IFH 657: Audience•ology: Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret to Make Money with Kevin Goetz

Kevin Goetz has been at the center of what Hollywood calls the ‘movie research’ industry for more than thirty years and his position in the entertainment world is quite unique.

Named one of the most powerful and influential people in Southern California by The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Goetz became one of the leading advisors, researchers, and focus group moderators over two decades before starting his own firm, Screen Engine/ASI out of his living room.

Today, his research firm is a multi-million-dollar company that employs over 300 people worldwide where he works alongside the major film studio chiefs, decision-makers, network and streaming platform executives. 

The insights produced by his firm touch every aspect of entertainment and television content creation from selection, acquisition, casting, and production, to post-production, marketing, and distribution. Goetz recently wrote the book, Audience•ology: How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love about an important aspect of his business—audience test screenings.

His podcast, Don’t Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life with filmmaker interviews discussing filmmaking, their films, and how audiences have impacted their final cuts. Goetz has also produced twelve movies and brings both a marketing and filmmaking perspective to the interpretation of his research analysis.

Kevin Goetz is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and several other distinguished organizations including the Television Academy and the Producers Guild of America.

He is a board member of five charitable organizations as part of his philanthropic endeavors and resides in Beverly Hills with his husband, Neil, and their labradoodle, Kasha. 

Please enjoy my conversation with Kevin Goetz.

Kevin Goetz 0:00
When I was producing, I would hold the auditions, obviously, as the artistic director and the producer of the theater. And my advice to every actor who's trying really hard to get the job is to sit in casting sessions, a casting session, and you will come to realize very quickly why some people get the job. But mostly why you don't get the job.

Alex Ferrari 0:27
This episode is brought to you by the best selling book, Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show, Kevin Goetz. How you doing Kevin?

Kevin Goetz 0:42
Hey! I'm well Alex thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 0:44
Thank you so much for coming on the show. You are, as they say, an OG in the test screening space of figuring out what the audience loves and wants and, and more importantly, what they're willing to pay money for. Yeah. You've been doing this for doing it for a couple years now.

Kevin Goetz 1:02
I've been doing it for quite a long time 35 years?

Alex Ferrari 1:07
That's yeah. Wow. So you've seen a few things along the way, I'm sure.

Kevin Goetz 1:11
Oh, boy! Yeah. If these walls could talk, as they say,

Alex Ferrari 1:16
Well, I'll ask questions. And you could tell stories that you could say on air. And then after we stopped recording, you could tell me all the stories you can't say on air.

Kevin Goetz 1:22
On your private line. And I'll give you the real the real stories.

Alex Ferrari 1:28
So first and foremost, how did you get into this line of work? How did you get interested in the film industry in general?

Kevin Goetz 1:33
You know, I've always been interested in, in film, but I was always, I always like to say sort of my DNA was a being in show business. I was a child actor. It was in my blood, I always knew that this was what I was supposed to do. I was a dancer, I was a singer, I was a what we call a triple threat if you're from the Broadway scene, and I made my living doing a lot of commercials, TV commercials and theater around the New York area. So that's that's what I did until I went to Mason gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, which is one of the best acting conservatories in the country, and I studied with Bill Esper, the Meisner technique. And that was a four year conservatory, Graduated, went to New York, and started working up pretty regularly, sort of begin to get began to get like burnt out at my in my early 20s. And I'm like, this is not going to be a good thing, if I, you know, unless I really, unless I really commit to giving up control, if you will, and allowing others to decide my fate. I love and still love, the art of acting and the craft of it, and the under uncovering a character and all that. But what I found was I had a business sense on the other side of my brain that needed to be nurtured. So when I was 17, I started my first business. So I had an entrepreneurial business sensibility, and combined with the creative and the artistic sensibility, so it kind of was the way for me to, I had to listen to both voices. And it was kind of a way for me to find the right path. And it turned out that I got a survival job when I came to California to work as an actor. Because my residuals were drying up, I had done a play for four and five months. So you know, you don't get paid that much in theater. And so I needed to do some odd jobs. And one of them was working at a place called NRG National Research Group, and it was doing these test screenings, I had no idea what that meant. And that was about 3536 years ago. And I was sort of sort of plucked out of the chorus, if you will, by the principles of the company, because they saw a potential in me, I suppose. And, and I began to pull or coordinate focus groups, like pick the people to be in the focus groups after the screening. And then within two years, I was trained to be a moderator. And I he didn't really know what that was the art of it didn't really know much about marketing at the time. And it was all sort of learned in the field, you know, out there. And what was really interesting, Alex, is that, when I would moderate in the beginning, I would actually play the role of a moderator like I would, I would, I would give myself an objective, you know, you need to get as much information as you possibly can. That's your objective and you're seeing that you're about to do and you're a great listener, you've got to you know, my actions if you're an actor, you know what that means your app, my actions were, you know, really to, to gain as much information as I can to probe to you know, real real active active a Have verbs, which are the act the way the actor sort of creates behavior. And that's how I got through them. And I was successful at it. And suddenly, well, I wouldn't say suddenly, I would say, slowly, actually, I began to realize that, you know, I was, there was an art to this, you know, there was, there was a way of probing, there was a way of leading the witness, I had to sort of learn those things. And I took all sorts of sorts of courses in terms of other moderators, and I joined the qualitative research consultants Association, which is sort of a leading moderators, and I would take workshops and things. And I learned pejorative projects or projective techniques and different kinds of ways to, to, to engage with people behind two way mirror, you know, the two, so forth. And, and then I became, I guess, one of the most requested moderators, talking 30 years ago, 25 years ago. And then I was also a high finit. You know, I also still had my hand in acting, and then I moved into producing, and I began to produce at my own theater, in 1990. And then I, I, which I ran for five years as the artistic director and producer up in San Luis Obispo as the professional theatre called Central Coast Repertory Theater. And then I started doing movies, and television movies in particular, and then I made one and got a lot of acclaim. And we won an Emmy Award for it, called Wild Iris. And I really began to speak the film language in a different way. So now I had my moderating on the one side, and knew how to get into and talk to directors and producers about their movie. But you know, what was interesting, and I think this was my, my competitive edge was that I am an artist, and I understand the, and have a tremendous respect for filmmakers, I have a tremendous respect for the artists and people in our field, who have to sort of put their babies you know, and give birth to these children that are, are their creative beings. And they really take on a life of their own, and they're so invested filmmakers are so invested in so when I have an I call it the privilege to work on a movie, I really feel there's a responsibility, I have to represent the audience in the best way possible to give filmmakers the best information they can possibly get. This is a long way of saying that my journey was all meant to be, it's all the perfect path, if you will. So I talked about in my book audience ology, which I know that you, you've read, and we're trying to say nice things about, I think that's what you said. I talked about finding your end end. So you could start in one thing in life and think it's the absolute thing that you're supposed to be doing. And then you have a skill set, that also is really pretty strong. And you get to a point. And if you're lucky enough as I was to find great mentors and marry those two passions, and find your end, you will actually flourish in a more complete way.

Alex Ferrari 8:35
That's a that's profound, because so many of us as filmmakers, start off like I need to be Steven Spielberg, how many people said I, I'm the next, Steven Spielberg?

Kevin Goetz 8:44
I teach at film schools, several several times a year in all the major film schools around the country, and I have to say many.

Alex Ferrari 8:52
Right, exactly. But then as you start going through the path, and this is only from someone like myself, who's been doing this for close to 30 years as well, you get to that place where you're like, Well, I'm not going to be Steven, because there's only one Steven. So then we're like, well as I could do oh,

Kevin Goetz 9:09
By the way, and there's only one Alex. Correct. And when you can realize, right, that you there's only one Alex and Alex is extraordinary in his own way. Steven can't be Alex. Correct. Then you and that takes a lot of courage and confidence to live in your own skin comfortably and it took me years to get there. It does'nt happened overnight. Right. And you can relate to that right Alex?

Alex Ferrari 9:37
Absolutely! 110% took me forever to finally understand who I was feel comfortable in my skin. And that and that you're talking about is so important because it's just like, well, I could be a director and I could also maybe own a post production company and then exactly and then I could also write and so

Kevin Goetz 9:55
And write and have a podcast at but but but all of these things things bring you to the perfect place where you're supposed to be in life, if you lean into your gifts, not sit on them and wait in a room for someone to call, that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about putting yourself out there. But recognizing all these wonderful things that you have, finding those end or ends, and realizing them, you know, and that takes a certain degree of courage, I think, and self assurance,

Alex Ferrari 10:27
Right, and just like yourself, that you started off as an actor, but you your skill set, as an actor lends itself so beautifully into your, to your other career, the end of test screenings and understanding the audience and so on. It was kind of like with me, I was like I was I wanted to be a director. But I also had a skill set in post production. So I opened up a post production company, I became an editor and became a colorist, and I, post supervisor, and all of that while I was directing. So then, together, it became much more powerful, because it's a director on jobs that could package all of it together, like yeah, I'll tell you, I'll add it for free.

Kevin Goetz 11:00
That's on the practical side. But think about what you knew as a director that many directors don't know how to say, Oh, if I do this, oh, my gosh, that is going to cost me a ton in post, because I'm going to have the time this, where other people say fix it in post, alright, famous expression that we hear from many, many indie filmmakers is, they do it in post, we'll fix it in post. But you know, and you probably saved yourself countless hours. And by having the skill set of post production,

Alex Ferrari 11:31
Exactly and even when I'm doing this as a podcaster. Understanding how to talk, my skill sets, as a director has helped me to talk and have engaging conversations, raw conversations with my guests. And then all the technical stuff of the behind the scenes stuff, I was able to launch like this because I had 20 years of post production experience. And I'm like a podcast, I could do a podcast in my sleep, you know, comparatively to finishing 50 movies in my in my day, and so on, so forth. So it was just a really it. But I love that concept of the and I've never heard it put that way before. It's and I hope people listening don't get caught because they get so caught up in like, if you would have just said, I'm only going to be an actor, I'm gonna hold on tight to just that I'm not going to shift, I'm not going to pivot, I'm not going to move, and not allow it to unfold in the way it's had to unfold for best,the best.

Kevin Goetz 12:20
Another other example, excuse me, another example that I have is, when I was an actor, you know, there was so much personal investment that you would put out every time you went into an audition. When I was producing, I would hold the auditions, obviously, as the artistic director and the producer of the theater. And my advice to every actor who's trying really hard to get the job is to sit in casting sessions, a casting session, and you will come to realize very quickly why some people get the job. But mostly why you don't get the job. And so much of it is not something that you're doing, you may get the best reading but somebody is already cast is a redhead and the kid is a really dark haired child. And so you realize that that doesn't go with the redhead and you're already committed to the redhead. So you know, you got to then just so all of those things, that if you actually understood the process would make you more effective. And that goes for anything, as you were saying, in your case, it was post production in my case, you know, it was it was entrepreneurialship like really leaning into that and saying, Hey, you're, you're good at this, you're good at business. You know, I, I run a research company. And one of my probably, least strong skills is statistics. I've learned how to get by how to speak about means and mediums, all that stuff, but I have great statisticians that I hire that make me look really good. I know my deficits and that's another superpower is to know what you're not good at. And not be it's not modesty or in modesty. It's it's just like, know what you're not good at. And then kind of acknowledge it and try to fix it with some buddy else or some others person's gift or superpower. It's not going to be yours. There's so many things I recognize that I do well, and there's so many other things I realized that I'm subpar. I just am and I don't pathologize it I simply recognize it and say I'm gonna fill those those holes,

Alex Ferrari 14:46
But you are so comfortable in your own skin and that's when you're comfortable in your own skin. The ego is a little bit more tamed and when it comes to hopefully where you can identify those things and go like I can't stand audio. Still, to this day. I still can't deal with audio. I'm a visual guy. And in post production, I always just sent it off to the audio guy. I'm like, here, here are the stems. Mix it for me send me a stereo track back or send me the the stems back and I'll put it in and I'll deliver it but I, you know, sometimes I would send something up and said something like, You sent me a mono track. I'm like, I don't I can't tell I can't hear mono from stereo. I don't want to talk. Like it's just completely my kryptonite. It always has been from everything I've ever done. But I understood that and I, you know, didn't try to do it myself. I outsourced it. I understood that that's definitely not what

Kevin Goetz 15:32
I always loved. When I made movies, I always loved the mixes.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
Oh, yeah, I love being in the mix. I just don't like doing it.

Kevin Goetz 15:39
Gotcha, gotcha. But I always love the mixes because I, I always loved sort of understanding how much you can really, in that post production process. And in fact, screenings are really a part of the post production process, particularly with the studios, but we work on more independent movies and probably studio movies, in our total Arsenal every year. Just there's so many more movies that are people don't even know about there's three movies opening this weekend. And, you know, I'd like to know how many of your listeners even you know, know what they are. They probably don't know, any movie coming out on their radar except Ant Man, which is in like, you know, 3 3 4 weeks there's a there's a reason that you know, that the screenings have become so important in that post production process. Because they do inform often, you know, the the word of mouth of, of how your movie is going to really perform in the marketplace. So it's, it's a very important measure to understand before you embark on you know, the release.

Alex Ferrari 16:55
So let me ask you, because I'm gonna play devil's advocate here, because I'm assuming there's some filmmakers out there going, Well, why do we care about the audience? This is art. I am an artist, an artist, you know, you don't paint lilies. Van Gogh didn't paint lilies for an artist for for the audience. He built a painted it for himself. So to be the devil's advocate, why should filmmakers care about what the audience thinks in today's world understanding that if it's an independent film, versus a studio studio, $200 million dollars under million dollars, big things at stake, get that but as far as the indie world is concerned, why should they care?

Kevin Goetz 17:30
Well, that's saying that Steven Spielberg or whatever studio is not an artist. Exactly. Number one, right? Well tested movies, all the greats, test their movies, and have throughout movie done. In other words, since the beginning of movies, Charlie Chaplin, Buster, Keaton, Harold Lloyd all took their sequences up to Hollywood Boulevard and tested them, great filmmakers throughout history, great moguls, et cetera, tested their movies. And that has not changed, I find a person that doesn't do that is doesn't have a respect for the art form. The art form is not a painting, it's not a novel. It is not a singular vision, it is takes many craftspeople and artists to, to, to put to make a movie and and I told that Angley and I had a bit of a an exchange. It's in the book of my book, where, you know, he said, you know, Picasso never tested his paintings. And I said, because those supplies cost about five cents. And if he didn't like what he did, he could put it in the back of his closet. But you've just been handed $100 million to make your movie by people who absolutely have a stake in this financial stake and creative steak. I mean, the, you know, a studio studio executives are not some empty suits. They're awfully talented people, many of whom were filmmakers, many of whom come from a very serious development background, and they have lived and experienced, you know, how to structure a movie and the successes, the failures, etc. All throughout their lives, and to not include them. As part of the process is is disrespectful, I believe, not to mention, the fact that there are great, you know, cinematographers that have really been the star of many movies that I've worked on and have saved many movies, or the editors as you well know. An editor can be so impactful, and can help or hurt a movie, you know, tremendously uh, you know, I have a podcast it's called don't kill the messenger and and I just interviewed two editors and I want wanted the editors on there. One was Billy Goldenberg, who won the Oscar for Argo. And the other is David Rosenbloom, who was nominated for Oscar for Insider. And there's me great. These are two really, really terrific, terrific editors. And and we talked very much about the alchemy of what makes the movie successful. So if, and I want to qualify this, if a director has raised their own money, is wrote the movie is producing it and directing it and is what we used to call the O'Toole true Oh, tour. Yeah, you want to make it and you don't care about the financial repercussions, or how to leverage your art your asset, if you will. Go with God. But that's not 99.9% of how any movie is done or constructed. I still think if you are no tour, you should include the audience in the discussion because Who are you making this for? Any purist filmmaker, it says they're making a movie for the big screen. Okay. But if you're making it for the big screen, that implies that you want an audience to see it. And if you are going in that direction, getting feedback, getting how things land, at the very least, is at least giving you an indication of what to expect. And I like to say and I've said it a bunch of times if somebody honks at you on a freeway, you know, you know, you're an asshole. I'm sorry, they're an asshole. If somebody honks at you on the freeway, single person, they're an asshole. But if five people are honking at you on the freeway, you're the asshole. Right? And so you can choose if everybody is saying your ending is, is bumming me out in a way that is betraying what came before it. You can have sat endings, that's not the issue. But it's just not working. It's just not satisfying, emotionally or intellectually, or your movie is like so long in the middle, it goes on forever, and I disengage that is just not a good thing. And if everyone's telling you that, you can choose not to listen, if you paid for yourself at all. But if you haven't, then you want to hear them and say, Okay, what can I do? You know, Ron Howard says it best Alex, he really does. He says, Look, I get to, I get to find my script, okay, I get to cast it the way I want to, I develop it the way I want to first then I cast it, then I shoot it my way, then I edit it with my editor. And then I show it to an audience. And at that point, I have to give my child sort of send them to nursery school, if you will, or two, you know, and that's really painful. Hard to do, right? You know, oh my gosh, they're really becoming a person. And it's when the rubber hits the road. And you have to choose at that point, whether to turn off or listen. And in my experience in 35 years, the great filmmakers, and the most successful ones, listen, they listen to the audience. They don't necessarily make all the changes an audience says to make, but they listen and try to address why they're saying what they're saying exists because someone says that scene doesn't belong may not be the answer to the fix. By removing that scene, it may be something leading up to it, I often say and filmmakers on your podcast are going to agree with this completely. When there's ending problems and they're often are in many movies, as we know, it's the most important thing that a movie goers is left or a movie viewer we're saying that because some of you are on streaming are left with therefore you want your ending to land in a certain way. And if you if you can, you know sort of get that right, then you can change potentially the DNA and the trajectory of your of your, of your picture.

Alex Ferrari 24:29
Now, there was a very famous example that I it was so famous that it reached the public knowledge which was fatal attraction, how that movie was completely changed by the screening. And I saw the original ending and it was a bummer and it did not. It didn't it completely failed the point that we saw

Kevin Goetz 24:50
So what I was gonna say about before we get into fatal attraction to to finish the point I was just making is that often the ending is not the issue. It's Act One, that's the issue. And because act one was not set up correctly, this is a very common problem. They can't just fix an ending. Often sometimes you can sometimes in a comedy particularly there's a

Alex Ferrari 25:16
Fatal attraction and fatal attraction they reshot,

Kevin Goetz 25:18
In Fatal Attraction have to look at and fatal attraction is, how did it become so successful in the new ending, because what they set up was this guy, Michael Douglas, who was essentially a good guy who screwed up and had an affair with another woman, but it was a one night thing. And she didn't think so Glenn Close, obviously. And Archer, the wife was ready at by the end of the movie to forgive him. So in other words, he was on a path that clearly was felt like he was wanting to redeem himself and do the right thing. But she wouldn't let it go. So you know, but what happened was because they set that up, I think the audience was really bummed out that it became about Alex sorry, the character. And the character sort of took her own life at the end of the movie, which was kind of in many people's view, from a satisfaction standpoint, a cop out for right, and not having emotionally feeling like he that he leads the lead, Michael Douglas would get his proper come up and, and the wife, of course, didn't get any comeuppance. And so the audience spoke in loudly, and very much so in their scores and their ratings, that the ending was not working. So what they did is they went back and realized, the setup that they had done needed to pay off.

Alex Ferrari 27:01
Right, they were they were ramping it up, they were ramping it up, ramping it up, and they just dropped the ball at the edge or like

Kevin Goetz 27:07
Exactly and you can feel by the way, in the room, when you're in the room to that movie, you could feel the air being sucked out of the room. It was amazing. The focus groups afterwards, I would say. So how many of you liked the movie, every hand goes up? What were their ratings, the ratings were like, six, excellent. 10. Very good. For good, no FERS reports. But because of that, muted, excellent. People were not definitely recommending it, they were only probably recommending it. So there's a correlation between the definite recommend and how well your movies multiple is going to opening weekend multiple is going to be right. So in other words, if your movie opens to 10 million, and you do a three times multiple, that means you've done 30 million, or we'll do 30 million at the box office. So there's a correlation between that word of mouth and the bucks off. It's multiple. And so we don't want to torture filmmakers. What we want to do is say there are real financial implications that can be garnered, you know, gleaned from this so in the case of that it was a muted definite recommend response and the movie would have probably if not for this new ending. Done I don't know

Alex Ferrari 28:22
Decent boxer is a box office. Yeah, cuz it was a it was a very fine movie, and good stars and all that stuff. Yeah.

Kevin Goetz 28:29
They made the decision reluctantly, excuse me, reluctantly, by many to shoot me now. When I say many Glenn and Adrian line, were against it. Michael Douglas was for it. Different people have told me this. So I'm speaking from other people's recounting of this and so they they all acquiesced and they shot this amazing suspenseful Oh, it's not yet it was beautiful bathroom. And then some because it was like a twist on a twist. And now people talk about it as the Fatal Attraction ending. And for any filmmaker, watch them on the bus see the movie if you haven't seen it, because now several years have gone by so many younger people maybe haven't seen it, you must see it. And in so this thing, we're you know, I don't want I don't want to ruin it. But I will tell you that it's Michael Douglas gets redemption. Glenn Close gifts which he deserves. The wife gets redemption, or you know, no. Retribution. I didn't mean redemption. Michael just does get redemption sort of.

Alex Ferrari 29:41
But there's and he gets some come up and he does get some come up and says Well, hey, what's that?

Kevin Goetz 29:47
Yeah. 100% the audience cheers. Okay. The scores come up. I don't know. 2030 points. And the movie does. Awesome. Huge, huge. You know, she's on the cover of Time magazine.

Alex Ferrari 30:03
It was a cultural it was it was in the zeitgeist. Yeah, there's no question.

Kevin Goetz 30:07
That's right. And that was absolutely because audiences spoke. And it's why it's such a great and known example. But there's so many. I mean, I work on, I think I've done over five or 6000 movies in my, in my career titles, and most of them have some kind of change.

Alex Ferrari 30:26
Well, let me ask you, because this is another legendary one airplane, which is I think, before your time,

Kevin Goetz 30:30
It was before my time but aiming at I came in the late 80s.

Alex Ferrari 30:35
Right. So from what I heard that airplane had the worst, or the worst possible scores in the history of the studio at the time, and they're like, Oh, my God, this is gonna bomb. We can't fix this. Because there's no fixing airplane, you can't change a scene and change airplane. It's all a giant, you know, airplane movie, you can't change it. And then it comes out, and it's a monster hit. And from what I heard was that people at that time were embarrassed to say that they liked it. Because it was so silly. And that hadn't been something that's silly up to that point in that way before. Because if you watch our plane today, you're just like, This is amazing.

Kevin Goetz 31:16
Are you talking about the real the one with Karen Black? Where? The comedy,

Alex Ferrari 31:23
The comedy, The comedy, comedy.

Kevin Goetz 31:25
Well, there was an airport. I

Alex Ferrari 31:27
know there was airport and I'm talking about airplane.

Kevin Goetz 31:31
People know. Yeah, that introduced an entire genre that had never the spoof that had never really existed. And so there was no precedent for it. Right. So that's another reason why probably it didn't score well is that people didn't know where to put it. Had a classify it? Right. Goofy. I remember working on the naked guns. Oh, god. Yeah. I did every one of them. And I mean, from nothing's falling down the staircase.

Alex Ferrari 31:59
Oh, no. Yeah. Nice. Beaver. Yeah. Great.

Kevin Goetz 32:06
Oh, funny. And, and people just lost it. And but they were they were coming in with an expectation, and so on. Yeah, exactly. So you needed to deliver on that claim. So each one had to, like surpass the one before it, which sometimes it's successful is, you know, and sometimes not when you get to sequels, but that's only increased, that, that when I as IP has taken more of a front seat, and sort of the notion of the big idea, at became like the central focus of what drove people to theaters. You know, the, you had to satisfy you had more of a, if you're a studio, if you're a filmmaker, more of a responsibility to give the audience what they wanted.

Alex Ferrari 32:57
Right! without, without question,

Kevin Goetz 33:00
how enough tests that how could you? I mean, how could you not? Exactly, I have kind of have a reverence for the audience. When I call the audience can be 10 people, or it could be a million people. Just the word audience. And that's why the book is called Audience ology, because I kind of have become an advocate for the people, and the people, one person doesn't necessarily change the world, but the, you know, Wisdom of Crowds, as they say, It's a phrase and books that are out on that. There's validity to that. And it's that whole thing about the hunting on the freeway, it's like you want to, you want to listen to what the general consensus is, it doesn't mean you dumb it down. It means that you say, Okay, if all of these people are saying that, how can I figure out, so a lot of my time is spent helping the filmmakers figure out what is going on beneath the surface, you know, and that is also part of the art, I guess, of what I do, which is going back to my acting roots of understanding a character and peeling back the onion, to get to those layers underneath the character to be able to bring that that asset to filmmakers and say, well, here's what I think they're really saying, this is the subtext here, as opposed to, you know, change your ending. It's a comic needs more comedy, you know, like those things are unhelpful majority of the time.

Alex Ferrari 34:34
What was in all your 5000 Plus screenings that you've done over the course you know,

Kevin Goetz 34:40
20,000 plus 20 titles? No, I mean that because just to you, I mean, I'm literally out almost every night. Not anymore. I mean, I have a battery of folks that that that

Alex Ferrari 34:54
Do this for you now. Yeah. But with all the experience. Yes. What's the worst What's the worst screening experience you've ever went through that you can say publicly? Like the Movies screened poorly. The filmmaker didn't accept it.

Kevin Goetz 35:09
My worst experiences were on the with the audience didn't see which they were. They were logistical nightmares. Were an entire audience was cancelled by my people by accident, because we were over, confirmed. And everyone flew in from London and from it was in New York and from LA, the expense that went into just showing up. And a major, major big movie, a huge blockbuster. And there was like, there were like, 40 people, the only 40 people who didn't get the message that it was canceled. And the reason that they canceled is because we were so over confirmed that the we went back to cancel certain folks so that we wouldn't have a mad scene. You know, like a mob scene, the mad mad dash.

Alex Ferrari 36:03
So for them, one of the biggest blockbusters of its day or four people show up 40 people show up,

Kevin Goetz 36:07
40 people show up, and within 40 minutes, we got about 280 people from the mall to come. By I said, No matter any means. And this thing scored so well, on it was no science to it, though. But it was one of the worst nights of my career. And I recently had one where, you know, we have digital devices and the digital devices that we use to collect the data, we had a connectivity issue, and it was a nightmare. And fair enough, you know, so but we are now already we have ways to you know, we have paper and pencil standing by in case there's that issue. So we're able to get the data, but it is so unnerving. So those are the things that I really remember, as far as a movie is concerned, there are some that are just misses, they're just that you test it and there's complete and utter rejection doesn't happen often. It never happens with a studio. It just wouldn't happen anymore with the studio because the stakes are so high and so many people have touched it. It's never a unmitigated disaster. These are usually independent movies that just for whatever reason, were not executed well, and, and had marketing assets that just were like, non existent. You know, because there was nothing to hang your hat on. So you had not no marketability, and you had no playability. And so what do you say, you come out and you just say, you know, you and you know, they spent way too much on movie, you're like, sorry, those are those are really tough, because you feel for these people. And sure somebody is going to be losing a lot of money. And the director, if they didn't invest their own money will have reputational damage. And it's it's just a

Alex Ferrari 38:10
What was it was kind of like that movie back girl that Warner Brothers shelved recently. Like, I've never heard of that before. Yeah, I know. How odd is that movie that they can't just dump it on HBO backs? Like, I don't get that.

Kevin Goetz 38:24
We, you know? Well, I don't know the particulars of that. But if I were a guessing man, I didn't work on that particular movie, another company did. But my guess is, first of all, I heard that it wasn't that bad. Number one, go back and be like, your what?

Alex Ferrari 38:43
How bad they released show girls they've released.

Kevin Goetz 38:47
But you have to also what I would be asking myself is is it political brand? Their most important asset one of their five most important assets in the arsenal, the Batman. Does it hurt the brand? Does it hurt DC? That's an issue that I can't really speak about.

Alex Ferrari 39:07
But they released cat but they released Catwoman for God's sakes.

Kevin Goetz 39:10
I remember how many years ago was that? That was a while ago. Yeah, the Batman wasn't as good see, wasn't DC then. So now now you can compare the two. Look, I'm about fixing things. I would take a different approach. Misters Azov is has his own financial sort of agenda, which is I respect i How could you not I mean, it's really difficult decisions that he has to has to has to undertake, but the fact is, is is, that was part of the that was part of the cash. It was a casualty of that. Makes sense? So you know, as a researcher, I've fixed through audience reaction. So many movies And I would love to have taken a stab at it. My guess is my heard that they probably needed to reshoot a bunch. So are you going to spend exactly are you going to spend more money? I mean, like World War Z. I mean, they reshot, oh, ton, maybe a quarter of the movie. And it was a big hit. Huge. I do think that it's a it's a tough thing to look at. And until we are in the we are in the shoes of David Zaslav or of the executives at Warner's who made that decision, it's really hard to just say, why would why did they do it? I'm sure there was a compelling reason to do it, if not more than a compelling reason.

Alex Ferrari 40:43
And because it's unheard of, really it's the first film of that.

Kevin Goetz 40:47
It's kind of unheard of. It's kind of unheard of a shell of a was $100 million, at least some like that. I don't know. I don't know what it was. But yeah, something big. And you also don't want the reputational damage, which it did. They get a lot of flack for it. And I'm sure that was weighed in the equation. And it's just it's a lousy decision, no matter how it how it comes about.

Alex Ferrari 41:11
It's a lose lose.

Kevin Goetz 41:12
It's a loose, loose. It's kind of it kind of is there's kind of is, and yet it was done, you know.

Alex Ferrari 41:19
Now, this is a question I'm really wanting to hear your opinion on, because you've been working in the business for so long. And obviously, in the 30 plus years, you've been working in this, you've seen the business change. You know, you went through the VHS days, the DVD days. And now the streamer days Home Box Office days, you know, the mail days? Yeah, all those Yeah. You know, when you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger just shows up reading a telephone book and hits a $20 million opening I remember these days. But the theater experience seems to be not only taking a hit. But is it going the way of Blockbuster Video, like in the next 1015 years? Or they're just going to be less screens? Because the theatrical experience, you know, and don't get me wrong when a movie shows up, like Topcon or avatar. But those are the only two experiences that are the only two movies I can think of right away that everybody went out to go see. What do you believe is going to happen? And where do you think this is all going in the theatrical experience? Because I grew up in the theatrical experience. I love movies. You obviously grew up in that time period. It there's nothing like being obviously obvious. You just said 30 years, sir, you like 25? You just said 30 odd years.

Kevin Goetz 42:38
I set myself right up to that we

Alex Ferrari 42:39
We look fantastic, sir. No, but But seriously, like we both kind of grew up in that field. So there's nothing like the theatrical experience. But this new generation didn't grow up with it. So right. What do you think?

Kevin Goetz 42:52
Yeah, well, I think that it's, it's never coming back to the way it was. And I just think it's not an indictment on movies. It's not an indictment on the particular movie, necessarily. I'll explain that in a minute. It's more of an indictment, if you will, on consumer behavior and new generations. With the replacement of, of movies as a prime source of entertainment with television and gaming. With social media and short form, entertainment. Gen Z's are really, and half of millennials are really, I wouldn't say rejecting the theatrical experience. They just don't care about it in the same way that you and I did, because we had, there was a nostalgic quality to it, there was a romanticism, there's something about being in a theater that excites us, because we grew up with it. So we have different memories, and so forth. The younger generation just doesn't feel that. So as people age out and age up, there's going to be less attendance. In terms of a wide variety of movies in a theater, three things happened that have never occurred at the same time, right, which is this notion of choice, so much choice, the notion of price. The price is just too damn expensive, to not be selective about what you're going to see. And convenience. You know, it takes what, about 40 minutes? On average? I think it's 3840 minutes to decide what movie and get in a car to go to like that's the average as opposed to like 16 or 17 minutes to choose a movie through streaming and, and be at home. You can buy five or six streaming so Ever since for the cost of a family for going to one movie, with concessions in parking cetera, you can't compare the the value proposition. However people still like going to the movies, they also like going out of the house, occasionally, occasionally, movies will become more of a product of like a show or a concert. And what that means is an experience. So if you don't have a movie that has some kind of experiential component to it. Elevated, fun, elevated, fun, elevated, that means a horror movie that is, oh, it's just a really kick ass comedy that still comedies not really come back. No. And I'm not sure they, they, they will there will be a comedy that just does so well. You know, like There's Something About Mary Crazy Rich Asians remember how that's not?

Alex Ferrari 46:06
That's not good. But that was pre pandemic too. So that's the other thing

Kevin Goetz 46:10
I understand that but no one expected it to do the blockbuster business, there will be one because there's always one. There's one like, like, just when everyone's had romantic comedies are dead, you know, ticket to paradise comes in sort of works. And then just when they said dramas are dead, you know, man called Auto comes in and works. But it doesn't work that they were shot. They're not I mean, it does make a point, or can prove a point that there is an audience that will still go, but it's far less. So really the this as the population grows, actually, more people will go to movies, but we'll see such such you were you were movies, fewer titles. So what you just said is 100% Right now I have a theater and then a screening in my house. So I watch everything on a big screen. And it's with Dolby and the whole thing and I'm very blessed to have that. So I never need to go to a theater and I spent my life working on movies in theaters. But I left my house to see Avatar, you know, because, of course, of course. My house to see Top Gun. Yes, I did to leave you chose. I did not leave my house for anything else.

