're about to retire you might get transferred to shoot the movie as a dp or not. It's kind of that's kind of how it is that's kind of how it was and nothing wrong with that. You know, by the time by the time you are actually dp. I mean, if you're really good, you can actually make this transition much quicker. But you had trends at least to observe other DPS or other professionals do their job and learn well and learn properly.

We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Alex Ferrari 30:24
But still doesn't mean doesn't mean that you might make the transition, you may end up being discouraged operator and never make transition. Another way of becoming cinematographer in Hollywood is very interesting is starting with the light working as a gaffer or in electric department. And basically just being the technician who deals with the lights and creates lights and works closely with the DP, you sharpen your skills, you learn your craft, and eventually you get the break. To make transition from being referred and becoming the DP. There are many great DPS in Hollywood actually took that route and became very successful, successful cinematographers. And the third way, which is more and more and more popular, especially in last decade, is basically going to the school. And depending on the school, that you go, you might get really good education, or you might get really well prepared. And and then basically coming out of the school, you decide, okay, well, if you're a cinematographer, is that what you do, and you start by small projects and gradually create your resume and portfolio and eventually start shooting bigger projects. But my, my, my path was, when I came to LA was basically I had to make these choices. And I simply decided not to do any of that previous of the dimension of being taking traditional gradual way because I felt coming from the school, I was already well prepared to start as a cinematographer, but the problem is, nobody can trust you. When you come from the school, nobody will trust you with their money that you can actually deliver a motion picture or whatever budget it is. And you just have to be persistent. And and basically, just keep going until your opportunity arises. And then eventually you get to feature film, after your first feature film, then things go much, much easier. Because from this point on, you're not anymore. First time cinematographer.

And it's also it's also a long game. It's not a short game, this is not something that's going to happen in a year or two. This is something that could happen over a decade or more.

Suki Medencevic ASC 32:39
No, it does have to be over a decade. But you know, to get chance to get your first feature film, it took me three years, which I think it's normal. It's normal for somebody who comes into town and just start from pretty much

Alex Ferrari 32:48
Which, which if I may, if I may interject, it is your your cinematography debut here in America is one of my favorite films growing up. For obvious reasons. You remember that movie, I'm assuming, but of course, it is called embrace of the vampire, starring the lovely and very naked, Alyssa Milano. So yeah, as a growing up teenage boy, I thank you.

Suki Medencevic ASC 33:15
Yes, I'm happy to provide beautiful images that can stay in our minds for a long, long time. Yes. And also Jennifer Tilly was part of this project as well as Martin camp. But that was kind of this situation, when you get a chance to do your first feature film, you don't ask what it is, you're right, this is your chance. You have 12 days, you have to make it and you did that in 12 days in 12 days. Yes. And that

Alex Ferrari 33:39
Was back in the night. Those eight eight.

Suki Medencevic ASC 33:41
That was 9393 93 or 94. I think it's about it was something

Alex Ferrari 33:45
Like that. And that back then was that's an obscene pace nowadays. That's what indie filmmakers do all the time. They got a movie in five or 12 days. But

Suki Medencevic ASC 33:55
Yeah, that was shot on 35 with two cameras up to full production packages. And that was one beauty. beautiful thing about being in Well, in this town and in this business that no matter how big budget you are, you can still get the top notch equipment, the best things best cameras, best lenses as you're in town. Yeah, I mean, you get to Boulder. We shot this in Minnesota, but still.

Alex Ferrari 34:18
And then and then you followed up with one of my other favorites. Poison Ivy? Yes.

Suki Medencevic ASC 34:23
So the actually the secret to original Poison Ivy and that was also with Alyssa Milano. Yes, it was. Yes. And that was Yeah, that was interesting, interesting project. But what happened after this, I did another couple couple films. of this. I would say medium, medium, over budget, or under 5 million. And then I did a film in in LA. I'm very proud of not many people have seen it, but we've had amazing cast, including Burt Reynolds Keith Carradine, Pat kingo

Alex Ferrari 35:00
Yeah I forgot to

Suki Medencevic ASC 35:01
Call the the hunters mon

Alex Ferrari 35:04
Oh yeah sir that was beautiful. I remember seeing that on your reel back in the day

Suki Medencevic ASC 35:09
Was gorgeous that was a nice nice film that we shot all around LA and I was very very proud of this film Unfortunately, it didn't get wide release but it was definitely one of the films that I was very very very proud of. And then industry changed obviously later on with with the rise of tentpole movies and yeah, this appearance of medium budget films are so as we all now pretty much we all have either a lower budget under three four or 5 million and then 50 million and up in that is very rare you'll find any project that is in the range between five and 15 million so because of the market and the way the formula works

Alex Ferrari 35:52
Now as since you started out you know doing low budget films What can you can you give advice to filmmakers on a low budget to make their films look high budget, what can they do? Are there any tricks in the cinematography and possibly in posts with color grading? What can they do any tips that they can like take their film up a notch look wise

Suki Medencevic ASC 36:16
So how to make your film not is not up how you can do this there really there's only one way you have to put yourself 110% there's really no you cannot cheat one thing about cinematography you cannot cheat you cannot. You cannot really I mean you either know, or if you don't, I mean it's obvious it will show on the screen immediately. And you just have to trust yourself trust your gut. And the key thing I think it will be to be able to develop trust between you and director you have to make sure that director trust you and that you trust director so that you have full support and full backup that you are free to do whatever creatively you want to do and not to be afraid to try to do things and because this is how you This is how you make your mark if you if you try to play it safe Well it might not get you where you want to be so you have to be able but again it all comes from constantly working on your skill if you're just waiting from film to film to sharpen up your skill and and and raise the level of your professional experience it's going to be very slow process. I always suggest to my students and my friends though as a cinematographer your your 24 hours a day except when you sleep you're a cinematographer, you have to observe things you have to look at the things you have to have a camera all the time take pictures of something that is that is intriguing or interesting to you that's the key thing so you have to have your eyes constantly working remember images remember images and when you when you show up on the site you can say oh I remember when I saw that looked really cool let's try this or let's try that let me do this. But again, you have to have a trust how to make something look bigger than it is doesn't depend only on you depends on many other people I think your cooperation with other departments the production designer and the costume designers is a crucial that you can get support if you don't have a set that can support your your idea of having a bigger one yes, then you will not be able to if you have a director who doesn't understand that staging scene just in the corner will make film look very claustrophobic in very small versus taking it away from the wall and making opening up and giving the depth Give me the space you know that's all part of the process so you can just do your part and then hope the rest will follow.

Alex Ferrari 38:54
Now another question I know your students ask you is how do you prepare and conduct yourself in a job interview as a cinematographer?

Suki Medencevic ASC 39:03
Um, people think that Hollywood or I don't like to was born Hollywood but let's say industry is very careful. He Yes, it is casual on one way but also it is very judgmental in many, many ways. My experience for most of the time going for the interviews was when you go for interview quite often depends again, who are you talking to? And depends what they're expecting from you. Quite often you will be actually more asked and you will be interviewed for the reasons not to hire you then reasons to hire you. And they will just talk to you and find out the reason why you are not the right person for the movie. So it's a system of elimination basically. So you cannot or try not to give the record producer, whoever else is interviewing you not to give them trends to eliminate you, you have to be prepared to show that you have integrity that you have artistic vision, that you also have managerial and leadership skill. Because in deposition, you are a leader of the group. So you have to be able to communicate, you can have great idea, but if you cannot communicate, that's not going to help anybody, right? Everything, everything is important. I've done interviews where I was prepared to the maximum, bringing all kinds of elements, visual reference, total analysis of the script, total analysis, breakdown of the visual, creating more books, doing all kinds of stuff, because some directors really expect that you do your homework. And that can leave very, very strong impression and I've been in a situation that you know, I would get the job just because they were impressed by my preparedness and my willingness and my enthusiasm to put to work and really show that I care and I'm really enthusiastic about the project. And I think enthusiasm is I think the key element that you have to show you don't have to necessarily hit all the points when you are presenting the visual concept for the film there might be sometimes even completely different than what the director had in mind. But if they're smart enough he or she might realize well, at least I'm dealing somebody who understands or who has a visual culture so maybe we can do something we can come up with something interesting. I've been also to interviews where I'm simply to sitting and listening to what the director or producer have to tell me how they want this film to be photographed and what they expected for me to deliver got it there is no wrong or right but you have to be as a cinematographer when you offer interview you have to pay attention to everything you have to present yourself because your this is your as you know there is no second transfer first impression you have to leave as best impression as you can and even if you don't get the job if you do well on your interview believe me they will remember you and and they might call you for some other project some other time or at least if you've already gained for the interview they will remember you and so you can keep your standards up

Alex Ferrari 42:22
Yeah and I think a lot of that advice works as well for directors going for a directing assignment or directing jobs as well. Even if it's a small indie project that they're going into direct drive to get a job for or larger ones that's a I think a lot of that stuff transfers over pretty pretty easily and seamlessly

Suki Medencevic ASC 42:40
Yeah, we'll have stuff it's you know a lot of stuff it's very much common sense and you can you know like how conduct the interview I mean you can even read a tips there are a bunch of books written on this on the subject how to conduct yourself how to prepare yourself for the interview, any corporate job or any other office job that you go for interview well of course if you're going for an interview you don't want to show up in flip flops and T shirt Alice This is your style and this is what you're going for which is nothing wrong with that right but you might be a little bit more on you know torn down now until you get a chance to show your your your eccentricity and but at the end it's really all about your work. But think about it when you go to the interview that means people get in people are intrigued by you by your work that's how they get your resume and they'll look at your resume and say oh yeah I want to meet with this person and now it's all that you have to do the what's what's necessary to get the job

Alex Ferrari 43:41
Got it. So let me ask you a question. Well how do you feel about and I know this is a question that will we can go on for a whole podcasts about but how do you feel about digital taking over film?

Suki Medencevic ASC 43:53
Well, you know, obviously this is a subject that is being discussed. ad nauseum like in the last whatever few

Alex Ferrari 44:00
Years and a few minutes a few minutes a few minute like kind of wrap up of what your your feeling is because I know we can go on for hours on this topic alone.

Suki Medencevic ASC 44:07
Well, my feeling is my feeling is the same way that television didn't kill radio and cinema is still around even though everybody has home theater. I'm seeing the digital as a just a great tool that expedites the process of filmmaking makes it far more efficient, which is true but doesn't mean necessarily just saves you money or saves you time. There are pros and cons in one or another. What field has that digital labor network never has it never will have a feel has a level of excitement. film has a level of mystery and magic. That if you really care, that's the only way I really you can have it. The quality that film has is something that generations So filmmakers are raised on and they using film as a benchmark as the as the point of reference for everything else. Even digital camera makers manufacturers are using film and performance of the film to design their chip so the chip can make look of the film are not by servers. So I believe, I believe and thanks to efforts of many important directors, including Tarantino and JJ Abrams, Chris Nolan, that as long as there are people of that caliber in Hollywood who can actually who have power to say and make decisions Phil will be around and and valuable valuable tool for just yet another tool for cinematographers the show I'm working on which I mentioned earlier it's been shot on film and I'm sure it will be short film as the film does exist because it is such a part of identity on the show and switching to digital would take the whole the feeling and the flavor and the magic that that has and it's been it's never five years ago

Alex Ferrari 46:15
Very interesting so there is still a place for film and filmmaking

Suki Medencevic ASC 46:19
I truly I truly believe the only unfortunate thing is that because of the very sharp decrease in the demand that we are all witnessing you don't have any more you know lab around the recorder that's pretty much like in one lab now maybe two labs one in East Coast one here and that's it so I think if you're shooting something you better make sure that you have plays that you feel can be processed and prepared for for scanning and so it is it is it is adding additional logistical challenge which you know earlier we never had to think about

Alex Ferrari 46:59
Now what is your favorite camera to shoot with and why

Suki Medencevic ASC 47:04
You know, I like different cameras for different reasons. I like depending again on type of the project if I'm shooting punch shooting on film my favorite camera would be every every cam because it just it just amazing camera and it's pretty much what comes out to the design of the film camera this is like as best as it can be and I simply could not see what else could be improved to make any camera better than ericom unfortunately nobody's making any film cameras anymore panavision always had amazing cameras which are known for its reliability and beautiful design and precision and to me I think more than camera it's really lenses because lens is what creates your images lens is what what makes the picture and then cameras adjust in digital in a digital world cameras adjust computer that has actually some image capturing device which is your sensor and everything else is just the like electronics how you process the information created by your sensor and what you make out of it it's your your algorithm and your workflow and I mean yes I could I could say as far as the digital cameras My favorite is array aerial XL or, or any of the Eri digital cameras why because they made it right, they made it from the very beginning they made the camera that is very much made for cinematographers that the image that creates is very much even digital but very much in its feeling and texture very close to the sensibility of people who are used to working with the film and and you know when you're dealing with cameras which are made by a camera manufacturer that's been doing this for decades, then you can rest assure that they know how to get it right first time.

Alex Ferrari 49:04
The very cool now what do you have any fun stories of working abroad? Because I know you do a lot of filming overseas.

Suki Medencevic ASC 49:14
Oh my god, I could write a book about about as you should my experiences different countries different places. Well, you know, I think I think that the the key element I think the key element for anybody working in different places if that's also applicable even to working in United States and I've shot all over United States. Don't assume that if you go to different places that everything will be as it is in LA No, it's not. There is a lot of things that people do differently and if you try to change it and and force them to do it your way. Yeah, well, you're gonna have a problem there. Because are you talking about?

Alex Ferrari 49:58
Are you talking about crew or just Have you ever

Suki Medencevic ASC 50:01
Thought about the Chrome and how you're gonna handle the CRO how you're going to handle the equipment how you're going to deal with production? There is a lot of a lot of, I would say cultural differences between places between countries. I could maybe just mentioned one, one story that kind of comes to my mind. And it's earlier on, I was working on my second feature film in Taiwan. And that, that film particularly was interesting, because I went to do the movie, literally, from the set of bow of my embrace of the vampire. As we are filming last last night, and the night we're finishing early in the morning, and I got to get in the car, went to the airport and flew to Taiwan, to do my other movie. That particular experience was very, very unique, because here we are on 12. They super fast pace completely on adrenaline, no sleep, no nothing, you go to a place where you have a film, leisurely scheduled to be shot over like 50 days, we still managed to finish it on, I think 37 shooting days, we still had so much time that we didn't need all this time. But the challenge was working with a crew that I learned that nobody speaks English. And nobody speaks English, except I had one assistant who spoke English, and he was my only liaison who can help me to kind of, you know, let me know what's going on. I was given just the storyline what the film is about. And I will be picked up every morning in a hotel without knowing where I'm going, what I'm doing. And then when I show up on the set, they will tell me Oh, this is where we do the dinner scene. And then we will do the dinner scene, I had no idea what is about who's doing what, who's talking what, but somehow I will use the sign language somehow figured out how to how to light it. And one moment, which I remember was we were supposed to do the scene where one of the characters sets several cars on fire. And, you know, we did it on a backlog of the studio in Taipei. And we are just about to roll. We're just about to turn on the camera. I asked about the cars. How did they? How did they get discouraged? They're just casual question like, how did you? How did you get cars here? This is all we draw them in and park them. And I okay, and did you drain the fuel? And they asked me why. And I just looked and I told him Well, you're telling me that now. All the tanks are full of the fuel. Mike said yes. And I said on that note, thank you guys very much. I'm going out to my hotel would night. It was first of all the time I walked away from the set. Because basically I said you know there is no no film that is worth anybody dying or being injured, just because of the no somebodies negligence basically, and I told them that you know, I will be back when the fuel is drain and they have studied by fire truck, with fire extinguisher and everything so we can actually properly because, you know, I'm very safety conscious. And of course next day, everything was there, they told me Okay, now we can go we can assure that the fuel is drained. And wow. And they I asked Okay, so where is the fire truck, they told me you know, we don't need it. We have hand extinguishers. And I said well, I'll see you later. I said let's try to but I have seen on this monitor on the camera and walk away because because I don't want to be even nearby because I know how the cars burn. And of course set cars on fire. And of course, shortly after cars are all full of blaze we cut but you could not actually extinguish the fires because they had just couple of hand extinguishers which could do nothing. And at some point somebody I think from the neighborhood or whatever actually call 911 and they send the real fire trucks and and eventually real fire trucks came but I think what happened is production really didn't want to spend money on real fire trucks. So they realize it's they want to come anyway. So let us go. So yes, we didn't get the shots. Nobody fortunately got injured. But that was the lesson I learned and it was something that I remember.

Alex Ferrari 54:45
So I'm gonna put you on the spot a little bit with the last two questions. Who is the best photographer of all time and why?

Suki Medencevic ASC 54:54
Well, that's very tough question. I know it's really tough question because every cinema Before you ask, will tell you different, different story and the reason why. Ah, yeah, I mean depends how far you want to go if you want to go in the days of old Hollywood Yeah, Greg talan comes to mind like, like legendary cinematographer, from his collaboration with Orson Welles and some other directors. You know, obviously, there's some amazing cinematographers from the time of, you know, golden era of Hollywood from you know, golden Technicolor,

Alex Ferrari 55:28
Let's say, let's the current era,

Suki Medencevic ASC 55:30
Well, I would say probably, maybe not the greatest, but probably the most influential would be probably Vittorio storaro, who actually had a chance to meet recently, although I've known his work since I was kid. And probably Vittorio storaro, because being the being European cinematographer who worked all over the world, he maintained his vitality or vitality from days, early days, a freebie from his first films to his latest film that he just finished in Iran, which I was able to literally see at the special screening last week. When you look at his work, he's always innovative, he's always pushing blame it, he's never the same, he always does things differently. And, but not only that, he does things differently. He sets the bar very high to everybody else. He He has incredible visual culture, he has incredible visual aesthetics that he he knows how to apply and incorporate in every film that he does. And everything from performance last time or in Paris, one from the heart. Apocalypse Now. Bulworth? I mean even tissue is doing that he did about 10 years ago, and some small films in Europe that nobody has ever seen, and including this film from Iran about Prophet Mohammed, which was just big epic film that he did, just, of course, amazing, masterful job. So to me, this is somebody that's what cinematographer should be always fresh, always innovative. always pushing the limit. So yeah, I would say single handedly probably storaro would be my choice of the most not the greatest, but probably the most influential photographers

Alex Ferrari 57:24
Now this is a question I asked all of my guests and it's always a tough question so just do the best you can What are your top three films of all time? Not in any order?

Suki Medencevic ASC 57:35
Oh, top three films probably would be a blade runner Yep. Lawrence of Arabia okay. And the third film would be abyss the Abyss

Alex Ferrari 57:50
Really the fish you put that on your top three

Suki Medencevic ASC 57:54
That's my top three and I have personal reasons for this because Tommy oh well. Lawrence of Arabia is a film that I saw as a child and also have a fourth film also Enter the Dragon

Alex Ferrari 58:06
Wow wow you really wow

Suki Medencevic ASC 58:06
These are the films which made important important important impact on me in different phases of my life Enter the Dragon was probably the film that going this way was a film that I don't think any other film made such a such impact on me that made me really believe that I'm I'm invincible like Bruce Lee I watched the movie he can do it I can do it I completely identify myself but has nothing to do with cinematography or anything but it just the the power of cinema the way as a kid I experienced Enter the Dragon. To me that was unbelievable. So yes, I'm not ashamed to say it was important in my childhood. Absolutely. Second important film was Lawrence of Arabia. I've seen it also as a kid. And no other film that I've seen so far had such a strong ability to transform and really transform me and my whole experience and made me really believe that I'd right there in the desert. With with Lauren cinema, Sharif and all these other characters and just experiencing it in of course, later on, I realized Well, it's because of the just amazing cinematic work of everybody. Of course, it was pretty young as a cinematographer. The third film was the blade runner and blue Thunder came came at a time in my life when I was deciding, okay, what should I do? What's my path? I was in my teenage, teenage phase and very much interested in photography. And then when I saw this film, I realize that just how photography in this particular film was so powerful and left and played such an important role. In a storytelling and overall feeling of the movie I felt that's something that I would like to do I would be able to I wish I could be able to do to create images that are so so powerful in storytelling that you can watch more without even listening to dialogue and then fourth film production for film so this list is the best came in my in my life when I was finishing my school or I was about to finish my film school and I know it was very controversial but maybe there was a point but I was just in special particular mode to watch something like this to get this underwater adventure Space Odyssey underwater and just whole experience of what's happening under the water and the world underwater and the end and you know, just all this drama that was happening. It was to me just amazing. And but what what really hit me was the fact that there was probably a moment of realization that I will never be able to make movies like this that I just wasted four years of my life and and I'm really now in trouble because I have no choice now you have to stick to it because there's no way back.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:15
So basically had the opposite effect that entered the dragon.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:01:19
Yes, very. Like it was. As much as I loved the movie is also like wake up call for me realizing that I'm on the wrong path.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:29
Interesting how film works with people. My Blade Runner story is I actually I'm shameful to say that I finally sat down and watched Blade Runner for the first time about eight years ago. And before that, I always seen clips of it here and there and when I was working in a video store, when I was in high school it's just one of those I just never got around to it was always one of those I got to watch I got to watch it. But when I saw it, it was it is mesmerizing, in a way that I never it like jumped to the top three of the top five list of all time for me instantly just the cinematography the story, the world that Ridley Scott put together it was just every frame was a painting. It was gorgeous grid I'd never seen a film so gorgeous. It's just stunning. Like it was just amazing how that how Ridley was able to do that. And the cinematographer remind me who the cinematographer was Jordan

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:02:23

Alex Ferrari 1:02:24
Yes, I remember I think it was you that told me that you saw his reel once and his reel was just the titles of the movies he did

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:02:34
Well you know when you reach a certain point in your career you do not need a reel however you know you might get in a situation that sometimes especially with some young cinematographer, young young directors they would write simply asked for reel of our w or you know like

Alex Ferrari 1:02:52
Yeah like and it's funny to say but the but the he his response to that was oh, I did Blade Runner. here's the here's the titles for you guys. Just found it funny.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:03:02
I have interesting interesting with it. I think it has to do with our daddy but basically I think the anecdote is about very experienced cinematographer who is not like other 50 something films and he was working with some very young gun first time were very enthusiastic director. So they came to the set he came to the set, he put his cane and just stood there resting on his cane and director was going all over the place with his viewfinder checking on the strength and going here and there and at some point came to him where he was standing at he said oh actually I think the camera will be here and I'm disappointed yes that's why I put my cane here.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:44
There is something to say about experience

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:03:46
Yesterday and for all the young filmmakers if you ever have opportunity to work with people that are more experienced use it to your advantage because there's always something we can learn and and I have people to contribute Don't be afraid I remember one of the directors I worked with on several occasions told me interesting data from his career he told me that when he started as as Director He always needed to leave impression that he knows what he's talking about and you know then security authority that nobody is questioning him which is fine. And then it reached the point when he was on his fifth film that he realized that actually it's perfectly okay to show up and say that you know I don't know what we want to do here but let's come up with something and nobody will take it personally.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:39
Right it's it's insecurity it when you're first starting out.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:04:42
Yeah, it's this eagerness to show that you are absolutely in control. You are absolutely dominating and.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:48
But that's but that's for any young person.

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:04:52
Yeah, no. So it comes it comes with when it comes with the territory. I think you know, as the director and the level of pressure and responsibility. You need to don't convince yourself that you know what you're doing even though quite often you're clueless. But you know, but if you're smart as some famous director said once like the key, the key to success of, of directory surround to surround himself with talented people and let them do their job.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:22
Correct. Absolutely correct. Suki I won't take up any more of your time. Thank you so, so much for being on the show. You were a lot of great gems and nuggets of information in this in this episode. I think a lot of people get a lot of use out of it. So is there anything else you want to say?

Suki Medencevic ASC 1:05:38
Just go ahead and shoot something.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:41
Never better said my friend. We'll talk soon my friend. Thanks again for being on the show. Thank you. I hope you guys got a lot out of that episode. I know I did. I know cinematography is almost kind of like a black art to a lot of filmmakers. They don't understand what it takes to actually make a good image. And that's one of the problems with a lot of independent films is they just grab a camera and they go shoot something sometimes. And they don't take the time to hire a good dp or understand what good lighting is. And I hope this episode kind of shined a light no pun intended on the importance of cinematography, the art of cinematography and what what it really takes to create amazing, amazing images. So don't forget to head over to filmfestivaltips.com that's FilmFestivaltips.com to get my six secrets on how to get into film festivals for cheap or free. These six secrets help me get into over 500 international film festivals for cheap or free. And please head over to iTunes and give the podcast a honest review. It helps us out dramatically in getting more exposure for the show. And we really appreciate you guys doing that for us. It does help us out dramatically with the rankings on iTunes and help us get more listeners and get the word out on the indie film hustle movement. So thanks again guys. We will be bringing you a great new show next week. Stay tuned, we got some amazing guests coming up. And some couple other things I might be doing in the future with our podcast that you guys might be excited about. So stay tuned and remember keep that hustle going never stopped following your dreams. Talk to you soon.




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IFH 008: Karl Iglesias – How to Create an Emotional Impact

This week we were lucky enough to have as our guest screenwriting guru Karl Iglesias. He has written award-winning books including The 101 Habits of Highly Successful ScreenwritersWriting for Emotional Impact, and Cut to the Chase(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

I discovered Karl Iglesias’ work reading Writing for Emotional Impact. It really transformed the way I wrote screenplays and created a bunch of new habits that I still use today.

It was a major treat to interview Karl on the show. His work is so specific but yet broad. His one rule that can never be broken,

“Always be interesting.”

I think most films coming out of Hollywood today should take that advice. Keep your audience engaged and emotionally invested. So many filmmakers and screenwriters today don’t understand that basic concept.

I really asked Karl the tough questions so we could fill this episode with amazing content for you. This is one podcast you won’t want to miss. Enjoy!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Scheduled today, we have Karl Iglesias. Yes, he's a amazing screenwriting teacher, and instructor I actually discovered him reading a book writing for emotional impact when I was doing a screenplay work on my films. And it blew my mind I really really blew my mind. Karl's approach to screenwriting is unique in the sense that he only focuses on emotion on the like, literally the emotional impact of what you're writing, which nobody else was really doing when he came out, and I don't think many people are today either. So the book reading, writing for emotional impact really impacted my life on how I write, but he's really well known for the 101 habits of highly successful screenwriters, insider secrets from Hollywood, of the top of from Hollywood's top writers. That's the book that kind of put them on the map. He just finished up a 10 year anniversary of that book. And he also has a bunch of different courses and things like that, as well. So he lectures around the world and I was really lucky to get him on the show. I really, you know, dug in hard and some really tough questions. When we were done with the interview, Karl told me that he basically was like, my guy we just gave a masterclass in screenwriting, I'm like, I know that's why you won. So sit back and relax and enjoy the show guys. Welcome Karl. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Karl Iglesias 0:00
Thank you My pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So we'll jump right into it so um what is your teachings are focused on the emotional impacts of stories and screenplays? Can you explain this a little bit to the audience?

Karl Iglesias 0:56
Sure. So I was I was a writer I'm still a writer and and I tend to be kind of very left brain my wife likes to say that I have two left brains very very mostly logical and and and the thing that drives me more is is the trying to understand how things work so I've always wanted to tell stories I was wanting to be in filmmaking and and I wanted to know why you know you read all the books and tells you Okay, you need to do this you need to do that we extract your character development character arcs and everything that's been that was being taught I was wanting to know why. And and so I started to get more into the effect of storytelling more than the rules and it really didn't take long to understand why I was loving certain films more than others. And it was basically about the emotional response that I was getting from these films you know at the end into like, you know, comedies or thrillers and I realize well a comedy doesn't make you laugh is not is not never going to be your favorite movie or a horror film that doesn't scare you it's not gonna be your favorite horror film so it's really all about the emotions and response of the movies and so I tend to kind of went you know, with reverse engineering figure out okay, the effect the end effect is the emotion the emotional response of the audience. And so how do you get there how do you do that? And that's what I tend to focus in my studies and in my teaching, you know, it's the kind of you know, people say is the kind of book that you always wanted to read but couldn't find out there so you wrote it that's that's what it is they also I wrote down and you know, as far as I know, I'm the only one who speaks about this and I think it's the most important thing you know, if you know when people read your script if they don't if they're not engaged by your script and you lost that's it doesn't even go past the pastor reader to the executives let alone to actors and directors and you know, the studio betting you know, 100 million dollars to make your film if it doesn't engage them so so the rule number one, and the only rule in in storytelling is to engage the audience and not be boring and that's really you know, I like to say my classes that there's only you know, there's this 1000s and 1000s of rules and principles from all the books but you can break all of them. Except one, you cannot break this one rule which is be interesting and as long as you Interesting, you can break any rule you want. And I think you'll still be a good storyteller. But that's the key you got to engage your audience and and so so I focus more on the actual specific techniques that generate those emotional responses.