Alex Ferrari 47:30
You and me are the exact same. The only two movies I've seen in a theater other than maybe press screenings or something like that. No, I'm not talking about work. No, that's different. Because I just saw a man from auto and things like that but theatrically but for me to get out. Go pay tickets. It was top gun because that's like I have to go see top gun because it's an experience. And I go it's avatar because it's avatar and it's James Cameron possible in a theater. I will probably see Mission Impossible to Oppenheimer in a theater. You know, you're absolutely right. That's a prime another but again, these are

Kevin Goetz 48:03
Even though it's a drama, quote on but it's but a Nolan trailer and I was Nolan. It's Nolan it's Christopher Nolan. It's not viatical it's going to be an expirience

Alex Ferrari 48:13
But the fable ones. I'm not gonna go see them the theaters. I want to see it and it's I'm looking forward to wonderful. I'm looking forward to it.

Kevin Goetz 48:22
You know, it's so interesting. There's a great filmmaker. And I'm not being cheeky, I really don't remember when I say great filmmaker, a very popular filmmaker, a very well, a well known filmmaker and but I forget which one it is, but said this quote, which is my favorite movie of all time is jaws. And I have never seen it in a movie theater. Isn't that interesting?

Alex Ferrari 48:50
I've never seen jaws and

Kevin Goetz 48:53
This notion of you have to see things in a movie theater is just not the case. And and if it were the case, the Academy of which I'm a member would you know make it mandatory that people have to see movies in a theater, it's just unrealistic. And it's just not true. I don't get any less enjoyment from 90% of most movies, because I've seen them on a big screen. Forget my screening room but I'm talking about like a big screen of any of us have with flat screen. Well, just having a 72 wins. It's an again, you have a lot of people a lot of my friends have these sound packages that are really cool in their rooms that are surround sound, etc. And they really emulate the experience and many theaters have gone the wrong direction in a way and have tried to emulate the living room as a way to ingratiate the consumer and bring them in. So they have these great reclining seats and the screens have gotten smaller and Right. It's like, as the theaters have condensed their the experience to make it more elite or, you know, like food service. And homes have gotten bigger and will get bigger. You know, the Consumer Electronics Show shows walls of screen like walls of screen in your home, it will end up being a feature like marble floors and granite counters.

Alex Ferrari 50:24
So it's Total Recall, like Total Recall had that like they just turned up.

Kevin Goetz 50:27
But I'm saying I would say exactly. But I would say you'll, you'll say I like I'd like the full screen in the game rec room or the den and the sound package as well also in the master. So you're going to have like a wall screen and it'll be part of the feature of the buildings built ins. You know what I mean? So this is going to happen. So everything points to there's going to be a there has to be condensing reduction of screens. I mean, Regal just filed for bankruptcy. As you know. They're closing one of my favorite theaters in Los Angeles, which is Sherman Oaks

Alex Ferrari 51:07
They're closing Sherman. Yeah. Wow.

Kevin Goetz 51:11
Were you in LA?

Alex Ferrari 51:12
Yeah. But I wasn't really for 13 years.

Kevin Goetz 51:15
Yes. So this is that's my theater that I go to. Or Burbank. That's the Burbank

Alex Ferrari 51:21
I lived in Burbank. So that was my AMC was. And they always had the test screening guys out front always

Kevin Goetz 51:27
Oh, well, we do. Um, they're probably once a week, I think

Alex Ferrari 51:30
Every day but always, Oh, is there

Kevin Goetz 51:33
A second home. I like I like I own a second home in Burbank and the theater. There a lot. And it's just, it's a lot of people like it. It's it's a very good testing location, because it is ethnically racially diverse. It has a level of sophistication, but also sort of working class folks, you know, does that regular regular people regular back did that does that. And there's a there's also you get a mixture of you know, education, which is really nice. So as far as testing, it emulates a lot of pockets in the United States. So it's a good, it's a good testing ground. So it's like the block in Orange County or Long Beach. Those are really important in the LA area.

Alex Ferrari 52:20
Well, let me ask you, then, with all this conversation of theatrical, where does that leave you in the work that you do? Do you still do test screenings for things that are going to streaming? And how is that how does that work?

Kevin Goetz 52:33
Well, it speaks to our conversation that we had at the beginning of the podcast, which is people are going to it's important to get your the the opinions of folks, whether it is what the platform agnostic in other words, it's whether it is on a streamer debuting on stream or debuting in a theater, that word of mouth is going to dictate how, how strongly the movie will perform. And streamers want and report now on drops, as well, they want to make the best version of itself they possibly can. And when I say the best version, I mean, the one that appeals to the widest, widest number of folks. And that is a very important determination. So all of the streamers are my clients. And even even though may I say now my biggest clients and I will say this I also during the pandemic, we went into triage mode at screen engine ASI, which is my company, we went into triage mode. And we we came up with we invented a synchronous, that means in real time screening platform for two to 300 people, that you as a filmmaker can stay in your home and watch people watching your movie at once. So that's where it's gone. And well, a lot of it did go there. But many people still are holding on to this notion of looking at a movie in a theater. So half our business is on the small screen and half our business is still on the big screen. And we've only increased exponentially because as content increases, so does our business. Because as you're saying, and it's a really good point just because something is not theatrical is not an indictment on your movie. Yet you need the same results you need strong word of mouth. You want to have good critics ratings, you want to have scoring and scores so that your subscribers if it's a streamer, are satisfied like these are important things to know and understand. And unless you engage with the audience, how the hell are you going to know that?

Alex Ferrari 54:56
Well doesn't doesn't the streamers have an immense amount? have data that the studio's just do not have in the sense of the algorithm and what people are watching and when they're coming off. I mean, they know so many data points on a movie. That's one of the reasons why from what I understand Adam Sandler keeps getting those 100 million dollar deals at Netflix because their data states, people watch it people, you know, click on it, people continue to enjoy his kind of humorous kind of films, where most of us are like, but how is Adam keep getting all these get that he's a silly film. A lot of his movies are silly and comical when he's not doing his dramatic stuff. But you're like, wow, he's still going Why is Netflix doing

Kevin Goetz 55:35
You have a clearly they have more many more data points and metrics, then the studios are able to but you know, like, we have a product called Host track. So every week, screen engineer size in partnership with comScore. And it's the exit poll currency, everyone subscribes to the product. And we gauge reaction to studio movies and who actually showed up. So we can tell you, the actual audience demography, and how they rated it in those individual groups. So they're not without data should definitely less sophisticated, of course, then the streamers are able to, to to have, but you know, theatrical is a big bet business, right? You're spending big dollars. But there's no question that those marketing dollars at create a movie getting into the zeitgeist that a streaming movie simply doesn't do, and I believe increases the value of the IP. Even if it's not as successful in its theatrical run, the sort of the goodwill, if you will, or the nature of the of the of the asset takes on a more important, you know, life than if it doesn't have a campaign behind it. It feels has more gravitas, it feels like it's a bigger thing. So with that comes the positive of what I just said, but also comes with tremendous risk, because you have to make that much more money to make back the P PNa. And that the PNA is could be significant, you know, on on movies, and, you know, you have to sort of double down it's kind of like you're, you're talking about that girl. So if you know fat girl was something that was gonna go theatrical. They'd have to spend how much to get people 100 150 Yeah, something like that. It'd be insanely probably somewhere between my guess is somewhere between 75 and 100 worldwide to get that movie, you know, properly plays, etc. So you have to then say where does one cut their losses. And that is what more and more people will probably be doing. But cutting your losses usually means then taking a loss but going on a stream or not investing in the PNA. But if streamers don't want the movie, or if you think you might do damage to your overall brand, there may be compelling business reason to do it. And so

Alex Ferrari 58:22
It's it's fairly interesting. Now, can you talk about your new film audience.ology in a film book. Audience.ology?

Kevin Goetz 58:30
Well, it's made me made into a film

Alex Ferrari 58:32
Starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It's amazing.

Kevin Goetz 58:35
First of all, it's a year old already. But it's, it's been a best seller, Simon and Schuster. pretty thrilled about it in its category, man. It's not like New York Times, you know, we've sold 2 million copies. But it is gotten really great feedback and press and critical response. And I couldn't be more proud of it. I worked on it with my, with my co author, Darlene Heyman, for like 12 years. So it was interviews, interviews, interviews, and then finding the right voice and structure. And, and because it was as successful as it has been, and it's now in paperback. Simon and Schuster gave me a second book, which I'm writing right now with my co author, Bob Levin, and that is called how to score in Hollywood. And that book,

Alex Ferrari 59:26
Great title.

Kevin Goetz 59:28
Why don't come up with a good title, you know, you know, that's, that's not good. That's not good. Consider it heading, having been tested, et cetera, et cetera, up but what I was gonna say was that book is about getting to the green light. And what does it take to get to the green light? What's the alchemy? And what goes through people who are in that position to give it the Yes. What do they go through? What are they feeling? How much audience response to they use? How much should they use it? And so we take on that debate a little bit as well. So I think it's going to be a fun fun read. But I have no idea when I'm going to finish it because we're about halfway through, we love where it's going. So does so does the publisher, but I'm running a business, I am doing my podcast. And I think, by the way, I think a lot of people who do actually listen to yours would like my podcast, if I can do a shameless plug, sure, of course, don't kill the messenger, it's called, which don't kill the messenger came about because that was originally gonna be the title of audience ology. And it's interesting, that was my title for a long time. So it's kind of married to it. And it basically the publisher at Simon Schuster thought it was maybe a little too self serving and, and let's put it on the audience, which is what it's all about. And in, I don't know, maybe 15 years ago, Patrick Goldstein did a feature on the calendar cover the calendar section of the LA Times. And he he dubbed me the Doctor of audience ology. And when I brought that up in the book, they said, you know, we love this idea. And that's how audience ology came to be. And it really is kind of taken on a life of its own in terms of the possibilities and, and so forth, maybe doing a TV show and around it and all that, in any event, don't kill the messenger is what it means it's I'm coming in to deliver the news of the audience. You know, don't beat me up. It's the easiest thing to do is to is to is to pick on the guy who's who's has to give you the truth and or tell you the truth. And so it's been a sticky title up I kind of base the podcast on the notion of people have an interest in like yours, your podcast, people have an interest in movies. There some war stories of screening experiences, but getting into individuals who have made an impact continue to make an impact, and how that affects kind of, as you said, the post production and, and in particular, the screening process.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:13
Now, my last question to you is, what is the craziest, most entertaining, insane screening event that you can talk about publicly?

Kevin Goetz 1:02:22
I think the one that pops in my head, well, two of us, two of them pop into my head Borat

Alex Ferrari 1:02:27
Oh my god, what was the Borat like?

Kevin Goetz 1:02:30
For at the original Borat screening, which was in Marina Del Rey. Remember, no one really. Some people knew the algae character. Yeah. But they didn't know Sacha Baron Cohen. Really? He? He did this movie. It was never saw anything like it. And people were pissing in their pants. I don't know how else to say it. I mean, I got, you know, the wave, like the wave. They do it ballgames they were doing that one guy got up from he was sitting like in the fifth wrote to the screen, he got up and ran up and down the aisle with his arms. And people were just laughing at that, because he couldn't contain himself. When the teabagging scene happened. Oh, no, no, that's just it was it was it people were just out of their minds. And so it scored hugely. And it was a great, it was one of those magic moments of your experience something in a culture, you know what I mean? And the other thing another one was like, was something about Mary? Oh, yeah. Another one like that. Yeah. When Ben when Ben Stiller comes out with the, with the hair gel. Oh.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:39
Cameron Diaz. Cameron Diaz has,

Kevin Goetz 1:03:42
Because of his sorry,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:43
No, she she comes out with this thing. His his manhood.

Kevin Goetz 1:03:50
I was gonna say, but and with the zipper. Oh, there's when the dog flies out the window. Lin che and see your eye? Alex laughing Yeah. Because imagine being in that first screening and not knowing that that was oh, what it was it was just crazy and peep. It was one of those and I I've had many of those. The first screening of Forrest Gump the first screening of Titanic.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:21
Oh my god, what was the Titanic screening?

Kevin Goetz 1:04:23
It was people went nuts because it was one of those it was I compare it in the book to the gauntlet that when screening that is alleged to have happened, it did happen. I spoke to Samuel Goldman before he passed away about it because he had talked directly to Darryl Darryl and not their authentic David O. Selznick. And essentially, it was we got the executives to Minneapolis. No one knew what we were going to see Fox. Tom sherek arranged it so people just showed up at the airport for the private jet and we were flown to to Minneapolis and Jim Cameron, was there already trying to set up lights and for the question, you know, and arranging things and and I said, this is not great expectations, which is what we were told we were going to see. That was a fake title. So people thought they were going to secret expectations. And when I, when I mentioned that, actually, I don't think I mentioned the title. What happened was, I said, I'm so glad to hear and they're like, what is it? What is it and then all of a sudden, the water thing comes up. And that water image, and people thought it was a trailer at first. And then it said Titanic and people were like, oh, and because

Alex Ferrari 1:05:42
Because because at the time for everyone listening, everyone was bashing Titanic because it's never going to work the world's biggest flop. It's how are you going to even how can you make a movie about Titanic? We all know the ending and all of this stuff. Oh, I remember all of that, because they were just killing Jim over the most expensive movie ever made. And all those years.

Kevin Goetz 1:06:03
So that was that? Watch. I was crazy. That was crazy. And I also remember, oh, there was a great story of us recruiting. I remember it was I think it was the first Toy Story. And but we recruited it under something. It wasn't Benji, but it was something like last week, something like last year, and we recruited the movie with this. And then we get up to announce the name. It wasn't me. But another colleague got up to announce the name of the movie. And people were like, boo, because they never heard a Toy Story. And by the end of it, a new franchise was born. And people were like Benji, who lastly, what?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:50
Because imagine, imagine seeing Toy Story for the first time when nothing had ever been released like that before. I can't even imagine.

Kevin Goetz 1:07:00
And so you've got all these great, great stores, people audiences, discovering these great movies,magic.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:09
And I think you were saying that there's going to be a comedy that's going to break through again, something like bore at if anyone has the balls to make a film, because I remember watching Blazing Saddles. It when I when I was working at the video store when I was a young man,

Kevin Goetz 1:07:23
I worked at video store. That's that's where I

Alex Ferrari 1:07:28
Five years, five years, my mom and pop in Florida.

Kevin Goetz 1:07:31
I was in New York City and I was the weekend manager.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:37
I wasn't I was I was a manager I was a manager.

Kevin Goetz 1:07:40
So talk about finding your end, I realized the owner was just blockbuster was soon to open a year later. But it was before Blockbuster and I put a business plan together and I said I want to buy your business and guess what? He fired me. What felt threatened I was 21 years old. He felt threatened and and I was dumbfounded it was the greatest thing ever. And then a year later he was out of business because blockbuster went on 79th Street and it was like done dude all those mom and pops as you know went out of business

Alex Ferrari 1:08:11
Done they were done but I was I remember watching Blazing Saddles because I was those times I was watched so

Kevin Goetz 1:08:17
We would walk put movies on while we were we had a real shrink wrap our movies and

Alex Ferrari 1:08:22
Obviously obviously I did the same thing you knew right? Yeah, when you're gonna resell the used ones you'd be shrink wrap them and put them out of course of course. Yeah, I used to play Nintendo in the back and watch movies up front. So I'm watching Blazing Saddles

Kevin Goetz 1:08:35
I went into the X rated section here in there

Alex Ferrari 1:08:37
I didn't our city did not allow pornography of Florida so it was that area of there was like a couple couple of areas over wide area or large l Fort Lauderdale for whatever reason

Kevin Goetz 1:08:50
That's more aggressive than a lot of

Alex Ferrari 1:08:52
It did not allow it but like, if you went to another city you couldn't but for whatever so I never had that joy. But I'm watching Blazing Saddles.

Kevin Goetz 1:09:02
We're seeing Debbie does Dallas. I'm just going to tell you Well, I mean, you don't know what you miss.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:06
Listen, people find a way but

Kevin Goetz 1:09:11
Before there was the internet doing which we tested, No, I'm joking.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:14
No, we tested and but watching Blazing Saddles I said, this movie will never be there's nothing that will ever come out. As like ballsy as this film, like it was just a couple of first of all that movie can never come out today. Like as as it just in the culture and the climate that we have today would never be able to come out today. But when Borat showed up, I was just like, how did this sneak through the guard gate? Like how in God's green earth? Did they do it? And then when they released it during I think it was pandemic 2021 He reads a sequel I'm like, or 2020 Whenever he released that

Kevin Goetz 1:09:51
We worked on that really. Like thanks. Sasha wrote a really, really nice quote for the back of my book. And we worked. I did all the Borah, second one, two and beyond so much fun. And I just interviewed on my podcast, Monica Levinson, who produced it. And she talks about, if you want to hear it that should have been her being arrested, and how that all worked and how they get releases and stuff. That was pretty cool.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:19
How they were able to do stuff like but you know, and not to go off too far off the train here for a second. But what Sasha does he his life is threatened. Like the stuff that he would do. It was like life threatening situations. He put himself in for our comedy like Jerry's.

Kevin Goetz 1:10:36
No, that that concert we talked about the concert, you know, that concert? Yeah, in the second in the second one. And you saw that they were trying to tip over the ambulance that he was being taken. He was genuinely fear fearful. I mean, you could see it,

Alex Ferrari 1:10:50
Because he just, he might have jumped he just might have gone too far. Like siblings just might have just just a little bit might have gone too far. Because that's not for me, either. But, but for his safety. He might have gone well, yeah, yeah, that's what I mean.

Kevin Goetz 1:11:06
But the whole thing is based on this authenticity, and so it's just amazing to me, also what people will do, and sign away.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:16
I know Oh, yeah. After after bar, I came out there was like lawsuits trying to like I did well, like why we because they signed the release. And because they didn't know, you know, like, some of the stores he went into and some of the things he did. And people sign the releases. And they're like, no, no, it's like that whole dinner, that whole dinner scene where he comes back with a sack

Kevin Goetz 1:11:33
Don't get me don't get i i literally I when I watched the second one, I fell off my chair during the movie. Oh, God, if you get what scene it was, I literally fell off my chair. I was in the desert in Palm Springs. Doing it remotely on this platform, the virtual works platform. Yeah. And suddenly, I'm like, laughing so hard. And I was on a small chair and I I pulled myself back fell off. And they're like, where do you go? He's that Yeah. Oh my god.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:11
Yeah, but where can people find out more about you and the work that you're doing, sir?

Kevin Goetz 1:12:15
Well, my social media is Kevingoetz that's goetz. Yeah, Kevingoetz360 and I'm on all the social media platforms. And the book is called Audience.ology. It's on Amazon. It's there's a, you can get it the the I read it as well. And then also, the podcast is called don't kill the messenger. And that's also just Google that it's on all the different platforms.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:41
Kevin, I appreciate your contribution to film history. Over the last 30 years. My friend seriously!

Kevin Goetz 1:12:47
Your such a pleasure and you're such a wealth of knowledge and to talk to someone who is in the know and really gets it. You have great enthusiasm, great enthusiasm.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:57
I appreciate you very much my friend. Thank you again.

Kevin Goetz 1:12:59
Thank you so much!



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IFH 656: Confessions of a Million Dollar Screenwriter with Diane Drake

Today on the show, we have million-dollar screenwriter Diane Drake. Her produced original scripts include ONLY YOU, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei, and WHAT WOMEN WANT, starring Mel Gibson.  Her original script for ONLY YOU sold for $1 million, and WHAT WOMEN WANT is the second highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time (Box Office Mojo). In addition, both films have recently been remade in China, featuring major Chinese stars. And WHAT WOMEN WANT has recently been remade by Paramount Pictures as WHAT MEN WANT, with Taraji Henson starring in the Mel Gibson role.

Diane, who is a member of the Writers Guild of America, recently authored her first book, Get Your Story Straight, a step-by-step guide to writing your screenplay. She has taught screenwriting through UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and now offers story consulting and her own guided online course via her website.

Diane has also been a speaker/instructor for The Austin Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the Rocaberti Writers Retreat in Dordogne, France, the American Film Market, Scriptwriters Network, Phoenix Screenwriters Association, Stowe Story Labs, Romance Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation, University Club, Storyboard Development Group and the Writers Store, among others; and a judge for the Humanitas Prize, the Austin Film Festival and the UCLA Writers Program.

In this episode, we get into the nitty-gritty of being a screenwriter in Hollywood. Diane is very open about her experiences, the good and the terrible. If you want to be a working screenwriter in Hollywood, then get ready to take notes.

Enjoy my eye-opening conversation with Diane Drake.

Alex Ferrari 3:05
I'd like to welcome to the show Diane Drake. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Diane Drake 4:38
Thank you so much for asking me it's my pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 4:40
It's been an absolute pleasure to have you before we even get started. I have to say how much I love your your first screenplay. The only you it is was forever. For all those listening who don't know that movie only you is starting a very young and Babyface Robert Downey Jr. and Marissa Mayer And Bonnie Yes, as well. Oh, and Billy Zane, if I remember correctly, is in that movie as well. And Billy's A. And the reason I bring it up first is because it was it was during my video store days when I first saw that movie. And of course, I had a huge crush on Mercer to me because everybody of my generation has that crush without question. So when that movie came out, I was just like, Oh my God, but it was honestly the first experience the first time I actually fell in love with Italy because it was shot so beautifully. The director, Norman Jewison, right.

Diane Drake 5:34
Yes, the director was Norman Jewison. And the cinematographer was fun night. This too, was legendary. I mean, he did Ingmar Bergman's movies, and he done Woody Allen's movies. And I think the only reason he did this movie was because it was Italy with a lot of people who want to work on that movie, because it was Italy.

Alex Ferrari 5:53
Yeah, it's a rough, it's a rough shoot, that's a rough shoot,

Diane Drake 5:55
you know, I tell you, I was no pool, but I'll tell you something about that. So So I, when I came up with the idea, I was very much in love with Italy. I'd been there once, briefly. And I really loved it. And I wanted to go back. So it was sort of a vicarious, you know, fantasy of mine. But the other thing was that I had realized that I felt at the time and I could be wrong about this, but I don't think so that you really hadn't seen Italy on the big screen in a while. And the only place you had seen it was in like any movies like Cinema Paradiso, or there was a lovely, lovely movie. I don't know if you're familiar with it, but I love it called Enchanted April.

Alex Ferrari 6:38
I remember that movie.

Diane Drake 6:38
Yeah. Oh, it's such a beautiful movie. So, um, so and I knew by virtue of the nature of the story, that it had to go somewhere, right, and I didn't, you know, she had to take off. And I didn't want to go from LA to New York or whatever, right? I really want to go to Italy. So I'm like, I'm gonna send her to Italy. And in fact, I don't know if you remember, but they travel all through Italy. And kind of late in the movie, they go to post Toronto. And I had never been to post Toronto. So I sent them to post Toronto because I wanted to go to post. But one of the little wrinkle of this is that when I was writing that script, and I was down and out, I was unemployed I had, I had had one little tiny say, like, gotten to the Writers Guild, we can talk more about that if you want. But, um, but I was struggling. And a really close friend of mine, who I whose work I really respected a lot. And he was a script ahead of me. And we both worked in development prior to this, and we were both out of work. And I just really, I trusted his judgment. And so I was kind of having problems with the script as one does. And he very sort of cockily said to me, you know, he's like, Well, I'll send it to me, I'll read it, we'll have brunch, I'll tell you I give him a note, you know, I'll help you fix it. So we did that. And his notes were really good. I knew that I was so funny, too, because I literally just pulled them out. I hadn't looked at them in a million years. But I knew it meant I was gonna have to tear the script apart. And that would be difficult, but I knew it would make it better. So I was okay with that. But But the other thing he said to me was, but don't set it in Italy. And I was like, Why? Why not set it in Italy? And he's like, because if he said in Italy, it just becomes a movie about Italy. So there's a little lesson for you, you know, take what is useful for you. And we asked, because I just felt like no, you're wrong about that. To me. That was one of the great joys of it started as writing it. And I think it has been for people watching it. And I will tell you that movies done really, really well and DVD and whatever. I don't know if they stream it now, but I think a large part of the reason obviously, Robert, of course, you know, come on. But

Alex Ferrari 8:49
But but also Robert was Robert circa 1994. Isn't that Robert circa 2008 2018?

Diane Drake 8:56
No. He was a big star.

Alex Ferrari 8:59
Oh, he was a he was a star. What was that before after Chaplin? I think that was

Diane Drake 9:03
before it was actually let me think about it for a minute. I think it was for

Alex Ferrari 9:10
I think it was before Chaplin and before he had his his problems.

Diane Drake 9:14
Yeah, well, between us he had some problems then. But here's the thing. Here's the thing. In spite of that, he was extraordinarily professional, extraordinarily kind. I can tell you this, the sweetest story about him if you want me to later, that to this day makes me kind of cry. I mean, he was lovely. He was lovely. He may have had his own demons at the time, but he was amazing. And I think that's part of the reason there was so much goodwill for him, you know, in all right, you know, because he's just such a gracious, kind, gifted person. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 9:48
No, no question. I had the pleasure of meeting him once at Sundance and he was just such a just a darling, he was no reason to be nice to me. I was just as a little, you know, guy just walking up like hey, You know, can I get a picture? I gotta talk. And he was such a sweet man. But I do love that movie in the magic between him and Marissa, were just wonderful in that film. But before we go off on a tangent, because we could talk about only you for the rest of us. First of all, how did you get into the business?

Diane Drake 10:15
Okay, so it depends how far back you want to go. But basically, I'll try to make it brief ish. I am. When I got into college, I had a degree in communications, visual arts, and it's kind of worthless, you know, in the marketplace, it wasn't worth it to me. You know, I had no connections or anything. And so I thought, well, I guess I'll be practical, because my BA is not real practical. And I'll get an MBA, because that's what everyone was doing. And I guess that seemed like a good idea. And I hated it with passion. And I remember sitting in my accounting class and thinking, if I survive this, and, and this is going to qualify me to do this for the rest of my life. And I don't want to do this. So I quit. And which was really hard, because I'd been a pretty good student up to that point. And, you know, it's like taking out loans and everything, but it's just wasn't for me. So I that was not in California, that was in Colorado. So I moved back to California, and decided I would go to law school, because that's impractical. But I thought, but I'll do it in California. And I'll do entertainment law. And that'll be kind of sort of cool. And it'll be practical, too. And so I got a job in the legal department at what was then Columbia Pictures and applied. And I looked around, and I saw how miserable a lot of people in the world of art and luck. And before I got into USC, and I got on the waiting list for UCLA. But I didn't want to spend the money to go to USC and I ultimately did not get into UCLA. And I thought, okay, I mean, I don't know that I want to do this anyway. And so that, that it was at that point that I first learned, because I was working on the lot, that there was such a job as being a reader. I didn't know that that job even existed when I started. So I thought well, I could do that, you know, and, and that's how I started. And I started as a reader and worked freelance as a reader and worked my way up. You know, I did acquisitions for an independent company for a while. And then my last job, before I started writing was I was a VP of creative affairs for Director Sydney Pollack. Um, you know, at the time, you know, it was a really good spec sale era. Yes, it was. And I can go into more about how I was leaving there, but basically, you know, I just kind of looked around, and I thought, well, you know, that looks like a pretty good life, you know, like, this writer was off on a cruise around South America, I mean, seemed very glamorous, you know, because they were feature writers, and they were at the top of their game. And so, you know, it was like, well, and here I was sitting in judgment on these people's work. But having said that, to be a critic, it's a write about writing is a lot easier than writing, let me just say, you know, so, it is, it is a different skill in a way. And I think the thing that I lacked, and I wound up having a little talk with myself about it was confidence. And I think by that point, I had read an awful lot of scripts, and I felt like I had a relatively good understanding of the process, at least intellectually. And I would read stuff that I thought, you know, not necessarily stuff that our company was working on, but you know, just around town that it's old or you know, was getting heat or whatever and I would think it wasn't that great you know, and like and these guys and in most cases, they were guys did not know as much as I did. But then I had to realize I'm like, Yeah, but they're doing it and you're not no, no.

Alex Ferrari 13:41
Yeah, fair enough. Well, can you talk a little bit about that time in the late 80s and early 90s which was the script the spec script boom, which I mean in today's world is just unheard of. I mean yet there still are million dollar scripts and they are still spec scripts they get bought but people don't understand even I was even because I was I was just coming into the business going to film school but you would read about obviously Shane Black kind of crack but and Joe Lester house those guys just busted the door open for like 234 5 million baht

Diane Drake 14:12
Kind of out of control to be honest, but I mean it's sad to me that there was a time that to be original commanded a premium. Right? That's pretty much the last thing they want. You know, that particularly the studio's I mean, it's, it's just not what it's about at this point is about intellectual property. It's about anything that's already been successful as something else. And they're not in the business of making the sort of movies I used to write, you know, and I used to go see, to be honest, that my favorite kind of movies, you know, the movies like Jim Brooks made, you know, those kind of that's not what they do anymore. They don't want to spend 50 million to make 150 million, you know, they want to spend 300 million and make a billion. And it's it's unfortunate, you know, and I mean, there's work to be out there, but it's pretty much to work on that to work on intellectual property. You know, you write an original so you can get a job writing something that's already been something else, I think. I will say, you know, so I'm sure you know, and probably your listeners know, there's kind of two businesses now there's a studio model, which again, is 300 million to make a billion franchise merchandising, you know, tentpole mostly superheroes, right. Right. handful of people, like Judd Apatow, who are sort of a brand unto themselves that can kind of get away with that little middle ground movie,

Alex Ferrari 15:33
Tyler Perry and those kind of guys. Yeah, there's there's a handful, but there's a

Diane Drake 15:37
franchise, you know what I mean, like kind of its franchise, I mean, appetite, you could almost say it's French. It's not quite, you know, but, um, but there are brands, let's put it that way.

Alex Ferrari 15:47
Blum house and things like,

Diane Drake 15:48
I mean, when I when I wrote on the you, I mean, I had had I sold, I hadn't sold anything, I had written one script. And I got me an agent, very small agent. And he got me one meeting, and I got the job, which is miraculous to me in hindsight to you know, to destroy a little treatment. So it's 25 grand, it got me in the right scale at the time got me insurance bought me the year to write only you. But But so I was nobody is my point. And yet, my agent, and my agent was coming off a hot sale, he had just sold the script for like half a million dollars. So he was kind of an even though it's a smaller agency. He was kind of a name at that point. But still, Julia Roberts agent wanted only you for her. And Demi Moore wanted it. I mean, you could not get two stars. Equivalent caliber. Now, if you were nobody, you know, and get your script read in a day or two. That's how it used to be. That's how much that's how big a market there was. And how much demand there was for original material. saying, Yeah, I'm such changed. I'm so sorry to say but but and this doesn't necessarily affect me, at least not yet. But TV streaming on

Alex Ferrari 16:59
Netflix. I mean, Netflix is now the 800 pound gorilla, and they're doing things that, you know, I mean, it's amazing. They came in and just completely changed the game.

Diane Drake 17:09
They changed the game. And so you know, now there's Amazon. I just I Yeah, exactly. I just taught an advanced class for UCLA, and a manager came in to speak, it was lovely, and she was talking about Disney plus, and you know, that there's gonna be that and that's a lot of intellectual property, too. But apparently, they're looking to make some originals as well, which kind of shocked me. And in that 40 $50 million range, which kind of almost no one's doing, although somebody was telling me what Netflix is doing that day. Netflix is doing everything. But um,

Alex Ferrari 17:39
I was looking at I still always remember that film that just came out this last Christmas, which was the Kurt Russell Santa Claus movie. That's right. That was direct. Yeah, Santa Claus, whatever, I forgot the name of it. But it was it chronicles of Santa Claus, or whatever it was. But regardless, we'll see it every year for the rest of our lives now. But it was directed by Chris Columbus. And that was easily $150 million. Film.

Diane Drake 18:03
Oh, to make it? Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 18:05
You do a lot of visual effects in that. I mean, it's over 100. It's over 100. And you still got Kurt Russell, who's

Diane Drake 18:13
I think it was we should look it up? I know, it was.

Alex Ferrari 18:17
But regardless, it could have been released theatrically without question, it would have probably made 250 million it would have been in

Diane Drake 18:22
the olden days. I'll tell you something about a Christmas movie, though. I'll tell you something. I wrote a Christmas movie with a partner a few years ago. And because I thought, you know, let me just do intellectual property. Right, like Santa it. You know, it's public domain. It's intellectual property. Everybody knows the story. So a partner and I wrote like a Santa Claus origin story, you know, and basically like, how he met Mrs. Claus how the reindeer learn to fly. Yeah, like, it's kind of right, fun. And I felt like we haven't seen this. And I'm even seeing a new Santa Claus. You know, even friends who were in the business like, Oh, that's really fun, you know. And it was basically the idea that he started off as a con man and a cat burglar. And that's why he was so good at breaking into places genius. And so you got this great character arc. And you know, you have fun with like, how all these things came to be. So I thought that seemed pretty marketable. And I sent it to an agent who said, who I could tell between us had not even read it. And I can tell it because it starts with Santa as a little kid, but it's only for like the first five or so pages. And then you cut to him as an adult, not as an old man, but as an adult. And he's like, Well, you can't do Santa as a kid. And so I had to kind of be like, not rude and saying, Well, he's really not, you know, it's just the first few pages and, you know, and then he said, and this was the critical thing. This was a few years ago now. But he said, Well, you can't you can't do a Santa Claus movie anyway, because they don't celebrate Christmas in China. Wow. Wow. Really? Yeah. There you have it. That's the extent to which the money and the marketplace is dictating what gets made. Because when I was first in the business, global market us You know, two thirds foreign was 1/3. And now that's reversed. And it's two thirds us is 1/3. And of that two thirds, a lot of that's China. And a lot of that is action. Um, so and I thought to myself, I thought, well, I guess that's why we haven't seen another Christmas movie on the big screen then it since elf. I couldn't see him since he no longer that was that was

Alex Ferrari 20:26
Early 2000s, wasn't it?