So with that said, I'm going to I'm going to put you on the spot a little bit and one of my favorite films of all time and arguably now according to IMDb, the number one film of all time, The Shawshank Redemption,

Alex Ferrari 4:23
Okay, yeah, great film.

Karl Iglesias 4:25
It is. It's absolutely amazing. And I've analyzed that movie so much because I've I've wondered what what is in that story and in the way that Frank Darabont wrote that story and also directed and the characters and the actors right the whole package but what in that movie that touches so many people I mean like in a way that there's never been another movie that I know right that when it came out it wasn't like this blowout success obviously it was not it did get nominated for Best Picture but it didn't win. But but it's one of those movies that kind of grew later and till now all of a sudden it kind of just came up and took over the Godfather like you know, absolutely, you know, when the Godfather came out, it blew everything out the water everybody knew was the greatest thing ever made that right? But Shawshank didn't and I'm curious on your take of why that story hits so beautifully with everybody

Alex Ferrari 5:35
Well there I think there's two combinations First of all, and you're right when the movie first came out it wasn't a success at all and and the thing that makes a movie a success usually from the start which is the beginning is usually the concept so the concept is like the book cover right? There's something about the concept that's unique that drives people to the theaters not a great concept not at all right it actually kept people away it's like okay a movie about people in prison Okay, you know who cares? I mean, I will admit I was one of them you know, I was like that that movie does not interest me right? And it was only through word of mouth and reviews and and then you finally go Okay, I'll go see it and then you wild by it. So when you're in the theater so you know when you're trying to make a when you're trying to write a story I always recommend you know since since you're not you know you're obviously you're you're a nobody and you want to interest people you got to do with the concept first so at least people open your script and read it but in this case, you had a simply word of mouth so what is it about once you're inside the theater once you're committed to watching these two films, this film, what is it that that allows you so the very first thing is always characters that the first thing is is a character that you connect with. And the very first thing that they connect you with is is Andy and a character who is unjustly accused of something that he didn't do and that automatically connects you so if you're familiar with the you know, my techniques for, for connecting emotionally with a character you know, the one of the most powerful one is pity. So feeling sorry for someone and you automatically feel sorry for him because he didn't do it. You know, he's accused of something. And he's accused for, I guess his life right? For something that he didn't do so this are an undeserved misfortune is one of the biggest, biggest techniques you can use to connect with a character. And so you're automatically connected. So you're already on board? And then you realize, okay, well, you know, what do you do when you're inside of prison? I mean, so, you know, the only thing you can do to survive is hope and hope is probably one of the most powerful themes and messages in stories. It's true, you know, because all of us in our life so life's our struggle. And and especially in the movie business,

Karl Iglesias 8:46
Yeah, exactly. But if you look at you look at you know, great stories and certainly the foundation of most religions is hope. You know, it's one of the most powerful things so you got a character we care about you know, combined with this message of hope, you know, you know, get busy living or get busy dying, which is such a powerful line right? Amazing. And there you go, and then of course, you know, you got it you got to tell a good story. So there's elements of suspense deserve attention, anticipation, surprise, humor, other characters you care about your read, you know, certainly fear. You know, once you're, once you're connected with a character, what you what you do as a storyteller is you're trying to make us worry about that character, you know, you hope that they will be happy, and you hope that they'll survive or whatever they do whatever they want. The interesting about this, this this movie, though, is that we didn't know what Andy you know, is that, you know, His goal was secret for 19 years. And so, we didn't really know what the what his main goal was other than surviving. But if you create Jeopardy for that character, Throughout and they certainly do in this in this film. You're worried all the time. And so you're constantly engaged in this film so you have you have the character you care about you have to struggle. And then of course the big a, you know, epiphany and the way everything is resolved, which is very clever, surprising, you know, poetic justice at the end. I mean, it's just an friendship. I mean, it's got you know, everything is there you got all the the great ingredients and and of course, you got to, you know, give kudos to Stephen King for the story and for for Darabont for the adaptation, but it's just one of those. one of those things where everything all the stars are aligned, and, you know, with great, great characters and performances, and, you know, a great script. I mean, yeah, it's definitely one of the one of the greatest movies out there.

Alex Ferrari 10:50
And then Darabont I heard he literally gave the the script the way to get the opportunity to direct it. Yeah, yes, he was he was offered a few million because people who read it in the business understood that that this was like, Oh, this is serious. This is a good script. Yeah. But he he they offered him like seven figures and like heist, like mid to high seven figures for it. And he's like, nope, he finally, Director He wants to write and he started his career. And I think it was a good idea for him.

Karl Iglesias 11:15
Absolutely. Yeah. It's kind of like Sylvester Stallone and raw.

Alex Ferrari 11:19
Yeah. Do you actually believe that rocky was written in three days? He says he wrote it in three days. it possible

Karl Iglesias 11:28
That you wrote it in three days, but he probably developed it over a longer period of time.

Alex Ferrari 11:32
Right? Because that's another great I mean, geez, yeah. Oh, absolutely. That script is the ultimate Underdog Story. Yeah. So let me ask you a question. Why is Hollywood's Why is Hollywood lacking such emotion true emotion and its films today? And what are they like? Why do you Why do you think because in the 70s in the 80s even there was more emotion and character in their movies than today today, it just seems to me so flat and so heavily reliant on visual effects and concepts and things that we've we've seen back from the 70s and 80s that they're rehashing today Why do you what what do you think of the well in the business today in general

Karl Iglesias 12:09
It's i well i you know, the business is always a sign of the times it's always a you know, a reflection of the culture and and you know, our culture in the 60s and 70s was a lot different than it is today. And you know, you got to understand that the film studios are a business they're corporations they're in they're in the business of making money so they're not in the business of making art it's one of those really interesting paradoxes where you know, I think in Europe they're more interested in making art because their their films are subsidized by the by the government you know, but but in in in the United States it's all you know, it's it's capitalism so you basically go okay well what who buys our films who are films for who is our audience what do they want you know, and when you have a huge population of you know, 1415 year old boys who who goes to the movies that's why you have so many you know, superhero movies and kind of like you know, Video game type movies and horror films and comedies and you know, but that's the sign of the times and you know once in a while you get you know, a great movie that goes across all all demographics you know, the four q movies and then you know, then they try to make the same kind of movie and then people get bored it's one of those things I mean we're you know, one of the one of the strongest emotions we have as an audience's is the sense of we always want something new and when we get the same thing over and over and over we eventually get tired of it and we gravitate and we grab on to this new thing so you'll always get those in in movies you always get that one film that just just just you know the slit the sleeper hit basically right and then everybody wants to make it you know and then they they beat it to death and I beat it to death and he's tried something new The thing that really really surprises me still is this you know as the superhero movies keep going on and on and but I've been you know slated for release until you know 2020 which is unbelievable it just is such a you know high confidence in movies and I'm kind of surprised that it has you know, there's so much saturation I'm so I'm surprised that the the audience hasn't heard of it but and now

And now Warner Brothers is getting into it and now they're bringing all their slates out so yeah, I'm wondering about how much longer I'm a comic book geek so I'm yeah I'm happy about it but right at a certain point I you know, and now they're gonna be doing Star Wars every year


Alex Ferrari 14:37
Right until foreseeable future you know it's so it's well the thing is,

Karl Iglesias 14:41
I mean, as long as you tell a good story that's what can i mean that's what counts so so if you guys long as you can maintain great storytelling within that count within that concept and genre then I think you're okay. I think so far they're doing okay. You know, I mean, I mean, comic books have been, you know, I've been in business for you know, Over 80 years, I think and so it's like, yeah, and they're still in business. So, you know, as long as you're writing good storytelling and characters Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 15:10
So um, what are the biggest mistakes you see in first time screenwriters. Oh, I know it's a short it's a short show but you try to condense it a little bit I was gonna say I loaned

Karl Iglesias 15:21
You probably the biggest mistake D of what the biggest mistake is is I think over relying on plot over character that's one and so you can't have flat characters another big mistake I see. You know, dialogue usually is pretty crappy. And that's usually the one thing that we kind of read most of in a script of you we're trying to get the story from the characters you know and good dialogue usually reflects the characters personality so you know and and the fact that the script the scripts don't really amount to anything, they don't really go anywhere to go anywhere or they don't say anything, they don't have any meaning we don't know what the characters what the author wanted to really say you know, which is usually reflected in the character arcs. So you know, there's always a reason for everything and only say like a you know, structure is another thing too We already talked about structure but I don't think anybody understands what that means. You know, they think well three have structure beginning middle and end but they don't understand that the turning points that create that structure are are more about character than actually plot points you know, they call they you know, sit for years to come plot points but so people think, well, it's got to be something big and that changes the story it's not really that it's more about the character and the character decisions and the character changes you know, the epiphany of the character and what that means to the overall story. That's what that's what we can so we're talking about I think mostly a you know, kind of like there's a lot of there's a lot of education out there for scratch but I don't think it goes deep enough or I think people most most people don't really understand kind of like the deep deep deep principles of story and how it relates to us as human beings which I think once you really understand that that's kind of like a it's mostly what my focus is at this stage of my career is really kind of going deeper into story and understanding well what what it means and why we why we like stories or why we why story has such an effect on us emotionally it's good to say well you know, we enjoy stories and we you know like to feel suspense but why is that and I think once you understand that it kind of teaches you that how to do what teaches you why you should do it and to you know kind of makes you see when you don't have it in a script to kind of refocus on it you know

Alex Ferrari 17:57
Now did you have you happen to see straight out of Compton yet? I haven't seen it yet. No. And I saw it I saw it this last weekend and it's it's I heard it was good. It's my it's so far this year is probably the best film I've seen, which says a lot about the industry today like about a good storyteller a good story about you know, gangster rap is like the best story out there right now, which Wow, that's what fascinates me. But it was good. Even my wife who had no idea about gangster rap, she sat there said that was a really good movie, because of the character and the story, which leads me to my next. My next question. There has been great debate about this question for many years, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. What in your opinion is more important plot or character?

Karl Iglesias 18:45
Well, that is a very good question. Um, well, you probably heard I mean, you heard this before. You know, right, you get both ends right. But most people tend to lean toward character. And the reason for that is because you will you will hear that character creates plot you know, the more since since we need to connect with character and since we tend to appreciate more three dimensional characters. You know, you can't really kind of have just a plot that's already ready made and trying to fit characters in it because the end result will be flat characters. So characters tend to have the edge but here's my point on it. My here's my view on it. Stories are neither plot driven nor character driven. Okay, okay. So that's going to be probably kind of the controversial thing to say you think it's one of the other but it's neither. What I like to say is that stories are tension driven. Okay, so it's not prone to character. It's tension that grabs an audience that makes you appreciate a story. And tension is really, you know, a problem that needs to be solved or a character that needs to change. So you know you could have unique tension at the story level to keep us it's the only thing that keeps us engaged basically, when when I talk about all the emotions of story and talk about the audience emotion is not the character emotion. So you have for example, you have character emotions, like you know, you know, sadness and joy and fear. When I'm talking about the audience emotions, the emotions you pay money to go see in the theaters. We're talking about curiosity, anticipation, tension, hope, worry, surprise. laughter. Right? Those are the emotions you like to feel in as an audience. And all of these can be incompetent like into that one umbrella of tension. In other words, when you feeling tension in a story, there's no way you're bored you're completely engaged when you feel intention. So that's really the key emotions you want to feel

Alex Ferrari 18:47
That tension and tension and what's it like tension any kind of tension or comedic tension or

Karl Iglesias 18:47
Tension it's all tension and tension basically me it's basically to me it's the opposite of boredom, basically, okay, you know, you like if you're bored, passively sitting back in your seat, and you're going to, you know, you think about something else. When you're feeling for example, if if somebody creates a question on this, you see a character enter a room, the very first thing that goes in your mind is who is this character? Right? So why are they in the room? What are they doing? Where are we? So all these questions when you first start a movie, that creates curiosity, right? So curiosity, that sense of curiosity in your brain is tension. Right? Because you have this question, when that question gets answered, you have tension relief. Okay, and everything, you know, everything that's enjoyable about life is tension relief, basically. Right? I mean, when you're you know, when you're when you're having you know, you want to have sex with someone, you have this, you know, you have tension and it gets it gets released at the end, when you have you know, when you're hungry, that's tension you eat, you know, you have to you feel satisfied, right? You're tired, that's tension, you go to sleep, you feel relief. So it's all about tension relief, excuse me for so. And so, so it's all about tension. So all these you know, when you feel anticipation, you know, like, the character says, Okay, I'm going to go and, you know, to vanish or go to Europe to catch a killer, right? So when I'm going to Europe, so you anticipate the arrival to or, you know, meet me meet me in the parking lot, so I'm going to beat you up later after school. That's anticipation. So that's tension. anticipation is tension. Curiosity is tension. You know, and

Alex Ferrari 18:47
If you're gonna kiss me or not, exactly, yeah. And I've seen so

Karl Iglesias 18:47
Even so when you go deeper, right? Y'all know that, you know, storytelling, or filmmaking is all scenes, right? So at the scene level, that's another thing too, that when you're talking about what's really doesn't work in scripts is mostly seen. So I tend to teach a lot of classes on scene writing, because I think it's at the scene level, you know, that that counts. And scenes are really mini stories. So you have a character who wants something in the scene, and is having difficulty getting it. And that's what creates tension in the scene, because your well, will they get it. And that's what drives the scene. That's what drives the whole story. If you have a main tension in the story, and really old when you think about old stories, or just tension until they are relief until you have a resolution, right? Yeah, but you know, the three extraction people create structure, people have to say that it's, you know, beginning, middle and end. But I like to say it's mostly, you know, set up struggle, and resolution, right. And the struggle is that middle pack to which is the struggle to get what they want. And in a lot of scripts, you see characters Firstly, that you don't know what they want. That hasn't been thought of. So that's already broken right there. And if we know what they want, usually it's it's not that difficult. So yeah, so it's not that interesting. So there's no struggle. And so there you go. That's, that's my answer. So it's all about attention.

Alex Ferrari 18:47
There it is that Yeah, we've put that we put the end to the debate right now.

Karl Iglesias 18:47
Yes. This is just according to me. Oh, of course. Yeah. So

Alex Ferrari 18:47
Umm, in your opinion, what is the functions of dialogue?

Karl Iglesias 18:51
The function is dialogue. Boy, you had like really big, big questions here. to answer those,

Alex Ferrari 18:56
I'm sorry, I'll start throwing somewhere softer.

Karl Iglesias 18:59
Well, the functions of dialogue I mean, there's only two ways you can tell a story really you can you can you know, you can describe something right. So and then you could you can have characters talking about it right. So, the difference between the two is that traditionally the, the narrative part of it is more passive. And the dialogue is more active meaning that when characters speak in dialogue, you are immersed in the experience you're you're there with them you're like a fly on the wall, like really kind of being part of the conversation. And that's usually in your brain that's usually more interesting than just reading. You know, if I told you, you know, Bob entered the room and said to Susie, that he loved her and that he couldn't live without her. So I'm just kind of describing something right so I'm just telling you a little story. But if I say you know Bob came into the room and so any goes Susie, I love you I can't I can't live without you. And Susie says, Well, sorry, I don't love you back I'm seeing your your best friend or whatever. Right? So you know, by by actually having the characters speak, you're you're a lot more immersive to lead it's more of an active experience than just description. And usually readers, you know, when they read scripts, and tons of scripts, they usually tend to just read dialogue only they try to grasp the story because they have to read a script so fast. So they like to say that they read the burden, they read vertically, most most readers at least, you know, the ones that I know of from experience, because they have to read scripts very fast. And so they usually get the story from the dialog. So you know, when you see scripts with a lot of description, they usually don't tend to like that they it takes them longer to read it takes them longer to understand the story. And also the great thing about dialogue is that not only you can communicate the story, you can also communicate the characters personalities and attitudes so you get to get to really get to learn the characters. And also dialogue tends to be the joy of the you know, the the weight and cleverness and sarcasm and have a story you know of characters.

Alex Ferrari 20:48
Now, with dialogue, I would argue to say one of the greatest dialogue writers alive today is Quentin Tarantino. What, what is your take on his style, love, which is so unique that I mean, I've tell I tell people all the time, like, there are certain directors, certain writers that might have not made it in this market this time or that time. But honestly, I think if Tarantino shows up today, with Reservoir Dogs, it, it would it would create a revolution just because of who he is and his talent. What is what is your take on his technique and how he does his things? Because they are it's such a unique person, I always tell filmmakers, if you want to learn how to write dialogue, listen to his dialogue. Don't try to write his dialogue, but she'll never be able to

Karl Iglesias 21:24
Write right, but Well, there's well the thing about Tarantino, I mean, first of all, he he is a extremely knowledgeable about film, you know, he used to work as a in a video store. And he used to like pretty much immerse himself in movies, and even really obscure movies, you know, in foreign films, and Hong Kong films and crime films. So he's very knowledgeable. So he's able to ask, actually, you know, my belief in art or creativity is really creativity is really a way of combining all things into something new. And this is what he does. So the more old things you know, the more you the more resources you have, which is this knowledge of film, the more you can combine them into something unique. And that's what he does very well. So that's that, too, is that he's not afraid to break the rules. Oh, yeah. And like I said, like, I use Turnitin all the time. And examples of when I say that you can break every rule except one. And be interesting. And that's that's the one. He that's what he does. I mean, he breaks every single rule, except one. He's always interesting. And that's why he's successful because people people gravitate to astronomy, because they know they're not going to be bored.

Alex Ferrari 22:19
Right and so if you watch this, if you watch Pulp Fiction, which the structure of that film was, is non obviously not standard, right? But if you look at the plot points, they actually hit Yeah. Wow. You know, which is kind of weird. Absolute world. Yeah. Well, it's

Karl Iglesias 22:32
Like, you know, the French filmmaker, genre, Ecuador is known, it's known for to have said, you know, every every film that has a beginning, middle and end, not necessarily in that order, right. So you want to if you can put Pulp Fiction in the order of the story is just what he decided to tell it in a in a just nonlinear way. You know, you just played with time a little bit you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:03
And, and it just, yeah, obviously, yeah,

Karl Iglesias 29:12
It was very unique. Absolutely. And then chaining, which is the most important thing. I mean, you know, you know, I've seen films where people tried experimenting with things but they're just boring as hell, you know, right. In this case, he experimented and, and it turned out okay, because it was interesting. You know, he still told the story with interesting characters. surprises

Alex Ferrari 30:03
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So, um, you wrote a book called 101 habits of highly successful screenwriters. Can you share a few of those habits with the audience, some of that some of the top ones that you think are really important?

Karl Iglesias 30:24
Well, the very, very top one is the one that started that's that led to the right for emotional impact, which was habit number 69, which was evoking emotion on the page. And so one of those habits was, you know, it, successful writers are set at six are successful, because they're able to evoke an emotion on the page consistently. Right, so they're able to create that emotional response in the reader. They're always entertaining. So they're masters of their craft. And and when I started teaching, because of that book, I, at the time, I was just a writer, and I was no interest in teaching, I was just a writer, I just wanted to be alone in my room, right? So it's not completely terrified. But I was invited to the very first screenwriting Expo and because of that, those habits book, the book, and the thing that most people wanted to know was, was, of course, this particular habit, which is the craft, they'll want to know about the craft. So I started teaching about the, that part of it. And then people eventually wanted to want to, to have a book. And that's the reason why the second book was written, because people just kept asking, you know, from after my presentation, so is there a book with all that information that I was giving. So, but in terms of how is there so that that's the number one, by far, I mean, you could, you could, like I said, you could ignore any other habit, if you if you consistently are able to create an emotional response in the reader, from your words, you're guaranteed success. Because, you know, you can just, you know, you can drop your script in the middle of a Beverly Hills Park, and, you know, an agent will pick that up and read it. And if they're totally wowed by that script, there's no way he's not gonna pick up the phone and call you. But that's the key, they have to be wowed by the script and 99% of the scripts out, there are not that, you know, that great, unfortunately. So that's, that's why there's so much problems. But the other thing too, and this is more about the business aspect of it is that one of the habits is that you're You, you, you have to have, you have to develop a really thick skin in Hollywood, because most of the businesses rejection, so you have to be able to be able to take rejection, and be able to live with it and be able to persevere and keep writing and keep getting better. And keep having hope. You know,

Alex Ferrari 32:53
I'll turn here and it took forever. For Yeah, do you think

Karl Iglesias 32:57
One of the one of the, you know, surprising things when I was interviewing all those writers was that their very first script that they sold was usually their 10th or more, you know, that they kept kept writing, even though they kept being rejected and not selling anything and having to, you know, work crappy jobs, or even not having any money in the bank and struggling, but they just kept at it. And I think a lot of writers, even very talented writers, who could be great writers, usually, because of life and family and usually give up because because of the realities of life, and don't have that persistence and that passion, to to keep writing.

Alex Ferrari 33:37
You know, I think writers are one of the most undervalued parts of the filmmaking process. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. It is all part that I mean, it starts on the page. Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah, it started there. They're

Karl Iglesias 33:49
Really the most important element. I mean, when you think about it without the writer if there's no script, nobody in this town has a bit as a job. Right? Right. I think about all the jobs in this industry, right? There's over 200 300 jobs that are related to making a film if not more, right, if not more, and, and we're not talking about just the film we're talking about, you know, the business Oh, yeah. Agents and producers and and accountants and lawyers. I mean, if without a script, nobody has a job.

Alex Ferrari 34:15
As as, as Hollywood realizes, every time there's a Writers Guild strike, exactly. All of a sudden, everyone goes, Oh, wait a minute, we need these guys arrived. Maybe we should pay them a little bit here.

Karl Iglesias 34:25
But that's the that's that is the paradox that they, you know, they they know secretly that they're the most important, but they think that they could do it. They think that it's not that hard that anybody can do it.

Alex Ferrari 34:38
Well, that's the thing. And if I've seen a movie, so I could write one. It's kind of like everyone says that and then I'm like, Well, you could also listen to a symphony. Doesn't mean you can write one. Right? It's exactly yeah, it's a lot more than just that.

Karl Iglesias 34:53
So this is all joke that I like to say about this guy who's who goes to a candle store and he goes inside the candle stores is all man he sits down and starts playing the piano and he's awful. And and the sounds because what's going on? What? What are you thinking? I can't understand this. I've been listening to music My whole life.

Alex Ferrari 35:15
Why does it work? I don't know.

Karl Iglesias 35:16
Exactly right. So that's the thing people think that you know, because they because we immerse in films because we see movies all the time. We know how they work and everything. It's like telling a joke to so people, you know, some people, everybody understands jokes and appreciate jokes, but nobody can be a comedian. You know, it's,

Alex Ferrari 35:33
It's rough to be up on that stage. No question about it. Yeah. So what are some of the mistakes you see in indie film stories and in their screenplays in general? Because I know they're very kind of different than your mainstream movies. So yes, indie films, I find a lot of times when they hit, they're wonderful. But the majority of them are, you know, a little rough sometimes. Yeah. What's your experience with that?

Karl Iglesias 35:57
Well, my experience with them is that it as it's not gonna be surprising, for me to say it's, it's again the emotional response so you know, when you say an indie film doesn't hit, that's basically what it means it means it just didn't grab the audience. The audience was mostly bored by it. So you know, there's always good elements in an indie film that that meets the people on on board to commit to it and make it and usually it's about characters. The thing about indie hits is that most of them as far from my experience don't really have a concept you know, it's mostly a very soft concept and it's really kind of relies on character in the drama of characters. And so you know, great the characters are great but but ultimately if the audience is bored throughout In other words, if the other elements the other emotions are ignored, you know, like, like tension or surprise or twists or you know, something unique about it, you know, they just don't to grab the audience you know, or maybe it's the maybe it's the statement that the, you know, the filmmaker wants to make maybe it's a statement that we just don't care about, right? Yeah. There's a lot of things you know,

Alex Ferrari 37:13
So can you give an example of a few indie films that blew you away and why they blew you away?

Karl Iglesias 37:18
Oh, it's been

Alex Ferrari 37:21
It's been a while it's been a while you can go back and go back to the early 90s go back to the early 90s if

Karl Iglesias 37:27
Yeah, yeah, for me, I mean, the type of movies that I tend to like more I like you know, more thought provoking films so I tend to gravitate towards the you know, sci fi and futuristic not not necessarily fantasy but but so the movies like you know, a stranger than fiction for example. Yeah. So anything that has a really kind of like a really very unique concept to it, but definitely an indie film you know, I usually tend to like it because I'm because I'm more intellectually challenged or you know, like my mind is constantly working in thinking and you know, I tend to have more of a philosophical kind of mind thing so anything that has a really kind of high concept would have been different and I tend to like trying to think of the last the last one as my mentor was a pretty old memento. Absolutely Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 38:17
That was one of those ones obviously Reservoir Dogs and write all fiction fiction was kind of an indie but yeah,

Karl Iglesias 38:24
Yeah, yeah. You know very very old film but a mariachi with Robert Rodriguez, you know that he made the very end right only made it only $7,000. But there was something really unique about it, and it was entertaining. Um, so so high concept, good characters, but also great, you know, a good story that really keeps you engaged from start to finish

Alex Ferrari 38:50
One, one film, I think that I don't know if you'd liked it, and I think you might have adaptation.

Karl Iglesias 38:56
Ah, yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
Um, that was a very interesting,

Karl Iglesias 39:00
I liked it. Yeah. It wasn't interesting. And of course, we all enjoyed it. Because we're writers and we could, we could identify Oh, bad could we Yeah, but you know what? I didn't I didn't like it as much as I enjoyed Eternal Sunshine, because oh, yeah, you know, Eternal Sunshine had this really high concept. So this is a good example from the very, very same filmmaker,

Alex Ferrari 39:19
A very unique filmmaker.

Karl Iglesias 39:20
Exactly. Yeah. Charlie Kaufman.

Alex Ferrari 39:22

Karl Iglesias 39:23
Yeah. Although if you're talking about the spike Jones as the director Yeah. Speaking of spike Jones, her to was it was a good indie film.

Alex Ferrari 39:31
Yeah,very, very nice film. I like that one a lot as well, right. Is there any any advice you can give indie filmmakers on writing their first script other than what we've already kind of discussed any specific like techniques or tools that maybe that could help them to kind of get off the ground.

Karl Iglesias 39:47
Just just learn more about story. And we're not talking about just the you know, the usual, the usual suspects, books and McKeon felt we're talking about. Just go deeper into into story and how to tell a really good one. I think there's there's still a lot of people that don't know how to tell a good story and and of course it starts with the emotion so obviously I would tell people go read my book or you know, of course of course, and and learn that it's really about the emotions and that you can break every single rule as long as people feel those emotions. So learning, learning how to write scenes, that would be another aspect of it, learn how to write a good scene. I always tell writers to take acting classes, because even if they're not used to being an actor, because you get to learn how to write good scenes from from actors, because that's, you know, they're all they're all, you know, their main thing is, is what do I want in the scene and the different beats in the scene and that's really how you write a good scene.

Alex Ferrari 40:49
That's interesting. That's a really good job. That's a really good tip.

Karl Iglesias 40:51
Yeah. And yeah, but learn how to how to create that field in London, really knowing what an audience wants out of a story. You know, so we definitely want something new so we want something so it's probably a thought provoking concept we want characters we can connect with emotionally so that there's actually techniques for that to talk in the book. And then once once we connect with a character you know, give us give us a you know, a a goal that that is worthy you know a lot a lot of the times you know, a character moves after something that we you know, it's it's tends to be more of a selfish goal and we don't really connect without this is this is something that I also speak about, about the paradox of the goals we have in life, which is to you know, to be rich, right? We all try to make money and survive. But you never see that in films. You never see that as a goal in film.