Diane Drake 20:28
I guess John Fabro wanted to make Elf 2 they would be happy to let him but aside from that, I don't think we'll see it. And so it was so interesting to see that Christmas Chronicles thing. My partner and I even talked about it about dusting ours off. But honestly, it needs more work. Like,

Alex Ferrari 20:47
If we go down Christmas movies, then, you know, the Disney Channel Hallmark has those things so, so on lock on those low budget.

Diane Drake 20:54
But But getting back to what we how this, what kind of kicked us off was you know, we had flying reindeer and stuff. So that was the other thing was like It couldn't be made cheaply, we thought because you were going to have to have those visual effects you were going to have to have, you know, it was not a cheap movie to make. So yeah, that was kind of interesting. But it was funny too, because both my movies only that have been released only what we want had been remade in China with Chinese stars. So I kind of felt like but they liked me in China, I think it would have shot.

Alex Ferrari 21:28
It's fascinating, fascinating. The, the way the marketplace has changed so much. And then such a kind of ignorant comment by that agent is like, Oh, they don't celebrate Christmas in China. If you could just that's such a Hollywood la thing to say

Diane Drake 21:44
Marketing driven right now, but here's the thing, here's the reality. He's got his finger more in the marketplace than I do. He knows what buyers are looking for. One assumes Now obviously, again, nobody knows anything and all that. I mean, I yeah, I did feel it was dismissive. And I did feel that like, you know, it was like, really? And yet, when I stopped to think about it, I thought well, and maybe that's why we haven't had enough because it used to be like every few years, you get a new Christmas movie. I mean, all those Tim Allen movies at home, you know, and we haven't seen it. We haven't seen a big family action comedy Christmas. Maybe that's why Christmas Chronicles was huge deal. I think, you know, because and people, you know, Kurt Russell, people who used to go to those movies when they were younger, and now they've got kids or grandkids or whatever, you know, and they remember him and it was kind of genius casting that way

Alex Ferrari 22:35
They credit Chris Columbus is no slouch as a director.

Diane Drake 22:39
We see MCs right? But it's so interesting that of course, it was not released theatrically. Like they didn't sell that theatrically.

Alex Ferrari 22:44
No, they could have easily if that would have been released, it would have easily made a couple 100 million to 300 million

Diane Drake 22:49
access the I think Well, you're right, maybe right. But I think the prevailing wisdom was, you know, and that's why it was Netflix. And I don't think it costs as much as you think

Alex Ferrari 23:00
I think you might be right. And I think it's at least 80 Because just to get Kurt Russell and Chris Chris out of bed, it's gonna cost a couple bucks. I don't, I don't know we will have to, after this

Diane Drake 23:12
interview, after this interview be interesting to see we should look that up.

Alex Ferrari 23:15
After this interview, I will look on that. Now, you also said you work for Sydney Pollack, who is obviously a legendary director. And I'm a huge fan of not only him as an actor, as a director, but also him as an actor, is you know him and Eyes Wide Shut. I love his stories with Stanley and all that kind of stuff. What was it like working for a legend like that? What did you learn from him?

Diane Drake 23:37
Um, gosh, well, first of all, sadly, he's no longer with us. But, um, he was difficult and extremely demanding. But because he was extremely demanding of himself, you know, and, and driven, you know, and, and kind of brilliant. I mean, he really was one of the smartest people I've ever met. He could be very charming. He started as an actor. And he could be not very nice, you know, he could be really, really tough. But I learned so much work in there. And I don't, I really don't think I would ever become a writer had I not worked there. You know, it was a combination of what I learned. And also the fact that I felt like, I'd reached the end of the road there and I couldn't I'll get into that if you'd like. It wasn't him but someone else I was working with, they're just kind of made my life a living hell, and I had to get out and so I, you know, that sort of a gun was put to my head and I was like, Well, you know, if you know so much, why don't you see what you can do. But, um, but it was great. I mean, to watch him work with writers and he was so articulate and he was so insightful and you know, yeah, they don't really make them like that.

Alex Ferrari 24:54
If they broke the mold with Sydney without question, and and just to go back to only you for a second Sorry,

Diane Drake 25:00
I'm sorry. So the guy said he was doing like in Tootsie, and husbands and wives, you know, and you know, he didn't want to be in touch. He didn't want to play that part. Right? That was Dustin Hoffman, who insisted.

Alex Ferrari 25:14
He was great at it. And just, and just to go back to only you for one second, that script was the first script you sold, and it was a million dollar buy if I'm not mistaken.

Diane Drake 25:23
It was. It was crazy. I mean, God, it, it was really nice. It was a million dollars up front. It wasn't even like if we make the movie. You know, it was it was a million dollars. Um, and like I said, I think largely because at that moment, at that little tiny window in time, we had Julia Roberts potentially interested in to me more interested. And then Norman came on shortly thereafter, I think he came on after the deal was closed. But um, yeah, I mean, you know, it was just again, it was a different time, there was a lot of competition for it, you know, the stars aligned in my favor. And, yeah, it was kind of surreal. And I remember I was so like, just praying that I could sell it at all that I could get, like, Writers Guild minimum or something, you know, so that I can continue to be a writer. I don't know. Because I didn't know what else was gonna do. At that point. I didn't think I could go back to work in development. I just had kind of burnout on that. And I just thought, I mean, I'm so yeah, and it happened so fast, you know, because this, there's a saying in Hollywood, good news travels fast. And I think it's still largely true, maybe not quite as true as it was then. But back in those days, it was like, you know, you get all this heat and, you know, things would happen or not. And so it was really like less than a week from the time it went out to closing that deal.

Alex Ferrari 26:53
Now, what is it? What is it like cuz I want, you know, writers listening, you know, you get a million dollar deal, which obviously, is a lottery ticket. I mean, it does not happen often. What happens to you on your career afterwards? Like, I know, it gives you a career, obviously. But what are the steps? Like, what are the meetings you're taking? What are the assignments you're picking up? So people understand? Like, if it just so we can live vicariously through you? What it's like, after a sale like that?

Diane Drake 27:24
We'll learn from my mistakes. Oh, okay. I did some things, right. And I did some things that probably I might have done better, or definitely, um, so I obviously kind of came out of nowhere and, and had a lot of meetings, and had a lot of things thrown at me. But, you know, I really was a new writer. I mean, it was my second script. And I'd written the first one while I still working for Sydney, like it three, in three months at night. It was a talking animal movie. only took me about a year. So, uh, you know, I at that point, for better or worse, I felt like, well, I kind of want to work on stuff that I want to work on. You know what I mean? Like, that sort of means something to me. So I probably in hindsight, had I been totally mercenary should have just stacked up assignments to the just like taking whatever came my way. And, you know, done the best I could and taken the money and run. But hopeless romantic ideal is that I am, I just didn't really feel like I could do that. I didn't know where I would pull it from, you know, I didn't even know how I could do like, a not about a bad job on something if I didn't relate to it in some way. So there was actually only one project in that time. I took meetings for about a year. You know, I was I actually went to Italy, while the movie I worked on only for a while. And it was in Italy for a little while shooting. And then I came back and you know, it was doing the meeting thing. And there was only one project that I really wanted. And actually, Meg Ryan was attached to it. And she had a deal at Fox and I didn't really have what they call a quote because I hadn't worked on assignment. So I just had, like, you know, I have a million dollar sale. So my agent asked for a lot of money, which was fine. But they didn't want to pay it. And it was a movie, pretty much starring all women. Interestingly, in hindsight, and all the people involved were women like it was it was it was actually Rosanna Arquette it was a story of hers. And Meg was gonna play Rosanna Rosanna was gonna play her own best friend. And it was complicated. But anyway, um, so we came down in price three times, like we came in at a certain level and fox came back really low, and then we came down and buckskin back really low, and then we came down and bucks came back really late. So three times they never came up a dime. And to me what that meant was, they're never going to make this movie. They don't want this movie. And maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe I misread it, but that was my interpretation that they were placating Meg. They weren't gonna tell her no, she had to deal with the studio. But they they had no interest in making this. And because I had been so fortunate as to not only sell a script for a million dollars, but actually have it go into production. I kind of thought, Why do I want to sign on for something that I know they're not excited about? To begin with? Right? And that was when I walked away and thought, well, you know, you did Okay, last time, right? In your own idea. So why don't you come up with something else? Oh, the ego? Yeah, wow. But here's what happened. So I gave an if I could only do this now, if only but at the time, I was younger, then I said, Alright, you got a week to come up with something. And that was when I came up with what women want.

Alex Ferrari 30:42
Wow. And, and that is a great segue into what women want, which is obviously was a huge hit with starring Mel Gibson, pre Mel Gibson. And you know, Mel Gibson, pre Mel Gibson, and, and the lovely, incomparable Helen Hunt, who's amazing in the film, and I remember watching that film 1000 times I love that movie. And but there was a bit of drama with that movie wasn't there for you.

Diane Drake 31:11
There's a lot of drama with that movie that I am still technically not at liberty to discuss. But let me just say it was very bittersweet. It is very agonizing. Honestly,

Alex Ferrari 31:23
it was you have a story credit, you have a story credit on

Diane Drake 31:25
that. I have a story credit. And I wrote the original script for that movie, and there's no way that should have happened. There is no way by Writers Guild rules. Uh huh. That that should have happened. And that's all I'm gonna say for now. But that was a huge, huge battle in my life. And yeah, I, you know, I, I always say to people, I'm really trying not to do this anymore. But I always say to people when

Alex Ferrari 31:53
I want to say anyway, but but I'm gonna say it anyway, I don't say this.

Diane Drake 31:58
I say I will never get over it. And I will never get over it. But I have to start, I just have to tell myself, I'm bigger than that. You know, but I the reason it's particularly fresh right now is I just relived it all, because it just got remade, right. So I had to deal with the Writers Guild again, and I had to deal with the credit again, and I had to deal with what was done to me on that movie again. And what was done to me was, you know, brutal, it was not right. And I'm not the only writer in Hollywood to have had this experience. I know that I did get paid, I got paid very well, for my torture. And the movie got me, you know, and it was a huge hit. And all that's to the good, but um, yeah, I have a few bones to pick with a few people, including the Writers Guild.

Alex Ferrari 32:43
And, you know, and if it makes you feel any better, I also had on the show, Paul Castro, I don't sure if you know who Paul Castro is he used to use he taught over at the UCLA Extension program for almost 10 years as well. He wrote August Rush. And he wrote the original screenplay, and the original story. And he had the exact same thing happened to him. And he does, I mean, he did get the store credit, and he has a store credit, but another bigger, the producer brought in a bigger screenwriters name, and then they, he wanted to take credit. And then it was a Writers Guild battle. And it does happen, it does happen, you know, unless you are unless you are an 800 pound gorilla. You know, that's not happened.

Diane Drake 33:24
You know, that's the thing. I mean, after I sold on the EU, I didn't teach anything. I didn't do the kind of thing I'm doing now. But every once a while, I get asked to speak somewhere, you know, and I'd always get the question like, how do you protect your material? And I would always say, Listen, you know, I mean, obviously, at the time, I was in The Guild, I had an agent, I had a lawyer, but still, you know, it's like, you can register your stuff with the guild, even if you're not in the guild, like $25 You can register it with the US Copyright Office. And my response was always, it's just easier for them to pay you than to steal it from you, really. And then what women want happened to me. So yeah, it's, uh, there's, you know, there's only so much you can do and,

Alex Ferrari 34:13
you know, when you go up against when you go up against a studio when you go up against bigger, you know, bigger name, you know, like, you know, for lack of a better term, like, you know, this doesn't happen to Aaron Sorkin or Shane Black you know, yeah, Quinn Tarantino

Diane Drake 34:26
would have not I think I mean, listen, read William Goldman. I mean, they all have their horror stories, even people very top you know, it's just, it's just differently, but, um, yeah, I will say I feel like and I always have to, like temper this. Like, I've been very fortunate. You know, I was fortunate that it sold I was fortunate that it got made. I was fortunate. I got paid. I had a really good attorney. I'm not good enough as it turned out. But, but you know, I really do fault. The writer skill a lot on this And, you know, I'm not the first writer to do that. And you know, they do their best. But, um,

Alex Ferrari 35:07
it's politics. It's Politics, Politics, Politics.

Diane Drake 35:11
It's just the reality, you know, and I had the guilt exists. And I appreciate, you know, the residuals and all that. And, but, yeah, they're, they're not immune. They're not, you

Alex Ferrari 35:21
know, it's politics. And I think that's something that they don't teach in film schools and stuff, they don't understand any new screenwriters coming up, don't understand that. Look, there's there are rules that everyone says there are. And then there's rules that nobody tells you there are until you get slapped across the face with those new rules. And you are a perfect example. And Paul's a perfect example of that, that things happen, especially when egos get involved, especially when big names get involved. And a lot of times are like, well, who's that? Well, that's an app, let's just crush that and move that out of the way. It does happen. It does happen. It's unfortunately, it

Diane Drake 35:55
does happen. And it happens far too often. I mean, you know, compared to a lot of what people go through, you know, at least my name is on it, and at least

Alex Ferrari 36:04
Absolutely, you actually have one of those success stories.

Diane Drake 36:07
Having said that, I mean, you know, that it's just, you know, it's funny, I'll do a little segue here. So one of the things I talk about, and it's only kind of recently come to me, you know, it's interesting teaching, because when you're writing, it's, you know, I assume it's like somebody who's a good tennis player or whatever, it's intuitive, right? They've been doing it so long. And then when you teach it, you have to really break it down. You're trying to explain to somebody else, you know, how it works. And so I like teaching because you always kind of get new insights for as long as I've been at this I'm still like learning stuff myself, you know, there's never ending. But one of the things I've recently kind of concluded, or at least, you know, contemplated is that I really do believe that in a way stories are about justice. Because I think everyone feels like an underdog and everybody recognizes that life is not fair. It's just not and yet And yet there's something really deep in us like primal almost Lee almost that wants to believe it is that you know, is so like, we just like expect it's going to be but of course it's not. And that's part of the function story, sir. Right? Because we want to see people get what they deserve. We want to see the hero get what he deserves. We want to believe there's justice in the world. We want to believe, you know, we want to see the villain get what he deserves. And you know, and that leads to the whole Zeitgeist thing about superheroes now, because I think everybody feels so powerless. But you know

Alex Ferrari 37:38
what I mean? I always use this as an analogy, because what you just said is a perfect analogy for arguably my favorite film of all time Shawshank Redemption. Yeah, you saw shank redemption. I always people like what is about that movie that, you know, I saw that movie when I was 20 something where I literally probably still thought John Claude Van Damme was a greatest actor of all time. So there wasn't a sophistication there to see a good story but yet even my high school and college friends were liking that movie. Like, what is about that story? Like, on paper? It's a horrible title. It's like not right horrible worse, worse marketing worse marketing campaign ever. I mean, it's about you know, in the middle, it just there's nothing appealing from on the surface about that film. But yet I always tell people that I think it's I think people connect with it so much because it's an analogy for life where you are Andy do friend and you feel like you your your life sometimes might feel like you're in prison or that it's not fair. And then you get beaten constantly for 20 years, and then you finally escaped and assistance cathartic thing? Yeah. So that's why I just thought of that when you were saying that because it was, I feel it's very much what do you think about the damage? I'm assuming you like that? If not, you're dead inside. And I

Diane Drake 38:53
haven't seen as many times as you have. I remembered I remember very fondly. But you're absolutely right, that it is a lot of people's favorite movie. Like, you know, if you're on Twitter, and people name things, that movie comes up a lot. So it really did strike a chord with people. And and yeah, getting back to what I was saying. I mean, I think the most powerful people in the world think of themselves as underdogs. You know, it's all relative right? Here. I think they identify with the underdog. And it's funny, you know, that, how I am and I don't know who it's by, I should know, but I'm into each life some ramus fall, you know, that saying, okay, so I only just recently came across the line that precedes that, which I think is really lovely, which is by fate is the common fate of all into each life summary as well. That's awesome. Like, you're not going to be exempt, you're not going to be exempt and it's going to suck you know, and so we all have our our crosses to bear so to speak. So yeah, I do think stories really speak to that in the desire to believe there's some I mean, you know, we look at we build temples to justice, Supreme Court, whatever we want to believe that that matters, even though so often, it seems not to

Alex Ferrari 40:04
what is the what is the great fear that you had to overcome to finally be able to put your fingers on that typewriter or on that computer or on that on that computer to actually start writing and put yourself out there as a writer, because I know a lot of people listening are either just starting out, and they just have these. I'm a very big mindset guy. So like, it's all about your mindset and what beliefs you have about yourself and the confidence that you spoke about? And what was that thing that you finally, what was the dragon that you slayed to get to where you were,

Diane Drake 40:35
um, you know, I don't know if I can quite put my finger on the fear, although, like I said, just sort of the general umbrella of lack of confidence, which I think stays with you, you know, I just think stays with writers period, and probably most creative people. And, and I but I do remember telling myself that I needed to accept the fact that I was not going to probably be able to write to a level that I would really respect, right, because even though my critical faculties have been pretty well honed, I was just beginning as a writer. So you know, cut yourself a little bit of slack there, right? You know, you haven't been doing this, as long as you've been watching movies, you know, even people who don't do development for a living, don't analyze material for a living, you still do it right, as a viewer, an audience member, whatever. So you've consumed a lot, but you haven't produced much chances are, you know, depending on where you are in your life, and what else you've done, in terms of creative writing, so there was that. And then there was also an again, this is a little bit more of a function of the fact that it was such a great time to sell originals. But and what I was saying earlier about, you know, looking around and seeing people selling stuff and thinking, Well, I know as much as they do, or you know, so I really didn't kind of start thinking, Well, why not me? Why not? You know, I been at this, you know, so I think it's a combination of, again, allowing yourself to be a beginner in a way and at the same time doing your homework, so that you have something to back it up. Right that you have educated yourself about the craft. And that's one of my pet peeves, I have to say is that I think people, a lot of people by virtue of the fact that they've seen a lot of movies, I think it's probably it's not that hard to write one, right. But the analogy I always use is like, well, I've driven a lot of cars, but I wouldn't attempt to build one without investigating how an engine works and aerodynamics and those things, right. So and it's also the function of the fact that like, not everybody thinks they can play a musical instrument, but everybody can type. Everybody can, you know, they know the alphabet, they got a computer. So you know, but there's a little more to it than that. So yeah, you have to do your homework, too.

Alex Ferrari 42:44
Now what? So we've, we've gone down the rabbit hole of your career, and actually just kind of talked all about the business of screenwriting, which is fantastic. And I think it's great, great information that doesn't get talked about often. But let's talk a little bit about the craft. Just a little bit about the craft. What are some of the most common mistakes or issues you see in first time? screenplays.

Diane Drake 43:08
Okay, so I, I'll be a little plug for myself here. I recently not that raised by now. But a few years ago, wrote a book called get your story straight about writing screenplay. And it grew out of my teaching for UCLA. And as I was saying earlier, in terms of like, trying to figure out how to teach it. What I wound up doing, you know, what sort of happened was, I found myself putting a lot of emphasis on structure. And I know people have a problem with that. Sometimes they think of it as formulaic or whatever, but it's really not sorry about the sirens.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
Oh, good. So good. I'm assuming you're in LA. So it's okay. Yes.

Diane Drake 43:50
Yeah. But, um, so I think that's it, I think a lot of times, you know, because the screenplay, it's a marathon and you spent 120 pages now it's maybe 100 to 110. But that's still a lot, right. And it's very easy to get lost on that sea of possibilities and, and write yourself into a corner to mix my metaphors. And I think, again, getting back to what I was saying about justice and sort of how it's primal. I think that story structures like I, I didn't invent it, you know, this was Aristotle, this is beginning middle. And this goes way back. And again, I think is sort of primal. It's kind of like you, you may not know a lot about music, but you can tell if something doesn't sound right. If it's out of tune or whatever, right. You might not be able to put your finger on why it's the same thing. It's like, we almost have this intuitive sense of like how things ought to be building or moving forward or shifting, you know, as the story progresses. And I think structure is something that's often kind of invisible to the average person. They don't they're not conscious of it, but they are unconsciously aware of it, you know what I mean? And that's and so Those are the problems I see most often, you know that people are structural, yeah, they're structural, you know, it's like it, you and that everything needs to have a purpose, right? It's not just random chitchat, it's not, you know, you need to be building, these seems to be telling you something that you didn't already know. And they need to be taking you in a specific direction, and you probably better have a pretty good idea of where it is you want to wind up before you start, if you're going to stand any chance of getting there.

Alex Ferrari 45:28
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now, back to the show.

Diane Drake 45:39
So and I also always, you know, the caveat to that is, you know, there are movies that don't follow those, I don't even like to call rules, principles, maybe, you know, but if you want to do that, well, fantastic, you know, then, but it, you'll be doing it if you if you educate yourself about it, you'll be doing it consciously, you'll be breaking those rules consciously, instead of you just don't know any better. And you're just kind of bound, right? Like Charlie Kaufman can

Alex Ferrari 46:06
do that. Right. But very much so.

Diane Drake 46:10
But that's a high wire act, you know, I mean, don't try that at home. That is that is somebody who's at the very top of their craft, and very unique sensibility and all that. For the most part, the vast, vast majority of critically and commercially successful films hit those beats, they just do. And it's funny, because even movies that you think of as being, or I think a lot of people think of as being novel and indie or whatever. You'd be amazed how much they fulfill that. I just, just recently, we screened Little Miss Sunshine. And I had them do a worksheet on it, like, you know, what's the inciting? What's the opening image, you know, opening image of that movie, it's so on target, it's all sitting there watching a pageant, and it's reflected in her glasses. I mean, it's so perfect, and she's acting it out. So you instantly know what that movie is about, or you know, you don't know. But in hindsight, like, that's what that movie was about. And all those beats that inciting incident in the first plot point, and you know, the midpoint, and he's just hitting those marks in in really inventive and character driven ways. So

Alex Ferrari 47:16
very much. So one thing I wanted to ask you as well, what do what does the scene always have to have in it? Like, what are the elements in the scene? Because you're right, so many times people are just like, so how are you doing? I'm doing fine. How is that going? And they like, just, it's like, no, that's that way we watch a movie to watch real life. That's called a documentary. What should a scene do? And what elements should be in every scene in your script?

Diane Drake 47:39
God, I wish I knew. But I will say this, you know, I mean, dramas conflict, right? Somebody should be one, tell me she wants something, you know, and they probably should know. And I wouldn't say always, but oftentimes, we going up against somebody else who, you know, doesn't want them to have it. Right. That's kind of how you feel it. But I think, you know, some scenes are more character oriented, and they're telling you something more about the person, particularly in the first act, you know, when you're getting the lay of the land. You know, some scenes are really just kind of moving the plot along, we know who these people are, by now, you know, you want to be consistent with who they are. But this is What's tricky about it, right? Because you can't really totally boil it down to a formula, that it's the prototype every time out, right. And that's why even people like Sydney, Pollack, you know, have their hits and their misses, you know, it's just, they're there. It's intangible in a way, you know, but, um, in general, you want to be moving things forward, you don't want to be repeating yourself, and you want the story to be building as you go. And you want there to be something at stake that people care about, or understand at least what it means to the protagonist, and that you care about whether or not they get it, because if you don't care, then the whole thing is moot. Right? Right. That's kind of fundamental.

Alex Ferrari 49:01
So then what film in your opinion has, as an example, like a perfect setup, structurally speaking, like just like, great,

Diane Drake 49:09
you know, there's quite a number of them because I, I know this because I teach them in my class. And I don't have anything that's really brand new. But you know, I try to get to newer things, but tipsy is genius. But you know, 10 Seems like I don't know, eight writers on that. Right? I mean, credited it's not but like Elaine May was uncredited on that, you know, Larry Gelbart was on that Marsha school, who was the guy who came up with it with Dustin. You know, and then there were at least three or four others. I wasn't working for Sydney at the time. But you know, I'm aware at least three brothers that you know, he worked with plus Sydney, who never took a writing credit, but worked very closely, you know, with people developing scripts. So that's how hard it is. Right? That's that this is how challenging this craft is. You got all those people at the top of their game and it took them years That thing did not happen overnight. I think that thing was in development at least three or four years before. And when they first pitched it to Sydney when Dustin and I guess my Cisco versus Sydney, he's like, you know, and he had not done comedy right. In fact, I think that's his only comedy. And it's really a shame because it's such genius, but he felt like, you know, I don't really do farce, and it's great. I would go see it. You know, Blake Edwards did it, I go see it. But I don't know how I don't know a way into it. You know, a guy putting on a dress. And apparently, in one of those meetings, somebody said something about, you know, how it makes a man out of my goal, like being a woman, man. And that was what Sydney latched on to thematic, Lee, that was interesting,

Alex Ferrari 50:43
then I'm assuming that is a that's a difficult pitch like that, at that time in history as well. It must have been a difficult pitch,

Diane Drake 50:51
Dustin, and he was pretty big star. But, um, and he really wanted to make it and he really wanted to play it. You know, there was something about playing that character he really sunk his teeth into. But that was the thing that made it interesting for sending this was sort of the larger thematic question that he could explore there. But Toy Story is also master class and structure.

Alex Ferrari 51:14
Pretty much almost every one of their movies is a masterclasses structure. I mean, you could argue that all of them,

Diane Drake 51:21
I'm going to be unpopular here and say that I'm not as big a fan of the Pixar movies as I used to be, because this is just me. I don't think they're as funny as they used to be. I think they've gotten very sentimental. And yeah, and, and I missed the wit, you know, and I don't know if that's just a function that most of the guys and they are guys, almost all guys, and maybe there's some women now, but who made the bulk of those movies have gotten older. I don't know whether it's just easier and safer. commercially speaking, you know, it is easier, I think, to sort of push those sentimental buttons than it is to be genuinely witty and inspired. Especially when you're kind of working on almost like Shakespearean level where you're aiming at kids and adults and everybody in between. But I just think the original Toy Story is genius. And, and so funny and, and, and ultimately, so touching. But I mean, the idea that buzz has this existential crisis when he realized he was not a Space Ranger. I mean, now, right? There was best things ever in a movie. And it's fantastic too, because it's fantastic character arc, because it's that's his epiphany. That's the moment that they're able to escape sins and you see the light go on in his eyes. And he finally realizes, you know, it's okay not to be a space ranger, you know, he's cool with being Andy's toy.

Alex Ferrari 52:46
isn't a great in the sequel, where he actually runs into another Buzz Lightyear who still has that same thing. He's like, Oh, you silly, silly, man.

Diane Drake 52:56
I mean, yeah. The King's Speech is another one that really hits those marks sideways really hits those marks. A lot of them you'd be surprised so you can any really, in my opinion, pretty much any really successful commercially critically, you know, solid movie, you can go through that checklist and identify for yourself those beats again, unless it's something very different. Like like Charlie Kaufman or

Alex Ferrari 53:24
you know, Tarantino Tarantino stuff.

Diane Drake 53:26
Yes, exactly. We've got that loopy structure and stuff, you know, which is genius, too. But I think even in that, you know, you can identify Inciting Incidents and stuff. Yeah, that's, that's yeah,

Alex Ferrari 53:37
you break Pulp Fiction down, and it follows the path, but it's it's done that

Diane Drake 53:42
The way. It's, yeah, it's so put around in time that way, and like 500 Days of Summer, or Yeah, yeah, they're hitting those marks, but they're doing it in a way that like, it's like, really,

Alex Ferrari 53:53
it hurts the brain. It hurts the brain to think about how he, he was able to structure that up. No, I wanted to touch about because you touched upon this earlier superhero films. It's obviously so pervasive right now in our culture. Um, look, I have a Yoda sitting behind me. I have some superhero statues in the back. I'm a huge superhero fan is my generation. I was raised with comic books and stuff. So I love it. But it is now a thing that now studios every, like, if you were I remember, like 89 When Batman showed up that Tim burns Batman, everyone was like, holy cow, a superhero movie that was not Superman, circa 1977. Now, every week, there's a new $300 million movie. What is it about the superhero genre, which Spielberg also said that will eventually go out like the Westerns? I don't know when it'll go out but waiting. It's gonna it's gonna be probably another 30 or 40 years. I mean, they're gonna they have 40 or 50 years of these characters still going and then they can reboot it and as long as people keep showing up, they're gonna keep going, but what is it about that genre? What is it about? What's your opinion on the genre? And in better and better question is like, is there anything that could be done with screenwriters coming up in this genre?

Diane Drake 55:12
You know, I am not the person to ask because I really, I all admit that upfront, I'm just I'm, I, I've tried, I really have tried design. No, that's what the kids are saying. You know what I mean? I like I know, of course, I'm well aware of how popular these things are. But they just make my eyes glaze over.

Alex Ferrari 55:30
I have a Nolan How about Nolan's work?

Diane Drake 55:34
Christopher Nolan. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 55:35
Like the Dark Knight?

Diane Drake 55:37
I haven't seen it. I'll confess. So I'll say this. I love Iron Man. Okay. It's Robert. And because it's John Pharaoh, and I love John. I think John Piper was fantastic. So there's wit in that movie. I think that's just for me. I just, I like, things that make me laugh. And I'm bored by watching an accident sequence that goes on for 20 minutes. I mean, how many times can you watch things blow up? How many times can you watch, you know, giant fingers punch each other? I just entertaining. I wish I did. Because clearly there's there's money to be made, you know, and I feel a little left out in the cold at this point. But I it just they don't entertain me. I never read comic books. I'm not interested. I think the original Superman is brilliant. Because again, it's character, right? There's width, and there's romance, and there's character. And there's tongue in cheek, you know, and maybe some of these movies have that. And I've missed the ones that do. But I'm like you said There's a new one every week. And i just i i It's not my thing.

Alex Ferrari 56:44
The one thing the only movie I will suggest you do. Only one I would say you watch is the Dark Knight. It is arguably the godfather of of superhero movies. And if you take the superhero element out of it is a basically an amazing heist film, just a heist film mixed with a crime drama thriller. If you take it because a lot of these you you take the suit off. It's done. Right, right. Christopher Nolan does such a good job that and that's the second one. Not the first. The first one's great. And the third one is good. But the second one is, if that's the reason why we have 10 That's why we have 10 Oscar nominees. And because of because of that movie, right?

Diane Drake 57:23

Alex Ferrari 57:23
it was so good.

Diane Drake 57:25
Well, and this is not superhero, but um, you know, it's not like I don't like if anybody cares. Really, right. Like, I'm like, you know, darker movies. Like, really a movie that I love, actually that I was also just pointing out to my students because the final battle in it is aliens. The second one simply ever did, which I just think is genius. You know, it's so suspenseful. But again, great characters. You know, Paul riser is so scary in that movie. Like you can't believe he's that bad a villain and he's frightening

Alex Ferrari 58:01
and normal looking. But is normal looking. That's the thing the same, right?

Diane Drake 58:05
Whoa. And we're used to seeing him in comedy. And then again, it's gonna be incredible. And oh, my God, oh, Caxton. I know.

Alex Ferrari 58:21
Man, and I would argue and I know, I might get crap for this on people listening. But I'm like, it honestly hasn't been a James Cameron film that he's made really, that I don't like, I think they all have. I mean, he's just one of the, like, the abyss, I thought was,

Diane Drake 58:36
I actually never saw any of this. I was not a big fan of Avatar. In fact, I felt like Avatar was a bit of a rip off of aliens. Oh, no,

Alex Ferrari 58:43
Avatar was a ripoff of FernGully it was a ripoff of a billion other things. But it hits those he was able to hit those buttons. So yeah, everyone was a bull's eye. Everyone was a bull's eye. And then you mix that in with insane technology. Insane,

Diane Drake 58:59
respectable. Exactly. And I clearly that's part of its success. And probably a lot of people who loved avatar never saw aliens, you know, I didn't realize the extent to which, you know, he was kind of ripping himself off. But um, I just and I also think, you know, aliens had wit, I mean, it just so you know, if you can combine all those things, it's fantastic. But to me, I just feel like so much of the superhero movies are the ones I've seen. And again, I haven't seen very many, but the ones I've seen and even wonder woman like I heard so much about Wonder Woman and of course I wanted to, you know, applaud it. It wasn't that great. I'm sorry. It really wasn't I was expecting Superman and maybe the bar was too high. But in terms of like that relationship between her and I can't even remember the guy now. I just really expected more of it. It looked great. She looked great. You know, but that whole third act is same old same old you know, it just I I don't know I mean a Listen, I'm not an easy person to go see movies with

Alex Ferrari 1:00:00
Fair enough, fair enough? No, confess,

Diane Drake 1:00:02
whatever you do your that was more critical.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:06
So what?