Alex Ferrari 41:54
So say that again say that again? This isn't your So okay, so there's this paradox okay.

Karl Iglesias 41:57
If you if you think about if you ask people in real life what their What do they aspire to? Right That's usually aspire to have a good job to be rich to be happy to have things to have material things a big house a good car, Scarface? Exactly. Right. Yeah, exactly. So tough power. Right? Well, power you see, that depends but usually it's the in the in the cautionary tales where the hero but but in films, when you think about what is it that people aspire to in films, like whether their goals are, it's usually about love, or family about saving the village about doing something for another about finding their child? You know, it's more about what's really important in life that people kind of still are trying to learn on their own. So there's a there's a connection between stories and the meaning of stories and why we like stories, and what is the power of stories in our life?

Alex Ferrari 42:51
But do you think do you think that a story that had the goal of being just rich or successful or comfortable and having a good family and which are most of the goals of real life people,

Karl Iglesias 43:03
Right, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 43:04
Do you think a story like that? Or do you have an example of a story?

Karl Iglesias 43:07
Well, no, we don't I mean, other than I mean, somebody brings the the example of how to succeed in business and never trying, which is a famous play. But But you never see that or, or you see that in a character that originally goes after that goal, but then learns, that's not the you know, usually midpoint that the, that's not the solution. So yeah, so it and there's a reason for that is because it doesn't work, you know, you know, it doesn't, you know, and and to go back to your question about the common errors I see in film is that usually the goals that characters have in a story are usually not what I call worthy goals, right? So there's worthy goals and, you know, flat goals or whatever, unworthy goals. They're mostly unworthy like, they're, I just don't care, or I just, I can't really connect with a character who goes after that, you know, I just don't care. And so that's important. One of the things that I teach about connecting with character is that not only you have to use this, these techniques to make us, you know, feel sorry for him, show their humanity and show their admirable traits to just so you care about them, right? But the second part of that equation is what do they go after and why? And so in the movie, what do they go after, is very important, because if we don't care what they go after, we're just not going to care. We're gonna just, you know, go through the motions, and struggle, but we're not going to care. And that's why one of the things that I teach a lot about is Pixar because Pixar knows how to tell great stories. And, and so and I go through this whole list of the entire movies that I go and show them what the characters are after. And if you see what they're after. It's always about you know, saving a friend, saving a child, falling in love saving the village It's all these things that are considered, you know, that goes deeper into our humanity and our, our sense of being social with, you know, we're part of this group as opposed to being a selfish single a person that goes after what they want us to be happy. And you never see that, you know, if talk about Shawshank Redemption, you know, His goal was to not to not to die. But not to be yet not to be stuck in this prison, right? So he was for 19 years, he planned to escape and he finally escaped. But if you look at what is the thing that really makes us completely fell in love with that movie is is the last you know, 30 seconds? No, not not the choice of him escaping. decided right about it. Remember, it's not only story, it's read story, that's that it's very true. So if you think about the way the movie ends, the movie doesn't end with Andy escaping it ends with red connecting as a friend with Andy on that beach.

Alex Ferrari 46:02
And right, and did you know that is the

Karl Iglesias 46:05
Moment that that makes us go? All right,

Alex Ferrari 46:08
It's done.

Karl Iglesias 46:09
It's done. Exactly. Exactly. There's actually a very, you know, Lindsey Duran is the producer. Yes, yes. So she, she's, she's known for talking about story too, is there's a, I think there's a couple of videos online, some TED talks that she did, about the ending of films and how the thing that people really, really care about about a film is not the achievement of the of the character's goal. It's what happens afterwards, which is the ability to share that feeling with people they love. So she mentions Rocky, for example, think that Rocky, you know, a lot of people think he won the fight, which he did, he doesn't know but but they remember that thing when he goes like yeah, you know, Adrian Adrian, but that, you know, they think it ends on the fight, but it does end up ends with him and her at the end, and saying, I love you, I love you. Right, and she mentions Dirty Dancing to about the fact that it doesn't end with with the with the girl Lee being in the arms of Patrick Swayze. It ends with her reconciling with their father. So there's all these you know, what's really important I think film and stories talk about what's really important in life, you know, they kind of like they're teaching us how to live there the like to say that stories are kind of like the How to manual for life. And, and they're kind of like, they're quoted in this in this entertainment form, because, you know, I mean, people's stories. Yeah, exactly. People can actually tell you how to live but that's usually what you know, like documentaries, or nonfiction, or it's of documentaries. But stories are a lot more powerful. Because they're there they're entertaining, but the messages in there the message that you know, they're kind of like suddenly telling you how to live by entertaining you. It's like a sugar coated pill,

Alex Ferrari 47:59
Like, like myths and legends. Essentially, that's how exactly the meat and potatoes of our society is passed along. Right? Exactly. So an interesting note, though, on that Shawshank Redemption, that last scene from what I understand was added by the studio,

Karl Iglesias 48:15
The scene about the

Alex Ferrari 48:17
With red, yeah, from what? I studied the movie a lot, right? I've watched every documentary ever made. And originally, the original script did not have that scene. And how does the original script and you remember it ends with him driving in the bus going towards Andy.

Karl Iglesias 48:33
Oh, okay. Okay, but it still, it was fun. It was still as powerful I think. I mean, well, but the beach was like we needed to see it. Yeah, yeah. And it was as long as it's not that it doesn't focus on Andy because it wasn't Andy's story

Alex Ferrari 48:45
That was read on this on the on the bus and he just drove off. And then if you notice that it the the helicopter, I think there was a helicopter shot that kind of goes off into the ocean, right? And then it dissolves into that, because that was the that was the last shot. And then they put in that dissolve on Andy and the beach afterwards, which I think with studios notes go I think that's probably one of the best ones if

Karl Iglesias 49:10
That's true. I think that was very powerful.

Alex Ferrari 49:12
So I have a couple more questions where if you have time, one can you explain and I know this might be a big question. So if you don't have enough time can you explain to the audience what is subtext and why is it so important? Oh, I'm sorry. Cough I'm asking.

Karl Iglesias 49:33
Because you're you're you're hitting on the on the questions that I have a whole course of, you know, I mean, like I teach a whole course on the subject. So right, so this is the I'll give you the 32nd

Alex Ferrari 49:42
Exam. Yeah, that's all we ask.

Karl Iglesias 49:45
Okay, so, so subjects, okay, so I'll give you an example. Um, so if I if I said to you, three plus two equals five. And you Your mind will go Okay, yeah. I got that it's pretty obvious, right? But if I said to you, or showed you a piece of paper, and I showed on the board said, three plus x equals five, okay? Your brain would automatically start solving x. Sure, because you're challenged by it, where you go, oh, there's a challenge. Oh, ah, x equals two. I got it. I solved this, right? So that's a good example of the difference between obvious dialogue or an obvious thing you see, right where it's just obvious and on the nose, we call it right. And subtext because so subtext makes you an active participant in the scene by making your brain work a little bit. So when somebody says, like in the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, when at the end of Connect, and she says, I hate you, Harry, I hate you. And she kisses him. Right? Right. We all know what she really means and feels. Right? Right. We know she loves him. So the line I hate you is really subtext for I love you, but she really feels right. So I hate you plus the case, equal subjects. And that's really more interesting than a character saying, I love you and kissing him because then you go, okay, it's obvious, it's just there. So the obvious and that's another By the way, that's another thing that you see a lot of in terms of problematic scripts. And there's tends to be a lack of subtext throughout, it's mostly on the nose throughout an obvious, it tends to be a passive experience, you kind of mostly bored by it, because you're not challenged, you're not challenged by it. Whereas when you subtext you go, you're like, completely engaged, because your brain is working. You're like, they're trying to figure this out. Oh, I know what she's really feeling. Like you're actually working a little bit.

Alex Ferrari 51:51
You're ahead of your head of the audience a bit. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. As a writer, as a writer, as

Karl Iglesias 51:55
As a writer, yeah, well, you want the audience to feel to be an active participant versus a passive one. So So and there's actually techniques for that, and really, the good writers, the ones that get higher all the time, especially in dialogue, you know, you get the writers who are hired for two weeks to to, to rewrite the dialogue, it's usually to take the dialogue or just flat and obviously on the nose, and give it some life. And the life is usually give it some time. subtext.

Alex Ferrari 52:21
Got it Got it. Alright, so one last one last big question that this is just a geek question. This is just something that I want the answer to. Because I know you're, you know, you're you who you are, and you've studied so many stories. I'm a huge fan of Breaking Bad. Okay. And it is one of those stories that it's obviously not a screenplay, but in the scope of the story and the arc of that character and of the arc of the show. There's never been a television show ever to do what he did. What's your thoughts on how gillean of Vince Gilligan, a galleon Vince Gilligan, Vince Gilligan actually was able to create like, what are the key moments or points that maze that makes that story so good? Because unlike like, very much like Shawshank Redemption in the film world, breaking Bad's one of those shows that I can't say universally everyone loves, but it is pretty well respected and prior, right,

Karl Iglesias 53:19
Well, Breaking Bad is not the only one. I mean, the sopranos did that too. And the wire also did that, too. I mean, we've talked about in madman. I mean, we talked about shows that just that took great storytelling, it's just great storytelling, you know, if you have a show that has great storytelling, with great characters, and interesting scenes and surprises, and I mean, I, you know, and I'm a big fan of Breaking Bad too. It was just a big novel. It was just this novel that took five seasons, and I don't know how many episodes to tell a story. And it was a complete story. It was about a character that was very interesting, right? It wasn't your typical good guy. It was just arc and it just kept us engaged because we wanted to know how that would turn out. And that's really kind of like the key question of stories. good stories I think always make you think and make you wonder what's gonna happen next. You know if you can have that that sense of kind of mystery or you know, JJ Abrams calls it the mystery box, you know? Yeah. Just Yeah. of constantly making the audience want to know what's gonna happen next. They're constantly tuned they're gonna keep watching scene after scene after scene. In the case of Breaking Bad they're just watching episode after episode after episode except that

Alex Ferrari 54:39
One episode with the fly. Yeah, except that one episode with the ride.

Karl Iglesias 54:45
That was entertaining you know, everybody says like, what

Alex Ferrari 54:48
the hell with the writers just take the day off. They could do it the

Karl Iglesias 54:54
right way. I bet you still kept you engaged, though. Right? It's to a certain

Alex Ferrari 54:57
extent. Yeah.

Karl Iglesias 55:00
Um so yeah as long as it makes you wonder you know what the hell's going on what what is what is the meaning of this you're just wondering like keeps you engaged but that was a you know and it's funny because I get that question all the time especially in the sense of you know writers are told all the time to make sure your character is likable you know, it's the biggest note and you know and they always mentioned Breaking Bad because you know, here's here's a character you really connect with who you don't really agree with in terms of his moral that moral part of it, you know, I mean, he's doing something as illegal

Alex Ferrari 55:31
But the thing that's brilliant about him is at the beginning you did he was just as was the beginning you did right. And that's the brilliant stuff you send to him. Yeah, and then he turns into Scarface right

Karl Iglesias 55:41
But the thing is is why do we keep Why do we keep loving yeah because I mean if you if you it's almost like you know if you had a friend and then your and then your friends started killing people and enjoying it You certainly wouldn't become his friend anymore You don't want anything to do with him but if you bet if you cared about him, right you know that's the thing so the thing is, is this the lesson in there but making sure you care about that character? And you worry about them? Yeah, about what's going to happen then you then you could tell a good story that's really the basis of telling a good story and creating a character you care about and it doesn't have to be the it doesn't have to be likable but you have to care

Alex Ferrari 56:19
And I was I was lucky enough to binge watch most of it up into the last eight episodes and it was I everyday my wife and I would just sit and watch three or four episodes

Karl Iglesias 56:28
Wow I know thank God for binge watching I know right right i think it's a better way to enjoy story because it's a lot more immediate and you don't have to wait a week you know it's all fresh in your mind

Alex Ferrari 56:41
Thank you Netflix Yeah, yeah, so where can people find more about you and more about your work

Karl Iglesias 56:47
Very simple they just saw all you have to do is Google my name or just put colleague laces calm and takes you to my website and you just get to see all my work there Yeah, I you know, when anytime somebody asked me for a business card, I don't have business cards I always tell them just just go to my website you know, that's my that's my business card right there. Just my name.com

Alex Ferrari 57:07
And you have you have a bunch of books you've written you have a DVD course as well that you sell.

Karl Iglesias 57:12
Yeah, well I don't really sell it it's mostly the writer store and creative screenwriting magazine they they have the DVDs I just basically you know, they asked me to do something I don't like to say no, so I do something and then they sell it. Same with the teaching I teach at screenwriters University and at UCLA extensions writers program are both online so people can take courses with me. I also consult so if anybody wants consultation there's the details on my website and then I appear on you know, writers conferences sometimes, you know this. This year I'm going to be actually in a few weeks I'll be at the at a writers conference in San Luis Obispo. I'll be delivering a keynote address there and next year I've been invited to a script conference in Poland and then an animation festival in South Africa so becoming kind of international now that's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 58:05
So one last question I asked this question for my guests and it's it's a tough question what are your top three films of all time? Wow and every and everybody says the same thing.

Karl Iglesias 58:19
Oh really?

Alex Ferrari 58:21
Wow Wow.

Karl Iglesias 58:22
Oh wow. Yeah, well that's that's a very big question.

Alex Ferrari 58:25
It doesn't have to be an order just three films. Yeah. And the moment that you can remember

Karl Iglesias 58:28
well, you know it as a blade runner is is right up there. Silence of the Lambs, Shawshank Redemption The Godfather anything by Pixar except maybe cars and cars 2 those are the the two weakest films by the but in terms of story you know, we just I just watched up last night with my kids so you know and I've seen it 100 times so it's gonna you know it always get to they just know what to tell great stories also anything by Pixar. And and if one movie too It's a combination well I want to obscure because it's a it's a classic messed up but a lot of people don't know because it's it tends to be an old film. And so Charlie Chaplin's city lights for city lights, where he falls in love with a blind girl. And that's one of the you know, it's probably one of the earliest romantic comedies but but very, very moving, especially the last

Alex Ferrari 59:26
If I remember right, it's silent. Yeah.

Karl Iglesias 59:29
But it's known for the very last scene in the movie which is one of the most powerfully emotional filters you know, scenes in the world in the history of cinema. And they always show that they always show that clip or that moment in every every Oscar telecast about you know, the, you know, the history of films and stuff like that. So very, very powerful and pretty entertaining films. I would say that's, that's right up there with my top favorite movies.

Alex Ferrari 59:56
Very good, good list.

Karl Iglesias 59:57
A good Thank you. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 59:59
Karl, thank you. So much for being on the show. We really appreciate you gave us a lot of great gems. So hopefully,

Karl Iglesias 1:00:05
Glad to do it was my pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:06
Hey guys, I hope you like that Carl was amazing. It gave a lot of great information, a lot of little nuggets in there that hopefully will help you guys tell better stories. I'm gonna put all of his information in the show notes, links to his courses, his books, I actually took his screenwriting expos cinema seminar series, as well. And it's just just so much information that he gives. And he really does focus on the emotional aspect of screenwriting and storytelling. And the one rule that you can break like he says is be interesting no matter what you do. Always be interesting as a filmmaker, and as a storyteller. So if you want to learn how I got into over 500 Film Festivals for cheap or free, head over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips.com where you can download a free ebook that I put together on my six top six tips on how I got into all those festivals for free most of them for free, some for very, very cheap. So thanks again for listening guys. More great episodes coming I'm so excited about the guests that I have coming up and, and more stuff coming. So thanks again for all your support guys. Talk to you soon.




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IFH 007: Dov Simens – American Greatest Film Teacher

I’m so excited to have on the show this week Dov Simens, founder of Hollywood Film Institute. He created the remarkable 2 Day Film School and has launched the careers of Quentin Tarantino, Chris Nolan, Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, Queen Latifah, Guy Ritchie & more.

“Listened to Dov Simens, Shot Reservoir Dogs and became a director.
– Quentin Tarantino

Dov Simens’ teaching style is entertaining, in your face and straight from the street. Real-world, practical film education.

“Took the 2 Day and launched my filmmaking career!”
– Will Smith

When I took his course over 15 years ago I was floored. He spoke about things I never heard in “film school.” He teaches you how to make a feature film, not how to be creative, not why you choose a camera or lenses, and not how to write the great script.

“Dov Simens has Revolutionized Film Education”
– Roger Cormen (Legendary Indie Film Producer)

Without taking his course I wouldn’t have been able to make my first film BROKEN (Watch it on Indie Film Hustle TV). He laid the foundation for my filmmaking career. It sounds nuts that you can learn everything you need to know to make a feature film in 2 days but you can.

Sit back and prepared to be schooled in the ways of Jedi Film Teacher Dov Simens.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So today we have a great treat for you guys. You're going to be listening to an interview with Dov Simens. Dov Simens has been called America's greatest film teacher. He actually taught Quentin Tarantino he went on to took his course prior to making Reservoir Dogs. And quitting actually said I took his course. It was awesome. I made it I made Reservoir Dogs right after so along with other notables like Will Smith. Damon Wayans I think Chris Nolan, bunch of people took his course. It's a kind of prerequisite here in Hollywood and around the world. And Dov has been doing this since the late 80s. And he comes from a really kind of, you know, kind of like what indie film hustle is about, you know, straight from the kind of street from the real real action the trenches, if you will. He worked with legendary film producer Roger Corman for many years, where he picked up a lot of his tricks of the trade and his technique for his two day film school. He trademarked the two day film school. And I also took it as well a years ago, before I made broken so I know firsthand how amazing his course is. He really just kind of gets into your face and tells you what the realities of the film business are how to actually make a movie. He doesn't teach creative. He doesn't teach any of that stuff. He teaches you the nuts and bolts of making a movie. And his his technique is very entertaining. To say the least. He was generous enough to to do an interview for us. So without further ado, here is Dov Simens guys. So Dov you there? Welcome!

Dov Simens 2:14
Yes. Hi, Alex. And thank you very much for introducing me to all your members at indiefilmhustle.com. Hi, guys. Hello, filmmakers. Hello, writers. Hello, directors.

Alex Ferrari 2:20
Thank you, man. Thank you. So um, so just the indie. So the so the the listeners know, I actually took Dov's course, about 15 years ago. So I was still I still wet behind the ears back then. And his course was monumental in my, my formation as a filmmaker. I did my right after I did it. I shot my first short film that went on to do a lot of different things for me and kind of launched my career. So it's a big, big thrill having you on the show dog and to speak to you. So again, thank you so much for doing the show.

Dov Simens 2:42
Alex, thank you. You're welcome. Very much. Hello. So let's carry on.

Alex Ferrari 2:43
Okay, so um, let me ask you a question. You got your start in the film industry with Roger Corman, is that correct?

Dov Simens 2:49
Yes. Little bit before him I was about two years before I met him. I was naive and romantic came to Hollywood thought I saw movies thought I could do better. Never really realize, you know, this place called Hollywood. They know what they're doing. They're in the business of making money. And it's corporations and I came romantic and naive. I had a lot of ideas, but nobody owns an idea. I chased the deal chased the deal, it didn't happen, then add a necessity in order to pay rent, I became what's called an independent reader. And over two years, I read probably about 2000 screenplays and did what's called coverage. In those days I was paid 25 to $35 to read a script and do a two page book report analysis on it. And while doing that, then I stumbled into doing a no budget commercial. Then I stumbled into a one day shoot with somebody that was hired by Roger Corman. then a month later I did a weekend shoot for him and actually got a check for $200. Then I did a one week shoot as a production manager. Then a three week shoot, this is over six months to one year. Okay. And then I eventually became what's called a line producer for Roger Corman. So glamorously, I can say I was in the script development business, and I read 2000 scripts and did coverage item, but paid 25 to $35 each. And I was a loan producer for Roger Corman sounds exotic, and it by the way it is. So I've read scripts, and then I stumbled into working for Roger as a production manager, and he allowed me to have a nicer title on the next shoot, but he didn't give me any more money. And he allowed me to be called a line producer, which is nothing but a production manager on the next shoot. And during that time, I stumbled into doing a teaching gig at UCLA. Then, six months later, USC asked me to do the class, then NYU and I stumbled into teaching. Nobody plans on being a film instructor. We're all usually a bunch of failures, who tried producing, writing and directing. Everybody knows the saying those that can do and those that can't teach. I want to be a great producer. I want to be a great director, I still want to be but I really don't have the talent. But I have enough experience. And I stumbled into teaching I found out Oh, I'm a very good communicator, teacher. And I have the sound bites of this mysterious an industry. That is called a business. It's called show business. It's not called short. And then I just started informing people that have the passion, have the desire, have the talent, but need some structure. And I gave that to them. Hopefully, God bless. I don't know if I answered the question. I rambled.

Alex Ferrari 4:33
It's okay, it's okay. So you just start with Roger. Now, can I ask you a quote because I, I've studied Roger Corman and all his work and he's launched I mean, many, many, many film careers, monster film careers in Hollywood. What did you learn going through the Corman film school? I know a few people who've actually gone through it as well. Some crew members, DPS and so on that went through it as well that projects with Roger, what what did you learn about that kind of crazy filmmaking process that he goes through?

Dov Simens 4:50
One, it's a business to get it done. Don't make it great.

Alex Ferrari 4:55
That's it. That's it. That's nice.

Dov Simens 4:56
Now get it done. And get it done means you only have enough money for one two or three weeks shoot at the most with three weeks shoot a 90 page script. One location Roger jokingly said but it's correct. When you don't know what you're doing your first feature film take a kid's toy house and chop them up. That's a 90 page script eight kids one house Wait a second. One house take your eight actors to one house. That's a stage play. Oh, that's easy to do. No props, no location moves. No exterior night. Roger also said if he ever sees the two words exterior night and a script, he throws the script out. Don't try to shoot anything exterior, no with no turnaround. So Roger it business get it done. Sell the poster, call it a million dollar feature but I never saw more than $150,000 to make one. But he calls it a million dollar feature. And then he goes to a film market not a film festival. And he add a market he license it sells it to Italy, Germany, Japan, Korea, Ecuador Brazil, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand. When you make a feature film that is genre oriented, and visual oriented, and it's made in America with American teenagers, American people and American Jean for the American Ray band, and an American house in American car, you can do even though it might be poor acting. It's a genre, you can do 35 sales at a film market, at ballpark 10th out to $60,000 per nation. So let's talk business. Roger stage, he just made a million dollar feature. However, I'm the line producer, I only spent $150,000 to make it and I stopped trying to figure out where the other 850,000 goes to. So he made a million dollar feature. That's what he calls it. But he spent 150,000 then enter fill market he does 35 sales at an average price of 20 to $30,000 per nation. Do the math that means he made a profit of course. And then he comes back next year with part two and part three. And if they make profits then next year he does part four and part five. And what he said is if you want to do art does you want to send a message call Western Union. I'm not in the message business. I'm in the business of renting seats and selling sugar. That's the movie business.

Now that movie business has changed a bit as far as distributors

It's gotten better and better with social media and on demand and all these platforms. They're about 20 on demand platform so maybe you as the one night you out but your audience you have two choices audience actually three make you know budget micro budget ultra low budget feature go get your two iPhones, do it again. And let's see if you get into Sundance Toronto Telluride, Cannes or Berlin. Any other festivals are useless. Anything get into one of them. No, nowhere near a guarantee that is marketable, you will get a distributor that will probably offer you 200,000 a million dollars to walk away that one game plan. A second game plan is do it but go more not for dialogue story and plot point. Go more for the poster and the genre. And then you take it yourself to Cannes, not the film festival, the market or AFM book a room that'll cost you 20 to $40,000 to do sales. And let's see how good salesmen are. You are to Italy, Germany, Japan, Korea, and do it yourself or get a foreign distributor and a producer's rep to do it for you. But they're the middlemen, and you're going to see some creative bookkeeping. And the third way is the one that has just started really becoming real bad two years ago, is because of social media and all these different on demand platforms, being subscription on demand transactional on demand or add support on demand you yourself, nevermind going theatrical. Nevermind trying to make a print and put it in theaters. Nevermind billboards and newspaper ads, nevermind even foreign sale. Let's just go on the internet. And do it that way and cut out the middleman and you want to call it the old word of self distribution. I'll call it be your own distributor through the internet

Alex Ferrari 13:42
Now and do you suggest that filmmakers build their communities to be able to sell like build a community to be able to sell directly to them? Like you know to make up to do a VHS or or Vimeo pro on demand or or even YouTube on demand or any that's kind of stuff? do you suggest that they try to build a community of some sort to be able to start selling more or good

Dov Simens 14:01
Or good or good? Yes, yes. piglets, talk the magnitude of building a community. Okay. And not just a couple of little Facebook friends. Of course, we're talking about get to 132 million people. And if you can do that, absolutely. Absolutely. Other than that, it's just a nice exercise.

Alex Ferrari 14:22
Got it? Got it. Yeah, cuz out of 200,000 if even if 500 people 1000 people buy your film at a certain price, point it either rented

Dov Simens 14:31
Downloaded $2 $4 whatever. There it is, then go knock another one out next week. And so no knock another one out next week. Then you're going to build your database. You're going to build your community. Absolutely, absolutely. Yes, build a community but be realistic about what quantifies our community. 500 friends is not a community that barely a neighborhood.

Alex Ferrari 15:01
Exactly, exactly. So let me ask you, why did you start doing the two day film school?

Dov Simens 15:07
Had to pay rent

Alex Ferrari 15:09
Fair enough

Dov Simens 15:10
Yeah. It's hard for me to talk about me because then it comes out ego. But I'm proud of being brutally honest, are straight. Yes, you are and add a necessity. I wanted to be a big producer, I want to be a big director. But then I've got a wife and children, I had to pay rent. So first is reading scripts, reading two scripts a night for coverage to 25 to 35 bucks and for scripts on the weekend, then getting some production managing nickel dime jobs with Roger then getting a gig at UCLA right then, and they paid me only $250 for the first teaching gig for a day at UCLA. Then USC offer me $2,000 for a two day class. Yeah, I bet that's like 40 scripts reading that's 80 scripts reading Sure. Then NYU in New York or for me, $5,000 for a weekend class. Wow, a coach ticket and staying at a cheap hotel in Manhattan. But then I stumbled into somebody and I did each of those schools I did about four or six times. This is over a three year period and during the time of finding out do you know I like teaching Do you know I actually have the information from the school of hard knocks and the ability to put it in sound bites that first timers understand where I don't say the romantic things like you got to have heart You got to have passion, you got to have talent. You got to believe in yourself and air go take an exotic class on lighting. Lighting. Oh Killian, your first feature film you got let's go your first feature film you got enough money at the most for three weeks shoot, maybe it's micro budget, no budget a one week shoot. So a three week shoot is 18 shooting days. You have a 90 page screenplays. So you have a shooting schedule five pages per day, you only have about 12 hours of daylight in a day, one hour to get there get set up one hour for lunch. So in 10 hours of shooting by the way would you like good production value are covered, then each page or scene you should shoot with about six angles. The master shot to over the shoulder reverse angle medium shots, three or four close up cutaways, and a close up of the actors action. That's about six setups. So if you're getting five pages and six setups, that's 30 setups. So getting 30 setups and 10 hours that 600 minutes, you have 20 minutes per shot. Now pick up the camera move, find your new place, set it down. Now get the actor Blackcomb put them in the right frame composed properly. Let them read the one page seen through two or three times with the two or three actors you have now run out of time Don't even think about lighting. Make sense? There is no time. Okay, go to USC films go there, you're gonna look at all the beautiful movies. And you're going to think I want that to look like then go get $10 million. Which you're not going to get for your first second and third feature. Anyway, you see what I do I know you know what I do, sir? Is it real? I break it down and real. I do a two day film school day one, I teach how to make your first independent feature and dependent means get your own money. So you're not going to hear about studio financing. You're not going to hear about government funding program, you're not going to hear about product placement, you're not going to hear about Cannes and pre selling and International Co production. That's not independent financing. That's the Hollywood system. It's crowdfunding or it's legalized begging, and you're going to come up with 10th out at the absolute most 200,000 make your first feature. So you better forget the idea that you have right now because you can't make it for minimal money. Now let's come up with the 90 page one location stage play. jokingly Roger says take a kid's two outs and chop them up. It's a stage play. Put your idea that you have right now and the hustlers that you have right now I'm sure your ideas great. Get the script now put it aside for your second project. Now let's come up with a project not a short, a feature film that will get you the credibility out of fast food and get the financing for that project. And your first project is going to be a 90 page one location pretty close to a stage play the dinner for a hit from hell. The class reunion, the courtroom drama, you'll figure out something creatively everybody out there, and you're going to have enough money for a one, two or three weeks shoot. So in day one I day try to get the script. I teach how to do the shooting schedule. I teach your vendor and equipment deals assuming you have 10,000 to $200,000. I show how to spend the money for a one, two or three week shoot, but leave money leftover for post your picture, edit your sound edit your ADR, your Foley, your musical score, and how to get your output right now going through a festival, your DCP and keeping $10,000 back for promotion and social media for that one premiere at the festival and better get into a major fest worth 3000 festivals in the world. 2980 are useless.