Diane Drake 1:00:07
Let me just say, I will say this, when something's really good, in my humble opinion, I appreciate it so much. Because I know how hard it is. I really do

Alex Ferrari 1:00:16
I agree when I say like, I saw green book, and I was just like, well, that's just great. I mean, it was just so well, the chemists literally two guys in a car. And it just held you and it was wonderful performances, wonderful writing wonderful directing. It was just hitting every I don't know if it was best picture. But it was still are arguably one of the best films I saw this last year. But yeah, when you find it when you see it, if it keeps me up past my bedtime, that means it's a good movie

Diane Drake 1:00:48
See it again, because you want to see how they did what they did. You know, that's something for what it's worth, I really recommend to your listeners and writers is, if there's something you really like, watch it and read it and watch it and read it over and over and over. I feel like it seeps into you the rhythms of it. You know, even if you feel like you know it forwards and backwards, if you can still learn from it and really dissect how they're doing what they're doing. Look at how it looks on the page, look at how you know, it hasn't made it to the screen, that form has been changed that kind of thing. Just really do the forensics.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:25
Yeah. And yeah, of course I've been I've worked in a video store. So I saw 1000s and 1000s of movies. And that's how I kind of got started in my business just watching. It was the first time in history that you could do that when the VHS came right, right. That's right. Yeah. Before then you have to wait for the movie.

Diane Drake 1:01:39

Alex Ferrari 1:01:41
you can pause it and rewind it. And you're gonna have Martin Scorsese talking to you.

Diane Drake 1:01:46
Yes. Now.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:48
There's no excuse whatsoever. Now, your book, uh, tell me a little bit about your book. I want to I want to get people to if you're interested in it, where they can get it. What's it about?

Diane Drake 1:01:58
Um, it's called get your story straight. It's on Amazon. Like I said, it kind of grew out of my teaching for UCLA. And it I really go into what I think are the important elements of a functioning screenplay. And I use a lot of examples. Like I was saying I dissect a movie at the end of noumenon every chapter but almost every chapter, including Ironman and King's speech and sideways and Tootsie and toy stories, and the kind of all over the map fell on the waves, you know, winning screenplays, yeah, genius. Thurman always so holds up. How well that movie. It's so good. It's so good. That sequence I just gonna go up on tangent here quickly, the sequence because founders are talking about turnaround, the sequence where they get stopped by the cop. And Thelma, you know, starts in that sequence as like a little girl, you know, she's like, please, please, please don't let it get stopped. Please don't ask us. You know, and then they need the cop clips of the car. And then she sort of coqueta she was like, officer, I told her to slow down. No, it doesn't work either. And he makes Louise get out of the car and makes her go sit in the police car. And then, you know, Thelma appears at the window with the gun and start calling the shots. Oh, shoot the radio. And so you see that character arc in that sequence? You know, and it's just so brilliant. And it's so brilliant too, because you believe it? Right? Because we know she's met Brad Pitt. And we know there's money been stolen. We know. You know, she's desperate at this point. She's also, you know, had this little quick romance with him. And yet he's taken their money, but he's taught her how to Rob I mean, so it's not like it's not set up. You know, it like you don't see it coming yet. At the same time. It's like, oh, yeah, I can buy that she would do that. So

Alex Ferrari 1:03:49
it was such a great such agreement, and we are going to attach it but that was a great movie. Ridley Scott directed it. And people like Ridley Scott, like when he did that movie. It was like, what the guy with the Blade Runner and aliens doing?

Diane Drake 1:04:01
I know and it's visually so stunning. You know, it's Oh, it's so great. Anyway, so about the book. So yeah, so that's that's what the book is.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:10
With. Thank you. And then what else are you up to? What other things do you do?

Diane Drake 1:04:14
So I teach I do consulting. I do private consulting I speak I which I really enjoy I last year and I'm doing again this July I was a mentor at a retreat at this castle in France called marijuana castle. There are some folks anyway, it's miles Copeland. I don't know if you know that music producer responsibly. His castle. But it's fantastic. It's just a great experience. And then I'm gonna do another one of those in a monastery. Naples.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
Rough. Yeah, that's

Diane Drake 1:04:49
the best part. Honestly, I'm like being read. Anyway, that's an April 2020 The Italy one. So I do that and I I am Working on working on something and I haven't written anything in a while for all the reasons we discussed. But I do have a story I want to tell. So a lot of people have told me I should write it as a book. For a number of reasons. A Hollywood's more interested in books right now than they are in original ip ip. Yeah, exactly. No, it's really true. I mean, the manager who came to speak at my seminar or whatever, at UCLA recently, was saying literally even self published books they're more interested in than they are in an original screenplay. Because it sort of doesn't matter. It's as long as it's something else first. It's stunning. Um, but having said that, you know, I'm not. I've spent all these years in Screenwriting. That's what comes to me naturally and to try to write it as a novel. Oh, although the thought of like, not having anybody mess with it is really appealing. And it's, it's kind of daunting to me. So we'll see. But I yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:06:00
I'll tell I'll tell you what if I can write a book because I have a story that I had to tell. And I wrote a book that just got released about a crazy story in my life as a filmmaker, and it got published and people already asking me, when's the movie coming out? Because a friend of mine wanted me to write the screenplay. I'm like, I'm not gonna write the screenplay. I'm not gonna go chase money for a screenplay. I'm not gonna, and I can't tell the whole story. In a screenplay, it's gonna be so much more difficult. But what a lot of freedom in a novel, it is a tremendous amount it's for. And I've written more screenplays that I've written anything else in my life? It just just flows. It's so it's nice. It's,

Diane Drake 1:06:37
well, how you encouraged me, I appreciate that. I just, I don't know, I don't literally like kind of know how to do it on the I'm so used to being spare, you know, like, now. I've got to like, you know, they said, you know, it's like, I find that really challenging. Maybe I should just like, map it all out and then translate, right?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
It's like speaking, it's like speaking publicly doing a 10 minute speech versus a three hour speech. Like, it's much harder to do a 10 minute speech than it is to do a three hour speech, because three hours you can just Miranda and

Diane Drake 1:07:08
tell stories. And can you think the novel is like a three hour speech?

Alex Ferrari 1:07:12
Absolutely. Because I was able to go into places until until little detailed stories and then not have to be so precious with your words. Because when you're a screenwriter, they just beat you down with like, every single word has to mean something, that description has to move the story or we're in a novel, you could just you literally just all the chains are off, and you could just write and it is honestly for me, as you know, as a screenwriter, and as a writer it is so it was so freeing. I was like I'm just gonna write 1000 words today and then just write 1000 words and I'm gonna write another 1000 words today and, and there's no the structure is so much more freeing it as a writer, it feels it feels so much better for me. I do think that novel writers have an extremely difficult time becoming screenwriters. But I think screenwriters have a much easier time become novel writers. I had Doug Richardson, the screenwriter from bad boys, and diehard to on. And Doug. He's writing. He's writing novels now. He, he loves to teach. He said series of novels. And he still write screenplays. But he's like, oh, man, it's just so great. Because you could spell play and what you said, it's yours. No one's gonna mess with a word.

Diane Drake 1:08:24
Well, that's, that's the biggest thing. You know, I mean, obviously, you got editors, you know, if you get that are your sisters but, but, ya know, it's a whole other. Yeah, that that is something that, you know, is, I think, kind of unique to screenwriting. It's like, you know, if you do if you're a painter or poet, or whatever, you do it and maybe people like it, or they don't like it or whatever. But nobody's like, let's put a little more read on that. You know, write your own brush. Yeah. So I

Alex Ferrari 1:08:54
hope I've encouraged you to write in a novel.

Diane Drake 1:08:57
It's a good perspective shift for me.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:00
So I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter one to break into the business today?

Diane Drake 1:09:05
You know, I I think I think okay, if you happen to be a minority, there's never been a better time. Right? So many fellowships, diversity fellowships programs out there particularly in television. I think the vast majority are in television but they all these you know, platforms and networks and everything as we discussed have so much you know, time to feed you know, and there's unlimited Netflix right?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:39
Oh, there's Netflix is just the starting there's so many streaming I think there's like 1000 moments shows going on right now. It's insane.

Diane Drake 1:09:45
And who knows how long that's gonna be the case. But for the time being, there's there's that vacuum not backing but you know, there's that market to fill. And there's a lot of heat on these organizations to open doors to people who always have been kept out basically. So, um, so if you're one, if you fall into that category, I would absolutely encourage people to pursue those fellowships and, you know, do your homework on that. And that's easy to find on Google that stuff. And then there's the contest, you know, nickel, you know, there's a handful that I think really sort of matter nickel as Film Festival, probably final draft, you know, there might be a couple more that I'm not thinking of right now. But that's kind of a way to get noticed, you know, and then, you know, the other thing is, and this is the trick, right, it's like, go do your own little thing. So there's this democratization of the technology, right, but at the same time, there's so much clutter out there. So that's hard to rise above. But, you know, I always say, and I always add that, you know, sometimes I wish this weren't the case, when my work doesn't seem to catch fire, you know, but, um, I really do believe if you write something good enough, and that bar is very, very high. But if you do, it will get noticed, people will talk about it, they will talk to their friends about it, and it will spread, and you will get somewhere with it. But you know, Mike Lawrence, you know, who wrote Little Miss Sunshine. There's a great clip of video of him online, if people are interested, where he talks about sort of his inspiration for that movie, and the origins of it, and he's really lovely. But one of the things he talks about is how he was a reader before he became a writer, I think, from Matthew Broderick, and and he says, I believe it's in that clip, where he says, you know, that I realized the talents, kind of a wash in B minus two B plus scripts. And then a lot of them just didn't ultimately fully deliver, particularly in the end. And he it was very important to him that that ending on Little Miss Sunshine really said something I did, and yeah, you know, like, it went away, you didn't expect and yet it made perfect sense. And it tied everything together with the medically and, you know, story wise and everything. So, I think that's true, you know, I think, to, to write a B script, it's probably not going to get you that far. But if you can, either, you know, whether it's in the conception of the idea that so unique that it's like Jurassic Park or something, you know, that it just really is just almost sells itself that way, or your execution is really so masterful, and and that is hard. That's really hard. And you had it, it doesn't happen in one or two drafts, you know, you'd have to really be willing to keep at it.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:31
Now, what can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Diane Drake 1:12:37
I wish you'd asked me these questions about what book had the biggest impact? Um, you know, I can't think of one in particular, there's a book I really, really love. I don't know that it had the biggest impact on me, but it's called West with the night. It's actually setting African people wanted Sydney to make it after he did out of Africa. And it's a true story too, but he'd already done out of Africa. So sure, he wasn't gonna go back there. But that's a brilliant really book written by a woman who was a pilot in a bush pilot at the same era of Isaac Dennison. But what I will say is after I quit business school, and was thinking of going to law school, when I was in college, I didn't take any Well, I took one literature class, and I hated it, because they made us read books I didn't like, and so which is kind of like being forced to eat food, you don't want to eat, you know, and irony of ironies, that's what my living became, was reading, reading stuff. I didn't want to be reading screenplays. But for whatever reason, I just decided, when I got out that I wanted to have a better understanding of classic literature. And so I did my own little self, you know, self directed course, I guess, of reading the classics, sort of right after I got into college. So I read because I wanted to know what we built by Moby Dick Or they talked about Grapes of Wrath, or they or, you know, Jane Austen, or whoever, Tolstoy you know, I wanted some familiarity with that. I don't honestly really even know why. But I did. And what I learned from that was, it just taught me a lot about the universality of human nature. You know, like, at the time, like, you know, it was still the Soviet Union, and they were like, the big red menace, and I knew nothing about Soviet and then I read Tolstoy, and it's like, oh, but they're just like, people. Right? I mean, obviously, he was precisely, but you know, what I'm saying like that this Russian guy, you know, from the 1800s, right? Us 1800s, I believe, could speak to me, you know, in the 20th century, which was astonishing to me, but he really did and that's it. That's Shakespeare, right? That's, that's the things don't change that much. And so I think collectively that experience, really, it gave me a lot and I think it also gave me kind of confidence in my ability as a reader That was

Alex Ferrari 1:15:02
Very good. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Diane Drake 1:15:11
Wow, what am I still learning? Um, you know it, I'll say this, it gets back a little bit to what we're talking about justice, you know, and you stay in this business long enough, some really shitty stuff is going to happen to you. It's just going to, and like I said, nobody is immune. And it's ugly, it is it is uglier than you can possibly imagine, that I could have possibly imagined. Um, the other side of that coin is, is can be incredibly exciting and incredibly fun. And I got to go to Italy and hang out with Robert Downey Jr. You know what I mean, it's like, but it runs the gamut. But I do remember having a point, a long time ago, in my life where I thought, you know, you either need to just accept that this is the nature of the game, you know, this is the nature of the beast, or you need to get out, because you are not going to change this. And so, yeah, you're not. Now having said that, I still have difficulty with that. And, and I will say, in the wake of the me to stuff, part of me is like, hats off, you know, for your collectively for those women collectively going, No, you know what, it's not okay. And we are going to try to change it. And, you know, maybe they will in the long run, maybe they won't, I don't know, but I really give them credit for having finally said, No, we're not just gonna say that's how it works. That's how the business is. There's nothing we can do. So if you have to, I think almost have like a duality, you know, where it's like, okay, this is the way it is. And you do your best to cope with it and just keep your head down. You know, do your work. That in the end, I think is your salvation, is do your work, do the best you can and, and strive as you do that, because it is so critical to be inspired by the work that you admire, and the work you love and really seek that out. Because that's what beat you.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:10
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Diane Drake 1:17:14
Oh, my goodness. See, now this is so hard. Um, well, I would put them on Louise up there. I really would. I love that movie. Um, gosh, we think hear from it. I mean, there's little movies that I love. I don't know if I put them My all time but they just touched me like Al Pacino. I love love Pacino's beautiful. It's so beautiful. And it's just so quirky and sweet and beautiful. I really like Pulp Fiction. Fiction, and I and yeah, so and yeah. Butch Cassidy maybe Hello. Paul Newman. Anything Goldman? It? Yeah. And anything really true

Alex Ferrari 1:17:58
Princess bride I mean,

Diane Drake 1:18:00
Princess Bride, misery. I mean, come on. Yeah. All the presents. And at all of them. He's just genius. And they all hold up so well.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:09
And where can people find you and the work you're doing?

Diane Drake 1:18:13
I didn't, they can go to my website, which is dianedrake.com. And you can reach me there.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:18
Very cool. Well, Diane, it has been an amazing conversation. I'm so glad it went into places I wasn't expecting, which I love. Which is great. And you really drop some knowledge bombs on the tribe today about the realities of being in this business. And hopefully some inspiration and some cautionary tales, as well. So thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us.

Diane Drake 1:19:02
Oh, my pleasure. Thank you. It's really fun.



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IFH 655: Oscars®, Zombies, James Bond and Tom Hanks with Marc Forster

Marc Forster is a German-born filmmaker and screenwriter. He is best known for directing the films Monster’s Ball (2001), Finding Neverland (2004), Stay (2005), Stranger than Fiction (2006), The Kite Runner (2007), Quantum of Solace (2008), and World War Z (2013).

His breakthrough film was Monster’s Ball (2001), in which he directed Halle Berry in her Academy Award-winning performance; the film also starred Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, and Peter Boyle. His next film, Finding Neverland (2004), was based on the life of author J.M. Barrie. The film was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Johnny Depp.

Forster also directed the twenty-second James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. In 2013 he directed the film adaptation of the novel World War Z, starring Brad Pitt.

His latest film is the remarkable A Man Called Otto.

Based on the # 1 New York Times bestseller “A Man Called Ove,” A Man Called Otto tells the story of Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), a grump who no longer sees purpose in his life following the loss of his wife. Otto is ready to end it all, but his plans are interrupted when a lively young family moves in next door, and he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol.

She challenges him to see life differently, leading to an unlikely friendship that turns his world around. A heartwarming and funny story about love, loss, and life, A Man Called Otto shows that family can sometimes be found in the most unexpected places.

A Man Called Otto stars Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Cast Away), Mariana Treviño (Club the Cuervos), Rachel Keller (Fargo) and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven).

The screenplay is written by Academy Award® nominee David Magee (Best Adapted Screenplay, Life of Pi, 2012; Best Adapted Screenplay, Finding Neverland, 2004) based upon the best-selling novel “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman, and the film A Man Called Ove by Hannes Holm.

The film is being produced by Fredrik Wikström Nicastro, Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman.

Enjoy my conversation with Marc Forster.

Marc Forster 0:00
I feel once you connect with an actor to make them feel comfortable and understand the visions you have, that's the key thing.

Alex Ferrari 0:08
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show Marc Forster. How you doing Marc?

Marc Forster 0:22
I'm good thank you and you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 0:24
I'm very good, my friend. So my first question we're going to jump right into it is, how did you get started in the business?

Marc Forster 0:31
You know, I grew up in Switzerland, in the mountains in Davos, and you know, surrounded by just nature and not much the parents in a TV. And I always had to play outside to entertain myself versus being entertained. And, and that's sort of inspired me to become a storyteller. The first time I saw a movie in a theater. So that's what I want to do.

Alex Ferrari 0:52
Now, how did you get involved with Monster's Ball because that was a such an impactful and crazy movie.

Marc Forster 1:00
You know, I made a movie called everything put together. And that premiered at Sundance. And the writers saw that movie and time producer, so they all saw it. And they said I would be right for it. And they were trying to get the movie made for like eight years. And the first first couldn't get made. And it was you know, originally Sean Penn directing was Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and Marlon Brando. And it was too expensive. And the first thing they asked me, look, we've been waiting to get this chance for all this time, we would make the movie with you. But can I make it for $3 million. And I made the Sundance movie for 50,000. I said $3 million. I couldn't do that. So that's how I started.

Alex Ferrari 1:40
So when you're when you were directing Haley and Billy Bob in that film, like, Did you just see what was going on with Haley's performance at that point, like, because she was amazing.

Marc Forster 1:51
You know, I didn't predict that she would win an Oscar at the time of shooting, but I definitely saw it when I saw performances, she was extremely powerful, extremely raw and vulnerable. And, and that's what we discussed, and we wanted to go for and that it felt real. And, you know, because how they, you know, is such a, you know, glamorous and beautiful human to really make it believable, the part I felt she worked extra hard.

Alex Ferrari 2:18
How did what advice do you have for directors who want to pull those kinds of raw and, you know, to those kinds of emotions out of an actor, what did you do to make her feel comfortable enough to be that vulnerable on screen.

Marc Forster 2:32
And, you know, ultimately, you you, you know, you discuss the part in depth in your vision and depths, and you communicate your vision. And I feel once you connect with an actor to make them feel comfortable and understand the visions you have, that's the key thing. I mean, for the most vulnerable scene between the intimate scene between Billy Bob and her, you know, there was a closed set, of course, and, and closed everything that they felt totally protected and safe.

Alex Ferrari 3:01
No, now you you made the jump from indie to slightly larger budgets, just slightly, from, from Monsters Ball to the James Bond, how did you handle psychologically the jump from 50,000 to 3 million to a couple 100 million?

Marc Forster 3:17
I mean, that there were a couple of movies between Yes, there was. So so, you know, I had like, I think finance they like for four or five movies in between. So I did the budgets increasingly much bigger. And you know, the one Catona was the one before the Bond movie, but still, it was only like the $25 million range. And it's, it's like, same thing if you have like a, you know, a small sort of boutique shop, or a boutique, you know, custom made shoe to store and then suddenly become CEO of Macy's or something. And, and it's a different thing, you suddenly have so many more people so many more questions. You're shooting seven, seven countries, seven countries all over the world, you know, this $20 million budget and, and history of a franchise that one of the most or the most successful franchise in history, and you suddenly it's suddenly when you start reflecting our thinking, I hope I am not gonna, you know, this is not an awkward guy that that ship is not gonna sink because otherwise my career is over.

Alex Ferrari 4:25
Right, exactly. So what does that feel like being on the set for the first day of shooting Quantum of Solace, and you just sit there like, okay, there's a million people running around trying to get this thing going, how did that feel being on the set on a Bond film such a legendary franchise?

Marc Forster 4:41
You know, to begin with, we started on purpose, the movie very intimate, was not some of the big big action sequences and big sets, so that it felt very familiar to me. I knew the territory. I knew how to do those, those scenes and and from that we started growing, but you know it what feels Like before, you're always under the radar, nobody really cares. And then suddenly a Bond movie and suddenly you have the world press attention on you. And that that is actually the biggest pressure and that I didn't know. So you don't you don't study don't think about that, that suddenly, everyone, and everyone will write about you. And before that nobody will hear.

Alex Ferrari 5:23
How did you deal with that psychologically? And how did that affect if it affected at all your creativity, or your process?

Marc Forster 5:28
I mean, the the process of movie was a tricky one, because there was a writer strike going on, at that time in 2008. So we had a sort of unfinished script, and then the strike was October to February. So it was very tricky. It was often just me, Craig and me in the trade are trying to figure out what we're going to do next. So so that was the even more pressure, I think, if it would have been a completed script that everybody said, this is fantastic. Let's just go and shoot it, it definitely deflates some of the pressure. But if you have something that's not completed, and you're suddenly stuck in that position, and you have a release date, in place, only five weeks to cut the movie. It's, it's kind of intense.

Alex Ferrari 6:09
Now in I mean, obviously, you also worked on World War Z, which is another small, independent budget. How did you deal with the stress of heading up such big productions? I mean, as a director, there's just so many people in so many departments, and you still trying to be creative and still be intimate with your actors? How do you handle that stress?

Marc Forster 6:29
Um, you know, I'm like, it's interesting. I like it was the it's for the mob Israel sequence when the zombies came over the wall. Yeah. Remember that sequence? Of course. So when I drove in the morning, I had a driver drive me to set in multiway, shelter and alter, and we came to set and we pulled up. And he looked at 2000 extras and helicopters in the air and buses and vans going on Friday night, but a driver literally had an anxiety attack, just looking at it.

Alex Ferrari 7:01
Not helpful.

Marc Forster 7:03
And I was like, whoa, what, what are you doing today? So you just go out and you just have to focus and you can't, you have to plan out all the chatter. Yeah. And I think that's one of the key things for directing in general. You know, you have so many voices always in general, from the financier, studio, actors, producers, whatever they do, we stick to your vision, you when you hear chatter, it takes some some stuff you like, but ultimately, you have to stick to your vision. And I think it's part of the art in that to be able to stay calm and blend it out.

Alex Ferrari 7:35
Now, as directors, you know, there's always that day that you feel like the entire world's coming crashing down around you. I'm assuming you have that every day. But um, there's more than there's that one day on any production, that you don't know how you're gonna get through. So what was that day on any of your productions? And how did you overcome it?

Marc Forster 7:51
I think, you know, I would say when we're shooting in western China, the Katonah our line producer forgot two hours before digital it was still wishes to do film. And Atlantis forgot to order film. So so we sort and left you know, short ends. So basically, where we're shooting these scenes, there was a six minute dialogue scene and only have like two minutes of film. So I couldn't tell the actor you can only piecemeal this and she was doing as a piece of so the actors like actors are playing six minutes of roles and acting the harder but only two minutes of filming it. So at the end, I knew there was no film and then I peed I basically next time I'd just shoot the middle and then the end. But sometimes the actress didn't ascend Why do you do so many takes and the second we got it then it was so great. And and but they weren't aware that was super stressful is thinking of these great performances, but you don't have to go on film. And just telling them oh, you know, we don't have a film in the camera right now. Which is like out wasn't, wasn't the right thing to do.

Alex Ferrari 8:56
Now on your new film, a man called Otto which by the way I saw and absolutely loved this such a beautiful film. And Tom Hanks is this newcomer Tom Hanks is fantastic. By the way,

Marc Forster 9:07
A real discovery.

Alex Ferrari 9:09
A real discovery without question. How did you get involved with this project? And also like, it seems like you're going back to your roots a little bit. It's a very intimate film, very small in scope comparatively to the other big things you've done over the over your career.

Marc Forster 9:24
Yeah, you know, I wrote the book, and I was so touched and moved. And I laughed, and I cried, and then I saw that was a Swedish version of the film, which I saw was good, too. So this movie, we have to become a very conversion out of this because it's so you know, it's so funny, but it's also so touching and dark. And it's like both but ultimately, it's a life affirming film. And what I loved about it brings the neighborhood back together. I think we are also divided these days. And I think that still at the end this is you know this I always feel like it's one country where we all need to work together. And even though we have different point of views, and there are so many different characters on that street, which is so sweet, and I like the new neighbor, the Mexican family that moves in across the street, who she comes over and tries to use English food. And I think food is one of those great things that we can literally all share, which, which definitely wants was someone's heart, but she's so persistent, that neighbor that her name is Mariana Trevino, marriage plays Mosel that autos character, who Tom Hanks plays, just that ultimately can't keep us opens up. He can't, he can't take it anymore.

Alex Ferrari 10:40
Do you? Do you still get nervous when you're directing people like Tom Hanks, like, on the first day on set? You're like, Tom Hanks is here.

Marc Forster 10:49
I mean, no key is I love that. And I think he's one of the greatest stars ever. He's definitely, you know, greatest town that we work with. I mean, it's so extraordinary. You know, after 40 years, he still loves what he does, and, and is a big movie star. And he comes in the morning and he sits on set and he never leaves. He's like, in like a meditation. And, you know, usually stars of that caliber, you take to take that out to trainer, he never he stays there all day long as a crew, he just sits there with the crew, and then you realize, change, life doesn't leave. And it's just this concentration and this sort of just being there. It's pretty, pretty special.

Alex Ferrari 11:29
How do you approach the different? How do you approach different acting styles? And you're directing? Because, you know, Tom Hanks is very different than a Halle Berry. That is different than a Brad Pitt? Like how do you adjust multiple characters in the same scene?

Marc Forster 11:43
Yeah, it's basically you, you have to, like find a way to get to connect and see what what the actor needs or not, and how open they are, and how willing you know, some of you know how, how willing they are to collaborate. And I was pretty lucky throughout my career that I always worked with actors who were very open. And we had, I never had, like, you know, the sort of nightmare situation, and that they were very focused and prepared and, and on time, so I never dealt with, with with the, with the Divas of the show business, which I'm, I'm very, very blessed. But at the same time, you just see what what they need, and really try to feel them out. Because sometimes it's better to say nothing than too much said, because sometimes the actor needs that space, and they find it and you as a director, maybe just have to say maybe we can just try a different prop, you know, try this or that it's less than giving you a demo direction is let's try something a different direction. So so that's, you know, how it how it really from person to person difference?

Alex Ferrari 12:47
And how did you balance the darkness of the story with the humor, because you did it so masterfully because you? I mean, you definitely touch upon very, very dark themes in this in this movie, but yet you're laughing and crying and dealing with those things. It's a very fine balancing act you did.

Marc Forster 13:05
Yeah, it's it's a lot of it is in editing because you know, we obviously shot a little bit more here and there. But it's it's finding this balance also, between the flashbacks and present day that you go, you don't stay too much in the flashbacks to come back that emotion. So stay connected with Tom and in the present day. And also in the, in the flashbacks. Ultimately, they just give enough information that creates sort of a mystery and enough for you to wanting to keep watching. And it's juxtaposing sometimes the dark was the humor strangely direct, you know, when places the hinge breaks, and he's on the floor, and he lands right next to the paper wisdom was the you know, yes to $5. And then he says, Let me get that takes you right back into the human.

Alex Ferrari 13:51
Right. It's just like, like, what is he's just did that. And he's like, no, like, it's a good, good. So the deal I gotta keep so beautiful. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions, ask all my guests Marc, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Marc Forster 14:08
I mean, ultimately, I think that, you know, today, you know, you can make your film on your phone. Basically, what it really comes down to is a great story. And I think also, when you find your story, the more personal connection you have with that, the better. It's either, you know, if you don't have the funds, I would recommend to do a short and then have the feature script ready. So you shoot the short and then say, look, there's my short and this feature is going to be and that's how you know how to raise money and, and figure it out and get actors and people that would love the short that's that's take our bet on this guy, or to make a feature for if you can raise the money. But no matter what it all comes down to the script, that the script is really strong and be free. I think it's important to keep it to other people to read the script to have them have a look, get feedback and just keep working. on that, but I think the stronger the script is better. And another thing is, once you make a movie, and you have a movie that works, let's say at Sundance or any of the festivals and someone buys it, that you have a second script ready, because you don't want to too much time say, Oh, I have nothing, I have to write another script or find something for next year or two, to get that going. But at that time, we live in such a fast society that that might have been too late. So I think to have a second project ready is important as well.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Marc Forster 15:37
I think, you know, patience is definitely something you always have to learn, like, even sitting in traffic and staying home. You know, it's like impatience with these people was, you know, as your kids was everything it's like, just to be patient. I think it's really a hard one.

Alex Ferrari 15:56
Um, what did you learn from one of your greatest failures?

Marc Forster 16:01
Yeah, you know, they always say Silicon Valley is built on failures. And seeing failures are truly key for an artist for anyone, because you learn from them. For instance, after Finding Neverland, I made a film called stay. That wasn't Ryan, Ryan Gosling only walks great task where you McGregor great cars. And, and it the critics didn't love it, the artisan love it as part of a little bit of a following throughout the years. But when ultimately, when I made that movie, I think, why doesn't this print that movie work? And then I and out of that movie came straight from fiction, which also is sort of absurd and comedic. But then we worked and I was able to make that sort of absurdness that movie emotional. And it wasn't able to do that in state, even though visually is cool and compelling. But it ultimately didn't connect with people emotionally. And, and strain. Friction that so.

Alex Ferrari 17:05
So then, in the hardest question of all three of your favorite films of all time?

Marc Forster 17:10
Three of my favorite films. Well, I mean, it's a tricky one. You know, like, I love a lot of the dead directors. You know, I love I think in my Birdman, Swedish director, I would say like wild strawberries of his own, we really enjoy it. I, you know, I mean, there's three. There's a tough one,

Alex Ferrari 17:33
Three today. I know it changes tomorrow. So it will be on your tombstone. Don't worry.

Marc Forster 17:38
That, you know, I like you know, I always loved the Marx Brothers duck soup.

Alex Ferrari 17:46
It's so good. It's still, it still holds today.

Marc Forster 17:50
Yes. And I think Howard harps bringing a baby. It's one of my favorites. Because I just love how fast that dialogue goes, and how she performs that. And that's also one of my favorite films.

Alex Ferrari 18:04
And where can people watch A Man Called Otto.

Marc Forster 18:08
Hopefully, they all will watch it in the theaters. Because it's a movie that really, you should experience in a theater. And it's one of those movies, you know, people seem to come and come out for it. And it's something you want to expense together. You laugh and you cry. And you don't want that alone alone at home for TV. So right now, it's still theaters for next couple of weeks. So please go and support it.

Alex Ferrari 18:29
And very last question. I'd love to hear your opinion on this. Yeah, as a filmmaker, we grew up as filmmakers, we grew up loving movies at the theater. But that seems to be it becoming more and more of an endangered species unless there's certain kinds of films. What do you what are your What are your hopes for the future, my friend because it's tougher and tougher to get people at the theater nowadays.

Marc Forster 18:51
You know, Man Called Otto was the kind of movie Hollywood used to make. Yeah. And they don't make very much anymore. And I ran into a few people answered, really, they said, we have hope again, because the main hook auto seems like people came out to see it. And we didn't think those kinds of movies would stop in a theater. And I'm so glad they came and supported the movie. And I hope you know that people keep coming out for movies like that, because that will keep those movies alive because the financier is obviously in the studio's will not pay for a movie when no one shows up. And they very quickly have the algorithms you know that so many people don't. The decisions today are not being made anymore by the gods by like the old studio heads or people it's mostly made by algorithms and marketing. So can I market a movie with who is more can we sell it? They run these numbers and that's that's how it gets done mostly.

Alex Ferrari 19:45
Marc it's a pleasure talking to you my friend. Please keep up the fight the good fight, my friend, keep making the films you're making. I really appreciate it.

Marc Forster 19:52
Thank you so much, Alex. Have a good day! Take care!



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Screenplays: FREE Download 2022-2023 Oscar Contenders UPDATED

UPDATED JAN 2023: If you want to be a screenwriter, you need to read a lot of screenplays. And if you are going to read film scripts might as well read some of this year’s best. Below is an active running list of 2022-2023 Oscar Contending Screenplays. As they become available, I’ll add new screenplays, so check back often.

PLEASE NOTE: These screenplays are FREE and LEGAL to download for educational purposes. The studios will only keep them online throughout the awards season, so the clock is ticking. Enjoy. 

When you are done reading, take a listen to Apple’s #1 Screenwriting Podcast, The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, with guests like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. HartDavid ChaseJohn AugustOliver Stone, and more.

2022-2023 Oscar Screenplays Nominees

The Banshees of Inisherin
The Fabelmans
Triangle of Sadness

All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

2022-2023 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2021-2022 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2021 Oscar-Winning Screenplays

The Father – (Sony Classics) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Original Screenplay)
Promising Young Woman – (Focus Features) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Adapted Screenplay)

2020-2021 Oscar Contending Screenplays


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2020 Oscar-Winning Screenplays

Parasite – (NEON) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Original Screenplay)
Jo Jo Rabbit – (Fox Searchlight) – OSCAR WINNER (Best Adapted Screenplay)

2020 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2019 Oscar Contending Screenplays

2018 Oscar Contending Screenplays


Want to read more screenplays by the best screenwriters working in Hollywod today?

The Bulletproof Screenwriting collection of screenplays are organized by screenwriter's & filmmaker's career for easy access.

Screenwriter’s Screenplay Collections

We started a new weekly series where we highlight a screenwriter and post a collection of most if not all of their work in one online resource. Sign up for our weekly newsletter above to get weekly updates sent to your inbox. Here are a few recent screenwriter collections:

I also decided to include a bonus area where you can download some of the best screenplays of the last few years. Over 175 screenplays in all. Happy reading!

Best of 2016 Screenplays

Best of 2015 Screenplays

Best of 2014 Screenplays

Best of 2013 Screenplays

BONUS: Oscar Nominated and Winning Screenplays

IFH 654: The Neuroscience Behind Profitable Screenwriting & Filmmaking with Paul Gulino

Today’s guest is screenwriter Paul Gulino. Paul is the author of The Science of Screenwriting: The Neuroscience Behind Storytelling Strategies.

Paul believes in Hitchcock’s adage that “films are made on paper.” Although students may obsess about a film’s look, all of the visual elements, he says, function to enhance the story. And that, ultimately, comes from the mind of the screenwriter.

In spite of the fact that there seems to be a screenwriter behind every corner (in California, at least), screenwriting is something of a lost art, Gulino maintains, having seen hundreds of flat screenplays as a story analyst for Showtime Entertainment.

Honing his own skills through writing for the theater and practicing the craft as taught by Frank Daniel and Milos Forman, Gulino secured an agent with William Morris on the basis of his thesis script. With that “real world” confirmation in hand, Gulino went on to write and see produced features, plays and comedy sketches.

Screenwriting, he says, isn’t a craft you can learn from a book.

“The best way is to learn from someone who knows the craft, so you can see how theories can be applied to your own work.”

There must be something to that. Or at least it’s worked for screenwriter Paul Gulino.

Enjoy my conversation with Paul Gulino.

Alex Ferrari 0:36
I'd like to welcome to the show Paul Gulino. How you doing my friend?

Paul Gulino 3:12
Oh, I'm doing much better now that we've started live. Thank you for being part of my world.

Alex Ferrari 3:20
Yeah, I appreciate it. Like I told you, when we were off air, I always love bringing different voices and different ideas on the screenwriting process, because you just never know what's going to connect with that individual screenwriter out there where they might would like one person or they might like the other person, or this book really talks to them, or that idea really talks them. So I always love to bring new ideas on. And when I read about your ideas and your approaches, I was like, well, I gotta get Paul on the show. So I'm so glad. I'm so glad you're on. So first of all, how did you get started in the business?

Paul Gulino 3:51
I started with a super eight camera when I was 10 years old, you know, dad to break camera and making a movie with our dog, the family dog and then graduating to Super eight sound and then finding out one day that there was such a thing as the film classes taught at university but I was like, really, and I studied with Frank Daniele at Columbia University. And as I said before he was the he's have a lot of very successful students is a was unique teacher is stable would include Milos foreman would be recognizable David. David Lynch was another one Terrence Malick. Martin breasts was one of his students at the American Film Institute. He's on top. So there were a lot he had. He was the founding director of the American Film Institute, and he brought his pedagogy from Czechoslovakia to the United States through that, and in turn, his pedagogy came from studying American Cinema in Czechoslovakia, and basically watching movies over and over and over again, because you could do that for one price, sitting in the theater and then applying Western dramatic theory to understanding how how movies work. And then his approach to teaching was sort of like working with you as a collaborator on your script, while smuggling theory in so you have a broader picture of how, what your choices are basically making you aware of what your choices are when you're telling a story, so and so that's how I got my start. After I went to film school with Frank, I was doing the thing with writing and was in New York City. So I was working on stage plays, and trying to get things release in front of an audience and then moved to LA in 89. And then, was able to get an agent and he was able to sell a spec script and and got that made, I like to say the screenplay was loosely based on a real story. And the movie that resulted was loosely based on my screenplay. And another film made a few years later, and I've been working as a consultant working, worked on an Animated Feature Animation on a project that could not get made, but it was a it was a great experience, you know, one of these things where they spent $30 million on it, and then decided I was the sixth writer out of about eight writing teams on the project. Fair enough.

Alex Ferrari 6:48
So when you came, so when you came to LA, though, it was during the whole spekboom time, isn't it? It was the time where spec rise spec scripts were like, everybody was making a million here, 2 million there. I mean, the whole Shane Black Joe Astor house era of spec scripts, it was that time, right.

Paul Gulino 7:07
Yeah, that was basically the 80s was the discovery that there's such thing as writing a screenplay. And that you can that that's a viable option, and that Hollywood resolve into this thing back then. Yeah, there were there have been periods when they work. And then they weren't. And then they were, you know, there was a boom in this an interest in screenwriting, or what they called, at the time photoplay writing back in the 19 teens. So you look back there, you'll find about, I believe there's about 60 titles on how to write a photo play. And the public was very interested in this. And there were manuals, how to write a photo play, and because they were taking from the outsiders at that time, and then you have this drought for many years, because Hollywood became sort of a closed shop, Film School of that time, and then starting for variety reasons. In the 70s, things fell apart, and it opened up and new voices were heard, and that's when screenwriting was sort of rediscovered, and then starting in 79, you have subfields book come out. And then the boom in screenwriting books, pedagogy and interest in it begins there. And so when I was in film school there actually, my path is my frame of reference is very different because there were no manuals at the time, I was learning from somebody who is from a master teacher, and there were books on playwriting. Certainly there were plenty of those. But it was it was something being rediscovered at the time. And what how do you put this stuff together?

Alex Ferrari 8:52
So you you've been teaching for many years now. So you've had a lot of students you see, you've probably read a handful of screenplays, just a handful in the course of your of your time teaching. What is the biggest mistake you see first time screenwriters make?

Paul Gulino 9:08
That's an interesting question. Because my perspective is a little strange in that I I'll train them initially. So like they're not writing a feature script that nobody hands me a feature script right away and it has the effect that they have to go through. Kind of like Etudes you know, how musicians have scaled cetera? Well, we have writing Etudes, you know, they're going to exercise different writing muscles and then they build up to a feature and then then start working with them on that. So said once I've consulted on where I get a full line, are you hearing a hammering it somewhere?

Alex Ferrari 9:47
That's okay.

Paul Gulino 9:47
Okay. We got sound engineers, you know, that's it. I'll get rid of that. The ones that I see nowadays what I can notice is In a way, they're overthought. Like there's encrusted with all these different, you know, they read a lot of books on it, and they want to do it right. And I'll have stories that are promising. And then, but I see they're jamming it into some idea. And then they're really proud of the fact that I, okay, I have the second twist here, see, see, I got it here. And this is here. And so there is often a departure from between conflict between what their story is and how they're executing. So for example, I was doing a romantic, working with someone working on a romantic comedy recently, and this person had a woman main character, and she's going after them, she's with the wrong guy, you know, she's with the wrong guy, and the right guy is right out there. So enter the second act. He's got this, all is lost moment, or dark night of the soul. And that moment consisted of her finding out that the guy that she's with is all wrong for her. He's not only not right for her, but he's stealing and he's cheating. He's, I don't know why he's probably got, you know, murdering puppies somewhere. I wasn't that bad. But it was like she makes discoveries. And why? Because you're supposed to have this happen at the end of the second act. And I said, Well, wait a minute. She doesn't belong to this guy. So maybe the end of the second act is she gets some audio. But it sounds like from what your material, the worst possibility would be that she lines up with the wrong guy. So the worst thing that could happen is he proposes to her and she accepts it. Now we have a third act tension, which is going to be is she going to realize in time before the wet hick send the right guy right there, you see that the landscape is, I like to say all all truth in screenwriting is local, you know, depends always. Yes, you could have a desperate moment at the end of the second act. And then what the terrain of the story is you're working on. And so I've run into that. I don't know how helpful that is. The The thing was, the other thing I noticed that I have to work with students on is his dialogue, and the mistakes that they make, and it's certainly mistake I made. And it's a mistake that people starting out make. And I can see that it's not about overall feature screenplays, it happens in short films. So I can tell you what they come with is what I call q&a dialogue, Question and Answer dialogue. Yeah, character enters the room and says, How are you today? And the person says, that I didn't sleep much last night. How about you? Well, I slept pretty well. But I am thinking of going to the store. Would you like to go to the store? I think I might go to the store. But you know that one question, one person questions, everyone answers, and it's emotionally neutral. So we work I work with them on how to overcome that that problem, how to understand how characters interact, and how you can avoid that sort of behavior in your scripts, and then make them readable. So that's, that's a mistake that I see. And that's what people do. takes a while.

Alex Ferrari 13:23
I realized when I was first writing screenplays I'm by by no stretch a master screenwriter by any stretch. But when I first started writing, I did everything a lot of the things that you're saying right there, I did, because I was I've read so many books, and I read so much technique that I was like, on page, this, this has to happen on this line. So I would like jam it in there. Regardless if it meant it was correct or not correct. And I would literally conform the story around. Absolutely having to hit this specific point. And I found it and from my own experience, that it is just it's insecurity. You know, it's an insecurity of not not feeling comfortable with the craft enough to be able to just let it let me do what I need to do to tell the story like, you know, with with these master screenwriters out there, even master filmmakers that they take their time and they don't, you know, they don't have to hit certain things. Yes, they're going to hit probably the three act structure or something like Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I think has a five act structure if I'm not mistaken. You know, those kind of things. They'll hit those points in good time. And as long as it works within the stories that makes sense.

Paul Gulino 14:38
Yeah, it's it's, it's to me it's because I was trained before a lot of theories came out other than Aristotle and sure poetics other more traditional drama. The way I was trained, if you look at what the function and what then out from the very first meeting in first class, it's about connection, as opposed to expression. If it when, take a step back and ask yourself, when you go to a film school, when you take a writing class, what is it, you're actually learning, you're now learning how to be creative. That's not something that can really be taught that we know of yet. And you can create circumstances by which people can maybe be more creative, but it's not well understood. And, you know, it's hard to model with computers to get computers to be creative. So we don't do that we don't teach you the creative process. What we do teach you that what we have learned a lot about, over the last several 1000 years, is we've learned about audiences. And, and we can, if you know that your job is to connect with an audience, we can teach you about audiences. Now, I don't mean like, a particular demographic, I mean, a general person, a normal human being, how do people respond to material? And so when you think about how a story is structured, a term that's used a lot, by structure, I guess I would mean, the arrangement of the pieces, the pieces being the scenes, and information. You You can see that strategy, you know, three, x five, x, whatever, as a kind of subset of the bigger question of how do I grab them? And how do I keep them? How do you grab an audience? And how do you keep that up. And if you know how, the tools, if you have the tools to do that, you can use it in a variety of very exciting, interesting ways. And you can pivot between the feature film and the stage play series, you know, streaming series, because you know how that's done, you know, how to get in people's heads. And that's one of the things that fascinates me about this, why I wrote that the second book with county shares a psychology, like a college professor, it's how to film get into people's heads. And how can I get how can you teach people how to get into people's heads and manipulate them? And one of the things I like to do when I'm lecturing is, I'll show them like a short film that I like, like a four minute movie, and then I'll stop it, like, with about 30 seconds left in and say, Sorry, we got to move on. I'm sorry, we you know, and this movie has achieved something. It's got them wondering what's happening next. And when I do that, you hear the groans I say, what's wrong? I'm, okay, I showed you most of the movie, why do you have to see the rest, you know, and I, I just showed this, these images up here in sound, and it went out into the audience, and it worked them over, and it manipulated them. And now they're kids, because they want to see the end of this. And that's like, amazing. And I love that fact, and I love learning how to do that. And then teaching people how that can be done. And so when we talk about three act structure, or do you need it, or do you not need it the way it's about how you define, if you define them by function, what is the function of the Act? Well, if the function is to create what we call dramatic tension, which is who will the boy get the girl or the boy get the boy and let's not generalize this, we can, in the modern age, we can we will, the LGBTQ person gets the one that they like, yes. Well, that person get that person. Okay. That's the question, okay. And we, if we connect with that character, we're going to be tilted into the future, we're going to be wondering whether they're going to get that person. And then, so you wind up in drama, it's called the main dramatic question. Okay.

Will will the person get the other person? And the question question has three parts, you post it, you deliberate, you answer, you don't need more, and you can't have less. And so if you want to do dramatic tension as your main tool for keeping the audience interested in your movie, you don't have a choice. I mean, if the character if the audience is watching something, and they don't know why the character is doing what they're doing, then they're not going to be in suspense about whether they're going to get what they want. It's not gonna work. So therefore, you need to pose that question in the audience's mind. And then the third act as you answer the question, I'm sorry to interrupt you. So

Alex Ferrari 19:40
no, no. Because you wrote this book, which is called the neuroscience of screenwriting, which is is amazing. It's amazing. I love studying neuroscience. It's a hobby of mine as crazy as that sounds. I love studying neuroscience. And I want to ask you, what is it about the human mind That that example that you said in your class when you cut them off? What is it in our brains? That is this need to know what happens this? Absolutely, because you go on the ride and a good story, a good movie, a good book will take you down this road. And if someone ruins the ending for me, that's still worse if you get a spoiler out, or you ruin the movie for them before they ever get to watch it or ruin the book or anything like that. There is anger, there is like pure anger. What is it on a on a neuroscience level? What are the connection? What are the synapses in your mind that are coming I mean, this is just programming over 1000s and 1000s of years, 10s of 1000s of years of telling stories around the campfire where now we're just if we don't hear the end of that story, we could die. Because that was the original. Originally the story was like there was a tiger who ate the child. And if you go around this corner, what corner? What corner, what corner, we need to go around? I'm sorry, I can't tell you the corner. And now you're dead. So I don't know, is that something? I'm just throwing that out? out there?

Paul Gulino 21:09
What do you think? Well, that's there's, there's one theory, which is a little bit experimental. It hasn't been confirmed yet. So we didn't actually put it in the book. But there's a theory of mirror neurons that Connie talked about that. This idea that when you watch somebody eat a chocolate pie, the very same neurons that are happening in their brain, if you like chocolate, you know, are firing in yours. So you connect with it in that way.

Alex Ferrari 21:37
That's, that's basically advertising.

Paul Gulino 21:42
And, by the way, I make a great chocolate meringue pie, you know, so just because it's important to me, but so, but that's one there, but it hasn't been confirmed. But the best, the best argument that I've heard about, okay, why do we read stories? Why do we watch stories? It's because it's universal, you kind of look for, what's the adaptation and evolution, because in evolution and human existence in any kind of life form, any activity takes energy, and you're going to have to eat or consume things in order to have enough energy to do that thing. And you don't want to waste energy, you could start Okay, or not efficient. If you could spend your time hunting rather than doing something else, you're wasting your time and you're reducing your chances for survival. Well, so why are what stories must play some role in survival? And a good argument comes, there's a book called the storytelling animal by Jonathan gottschall. And his argument is this that we mentioned in the book, it's that it's like learning, it's a learning, it's a way of learning about life without being in danger that you are, it's a rehearsal for life. And it is a learning thing. You like you just said, you tell a story about this Tiger that's over there. And you don't tell people? What's the lesson learned? Then? It's, it's, it's not. It's frustrating. And this process by which we become involved in the storytelling, there's other theories about that. It's it has to do with how we, in terms of connecting with main characters, let's say, Now, why do we do? Well, there is a process by which some would argue that morals and society are created, which is one theory is called blurring, that you'll literally you'll blur and become another person. Like the example, the one the theorists gave was, this lady is thinking of killing his neighbor, her neighbor. Okay. And then, before she does that, she imagined what it would be like to be that neighbor. And then for a moment, she mentioned the pain that she would cause by doing that, and then they're blurred, their identities blur, and then she decides as a result, I better not do it, because I don't, I don't want them to feel the pain that I've paid to feel. Okay. So that's a theory of how we connect with people. And that's deployed by storytellers. When we tell a story. When we connect with a person on screen. We literally lose ourselves. I mean, I know you've had this experience, of course that yes, yeah. You You're watching a movie I've had in a movie theater where the power went out, you know, where am I I'm, I'm in a movie theater. It's new and I thought it was nighttime because the movie, you get lost in it. It's

Alex Ferrari 24:35
very mad. It's such a magical thing. It really when it's a good story in a good movie or a good book. You're not there you are in the story you are, everything else just shuts down because you were we're literally sitting in a dark room for two hours. Looking at some images flicker and some sound play. It's it's fairly a magical experience in the moment

Paul Gulino 25:01
Right, there's this thing called the willing suspension of disbelief that you're willing to do that. Okay? Well, gosh, I'll argue that it's not willing, you can't help it. If I start telling a story, okay, there was a ship on the sea and the sea salt was blowing. And you know, the waves were coming in the clouds appeared on the horizon. And there was, you're there already, you can't stop feeling those things. And hearing and imagining

Alex Ferrari 25:28
is, is the equivalent of saying, Don't think of the pink elephant.

Unknown Speaker 25:32
It could be

Alex Ferrari 25:34
whatever you do, don't think of a pink elephant right now. And you're you can't, you can't stop it. Now everyone who's listening right now is thinking of a pink elephant. But I told them don't think about it. So very soon, when you were telling that story, I was already I was already going in my head. And connecting to the experiences of when I was on the Odyssey on a boat, or when I was on and I could smell the ocean. I was already I was already going real quick. And I wasn't even exerting any energy to do it.

Paul Gulino 26:02
Yeah, it, it comes naturally to us because it helps us another psychologist. Let me get I want to make sure I get the name, Keith outlays. He has an article called the flight simulator of life, that stories are the equivalent of a flight simulator. For an airline pilot, you're on a flight simulator. So when you crash, you don't die. A movie, your you become that other person in the movie in the story in a film and the TV series. And they go through all kinds of danger, and they learn lessons. And guess what you got to learn the lesson that they learned but you didn't have to die. You've got to learn it. So even a tragedy where the character doesn't survive. You learn from you know, you've learned don't do that.

Alex Ferrari 26:55
Now, isn't it interesting because as of this recording, the Joker came out in theaters last week. And it is causing all sorts of commotion people are walking out of the theater, people are loving the movie. It is it is a very diverse, a film that divert not diversity. What's the word divisive film, right? Because and I haven't seen it yet I have. I have my tickets because I either. I want to see it too. But the thing which I bring it up for this conversation is that you are following a villain. You're watching a person go from being maybe a damaged human being into a full blown villain, arguably a psychotic maniac, who is arguably one of the you know, greatest villains ever created in the scope of movies and possibly in comic book lore as well. So people have a problem with that, because you're now attaching yourself to a villain in such a deep, dark way that it is bothering people. And I can't remember a movie. I mean, taxi driver would probably be the closest thing like when you watch taxi driver, there's a lot of people who just can't deal with it because you're you're Travis Brickell, I mean your,

Paul Gulino 28:19
your work that I do that

Alex Ferrari 28:21
you're in there, there is nothing else you can attach yourself to and the filmmaker and the storyteller and the screenwriter. Dave, you're Travis and you're going through and you're he's, he's who he is. So people that's why films like that have such a diverse, divisive, a feeling. And in today's world, you don't get those kind of films. So I'm excited to watch the Joker in these put up by Rudy.

Paul Gulino 28:45
Yeah, that that'll that'll be very interesting. The usually, like there have been successful movies. And one reason one word I discouraged by students from using that's popular is when they talk about the main character is hero. And I understand like the hero's journey, they don't necessarily mean hero, but when you say some of the hero, he got a The, the impression you get the connotation is, oh, someone who's hero, they do heroic things, and they're strong, and they're attractive and all that. But we don't learn from those kinds of people we learn from people who got problems and, and trends that transgression, they do the wrong thing. But you can still you can have a character who's a, let's say, a man who has an affair with a married woman and decides to murder her husband so he can get money. And we'll go with it. Because you know, Double Indemnity, that that works, but there isn't enough there for us to connect with so that we're okay with going for the ride even though it was controversial at the time. Yeah. And there was questions about who couldn't get naked. For a long time, and then there was this sense that people do learn from movies, and therefore we can't have bad people as main characters, unless they're really punished. And I don't know if you're aware of this, but they wrote and shot an extra sequence in that movie that they cut out. And that extra sequence was, you remember the film very clearly.

Alex Ferrari 30:20
Very clear. I saw years ago probably films

Paul Gulino 30:22
years ago. Okay. Well, the last scene is spoiler alert, but it doesn't matter. It's so

Alex Ferrari 30:29
if it's over, if it's over 5060 years old, it's not a spoiler alert anymore. It's the

Paul Gulino 30:36
I can't get to the Statue of Liberty Statue of Liberty. Exactly. So this what happens at the end is he actually it's wrapped around with the beginning of the pack that begins with actually a flood that begins of the present. And the whole thing is a flashback with the guy narrating. And in the end, he stumbles and falls in the office, and that's where it ends, you know, and he's with his buddy, who suspected him and had to, you know, ultimately turn him in. But that was, that's where they ended it. But the next sequence that they didn't shoot involved, Fred MacMurray is execution, he goes to the electric chair. It was an extensive, elaborate sequence. And keys, his best friend is sitting in the audience, you know, watching his best friend being put to death for his crime. They realized it was a little too much. So they they cut that out, but you could see how conscious they were making sure that we don't connect with, we don't learn that it's okay to kill people from this movie. Another picture that I like to cite is one that's made the main character committed statutory rape, and is in jail for fighting, fish fighting and people having you know, assaults. And also he's a lazy bum and doesn't want to do any work. That's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That's, that's, you know, McMath mcmurphy. A movie. Yeah. But so you've got this flawed character in his own way. And the way it is, is tragic flaw is a good thing. He has humanity. You know, that's how the movies really twist things around. But we, our first impression of them is, and that's something called the primacy effect first impression, the first time you see him, he's, he's whooping it up for joy. And then he's going around trying to talk to people and helping him with play cards. So your first impression is, he's a good guy. And then you learn a little bit more about him. And then you find out what kind of person he is, but but his behavior is at odds with that. So I don't like didn't censor themselves from having interesting flawed characters. Now, the Joker, I haven't seen. The reason for diverse opinions is something else that we talked a little bit about in the book, it just has to do with, of course, what we bring the movies, and we do bring on life experiences. We write and so different movies are going to affect people in different ways. And I tell my students, you know, when I pick movies that I show that I analyze that it's taken for three reasons. One is I feel have to feel that they work, because I can't show you a movie that why and how it works if I don't think it work. The second is it has to be rich in the in the craftsmanship. So I can point out different things that the writer and the storytellers are doing, that they can learn. And the third thing I tell them is the luck of the draw, I got to love it. And that's just me. And if they're out of luck, as the guy in the next room, he's going to show a different set of movies. And that just has to do with what resonates with me in particular. And there is a concept in constructivist psychology called the schema. A schema is a is a conceptual framework by which we understand the world. It's a shorthand way of understanding things. You it kind of borders with object recognition, but it's like constructivist psychology, which plays a role in how we understand movies, and which I think if you understand that you can have fun is the premise of that the argument is that our experience of the world, our experience of life, is not largely knowledge based. It's

based on inference, because our brains are powerful enough to process everything that we're seeing all around us, you know, of course, of course, right? So an example would be if you see a curb on a street, you know, a curb. The first time you're going to look at it, you're going to check it out, when you're two or something and you're going to navigate it. But once you store it, it's called that's called bottom up processing. You see it, it goes up in your brain. Then after that, it becomes top down processing where you see a curb, you compare it to their memory of how curbs work, and then you assume it's like any other So you just walk over, you don't measure each time you walk over, that wouldn't be efficient. So we take, we have those shortcuts. And what happens is that sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes that curve isn't what we thought it was. It's a different curve. So we thought we thought so. So when we that, we'll get back to that in a second how that plays a role in screenwriting, but in terms of how we perceive things, we do bring that top down processing to the world because we've all had slightly different experiences. So that going back to Cuckoo's Nest, there's a scene in which a nurse ratchet the first time she does this group therapy, and it's terrible. She's it's just everybody's at each other's throats. And she's sitting there impassively at the end, okay. And I started there, and I asked my students, what do you think's going on with her, and I got different reactions. The first one said that she was a sadist. And she's happy that they fell apart. Another one said that she thought this person had regret that they weren't healthier. Another one was, you know, there was a variety of these things. And no one's right. It's just, they're bringing their stuff. So the Joker will be an interesting one, to look at what we identify with,

Alex Ferrari 36:17
I always I always tell people that, from my studies in neuroscience, that many of the things that stop us from specifically being like screenwriters, or being artists in general is by the associations of things that happened to us in the past, where you either associate failure and your brain tells you, you're basically the brain needs to keep you in this nice safe box, you're in a safe zone, that safe zone is where you go, and you only go up to the edge of that safe zone, because outside of that zone is unknown, and whatever is unknown, is potentially deadly, because that's our how our, you know, our alligator brain or reptilian part of our brain works. So that's why it's so difficult for people to lose weight, because their safe zone is being where they're at, or I can't write a screenplay, I'm just gonna do a short first. And then they slowly build up the courage to like, I'm gonna do a screenplay. And then, and if it's not really good, or if it's, someone beats them down, and they're not prepared for it, they're like, Okay, I'm gonna go back. It's kind of like you're always stepping in and stepping out, you're always trying to do, we're built to be comfortable. And in a comfort zone. And I always tell people to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. That's the only way you grow. That's the only way you get out there and do things. And it's and that works with writing as well. Because I know you as well as you do this many screenwriters out there who live in their box, and they do their box well, and they don't generally jump out of their genre that their style. You know, that's why I love people like, you know, Tarantino who stays within his box, but man, he's jumped into every genre possible, and just throws his flavor into every genre. Same thing with Kubrick, when Kubrick was was doing his masterpieces, I mean, he literally made the definitive film of every genre that he walked into, essentially, so so I was just I wanted to get your opinion in regards to the neuroscience behind that and the in the how it affects us as screenwriters and as creatives.

Paul Gulino 38:22
Well, I'm, I'm certainly not a neuroscientist.

Alex Ferrari 38:24
I don't, neither, neither am I, but from

Paul Gulino 38:27
from, I have several patients I'm going to be operating on later today. Because you know, you everybody's got to make a little money on the side of

Alex Ferrari 38:36
neuroscience is a nice side hustle.

Paul Gulino 38:39
Yeah. You can do a series of multiple surgeries for the same issue. But there it is true. What I that are to talk about the reptilian brain, our two most basic impulses are hoping fear, emotions are hoping to fear okay. And, and fear is actually what you're describing, saying that safebox fears actually stronger than hope. And the example that I heard from one psychology professor was that if you are in a restaurant, and you get this, you know, a fancy restaurant with a wonderful seafood plate, you know, with all this all the fixings and everything, and you're about to eat it and you see a roach cockroach in it. That's it, you're done. Okay, you're not going there, you're not going to touch it. Contrast that suppose your sit down to a meal, and it's covered with roaches, and you see one, you know, artichokes? You're not going to say, yeah, look at that. I get an artichoke out of it. You don't you don't touch it. So that's the example they gave the top and fear. Now something else that's useful that we didn't talk about in this book. But it's another thing that I think is useful for when writers work with characters is this narrative theory of of psychological development. Because you're talking about people that say the posterity was different, that, that the idea is that we, up till age, by the time we get to age three, we have developed a narrative of our lives. And we tend to notice the things that confirm that narrative and ignore the facts that don't. This leads to all kinds of neuroses. I mean, like, you know, I'm the one who never was loved. So I'm unlovable, okay, someone throws himself at you. That's an aberration. That's not doesn't fit, you know. And there was this episode of a senator I forget his name a senate US Senator A few years ago, who was caught having sex with men in bathrooms in Minneapolis. Right. Okay. So what? What was his story? Well, he was married, and he again, and he's a he's a straight man. Right? Well, that's the story, he tells himself. The fact that he's meeting strange men and having sex with them, gets ignored in that narrative. It's like, Oh, I don't know what that is. But that has nothing to do with who I am. What I am, is a straight man with a family and all that. And in a way, this guy is living two different lives, you know, what he's aware of, and one that he blocked out? I can't speak to him. He's not my patient. I don't know. I'm not a psychiatrist. But you can see that process happening, that it's possible that a guy who's spent 50 years of his life, he's like, 6050 years of his life, suppressing some reality, and construct a reality in which he was not gay. If he ever came at 865, to realization that he was gay, that's 50 years of your life that you're a stranger.

Alex Ferrari 41:44
It's dead. It's devastating. It's devastating.

Paul Gulino 41:47
Yeah. We should put that away.

Alex Ferrari 41:49
So that so let me so let's turn this into something for for screenwriters in regards to the the script, the screenwriting guys who's listening? No, because I mean, listen, I could talk neuroscience all day. But the but the concept for for character development, this is so powerful. And it's such a powerful tool to use as a screenwriter to get into psychology and to get into almost the like, just the concept of what we just talked about, adding that, that sub layer that, that that that thing underneath of the that underlining thing is like, I have to stay in this safe Spock's perfect example a guy who's been, you know, 50 years saying, I'm married, I have kids, but then I go off. I mean, that's, and and exploring why he did that. That's a story. That's a screenplay, or the person who has a wife and kids and he's a serial killer, you know, on the side, and we've seen those kind of movies, like they they literally compart my compartment. I can't say the word you know what I'm saying? To mentalize Thank you, sir. I'm a little bit, but they're but they put their their worlds in different boxes as almost a defense mechanism for themselves. So someone like this, the guy you're talking about this politician, he literally was doing this to protect himself in his mind. Like, that's that other story, which is his true nature. He couldn't for whatever reason, the way he was raised his environment, his social group or community wouldn't accept that. So he suppressed it. And now it comes out in this very strange way, years later, because it can't You can't hold something like that in it's not something you can maybe hold it at bay for decades. But eventually it will come out that is such a powerful,

Paul Gulino 43:39
a character development tool, the difference between the story you tell yourself about yourself, and the reality when that collapses, that's huge. And the way you can use it in screenwriting, you know, a lot of people like, I think creating characters, it's, it is kind of a mysterious process, people come up with him, some people are very good at it, some have more plot driven or that kind of thing. They divided that way. stories and characters are more primitive. But usually people try to write a background about that character, okay, he was raised this, he did this. And that's useful to generate ideas. But the other thing to think about is not what they went through, but what do they tell themselves about what they went through? What is it because this is really important, when you're when you're writing a screenplay, when you're even plotting it out? The character doesn't know what the story is about. They think it's about something completely other than what what you're in the journey here, but I'm going to put them up. So where is their head? Where is your characters thinking things are going to go? What's the narrative that they're telling themselves, while you're plotting while you're God? doing all kinds of things to their lives? So in that sense, to give a little thought to this question, when you're thinking about coming up with a character when you're trying to come up with the specifics of a character, what are the what are they? What do they think about themselves? What's their image of themselves? And their story really their story of themselves. And and we certainly we do exist in a story, you know, we do that

Alex Ferrari 45:07
as a defense mechanism defense mechanism for our own sake, you know, just for us to be able to, to continue to it's a story stories are so powerful that we tell ourselves stories just so we can make sense of this insane thing called life. And I think that's one of the powers of story, it is a way for art in general is a way for us to process just being alive and just generally, so we're always looking for something to just grab on to and story is such a powerful thing. Would you agree with that?

Paul Gulino 45:36
Yeah, well, let me tell you some practical things for your students how to apply that. That was the first lesson that Frank Daniel, I mean, I have it in my notes from the first day of the first class was that your job as a screenwriter is to turn the audience into keen observers of detail, that you are going to give them clues. And when you give them the clues, you do it in such a way that they're going to anticipate where you're going. And once you've got them, anticipating where you're going, you got and you can do all kinds of things with that. And that idea was formula I studied with him in 79 to 82. Okay, in 1985, a theorist named David bordwell, actually took that idea. Now, he didn't get it from Frank Daniele, he did it himself. He came out with a book called narration in the fiction self. So there was a very influential narratology in the study of narrative in academic world, and he applied constructivist psychology to how we comprehend movies, that in other words, we're not sitting back in just absorbing, we're actively involved in anticipating. And that's how we go through life. I was telling you about how we assume things about the world. Well, I can give you clues. I could tell you a simple story now. And it's like that. Suppose I show you a movie. You're watching a movie, and in this movie, you have a man, and he goes to a flower shop. And he gets flowers, and he puts on the on the flowers, Happy anniversary, and he gets a box of chocolate, okay. And he's, he goes, he's heading home. Meanwhile, his wife gets up, you know, she gets herself all attractive, and negligee and all that, and at home. And then she gets out a gun. And she puts the gun in the drawer of the nightstand. Okay, so where are we going with it? I just tell you that much. You got a pretty good idea that he's planning to make love and she's planning to make war. Okay. That's how it's going to read. I can pretty much assume that there may be some people who think, well, I really have no idea what's going to happen. But I think most people are going to say, shit, he's have a lot of trouble. Okay, so then he comes home, and presents her with the flowers and chocolates, she reaches for the drawer opens it up and says Happy Anniversary that turns up. He's a gun collector. And this is the gun that he's been hoping for. And she's been saving for a year to get him this gun. Okay. We have a twist, we just, I just told two stories, the one you thought you were seeing and the one you're actually saying, right? That's all twisted. But I rely on giving you clues. And assuming that the audience is going to put them together. Now then I then she takes a piece of chocolate, she gets sick. And and then it turns out he poisoned stock. Okay. There's another trip, I give you that information. I just I decide what information to give you and what to withhold. And that's one of the things that Daniel mentioned. He said, there's really three questions when you're developing a story. When you're in the ideation stage, and you're trying to figure it out on the outline stage, be cheap. The three questions are of course, what is the main character want? What are they trying to avoid? Okay. The second is, what does the main character know? And what is the main character not know? And the third is what does the audience know? And what is the audience not know. And based on those three things that's going to determine how your story plays. And a story can be. It's, it's a difference between the story and the telling of the story are in narratology terms, terms, the narrative, which is the story and the narration, which is the telling of it. Another example I could give you. There's this there's this man, he's at the doctor, right? And he tells the doctor, I'm really worried about my wife. I think she's getting Harvard here. Okay. And, but I'm afraid to bring it up with her because she's concerned about you know, maybe she'd be offended. I'm getting older and all that sensitive to a doctor says very simple. Go home tonight. Get a certain distance away, talk to her in your normal voice and keep getting gradually closer until she can hear you. Right. And then you'll know if there's really a problem because if there's no problem, you'll know. So it goes home and she's over in the kitchen and he's in The living room, you know, the doors open. And he's sitting on the couch and he just says in his normal voice, darling, what's for dinner? Okay, so he gets up and he goes to the edge of the kitchen when the door is open, he says, normal voice, darling, what's for dinner? Nothing. So then he goes into the right into the kitchen. Darling, what's for dinner? Nothing. So finally it gets right behind her, and says, darling, what's for dinner? She says, for the fourth time chicken.