Alex Ferrari 20:52

Dov Simens 20:53
They are social. They're not useless. They're good social functions. They're parties and everybody gets an award at every festival. Usually it's an invoice but people call it an award. Yes, very much so. But what you've got to do is have 3000 festival Why do you want to go to a festival everybody knows why to sell your film be discovered get a distributor? Well, you're not going to sell your film going to the Columbus Ohio Film Festival because no distributors send their employees there. Have 3000 festivals the buyers that are the technical phrase are called the acquisition execs. You should do an archer article or podcast on the acquisition execs their names and who are they okay? Because those are the ones that write the checks and buy. And nobody wants to seem to know their names. Were in my class ago, here are their names here, their emails, start blogging, I'm start blessed amount. And so have 3000 festivals in the world. Those 20 to 40 acquisition execs only got about 12 festivals a year. Sundance, Toronto, Telluride, Cannes, Berlin, maybe a phi, maybe Los Angeles independent festival. So you got to get into one of those major festivals where the odds are very poor. And if you can get into one of the major festivals, now you're in, that's the key, get into a major festival of 3000. There are only 15 of them that mean anything. All the rest are nice social functions. There's nothing wrong with them. But you're not going to sell your film at a

Alex Ferrari 22:43
Very, very true I've gone through many festivals myself, and I've seen a lot of filmmakers go to hundreds of festivals. And at the end of the day, they're like not are you are you? How's your career going? Is it moving forward or not? And they generally, generally not.

Dov Simens 22:58
In poker, it's a tough one. Because when you make your film, it's your baby. Oh yeah, you're so emotionally attached to it, and it is your baby. And you know how hard you worked. And I really believe anybody that makes a feature film, especially with no money deserves an Oscar, not an award and Oscar, nevermind people that get Oscars when they're given all the money in the world and all these amazingly talented people. There's that's not tough. What's tough is to take little, the hardest thing anybody's going to do in the film industry ever is their first independent micro budget, no budget feature film, you will have little to no money, you don't know what you're doing, you will have relatively inexperienced people both with attitudes, because they went to film, schools, furniture, and somehow you got to get this thing done, done. And everybody thinks it's supposed to be perfect. And I guarantee you when you're writing the check, and it's your dad gave you the money, you're in a position of I gotta get it done. And somehow you got to get it done. And if you can get that done and get it into Sundance Toronto, or telluride or Cannes, you really are amazing. You really do have talent. And now you're going to get a lot more money for your second feature film, which is easier, because now you know what you're doing. Now you have more money. Now you can afford to pay crew what they believe they're supposed to be paid, and they like the gig. It gets easier and easier and easier. The hardest thing to ever do is the first no budget micro budget feature. And that's your community Alex and you're informing them the best you can from the experience that you have. God bless.

Alex Ferrari 24:53
I appreciate it. So I can I can ask you a few more questions. Of course. Alright, so Um, you've discussed in I online and also on your course, what are the four different kinds of budgets? Can you kind of break down real quick what the four different budgets are?

Dov Simens 25:09
Yeah, mega budget, medium budget, low budget and no budget. Let me qualify that. But those, those are the four. Okay. First off, let's get a reality check. Everybody in the world when they're say they're making a feature film, everybody always asked everybody, what's your budget? Where the correct answer is, it's none of your bloody business. Right? But it's amazing. Everybody wants to know everybody else's budget. And 70 years ago in Hollywood, I'm sure the Hollywood executives found out that people are always asking them, what's your budget? Now Hollywood gives out the budget. Wait, let's get a little common sense. Can you name me any other industry in the world that manufactures products, where the manufacturer actually tells the consumer what it costs to make their product? No, only the movie industry is the only industry in the world where they actually tell the consumer what it costs to make their product. Now let's have a little common sense and a moment of clarity. Hollywood Warner Bros, Paramount, 20 century universal Disney, Sony, when they tell you the budget, you think they tell you the truth. Of course, what the budget is to make their movie is nobody's bloody business. But because people a want to know and be, it seems to be a good marketing thing. They say the number. And my opinion is the number they say it's probably 20 to 40 times bigger than what it really costs to make it. So a mega budget is a studio feature film, where you're going to hear numbers like the budget is 100 million or 200 million. My opinion, it doesn't cost that. But my opinion is it's a very expensive movie. And nobody's going to make that for the first feature film, the mega budget feature. The next budget categories, what I call the medium budget feature, which is when you're trying to finance a thing, but not going directly to a studio. I call it the medium budget features the two number budgets. When you ask somebody, what's the budget, and then they say two numbers arrange? Don't you think they know the exact number? What's the budget? Who the budget mode feature films, two to 3,000,003 to 5,000,005? to seven, seven to 1010 to 1212 to 1515 to 2020? To 30? What do you mean don't you know the number but it's an amazing how many people say the budget or announce it and they say two numbers. That means it's not going to be 100 million or 200 million studio feature film. So what they have to do, if they say a number, they inflate it, then they stretch it. That marketing. Now, a long time ago, I worked for Roger Corman Remember what I said about 30 minutes ago, and I worked on what he would call a million dollar features. But as the line producer, I never saw more than 150,000. So basically, I believe most budgets have been inflated 600 to 1,000%. When we start playing the let's market to the consumer game, because they don't even know how to rent a camera. And we're going to tell them how expensive is and the bigger the number we tell them, maybe a better chance of them coming to check it out. So the mega budget hundreds or $200 million feature that's the studio feature. The medium budget to number budget one to 2,000,002 to 3,000,003 to 5 million. They're usually made for about 300 to 500 or 500 to 7000 which is a lot of money for probably a five week shoot. But that money is used the raised at Cannes, not the Cannes Festival, the Cannes market, or AFM or the European film market at Berlin, which is Berlin festivals, the Berlin alley, but next door is a European film market. So the two number budgets are usually raised from foreign sales with product placement and maybe a government financing program put in and you hear numbers like two to 3,000,003 to five, five to seven, seven to 1010 to 12. The low budget is where I worked for guys like Roger Corman at that time, crown trauma. curb entertainment cannon cannon app Absolutely. The early days of Lionsgate the million dollar feature, but a million dollar features not made for million dollars. If you actually Have a million dollars in cash and spent it to make it and somebody asks you What's the budget? Alex, I'm going to tell you say it's a three to $5 million feature. And then if you want to go to heaven that's lying. If you want to go to heaven, you sneak in the words just sender. So when you have a million dollars to make a feature, and somebody asks you What's the budget, and you want to go to heaven, but you want to make money, say the budget Oh, it's somewhere just under five to 7 million.

Alex Ferrari 30:33
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show

Dov Simens 30:43
Is a million dollars just under five to 7 million Absolutely. Oh, you're that lie in your marketing, you're gonna go to heaven. So the low budget features are usually three weeks shoots. Non guild non union may be sag. With no movie names in it may be an over the hill television name. And their million dollar features but they're made for about 200 to 300. And they're pretty close to the one location sort of genre stage play. Then the micro budget, or the true ones where your listeners and your community should really be thinking about going that's the you want to call it the no budget, the micro budget the many budget the ultra low budget, it ballpark between 10 and $100,000. A one or two weeks shoot with you have 100,000 you can do a one week shoot with two 4k reds. You got 10th out forget about the red. Go down to two iPhones, you can do a one week shoot with two iPhones. What's the one that hated Sundance?

Alex Ferrari 31:58
Oh, yeah, yeah, exactly.

Dov Simens 32:01
So what are you asked me? What about budgets make a budget is when you're thinking about doing a studio feature. Don't think about that until your third or fourth feature film. Medium budget is usually pre selling at Cannes, once you have a track record. And think about that for your second or third feature film. That's the two number budget. The low budget is the million dollar feature. You can get that either from crowdfunding or a small private placement, raising 200 to 300,000 offering 50% not ownership a profit. big caveat. If there are any. And the micro budget feature, is get your own money. Go get a job at Starbucks and save some money. Let's see how great and how much talent you have. But the great script that takes place in one location, a five to seven person crew a one week shoot with a bunch of pizzas, burgers and fries. And now let's see how good the actors are and how good your script is. And the camera will probably bounce all over the place. But the key and micro budget filmmaking is not the camera. It's the microphone. Make sure the audio is great. Everybody wants to read about a new camera and then read about a new app with a new lens. It's the audio I don't care how great the script is and how great the acting and how great the props and great the wardrobe and great this and great that if the audio is mediocre report stinks. Yeah, though anyway,

Alex Ferrari 33:39
They'll forgive us. They'll forgive a bad picture way before the if you get bad audio.

Dov Simens 33:42
Yep. What if the audio is poor? Nobody cares. Nobody will listen to it. Nobody will hear it. That's it. So the four budget she got him Alex, I got a good I got a medium, low and micro. And where your audience should be focusing on is think micro and may be low. Think crowdfunding equity, crowdfunding donations, or saving up 10 or $20,000 in a one week shoot, or thinking about a private placement, raising 200 to 300. But don't make a short to demonstrate your talent that's going backwards when you're an adult. Find your cinematographer where you live. That's a real cinematographer. He will have or she will have an eight to 10 minute demo reel. You're going to use that demo reel to demonstrate your talent. Your talent was Look, look who I'm hiring. Look what he or she does. When you make your own short it's going to look worse than the demo reel of that cinematographer. How about that one?

Alex Ferrari 34:52
That's very good. That's actually really good advice.

Dov Simens 34:55
Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 34:57
So um, can you share some of some of the Hollywood Big lies. I know a lot of a lot of filmmakers are completely bewildered by the magic of Hollywood where some just a couple of the big lies that that you've talked about.

Dov Simens 35:08
But the biggest lie is we're looking for talent.

Alex Ferrari 35:13
They've got all the talent.

Dov Simens 35:15
I love all those people saying, we're looking for talent. No, we're not. We're looking for money. And we're looking for marketable names. But if you if you think anybody out there, Thanks for looking for talent, get on a plane, fly to LA, rent a car, drive over to Paramount, go to the gate guard. And when he says hello, who are you say, I'm talent? I'm here. Who do I see? I heard on television, you're looking for talent? Please tell them I'm here.

Alex Ferrari 35:50
That's awesome. That is truly one of the big lies, no question about it.

Dov Simens 35:56
And the next one is, the budget is and they tell you the budget. Sure. It really it's not your business and stop asking people what's the budget, it's not your business. And when they tell you a number, it's going to be massively inflated to create a higher perceived value.

Alex Ferrari 36:15
Or lower or the it's either the most expensive of the all time or the genes

Dov Simens 36:19
That drive it up or drive it down. But the drive down doesn't work anymore. Now that we got iPhones tangerine, what what's the budget of your feature film? $82? That's been used too many times already.

Alex Ferrari 36:31
That's Yeah, it's been it's been beaten. It's been beaten up a bit.

Dov Simens 36:35
Can you know that? No other Hollywood lie. We're looking for great scripts. Go to the movies. Yeah, go look at Batman, Superman. Iron Man, pizza man, burger, man. Are those great scripts? Now? I'm not yelling at you.

Alex Ferrari 36:58
I appreciate it. No, I've seen I believe. Yeah, I'm familiar with your style of teaching, sir. says no problem at all.

Dov Simens 37:06
Carry on. Next question.

Alex Ferrari 37:07
Sorry. Sure. Um, is there any any advice you could give young filmmakers about publicity for their film for their first film?

Dov Simens 37:17
It's a new world for me. I'm not that educated with social media. But yes, you got it. First. You got to make your first feature film. Got it? 90 pages one location. And yes, get some sort of poster, a billboard. But you're not going to print it and put it out on street corners. And now let's see how you do YouTube. Let's see what you do on a campaign and make something called viral. Let's see how you get a curiosity factor. Let's see how you do Twitter. This is the new world. I'm 72. I know this world exists. It's not a gimmick. It is the real world. But I can't teach it. Because I'm not savvy enough. I always hear Yes, it's very important, especially when you're micro budget, ultra low budget, no budget. And you're doing things for 5000 to $30,000. And we have all these on demand pride forms from the who's from the Netflix from the distributors, from the indie flicks from the snagfilms, etc. that if you can get the word out and have people more than the phrase check me out. All right, want to pay to see it? for beer? microblogging, micro charging, 59 cents each dollar $2. But you can make profits now, you can make profit. But the key is what you said that I can't fake it. I don't know how to teach how to get the word out within social media. I know the phrases Facebook, I know you too. I know social media. I know Twitter, but I'm not savvy enough of how to create campaigns forum. Got it. I know how to market to bring people to my class to sell my product, my DVD film school, or my two day film school or on my website, I have a streaming film school that I charge only $89 for 20 hours. So I got to drive traffic to it right. So I know how to do a blog and how to send that out and how to get the blog on to every Facebook group. I've got 140 Facebook groups I put it on. Then I'm on LinkedIn groups, they only allow you 40 decide put it there. Then I know how to do spot ads sponsored links on Facebook, and Google and by keywords and targeted properly. So my average click to my website cost me 28 cents, not bad. Now, I'm happy with that I learned that my conversion rate though from my landing pages, it's not that good one, I have 150 people that come to my landing page with the 28 cent click means it cost me about $45 to get one person to buy my product at $89 to 389. Right? I make a profit. But I think I can be more efficient at it. But that's what I'm doing. I think I just gave a class by the way to your listeners.

Alex Ferrari 40:48
Yeah, that's kind of like where I'm that's my specialty is that kind of creating landing pages and optimizing sites for SEO and all that kind of stuff. That's kind of where I came from. I actually came from post production originally. And I still do post production for last 20 years. And that's how I made that's how I make my living as post production and directing commercials and music videos. But then I started getting into

Dov Simens 41:11
I wanna stop right now, the nonstop, I want to applaud you. I think number one, if you understand picture editing, and post production, oh yeah, then if anybody out there is looking for director, Alex is the person to hire, I appreciate not hire a stage director that knows how to talk to human beings actors. I'm not saying that's not important. We want to hire somebody that knows, has learned from seeing how other directors screwed up. And editors are always they don't tell anybody, but they always save the film.

Alex Ferrari 41:48
That's absolutely absolutely true. Absolutely true. And now, color and editorial

Dov Simens 41:52
Knows how to what the basic is of get a master get to over the shoulder medium shots, where is the B roll, the cutter, roll roll, or the close up, or the sometimes they call it the cat in the window shots to close ups. So Alex understands that. And he also understands the mechanical making of the film, which is post production, what the steps are, which are so important. And let's go back, I add that thing.

Alex Ferrari 42:23
I appreciate that, that that

Dov Simens 42:26
I'm not blowing smoke, you're not giving me any money. I know, I know buddy up there. Alex knows how to direct. Now you guys come up with 50,000 or 200,000. And I'm there, get the great script and call him up and he'll get it done for that money.

Alex Ferrari 42:40
Actually being in post production for so long and delivering full deliverables all the way through distribution, international distribution, everything. I've seen how the process runs and post production and seeing the soft underbelly of independent film doing this. And it's true, the whole movie is saved in in post production, either today,

Dov Simens 43:01
I'm going to tell all your listeners right now. You want to break in you want to be rich and famous. Okay, here's what you do. Make the first movie virtual reality there. Yeah. Who's doing and nevermind, Oculus Rift, that's by far the best. Go for the cheap one. Go with the Samsung and the cardboard glasses. But do it in virtual reality who's doing the first movie? And the key is audio? added do 360 degrees sound

Alex Ferrari 43:37
Interesting. I have to do some more research on on the virtual reality.

Dov Simens 43:41
Do it. Yeah, don't do research thing. You're too late.

Alex Ferrari 43:47
So I just have a couple more questions for you. Sure. Why do you think the two day film school has been so popular all these years? I mean, it's been around since the 80s correct? 80s or 90s?

Dov Simens 43:59
I think I did the first one after I did us teaching at UCLA USC then NYU then somebody in the class said you know your acts together bring it to Cincinnati bring it to Portland, and then I entrepreneurs, and that would have been bout 89. So the 90s guy. So it's been successful because then there was such a void. Yeah, for film education for adults and professionals. Now, there are so many people doing their variations and very many of them are very good at it also. I've just been around long. I have the straight experience. I have a little bit of an unusual personality. And I've learned that sound bites that people can understand. And I'm still an entrepreneur, and I still I truly love movies bore me the movie business It's it's fascinating fascinates me. Yeah. And it's still business. And I teach everybody who's out there is thinking art, and it is an art form. But I teach the business of making the art and the business of selling the art. And I think that sustains with my personality that delivers the product properly. And I stay abreast I can explain product placement revenues, now, I can find the government programs be a tax credits, tax credits, reforms, rebates, which ones to go with and where the money is in what states have it, then I can explain how to start tapping China, China is this 800 pound gorilla that is not going to go away. And it's just getting bigger and bigger, and etc, etc. So I stay abreast I stay abreast of which right now virtual reality of how to make movies and virtual ramps, yes, everybody's thinking virtual reality gaming, it's absolutely perfect for it. And yes, there's going to be virtual reality for put something on a telescope and put it in outer space. And then every nation and city doing travelogues and the real estate people doing virtual reality for come and look at the $10 million house. But the key for us is virtual reality and movies. And the key is figuring out sound. The cameras are there with the 16 little you know, there's 16, little GoPros and little segments around the camera 32 of them, right? The key ID by normal sound, and how to come up with a script in real time with by normal sound that has 10 people in a room. And when your eyes go to one person talking, you can also hear that one person talk.

Alex Ferrari 46:52
Yeah, that is that's a challenge. It's a challenge at first to do it. Now.

Dov Simens 46:56
Let's have one of your community do it. Like somebody a year ago, Jason Blum is that contemporary genius. He funded a couple people with a couple of iPhones. And that was tangerine. Wow. The next story is not going to be making movies with iPhones. It's been done and keep doing. It's now the next virtual reality movie.

Alex Ferrari 47:23
Vertical. One more question. What is the future for independent filmmakers? And the changing industry? Like it's changed so much in the last 10 years? What do you see it going forward?

Dov Simens 47:35
There are two, two industries. There's the studio system, as long as the family stays together. On the weekend, kids got to get out of the house, where they're going to go, the cheapest form of entertainment will always be movies. I don't know what a movie theater is going to look like 20 years now. But kids are always going to have to get out of the house. And movies compared to live theater. Music, concerts, and sporting events are the cheapest form of entertainment. So movies, movie theaters will always be there. Plus, by the way, kids, as parents come weekends want to get away from us spoiled little breaths. And the cheapest form of entertainment is the movie theater. And the more. So I believe movie theaters and malls will always be there. So I don't accept everything has changed. I will argue that forever. What I go is there's a new media, the social media, and the iPads and the on demand. That's a new revenue stream. I go it's a golden era, there's you can make something and hope to get into the theatrical demographics, that becomes a movie and then cash in from the other revenue streams. Or you can go for something directly for the on demand platforms and know how to get the word out specifically within the social media. And the community. As you mentioned, Alex, that you build up. So the old world is still there. It's not going anywhere. And it got bigger because of China. And there is a new world that it's not replacing the old world. It's an addition to kind of like

Alex Ferrari 49:35
Rome, Rome, okay. Yeah, Rome still has the ancient buildings lying around but there's very modern in many ways. So it's not replaced that completely but they live hand in hand.

Dov Simens 49:45
Now let's start though here's my formula in on my I did a blog yesterday on it. I posted it today. You want to $100 million, makes it $20 million feature. Get your opening total credit. Get it out there. It makes money, then the studios will line up to give you 200 mil. But you got to start with 20. Now, Alex, do you have $20 million in your pocket that you can write the check? I don't think so.

Alex Ferrari 50:11
Not, not at the moment, sir.

Dov Simens 50:14
How do you get 20 million? You make the 2 million?

Alex Ferrari 50:18
How do you get your I lost you there?

Dov Simens 50:22
Oh, how do you get 200 million you make the $20 million? sure that makes?

Alex Ferrari 50:28
Make sure I'm sorry. I'm losing your job. Can you make sure your connections in?

Dov Simens 50:32
Oh, I put the mic down? Am I better now? Yeah, you're there you better? No, it was me putting it across my body. I've got the microphone and covered it up. So how do you get $200 million? You make a $20 million feature that makes money. Wait, how do you get $20 million? You make a $2 million feature that makes money? Well, how do you get $2 million? You make a $200,000 feature that makes money but you call it a million dollar feature? Well, how do you get to one of their you make a $20,000 feature? And how do you get 20,000? You get a job? You save money? Do not go to NYU film school? Do not go to USC or UCLA, or the best film schools in the world? Yes. Are they great if your parents have a billion dollars in equity? If not, it's not worth it. Take your money, go make a micro budget fee, taking money and learn screenwriting. Learn how to tell the amazing story that takes place in one room. 90 pages one location, then you'll come up with your iPhones, your cast unknowns. And now we'll see how much talent you really have. And my it's just my heart torquing I believe that product will get out there and can make it for 510 20. You'll probably make your money back. And now you started to get a game plan a business plan. Start at the bottom start at the bottom. My Alex do a little commercial.

Alex Ferrari 52:06
Yeah, I was actually just that was the next day. I'm like so where can Where can we find the two day film school?

Dov Simens 52:12
This going, you're bright

Alex Ferrari 52:15
You're breaking up? The so okay.

Dov Simens 52:17
So there's a very good and quick My website is webfilmschool.com. webfilmschool.com on there you'll find my noble film block webfilmschool.com on webfilmschool.com I have a 20 hours streaming film school that you can get for $89 for 20 days, or 149 for 60 days. Can you hear me out?

Alex Ferrari 52:46
Yeah, I'm perfectly fine. It's perfectly fine

Dov Simens 52:47
Thank you very much. Also, if you want to own it, I have it in a DVD format that I'll mail out. It's 249. It's 16 DVDs, 30 lessons, budgeting, scheduling screen or interacting cinematography, lighting, etc, marketing, distributing, and also I do my two day class three times a year in New York three times a year in LA, but I'm doing it four times in China four times in Australia, Croatia, and a couple other nations. So web film school.com, you'll find me, you'll get my blog, and you'll hear my personality. And I believe though with my weird personality, I get you focused and give you the straight information. But what I can't teach is talent. It's so important. I don't know how to teach it. I know how to give you the nuts and bolts. I know how to demystify this mysterious industry. So you go, Oh, I know what to do. But you've got to do it with a work ethic. And you've got to do it with something I don't know how to teach talent. I know it after I see it. But I can't teach it. I wish all of your community the best. I recommend to get your 90 paid one location stage play and start with a micro budget one week feature film one week feature God bless. Happy filmmaking

Alex Ferrari 54:18
God thank you so much for being on the show. And guys please Go on. Go to web film school comm it is awesome. I highly highly recommend it. I've been actually promoting it on indie film hustle since we launched indie film hustle doesn't give me a dime for that I do it just because I love him and I love I love the kind of work that and the information is there and it's so in your face and exactly what you need to hear and there's no BS there's no romanticizing which a lot of people do. He gets straight to the point and tells you exactly what you need to do to make a movie. And like he says he can't teach a talent but he teach you how to make it. So definitely head over there. So thank you again so much for for coming on the show. We really appreciate it.

Dov Simens 54:59
You're welcome and All you out there you got 20,000 200,000 the Great's grip and want to hire a director out so get it done but if you paying them nickel dime money he better have an equity in it. If he loves the script, God bless happy filmmaking everybody.

Alex Ferrari 55:14
So that was Dov Simens guys. I hope you guys enjoyed it. I know I did. It was a big treat talking to Dov. He is as as you can tell a master at what he does. He's one of the first guys actually the first guy if I'm not mistaken in the in the game of teaching filmmakers, independent filmmakers outside of film schools. So I really am a big fan of his and big fan of what he does. So you guys got to go check out what film school comm where you can find his course, I would definitely take his course, if you're going to be a filmmaker, it is awesome. It teaches you It really is a two day film school. Like you come out of there and you use that you really feel that you have a good grasp of how to make a movie. Technically, not the creative, not the cameras, not any of that stuff. But actually the nuts and bolts of making a movie. So definitely go check them out. And thanks again to Dov for being on the show. Now if you want to get my six secrets to get into film festivals for cheaper free, head on over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips calm. I'll show you how I got into over 500 Film Festivals for cheap or free and I only paid for a fraction of them. So I give you all my secrets on how I did it. That's Film Festival tips calm. And again guys. If you liked the show, please head over to iTunes and leave us a review. You have no idea how much that helps the show and helps us get to more and more independent filmmakers and spread the gospel that is indie film hustle. So thanks again guys for listening, and I'll see you guys soon. Bye.




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IFH 006: Indie Film VFX Masterclass with Dan Cregan

In this episode, we tackle what visual effects artists can do to help you in your indie film. Visual Effects in Indie Film is really hit or miss, mostly miss. Many indie filmmakers don’t have any idea what to do when it comes to visual effects.

Uber visual effects artist Dan Cregan takes you through a master class on indie film visual effects and tells us how he went from indie visual effects to huge studio films like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Hobbit.

Dan started working as a visual effects artist with my visual effects/post-production company Numb Robot over 10 years ago. We’ve worked on countless independent films and projects over the years, some good and some painful.

We even co-directed our Japanese Anime Short Film  Red Princess Blues: Genesis.

His road from indie film to tentpole studio films is a long and painful one but it has a very happy ending. I hope you enjoy to film geeks talking about the film business and hopefully sprinkling in a few nuggets of knowledge for you.

Here’s a list of a few of the films he has worked on:

The Martian
Fantastic Four
The Equalizer
Guardians of the Galaxy
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Game of Thrones
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Enjoy my conversation with Dan Cregan!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
This episode is going to be fun. It's it's our have a good friend of mine, Dan Cregan, who is a big visual effects guy now. When I started out with him, he was my visual effects guy on my small film broken. And also on my red princess blues. We've co directed the animated movie references blues Genesis, where he did all the animation on that as well. And, and involved with lipstick and bullets, my blu ray as well. So then I can call him one of my best friends. And it's been amazing to see how he is grown in the visual effects world. He went from broken to films like guardians of the galaxy's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Games of Thrones, Mount Millicent 47 Ronin, and The Hobbit just just to name a few. And he just got done off of Fantastic Four as well, which we do discuss a little bit of Fantastic Four, as well in this episode. So it's a long one, it's about an hour and a half long, you know, it's a couple film geeks talking, but a lot of great information about visual effects visual effects in indie film, and, and just general good times. So without further ado, my good friend Dan Cregan. And thank you, Dan, so much. Are you there, sir?

I'm here.

Thank you so much for joining us on the show today. I really, really appreciate it. I saw I wanted to thank you, man. I wanted to talk a little bit about there's It's no secret I don't think that you and I have been real good friends for going on 11 years now. So I wanted to I wanted you to tell the audience how we met and all the fiasco that we've gone into since then.

Yeah, it's been a few. Well, where to start?

At the beginning is always at the place

At the beginning. Alright, um, well, 11 years ago, just about I was working as a professor at a digital art school that sent me to a film festival to do a talk about high definition animation. I think it was at this point, because that was like a new thing then.

Yeah, I remember I remember that panel. It was like, you know, HD is gonna change the world.

Dan Cregan 4:04
Yeah, it might catch on. Yeah. So it was like a panel discussing I don't know render times and how it was gonna change the workflow for animation, visual effects, post production and things like that. Because you know, it's like 2004 and it's just starting to get out there. Anyway, I do this panel as excited because, you know, I was pretty fresh out of school, and I was teaching and I was like, oh, now they now they want me to be on a panel. So I feel all professional and whatnot. So both so I knew so little, I knew so little

Alex Ferrari 4:36
That we all we all we all knew so little and we still do in many ways.

Dan Cregan 4:41
And then I was we were given the talk and my buddy Ken, who we also work with. He was on the panel with me and I guess we got two bantering pretty good on the panel and, and, and you were in the audience and and sure enough, you kind of took a shine to us, I think because you approached us after the panel and That's where it all began.

Alex Ferrari 5:02
The rest is the rest of the worst day in your life, I'm assuming.

Dan Cregan 5:08
I remember, I remember you asking if we had business cards, and I was like, really I don't, I'm a visual effects artist, I don't have a business card. And, and I said, but here, here's my phone number, whatever, here's my email address, I think it was at the time. And I don't think it was a day before you would contacted me and said, we're doing a short film. And I wondered if you'd come down to the studio in Hollywood, Florida. And

Alex Ferrari 5:33
Then for that distinction,

Dan Cregan 5:35
And check it out, you know, and, and see, if you want to be a part of this, there's no money, but maybe you'll be interested in working with us. So that's kind of where it started. And I just wanted to work at the time working on projects, that meant something or, you know, just film projects, I have done one movie at that point, and not even as a visual effects artist as a concept, designer, storyboard artist. And it excited me to have the opportunity to just work at that point, I was earning money teaching, I just wanted to work. So yeah, I came in and we did a meeting. And then the rest is, as they say, history.

Alex Ferrari 6:16
So what? Why did you decide to work with a young, independent filmmaker who had no real credits to his name? at all? I mean, I know I was, I was a working editor at the time. And I had us had a room, or an office in a production facility in Hollywood, Florida. So I know that might have like, legitimize me a little bit. But beyond that smoke and mirrors, what was it about the, the project about me? I'm asking this question, because I want other filmmakers to understand the reasoning why, and how I was able to, you know, get to work with someone of your caliber, for, you know, for free, at the beginning of basically the beginning of the real beginning of my directing career.

Dan Cregan 7:03
Well, I think the first thing was when I came in and did the meeting, it was a good location, I hadn't been in a studio setting before so location was one thing that it was impressed with, right off the bat. The other thing was your passion for your project. There was, I don't know if it was justified or not, but the secrecy that you had around the project, you were like, you got to sign something before you can read the script. And it's gonna be huge, and we're gonna make we're gonna change the world. And, you know, I was like, Oh, this is this is the real deal. This is something serious. Yeah, man.

Alex Ferrari 7:41
Well, you, you really just fell off the turnip truck.

Dan Cregan 7:45
I really, really did. And,

Alex Ferrari 7:47
And I saw you coming from a mile away, sir,

Dan Cregan 7:49
You did take advantage of me, I know, um, you know, I knew I had a lot of ability at the time. I just didn't know what to do with it. And I saw somebody who needed it at that point. And I thought, you know, I had been involved in, in one independent project before, and I've seen other independent projects go. And this was different. Broken was a film. And that's what it was called. And that was the start of our collaboration. It It was a film that had a lot of visual effects and action and it was a thriller and it wasn't the typical independent you know, talking heads drama, you know, it was it was more of a mainstream you know, just exciting thing to do. And I immediately said, Well, this is how I want to spend my free time I want to do this. The other thing was that I mentioned the production setting first. Alex that you also showed me your reel and like all this stuff that looked like you had done MTV promos, music videos, you know, mainstream commercials in like a dozen films before that. So to my eyes, you know, you always knew you always knew how to look pro and to my eyes, I said, Well, this guy's the real deal plus he's making me sign legal documents to read a script, he's got to be the real deal. And you know, I just I was taken in by the whole thing and like I said, I was young and naive, and and you know what, that can be a good thing. Because I think that's, that's when you do some of your best work is when you have nothing but passion. I think later on, you become a little jaded by the process and you kind of lose that spark. And I kind of missed that spark at this point. So yeah, it's a good time. It's really a good time.

Alex Ferrari 9:39
Well, I mean, I think just so just so you understand, I've been faking it till I make it since the beginning of my my since I was 19. When I when I started in this business. So all those demo that demo reel that you were looking at were all fake commercials. I happen to grab a bunch of footage at a at a commercial house that I was working on. I was a double I was dubbing reels I grabbed the whole bunch of raw footage that they had in the back, re edited it myself on the weekends and threw on a Nike logo and threw on different kinds of logos to make myself look bigger and that's the real that started getting me work so you know sometimes you got to fake it till you make it and obviously it worked with you so if there's a lesson swindled well if there's a lesson to be in and I think you've we've done a lot of work in the over the year so I'm sure you know you fake it till you make it thing is very viable and in many ways needed if not you can't even you can't even crack the door you know if you show you're very very true so so let me ask you a question since broken obviously your greatest work you've worked on massive massive movies hobbit guardians of the galaxy and the recent Fantastic Four as well how did you leverage or better yet let's let's go back I know how you got kind of got in because you and I were bumping around doing a lot of independent film visual effects and things like that for many years and and I know it's very difficult for you to kind of crack the door open for anyone to even give you a chance to even look at you can you tell me a little bit about the the digital domain experience and explain to the audience what digital domain was what happened at digital domain and Florida and how that you leverage that into where you are today?

Dan Cregan 11:30
Sure um you know it's everybody needs a first big break some people though they kind of wait for their big break you know working with you and doing other independent shows I think we did six years seven years of independent film well yeah you know, I'm just building a real kind of cutting my teeth on on on not all great projects but professional level projects you know as professional as you can get working in the film industry out of Florida you know, able to get myself to a certain level where when digital domain happened to build a studio in in Port St. Lucie Florida that I said wow you know, I just submitted my stuff and and hope for the best and you know, it kind of helped everything kind of came together the choices you make really do have an effect on on where you end up I mean, people ask me all the time How do you get there how do you get into the industry How do you break in there's no one way there's so many different ways and there is a great element of luck. I mean, but you got to work hard i mean you know my father always says luck is when you know preparedness meets opportunity and it's so true you just have to work and work and work and you may not get your big break right away. You it might come way down the line. But you know you it will come you know and some people do get that big break really quick. So you know, it's funny like seven years I worked on independent film six years seven years, I got into digital domain I started and I sat down next to a kid who was 19 my buddy rich and he's like yeah, I just worked on Thor and I'm like you know I just felt like

Alex Ferrari 13:26
You felt like slapping it yeah they

Dan Cregan 13:29
Digital domain pulled him out of community college to work on the program and brought him right in they were looking for a lot of young fresh you know potential talent you know they brought me in as an experienced artists but still I hadn't done the big shows and seeing everybody get an opportunity I felt good for him but obviously you start feeling like what have I been doing for seven years I guess you know, I know we talked about it a lot of times you always thought I should move out to LA and maybe I would have gotten into the industry sooner if I had moved out i didn't i like Florida I still live here in Florida and you know I kind of wanted to go my own way and

Alex Ferrari 14:08
Yeah so what happened what happened at digital domain once you've got in there? What happened with the the fall the rise and fall of digital domain and then how did you leverage that into the next phase of your career?

Dan Cregan 14:20
Well, digital domain lasted for me and for most everybody at the company for about two years. There's a lot of available out there on the internet, you can pretty much find the whole story. It basically you know, john texter who was running digital domain, you know, he had a lot of big dreams. He wanted to do so many things. And he wanted to do it in Florida, you know, and he wanted to, you know, kind of get digital domain, you know, into new avenues like an animated film and military simulation and video game design. And he wanted to do it all and he wanted to do it all right away. And you know, they They had a lot going. I mean, the animated film was the big thing. And I think that's what we were counting on to help us survive as a studio and grow and creating your own content is really important in this day and age. And the problem is that making an animated film, you know, is a long, long process, it takes four or five years, maybe, you know, best case scenario, from conception to theater, to get one of those out, you know, you know, the Pixar is the DreamWorks, they can do it faster, still not that much faster, but they can do it faster, because they've, they've got a good pipeline, we were building our own pipeline, you know, we were using digital domain Venice's structure, but for an animated film, they were creating it as they went. And you know, we had a lot of great people, you know, people from Pixar and from Disney, you know, and, you know, industry veterans, they all knew what they were doing and everybody had great intentions and you know, the money just kind of fell through you know, I it kind of comes to, you know, everybody going where they get help from states and help from governments and you know, it's just the reality of the industry right now and, and you kind of need that subsidy money to keep it going. And that wasn't the whole story with digital domain, but that was kind of part of it, you know, you know, kind of running the company on, on on government money, which was it's working to a certain degree he was we were employed 300 people here in Florida. You know, and you know, that's a lot in industry, a lot of people came from other studios and other places around the world. And, you know, they they wanted to get away and settle in a nice quiet place and go to the beach and have no traffic and, you know, they bought houses, but the problem is that when we fell when, when we were all let go and in the company restructured, you know, you can't work in the industry here. So a lot of these people who had moved here, had to move back or go someplace else, or switch industries. It was a, it was a tough time. But you know, for a lot of us for myself, and a lot of the people who started out with digital domain, it became the springboard to bigger and better things. You know, you can work on independent film for a long time, but until you've done some major films, a lot of studios won't really treat you like you're a veteran. But once you have a major studio on your resume, all the sudden you remember the club and it's like hey, you know, you were good filming You're good. You're in here

Alex Ferrari 17:29
And you've been vouched for

Dan Cregan 17:30
Yeah, so all of a sudden you know, the email start coming and you start having choices to make and it's not Can I work it's where do I want to work? You know, and, and I think I've said it many times I I was told this when I was in school and I didn't understand it and it was that artists would come into my my eyes where I went to school and say, networking is the most important thing if you want to work and and there is nothing truer people I met at digital domain I still work with at studios around the world. And you know, we kind of are a special group because we were a part of something that was starting up here and there's there's nothing like a startup there's nothing like starting out something new when people up those people become an extended family and, and working with them. You know, in other studios has been fun. But who you know, they're like, Hey, I worked with him in another studio here. Let's bring him in here. You know, it's the most important thing when people know you and you have a good reputation. That's how you get into other studios. So after digital domain, it wasn't really that difficult all the sudden, after seven years of, of trying to break in through the door. Now, everybody wanted me to a certain degree. I mean, it's still you know, challenging to get a job. But you know, you were taken seriously. And that was a nice change. So, you know, right after digital domain, I went up to New York and I and I worked at Blue Sky, which is really in Connecticut, but they put you up in New York. So it's kind of the same, you know, on a movie called epic and I got to see how animated films are made. And after that somebody I worked with a digital domain and at Blue Sky said, Hey, we're going to Ueda and they're looking for people. Do you want to come? I'm like,

Alex Ferrari 19:18
Yeah, they're doing. They're doing independent film called The Hobbit.

Dan Cregan 19:21
Yeah. You know, so it's like, oh, New Zealand. For 6000 I got to go there. Exactly. It was five months. And you know, and I said, Okay, that's a long time to be away from home. But how many times Am I gonna get paid to go to New Zealand to work on a, you know, a huge film, I mean, it's probably still the biggest film I've been a part of, you know, as far as worldwide coverage and events and, you know, Buzz and hype. You know, I'm not saying they turned out as good as Lord of the Rings because they didn't, but I was. I was really proud to have gone down there and worked with what I also got to do. Donna, the Planet of the Apes when I was down there. Which was an amazing film. I'm proud to have worked on that. So the weather trip was great. And then of course, you know, then people start looking at your rain on your reel and your resume go Oh, you worked at what a blue sky digital domain and then it just snowballs and snowballs. And, and before you know it, you know, you're you're in you can then it's just choosing where do you want to work and for VFX artists now, you know, it's, you know, Vancouver, Montreal, London, New Zealand, Australia, these are the places where the work is. So you kind of have to choose what you want to do. Do you want to go to move to one of these places? Do you want to stay at home and just take short contracts? Do you want to, you know, leave the industry, it's it. The industry is in a strange place right now. And, and you kind of have to decide what's best for you as a person, and how you want to move forward, you know, but you know, I love working on movies, there's no anything I've ever wanted to do. Really. I mean, they've been a passion of mine since I was just a kid. And I can't imagine doing anything else. Really. It's it's hard to imagine do anything. thing else.

Alex Ferrari 21:07
So that's awesome. That's a great story. I'm not I'm not jealous at all.

Dan Cregan 21:16
I couldn't get there without you, sir.

Alex Ferrari 21:17
No, no, no, no, it's too late. It's too late. Let's move on. So let me ask you a question. What are your experiences? And I've been on a lot of these experiences with you, but what is your experiences in visual effects? When dealing with independent films? As a general statement, what kind of problems do you run into what kind of issues things like that?

Dan Cregan 21:39
Well, I think for independent films, the worst, the worst thing is probably the lack of understanding about the visual effects process. So the people who are making the independent film tend to be a little bit less educated in how to VFX work. Therefore, when they're shooting, they don't prepare properly, either what they're shooting, how they're shooting it, what their expectations are, about what the result is going to be. I mean, the lack of knowledge is, is definitely the most difficult part, when you're working on independent film, when you have a tight budget, and you have a, a lofty goal, if you will, it's it's you, you have to plan, you have to figure out how it's going to get done. And you have to plan everything out precisely, you don't have extra money extra time, you know, you know, in big films, when I work at big studios, if, if there's something wrong, and it needs to be fixed, you know, big studios can just throw more money at it independent films don't have that luxury. So, you know, they have to plan more, they have to prepare more, and they have to get educated about what they're trying to accomplish. And the problem is that they often don't. So they often think they go to the movies, and they see all these things, and they're like, I want that I want, you know, a character a full CG character like Gollum in my, in my short little independent film, you know, you know, there's just a button on the on the, on the keyboard for that, isn't it, it can't be that difficult. And, you know, they, they don't really, they don't really think it through precisely. And, you know, and I think it's just, it's just not knowing, you know, so if you're an independent filmmaker, get educated about the process about what it takes the man hours, the computing power, you know, the preparation, how you shoot something, the difference between, you know, visual effects and a locked off shot versus visual effects and a moving shot. I mean, how to light a green screen properly. You know, we could talk hours and hours about just everything that needs to be done for things to work smoothly on the post production side. And I don't think enough young independent films makers really do that unless they come from a visual effects background, which you're seeing a lot of like, you know, on YouTube and whatnot, you're seeing visual effects artists doing short films, right, like, like, like the pixels short, which they bought and turned into pixels. And well, we

Alex Ferrari 24:13
Don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing at this point.

Dan Cregan 24:15
Well, it was alright. But you know, it's, I'm just saying those those those people maybe aren't the best filmmakers, but sometimes they are I mean, it's, it's what's Where are you coming from? Are you a writer that wants to be a filmmaker? Are you a visual artist that wants to be a filmmaker, there's many different types of filmmakers. And the problems are different for everybody. So there's never any one answer to any of these questions about, about how you, you know, do it correctly. It's just, it's just kind of a it's just kind of every situation is different. That's it?

Alex Ferrari 24:51
Yeah. So what like when I had a client of mine or a student, call me up asking for quotes on visual effects and general When we work together, I work as your visual effects supervisor. More for the client not supervising you, but kind of just the middleman. I can see I can speak your language they can so I translate for them for you. And the guy told me he's like, Okay, did you see that scene in Avengers? And like, you need to stop right there.

Dan Cregan 25:17
There is that that is the problem.

Alex Ferrari 25:21
If there is nothing in Avengers that we can do nothing, nothing at all. Just stop. Just stop right there. Nothing. So and I think there was a lot of that going on in indie film, and I've, I've gone I mean, we've dealt with it on God, numbers of numbers of features that we've worked on. And I agree with you, I think it's, it's getting a little better. But there's still a lot of lack of knowledge and just ignorance.

Dan Cregan 25:47
Well, yeah, I mean, if you think about it, the audience is becoming more knowledgeable. You know, people are you know, the the argument out there Oh, CG sucks, or this is too much CG or, you know, I'm you know, there is a, you know, a lot of visual effects out there. And these big tentpole films and people are getting tired of it. It's like a lot of noise and the filmmaking is, is what's being neglected in favor of a lot of, you know, razzle dazzle visual effects in the audience, though, is starting to understand and their eyes are getting more developed. And they're starting to see, you know, the process on their own. So if the filmmakers are going to come from the the new filmmakers are going to come from the audience, they are going to have a more, I don't know what the best way to put in a more thorough understanding of the visual effects process. But you know, it's still a little different tinge to knowing it when you see it, to knowing how to create it.

Alex Ferrari 26:44
Well, yeah, I mean, my wife, for God's sakes, who's who's not in the business at all, she will go to a movie and go, Oh, that was a horrible green screen, in major in a major motion picture, none that you've done, of course. So I find that funny, but if she's doing that, I can only imagine the, everyone's becoming more the visual effects literate, is as things go, as all the behind the scenes come out, and, and people have just got become much more knowledgeable about how the process is, in a lot of ways. I think it's kind of ruined the film industry a bit because the magics kind of gone. Because before you would look at, you know, King Kong back in the 30s. And nobody knew how they did that. They just, were amazed at the spectacle.

Dan Cregan 27:26
Now, what about Star Wars? 1977? I mean, when I was when I was a kid, you know, we could I couldn't even fathom what was creating the imagery I was looking at, I just accepted as real. And I feel bad that people aren't having the same experience today, and maybe they are maybe kids are nowadays, but sometimes I don't know how to look at something from that from that perspective anymore. And I wonder if anybody does, you know, because because, like you said, all the behind the scenes and the common knowledge and, you know, in all the technology that's available to every person, everybody has a video editing program that can do a key and they know what green screen is, and they and they can do basic stuff. So you know, Photoshop, you know, a lot of people know Photoshop and and, you know, they know what's possible. So, you know, it's a, it's, it's kind of a challenge now to actually Wow, people nowadays requires a crazy amount of, you know, you know, innovation, I would say,

Alex Ferrari 28:28
So, I agree with you, 110%. That's why avatar did what they did. Like when avatar came out, it was the kind of First time I've felt magic at the movie theater. Again, because I really, I kind of got what he was doing Originally, the technology hadn't been explained quite yet what he would he had done with Avatar with James Cameron did with Avatar, but it was amazing. If you watch it today, you're like, Jesus, man. It's like ridiculous. What is it, and I can only imagine what the next three movies are going to be like. But he's one of those directors that constantly is pushing the medium forward. And so it was exciting to see those kinds of films, which are rare and rare nowadays.

Dan Cregan 29:11
Well, they're always kind of been rare. The problem is that, you know, we all know, you know, hollywood does, what works. And so if something works, they copy it over and over and over again. So we as an audience, get to see the same product over and over and over again. And you know that that's the problem. But every once in a while, a visionary comes out and pushes the envelope. So you have the matrix in 1999, you've got Terminator two, you've got, you know, Jurassic Park. I mean, and all these things have in common is that they showed you something that you've never seen before. So that so that's like, you know, one of the things you have to do, it's either something you've never seen before, or you have to do it better than anybody's ever done it before. So you know, like, you know, Think recently, you know, gravity was impressive, I think, you know, Donna, the planet of the apes, I worked on at some kind of disqualified, but I thought the looking at the apes in that movie, I started to really, truly believe that digital, you know, actors were just a fact of life at this point. So but it's still have to take a studio to the level of what to do something like that. So independent films, no, not so much. So, you know, that's, you know, but independent films have their own place.

Alex Ferrari 30:35
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dan Cregan 30:45
Do other things really well?

Alex Ferrari 30:48
No, I didn't mean to interrupt you. But I think now, are we kind of like 20 years behind in technology in the sense. So let me explain, like, Jurassic Park came out in 1992. So 9393, excuse me. So you know, to make a dinosaur back then was insanely difficult. Nowadays, you can almost, and I hate to say, touch a button or two, and get a dinosaur. In other words, it's a lot easier for us to do it today. Even in an independent film world, I wouldn't, and maybe dinosaurs, not a good analogy. But that technology is a it's a lot more accessible. So now before, keying used to be a huge event, now it's in every editing system known to man, and really good cures, especially if you know what you're doing. So a lot of this stuff, so like, you know, in 20 years, are we going to be looking at avatar, like, That was cute, and I think, and I think we will get to a certain extent, cuz you look at the matrix now, which is now what, 1516 years old, oh, 99, it came out in 99. So like, 16 years old, a lot of that stuff still holds up, like, most of that movie still holds? Very, very well. But a lot of the technology that they were using then, is much more accessible now. So do you, do you think that we're like about a 1520 year gap between the everyday man everyday filmmaker, the indie filmmaker being able to even attain that kind of technology? Or are we or am I just talking out of my butt?

Dan Cregan 32:23
Well, you know, I don't know about the gap, it's more of a knowledge gap and a hardware gap. And not the complexity of the hardware and software, just the actual, you know, amount of it, right. So, you know, if you have a really good gaming rig a good computer at home, and you've got a lot of talent, you know, you can do some pretty complex CGI. But you know, to really render, you know, a lot of it for a film, you would need a render farm that was massive. So like, transformers. So the so the alleyway scene, when you see them all transform, and we're all introduced to the Autobots. The first time, I think, that was taking four days a frame at ILM with their world class render farm back. So back then, you know, and and, and they're still doing stuff, and Noah, you know, broke their render farm with all those animals in the ark just a year ago. You know, so it, you know, it, it's not so much the technology change, it's the process, yeah, it's the horsepower or the sheer amount of computing power. And as you get more of it, you can do more of it. So it's never really a knowledge thing. It's never really a software thing anymore. It's Yeah, it's more of a actual horsepower, you know, you know, problem. And not only that, you know, it's, it's something I love to tell people, and anybody who will listen, it's the problem is that more isn't better. You know, the reason why the matrix, you know, holds up is because they, they could do what they could do on a budget they had and they had to be creative. The reason why jaws holds up is that the shark wasn't working. So Steven Spielberg had to come up with different ways to build suspense, and it makes for a better film. So over the years, with visual effects, more or less is better. So actually, from an independent standpoint, having limitations is good. And, you know, I think when you look at the matrix sequels, and they have all the computing power and all the manpower and all the, you know, the biggest and the best, and was the product a little bit inferior than the first one, well, maybe for a variety of reasons, but you see the seams more in the work in the second two movies than you do in the first one because they tried to do more and be more ambitious, and more usually equals something that's going to age badly when you have to be reserved, and just kind of sneak it by the audience. You actually get a better product. I In my opinion, it's just my opinion, but I think it you know, struggle breeds a better product a better art, you know, when when you have everything available to you, you know you tend to get lazy or not not try as hard, you know. So you know there is an upside to struggle, there is an upside to having limitations. And I think it's an important thing for every filmmaker to go through.

Alex Ferrari 35:27
Well, it's I'm going on that theme of less is more. Hitchcock famously said, What's more suspense? what's what's more suspenseful, to see someone get murdered in a bedroom, or to be outside the room and hear a murder happening in the bedroom? You know, it's obviously the second one, because your mind fills in all the blanks. So that is, that's what, that's why when you watch Reservoir Dogs, when they when he cuts off the ear, you don't see it. And he actually shot it with them cutting it off. And when he looked at it in the editing room, quit and said, No, no, no, no, it's much more powerful. Letting letting your imagination run wild. And that's exactly why people are so disturbed by that scene, because their imagination is much more vivid than any visual effect can ever be.

Dan Cregan 36:15
That's true that is that is 100% correct. And I don't care how good the art form gets, you know, it's never going to match what you could the worst that you can imagine, or the best or the best that you can imagine. So you know, it's it's it's good, it's good that that is a is an issue because I think filmmakers still need to learn that technique. You know, I thought, Boy, this is gonna get me in trouble but I thought m Night Shyamalan actually knew that pretty well you know in the early days in his career, and you know,

Alex Ferrari 36:48
You don't have to worry about it I completely agree with you yeah, you know,

Dan Cregan 36:51
I just felt like that's why he there was so much hope behind him and his work Yeah, because you know, it felt like he was a filmmaker that got that you know, and

Alex Ferrari 37:01
You know, he got a few films I'll give it to him he i mean but look, most of us will never have a sixth sense in our in our lives as a creative artist, you know, so I can't knock them too much. But or an unbreakable I enjoy science but but I agree with you yeah, let's make it on the M night bandwagon right now

Dan Cregan 37:25
Because that's a whole other show that's a whole other show

Alex Ferrari 37:28
We could just talk about what directors we're all directors have failed and we are so no joke a good joke all failed we've got and then some my friend and then some so um, so what advice would you give independent filmmakers when it comes to visual effects I know we went over a little bit but any specific advice maybe about I know you and I talked about green screen and tape among other things, so some basic stuff that that you see that we've seen come through the door and use Command if they could just get these three or four things right. Got it make things so much easier, so much more affordable, and a better product at the end?

Dan Cregan 38:06
Well, any any you know, we've talked about it in the past and I think that in our in our work, and I think anytime you have a lock off shot you you factor down the difficulty of the shot by 10 you know, it's it's so much easier to work in a locked off shot now. I know dynamically are I nowadays film you know, we're used to seeing the camera move a lot. But you don't necessarily need that to make a great film. You know, Fincher will have a lot of locked off shots so it can be done. A lock off will will save the digital artists a lot of work because it eliminates tracking, it eliminates You know, a lot of the complications, perspective changes, things like that, that come from a camera moving, so it allows you to cheat more when a shot isn't in motion. So I would say that's like the number one thing you could do to help a visual artist on a very low micro budget film or low budget film.

Alex Ferrari 39:07
Now the the other thing is also though, with technology the way it is people shooting 6k and now 8k, if your final output is going to be less a to K or or just HD. If you shoot something even just old, good old fashioned red camera, 4k and do the visual effects at 4k. You should be able to do small camera movements within the frame in post without losing quality issues. It's as a cheat. Would you agree with that?

Dan Cregan 39:35
Yeah, I think that's a really you know, good point. It's it's definitely better to do a post move you know, as far as it would allow you to still work as if it were a lock off and you would still get the motion that you want. So yeah, that's, that's a fair. That's a fair thing except you do introduce a couple new problems when you're working in 4k or five calves working on a hobbit and 5k boy, everything goes slower you know I think there's no I think way back 11 years ago we were talking about that HD in animation panel where we met you know we're talking about oh render times with HD and you know how is it going to slow down your computer? Well nowadays you know 4k 5k you know 48 frames a second like we did on the hobbit 60 frames a second like Cameron wants to do on the avatar sequels this creates it's beautiful stuff but it creates so much more work for the digital artist it actually slows down the process you know, so much to go bigger because every time it will every time you throw a paint stroke down the computer's got to think about it you know, twice as hard or four times as hard and 10 times as hard whatever it's just it's just so much more for the computer to deal with when you're dealing with large file sizes so there is that factor if you do go that route you have to be aware of it as well. So So yeah, but that is that is definitely something and as far as green screen goes for independent films, lighting it well is the key thing people think that you can put anything in front of green I've seen so many so many projects right they'll they'll throw a green towel over one part of the background behind the actor and be like oh you can just remove that right that's how official effects are done.

Alex Ferrari 41:16
No Don't you forget Didn't you forget that we had a movie back in Florida that we did that had four different visual four different greens is part of the green screen like they use like a paper than paint then a blanket and it was all and then of course the actor crossed all four of them and I'm like are you kidding me? Like seriously

Dan Cregan 41:41
What is it What is that supposed to do? I mean at that point you just wrote a scope but it was mastered you know what are you doing it's it's it comes back to what we were talking about it's a lack of understanding of how the process works so you know the whole point to throw an even color you know with with no variation is lost on people who don't understand that that's the whole point of a green screen you know,

Alex Ferrari 42:05
Right and then also the tape marks because I know a lot of a lot of filmmakers see on behind the scenes that there's a couple markers on the green screen Yeah, and they go a little nuts don't they?

Dan Cregan 42:15
Well, they immediately think we got to have those Well first of all, if we go back to my point number one if it's a locked off shot you don't need to have any tracking markers on your green screen because you're not tracking there is you're not tracking but if you are moving the camera Yeah, I understand you need tracking markers, but guess what, you don't need 600 of them, you know, all you need is more is better. All you need is a couple that the artist is head can see that is visible in the frame, you know, every frame so definitely you know yeah, it's it's on the hobbit we had a problem with that actually, there was there was a few too many tracking markers in the scenes. And it took the paint department quite some time to paint them out. So

Alex Ferrari 43:00
And then look at that even on a multi billion dollar budget No, not $100 million budget films. And I see I look I've seen $200 million movies with bad visual effects in it. So it happens. It's not it's not a perfect art by any stretch. It's always about the artist and the team behind it. bad decisions

Dan Cregan 43:19
Are made by people with $200 million and with people with a million dollars or $200,000 you know, dollars or $2 bad decisions are made across the board that's just life that's people so yeah, it's it's something that you're gonna have to deal with, you know, no matter where you go and what you do, and the only thing you can do is be a little bit more prepared and educated and do a better job than the people who do that because I guarantee you'll have less headaches.