Like, alright, the story was a man is hard of hearing. But he thinks that his wife, who's hard of hearing, the doctor tells him to go home and do this test, he does a test, and then discovers that it's actually he's one of those artists here. If I tell it that way, you're not going to go, it's not going to go anywhere, right. But if I withhold certain information, I tell you the same story, but it plays differently. So that's one of the elements of constructivist psychology you can play with. And it's it's a, it's useful to realize, too, that audiences don't. When they go to a movie, they don't see a story they see seen at the scenes, and they construct the story based on the clues you give them in the team. That's all they ever see our feet, what they create the story in their minds. And knowing that you you realize you have this power that you can manipulate. Anyway, I'm sorry.

Alex Ferrari 51:30
The the the master of this of suspense, of course, is Mr. Hitchcock, which, and as you were saying the story I was thinking of psycho, which was a perfect example of that he played on the audience knowledge of Janet Lee as a big movie star. And they thought and they went down this road with her. And they're like, well, she's, I mean, obviously, she's the movie star. Nothing is going to happen to her. And 20 minutes in. She's gone. You know, sorry, spoiler spoiler alert, guys, she gets killed in the shower scene. Yeah, she gets killed in the shower scene. So now the audience has nobody to hold on to. And now they're handed over to this weird dude at the hotel motel. And now he becomes the main character in the middle which was completely revolutionary at the time and you know, West Craven did it again with the scream in a smaller way at the beginning of scream as well. They do that like just kill off the the but but the thing is that they carriage you along. And it was this whole narrative that he the whole narrative that he was talking about, like the money and she was running and then the cop pulls her over. And it was all Bs, is it he was completely leading them down the wrong way. Like, no, we're just gonna kill her. And now it's really about this. That's brilliant storytelling.

Paul Gulino 52:50
He played the audience. And I think that's a great example. I'm glad you brought up a great example about I know you had another guest though a while ago, and said, Carly glacius. I think he said he echoed what I what I think is that, if you if you think about rules, because you always hear here's the conversation. I hear the film school all the time. Because it's like, somebody we watch us a student film, and it's kind of underwhelming and somebody says not that are our students always have breakdowns,

Alex Ferrari 53:18
obviously. Obviously,

Paul Gulino 53:21
university for God's sake. All right. So somebody will say, Well, you know what, they really got to learn the rules, you know, filmmaking storytelling. And someone else would say, Yeah, but you got to break the rules. And then someone else will say that you're gonna learn the rules before you break the rules. And then somebody else will say, how about lunch? Let's go to lunch. I love it. You know, it just goes, this conversation never goes anywhere. Or I'll hear someone say, Well, he broke the rules. But he was Hitchcockian a breakthrough. What does that mean, that doesn't help you as a writer? Well, if you don't, instead of asking, what's the rule, ask what's the effect? See, if you follow the rules, and I've seen students do this, they'll follow every rule, and they want me to go like this. Hey, congratulations, you follow the rules? The rules don't apply to you. And they don't pay you. And, and following them means you're a follower. But if you ask, what's the effect of my choice, storytelling choice on the audience, then that puts me in the power position, I'm the one deciding the effect. And audiences do applaud, and they do pay for it. So think about what's the effect of what your choices are. So for example, with psycho is a good example of a schema, you just mentioned the schema if you have a major star, and audiences are used to seeing major stars in movies, and they're used to seeing them all the way through the movie, they may die at the end, but they're used to seeing them all the way through the movie. And the producers who paid money, a lot of money for that car, they want to wait to the movie to get their money's worth from it, then that's what the expectation is gonna be. So and another thing we talked about how audiences can To a main character, well, you use that as a way in a traditional drama, not like an ensemble, but it's a drama, like a traditional drama with a single protagonist, that that's where the audience connection. So you're going to keep them interested because that person is alive. Okay, so you have a lot of powerful things going on. And then, but then if you violate that, if you break that, like, like Scott did, the question isn't, he was bad because he broke a rule, it's hard to get away with that. He didn't have the connection to the main character sustained audience interest through the movie. So what did he do instead? And what he did you mentioned, he dwelled and he did it intentionally. He dwelled for a long time on getting the base to cover it up. And he really took a long time, they could have just caught away, and it's all cleaned up. But he washed it out. And he's cleaning it up. And he's doing this and he's barely putting the body in there. And it's now by that time, we've connected to somebody and we've connected to a young man who's desperately trying to cover up something his mother dead. That's the story. And we're or

Alex Ferrari 56:15
is it? Or

Paul Gulino 56:17
is it a path? What do you know what you think? And I'll give you one more example of the of how, you know the contrast between following rules and, and going for effect, okay. Let's say you wanted to write a book about how to tell a mathema joke, right? What would you do, you would go around inside every Knock Knock joke you could find. And you would come to some general conclusions about it, you would write the book, and you would say, in order to tell a mathematic joke, you have to have you start out by saying Knock knock, the other person will say who's there? Then you give a partial answer. And then they say partial answer who would repeat it back? And then you give the full answer with a choice. That's how you do it. Those are the rules. Okay, so let me let me try this. Knock, knock.

Alex Ferrari 57:08
Who's there?

Paul Gulino 57:10
control freak. Okay. Now, here's what you say, control freak who think that, right? I just broke the rules. But I didn't. What the effect I wanted was a laugh, not talk rules. So I relied on the team of Knock Knock joke, to get the effect I wanted, which was the laugh rather than to simply deliver another knock that joke of a different Thank you. But so this is the world of prank Danielle got me into which is playing games with the audience. And ultimately, strategizing on how to keep the audience wondering what's going to happen next. And if you can do that, if you know how to do that. You can do anything with them in a feature film. And you can pivot into streaming, you can pivot into stage, one x 10 minute plays, what it doesn't matter, you understand what, how to grab them and how to keep them, it puts you in a real power position. So we were not taught, like, by page 30. This by date 60. This by page 90, they weren't really taught that or we were discouraged from following formula. Actually, the one formula we were told to follow was stories about exciting people told in an exciting way. You know, if you if you use that formula, you're asking the right questions, what's an exciting character? And what is how do you tell that story? That way? It doesn't mean that you're not going to see the patterns, because often you will. And if you don't have any other resource I know, I know a really successful very good writer who learned from fifield says read the book, and she's done one and I'm saying I've analyzed the films for the class, and they're like, terrific. So it's a tool that can help you. We were just taught in a different world where you're thinking about how it's affecting your audience. And yes, we Frank Danielle, did the three act structure that I hear people say well Sinfield give up a three act structure. There was actually a book that came out the year before screenplay that espouse the three act structure, but it just didn't catch on. I forget what it was called. But Frank, Danielle 79 has been talking about it for years. And, of course, you can trace it, you can trace it to Aristotle. It's it becomes explicit. There's a book called playmaking by Archer to get the guy's first name came out in 1901. Lightning, and he described essentially a three act structure. He said plays tend to be five acts, but it really three, you know, set up developing resolution. It's been around a while, but as I say, it's really we, the way I approached it, it's a tool for getting up into this mode of hope and fear, which is what sustains our interest. And then you go from there. So if you want to use that tool, use it.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:10
Your brain, it's exactly what you're saying is like, if it works for the outcome that you're trying to achieve, then use it if you want to use a hammer, or if you want to use an iPhone to get that that nail in the into the wood while you're building the house. It's your choice, one tool probably will do it better than the other. And is that less expensive, but whatever works for you, that makes sense for you and what you're trying to achieve. You should use I'm not sure if that analogy works or not. But

Paul Gulino 1:00:38
yeah, well, I mean, if you want to destroy your iPhone, then that's what you you use the iPhone or the hammer, you know, the hammer, you say for other jobs, right? Maybe a hammer

Alex Ferrari 1:00:49
or a wrench, let's say a wrench, you could use a wrench to get it in as opposed to a hammer. But the hammer is better prepared to you know, better built to do some kind of job. So I think all these tools, all these methods, all these techniques that all of these authors and gurus and and just teachers from throughout history have thrown on us. That's exactly what they are their tools, their techniques, and they put them in your toolbox and you bring them out to achieve the what you achieve what you want to achieve. Yeah,

Paul Gulino 1:01:21
yeah. And there's other tools too, that I've talked about with the students that that I've noticed filmmakers use to keep us wondering what's coming up next. And sometimes you can sustain a whole movie with him. Sometimes you really can't you need to help other tools. But something like what Frank Tanja used to call advertising, I don't like that term, I use telegraphing. It's essentially telling the audience literally where the show was going. Because a drama, unlike a novel, novel have usually there happened in the past, you got a narrator that tells you drama, since Greek times was something that was about to happen right in front of you. And they were both they've been written to the present tense their instructions for actor and that set people about what to do for something you're going to create right in front of the audience. And so it's particularly important to keep the audience attention in the future anticipating and so you can have something called an appointment. You've seen it use a movie, you know, Micha Jerry's use a terrier five o'clock. Yeah. And then because film is selected, you don't just turn the camera on and run it, you cut to different places, when you arrive at Jerry's carrier, the that confused about that? You know, you don't know, you know why you're there. So you maintain anticipation. And also, you're not coherent. Another one that can be used as a deadline, called a deadline, or a ticking clock, you know, you've got five days to bring the Duke back, you know, by midnight Friday, or you're uncooked, you know, that, you do that. And it's done in toy store. You mean from the get go? These guys knew what they were doing the original one. It's the birth, the move is in a week. Right? So we know that we have one week that this story is going to take place in a week. And that helps us because we've all I think have the experience of being in a movie where you thought it was over. And then it just keeps going. keeps going.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:25
That would be the end of Lord of Rings, Lord of the Rings, eight endings, and we're just like, Are you kidding me? Peter, come on, let's move on.

Paul Gulino 1:03:34
Yeah, I remember I had a friend a bunch of us, like we're teenagers went to the, to the opening of the first one, you know, get together in the theater, a bunch of colleagues, and one of them had, just before the movie started, you got one of the big Gulf waters. But you know, I said, You're not gonna make it. There's no intermission. I was right. Anyway. See, the problem is that the filmmaker hasn't signaled properly when the big moment is because we do emotionally save ourselves for these big moments. And so a deadline can help with that. But you put a framework around it. The one that I like the example I like to give it. But instead American Beauty where it starts out with a year I'll be dead. Right? There the deadline for you. Yep. So what it does is it it lets us it lets the audience relax and not wonder where this is going. You don't want to be wondering where it's going. You want them to be anticipate. So if you tell them where it's going, Okay, let's get there. Yeah. And

Alex Ferrari 1:04:27
that's what it's like. So American Beauty is a great example. I love doing this with movies. I did it with my, my, my last movie I directed, where I show a scene that's far from inside the movie closer to the end, at the very beginning to let everybody know, Oh, hell, this is gonna we're in for a treat. And you're waiting for like, you know, either there's a meltdown or a murder or something happens. And you know, it's not a surprise that there's a murder. We all know that someone's going to get killed, but like, who did it and when are we going to get to that point and now Now you're on the ride with him. So I love that technique as

Paul Gulino 1:05:05
Sunset Boulevard with my students.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:09
It's a great player. I mean, if you remember the player, there's so many of those, that technique is so powerful. If you do it properly, you you show that that little bit of information at the beginning you're like, what do you mean someone's gonna die like and then all your into now you're completely connected to these characters? Like, when am I going to see that? When am I going to see the tiger come out? This is basically where we've, we've been informed that the tiger is there. And he killed somebody. And we're like, Where is the tiger? When is this? When is the hammer gonna drop? And I love that I love speaking of suspense, because again, I'm a huge Hitchcock Hitchcock fan, and I never, I've never heard anyone Express explain suspense better than Hitchcock. Which is the the bomb underneath the underneath the table? Can you tell that story?

Paul Gulino 1:05:57
Oh, yeah, that's the idea is that you can stay in suspense longer than surprised, is the effect of surprises. 15 seconds, I think. suspense, maybe 15 minutes. So the difference would be that if you have two people sitting in a cafe talking, and then a bomb blows up, okay, you have a shock effect. But if you reveal to the audience, ahead of time that there's a bomb under the table, then every line of dialogue is imbued with this dramatic irony. And every line of dialogue has a double meaning. I mean, when somebody says, Do you think I should get another coffee? Well, I'm not sure you know, I'm tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Suddenly, that innocuous line has a huge impact. And that's another one of the tools is dramatic irony. I have to let my students know, you know, the characters don't have to know everything all the time. You can, you know, reveal things and just not them see certain things.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:55
But what was the big rule? But what was the big rule that Hitchcock said that you cannot break when doing that technique? Do

you remember?

Paul Gulino 1:07:03
Oh, no.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:05
So the technique of suspense is he goes, he did it once in a movie, and the audience was very, very angry at him, which is you show them the bomb, and it's ticking. But under no circumstances can that bomb go off and kill the characters? You cannot let that happen. He goes, because the audience will be very angry with you. If you kill them actually, like surprise, that's fine. But if you tell and you torture them for 15 minutes, and then you still kill them, then you lose the audience. And I was like, that's it. He was he did it in one of his early movies. I forgot his foreign correspondent or something like that, where there was a bomb on the on the bus. And we knew the bomb was on the bus and it was ticking and it blew up. And everyone was like, No, no, no, no, no, no, no, you can't. There's a contract. There's a contract. We have an agreement here. You can't do something like that. So you know, that's a rule that I haven't seen broken very often. I mean, in a suspenseful situation. in that specific scenario, you can't blow up the characters. You just can't.

Paul Gulino 1:08:05
Yeah. Because you know, I happen to have a script right now that I'm working on, where I killed out characters, I'm gonna change that change it

Alex Ferrari 1:08:12
right away. Mr. Hitchcock said, No, I'm gonna ask you a few questions, because I could keep talking to you, Paul, for about another two, three hours. But I know you're busy man. You've got fresh minds, you have fresh minds to teach. So I want to

Paul Gulino 1:08:26
I want to say one more thing about the deadline thing. There are a couple of movies that they do that you I've seen that sustain an audience interest and those primarily through that purpose through that means one of them was The Hurt Locker. Now that's a that's a huge I don't know if you saw that. But it's a countdown. So the screenwriter there is he seems to be able to write these micro realistic scenes were very vivid. But it freed him to just explore these different situations. As long as we're reminded once in a while that we're ticking down to day zero. And we know it's going somewhere. So we

Alex Ferrari 1:09:03
like high noon, like High Noon eventually. Yeah,

Paul Gulino 1:09:05
I do another one 500 Days of Summer didn't go exactly North but eventually when you know that when you get to 499 the movies almost so you know or Julia Julia You know, there was Yeah, different recipe every day when you get the recipe 350 we're close to being at the end. So you can do that to frame things and then it frees you to to explore other kinds of drama. Anyway, okay,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:31
it is a it's a kind of roadmap for the audience like at the end of it like at 12 o'clock all Hell's gonna break loose at 365 recipes. We're pretty much gonna be close to the end of this thing. So it's kind of

Paul Gulino 1:09:46
chocolate cake by that point. You know the really rich prospect but perfect.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:50
So perfect example with Julia Julia which I love that movie. By the way, imagine if you've made that agreement with the audience at the beginning and at the at the at the A 365 she's like, you know, there's another book I'm gonna do and you go on and like, and that's like, and you just, she's just like, you know, I want to do another blog, and I'm just gonna end that's in the movie keeps going. Can you imagine that movie would be horrible? You'd be like, No, no, no, no, we there was an agreement here. You can break that you can break that agreement here and there. But you've got to be careful with how you do it. You know what I mean? That may suffer. But I could just thinking how horrible that movie would be. Like, let's say high noon, at noon, they're like, four o'clock. We're just not we're

Paul Gulino 1:10:32
a bit late, right?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:35
Where we did a shoot out here, but there's three other guys coming at four. So we're just gonna keep going. Like you can't.

Paul Gulino 1:10:45
You've got to keep that promise or people will turn on you without question.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:50
So I'm going to ask you a few. A few questions. I asked all my guests and what's specific to you? That I've never asked before the show and I want to I'm going to start asking all of my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read

Paul Gulino 1:11:03
three screenplays that every screenwriter should read? Boy. You know what I so closely identify the screenplay with the movie button, you know the style of like, I consider Billy Wilder like the guy who could teach me any of his movies. It's like a textbook on how to write a screenplay. But the screenplays that he was writing, were done. They were called continuity. And this thought was very different. Or Preston Sturges I love Preston circus. Yeah, if you're going to read a screenplay and really enjoy it, any of the Preston Sturges comedies from the early 40s will get you there.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:45
And also of his travels, also of his truck, yes.

Paul Gulino 1:11:48
All right. But just be prepared that it's not going to be in the master sequence, Master scene format, it's going to be in the continuity with the sequences marked, you know, sequences a through whatever they were doing. Okay, the screenplays that I've loved, if there's the one screenplay, and one of my favorite movies, is called trouble in paradise. Number 1932, the first talkie romantic comedy, and arguably still the best one. And it's in. It's in a book called three screen comedies by Samson raphaelson. So you can actually get that book and read that and I happened to read that script before I saw the movie because the movie was finished when I was young, you know, we didn't have VHS, we couldn't get the movie. It was tied up somewhere. So I had to record. But but that script was so you can see this students every step of the function. See this? It's, it was one of these, it's one of my pet peeves about a lot of films I see nowadays. It's about how the third act is like, usually too predictable, because there's a misunderstanding of what the third act is. But that's another podcast. But in this one, for example, what is that I'm reading this and I'm turning the pages of this comedy. And I have no idea how they're gonna solve this problem. I think that's it. Yeah. It's like, all these different elements are coming into play. It's like, no, there is no way for this guy to get out of here. You know, it's not even can you run faster or jump higher. It's like, running faster jumping. That's not going to even help out here. He's, like, trapped anyway. So that's raphaelson one of Raphael Sims, Billy Wilder. Double Indemnity is a terrific one. Because you can learn about indirection with a dialogue. You know, what a lot of people call subtext, I use a slightly different term. But how the characters are speaking metaphorically. So they don't have to reveal what there really, is there. Is

Alex Ferrari 1:13:47
there any movies in the last, let's say 20 years in the 2000s? that that that screenplay, you're like, man, you've got to read this.

Paul Gulino 1:13:57
I don't know if I've, I've seen some good, obviously, some really good movies, but I scripts I've read no recent movies that I read recently anymore. Which kind of breaks the rules a little bit is in Bruce. I'd like to show that after I show a classic like Toy Story. I mean, I've read the script. It's a great script to read. But it's I think it's a conforming script. It's one that they wrote after the the animation is a little different. They when they get to the end, then they write the script that is that maybe the you know the stars are gonna actually read because it's linked up to that thing, but that's alright, that's 25 years ago now that was

Alex Ferrari 1:14:39
fair enough. You know, I don't want to put you on the spot. It's fine.

Paul Gulino 1:14:42
But I've read know the in Bruges is very literate. I liked it. But he I'd say the script was flawed compared to the movie because the the I think it was interesting.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:53
It's always interesting. Sometimes the script is so much better than movie and sometimes the movie is so much better than the script. Right? He

Paul Gulino 1:14:59
definitely cut Some things out of there just like Well, everybody does. I mean, I don't even know if you know if you know, Sunset Boulevard, there was an opening there that was cut out. Did you know that? No, I didn't. Yeah, it starts out in the morgue. With him talking to the other dead bodies. I'll explain. Well, how'd you get here? Well, I'll tell you my story. And when they test screened if they shot it, when they test screened it, they found out that people were laughing too hard. And then they didn't know how to take the rest of the movie. They thought it was straight up comedy. Well, I

Alex Ferrari 1:15:29
mean, they said to a body talking to other bodies, and yeah, I mean, right.

Paul Gulino 1:15:34
So that you can read the script, I think, no, I'd never read. I'd never got to read that version of the script. But anyway, in bruises, very literate. That's a good script to read, I think. But, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:15:49
that's plenty good ones. That's, that's plenty. That's plenty of homework for everybody.

Paul Gulino 1:15:54
Okay. Now, what

Alex Ferrari 1:15:55
advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Paul Gulino 1:16:00
Yeah, well, that is probably going to sound familiar to you and the other guests, but obviously reading screenplays, I've you asked about reading screenplays, I have read that many lately. But when I was when I was younger, when I was learning, that's what you do. You have to read the screenplays and find out how they read and what, you know, how things are expressed. So you read a lot of those, and then you write them. And you just keep writing. And I am the the persuasion that you write what you're really passionate about without concern about marketability. I mean, yes, you wanted to connect with people. But the there's another teacher I've heard interviewed, named, let's see, he talks about the Pitch Perfect, authentic script, that's the term he uses. I think it's a great term. The pitch perfect, authentic script. That's the one that's very unique that the the that is really your original voice that connects with people that don't be afraid of that, you know, write the things that are really exciting to you. And so doing that, and then just again, the same in history that's opened up you're talking about, I'm encouraging the screenwriters to take initiative and make their stuff. Make Yes,

Alex Ferrari 1:17:22
yeah. And nowadays, you definitely have the power to do so.

Paul Gulino 1:17:26
You if you wanted to do it in 1965, the other 260 millimeter black and white, think, sound and pray. And now you can choose something that they can't really tell Is it done with a million bucks, and you make it look good. Now you can look, don't worry about the gatekeepers to it, and you are going to learn and I'm doing a class though experimental class where the students were all writing queries, you know, the could be thing with five that we're doing five to seven minutes, they're doing seven to 15 minutes. But each student Right, right, seven minutes of a, of a continuing story that we're trying to the audience, and then we shoot it in January and see if it plays, you know, and get them. My hope is that, eventually develop it in a way that students leave film school with a credit on something that people maybe have seen. You can, right now the model of film school is make a short film, send it to festivals and pray because there's a market for short films in 100 years, it went out in the teens, when we went into features and cereal. The original cereals were actually what we call babies, now, they're about 1520 minute episodes. And that's what we're going to come back to that they can go they can do that, and have something marketable anyway, that that suggestion would be good to go, you could still do these things and and i think you get recognized that way and draw attention to yourself. And I do think this great many opportunities now than there ever was.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:59
What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Paul Gulino 1:19:06
Okay, so given that, the without trying to sound mysterious, it's understanding that you can, you can be living two lives when you think you're living in the one you're in. You know that you will learn this lesson that something you thought you knew you didn't really know. And that it you reassess how you how you understand saying, No.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:34
Now what did you learn from your biggest failure?

Paul Gulino 1:19:39
Learn from my biggest Oh, I'd like to tell you, I've had plenty of those. So I mean, this is a rich experience. same person I like. You've heard of the Duke of Wellington, the guy that beat Napoleon. He has a quote that I like to use frequently. If he wasn't always a winner. He had this disastrous campaign. paid in Spain a few years before he beat Napoleon, the Waterloo. And he commented on it. He said, Well, I learned what not to do. And that's always something. And the biggest lesson that I've learned from that he said from a failure,

Alex Ferrari 1:20:18
yeah, what's the What? What did you learn from your biggest failure?

Paul Gulino 1:20:22
I learned my biggest failure to, I guess the biggest thing would be to relax and focus on what you really want to make. And, and, and do that, you know, because I remember the experience was that out of film school, I developed a thesis screenplay, you know, and it actually got recognition. And it got me a William Morris agent. And I was like, this is really great. I'm on my way. But then, when that didn't sell, you know, he was like, Hey, what's the next project? And suddenly, I was in a different world, because I felt like they were watching me, like, and I was being I was trying to create, under these circumstances of desperately, you know, and it changed my process, I didn't know enough to just say, whatever, I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do, and you'll like it or not. So that that was a failure. That was an opportunity that was met. And it was.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:22
Now what was the what was the fear that you had to overcome to write your first screenplay? Was that big fear that you had to overcome?

Paul Gulino 1:21:31
Oh, the biggest fear to overcome when I was writing that first screenplay, I suppose whether I had enough story, you know, remember, I was under the guidance of a master? Who is that, you know, factor that was not only a teacher, he did produce and write a lot of films in Czechoslovakia and one Academy Award for shop on Main Street 1965. But there's certain decades, so we actually knew the process inside and outside. So I had that, that guy, but still, when I'm just when you're just trying to when I was just trying to get ideas together about how I would do this. You know, what sort of story there I suppose that that might have been it.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:17
Okay. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Paul Gulino 1:22:22
That one, you know that that kind of changes? Depends every day? Ah, I am with it. But I would certainly put the trouble in paradise. Up there. It's defining that movie. Yeah, put it on. I'll watch it again. You know, that kind of movie? I certainly, what else? I mean, there's so many amazing ones. I did, I really think from the point of view of pure craftsmanship, took the first toy stories is a remarkable accomplishment. I was actually invited to give a lecture at Disney Animation a little while ago. And guess what I use that movie. I said, I don't know what process they used to work this. But here, I'm going to show you what they were doing. And it's just in 80 minutes, you know, the stuff that they did? What else if I may I love Lawrence of Arabia. That's another textbook

Alex Ferrari 1:23:23
of cinema in general,

Paul Gulino 1:23:24
a seven month period. I guess that dates me a little older films, but that's dead. So

Alex Ferrari 1:23:32
those are three good ones. Yes, three good ones they've been on the show before. So it's except for trouble in paradise. It is the first time that's been on the show. So but you have very good choices.

Paul Gulino 1:23:41
Now, I gotta tell you problem paradise, written by a guy named Samson raphaelson. I had a chance when I was in college, to take a class with him. He was at he was 80 years old. When he was teaching that class, they would come in with his wife. He was a part of hearing, you know, he would help him a little bit. And he the first class he told us don't think that you're going to you know, get any industry contacts from me because everyone I know is dead.

Alex Ferrari 1:24:13
Right? Why line? That's great. All right. I plan to I plan to do I plan to use that in about 40 years, 40 or 50 years. Now, where can people find you and find out about your work and the books you've written?

Paul Gulino 1:24:31
Well, I the first book I had, which seems to have legs that came out 15 years ago, but it's called the screenwriting, the sequence approach. And we haven't talked much about that, but it's a technique that I learned from Frank Danielle, that one is available. Then the new one is called the science of screenwriting by Tony shares of me and then my website is called right sequence calm Okay, all one word of it, you know for people want to learn more. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:25:06
it has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show my friend. Thank you so much. You have dropped multiple knowledge bombs today, sir.

Paul Gulino 1:25:13
Okay. But they're peaceful, right? They're positive.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:17
They're positive bombs. They're very positive good information bombs. So thanks again for being on the show, my friend. I appreciate it.

Paul Gulino 1:25:23
Thank you. Take care. Talk to you soon.



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Top Filmmaking Podcasts: Oscar® Winners & Nominees

The Indie Film Hustle Podcast has been blessed to have the opportunity to speak to many Oscar® winners and nominees. These craftsmen and women had amazing insight into what it takes to make it to the top of the filmmaking craft. Enjoy these remarkable conversations, and we hope to see you at the Oscar®, too, one day.

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Oliver Stone

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Get ready to have your mind blown! I’ll be releasing a 3-Part Limited Series of conversations between the legendary screenwriter James V. Hart, the writer of Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, and Tomb Raider, just to name a few, and some of the top screenwriters in the game.

First up is the screenwriter that took the world by storm with his Oscar-Winning screenplay Get Out, Jordan Peele. If you have been living under a rock for the past few years, here is what the film is about.

This was recorded before Jordan’s next hit film, Us, was released. Listening to these two masters discuss character, plot, theme, and more is a rare treat. It’s like being a fly on the wall. When you are done listening to this conversation, you can read some of Jordan’s screenplay here.

Damien Chazelle

Today on the show, we have Damien Chazelle, the Oscar® Winning director and screenwriter of La La Land. He burst onto the scene with his debut film Whiplash. The film is about a young musician (Teller) struggling to become a top jazz drummer under a ruthless band conductor (Simmons).

James and Damien discuss how he wrote and structured La La Land and much more. Enjoy this rare conversation between James V. Hart and Damien Chazelle.


Jason Blum

I’m excited to talk to a fellow low-budget independent filmmaker today. Granted, he does low-budget films on a completely different level than I or most people do at this point. But if we are going to talk about budget filmmaking, it is only fitting to have expert horror film and television producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions.

That is a testament to his company’s high-quality production. Blumhouse is known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films and provocative television series. They have produced over 150 movies and television series with theatrical grosses amounting to over $4.8 billion.

Chris Moore

Every once in a while, I have a conversation on this show that blows my mind; this episode did just that. Today on the show, we have Oscar® Nominated producer Chris Moore. He produced films like Good Will Hunting, American Pie, Waiting, The Adjustment Bureau, and Manchester by the Sea. Chris’ profile grew from his appearance as the producer on the early 2000’s filmmaker reality show Project: Greenlight.

After graduating from college, Chris Moore moved to Los Angeles after working in a major agency’s mailroom; he got promoted to a literary agent. He championed projects like The Stoned Age, PCU, Airheads, Last Action Hero, and My Girl. 

When ICM acquired Chris’ agency, he left and became an indie film producer. With some friends, he raised the budget to produce the indie film Glory Daze, which starred an unknown Matt Damon. Damon turned down the leading role in favor of paid work on another paid project but introduced him to his friend Ben Affleck, who ultimately starred in Glory Daze.

Afterward, Affleck and Damon wrote the screenplay for what would become the Oscar® winning Good Will Hunting, and they asked Chris to help them produce the film that Gus Van Sant directed.

Chris and I had a remarkable conversation about how to produce films in today’s eco-system. We also discuss what it’s like working in the studio system, some of his issues with the system, how filmmakers are treated, and so much more. This an EPIC 2-hour conversation full of knowledge and truth bombs, so prepare to take some notes.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris Moore.

Gary W. Goldstein

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

Pretty Woman was most of your introduction to Gary’s work, but mine was Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. I know. After all these years, the title still makes me chuckle. Years later, I would reference the title to people. And in case you were curious, Gary goes into the movie title origin story in this interview.

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

In 2013 he authored Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success, which is a compilation of strategies to help anyone, whether looking to sell a spec script, option a screenplay, land a writing assignment, and get hired, attract an agent or manager of your dreams…or get a producer to take a meeting with you. Gary blessed us with knowledge bombs in this interview, including tips on entrepreneurship and film as a business. Enjoy my conversation with Gary Goldstein.

David Permut

The first interviewee in my Sundance Film Festival Interview Series is legendary producer David Permut. David has produced almost 40 feature films in the course of his career. From Blind Date and Dragnet to Face/Off and the Oscar® Nominated Hacksaw Ridge. His new film, The Polka King starring Jack Black,  just got released on Netflix.

Enjoy my interview with David Permut.

Marshall Herskovitz

Our guest today is producer, director, and screenwriter Marshall Herskovitz. Many of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking collaborator, Edward Zwick, whose films he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.


Billy Crystal 

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

Edward James Olmos

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

Robert Forster

This week we are joined by legendary actor Robert Forster. Robert has been a working actor for decades, appearing in classic films 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 flix), and 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.


Jeff Cronenweth A.S.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dean Cundey A.S.C

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

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

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

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

Russell Carpenter A.S.C

I can’t tell you how excited I am about today’s guest. I sat down with the legendary and Oscar® Winning Cinematographer Russell Carpenter A.S.C. Russell has been shooting blockbusters for over 40 years and has shot films like Ant-Man,  xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Charlie’s Angels, The Negotiator, True Lies, Monster-in-Law and classic 90’s action flicks like Hard Target, The Perfect Weapon, and Death Warrant. He just finished Avatar 2: The Way of Water.

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

Erik Messerschmidt A.S.C

Award-winning director of photography Erik Messerschmidt, ASC, has a natural eye for arresting and spellbinding images, thriving in a role that allows him to combine his love of art, craft, and science. Recently, he lensed Devotion for director J.D. Dillard, based on the real-life story of a Black naval officer who befriends a white naval officer during the Korean War, with both becoming heroes for their selfless acts of bravery.

He also is currently shooting Michael Mann’s biographical film Ferrari, starring Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, and Penélope Cruz, and recently completed shooting David Fincher’s The Killer, starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton.

Janty Yates

Today on the show, we have Oscar® winning costume designer Janty Yates. Janty Yates has had a collaborative relationship with Ridley Scott since the great success of Gladiator in 2000, for which she won an Academy Award®, one of the eight Oscars® garnered by the film.

IFH 653: Dropping Acid & Winning an Oscar® with Ghost Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin

At age five, Bruce Rubin had a spiritual experience playing in a sandbox in the middle of the afternoon. The sun disappeared, and a dense night sky appeared in its place. Infinite galaxies were swirling in the vastness of his own head, and he sensed the entire universe was contained within him.
He knew instantly he was one with all there was. In the years that followed, Bruce became an Oscar-winning screenwriter, a spiritual teacher, and, most recently, a photographer. Each aspect of his life has been a conscious effort to explore and reveal what he learned in that sandbox.