Alex Ferrari 43:46
So I'm going to take you back for a second back in I just remember their story and I think you'll get a kick out of it. It kind of illustrates what we're talking about. You remember the Star Wars fan film?

Dan Cregan 43:58
Yeah, I do remember that. What a great example.

Alex Ferrari 44:01
So for the audience there was this Star Wars fan film guy was putting together you know that there was a run of star when there still are a lot of Star Wars fan films made out there are some very good ones some very very good some very talented people some are amazing like amazing. My favorite of the old school one was trooper as a troops true troops true true cop the cops parrot that was that was kind of like the first big one that kind of popped out right?

Dan Cregan 44:28
The one that hit the mainstream. Yeah, we're passing around on the internet, you know, or passing

Alex Ferrari 44:32
Around on DVD. I don't even think the internet could handle the load.

Dan Cregan 44:36
I saw it on the internet. I think I think it was the early days modem internet. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:40
Were you watching it on AOL, sir.

Dan Cregan 44:42
Yeah, I think it took like, you know, an hour load or something like that. It was well worth it. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:47
Um, so this guy came to us with this. This um, the Star Wars fan film, and he literally thought he was gonna sell it to George Lucas. He was Going to have he was going to be a director of one of the Star Wars shows he had a whole vision for this so we saw the footage that he had shot and he had worked so hard and had put together so many people to put this thing together and when we saw it we looked at him and we just go this is unusable it's going to cost you a fortune to fix he had wires everywhere he had green screens in places that didn't need to be green screens he didn't have any motion trackers he didn't have I just remember the stunts like there were there's camera gear in the way he's like oh you just you know you'll just take that out or just take this out and I remember sitting there with you Dan just tell it look at I'm like this is gonna cost you a fortune. Like first of all we can't do this you can't afford us to do this and I don't even know where the film ended up I don't even know if he ever finished it

Dan Cregan 45:54
But it never come out because I don't I don't know if I ever saw it come out

Alex Ferrari 45:57
I don't remember it either. We kind of looked for it you know months later and i'm not i don't i don't know if it ever got released or not but that was a perfect example of a filmmaker not not just doing their homework and figuring it out and being so in love with their own project and in love with their own and love themselves in many ways that the project suffered the art suffered and it was sad it was really sad for us to because we were excited because it was a cool Star Wars film. You know they'll be cool, but it it was just so grossly poorly done as far as visual effects when starred in a film that is visual effects heavy is almost unexcusable. Do you remember the whole process right?

Dan Cregan 46:46
Yeah, you know, I was just thinking it you know, I do admire his his ambition and it's kind of like what I was saying at the very beginning I missed that spark you know like that's a good spark to have you know absolutely just want to do it to say I'm going to do this and it's going to be amazing and you know I love that I love that enthusiasm but a little knowledge helps yeah the knowledge could have saved him you know it could have saved him a lot you know I thought it was a little ironic because I think I remember correctly on that project they were like yeah, and we're we got to this point of the movie and it looks like it's coming out really good but we're kind of out of money so can we do the visual effects for i don't know i remember the amount I think

Alex Ferrari 47:29
It was like 500 bucks or something like yeah for like for 4000 visual effects shots and oh yeah it was paint work and and then you know we were we're gonna bring in our buddy Sean, who also worked with us on broken and other movies. And we all looked at I'm like, You're out of your mind like you're crazy like I love Star Wars is next you know as much as the next guy maybe a little bit more. But I'm not I'm not doing I can't I can't do that that you Dan would be Dan you'd be doing this for what a year

Dan Cregan 47:59
It would have been bad we that was at least a six month project. I think it might have we could have done it if it was like our full time job. And you know, but there weren't enough of us to do it to the level that they needed to be done honestly they needed a small boutique visual effects house that was staffed with you know 30 people or something of that nature maybe they could have done it but

Alex Ferrari 48:21
We're also looking back I think that was like 2006 or something like that. And in 2006 the technology wasn't up to par just yet that there wasn't as much horsepower as there is to do that kind of job now it sounds like oh yeah, you could do this this and this because a lot of the Mac's coming out now have insane amounts of horsepower and you could buy video cards and render cards and all this kind of stuff now that could you could do some cool stuff but back then you really needed like a mini ILM to deal with yeah and there weren't they weren't around

Dan Cregan 48:51
He kind of he kind of did okay if he was a studio because then he could have just thrown out more money you see if he had more money all the problems could have been fixed but it's it's what you have to remember when you're an independent film you don't have more money so you can't fix these problems you know, they're people who shoot giant films still you know do what we're just saying that have bad habits you know, they they leave too many tracking markers in or, you know, they leave crew people in the shot or they leave camera gear in the shot. But they have the money to tell an ILM to just remove it. And I love Okay,

Alex Ferrari 49:32
Yeah I remember when you were working on the hobbit you were telling me that Peter Jackson like everything was being painted out. Like he just left everything he didn't matter. Like he just saw us paint it out. I'll just paint this out, paint that guy out. paint this out, paint that out.

Dan Cregan 49:46
And it was all the time but he's owns wetter. Yeah. And you can do that when you own what and that's that's an awesome thing. Like, like Joe like, yes, there are very few people who have this kind of power. You know, George did with his whole his whole empire. have, you know post production facilities and, you know, visual effects and all that and, and Peter Jackson built the same thing with weda and stone street studios and Park Road post, and he had the same freedom that George did. And that's, you know, I can rework this film until the day it hits theaters. And I can do it at a super high level, because I have the resources, having the resources changes everything, but when you don't have the resources, you have to think in a completely different manner. So yeah, I mean, there's a different ballgame.

Alex Ferrari 50:32
But there's literally like, you know, you can count them on one hand, how many guys on the planet can do that?

Dan Cregan 50:39
Yeah, it's true there, there are very few people with the kind of power I mean, it's not so much even power. It's, you know, besides, you know, Lucas and Peter Jackson, and maybe Robert Rodriguez, who kind of built a mini version of this, how many people have that whole control over their film and their process, you know, so they're, they're powerful directors of Chris Nolan, James Cameron, you know, these guys can get their films made, and studios will throw a bunch of money at them to do it. But very few guys have control over everything. And you know, like Lucas or Jackson and Cameron kind of does have the same I was

Alex Ferrari 51:15
I was about to say, the, the only guy do whatever he wants. Well, like I was saying, I forgot someone interviewed Cameron about avatar. And, and I think he said something like, I'm, I'm pretty much like one of two guys on the planet that could do this. Like literally, like what, like literally, who else is going to do avatar? Who else is going to be handed arguably what $400 million budget on a property that has never been seen before? It had to basically launch an entire property an entire brand, invent new technology along the way? How many guys right? It's just it's so rare.

Dan Cregan 51:56
You know, it's, it's absolutely, you know, miniscule the the percentage of people who get to play in that kind of sandbox. And the The problem is that they kind of give everybody a you know, like, James Cameron is kind of famous for saying go out and shoot it yourself. Go out and shoot something, you know, and it's just that if you do go out and shoot something, don't expect it to look like a James Cameron movie. You know, it's, it's, it's, it's so such different worlds, you know, that they play in such different fields. You know, in Cameron, I was gonna say the thing that separates him from a Lucas or, or a, or a Peter Jackson is that he hasn't really built his own Empire. But his films are so successful, that he can just borrow other people's Empire and they'll just hand them the keys and go, go ahead, go do whatever you want. You know, so he has a blank check all he does, because he's literally has a nearly unblemished record. I think his worst performing movie was the Abyss and I love the abyss. So he has a almost a perfect record of filmmaking. How many people could say that,

Alex Ferrari 53:01
And the Abyss being the arguably I think they rated it the toughest film shoot in history. Yeah, outdoing Apocalypse Now, you know, as as, like the most difficult film shoot in movie history. And if you ever watch that documentary on his on that blu ray, which I've watched a million times since I was in college, it just, you just sit there going. There's just there's just very few human beings directors on the planet that could do something like that. But we're going off topic, we've kind of swayed off into movie geek land.

Dan Cregan 53:34
Let me That happens a lot with us. We apologize.

Alex Ferrari 53:37
But but a lot of good information popping out. So um, what kind of advice can you give young visual effects artists starting out and trying to break into this extremely diluted market and difficult market to get into in the visual effects world?

Dan Cregan 53:53
Well, this this answer, it changes and it doesn't change. Because, you know, I think it's the thing I get asked more often than any other thing whether, you know, wherever I go, if people know what I do, they're like, oh, how do I do that? You know, they're, like I said earlier, there is no one way to get into the business. I mean, you could argue so many different paths, right? We could say, well, you go to school, but then if you go to school, and you pay an exorbitant amount of money to go to an art school and you build up 40 $50,000 in student loans, that's not exactly a good way to go. If you could have learned the same on the internet, which you can. Nowadays, the information is all out there. If you want to learn, you can learn on your own. But then what's important to get in the industry is to know people in the network, one of the best place to start your networking is at school. So you can go back and forth over which first step to take self learning or school. Either one of those is the first step. But you're going to have to make some concessions, whichever way you choose and once you taught yourself what to do, whether you You're in school or whether you self taught, then you've got to get in the door of a company and how do you get in the door? When, when nobody wants to give you a chance? When is visual effects is one of those fields that has a quote unquote, you know, a glamour, kind of, Oh, yeah, you know, around it. And it's funny because it's very unglamorous. You know, and I know a lot of people like to say that, you know, some people even say, being a movie star is unglamorous because you spend a lot of time in a trailer waiting on set. And there's a lot of doing nothing and you know, a lot of strange locations, but, you know, visual effects is very similar in that the idea of what you do is amazing, and what you actually produce is amazing, but the actual process of doing it is very difficult. 16 hour days, seven days a week, months on end, living out of hotels, you know, traveling a lot, which can be a good and a bad thing. I mean, these things are very challenging. So, the next thing if you want to do this, make sure that you love it, you have to love this more than anything else, otherwise you're going to fail, you know, so I've known a lot of people starting out who said Oh, kind of sounds cool, I like movies, I'll go learn to be a visual effects artist, but that's not enough. You have to you know, you have to love it and you have to want to work on a movie more than anything else in the world because otherwise this industry will just eat you up and spit you out. I mean, when you get in your first job, I mean, you're going to be excited and you're probably going to not understand how tough it's going to be. And then you know after you work three months at you know, seven days a week for 16 hours a day you start to feel not human anymore and you might at that point wonder whether you want to keep doing it or not. And it's an important question to ask yourself because the internet is full of people who will complain about this field and complain about how hard it is but you know if you love it, it's still worth doing and that's definitely for sure. As far as getting that big break you know, I would say even today the best place to get your start is in stereo I know that sounds a lot of people like oh I don't want to do 3d conversion or whatnot but a lot of places will hire inexperienced people to do stereo so it a break in

Alex Ferrari 57:27
I hate to interrupt the can you please explain to people what stereo is exactly

Dan Cregan 57:31
Okay. It's you know the process of making a film 3d a lot of movies that come out nowadays are 3d and you know, it's you know what it has to be done a lot of films are shot two dimensionally and then converted into 3d by VFX artists so the film has to be essentially dimensionalized or any other word you want to call it at any rate this is a good starting out job for a visual effects artists because there's not as much creativity I really hate to say that because because you know the people who do 3d well are extremely talented and have an extremely you know, specialized skill set and they they do really good work that that produce amazing effects good 3d is awe inspiring and the people that can do it I have so much respect for you know, but but a lot of 3d today is just done for the sake of saying our movies in 3d Let's charge $25 a ticket you know, so it's done for not artistic reasons like a Cameron would do you know, it's done more for let's get more dollars per head in the theater you know, and the rest of the world loves 3d so you know, that's a 3d is a whole discussion onto itself to got it but it's a good place to start out if you're a visual effects artist because you can they hire a lot of inexperienced kids and it's a good place to get in the door and you don't have to be kid if you just anytime you're in entering the industry, you know, it's a good place to get your start. The the trick then is you're not out of the gauntlet yet, if you get into a 3d company like legend in San Diego, stereo D in Toronto, prime focus, your next challenge is getting out of 3d and into 2d because there's a whole kind of invisible wall that tends to block those two disciplines and rightfully or unrightfully so I think unrightfully so there's plenty of artists who do stereo that can really do 2d, you know, normal visual effects as well. So, you know, after you get out of there, you can get another job, you know, that you know, is closer to what you want to do, you might have to do undesirable jobs. And that's that's the kind of the lesson here. The other thing you can do if you don't want to go the stereo route, you can kind of do what we did, which was more independent film much, you know, which a lot more painful because you weren't working on big films. You can you know, go out out there and, you know, push your services on every independent film that just needs digital effects done for very little money.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dan Cregan 1:00:19
And so when you're when you're starting out, yeah, and when you're starting out, if you got good skills, but nobody will take you in as an artist, your best way to improve your reel is to work on independent films that look good. That's a kind of a different distinction than just independent films. As an artist, if you really you know, as a visual effects artists, your reel is everything right? So you're judged by your reel doesn't matter what your resume says, You're judged by that. Two minutes, you can put on screen that shows this is who I am, this is what I can do. And when you come out of school, or you have self taught lessons, you tend to look just like every other person of that level, either work tends to all look the same. And it's not even close to professional. So the best thing you could do is kind of offer your services to a good looking independent film. Now this is kind of like why I hooked up with you, Alex, because your stuff looked good. At the end of the day, when I looked at your reel, regardless of whether it was a real Nike commercial or not, you know, I liked it. Well, I knew what I was looking at was done by somebody with a lot of talent. And I said, Well, I'm going to combine my talent with his talent, and we're going to make good looking stuff, we may not make any money, but we're going to make some good looking stuff. And that's a good thing to have on your reel that pays off later. There's a lot of people, you know, and rightfully so who will say don't work for free, don't get taken advantage of. And it's true, you shouldn't. But sometimes, you kind of have to do some pro bono work to, to get the real looking good, you know, but make sure that you choose correctly, you know, you've got to be a good judge of project, if the stuff that they're shooting for their film looks terrible, any VFX work that you do is going to look terrible, because it's combined with that footage. So make sure that you're working with good looking footage, that's, that's number one, if you're going to work cheap, make sure the work comes out really well or free. You know, and then hopefully, if you do enough of these projects, the people you're working with will start paying you. And that's that's hope, number one. Hope number two is that you build a real that will grab the attention of a company that is looking for new artists then and be prepared to make less obviously when you're starting out you're going to be making the entry level and your greatest asset when you're an experienced to a big, big studio is that you work cheaper. So you know it's gonna be a long road up and you know, that's that's just the reality of it. And there will always be that person who knows somebody who has a some good student project that gets picked to go right into the Big Show, and gets paid a senior rate right off the bat that this is happens everywhere. Like, I know, I've heard you tell people Alex like, you know, The Blair Witch guys, or, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:23
Rodriguez, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith,

Dan Cregan 1:03:25
You know, this doesn't happen to everybody, right? It just doesn't. And everybody thinks, oh, I'll do that one great thing, and I'll be on my way and a lotto ticket, the lottery ticket Exactly. And if they do, it does happen to you. That's awesome. That's amazing. And, you know, and I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna downplay that, you probably earned it, and it's probably a great thing that had happened to you. But for the 99% of the rest of us, we're gonna have to grind and work and toil and and just kind of pull ourselves up under our own steam. And, you know, it takes time and you know, like, you know, an overnight success if, if, if, if somebody said, oh, wow, you know, you're pretty successful, you know, you know, it happened pretty fast. You might, you know, I started a digital domain in 2011 it is now 2000 you know, 15 and most of my big work has been done in the last four years, but guess what, the seven years before it, were what made me it'd be in a position to actually do the last four years. So you know, that's that's an important step. You know,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:31
So and if you told me correctly, that one of the reasons why you got hired at digital domain was because of our work together with non robot.

Dan Cregan 1:04:39
Oh, yes. Yeah. Though, those seven years of independent films, I picked the best of what we worked on. And, and the best stuff was the stuff we had done together and created together because we had control over what we were creating. You know, you're kind of at the mercy when you're working for a client. You're at the mercy of their I have their Once you know of their preferences, so, you know, the stuff that we did together ended up being the best stuff on the reel.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:07
But you also had some, it never hurts to put a star on your reel. Oh, no,

Dan Cregan 1:05:13
Well, that's that's a good point, too. I mean, you know, it's funny just, you know, just just being doing an independent film, when you're when you're choosing an independent project from where I said, choose good looking, you know, footage. The other thing you should choose is uname. Actor, if you if it has a name actor, and you can get shots with the name actor, people tend to take you more seriously, as I know, you worked on a professional project. Why? Because I recognize that actor, you know, I mean, for me, it was, you know, a couple things, but I think the big first big one was Richard Dreyfuss, right, like numbers first, you know, and, and having that on the reel helped. And so I went to digital domain. It's funny, it's it's a strange story, because when I interviewed with the person later on, that person ended up being my lead on the floor. And, and I asked him, How did I do in the interview? And what was it about my reel that got me hired and he said, You fell right into the right category. We weren't looking to hire really experienced people, because we don't have the money to pay really experienced people. And we weren't looking for people who do nothing. We were looking for somebody right in the middle segment. So the Goldilocks Yeah, it kind of worked out for me at that point, I had just enough professional work to where I look like I knew what I was doing. But I didn't have the big shows that look like I would have been way too expensive for for them. So you know that that worked out perfectly. And, you know, I'm really I'm really, it's been a strange road. It's been a long, strange road, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:44
We're still on it, sir.

Dan Cregan 1:06:45
Yeah, I know it. Sometimes. It's a, it's, it's it, I don't know, it's, it's hard to wrap my head around at this point.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
So, um, we're gonna start wrapping it up. I have a couple more questions for you. I know, I know the answer to this, but I want you to answer it for the audience. How important is design, marketing and promotion when it comes to promoting yourself, or your film projects out to the world?

Dan Cregan 1:07:16
I mean, it's hard to quantify, but it's definitely one of the most important things I would say that you need to do. I mean, it's got to pass the eye test, everything you do has to pass the eye test, you know, we usually people see something they can tell right away, whether it's professional or not. And looking like a professional is more important than being a professional, when you have big dreams. So when when you're trying to when you're trying to impress people or get noticed or be taken seriously, let's just, we don't even have to change the world, right? You just want to be taken seriously, you have to look professional. So, you know, the presentation of something is the most important thing to me. You know, I mean, this is one thing about independent film that I've I am not particularly fond of, you know, since way back before I had any credits or any experience, you know, I would go to film festivals and and see a lot of the product and and I would be like that looks terrible. I mean, maybe the idea and the art behind it is in the right place in the hearts in the right place. But Wow, the audio is terrible. The lighting stereo terrible, or the or whatever they shot it on is an inferior camera. All that matters so much and, and then their movie poster, you know, looks terrible in the in the you know, everything just screams Don't take me seriously, I don't know what I'm doing. And that's unfortunate, because I want to take people seriously I want people to do well. presentation is everything to me. I can't make a blanket statement and say it's the only thing that matters because

Alex Ferrari 1:08:56
It is of course not. It's a combination.

Dan Cregan 1:08:58
Yeah, it's you kind of have to have everything you have to this is why this is a tough thing to do. It's not easy to make art. Because you have to put a lot of things together and, and even I won't even say go as far as art. I'll say something as commercial or because to make commercial something for public consumption. It has to be it has to hit so many notes. It has to look good. It has to sound good. It has to be good. You know, it has to, you know, be interesting, you know, no, but I guess good design and good promotion. That's got that's to get people in the door. If you want people to actually look at what you did, you're going to need that. Now maybe what you did is amazing, and you better hope so because if you can, but if you can't get the people in there, it's not going to matter. If if you do all this work and have all this heart and soul buried in a project and then 100 people see it on YouTube or on some film festival then I don't know, you could argue is that worth it? Or is it not worth it, it's not something that I want to do, if I want to do work, I want to be seen a lot of people, you know, doing the work is the reward. And I agree with that, too, that's perfectly valid. But if you want to go somewhere, if you want to be a professional, if you want to make more movies, if you want to make a living a living, you have to have an audience. And the only way to get an audience is to look like you know what you're doing, and to get the people in the door to actually see it. And, you know, I think even today, it's my favorite thing about what I do, you know, there'll be hard days, and we'll be sitting around and talking with other artists, and they'll be saying, wow, this is really bad, or this is really good. And, and, and I said, we'll just stop and go, how cool is it, though, that at the end of this process, our work will be seen by millions of people. And that's a great and that's, that's where it's at, you know, that's, that's an amazing thing to, to create something and maybe it's, it's commercialized, and it's watered down for the mass audience, and whatever else you want to get into, you know, an artistic argument about it, but it's still, you know, it's, it's an art form, and it's seen by millions of people, millions. And that is, that's what makes cinema so great. And that's what makes working on movies, so great. And, you know, and I think, you know, to even the most artistic, you know, outsider creatively, you know, a counterculture person, I still think they could benefit from from really good promotion, self promotion, you've got to, you've got to package stuff you have to, that's the way it gets out to the people.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:43
Well, I think with the gluttony of product that there is out there, and whether you're selling yourself with a gluttony of people vying for the same jobs, or the gluttony of movies out there, there's no way to kind of shift sift through that without presentation presentations, the equalizer at that point, it's the only thing that that equalizer is the only thing that's gonna make you stand out. So if you have a great movie poster, if you have a great trailer, if you have an amazing website, and you're able to build this kind of world around your project, same thing goes for your for yourself, if you have a great demo reel and a great website, and you present yourself in a professional manner, and package yourself in a professional manner. That makes you stand out from all the other guys, that's the only thing that you really can do, you will never even get a chance that's anyone to see how good or bad your work is, unless you know how to present it. And I think that is honestly one of my goals for indie film hustle is to show people how to present their work, how to get attention, how to package their work in a way that they can make a living, doing so and with all the options that there are out in the world now for self distribution, and Kickstarters, and all that kind of stuff that you can actually make a living, you're not going to get rich, but at least you can make a living and you can continue to make art and make a living doing it. So I do I believe like you it's it's so important to be able to package yourself or your project in the proper way. No, it's true.

Dan Cregan 1:13:15
And, you know, it's it's not even that hard to do, you know, out there, you know, how do we learn, we learned by emulating that since we're children, that's how you do it. So if you see an ad campaign, a poster, movie, anything, a trailer emulated, if you I mean, I know it sounds like copying or a key to or, you know, but it really isn't because this is how we learn when I used to be an illustrator. And like any illustrator, when you start drawing, you emulate your heroes, you emulate the artists you like the most. Same for filmmakers. Same for visual effects artists, you know, you start emulating what you do the most. So what you like the most. So I would still say this is a good thing, not a bad thing. So when you're starting out to fake it until you make it thing, emulate the best and emulate what you love. And really look, I don't think they look closely enough to really look at the details, what makes it what makes it great, what makes a poster look professional, what makes a website looks professional. And I don't care if you have to copy a professional website down to the letter, do it because that's how you're going to learn the actual form of what makes something good versus something that doesn't look as good.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:38
And generally when I when I do work, I always start with something I'm trying to emulate, let's say and then by the time I'm done, I doesn't even look like what I started with. But at least I got a starting point. And then it kind of grows from there. And that happens with every art form, whether that's painting, photography. I mean Tarantino has made an entire career out of that, you know, he emulates every movie. She's ever seen. He writes amazing dialogue and he's an amazing, you know, he's an amazing talent. But he's the first to say he goes, I can quote him. I steal from every movie ever made. And that is a direct quote from him and it's but everyone does it. You know, as a filmmaker we're all stealing from DW Griffith and from an Orson Welles like everybody, you know, who are who did the first two shot. Well, someone stole that, you know, who moved the camera first, someone stole that, you know, it's, it's there. Everyone's always stealing from everybody. And, as as Coppola said, steal from if you're gonna steal, steal from the best. It's true. And it's industry. I think it was Picasso. I think they said that as well. If you're going to steal steal from the best, so um, anyway, so um,

Dan Cregan 1:15:46
I don't know, his his line wasn't his line without great artists. Good artists borrow great, great artists steal or something.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:53
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Thank you for correcting me. So I know, it was awful.

Dan Cregan 1:15:57
I might be wrong, too. But it's what popped into my head.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:00
So um, are there any stories? We're going to wrap it up in a minute? So is there any stories, working any fun stories working in the in the big leagues that you would like to share that won't get you in trouble? Or deported?

Dan Cregan 1:16:16
Yeah, um, you know, it's, it's, it's tough, because, you know, when we're working, I think, you know, I would say that it's a general blanket statement, it's not specifically directed at one film that I've worked on or another. Now that that's my, my, my little my legal speak there. But I've noticed something that happens in the big leagues, and, and you don't feel like it's gonna come together until the very end. So a lot of the projects I've worked on, have felt like the film wasn't going to be a film six weeks from the time it's hit hits theaters. So you know, we'll work these horribly, long hours, and clients will have really crazy notes. So usually what happens is, about a month from the movie being done, you'll start you're starting to finish things. And when they start seeing the finished product, invariably, people have opinions. You know, the client always has opinions. So they'll say, No, can we just try it like this, this and this, and then it's like, well, we've just been working six months to get it to this point. And I thought we were done. Yeah, but you know, we've got a month let's let's try this, this and this. Alright, so we tried this, this and this, and then they'll send it back. And can we do a little bit more of this a little bit more of this. Another week goes by and we'll do it again. And we'll do it again. And before you know, we're right on the deadline, and they'll go you know, that shot, it looked good a month ago, let's go with that. And so that's usually what happens in the big leagues is this weird kind of circle of doing it good. The studio wanting to make tweaks making a bunch of tweaks for the client because you've got to please the studios, and then ended up right back where you started from? I can't count how many times that's happened in the creative process. And always feeling like the movies never going to get done. There's too many things too many moving pieces. We haven't nailed down this we haven't nailed down that. And then like two weeks before the film's supposed to come out you're like hey, it's looking pretty good. You know, I mean, it just seems to be that you know, we have to have our backs against the wall sometimes to produce what we need to produce you know, I wish it didn't have to be like that. Maybe it doesn't but that's kind of the way the business works now. And I always found that was kind of, you know, an interesting way to work to put it to put it out there. I don't know interesting would you call it

Alex Ferrari 1:18:48
It's basically art is never finished. It's abandoned?

Dan Cregan 1:18:52
Yes. I mean, I don't nobody wants to let a movie go to the cinema. You know, almost everybody wants to work on it another day. Do another revision, try another thing. And sometimes you have to have deadlines, because deadlines are the only thing that make you stop. You know, as an artist, absolutely. Yeah. Otherwise you'll tweak something to death. So you know, if you're experiencing that out there, don't worry. It happens all the way up to the all the way up to the top of the chain.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:18
So I'm, I'm going to ask you the question I ask all my guests when they come on, name your top three movies of all time. Oh, I know. And everyone's not there. I just picked three that you really enjoy and tell me why. All right, well, no order doesn't have to be an order. Yeah, there is no order.