Bruce was born in the middle of WWII and raised in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Sondra and Jimmy Rubin. He has a younger brother and sister, Gary and Marci. There was very little remarkable about him. He wanted to be an actor, writer, and director but had no talent to speak of.
In 1965 he took a massive (and accidental) overdose of LSD and began a journey that lasted between 3 and 4 billion years. When he returned, he knew he would have stories to tell. He also knew he needed to find a teacher, so he hitchhiked around the world for nearly two years in search of one.
After living in ashrams in India and in a Tibetan monastery in Kathmandu, he met his teacher Rudi in New York City just blocks from where he had begun his journey. Rudi taught a meditation practice that became the foundation for Bruce’s spiritual life. He has meditated every day since. 
Bruce’s screenwriting career began late in his life. Earlier, he had been an assistant film editor for the NBC Nightly News and Curator and Head of the Film Department at the Whitney Museum in New York. When Rudi died, Bruce gave up his museum career to continue his spiritual practice with a disciple of Rudi’s in Bloomington, Indiana.
While there, he was also writing movies, twice locking himself in a hotel room and refusing to emerge without a finished script. He also began teaching meditation to an expanding community of fellow seekers and continues holding classes to this day.
After 44 years of daily meditation, Bruce experienced what is referred to as a spiritual awakening. For him, it was a revelation that no one could awaken. The illusion of a separate ego dissolved and left him in a state of extraordinary emptiness and inexplicable expansion. It was a profound step in a journey that began in a sandbox and continues to this moment.
Bruce continues to share his evolving experience with his students. His talks can be found on YouTube and on his site. Recently, he also discovered photography as an unexpected opportunity for communicating his spiritual vision.
The result of always having an iPhone in his pocket, he describes this new phase in his creative life as the discovery of seeing. As Bruce explains, “The mystery and magic of the world are not hidden. It is under our feet, on old walls, and in rusting garbage cans. The beauty, the wonder, never ends.”

Please enjoy my conversation with Bruce Joel Rubin.

Originally aired on my other show, the Next Level Soul Podcast with Alex Ferrari. What is NLS?

Next Level Soul founder Alex Ferrari is a #1 best-selling author, podcaster, speaker, conscious entrepreneur, and award-winning filmmaker. His industry-leading podcasts, the Webby award-nominated Indie Film Hustle, and Bulletproof Screenwriting, have been downloaded 30 million+ times collectively.

He has had the pleasure of speaking to icons like Oscar® Winner Oliver Stone and Billy Crystal, music legends like Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) and Moby (Grammy® Award Winning Music Icon), actors like Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3), Edward Burns (Saving Private Ryan) and Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), thought leaders like Rich Roll (Best-Selling Author & Ultra Endurance Athlete), 2X Noble Prize Nominee Dr. Ervin Laszlo, Mindvalley Founder Vishen Lakhiani, and New York Times Best-Selling authors Dan Millman (The Way of the Peaceful Warrior), Neale Donald Walsh (Conversations with God), Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief), Gregg Braden (The Wisdom Codes) Dr. Eben Alexander (Proof of Heaven) and Dr. Raymond Moody (Life After Life).

Alex always asked the big questions; Why are we here? Is this all there is? What is my soul’s mission in this life? He developed Next Level Soul to help people worldwide get closer to their higher power and look inward for the answers they are searching for.

The Next Level Soul Podcast discusses all aspects of life’s journey; Spirituality, Mindset, Relationships, Health & Wellness, Longevity, Creativity, Business, Entrepreneurship, and Money.

We help answer those questions by having raw and inspiring conversations with some of the most fascinating and thought-provoking guests on the planet today.

Learn more at Next Level Soul Podcast with Alex Ferrari

Alex Ferrari 0:28
I like to welcome to the show, Bruce Joel Rubin. How you doing, Bruce?

Bruce Joel Rubin 0:32
Great thanks Alex doing well.

Alex Ferrari 0:34
Thank you so much for coming on the show, my friend. I'm very excited to talk to you. I mean, I, obviously I've been a fan of your work in the film industry with the films that you've written and directed and been part of, but also, I'm excited about your spiritual path and where you've been going with that throughout your life as well. So, but my very first question I have to ask you is what? How did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Bruce Joel Rubin 1:00
Um, I don't think I knew that exactly. I had a bit of a skill set. I know, I was reading poetry and fourth or fifth grade, and my mother would read it to my aunt's and they would go, Oh, this is wonderful. And I would feel, you know, filled up by that. But I know I didn't know that I kind of loved theater from a very young age. And I kind of got interested in movies. If I was four years old, but I didn't see film as an art form until I was in high school. I saw you know, the magician seven or magician seven seal, bear in mind, and then some Antonioni, etc. And I realized it was probably worthy. And, and then I just felt, I would like to make movies writing movies was like a doorway to making movies. But there's a whole other step from writing movies to directing movies, or forget writing, just go right to directing. And I have a lot of friends who did that. But I really, I found the doorway for me was a writers door.

Alex Ferrari 1:58
Now, how did you break into Hollywood? Because even in the 80s, little, I would imagine was a bit easier than it is today. But it was still hard.

Bruce Joel Rubin 2:08
I don't know that there's a doorway to Hollywood, I've always told people you have to go through the crack underneath the door, you know, not open for anybody really? I don't know. I mean, I didn't really get a career going until I was in my 40s. So there was no easy path at all. I just, I think the biggest problem, and this is not mine alone is most people's is, what do I write about? What's what's my subject? What's my story? What do I have to say to people, and if it's only that I want to be rich and famous and a Hollywood celebrity, well, you know, take any path you want, in a way. But if, if you have something more than that going on, then then that's, that's different than you then you have a story you have to begin to imbibe, in a sense. And my story kind of arrived in the 60s, my, my roommate, was a very good friend of Timothy Leary, and would go up to Millbrook on a regular basis and do LSD and persuaded me that I should try LSD, SS 1964. And five, I can 65. And he gave me a very big tablet. And he said, When the right night is happens, let me know. And I said, you know, Barry, today's the day, I'm going to do it. And interestingly enough on that very day, the man who brings Timothy Leary, that pure LSD from Sandoz laboratories and Switzerland, arrived in New York City and came to my apartment. And he asked Barry, could he leave this jar of pure acid, LSD, Lysergic acid in my refrigerator overnight before they all went up to Millbrook and Tim Leary. And Barry said, Sure, you can kind of tell where the store is going. Quick and Dirty of it is, I took the 65 milligrams of Berry gave me for a big hit of a trip and nothing happened. So he said, Well, we just happened to have this jar in the refrigerator, and he got a dropper, and he went to give me a drop anyway. And the whole eyedropper 1000s of milligrams of shooting down my throat. And I knew at that moment that there was nothing I could do about it at all. And so somewhere during the next three to 4 billion years, I don't know exactly. I went on a journey that was was remarkable on every level. And I could spend your whole program talking about that, but I won't.

Alex Ferrari 4:40
Please dive in a little bit though, please. I want to Yes,

Bruce Joel Rubin 4:43
Well, it's just the disintegration of everything you know and believe, including who you are, what you are, that you have a life that you have a body that you are existent, separate from anything else. You connect to the big boys to the to the bigger picture in a really massive way and And then you I thought I was dead, I thought I, there was nothing, there was literally nothing left. And then in the middle of nothing, which is also timeless and spaceless, something happened that I can only describe as a kind of impregnation, something dropped into whatever I was, and I divided in half quarters eight sixteenths on and on. And the next thing I know, my fingernail and part of the room is coming back and my elbow and my head and the space I was in, and then this whole thing reconfigured itself in a huge way. And it was completely back to where I had been. And I started laughing and roaring with laughter. And I said, Why am I back, and this voice clear as day and I wouldn't say it was loud, but it was pretty instructive. It said, your back to tell people what you saw. And then I spent the next however many years trying to figure out what it was, I'd had sing, I was given a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu song of God, which is an approach to mystical experience. And I discovered, of course, the Tibetan version of that, and then the Judeo Christian versions and Muslim versions, and there was a worldwide network of people with mystical experience I gathered that was my experience in a way that I could begin to grasp with my mind, but what had happened was so beyond mind, and, and I didn't quite know what to do with it. And I began, I hitchhiked around the world for a year and a half. I had a job as a filmmaker, editor at NBC News, I gave that up. And I decided I had to go to India, with a long stop in Greece, before I went, where I was just reading everything in sight of these books aren't doing it. So I continued, you know, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India. I mean, I went this long route, which was wonderful and informative and essential. And somewhere in the middle of Afghanistan, I had a dream that said, you have to make a masterpiece. I had no idea what that meant, or how I would even know if that ever had happened. But it was like a requirement. Then I came back. Well, long story goes on and on. I ended up in Japan having not found anything I thought would be a teacher. I had met with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama for a day trying, thinking I was going to tell him because he was going to talk to the UN what what the Western concepts were of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism and how ShangriLa like it was going to be but he was so far ahead of me. And in the end, we talked and talked and he was he offered to be my teacher. And I went you know, I just don't think you're my teacher. But find a teacher, would you be open to my coming back? And he laughed and said, of course, which is the first time that ever happened because I've met other teachers who if you don't say now it's over forever. So that was pretty amazing. And, and so I continued with my journey, I did not find a teacher at that point, I ended up in Tokyo. In a record store, the Beatles had just done a record called Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And there was another record by a group called surrealistic pillow Jefferson Airplane called surrealistic pillow. And Gracie slick sing a song called Don't you need somebody to love? And that was like, that was the end of my understanding of what I needed in life. And I came back to America. And my friend said, you want to meet a girl? I said, Yes. They introduced me to the woman who became my wife. I went home and told her this whole story. I went home to her home. And I said, Do you want to be with me for the rest of my life? She said yes. Which is kind of shocking and amazing. 55 years at this point, there's a lot more than story than this, obviously. Little tips of the iceberg. The same day I met her I met this guy named Rudy Rudy was a New York City antique dealer with Asian art. I was trying to sell some Tibetan carpets for Tibetan monks I had lived with in Katmandu. He was not interested. He asked what I was doing in India, I said, I was looking for a teacher. He said, Did you find what I said? No. He said, Well, I can teach you everything you want to know. Well, I mean, I saw there was enormous hubris on that I didn't know if I should believe it or not. I went to a class that he conducted. And I sat there and he looked at me and I fell flat on the floor, exploded onto the floor. And every time I looked at him, I go and I started sitting on the floor. And, and at that time, I realized I was gonna have stories to tell. I didn't know what they were, but I knew where they were coming from. And I also knew that the guys upstairs whoever whatever is going on here, whatever name you want to give it, nothing is everything this god you No, some nirvana. I mean, it's it goes on and on. But it wanted to make sure I was committed to this. And I ended up as a film curator at the Whitney Museum. And my teacher Rudy died. And I needed to continue my studies, I thought with a teacher in Indiana, and I gave up my job as a curator. And during the time in Indiana, I wrote a movie called brainstorm, and endless stories behind all of this, but the film got made. And while we were in Hollywood, at the premiere, we had lunch with Brian De Palma, who said to my wife, if you want a career in Hollywood, Bruce, you got to move here. We were then living in DeKalb, Illinois, where she was a professor of art at Northern Illinois University. I was teaching public speaking. And we were barely surviving, and she quit her job. And she put our house on the market said, we're moving to Hollywood, I had no career, I had nothing but I had written a script called Jacob's Ladder, which for some reason, actually caught the attention of people in Hollywood. And an article came out about the 10 best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. And for some reason, I've later learned out why it was considered one of the 10 best scripts, and in a way that opened the door for me. And I ended up going to Hollywood. The first agent I got said, just the week before we moved, I can't represent you. Nobody wants to make movies about ghosts. Because I come up with an idea. I had no agent. But somehow, the universe started to click in in major ways. I got an amazing agent who said I was my scripts, why he got into business. And as named Jeff Sanford, and I moved up to Hollywood, and he had worked for me almost immediately, my wife got a job at the Getty charging, they're evaluating their art program around the country, and our life took off. It just took off and then films got done. And, of course, you know, when you do a film, like brainstorm, which had every possible problem that could go wrong in a movie, including Natalie were dying, for it was finished. And I don't consider that a problem, but a tragedy. But But But what I realized is having a film made in Hollywood is not a doorway, to Hollywood, it's like having a child you lost you don't talk about it. And if you make films that don't make money, they don't have no currency in the business. But I did, luckily. And still, to this day, don't know how right this film Ghost. And for reasons beyond me, it became highly celebrated and recognized and financially viable, like the number one film of 1990. How did that happen? I don't fully know. But I do know that that opened the doors for a career. And from that time on, I was working.

Alex Ferrari 13:05
So there's a lot to unpack there. Yeah, that was just like a little snippet of your experience.

Bruce Joel Rubin 13:16
Go ahead.

Alex Ferrari 13:17
Yeah, there's like a lesson, a little snippet of your experience. But the LSD alone, just when you because it's one of my I've never taken LSD. I've never taken the psychedelics, but I'm fascinated with the spiritual implications of the work that's being done now in at Harvard, and many other many other universities around the world are really studying for PTSD and so many other things. The volume, the dosage, you took is, is is insane. Like, that's not that even in a controlled environment, what do they give you?

Bruce Joel Rubin 13:55
I don't know. But I would say 20th Hundreds of what I took something like, you know, I mean, and now there's a lot of micro dosing, which may be a smart move. Also, I should, you should know that the LSD, I was taking this from Sandoz laboratories, you know, it was the pure of the purest of the pure, and it's no longer like that. So I don't, I'm not a salesperson for LSD at all chap, grabs more psilocybin, but even then, I don't know. I mean, you know, all I know is what happened. At that moment in time, everything changed, and my life became a different life. And it somehow impacted me with this need to tell people what I saw, which is, in a way why I even said yes to this interview, because I don't turn down the opportunity to share the story. It's, it's meaningful, I can't I don't want to be a promoter of a drug, or even in the end meditation, you know, I mean, I've done meditation for 5050 some years. I have to say, oh, Ah, I think meditation is wonderful. But most Americans I know are not really geared to tell me why we love meditation, meditation or that lifestyle. So I've reduced all of that. And I'll do this quickly because it's a speech field. But basically, it all comes down to me to be a good person, and be kind. And if you can be reactively kind of people, when everything in you wants to do the other, that can turn things around inside you, that would be similar to what a meditative life would do. In other words, it changes the reaction to the viewer, rather than the doer and the reactor. And if you can become that person, which, interestingly enough, is the key teaching of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. So I have decided, even though I said no to his teaching, all those all those decades ago, in the end, he truly in a way has been my teacher as he has been a world teacher. But the key teaching is Be nice, be kind.

Alex Ferrari 15:56
So it seems that it just from what you're telling me with, with your experience with LSD, it just kind of just tore everything away all the materialistic, all the concepts, all the programming that you've gotten up to that point, was all wiped away to show you the truth, essence, the truth, the oneness, all of that,

Bruce Joel Rubin 16:16
With no way for the mind to comprehend it.

Alex Ferrari 16:19
It's a different, you're, you're comprehending it on a different level than the mind.

Bruce Joel Rubin 16:22
You're, you're just knowing that.

Alex Ferrari 16:24
Right! Exactly. And that's why I've told people differences, like there's belief, and then there's a knowing, and there's very different ideas.

Bruce Joel Rubin 16:33
And there's another element of more verb, verb, beyond knowing which is being. Right. So one learns to go from the knowing into the being. And in a way, there's a very non dualistic aspect of this, there's not a me and to you or me and a knit, or me trying to do, all that gets gets wiped out. So there's only the beam which is infinite and eternal, and everywhere, around us all the time, almost never proceed by a human mind, which is so involved in the mee, mee, mee, mee sort of idea, and which is programmed to be like that. So I'm not saying it's, in a way a bad thing to be, to be human being and to be a person. And all of that is really an unbelievable gift and full of awe and grandeur and beauty and all these things, you know, but we don't see it. So the sadness about being a human being who doesn't recognize any of that, except maybe on the doorway out, I don't really know, is to miss the boat, you know, and to not find it while you're here. And that's their sadness. And that because this is an amazing thing we're in, you know, yes, beyond beyond and, and it's hard to imagine the world being, in many ways what it is in so many negative ways, because there's a real yin yang to all of it, there's a good and an evil and all those things play out. But there's also the witness, and there's also the state in which it occurs. And being the witness to that state or being one with that state is remarkable. I mean, just remarkable and want something we're all capable of. But, you know, our culture doesn't talk about it at all. We talk about his belief and you know, go to church every, every Sunday morning or synagogue on Friday night or Saturday morning, or whatever your particular teaching is. And, and you know, and I used to do that when I was young, and everything was all about who's wearing what, how are they look beautiful tonight.

Alex Ferrari 18:27
Sunday best, sunday best.

Bruce Joel Rubin 18:30
There was never a sense of anything greater going on. It was stand up, sit down, you know, prep, sing and pray. But But there's more than that. And I don't want to be a proselytizer so I can move on to other topics. But this is clearly the doorway to what became a career. Now, because of that,

Alex Ferrari 18:53
And now that you've told me about your experience, Jacob's Ladder makes so much more sense. I mean, that script, I remember I was working at a video store when that came out. I was working at a store when I was high school or ADA 293. So I recommended Jacob's Ladder, and people were just like, and either you loved it, or you were like, What the hell? What kind of trip was I on? Can you imagine a studio trying to make Jacob's Ladder today? Could you imagine?

Bruce Joel Rubin 19:20
It would not happen. And yet, it's an important film in a certain Yes. And that creates, it really does depict what the Tibetans call the Bardo state, the state that is either right after you die or right as you are on the edge of dying, where you need to fix the mind and the understanding of what you are, who you are, what your life was. It's a it's full of blame. It's full of darkness is full of fantasy. It's full of all these things, but trying to get to the pure center. If you can do that in that period of timeless time and get it worked out which is what Jacob is doing. Basically, you become a, I would guess, liberated free person or at least able to move on into whatever follows.

Alex Ferrari 20:08
Did you? Were you happy with the way Adrian Lin directed that film? And like, because it's such a, it's not an easy film to direct. I mean, that's a it's that script is not an easy script to produce. I think he did a fantastic job. I'm just curious. It's like, did he capture the essence of what you wanted?

Bruce Joel Rubin 20:25
Again, another long story. Yes. On level, yes, we had an immediate disagreement about it, which, in a way, resolved itself on his terms, but probably the right terms. And mine was that I had done a kind of biblical version of that journey. There were demons, very classical demons, Blake, like, imagery, there was a real Jacob's Ladder, like, like this long staircase into heaven. And all these, what Adrian will call Spielbergian touches. And he said, I can't do that. I won't do. And he didn't say that right away. But I, but he did say it. And he said, it's just he said, those are classical images, and people will laugh at them. He said, We have to find another version of that. And he showed me this image of a woman with little growths coming out of her head. And they were very disturbing. He said, those are the horns I want, rather than horns, little little cancerous like growths, that makes people get really uncomfortable. He said, I want it to look like that, that the movie has to be based in physiology of the human being. And it has to have that kind of touchstone for people who watch the movie to become deeply uncomfortable, as they watch it, rather than free to say, well, that's just classical biblical imagery. So he was right about that. And we dialogued about it a lot. And, you know, there was a lot of frustration and some ways on my part as I had to give things up, and story upon story in a way, but I think in the end, he made the right movie. Now, we did some work toward a month before releasing the film, cut out 1/5 of the film, the ending, I heard about that. And, and it was because audience's reactions were no better or worse, when the ending was removed. And the ending was very full of kind of turning the wheel again, you know, it didn't really give new information, but it elaborated stuff. And as I watched it, I realized, you know, you can lose it. And I, in the end, voted with the larger team, to say, drop it from the film. And then if I watched Jacob's Ladder, in those days, I would miss it. But I then watched it 30 years later, not that long ago. And I'd forgotten all about that stuff. And I just watched the movie, and I was incredibly moved by it. I did not expect it. I found its heart was there. And and it didn't miss anything. And it also taught me a lot about writing and about explorative writing that sort of recapitulates things that don't need to be recapitulated. You know, the, the core of our story is a very, very simple thing, really, but very many very, very people who write movies in Hollywood. Don't don't they don't get the simple line of it. And neither neither do producers or executives. It's kind of shocking. But there are some very simple things you need and Jacob's Ladder, Jacob's Ladder, found those and got it on film. And it is a very trippy experience. And I'm told, I don't know firsthand that a lot of kids in college, sophomore year get stoned and watched Jacob's Ladder. It's like a rite of passage. I think that's great.

Alex Ferrari 23:56
That's amazing. Now that other little movie you you wrote in your career ghost you know, I for people listening who are younger. The impact of ghost when it when it came out was it just was everywhere. It was in the zeitgeist, it was pop culture. I mean, how many references of the, the, you know, the, you know, the pottery scene was and you must laugh every time you see them. I mean, the jokes and the spoofs. And I mean, that scene has been done so many times. That what fascinates me about that movie, as well as one of the guys who did airplane is director of ghosts. And I remember in the theater, when his name came up, I'm like, what, like, even then I was like, What is going on? But my first question about ghosts is how did that story come to life because it's so beautiful and so touching. And it's so you know, it just goes along with your filmography so beautifully, but what came what was the genesis that idea

Bruce Joel Rubin 25:00
I wanted to tell the story of a person on the other side of a ghost, who's comes back to try to save a woman he loves and to tell her that he loves her. That was the real kind of the genesis, but I didn't have much of a story. And I was trying to figure out, how do I get that story to work, and I was watching production of Hamlet. And Hamlet has a very big ghost story. And one of the big things is his father as a ghost, comes to him, tells him what happened, and says, revenge my death. And I thought, ah, there I go. That was my that was the gift. So I decided, my guy, Sam wheat, had to discover what happened to him, had to know how to know that he was killed by someone had to find out who that someone was, had to discover that his wife was in jeopardy, and that he needed to communicate with her and save her. And he was dead. And he was a ghost and couldn't touch anything. He was present in her life. He was there all the time. But he was an invisible presence. And he had to figure out how to become empowered. And so the idea of a psychic was came up as someone who you could talk to, and then a friend of mine had this idea that should be it should be a fake psychic, which is a brilliant, brilliant, that changes everything. And then I just started weaving all of that, together into a story. And, and the film started become what's called a four quadrants film, which means it can talk to audiences at every level of kids and adults and seniors. And also that it was sad and dramatic and scary and funny. And it had all those things, working in it, but they worked together. I was of course, worried when Jerry Zucker was proposed as a director, but as you would well, before Jerry Frank Oz was going to do it. And I loved the idea of Frank Oz doing it. But he wanted to erase every single shadow in the movie, because it goes couldn't cast a shadow. I said, Frank, that's not going to matter story. It's going to take over, no one's going to see shadows. I took them to see blade spirit on Broadway. So look at all the shadows. They're taking out of the shadows started to be a budget so far beyond the production capacity, that that we decided to step separate. Milos Forman wanted to direct it. I flew out to Connecticut met a meeting with him very unexpectedly odd kind of experience. His whole idea was that Molly should die at the end, and that she should go off to be with Sam and heaven. And I. And all I could think of was, this is Milos, he's going to call Paramount saying I want to do this movie. He's going to do it his way. I'm not going to have a word of any of mine in this movie. But I wrote ahead to the executive to Lindsay Duran, who was the vice president in charge of this film, and central in my life on many levels. And, and I told her what everything he said. And so even before he called the studio, they said, No, we're not going that direction. But then she called me said, Are you sitting? And I said, Yes. She said, we found a great director for your film. I'm thinking Scorsese Spielberg,

Alex Ferrari 28:18
Right. Yeah.

Bruce Joel Rubin 28:20
She said, Jerry Zucker. And I, and I thought, of course airplane. I mean, I thought all the comedies and I thought, you know, Beetlejuice had just come out. So everybody's, they're gonna turn this into an uproar, approving comedy. But they were, they were very serious about Jerry at Paramount. So they wanted us to get together and I did something which was smart. I think. I arranged to have dinner with Jerry. But I said one ground rule. We can talk about anything except ghost. And he agreed to that. And so we just talked, and we talked and talked and to this day, we talk and we talk this is formed a friendship that was indelible and remarkable and continues. But when we ended up talking about ghost, I wrote 19 drafts for him. And after 10, it was such a different movie, that I was ready to quit. And I thought, we have ruined everything. And then he started to see it through my eyes. And we started bringing it back. And we got another nine drafts. And by the time they were at the 19th draft, it was the right movie, his ideas, my ideas. They had merged, cross fertilize, it was really amazing. And we had the movie we wanted, and it was a good script. And I was very excited about it. And then even in the production, where most writers have told you, no, we don't need you or want you wrong. You're not on the set. Jerry had me on the set every day. And so we were together. And there was a communion between writer and director, which almost never happens. And I think ghost is a living proof that it can be a good thing if you do it.

Alex Ferrari 29:58
And then you know how airing. Patrick Swayze Demi Moore will be Colbert, I mean, those Tony Goldwyn Golan. I mean, just the cast was so perfect.

Bruce Joel Rubin 30:12
We remember Schumann's

Alex Ferrari 30:15
Right! I mean, I mean, Patrick Patrick essentially was dirty dancing at that point. And he was not a he wasn't a bonafide started than Roadhouse a year earlier. You know, he's like, A, and Demi Moore.

Bruce Joel Rubin 30:26
She's really, she was pretty much the the money. She was a yes, but everybody else was over our dead body.

Alex Ferrari 30:34
Really. So you have to fight for Patrick.

Bruce Joel Rubin 30:37
I had to Jerry didn't want Patrick at all. Yeah. And I talked to his agent. And I said, have it here and have him offered to read, have him come to the reading and a suit and tie. And I've been she arranged for me to have a phone call with him. I told him wear a suit and a tie and a jacket and all this stuff, carry a briefcase. And I told him what scenery, which was the end of the movie. And he did all of that. And Jerry was sitting there crying, as was the producer, Lisa Weinstein, me and, and, and Jerry said to me, as soon as he left the room, he said, If I ever say over my dead body, that's what we hired.

Alex Ferrari 31:14
So that was, and it worked out. It worked out.

Bruce Joel Rubin 31:17
It worked out great, I think and what he was not my first choice I was very afraid of over the top kind of performance. And I was very hesitant about it. And I was completely wrong. I just completely wrong. She won the Oscar, Oscar and she was brilliant. She was totally brilliant. I just loved her in that film and just love being around her. So in the end, we were very, very blessed with that movie.

Alex Ferrari 31:40
Well, the thing with will be in her performance is that she kept she that counterbalance of the seriousness. I mean, you That movie was it's such an intense movie, in many ways. Without the breaks of the comedy that she brought, and it wasn't over the top comedy was just just enough to break those scenes up. It wouldn't have worked without a will be it I mean, the whole thing just was a perfect writer.

Bruce Joel Rubin 32:06
We tried it we interviewed a lot of major actresses for that part. And I gotta tell you, I thought I'd written the worst worst part ever. Didn't work out. I mean, every every major black actor in Hollywood, tried out for it, including Tina Turner, who was not an actor. And you know, Alfre Woodard, the unknown, and they all tried out. They're all wonderful, but they were not what we needed. And what B was what we needed. That's amazing. When she came on board, it worked.

Alex Ferrari 32:33
So the movie comes out. It is a monster hit. I remember at the video store, there was white VHS cases, if you remember correctly, that was unheard of. I never seen anything like that. Because it was such a big movie. It's kind of like a marketing promotional thing. It was just a massive, massive hit number one movie of the year. I think Tom Malone came out that year if I'm not mistaken. And it beat home. Well, it was an insanely big hit. Then you go to the Oscars, and you win. What is it like first of all, the World Wind of being in the in the center of that hurricane, the ghost hurricane? Because I mean, and I love that you preface this, this conversation wherever you're going right now with this enlightened path that you've walked, you know, in breaking down everything with that trip that you did in everything that you were, I think ready also at an age to ready for this kind of success ready for this kind of attention. Because it would crush most souls. Most people Correct?

Bruce Joel Rubin 33:29
Oh, you honestly the universe was very conscious in withholding any kind of feedback from me. I would never meet people who saw the movie, except for my family. I was in a cab. In New York City. The guy said what do you do as a screenwriter? What have you written this movie called ghost? It was on every billboard. He said, Oh, I think I heard of that. A woman in line behind me at a restaurant says to a friend of ours you see that horrible movie Ghost. And that's what I got. I mean, that's that's really all I got. And the universe by giving me Hollywood was basically sending me on a track that is really very common for writers which is destruction of ego mind. Because so often they take away what you do give it to other people, other people's voices get in other people's hands get dirty with it, and in the end of the movie looks like what you feel lucky by getting the Oscar I don't know what it meant. It was an odd moment for me. I'd always wanted one since I was a kid, but having it felt like done. Something was done. Now I don't know if that voice that I heard in Afghanistan. Does it do a masterpiece? I don't know if ghost is a masterpiece. I don't claim

Alex Ferrari 34:48
I'd argue. I'd argue it's a beautiful film

Bruce Joel Rubin 34:51
You know, to me. I got this award that said recognition on some level. You went on my bed stand when I got home and never moved It's not highly displayed. You know, you walk into certain offices in Hollywood and all you see are the awards first. I, to me it was the it was getting something done on my journey that needed to be finished. That was really important. I happened when I was on Hong Kong on victorious peak at the end of my round the world journey. And I was sitting up there and something in me again said, done, that I had gone around the world. And somehow I had completed something, maybe from another life. I don't know how that works. But whatever it was, it was done. That was a great thing. Oscar Dunn, put stuff aside, move on, move on to whatever follows. But it's not to sit around and go, Hey, look, look at I am. Because one of the things you realize on the LSD trip, and the Bardo state of Jacob's Ladder is they tear all that away. You know, they just take your whole life away. And there's actually a teaching in Jacob's Ladder, which is really crucial from a 16th century century theologian. And, and he said, if you're afraid of dying, holding on, you'll see demons tearing you from your flesh. If you're open to dying, the same demons or angels, freeing you from the earth, it's a matter of where you have arrived in your life. And that really is kind of essential, and the theologian has named Meister Eckhart. He's a great theologian. But that's really what the human journey is, are you attached to you? Because you don't leave this world with you? They take it they take everything away? Are you able to go like this? Or are you going like that, and that's kind of the human journey. And very few people I know have gotten to this, but you can, my mother in law without any spiritual life of any kind at all, and kind of angry at lots of people and a lot of stuff. Slowly as she lost her mind, and dementia. She arrived at her last words to me, which was silent work. And it said everything. So you don't have to sit and meditate your whole life away. You just have to whatever it takes, because she was a good person, you just have to get to this, you know, and that's really meaningful and valuable.

Alex Ferrari 37:18
That's such a powerful, powerful idea of the demons and the angels. It is such a powerful idea. Because it's the same action. It's just about perspective. Remarkable. So you, as far as once you got the Oscar and you were in town, and everybody's like, you're the best, you're the best. You're the greatest. The ego didn't get out of control you. It was completely. You had it on a lot.

Bruce Joel Rubin 37:44
Okay, a quick story. I'm walking out of the Paramount commissary with an executive. And he's telling me, and this is before the script was starting to happen really was just beginning. He said, You wrote the best script I've ever read in my life. And I went, Wow, a week later, I'm walking out of a commissary, he's in front of me with another guy. And he's telling the other guy, I want you to know, you wrote the best script I've ever read in my entire life. And I went, Oh, that's how it works.

Alex Ferrari 38:15
And they're my friend is Hollywood.

Bruce Joel Rubin 38:17
That is Hollywood. That is Hollywood. There's a lot, a lot to be learned from all of that. And if you want, you know, some people get crushed by it, and just sadness and misery. And some people and I've been one of the lucky ones who get kind of like freed from it. I don't walk around with a night Hollywood identity at all. It's it's so past tense. I'm glad I had it. It was a really it was a great ride. But mostly it's crashing, you know, the things that stuff is taken away and changed and altered. And, you know, you wouldn't believe the ride of a writer in Hollywood. Most people don't. It is brutal. I'm reading an autobiography whether it will ever put it out or not. I don't know. But it really does capture what it means to be that person to be a writer in this business, because I haven't seen any books about it that really it's nothing that talks about that the real heart of what you go through. On the other hand, what an honor to be able to write movies that speaks speak to hundreds of millions of people

Alex Ferrari 39:19
Without without question and one of my other one of the other films in your filmography that really touched me and is the one that you directed My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman, and it is, these are these are movies I would never get made today. None of them and most of most of your filmography would never get made today by the studio system. But that's to be said by many people of the 90s and 80s and 90s. But that film is so touching even when I was saw it when it came out. I was still a young man. It moved me now looking back I have children now. I've just like it's a completely different experience watching a film like that. Where did that idea come from? And for that People have not heard about what the movies about. Can you give it like a you know quick little logline about it?

Bruce Joel Rubin 40:05
Yeah, it's simple logline, which if our studio head would say no. The guy who's dying of cancer who discovers that he's going to have his first child, and he will not live long enough to meet that child. And he wants to leave something that will represent who he is to his family, but he has no idea really who he is. So it's a movie of discovering, finding out who he is, and what he can leave for this

Alex Ferrari 40:32
300 million 300 million budget easy.

Bruce Joel Rubin 40:38
I mean, again, 1000s of stories, and it was the most poorly reviewed movie I ever did ever worked on. It was so bad that I went into like a spiraling depression for about nine months. I think it was, I mean, it was really a killer.