Dan Cregan 1:19:40
Man, it's it's really tough. I've got to say Star Wars only because regardless of whether I think it's one of the best films of all time, it was one of the most influential films of all time for me, you know, so I would have to say there's no way to not have Star Wars in the top three. You know, I'm gonna have to go just off the top of my head because there's just too many movies that I love to death and watched a million times but I'm going to go with the Shawshank Redemption because whenever it's on TV, I watch it endlessly and each time it's like I'm watching it for the first time. And I think I've seen the thing hundreds of times hundreds of times and I love it every single time. I don't know what it is about that film. If I could bottle it, I would it's it's just such an amazing film. And for number three got to be jaws another film that I watch every single time I see it on TV good. And I'm captivated by it frame for frame. So if I absolutely am boxed into a corner off the top of my head today, those are the three I would choose

Alex Ferrari 1:20:43
The three very good choices to know one Spielberg one Lucas and the Darabont. Yeah, Shawshank and I'm going to just throw in my two cents on Shawshank Redemption because I have analyzed it in my own mind and this is my ramblings of why I think it's so so amazing and how it touches a chord with everybody. I have yet to though anytime any of my movies or any of my projects get a bad review. I always just look up online. Bad review for Shawshank. And there are out there so you got to be kidding me. Oh no, just google it bad reviews for Shawshank. And then I read some idiot. Shawshank Redemption in a negative light and I go Oh, I feel better now It happens to everybody and that's saying that my films or my projects are anywhere near as good as Shawshank but it makes me feel better that I'm not the only one that has to deal with bad reviews

Dan Cregan 1:21:38
So what you're saying is that there's hope for fantastic for yet

Alex Ferrari 1:21:41
And and absolutely not whatsoever for fantastic for sir. So the reason why I feel that Shawshank Redemption has touched his touched a nerve with so many people throughout the world and has has quietly risen above the Godfather is arguably the best movie ever on IMDB at least but considered in the pantheon of one of the best movies ever made. Is that I feel that in many ways, we all feel like any frame we all feel imprisoned, whether that be in our jobs, whether that be in our marriages, whether that be in our relationships, whether that be in any million of ways you feel imprisoned, and and wrongly imprisoned that that you don't feel like you deserve to be imprisoned. That's why a Count of Monte Cristo I think has as touched so many people that story over the course of so many 10s of 1000s hundreds of years well I don't know when was that written I forget when it was written but anyway and and I feel that one we all get when we see Andy go through that pipe full of crap it's us it's an analogy for us. We if we just go through enough crap especially as indie filmmakers if we go through enough crack crap we'll just break through the other other side clean ourselves off get the money from the man who's been screwing us all this time and move to Mexico and and sand the boat and wait for and wait and wait for your best friend to show up. You know I feel that's one of the reasons why it it touches everybody I've yet I haven't met anyone who doesn't like Shawshank yet.

Dan Cregan 1:23:19
I mean really have you I mean Yeah. Is there a person who doesn't I least like The Shawshank Redemption

Alex Ferrari 1:23:25
There are people out there because I saw the reviews so there were at least that you look there were people who gave Star Wars horrible reviews I remember George Lucas walking around with a T shirt that had that review on it and it's just ironic and hilarious that he did that. But but I've never met anybody who didn't like Shawshank nor do I really want to meet that person honestly. It says something about no I'm joking but I think that's one of the reasons why because it's on my top three as well that that that without question is on my top three

Dan Cregan 1:23:55
I think it's my number one I quite honestly I keep coming back to it over and over again. Whenever my head goes into the hole. How would you do and usually it's a top 10 or top 25

Alex Ferrari 1:24:04
And it's it's one of those but it's not it's one of those movies that it's not like you're not watching it because Spielberg or Hitchcock or Fincher did these cool camera moves or or Scorsese, like did this thing. It's just the purest storytelling that there is honestly and in so many ways it was just good writing, good character, good direction, good music, his scores, remarkable everything just jelled

Dan Cregan 1:24:31
Everything lightning in the bottle. I mean, sometimes I don't even think the filmmakers have absolute control. You know, Lucas himself has said, You know, sometimes movies just work and sometimes they don't and sometimes you all you can do is put the pieces together and hope you know that it works and sometimes it's just the perfect, perfect storm. And no, I think Shawshank is one of those perfect storms.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:54
Well, I mean, there's the famous, the famous screening of Star Wars that George did for all of us. Friends Brian depalma Spielberg and all those guys. And they all you know every one of them came out like poor George man, you know,

Dan Cregan 1:25:06
Except for Spielberg was the one who said it was gonna be the biggest thing ever

Alex Ferrari 1:25:10
He from what I from what I've read Spielberg was the only one that kind of got it he's like you might be onto something I don't think he predicted that it was going to be this monumental hit. But he did say I get it I get what you're doing I think you're gonna do well with it. But the other like Brian De Palma and and john melius. And all these guys like port George man, he spent all this time on this thing. It's gonna be horrible. And then the same thing happened for Quentin Tarantino. On Pulp Fiction. I just recently found out watching a documentary about him that he showed his he showed Pulp Fiction to a bunch of his friends and he's famously good friends with Robert Rodriguez who wasn't there he was in Austin shooting something so he couldn't make the screening. And then Robert called the friends and everyone was like, Quinn's gone man it's not this is not no one gets it No one's ever seen anything like that this is going to be a horrible thing. And one of the guys went as far so I don't think anybody got I think there was also the only person who quit and said that got it was Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow saw it and she's like, I get it. This is gonna be huge. And she like literally showed it to everyone she like went over to James Cameron's house is like, you're gonna watch this. You can't even imagine what you're in store for like you've never seen anything like this. And like the matrix and Star Wars, I think Pulp Fiction in the has also moved to cinema and moved cinema in a certain way, maybe not visual effects wise, but story wise, but even to a point where one of the one of his friends was going to have a quote and said, I had one of my friends was going to give me a call and had a stern talking to about Pulp Fiction need to do better work. And this is right before or right after he won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He calls up because I was gonna give you a stern talking to but what do I know?

Dan Cregan 1:26:57
Yeah. opinions. You know, everybody's got them. You know, it's, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:27:03
It's very true, man. Well, listen, let's wrap it up. Man. I really appreciate you taking the time. You know, talking to the indie film hustle tribe, and spreading out your your pearls of wisdom. And as always, then you know, you're one of my best friends. So thank you so much for coming on board and, and you have been with me for almost an hour and a half.

Dan Cregan 1:27:24
My pleasure, sir.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:25
All right. Talk to you soon, man.

Dan Cregan 1:27:27
Talk to you later.

Alex Ferrari 1:27:28
Hope you guys got a bunch out of that episode. I loved having Dan on the episode I've been wanting to have him on ever since I launched indie film, hustle, I thought a lot of the knowledge of visual effects, which is something we really want to focus on also on any of your puzzles, a lot of the post production and visual effects because that's where I come from. And Dan is a great teacher. He is also a teacher as well. So I thought he'd be a great guest. I hope you guys got a lot out of that. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. In the after the show notes I'm going to put a bunch of cool links in the show notes as well. And if you want to learn how to get into film festivals for cheap or free, my six tips to get in are at Film Festival tips.com. That's Film Festival tips calm and I'll show you how I got into over 500 international film festivals for cheap or free. So guys, thanks again for joining me on the episode. I really hope it was beneficial to you guys. And I will see you in the next one. Thanks again.




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IFH 005: Do I Need to Move to Los Angeles to Make It?

So you want to move to Los Angeles and make it big in Hollywood. The question is, should you? Do you need to? When should you if you do? What kind of plan should I have in place? What should you do if you live in another country? All will be answered in this episode.

My journey to Los Angeles is a long and painful one, as I’m sure it is for many. The first time I attempted to leave my small pond of Miami, FL and make a go of it in Los Angeles I had my butt handed to me.

Los Angeles ate me alive and I had over $300 in parking tickets. Rough! I went back to Miami with my tail between my legs. It took me six years before I would make another attempt but this time I sold my house in Florida and almost everything I owned and had my girlfriend (my wife now) in tow.

I knew three people in Los Angeles and had no job prospects but everything worked out great. Take a listen to the story of this transplant and see if moving to Hollywood makes sense for you.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So today we're going to be talking about should you move to Los Angeles? Do you need to move to Los Angeles to in order to make it in the film business? Well, I'm going to tell you a couple of stories of what happened to me what I attempted the first time and what I did the second time back in about 2002. I think it was, I attempted to come out to Los Angeles with my editors reel. I was at that point. Editing mostly had done some directing, but nothing of any any significance just yet. Some commercials here and there, but nothing major. So I was still making my living as an editor. So I came out here with 50 VHS copies of my demo reel. Yes, the DVDs were not in yet. So it was a little bit back. So I stayed with a friend on a couch for 30 days. So I sent out over I think I faxed out because again, email wasn't all the rage yet when it came to jobs and stuff like that. So I faxed out over 350 resumes. And I met with I probably took about 30 or 40 meetings dropping off demo reels at places during that time. Not only did the town eat me alive, because my demo reel was good but wasn't up to par with la standards. I was I was basically not only given tickets by parking tickets, I had three parking tickets because I wasn't used to LA yet. So that cost me money. And at the end, I got two phone calls. One, two days before I left about a job working for I think it was like some sort of Carnival Cruise Lines or something like that editing for them. And the second phone call came four or five days after I got back to Los Angeles, which was another like hey, can you come in real quick. So I was basically got my ass handed to me by by the town when I first came out here. So much so that I didn't attempt to come back out until 2008. When I came back out here or 2007 it was 2007. I came out here before and now the second time I came out here. I had six years of work behind me I had become a big fish in a small pond which my pond was Miami, South Florida in Miami, the film industry down there. So I was well known down there working a lot doing a lot of different things, building up my resume building up my IMDb doing features all post and directing, obviously, my shorts, broken, which got a lot of a lot of heat, and attention and a couple other things I was directing as well. So I came out with that underneath my belt. And as a side note, if you're in Los Angeles already, well, you're here already you already have a foundation, you have a support. Hopefully you're living with your parents rent free, or have roommates or figured out already how to live here before you try to get into the film industry. If you're coming in from outside of LA, like I was, you really have to think very carefully before you do that. Because the town is extremely expensive and extremely brutal to newcomers, especially newcomers who have nothing to offer. But I want to be a PA I want to intern for you. It's brutal. There is 10s of 1000s of people doing that. Now, let's say that same person stays in Wichita, Kansas for lack of a better place or somewhere in the middle of the country or in their own hometown and start building up their resume they're doing production locally, start building up their their reels, start picking, picking up a lot of experienced or picking up their resume, beefing up the resume to a point where they feel comfortable and they have a wealth of experience underneath them that when they come out here, they have something to offer the town they have something to offer the business because if you come out here and you've you know you've gripped on 20 features or you know TV shows or corporate videos or anything like that in your hometown, well you're an experienced grip. You understand that to a certain extent when you get out here. I'll tell you what happens when you get out here. So if you have that experience underneath you'll make it a lot easier for you to come out here. Now when I did come out here I had I came out here with my girlfriend then wife now but girlfriend then We basically knew three people, when we came out here, we literally packed up the car, packed up everything we had shipped it over. And we're gonna make a run of it, we had a little bit of money in savings, not a lot, enough to hold us off maybe six months. My wife is a professional. So she was able to get a job fairly quickly. And that helped. And by the time I landed, I already was, I already had done some preliminary work, and had gotten a feature to edit as well as the caller had an old client of mine wanting to do some work as well, which was remote, so I didn't have to be in Miami. So I was already doing that work here. So when I landed, I was already working, I was very lucky in that sense. But I had a backup plan. And this is where the entrepreneurial spirit and the hustle comes into play. I don't know how many of you remember video stores, but there was a video store called Hollywood video. And as all video stores did, and have done for most, for the most part have gone out of business. So Hollywood video in my in my town in Miami and Fort Lauderdale area. They all went out of business. So what I started doing was going in and buying out the store, have all of their used DVDs, and video games and things like that. So what I did was the first time I did it, I first thought I did, I might have spent 100 bucks off of that 100 bucks, I made about $900 on Amazon selling them. And my wife said Wow, you're you're pretty good at this. I'm like, Yeah, I guess I did and off of like really bad titles, nothing, no a list stuff, just like kind of crappy stuff. And I was still able to make 900 bucks in probably a few weeks. So just selling on Amazon. So then, the next opportunity that came right before we left, we sold, we bought we went to a store that was right around the corner from us. And we at that point said, Look, I walked in talk to the manager, I'm like I want to buy out, I want to run to the store, give me you know, four or five hours, I will buy a ton of stuff from you. But I needed I needed store to be buying. And he completely agreed and I spent about $10,000 buying videos, games, anything you can imagine. And I put it all on my Discover card. Now I knew I would be able to sell it. But it was a risk like anything else. But at least I was able to put it on the card, get all those points, by the way, which helped me with travel later on. But I knew that okay, and I shipped all of those DVDs and everything along with all of our furniture and stuff like that, that we're moving over here. So I shipped it all over and I told my wife, I go look, at least we'll be able to make money with this for a few months while we get our feet, you know, while we get on our feet. So with those $10,000, we probably turn that $10,000 into probably around $30,000 over the course of the next six months that I was selling DVDs on the side while I was working. So it was an extra stream of income for us while we were getting our feet wet while we were starting to build up our our network of friends, our connections, and just making money. So if you are going to come out here have some sort of not only savings at least six months to a year of your basic living expenses. But also if you have a way to make money, that's not reliant on the business, like online sales, e Bay, Amazon, think outside the box, whatever you can do, do it because any kind of edge you can get while you're out here is very valuable if you could do that. So like I said before going coming out here without having some sort of experience a wealth of knowledge, or resume, it's a really uphill battle, the business will eat you up pretty quickly. Now the question still is, should I move out to Los Angeles Do I need to move out to Los Angeles to make to make it in the film business. There's always the exception to the rule. But I would say 98% of people who make in this business, in one in making in the sense of making movies making feature films, making a living at it, maybe nine to 8%. But a good majority of people spend time out in Los Angeles, or New York, either the to New York's more of a theater town, but they do have a big independent film scene there as well, as well as features and television and so on. So New York and LA but la more than New York because basically if if the film industry left Los Angeles that the town would be in trouble if the film industry left New York, you know, the town will continue. New York will not fall. But if la said if all the production left Los Angeles, and there was no movies being made here. I would I would hate to see what would happen to Los Angeles. A lot of the economy is based around production around Hollywood around that because that's what built the town in the first place. So to answer your question, I believe you should and you do because if as I They say if you want to get hit by a car, you got to step into traffic. And boy, there is a lot of traffic here. I remember when I got here, it was three months before the great recession hit, and the economy tanked. And I was working the entire time, my wife was working the entire time. Because I was doing a million different jobs. I wasn't just the editor, I was an editor, I was a colorist, I was a post production supervisor. I was a VFX supervisor. I was director, I was writer, whatever I had to do to make money. I was always working. And a lot of the season two guys that I met here, they're like, Oh, my God, the business is horrible. There's no jobs out there. And I just looked around, I'm like, Are you kidding me? there is more work I've ever seen in my life, if you're slow is like, super swamped back in Miami. So I was I was living life, I was like, Oh, yeah, there's plenty of work here. And I'm going to take advantage as much of it as I can. So while I was here, and while I've been here, let's say I worked in the business for 10 years in Miami, working in doing all that kind of stuff, editing, directing, so on. When I got here, all of my skill sets, multiplied tenfold, in about five to 10 times as fast of a time. So one year here was like, five to 10 years there, purely because of the amount of work I was doing. The kind of people I was working with the professionals, the levels of projects that started coming through my door, you have no, you have no resistance to other than to get better or get killed or get just you won't make it. So my skill set started to grow faster and faster and faster and faster, and multiply faster and faster. And then I started getting into this, oh, I want to do Red Red workflow. And I became one of the early adopters of red camera workflow back in the day when red camera workflow was on nightmare to deal with. And I got a ton of work of that because I marketed myself as the red guy. And I got a ton of work doing red work workflow for post production. So it's, it's something that you should do, I think you do. I think it's amazing to do so. But you have to do it at the right time. You're good, you're never going to be able to meet as many people in the business as you will spend in a year to hear all the big directors have made, you know, all the big directors have done time in Los Angeles. You know, Robert Rodriguez, who now has his home and, you know, factory, his magic factory over there in Austin. He spent a couple years here working on the back lots making those connections, doing his time. You know, Tarantino obviously still lives here. A lot of David Fincher You know, a lot of these guys all did their time here. Because you learn a lot, you make those connections, you have access to amazing amounts of resources that you have nowhere else. So from coming from Miami, where you would have to drive 45 minutes just to go to a rental house, to a camera rental house, or a post house or anything like that. Here, they're literally around the corner. Everywhere you look, there's someone who has a post house, someone has a camera rental house, and if it's not a company, there's a guy with a full red package who's willing to come out and shoot for you for the weekend, because he wants to, you know, you know, put some more stuff on his realer or there's a guy you know, there's everybody here has an editing system, everybody here has, you know, color sweet in their backyard. It's crazy. So that access to these kind of professionals, your skill set just grows and you as a filmmaker grow extremely fast. So I know this from I know this, from my perspective that I was in a small market like Miami, and I came to the market in Los Angeles and how fast I grew was immense. Now, if you're in some other part of the world, you know, London, obviously in the UK has a tremendous film industry there as well. Find wherever the film industry is in your country or near your country, because that's where you're going to have to go to get the experience you need. Because bumping around on the weekends with your friends making movies is great. And you'll you'll learn stuff like that. But being thrown into the fires of a professional working set or professional environments, or working with professional people, you'll learn more doing that than you will at any film school, or at any amount of time that you would work on your own. So just just to give you an example, I went to film school all full sail in an Orlando, Florida, great film school learned a lot. But I the second I got there, I got an internship working at Universal Studios Orlando, working on the backlit and also on the Disney backlot. And I was learning so much just by being around working productions, much more than I was working at school, learning at school to the point where I could actually skipped classes to go and work for free at the studios because I was learning from seasoned guys and I and my skill set started growing so you just have to build up your toolbox. As much as you humanly can, the days of just being the one guy doing, I'm just an editor, or even even more niche than that. I'm just a commercial editor, or I'm just a promo editor, I just do trailers or I just do features, or I just do documentaries, those days are really over, you have to be multifaceted, you have to be able to do multiple things. If you just want to be a director, that's great. But you better know how everything goes runs on the set. And being in LA, you have access to all of these things at an at a very fast pace that you would not get anywhere else. So I wish I would have heard this back in the day. Sometimes I wish I would have come out to Los Angeles a little earlier. Because I feel that I would have picked up more but it's a catch 22 you better have enough money to try to make a go of it while you're here. And don't expect to do this in 30 days, you got to be out here for at least a year to even make a dent in it. To try to actually make a living out here. It's going to take time to build those relationships to get people to call you back to get jobs, all that kind of stuff. It's going to take time. So plan on that when you do come out here. So my suggestion, come out here when you're ready, but don't come out here before because a town is rough, and they will kick your ass. It really will it did mine. So hope this was helpful to you guys. And as always, if you want to learn six secrets to getting into film festivals for free or cheap, go to film festivals tips. com that's Film Festival tips.com I'll tell you how I got into over 500 international film festivals for free or cheap. Also guys if you love the show, it would make it mean the world to me. If you can actually go over to iTunes, give us a review give us a five star rating. You have no idea what that does to our rankings and helps us out tremendously on getting the podcast seen by more and more people. So thanks again for taking a listen guys and I will see you next time. Keep on filming and keep that hustle going. Bye.




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

IFH 004: What’s a Producer’s Rep and Can They Help You?

A good producer’s rep is an advocate for your film. They can get you indoors that you wouldn’t be able to get into by yourself. They can be an amazing part of a marketing and distribution team for your independent film if you got into some of the major festivals.

Like in every part of the film business there are good and bad people. I was burned by a producer’s rep many years ago, early in my journey as an indie filmmaker and producer.

This producer’s rep, which will remain nameless, took me for over $10,000, the standard upfront free for the bottom dwellers of the profession, though it can range from $5000 – $15,000. She promised me and the director I was producing for that the HBO deal was all but a lock and that she could definitely sell it overseas.

The rep has since left the industry after being sued multiple times. Her actions have left a bad taste in many filmmakers mouths, including me but this should not sour you on producer’s rep.

I suggest you do a ton of research on the producer’s rep you plan to work with. Call other filmmakers that they have represented. Do your research. As I said before

“A good and respectable producer’s rep can do magic for you and your film.”

Good luck out there!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Today we're going to talk about producers reps, I've had different experiences with producer reps. So I'll give you a little bit example what a producer rep is. a producer's rep is basically an agent for your film. So let's say you're going to a film festival that's going to Sundance and you have a movie, a producer's rep would actually represent your movie to different bidders and things like that that would come across to you. So I have a film at Sundance, Harvey Weinstein wants it. A Paramount wants it, Disney wants it. Warner Brothers wants it and there become a bidding war. Well, your producers rep will act as the middleman, negotiating deals talking to you and basically being your agent. And it's a wonderful job, and they do a great job when you find a good one. Unfortunately, like agents, they're good ones, and they're bad ones. And then they're scum buckets. And I unfortunately had to deal with some scum buckets in my day. If an agent ever comes to you, this is not a producer's rep or an agent, an agent ever comes to you and says, I'll be your agent, but I need your retainer. I need you to pay me up front. You would say go to hell, that's not the way it works. And that would be illegal. Well, for a producer's Rep. most reputable producers reps, do not ask for any money up front. They do the work like an agent, and they get paid on commission. Many producers reps will ask for a retainer upfront. Whether they sell your movie or not, you lose your money. So let me tell you my story. I was a producer on a film a few years back a documentary. And I was approached by a producer's rep, apparently a well, a well respected one. I was still kind of wet behind the ears. And I had no idea what really what I was doing. She told me I sold I just sold this movie to to HBO had Mark Wahlberg in it, we got you know, $60,000 $100,000 and then I sold it overseas, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, fast forward to when she's like, Okay, well, I'll be more happy to represent your movie. I think I could do really great things with it. My retainers. 10,000. So I talked to the director of the film, and I decided because I wanted to be the producer and really wanted to give this movie the best shot I could. I paid the $10,000 and as a retainer fee. And needless to say, I did not get my money's worth. I lost money. I did get some money here and there. I think the deal that we did get the director actually finally got us I'm not sure. I don't remember exactly. But it was a couple grand if that. It wasn't anything big. So when I told her this, she was like, well, that's just the way it is, you know, we did our best. I'm like, well, that's great. But now I'm out eight grand or 10 grand. And you didn't do me you didn't you didn't do anything that you promised me do. And I was pretty much out of luck. So I lost that money. So I've been I've been actually approached by other filmmakers who saw that I dealt with this specific company on this specific person and asked me if what happened and I tell them the truth exactly what happens. So my advice to anybody in the in the in the indie film world, if you're going to get a film a producer's rep, make sure that they you do not pay a dime upfront. most reputable producers reps will not ask for money up front. If they believe in your movie truly, then it's it's you know, it's them worry about they will make their money back. So it's the ones that go well I'll just do it and you know, whatever. It he'll make a few phone calls. And if nothing comes up, nothing comes up and they got 10 Grand 15 Grand 20 grand in their pocket. And you as an indie filmmaker, that's a lot of frickin money. It still hurts even talking about losing that kind of money on a movie that I didn't even direct I was just a producer on it. Which was really, really frustrating. And to this day still bothers me. But you live and you learn its lessons that you you learn during the journey. So hopefully this podcast I can help you a little bit not to make this mistake. So please stay away from any producers rep that tells you I need money up front. They're generally scammers, or they don't believe in your movie and they're just going to take your money and just kind of throw things away and see what happens, throw some, some something at the wall and see what sticks. Now with that said, though, there are places for good producers reps. So if your movie is going to Sundance Toronto, Cannes or Tribeca, you need to put together a team, a PR person or company, your agent and possibly a high level producers Rep. They will put together there will be putting together a whole premiere for you. They're doing a lot of preparatory work. And this is where producers rep is invaluable. They can be trimmed out tremendously helpful. And if you have to pay a little bit upfront at that point, it's a different ballgame. You have a team around you. And you're not just dealing with a predatory producers rep who's just trying to steal your money. Because basically again, once they once they do take your money, they're just gonna shotgun it into a with a stack of 30 or 40 other movies that they're representing to Miramax or Lionsgate or any of these places, and your movie will be one of many movies on that pile. So buyer beware when dealing with producers reps, sometimes they're awesome. Sometimes they're just just there to take a suckers money. So I hope this helped you a little bit. It's a short episode this week, guys. As always, if you want to know the six secrets to getting into film festivals for free, I'll head over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips calm. I'll show you how I got into over 500 film festivals, international film festivals for cheaper free over the course of a few years. And please if you love the show, please go to iTunes Subscribe, leave us a review and give us a five star rating You have no idea how much that helps us in the rankings of iTunes and helps more people get access to the show. So thanks again guys so much for your time. And as always keep on filming. Keep the hustle on and I'll see you guys next time.



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

IFH 003: Are you an Indie Film Marketing Spammer?

This week I ask, are you an indie film marketing spammer? Do you ask people you just met online to support your film or Kickstarter campaign without taking the time to build a relationship? Do you blast your latest reel or trailer on every online outlet you can post it on? Then you might be an indie film marketing spammer.

When I first started marketing myself and my films I was a spammer. I would spam all my links, videos, and pictures aiming them back to my desired webpage. This did get me some traffic but I also upset a lot of websites and people in the process.

They pretty much blacklisted me and it made that much harder to promote my films in the future.

Now, when I started promoting my work in a more cohesive way, in a give and take manner,  I saw my traffic and sales go way up without alienating people.

You must provide value to people before you ask them for anything. When I promoted my short films I made sure to have a kick-ass trailer that would provide value to websites so they would be willing to post my material for their community. It makes the webmasters look good to their community if they can show them an underground treasure.

Many filmmakers and Filmtrepreneurs don’t take the time or energy to create enticing marketing materials for themselves or their film projects.  I’ll be going into more detail on how to create impactful film marketing materials in a series of future posts.

In this episode, I’m here to help you get eyes on your films, your reel, or yourself without being an indie film marketing spammer pissing everyone off in the process.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So today's episode is going to be a little bit interesting because I've been getting a lot of contact. And this this goes on for this has been going on for years. But generally now since I launched the indie film, hustle, I've been getting contacted by a lot of filmmakers. And I thought it'd be appropriate to let some people know because they just don't know. Are you a filmmaker spammer? People don't want to be called spammers. But when filmmakers are starting out indie filmmakers, we all all a desperate bunch, me included, I am in no, I am in that same group with you guys. What I've learned over the years is you have to be a little bit more sophisticated in your approach to how to talk to people how to ask people for things, how to ask people for favors, how to ask people for their time, especially the bigger the person you're asking for, for their time and attention, the more you have to work that relationship more you have to give and take. So I'm gonna go over a little bit about how you should approach decision makers, influencers, people that you're trying to either watch you talk to you give you their give them your time, whatever, but it all it's all about building a relationship, you have to spend the time to build a relationship with whoever you're talking to. So if you're going to a party, and you meet somebody at a party, and you know that their let's say their big stuff, you know, they really are, you know, they just won Sundance and they have some connections and their agent is the agent you want. The first words out of your mouth shouldn't be Hey, man, how you doing I'm I'm so and so I'm jack and I got you know, I got this great script. And, you know, I'd love to you get if you get it to your agent, and maybe I can. That's complete turnoff. Let me just put, let me give you an analogy. Imagine you're going out on a date. And then when you meet the girl, the first thing you say to her goes, you want to go back to my place and you know, go to sleep together, it doesn't work that way. She'd be disgusted, slap you in the face, and you would move on. That's the same equivalent of emailing someone very aggressively talking to someone very aggressively at a party. So if you're going after a blog, let's say, or approaching a website, and you know, movie website to try to promote your movie, there's certain ways of going about it, you have to kind of start building the relationship, you have to give them something, if they give them time to build a relationship, see, if they even want to talk to you, you have to be much more low key about things. When I get you know, I've been getting emails from people. And, and you know, messages sent to me saying, Hey, watch my real, hey, look at this, look at that. And, you know, I'm happy to do so. And I'm happy to help any filmmakers that come by and I have no problem with that whatsoever. But, you know, it's kind of like you don't know me? I don't know you. I have a lot of things on my plate. Why should I devote time to do it? There's only so many hours in a day. I don't know if you guys know this or not. But I have I'm a father and I have twin girls, as well as trying to run indie film, hustle and a post production company and trying to get my own projects off the ground as well. You should work you know, just introduce yourself like Hey, man, I really like what you're doing, you know, keep up the good work, and you drop that seed. And then maybe in the next few days, you go, Hey, man, great article, it shows me that you're reading something, or you're showing that person that like, you know, hey, this is a great article you just wrote about this. Thanks so much. It's been really helpful. And it starts putting you in their eyesight, their eyeline and you start giving them something if they have, if they have a newsletter that that they're suggesting you should sign up for it. If they have a group that they're asking you that it's part of their group you could sign up for to go ahead just sign up for your group. Wow, it's so much interesting stuff. Great. It's time it takes time to build these relationships. In order to get something and I'm not using myself as an analogy by any stretch of the imagination. I am no power player or influencer by any stretch. But when you're talking to people that have Millions and millions of people coming to their blog, or millions and millions of people coming to the websites who if they do a review of your movie or do a shout out on their Facebook is a huge deal. I don't care about the Kickstarter thing I get it, you're like, Oh my God has two days left, I gotta go and you just start spamming everybody because you're so desperate to get your your movie, man, you're so desperate to get a finance, and you just go boom, boom, boom, and you just start hitting people hitting people, you're just turning people off. And people can smell desperation from a mile away. That's why when you're at a club, and you walk up to a girl, and you're really like, hey, a girl's feel it. That's why the guy in the corner cool, chill looks like he doesn't really care. You know, he could probably the biggest ass in the world, but he's the one that's getting the girls. You know, so try to be a little bit more aloof, try to be a little bit more just professional. And start building that relationship with people before you start asking them for something right away. Or before you start begging them to finance you or to, you know, send you $5 or post your own thing. Just think about it, you have to build these relationships. And I know, if you are a spammer, and you feel like, well, I'm just gonna throw everything against the wall, I can, and something's gonna stick. I want to tell you from my own experience, when I first started doing web marketing and promoting of my own movies, I did that for a long time. And it does piss people off. And it does, it doesn't get you where you want you to want to be, you know, out of 100 people, maybe one or two might give you something positive, but you've pissed off 98. And that's not a good thing to do. Especially when you're trying to come up and build relationships. These relationships are we're going to help you in the future. We're going to help you develop your movies, hopefully, promote your movies, introduce you to the agent introduce you to the financier, introduce you to the crew member that you might need that has that camera. But you you can't do that by spamming. You can't do that by just taking taking taking from people you have to be able to give them offer them something if it's not money, it should be your time, you're taking an interest in them. People want to feel like you're interested in them authentically, not just because you're trying to get something from them. You know, I was at Sundance A few years ago, promoting one of my movies. And I wasn't a little desperate. I wasn't you know, it was my first Sundance, I was a little desperate. And I had finagled my way into some big parties, where there are some really big players, you know, Harvey Weinstein and a lot of big directors and stuff like that. And they saw me coming from a mile away. It was fascinating to watch how they shot me down so quickly and so effortless, effortlessly. It was a it was amazing. And only looking back now years later, I understand why. Because, you know, they get bombarded daily, hourly, by the minute, anytime you see, can you imagine how it's like to be Harvey Weinstein at a film festival, you know, that that has this legendary status of, you know, bringing filmmakers up and imagine you being Quentin Tarantino, or being Robert Rodriguez, or being Steven Soderbergh or David Fincher at a film festival without anybody around them. And they would get bombarded by by, by everybody who wants something from them. And it's very uncomfortable. Believe me, I felt that myself. And then I've now seen over time how I've done it to other people. So just start to build the relationship a little bit. And think about what you're doing when you're going after going after certain influencers, certain people, certain blogs, certain agents, things like that, you just have to figure a way in. Also a shows me, let's say, let's use me for an analogy. If you're taking interest in what I'm doing, it shows me that you're putting in time you're putting in effort. And that means a lot in this business. That means you're taking the time that that says a lot about your character as a filmmaker, and as a person, that you're actually thinking about this not you're just not just another filmmaker, with another short film, or another feature film that you just like, do watch this, watch this, I need a break. I need this. I need that, trust me, I was that guy. I was that guy. 10 years ago, I was that guy all the time. And it was annoying as hell, I could only imagine how annoying that was to people. And that's probably one of the reasons why I didn't build the relationships as I should. And then when I did take the time to build relationships, which I've had, I did build a lot of good relationships, with websites and with bloggers and with influencers in the business agents, managers and so on. Once I built those businesses, those relationships up, they have flourished over the time. And it does take time. understand something that indie film, it is not a short game. It is a long game. It is not a checker Smash. It is a chess match. is going to take you time, lots of it. So under, if you understand that going in, you won't be as frustrated, being an independent filmmaker, as I am, or as as I was, in the early days, because you're taking the time and understanding that this is a long game, this is a long play, some some relationship, you start building now might take a year, to even flourish, might take you five years for anything to even come out of it. But you never know. And those are the kinds of relationships you want to build. And keep building and keep updating them and keep doing things like that. But you have to show interest in what they're doing, you have to give, as well as take, and that's with any relationship in general. So I hope this helped you guys out a little bit. It really is. It's I think it's a big problem in the indie film world, that people are just so desperate that they just kind of throw things off. And it just, I feel bad for the person who's trying to get attention who's trying to get their movie financed, or the movie looked out or their trailer looked at or their real look that or I need a job or I need this or that there's ways of doing it. And if you take the time to do research, to, you know, take take interest in what they're doing, see what you can give them back, then you'll be a much happier filmmaker, and hopefully a more successful filmmaker. So I hope that helps guys. Please let me know what you feel about this episode. In the comments. We've got a bunch of interviews coming up and a bunch of really cool episodes coming up in the coming weeks. Also guys, don't forget to subscribe on iTunes. And please leave us a great comment on on iTunes and give us a good rating. If you like the show. You have no idea how helpful it is to us that you do that. So thanks. As always, if you want to learn the six secrets to getting into film festivals for cheap or free, head on over to festival free festival tips. Film Festival tips calm sorry about that film festival tips.com and you can download an ebook that I wrote about how I got into over 500 international film festivals all around the world with paying little or no entrance fees. Thanks so much guys for taking a listen to my ramblings. I hope they were some. So a little bit helpful to you this week. So thanks again and we will see you next episode. Have a good day and always keep filming. Bye.




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

IFH 002: The Hollywood Game – Misadventures in Los Angeles

This week on our Indie Film Hustle filmmaking podcasts, we discuss my misadventures in Hollywood with my short film BROKEN (Watch it on Indie Film Hustle TV). I talk about how to be ready if and when the spotlight of Hollywood is on you and your project. What to do in those meetings and how NOT to waste the opportunity.

My journey with BROKEN, believe or not is still going strong, ten years later.

I was released in a compilation in the UK two years ago under the title LIPSTICK & BULLETS. I was then approached by another distributor to release it in the US and the rest of the world.

That this little $8000 short film still is moving forward and paying dividends is a mystery to me. When it was first released back in 2005 on a self-distributed DVD I received a ton of attention for it. The field was not nearly as crowded as it is today but nevertheless, I did get some accolades. Then Hollywood came calling soon after.

My misadventures soon followed.

From trips to the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival to meeting at studios in Los Angeles, to bizarre meetings with producers and distributors who wanted to work with me. Just nutz.

So I wanted to focus an episode on what to do when that spotlight hits you and your project. I had no one to tell me so I hope this helps you guys out and that all of you and your films get a shot at the brass ring. So sit back and enjoy my bizarre misadventures in Hollyweird.


Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So today I wanted to talk about being prepared when and if the spotlight ever hits you, I'm going to tell you a little story about what happened to me. I did a movie many years ago called broken. It was a short, a short film that we did for about $1,000 we shot it on mini DV that's how far back it goes. With no stars. We shot it in Florida West Palm Beach, Florida actually. And, and I did all the posts on it, I did pretty much everything on it. You know, directed wrote it did all the color all the posts of the editing, production design it pretty much everything had an amazing crew had amazing, amazing producer. Working with me as well, and co writer of the script, George Rodriguez, who did a fantastic job as well, I couldn't we couldn't have made the movie without. Without everybody involved. I had a great cast. And also all everybody was awesome. So we go on, and I go on to make this movie and we release it. And we get into over 250 film festivals around the world. We win countless awards. We are covered by over three 400 different news outlets. every movie website, you can imagine covered us. I haven't got a review by Roger Ebert, which is a story for another time how I cut that and I will I promise you, I will tell you that story. in an upcoming episode. We did all this stuff. And then I had the idea of like, Well, you know what, let's see how we can make some money with this. How can we actually monetize this? This thing, and this is before YouTube really had taken off. There was no online streaming really. There's no online deliverables, VOD was still very early in its stages. And again, don't forget, this is a short film with no, no stars in it. These are all unknown local actors in Florida. It was an action movie was an action thriller. You know, we boasted over 100 visual effects in it. And, you know, we did we had a great visual effects team that helped us do that, as well. All young kids, we were all, you know, young, just starting out really doing this. So afterwards, we decided I decided I wanted to put together some way of making how to sell this. So what I decided to do is during the process of making broken, I looked everywhere and could not find, believe it or not, could not find anything about how to make a low budget movie online or on DVD or anything like that. This is 2004 when this happened, so the DVDs were all you know, all big budget, you know, Titanic and matrix and all that kind of stuff. But then it really did help me out a lot because I didn't have that budget, we had eight grand in shooting on mini DV. And there was no there was nobody really talking about it at the time. So what I decided to do is put together a kind of guerrilla film school on my DVD, when it was all said and done took me about six to eight weeks of editing and shooting and putting it all together working pretty much 10 to 12 hours a day at my company num robot just basically locked everybody else out and just did this for a long, long time. And packaged it and we had about five, almost five and a half out Is it the note three and a half hours of about three and a half hours of extra footage. We had five commentary tracks from everything really educational stuff we took you through pre production, production, post production, and even marketing of the film, which I'll get to in a minute. So I put this all into DVD, packaged it very nicely and started selling it. We put out the we put out the word online did a lot of marketing online for the film. They're arguably to say you couldn't go on to a film, message board or website anywhere in the indie film world and not hear about this movie called broken. So we released it and we ended up selling over 5000 copies of it, selling it at around about $20 a pop sometimes you sell for 15 we did a bunch of different events as well. You know horror festivals, comic book festivals, things like that Comic Cons and all that kind of stuff. Anything to get the movie out to promote, promote, promote, promote, promote. And then funny thing happened is I started getting phone calls from Hollywood from studios. I got a call from an Oscar. Winning producer who wanted to meet with me about my projects about broken about anything else I might have. I was flown out, I met with, you know, Sony, Paramount Warner's everybody. New Line, a bunch of different companies wanted to talk to me. So one thing that I had learned and I didn't know at the time is, when I was invited to these meetings, they're like this, this little movie you made is great. We're really excited about it. What else do you have. And that was the big mistake. I had nothing. I had ideas. I had, I had an idea for a feature for the broken feature. I had some other ideas for some other movies, but I had no script. And what happens in Hollywood is when you are if the spotlight, if you are blessed with the spotlight hitting you even for a moment, you better be prepared to take advantage of it. And I wasn't, I was not prepared at all. I went into all these meetings, pretty much like a deer in headlights, I had no experience, I had no one telling me what to do. Again, the knowledge, the information was not out there as much as it is today. But even then, what I'm talking about, I don't really read a whole heck of a lot about. So what happened was, I went back to Florida, and started writing a script with my partner, we start putting the script together. You know, we're flown up to the Toronto Film Festival to meet with some distributors. were flown to Sundance and we're hanging out, you know, doing parties and doing, you know, meeting actors and all this kind of stuff. And again, everyone's like, hey, so where's the script? Where the script? Oh, yeah, we're working on it. And then when we finally got it done, a year later, the the heat was off, the spotlight had dimmed or if not, it's completely out. Nobody was really taking our calls anymore. then moved on to the next hot thing, or the next filmmaker, the next movie that we're going to try to do something with. So I, I was left heartbroken. Pretty much, you know, all I had, I had made all these contacts, but again, the doors just kept closing afterwards. Because you know, the script, they're like, Oh, yeah, we'll take a look at the script. And then we wrote this script that was, you know, I'll be honest with you, it was kind of god awful. It was, it was like $150 million budget script kind of thing. I mean, we went crazy with it. Again, we didn't know we had no idea how the game was played. It was a lesson at heart in the school of hard knocks, if you will, what I wanted to give you. The reason I'm telling you guys this story is I wanted to give you some tips on if you are blessed once once you make your movie, either Feature or Short, or a web series, or whatever gets attention for you. And you do go into these meetings. And you do get called by Hollywood, by, by producers, by directors, by entertainment attorneys by anybody who really wants to see what they can do with you, or help you or move you forward. In one way, shape, or form. These are some tips that I've picked up along the way. And I've also seen this through working with so many really amazing and talented filmmakers who have gone down similar paths with that I went down but they went down a little farther than I did, they had scripts ready, and how that process worked. And as the as this show, and as indie film hustle keeps growing in the future, I'm going to keep bringing these stories in, I'm going to I'm doing my best to bring in my friends, people who have worked within the industry, who have gone through the gambit gone through the machine, how they're building their careers, how they're getting to the next level, in their careers, as directors, as writers, as editors as cinematographers as whatever avenue of the industry they have done. So here's some tips. First and foremost, have multiple scripts prepared. If you're going to do something like you know, make your first movie, I know it's tough, because it's tough enough to make one good script, but at least either have access to scripts, either option scripts, which isn't a whole other conversation, but have option scripts, access to scripts, or write your own scripts, at least one or two different scripts that is that are in the exact same genre as the film that you've made. So in other words, if you make a slapstick comedy, don't drop a horror script on the desk, it's not gonna fly, they're not gonna they're looking at you. And this is one thing Hollywood loves to put people in boxes. And once they have you in a box, that's your box later on, you can break out of that box. But until then, you're going to be in this box until you prove otherwise. So if you made a good horror movie, they're going to go look for you to make another horror movie, because that's what they've seen. If they haven't seen you make a comedy or a drama. They don't want to hear it, it's too much risk. It's risky enough to even be bringing in an independent filmmaker without a track record to make a feature film, let alone start mixing genres and mixing things like that. So make sure you have multiples reps not ideas full fledged out, fleshed out scripts that are ready to go and literally less, let's go do some breakdowns on them. And here's a budget and go make them. Okay, at least give them something and it might be the third or fifth draft, and you're going to rewrite it, I promise you, if you get a movie produced, you're gonna write it at least 40 or 50 times. It's just the way the game is played in and out here in Hollyweird. But it's just the way it is. So make sure you have multiple scripts of the same genre that you have going. So if you made an action, have some multiple action scripts done, if you made a Thriller Horror, have that if you made comedy, have a couple comedy scripts ready. So that would be first step. Second, make sure you look at the long term plan is when you're when you're designing your career, when you're designing your your way into this business or, or in your way of making a living. Look at the long term game, don't look at it as the short game. The overnight success is the lottery tickets is like the lottery ticket winners like the Robert Rodriguez is and the Kevin Smith's of the world. paranormal activity or any of those guys, those guys are lottery tickets. That happens once every, you know, in a generation, I can count on both my hands over the last 30 years, how many times that's happened. But everyone thinks that that can happen to them. It's unrealistic to think that you're going to be that lottery ticket that someone's going to come in and go, you you come You come with me, I'm gonna make you let you direct this next one, it happens, but it's rare. So for the rest of us, think of a long term plan of how you're going to get things. So if you're going to make a short film, okay, what is the short film going to lead to? Are you just making it just to make it? Are you making it to kind of just kind of play or kind of hone your skills, great, that's fine. But if you're going to make something to put a really out there and God, God willing, some action happens off of it, some sort of press some sort of interest in you as a filmmaker, happens, you better be ready. So have some sort of long term plan, have some scripts ready, have some other shorts ready, have a web series ready to have a TV show ready, a bunch of different things. Just think about what this will lead to. And then if I do this, there's just think about different options of what will happen to you. If Okay, if I go to if I make a short film, and I get a call from a producer, I'll have a couple scripts ready, boom, boom, boom, boom. I hope this story helped you guys out a little bit. It was a long, painful, a long, painful journey. For me, as a filmmaker, I learned a ton, I'm still learning a ton. But Funny thing is that, and I'll go into this again, also in other episodes, but that little movie broken has paid me off in so many ways, not only financially that it was an actual, you know, financial success and actually made money on the short and continue to make money off the short that I got picked up by a distributor to be packaged in with a bunch of my other movies that I've made. And it's going to be released September, I think, September 6 2015. And it's called lipstick and bullets and has a combination of four movies, I did broken sin, red princess blues, and red princess blues, red princess blues Genesis, and an animated prequel to references Bruce, and that has about five and a half hours of behind the scenes stuff. It's currently available in blu ray from England. And I think you'd be able to play that in its region zero, so you can play that anywhere in the world. And then now it's being re released again, for America and the rest of the world, September 6. So that's pretty amazing in my eyes, that a short film or a group of short films 10 years later, are getting released in a national way. Walmart's, the Amazons, the Netflix and so on. It's because content was was done really well. So when you're making stuff when you make creating stuff, create the best stuff, you can create the highest quality content you can. When I made broken I wanted to help as many filmmakers as I could, because I couldn't find what I was looking for. And that same energy and same love for our business is why I created indie film hustle, I wanted to create a space a place where people can come and learn things that I don't see being talked about out there very often. Real inside stuff from the industry and help you guys get your movies made. And hopefully strive and survive the film business make a living doing what you love. So that's why I'm doing indie film hustle as a general statement. So I'm going to be breaking up broken in other podcasts and other my other films because of the experiences and things that I went through with them. This is just one aspect of broken broken has a ton of different avenues that I went down with it between the marketing of it. How I got Roger. Roger Ebert, the legendary Roger Ebert, rest in peace. Have him actually give me a pause. Review of my nobody short film that was not in the festival that he was at at the time, kind of thing, my Sundance adventures, which there are multiple, what I did at Sundance and so on. I'll be going through all of that in future episodes and stuff like that. So guys, I hope this helped you guys out a lot. I hope I didn't ramble ramble too much and keep an eye out for the new episodes, we're going to try to do them every couple weeks. And again, if you want to learn how I got into over 500, film festivals, international film festivals, and most of them I got into for either free or cheap, head over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips calm to sign up for our awesome newsletter to get insight tips and stuff and I'll send it right over to you get the download it, share it with friends if you need to. It's really I think it's really good and help it's verbatim what I did to do to get into film festivals. And I even give you guys some email templates as well how to email the film festival directors and things like that. So thanks again guys, and I will see you guys soon. Thanks.




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IFH 001: Robert Forster | Oscar Nominee & Legendary Actor

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

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

I also have to mention his runs on NBC’s HEROS (I have high hopes for the reboot) and arguably the GREATEST TELEVISION SHOW EVER WRITTEN Breaking Bad. He just nails those last two episodes as Walt’s relocation/make me disappear guy. Just amazing. As you can tell I’m a big fan of Robert’s.

I had the honor of working with Robert on one of my films, Red Princess BluesHe supplied some remarkable narration that set up my film perfectly. He was easily one of the most professional and talented actors I have ever worked with; a professional of the greatest caliber.

In our interview, he dishes out amazing advice to young actors, directors and human beings alike. He even tells us his favorite Quentin Tarantino on the set direction he got on the set of Jackie Brown; worth it’s waiting in gold.


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Alex Ferrari 0:05
Today I'm really excited about the show guys, we have Oscar nominee and legendary actor Robert Forster. On the show today, you might know him from Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown where he was when he got the Oscar nomination. And more recently, he's done films like the descendants of Olympus Has Fallen, Mulholland Drive, and then Delta Force back in the day and the classic Disney's black hole, which I saw when I was growing up as a kid, it was a real thrill and privilege to work with him on one of my films, red princess blues, where he came in to do some video for me, he was amazing. So I decided to sit down with him and do a real quick interview after our session. And he threw a lot of gems out there for actors, for directors, and even disclosed his favorite direction that Quentin Tarantino Tarantino gave him while shooting Jackie Brown, which was wonderful. So sit back, relax and enjoy the interview.

Interviewer 1:58
So over the years, when you look at projects, what attracts you to to the film?

Robert Forster 2:03
You know, basically, it's a job in hand, somebody hands you something and says this needs to be done. Once you realize that you can deliver the goods, you say yes. And then you go in there, and you get a chance to hit the ball over the fence if possible. And sometimes you do. And this is a great day. That's what actors lives are composed of a string of interesting days where you get a chance to be creative.

Interviewer 2:32
So out of all the projects you've done of all the films you've been what's been the most memorable or rewarding for you.

Robert Forster 2:38
Boy, that's a hard one because they're all pretty good. Like I say, when I was young, my mother sent me a book called White hyacinths at the beginning of the book, it said, If I had bought two loaves of bread, I would sell one of them to buy white highest and to feed my soul. Now from that I understood that life had a spiritual component and that you had to feed it, the end of the book, which is a series of essays about work and delivering your best and other such you know, lofty things. At the end of the book, the very last thing that said was, and the reward which life holds out for work, is not ease or rest or immunity from work, but increased capacity, greater difficulty and more work. And I thought, Oh, God, I hope not. I was a pretty, pretty lazy guy when I was young and was hoping that I could get through, you know, easy in life. Then I became an actor and I realized how important a day's work is to an actor. So when he asked me what was most memorable, the last thing I did was pretty memorable, which is this you know, you spent I spent some hours I looked at it last night, I read it a couple of days ago, I spent an hour here today just looking it over and reading it and asking myself now what can you get out of this, that that was meant, and then bring your audience into a little a little, a little life a little, a little story, bring them to somewhere else? And then you go in there and like right now and you take a few shots at it and and you know, it's not magic. You put down what the guy said and and it generally works.

Interviewer 4:24
So what advice would you offer aspiring actors.

Robert Forster 4:28
Never forget that there are this many of us. And this many jobs, it's not a mystery. It's very, very hard to get work. But when you do get work and you do have a creative job to put your energies to, it's one of the great things and when you don't have that in the day, you put your best energy to whatever else is in the day because it's a day of infinite number of possibilities of doing good or less good if you choose to. But when you do do your best, I remind that actors, you get that reward, they always tell you, you're going to get reward of self respect, reward of satisfaction. And if you were looking for what constitutes the good constitutes good life, self respect and satisfaction are big components in that. So whether or not you're dealing with something that's creative, or whether you make something creative out of going to get the groceries, you are in charge. And that's what I remind actors, whether or not you have something to work on, you got a whole day's full of things to make better.

Interviewer 5:34
What, um, of all the directors you've worked with, and you've worked with some incredible ones. What do you like in a good director? What do you want in a good director as an actor?

Robert Forster 5:43
A guy who knows a good take when he sees one? And can say, Yep, that's good. Now, you know, once you know, somebody recognizes a good one, you know, you're not dealing with somebody who is just shooting it, and shooting and shooting and shooting and just to see what somebody else will tell them is any good. That's what this like being a cook, you want to cook to have a good taster to know what tastes good, he doesn't have to ask somebody else. And they have to ask the the the the customer or the waiter? Does it taste any good? No, the chef is supposed to know whether it tastes any good. That's what you're hoping for, in a director, somebody who can recognize a good take and say, Good one, let's move on. Especially if you don't have much time, which young directors rarely do older directors with lots of money can take it, you know, at times if they want to. But young guys got to be able to find a good one and move on.

Interviewer 6:38
What advice would you give to younger?

Robert Forster 6:41
Well, you know, know the thing as well as some of your actors are going to know it because the act is going to come in knowing his material pretty well. I never met an actor who didn't work real hard at showing up prepared. Some do I imagine but not many. And so the actor will come in with a with a deep reasonably deep understanding of what he's doing some exercise and and you want to know the material as well as they do. So that you can you know, be helpful to them or at the say and the other extreme is what john Houston said, which is casting is 90% once you cast the right person, all you got to do is step aside, let them figure it out. Because you know, the actor is always trying to make something real out of what's going on and hopefully getting the best they can out of the material. So you got a willing partner in the actor and and when they're good. Do you give them a little little space? And if they're not you shape them up a little bit?

Interviewer 7:49
Do you have any interesting memories of working with any of the directors over the years and the films any anecdotes or stories?

Robert Forster 7:58
Well refine it a little little a little bit like the black hole, the black hole, I'm not sure I have any real good insights but that was the longest steady job I ever had six months exactly to the day 26 weeks from seven in the morning till sprint outerspace that would make it Disney studio in a soundstage. So only said my life. So they talked about. Well, sure. I you know, it was a remake of a favorite mine. It was actually a Jules Verne movie called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but they put it out in space. So they called the black hole. And I think they're remaking I hear that remake. Hey,

Interviewer 8:50
Now I had the great pleasure of job shadowing Quentin Tarantino on the set of Inglorious Basterds to learn from him as an actor. Yeah, what was your experience like working with him on Jackie Brown?

Robert Forster 8:59
Rarely do writers write such good dialogues. So you know, learning dialogue, I take the material and then I close the book and then I try to remember and visualize and internalize the speech. And then I try to say it as though I might be saying that to somebody and dissolve private and quiet when you're all alone, doing your work. And then I would go back to the, to the script to find out how we actually wrote it. And there were so many times when I might just try to voice a thought, because Don't forget, lines got to come out of your mouth away thoughts come out of your mouth. Can't be I remember the line and this is how I want to say it. It's got to be a thought. If you can make it that way and, and he can really articulate a thought on on paper, the way you might actually say it and you know it with little shorthand word couplings and the guy is very, very, very good. So that's one The great things about Quentin, then also he was, you know, helpful and encouraging, and maybe his very best direction that I ever heard him give. And I heard him give it a number of times to a number of people, including me. And he said, occasionally to an actor, just make me believe it. Well, let's remember, that's what the act is got to do make you believe it. So we can't be reciting words, he's got to be making you the other actor. And incidentally, the camera and the audience that may be watching, believe what's going on, if you can make them believe it, you can hold on. That's what's so good about documentary. And what appealed to me about making my work as believable as I could. So that it would be what documentary was, and that is, hold them hold their attention, because they believed, if you watch, you know, documentary, where you think you're being led into a world where they don't recognize they don't realize you're right there. Ah, that can that can hold you. And I've seen some great documentaries. And so that's one of the things I always hope for myself, and that, as I say, Quentin, asked actors to remember, just make me believe it.

Interviewer 11:18
Looking back over your career, what? Do you have any regrets? And do you have anything that you're that you're really most proud of? Or anything that you regret over your long career?

Robert Forster 11:28
You know, all regrets, I have very few of those. You make your choices, you do what you do? You know, I would have done things differently if I had the foresight. But but but now you you you make you take your steps and and you go along with them, you never know what would have been if you'd made the other choice. So there's no, there's no making regrets. You just deal with as well as you can with what you've got facing you.

Interviewer 11:58
Well, then my final question then sounds off of that. Do you have a philosophy on life? And if so, what what is it?

Robert Forster 12:07
Um, you know, I was born on the 13th of July, which was yesterday. I knew as a young kid, that 13 was a great number. When I was eight or nine, some kids said to me, 13 is bad number. I thought they were full of baloney. He said, Well, yeah, well, take a look the next time you're on an elevator and see if it has a 13th floor. And sure enough, it did not. And from that, I knew that there were people who believed in things that were not true. 13 is a perfectly good number. And they believed and made decisions. And a mistaken belief that of course, we know that is superstition. There are so many so many so many things that people believe that are not true. And so from a young age, I asked myself to try to fathom out what was true. Because if you can make choices based on what is true, then your chances of making good choices and good decisions are improved. And so what is my philosophy on life? See if you can find out what is true by starting with, of course, the big questions which people are welcome to ask themselves at any point. Why am I alive? Where do I go when I die? Is there God? I need to be a man. What's a husband? I think be an artist, what's a father? These are the big questions and they're probably other ones. So in a lifetime, and we know what Socrates, I think, said the unexamined life is not worth living. I heard that early on. And I thought that that is another true thing. So examine your life and keep wondering whether or not you've got a good line in what you're doing. And whenever you can, on a daily basis, deliver the best you can do what you're doing, because that gives you a test set at a while ago that gives you the best shot at the best future you've got coming. It gives you self respect. And there is satisfaction in delivering your best to whatever you're doing right now.

Alex Ferrari 14:28
Hey guys, thanks again for listening to episode number two. We'll have new episodes coming out every few weeks going forward. I hope you got a lot out of that interview. Robert was probably the one of the most professional actors I've ever worked with. I mean, we were doing a short film. And he showed up like it was a quote and Tarantino movie, you know, or you know, $100 million movie, he showed up with his a game and he gave it his all. It doesn't even matter what kind of Prop Magic that is he just came in and did his his thing. And I was so impressed, and so humbled to work with him. So remember to head over to indie film hustle calm for all the latest articles and resources that we're adding there almost every day or every few days. So check that out. And also if you want to stop paying submission fees, to film festivals, head over to filmfestivaltips.com that's FilmFestivaltips.com, and I will see you guys next time. Thanks.




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