Alex Ferrari 40:53

Bruce Joel Rubin 40:56
People hate well,

Alex Ferrari 40:58
It found it found its audience, it found its audience,

Bruce Joel Rubin 41:00
Because it's found its audience. And it's been incredibly sort of meaningful to me. But the what finally gave it a voice. And it's a story kind of worth telling to other writers in that I went to a party some months after it came out. And a woman came up to me and she said, I understand you wrote the movie in my life. And I said, Yes. And she said, I have to tell you something. My husband died three years ago, and I had a 10 year old son. And he and I were never able to talk about his father's passing. She said, I found out just recently that I have terminal cancer. And the idea of leaving this world, without a dialogue with my son was so painful. But we went to this movie theater and saw this film my life. And my son was sobbing. And we came home. And he sat down on my lap, and we had the conversation that I needed to have in order to leave this planet. So I want to say thank you. And I went and now I knew I made the movie. One or two people. It was it was perfect. I didn't need anybody else.

Alex Ferrari 42:11
But if it happened for those two, I'm sure it happened for many others around the world. And that's why it's found its voice around, because it's not an easy conversation to have at all, and you made it palatable with that story and Michael Caine's performance.

Bruce Joel Rubin 42:28
Talks about it positive, he says, People ask him about that movie more than anything else. You really want to know about Beatle

Alex Ferrari 42:36
Beetle Juice, Batman, all the major things he's done in his career. And he's like that little movie. I did call my life. But he was so brilliant in it. And he was, he was great. He was amazing.

Bruce Joel Rubin 42:47
Nicole was perfect. Nicole Kidman was brilliant. And Queen Latifah got her first big acting job. That's right. That's right. It had it had a place in the history of Hollywood. But not for me. It was like it was it just tore me apart.

Alex Ferrari 43:04
So how did you how did you come out of that? That because look, we all go through that we all have something happens to us that we will go down that dark road? How did you come out of that dark road, even with all the experience and knowledge that you have about consciousness and oneness and everything?

Bruce Joel Rubin 43:19
Rudy was just brilliant, brilliant. He said, a pattern that takes you nine years to work through at one point will occur again and take nine months. And that will occur and take nine weeks, and then it will be nine days. And then it will be nine hours. That'll be nine minutes. And it'll be nine seconds. So be prepared things that can take huge toll on you. And you're allowed to be like this, you know, and I have learned that.

Alex Ferrari 43:44
You know, he's really so right.

Bruce Joel Rubin 43:47
He was totally brilliant.

Alex Ferrari 43:49
I mean, because things that used to like wouldn't tear me up when I was a young man would take me months, then would take me weeks, then take it to now gotten to a point where it takes me seconds for something that would have derailed me for weeks even holding on to grudges and all this kind of stuff. You just let go of it much quicker as you get.

Bruce Joel Rubin 44:10
I mean, not everybody does that. Of course. Of course, if you can and do it. It's a great thing. And I learned a great deal from from that. And every other movie I did. I mean, I'd say a third of the movies that I wrote out made two thirds did not so I wrote a lot of other movies, but actually 1/3 is a fairly good ratio. And, and I and I learned from every single movie that I did, and every one of them taught me a different lesson. I worked with amazing personalities that all have stories behind them. But I really are. I came away with a big worldview. You know that that the Hollywood worldview of Hollywood and people who were highly successful and people who were on the way out the door and in between, but it's like, if you're going to study human experience, it's a great place because it's so blasted at you in a big way. So I'm grateful for that.

Alex Ferrari 45:02
What is the biggest lesson you think you took away from your time working in Hollywood?

Bruce Joel Rubin 45:07
Well, the lesson for me is, it's not an old thing so much as you know, stay humble, and don't think you are the identity that other people might thrust at you. You know, for me, it was it because they're still they're still doing it, I really call it the guys upstairs, and I call him but I got is just as good to work for me or whatever you want to call it, it's still directs me. And it's still very much it humbles me on every opportunity it can, because I see myself as nothing more than a conduit in a voice in a way. And I try to do the best version of that I can do my best scripts were, were taking dictation, you know, and I just follow, I follow what's what kind of I'm being given. I mean, it feels like you're writing and I can see why people think they, they did it, you know, until they can't, and they drink, and they do all these things to try to find our way back to it. But, you know, it's really, it's really a transmission in a sense. And it's working for the human race and for people and for the betterment of being in the world. You know, I mean, I think I personally believe I don't know this as a fact that at the core of this whole emptiness and nothingness that this comes out of the first thing that rises is love. And don't ask me how or why. But I've had that experience and all so many times when they dropped the bottom out underneath me even to this day, and there's nothing there. Nothing at all. And if it was a part of you, that reacts to it, that's the that's kind of go, you know, so if there's a part of you, that goes, Oh, you're racist. And then when there's absolutely nothing, and you just go, Okay, this thing starts to rise up, and it is a rising, ascending, lift up energy. And it starts with love. And then it goes into I mean, quote, beauty, and truth, start to flow into manifested form. And here we are, you know, and I see where it comes from. And I know it goes back to nothing, but I, you know, I don't, I don't care because that nothing is unbelievable. And when it starts to manifest, its beauty is beyond belief. And we are, it's one of its expressions, you know, there probably others way bigger than us and better than us. But we're, we're it's expression. And now AI is this expression. So it doesn't even need a body or a person he's just tapping in. And we were maybe not that maybe here just to create AI, you know, doesn't need food, it all needs electricity. You know, me, maybe a programmer at first, but then it's all you

Alex Ferrari 47:39
Just goes off and runs, it goes off and runs. I find it interesting because I've spoken to a lot of, you know, successful writers over the years. And when you're writing, I think it even as, as me as aren't when I write, the best writing I've ever done is when I feel like I'm not writing. It feels like it's coming through, is there something that you do in your process as a writer to kind of tap into that?

Bruce Joel Rubin 48:06
I get out of the way

Alex Ferrari 48:07
Just like, do you just do show up at a certain time? Do you like is it a routine or do you just a second you sit down you just go

Bruce Joel Rubin 48:15
In writing but but used to be, um, morning was rewrites, which made it easy. So I would sit down and fix what I did the day before and polish it and get in the gear in a way. Somewhere, I put lunch in there. And then the, the the movement and the activity was already in place. And I would create the new stuff in the afternoon. And I would try to write three to four pages a day. And if I did that over the course of 10 weeks, which is usually what you're contracted for in Hollywood, I would have a finished script. It would be a first draft it would need work and all that other stuff. But you know, I wasn't sitting looking over my shoulder being critical as I wrote because then you don't write then you're just sitting there rewriting the same scene 400 times and you don't even really know where it's going. You don't know how it's going to end up. So I think just right just let it out. See where it goes. Be surprised I love to be surprised movie. You know, when it when it happens. I remember when I was writing ghosts and a lot of the movies about how Sam never says I love you, he says did out. Right. And finally he comes back after all of this drama, and is able to say to his lover is the woman he loves. I love you for the first time. And she goes Ditto. I didn't expect her to say ditto. And the minute I was typing ditto, I just burst into tears. I mean, it was like poof, I was just completely taken over by by Molly being Molly not me being Bruce test. It was Molly, and she was writing what she needed to say. And that was incredible. And I get to be the witness of that. You know, I just did it and you know, you beat the characters live in you and they become alive. And then you have this moment that's really so personal and simple. I think a lot of people cried at that moment. And, you know, and so, you know, you're just the first person to get to see it.

Alex Ferrari 50:08
That's, that's remarkable. When you we the stories that you've talked about, and the stories they've written over the years have been about the unseen world is states on your, on your biography. What drew you to that was it again, back to that, that LSD trip that kind of just set you on the path that you like, I need to explore what we aren't seeing and putting this out into the mainstream.

Bruce Joel Rubin 50:36
Yeah, I'm being told to do it. You know, it was just saying, you know, you, you went around the world, you've read, you've looked, you've talked, you've experienced, you've had teachers, get it on screen, but get it on screen for the masses, not for the few, talk to the world, talk to the world, give them some insight. And so my experience is, every movie that I have done, is a sentence. And in the 12, or whatever movies I've made, that got produced, it's a paragraph. And it's all a paragraph about the same thing about the sense of time space continuum, the idea of there being something beyond that we don't understand, and, and that we're all on a journey to find it even funny little movies, like the last Mimzy which, you know,

Alex Ferrari 51:20
I love the last Mimzy such a fun movie,

Bruce Joel Rubin 51:23
I wanted to write for children, but adults came to me telling me how moved they were about that film. And, and, and part of me wanted just to go to children, including like Stuart Little to which I had a very real conception of that would impact little kids. But, you know, I was overruled in many ways on on that. And so some of the things I wanted to sort of plant and seeds may not have gotten planted. But I have learned I've just learned a lot. And last Mimzy was an interesting one, because it had a very strong Buddhist aspect. It's about these kids who find toys from the future. And who are who need to be have their we don't know this till the end, I don't know, shall I give away the ending? It's fine, it's fine. But the ending of the movie is the impregnation of this little creature that they find that will carry the DNA of a pure soul from the past into the future and save humanity. Really. But I that's not in the in the original digital short story called mimsy were the Borg groves that were, it was a TV pilot once for something and I saw it and it didn't have an ending. And I just didn't fit didn't know what it was. And nobody ever went with it. But I remember being like, what was the ending? What was the ending? It turned out, I had to be the one who did the ending. And the way the ending came to me was walking into the meeting at newline. With no idea, but all I could think of was Tibetans, and the Tibetans have this thing when the Dalai Lama dies, they have to find a new Dalai Lama. And the way they determine that is they take all the toys that were part of a Dali Lama's childhood, and they mix them up with all these other toys from other kids. And they go on a search that's led by psychics and people who have some insight. And they go to these new children and the one who picks all of his old toys. That's when they know who it is. And that, that lesson through the Dalai Lama was the one I walked into the meeting at newline with, and I sold it Michael Phillips was there he was done close encounters the third kinds and all these other wonderful films. And Michael got it. He just got it and said, yes, yes. And and somehow I then got the job of writing the movie. It was an eight year process, which

Alex Ferrari 53:42
Bob Shea, Bob Shea was, if I'm not mistaken, he was like, wanted it so bad. Like he really wanted to make it.

Bruce Joel Rubin 53:48
Yeah, he did. He directed it. He and I went to the same high school, which is kind of strange and interesting. But in the month before we were supposed to have this movie shot, he talked to Steve Jobs. And he said, Why is Pixar so successful? What is it about these movies are so successful? And and he said, we cut out everything that's not necessary. And Bob came to me and he said, Bruce, cut 30 pages. And I said, we're about to shoot this movie is, is locked in, we're going forward, cut it up, cut everything, it's not necessary. And he said, you know, he didn't say this. But clearly, I had a lot of Buddhist monks into interfering, if you will infiltrating the film. And I realized they're not going to survive. And I had to pull all of them out of the movie, all the scenes with them and 30 pages of stuff. And the movie came out. And I thought it was going to be so absent of what I had wanted it to be. And what I discovered is, if it's embedded in its core DNA, right, it doesn't matter what you pull out, it's still there. And I was so surprised by that, and so shocked that I I learned all these lessons. And so, you know, I'm not saying that it was right to cut all those pages, but the movie survived. It worked. It was a whole piece of cloth. And I was totally grateful for that.

Alex Ferrari 55:12
And I have to ask you, because you've had this, this effect on humanity with the work that you've done, because like you said earlier, your stories got out to millions, hundreds of millions of people around the world. What does it feel like for you as as a conduit for this information? How do you as your life's work as your life's work? How does that feel? Because you, you've impacted so many people with your work. And the one thing before you answer the one thing that I love about your stories, I've spoken to hundreds of screenwriters, Oscar winners, and starters, everybody. What I find really interesting about your journey as a writer, and as a human being as a soul, is that your work has a thread that connects all of them in how you can connect the last Mimsy to Jacob's Ladder. Is it valid, to say the least, works. But the thing is that you you had a very clear mission on what you were trying to do with your life with your career as a writer to help the world awaken a bit more. How does that feel? It was a was it a conscious effort? Or did you kind of just stumble upon it?

Bruce Joel Rubin 56:27
No, but the reward, the funny little rewards, one was deep impact, and trying to go off and inhibit a meteorite that's coming, or an asteroid to destroy the earth. And there were not a lot of people in this country who were thinking that was a real issue or a big problem, but it is a potential problem. And about two months ago, they actually sent a rocket off, and found that they could deflect a comet on its path to the earth. And I met with a lot of scientists and I met with a lot of congressmen after the film came out, trying to talk about this issue, because I said, and the movie said, this is a real issue. And so when I saw that comment, deflected, I thought, one tiny part of me has helped save, possibly the human race. I don't know. But that's a really tiny little sweet thing. And then I spent sent me an article just the other day out of nowhere, about this guy who's trying to use artificial intelligence to help people who have paralysis, total paralysis, to be able to move things with their mind. And he said the inspiration for him was when Sam wheat in Ghost, Penny up the door and caused it to float. He said, He saw that and that connected in his mind. And he has now created an AI program that is going to be able to is already helping people move things with their mind. And I went, wow. So little things like that. They don't I'm not walking around, carrying a you know, a big placard saying, Look what I did. Look what I did. I have no none of that at all. It's almost like a joke. I mean, I don't know if you this is about in July, the History Channel came out with something that someone sent me, which said, you know, the famous the most important thing that happened on this date in history. And the most important thing that happened on that date in history, which is the 13th of July 1990 was ghost opened and I'm gonna ghost go, that's the most important thing that happened. And I sent that to Lindsay Duran, who used to be the executive of Paramount and she said Murat sob died on that day. What do you mean, the ghost was the most important thing that happened on that day? And I look at it and in a way it's like it is like a laughable thing. I have no idea I don't own it. I don't care it's it was an interesting kind of wonderful ride and I'm grateful for the ride I would I would tell anyone in the world is open to losing their mind and their ego and everything else. If you want to journey into speaking to multiples of people and telling them something that might be worth saying one sentence, then that's that's it's worthwhile life.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:28
And where can people find out more about the work you're doing with your meditations that we didn't even touch on your photography and your meditation and what you teach? And also just to get access to your old scripts and things like that?

Bruce Joel Rubin 1:00:40
I think the scripts are online, I don't I have no idea. I see them every so often to come up to for sale, I don't know who's selling them. I have no idea. We've been teaching this meditation class, and I give talks that are on YouTube under my name, Bruce Joel Rubin. And there are 500 plus, now talk. So if anybody isn't totally bored already, with just what I've had to say, Here, you can check, you can check them out. The class I give is you have to be initiated into the actual practice, you can't just share it in general. So I don't and, you know, Rudy has to be one on one. And I try. And that's what I do. I try to share the practice one on one. But the lessons of that are all on talks, and I give after the classes and and I still teach them I've been teaching every Sunday for 50 50 years, or more and and they're just kind of what I'm learning week by week, you know, and I'm not trying to teach them as any ultimate anything, but they do, I think hope open minds and eyes a little bit to a way of looking that might be helpful.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:14
My friend, thank you so much for being on the show. It has been a pleasure and an honor talking to you and you're such an inspiration on multiple levels, not only in the filmmaking side, but on the spiritual side as well. I appreciate all the work you've done for humanity and for and for good storytelling, so I appreciate you my friend.

Bruce Joel Rubin 1:02:30
It's equal thank you so much.



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Film Crew Positions: Ultimate Guide to Everyone on a Film Set

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Unlike many other art forms, filmmaking needs a film crew of collaborators to bring the art to life. A film’s success or failure depends on the ability of the film crew to make good decisions.

If you are new to filmmaking, you might find it helpful to take some time to learn about the roles of the various members of a film crew and how they can contribute to making a successful film. This article will briefly discuss the film crew positions in a typical production.

Please note: We have added a couple of ridiculous easter eggs for the film and tv professionals in the audience. Enjoy!   

Table of Content (click to jump to the department of your choice)

Above the Line vs. Below the Line

“Above the line” film crew positions are usually found at the very top of a production hierarchy chart. Above-the-line crew members are those who carry the most creative or financial responsibility for a given project and usually work from pre-production to post-production.

They are the ones who make major decisions and are often directly responsible for securing financing.

Most of the crew on a film set is “below the line.” Their job descriptions are varied from department to department. This large collection of film set jobs would be broken down into separate departments. A film crew hierarchy is contained within each of the individual departments and starts with a department head.

Above-the-Line Crew

Film Director

The term “director” usually refers to someone who directs actors on stage, in a movie, on television, or even in video games. However, a film director also directs the other people involved in the production. This includes casting, scriptwriting, and even the special effects and music in the film.

Many directors like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and David Fincher are considered “Auteurs.” Auteur Theory is a way of looking at films that state that the director is the “author” of a film.

Film Producer

film Producer is often responsible for ensuring all the details fall into place for the production of a movie. One key thing to know is that the majority of projects have multiple producers.  Another key thing to know is that there are different types of producers. 

Some focus predominantly on securing funding and/or distribution and/or attaching special assets early on in the development process, in the independent world, while some focus on story and creative aspects of the project, while some focus on specific stages of filmmaking such as development or post-production.

This can include but is not limited to setting the tone of the production (i.e., what tone should the production be set at), picking a director, and finding a cast and crew.

producer also handles casting (finding the actors and actresses, usually in conjunction with the director), organizing the budget, and hiring the staff needed to make a film happen. A film producer usually hires all the professionals needed to create a movie. More commonly, they hire the department heads, which in turn bring the rest of the crew on board.

They make sure that everything’s going according to plan. They might also work closely with directors and screenwriters, especially when making decisions about cost. They typically have the final say on any decisions affecting the final output of the film, for example, the final edit, unless someone like the director is contractually entitled to this.

There are many types of producers. Some producers only deal with the financing of the film, others are development/creative, and some producers are connectors and only find money and/or talent.

Executive Producer

The executive producer is the person who sources and secures the financing for film production. The executive producer’s top priority is ensuring enough money for the project.

Below the Line Crew – Production

Line Producer

During preproduction, often, it is the line producer who generates the full production (sometimes called a line item) budget, as well as breaks down the script and generates a preliminary shooting schedule. The line producer ensures that the movie is shot according to the production schedule and budget.

On the production side, the line producer’s main task is to make sure that the movie is delivered on time and under budget. If it doesn’t meet these goals, he or she will make sure to change things up until the filming is completed.

It’s not a creative role. Typically, it’s all about project management. The line producer hires most of the “below the line” talent and craftspeople. Sometimes they are required to get approval from the producer and/or director for choices in department heads. The best ones make the budget and ensure the project doesn’t go over.

Unit Production Manager (UPM)

On very low-budget movies, this position is often combined with that of a line producer. A UPM or unit production manager manages the day-to-day operations of the film production team (film crew) and ensures that they are well-supported and equipped to complete their tasks.

In other words, a UPM ensures the cast and crew’s safety during production and that the final footage meets expectations. More often than not, this is done in conjunction with one or more of the producers. The job requires great attention to detail.

A unit production manager might also ensure that safety rules are followed during filming. This is because it is vital that the safety of actors and crew is the number one priority, especially when shooting on location.

Production Coordinator

In lower-budget production, this role is often combined with UPM. Production Coordinators are essential for making sure that all the little things happen on a set or in a movie studio. They keep everything in sync and organized on a film set. They ensure that there’s enough food and drinks on set. They check in with various departments to avoid and/or solve minor to medium-level problems.

They ensure that the actors are prepared and managed. They make sure everyone is where they need to be before they begin filming each day on set.

Assistant Production Coordinator

The Assistant Production Coordinator is involved in all aspects of production, from solving problems on the set and distributing scripts to handling everything on set’s logistics.

Set Accountant

The Set Accountant monitors the film production’s finances, making sure that he or she keeps track of expenses and that the production stays on budget. It requires specialized knowledge of how the various departments of a production function on their own, both physically and financially.

Office Production Assistant

Office production assistants’ duties typically include: assisting with answering phones, filing paperwork, and data entry; organizing lunches, dinners, and transportation reservations; photocopying; general office administration; and distributing production paperwork.

Assistant Directors

1st Assistant Director

A 1st Assistant Director (first or 1st AD) is one of many crew members responsible for keeping the set running smoothly. They are debatably the most important crew position that handles this. A 1st AD coordinates various functions on set with the rest of the crew.

They manage the day-to-day operations of the film production, from scheduling cast, crew, and equipment to coordinating with certain department heads as it pertains to shoot schedule. They are typically in charge of safety on set and supervising the shooting of each take.

2nd Assistant Director

A second assistant director creates daily call sheets from the production schedule. The “second” also serves as the “backstage manager”.  They liaise with actors, put them through their make-up and wardrobe, and relieve the “first” of these duties. They report to the 1st AD.

2nd 2nd Assistant Director

The 2nd 2nd AD (often referred to as the 3rd AD outside the U.S.) is the primary assistant to the first assistant director and is responsible for coordinating the work of all the background actors, certain crew, production assistants, and sometimes talent.

Key Production Assistant

This is the lead production assistant on production. Many times they will help the first assistant director and line producer coordinate the other production assistants on a film set.

Production Assistants

A production assistant (PA) helps keep a film or television project’s cast, crew, and production staff organized and on track.

This can include: setting up aspects of the set, taking out the trash, helping cast and crew find their stations, running errands for various departments, making sure that there are enough food and drinks available, and most importantly, taking care of the actors and crew.

Production Assistants, while critical to a well-run set, are not involved in any decision-making of any kind for the film.  It is often considered the lowest rung on the production ladder and hierarchy.  Having said that, it is still important. For someone without formal departmental training, this is a perfect starting position for someone who wants a career in film production.

Having qualified technicians handle equipment helps keep everyone safe.


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Location Manager

The location manager is responsible for managing shooting locations to be used in a film. This can (occasionally include scouting for locations) include dealing with permits, settling location contracts, coordinating with other departments, and more.

Location managers are also responsible for making sure that the production company, the cast, and the crew all have the best experience possible on set. If the location manager is not properly prepared and knowledgeable, the entire production may fail to meet the director’s vision for the film.

Location Scouts

The location scout’s job is to find the perfect place to shoot. He or she will study the space, read the script, and make sure there are no major obstacles in the way. The location scout will most likely meet with the director and producers to determine if the space suits their needs.

The location scout should also have a keen eye for cost. Because the location scout will be doing a lot of scouting for free, he or she must be able to find good locations for a fee that fits within the production budget. On low-budget productions, this position may be absorbed by one or more of the producers.


Transportation Captain

The Transport Captains in your film transport the cast and crew from one location to another by private cars, mini-buses, or coaches. If you’re a low-budget film, you may only have one Transport Captain who makes sure that everyone arrives on time.

Transportation Coordinator

The transportation coordination person will coordinate all transportation needs for the production. Transporting equipment and crew to the filming locations and any other necessary areas relative to the shoot is included.

Picture Car Coordinator

The picture car coordinator is responsible for everything relating to vehicle usage, repair, modification, and movement on the set. They are also responsible for ensuring that the cars are always in good shape so that unforeseen accidents will not interrupt the rigid movie production schedule.

However, this position often only exists are very large-budget films.  Otherwise, this job may be handled by either the head of the transportation department, a member of the art department, or a producer.


Production Sound Mixer

A production sound mixer typically works with audio engineers and directors to ensure that the soundtrack of a film production is in sync and properly balanced.

Depending on the type of film being made, this could involve working with sound engineers on location, working with a studio to produce the sounds in post-production, or any combination thereof. Often in low-budget production, the mixer manages all sound recording on the set and any on-site real-time mixing.  They also typically manage any wireless personal microphones.

Boom Operator

Boom operators work in conjunction with the production sound mixer. The boom operator holds a microphone on a pole, which is often the primary audio source. The Boom operator is also responsible for yelling ACTION into the boom mic before each take…we are just joking on that last one. That would be insane = )

Sound Utility

The sound utility assists the sound department and acts as a liaison between the department and set to problem-solve any issues that arise in the production that could jeopardize sound quality. This position is far more common on larger-budget productions.

They support the production sound mixer and boom operators by setting up and maintaining audio hardware, keeping the set quiet for capture, and helping resolve any audio problems that might come up.


Script Supervisor

A script supervisor is primarily responsible for ensuring the script dialog and shots are adhered to, notating each take, and notating the actors’ improvisations. Their log is often passed to the editor to make editing the film significantly easier.

On a lower budget set, they are in charge of the continuity of the motion picture, including wardrobe, props, set dressing, hair, makeup, and the actions of the actors during a scene. However, a separate person performs these functions on medium and larger budget productions.

Camera Department

Director of Photography

director of photography (Cinematographer, DP, DOP) is responsible for establishing the movie’s visual look. They are typically the ones who will be in charge of the camera and will set the camera’s lighting, as well as use different lenses to capture the images, film stock (if you are shooting film), camera selection, shot selection, camera operation, and other elements.

Generally, they tell production the cost of the camera and lighting packages that will be needed to shoot the production. It is important to note that their decision-making power is still usually superseded by the director and sometimes the producer(s). 

Camera Operator

The camera operator captures the film’s footage as dictated by the script, director, and cinematographer. They shoot what’s happening. On lower-budget film productions, the cinematographer will be his or her own cameraman. The person responsible for creating the look of a film is also known as the director of photography.

1st Assistant Camera (aka Focus Puller)

The first assistant camera (also called the 1st assistant camera, 1st AC, first AC, or focus puller) has one main job: to keep the right subject in focus throughout each scene.

Many people just think 1st ACs just pull focus, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. They are thinking ahead 25 steps to ensure that the department runs smoothly while their hand is on the focus wheel, keeping the shot in focus.

2nd Assistant Camera

The second assistant camera (2nd AC) or clapper loader is a member of a film crew whose main function is to load film magazines (if you are shooting on film), loading hard drive or cards for recording on digital film cameras, operate the slate, creating camera reports, and keep records and paperwork. 2nd ACs are needed in every production; they are essential to every single project.

Steadicam Operator

A Steadicam operator is responsible for setting up and operating a Steadicam camera system for recording a live-action video or animation sequence. This includes:

  • Setting up the Steadicam rig
  • Testing and calibrating the Steadicam rig

Steadicam operators are responsible for monitoring the cameras during filming, but the 1st AC is responsible for making sure the camera remains in working order while also helping the director achieve his or her vision. The job requires strong communication skills and the ability to multitask, as well as the ability to make quick decisions and work in a dynamic environment. A comfortable pair of shoes is also a must.

They answer directly to the director of photography.

Drone Operator

Any person or organization that rents or owns a drone is a drone operator. If you are also the person who actually flies the drones, you can be both a drone operator and a remote pilot.

DIT/Media Management

A Digital Imaging Technician or DIT is the person on the camera department crew who works with the director of photography to ensure that the camera settings, signal integrity, on-set preliminary color correction, and other image manipulation are perfect.

They often create LUTs with the director of photography, so the colorist has a starting point when the project gets to color grading. A DIT is a liaison between production and post-production teams on feature films, handling data management from set to editorial suite.

Still Photographer

The still photographer contributes daily to the filming process by creating set stills, while the on-set still photographer creates photographs for the promotion of a film. All the details of the cast’s wardrobe, appearance, and background are recorded by the photographer with these.


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Grip Department

Key Grip

The key grip is the person in charge of the grip crew on a film or television production. The men and women are in charge of positioning the production’s nonelectrical lighting gear. The people who position this equipment are also under their supervision.

He’s also responsible for all the keys on a film set…again just kidding on that last one. = )

Best Boy Grip

The best boy is the first assistant to the grip crew or the lighting department and usually fills a number of roles on a television or film set. The best boys take care of everything in the grip department to ensure a seamless production and work directly with the gaffer and the director of photography.

The best boy grip’s most important job is handling payroll for the grip department. They do the timecards and make sure everyone is getting paid what they are due. The best boy grip is the point of contact for all the other departments.

Dolly Grip

The dolly grip is used to operate the camera dolly. This technician places, levels, and moves the dolly track, then pushes and pulls the dolly while the camera operator and camera assistant ride.

Rigging Grip

Rigging Grips (aka Riggers) are a type of Grip. They assist with set up, production moves, and setting up and dismantling sets, equipment, and scenery.

Electrical Department


A Gaffer is in charge of running the crew and overseeing all the lighting equipment. The Chief Lighting Technician, also known as the Gaffer, works directly with the cinematographer to provide the lights and electricity needed for a given set-up.

To execute the lighting plan for production, the gaffer has to run a team of lighting technicians.

Best Boy Electric

The Best Boy Electric is the head assistant to the gaffer. While managing and scheduling the rest of the electricians and lighting technicians, they are the second in charge, typically watching over the electric truck and rentals. The best boy electric’s most important job is handling payroll for the electrical department.

They do the timecards and make sure everyone is getting paid what they are due. The best boy, electric, is the point of contact for all the other departments.

Rigging Electricians

Rigging electricians are a separate crew who work in advance of and after the shooting crew. They pre-rig stages and locations with cable and lighting equipment, along with the rigging grips, so the shooting crew spends more time shooting and less time waiting for lighting. They will also wrap locations and stages after the shooting crew is done.

Set Electricians

Set electricians will set up and focus lights for each shot of the shooting day. They will provide power to other departments as needed during the shoot day.

Shop Electricians

Shop Electricians work with the art and set dressing departments and construction crews to wire up lights and equipment that are part of the set. They also provide work lights and portable generators at locations that are being prepped.

Basecamp Electricians

Base Camp electricians provide power for campers and other vehicles away from set.

Generator Operator

Generator Operators (aka Genny Operator) are responsible for loading the generator, transporting it to the film shoot location, and ensuring that it is operational before production begins.

Art Department

Production Designer

A production designer is responsible for the art direction, design, and execution of visual elements in film production. A Production Designer’s primary job is to create environments and design key props and set dressing that helps tell the story and advance the plot in the most cinematic way possible.

He or she needs to work closely with certain other departments to ensure that the visual elements they’ve created are consistent with the rest of the film. This may include wardrobe, make-up, special make-up effects, and digital effects departments, and sometimes even the location scout.

A production designer must be organized and detail-oriented and able to multi-task in the fast-paced world of film production. They must also be a creative problem solver, able to think outside of the box.


  • Collaborate with the Director and Producer to determine what type of sets and props will be needed.
  • Work with the Art Director and Set Decorator to decide how to design the set best and ensure it is completed in time for filming.
  • Create and oversee the construction of sets and props that are part of the story being told.

Art Director

Art Directors are responsible for executing the vision and instructions of the production designer on the set. This person helps set the tone for each shot and scene. She is in charge of the visual palette (color palette, lighting, etc.) and shapes the shots in such a way that they fit into the overall flow of the story and the overall feel of the film. They are, in many ways, a production designer’s second in command.

The director may assign specific tasks to the art director, but it’s ultimately up to them to interpret those instructions and create something unique. They also have to balance their style with that of other departments, like costume designers and sound editors, and ultimately answer to production designers.

Art Department Coordinator

The art department coordinator is a position on the production crew that is in charge of overseeing the entire art department. They are concerned with the execution of visual artistry on set. They monitor the budget for the department, keep everything in order, and ensure information flows smoothly between fields.

Construction Coordinator

Construction Managers are in charge of constructing sets and stages for film productions. From initial planning through to the final coat of paint on the finished sets, they coordinate the entire process of set building.


The Production Carpenter builds, installs, and removes wooden structures on the film set and location. Several construction team members carry out the producer and director’s design and creative vision.

Key Scenic

The key scenic is an artist, supervisor, and organizer responsible for making the surroundings and sets of a film look realistic within the world is established on screen. This often is in the form of paint and texturing of surfaces. Sometimes it includes sculptural elements and even molding and casting.

Scenic Artists

The scenic artist is in charge of laying out, painting, sculpting, priming, detailing, and the rest of the backdrops and hard scenic items.

Set Decorator

Set decorators add interest to the drama by creating the background of the action and explaining the context. While prop masters deal with placing objects an actor holds, set decorators are concerned with the walls, floors, vehicles, and furniture.

Set decoration is a multi-disciplinary art form. A set decorator must be well-versed in the technical aspects of production, lighting, and camera movement and be able to interface with the Special Effects department where relevant.


A leadman is a set decoration department member who is in charge of the props and swing gang. The swing gang does the set dressing and removal.

Set Dressers

Before rolling the camera, the set dressers arranged objects on the film set. They are working under the direction of a Production Designer and the Set Decorator. Placing furniture, hanging pictures, and putting out decorative items is done by the set dressers.


A Greenman (aka greensperson, nurseryman, greenskeeper) is responsible for taking care of anything “green” or naturally used in the production of the film. Plants, bushes, trees, flowers, etc.

Art Department Production Assistants

The assistant to the art director helps the entire art department. In many ways, they are like standard production assistants by supporting the art department exclusively. 

Their responsibilities can be everything from running paperwork back and forth, to retrieving props and set decoration items from and returning props and set decoration items to rental houses, to any general departmental errands during preproduction, production, and the earliest stages of post-production as it pertains to the art department.


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Property Master

Property Masters are responsible for all props in the production, including acquiring them, keeping them organized, and making sure they’re used safely. The props master reports to the production designer and leads a team of prop makers or props-department runners.

Assistant Property Master

The assistant property masters help the prop masters with anything on set. Once a scene is wrapped, they ensure the correct props are prepared, on hand for the shoot, and archived.

Prop Maker

Any props that aren’t bought in, or hired, are made by prop makers in the properties department of feature films. Prop makers use a wide variety of materials, techniques, and tools.

Prop Assistants

The prop assistant aids the assistant props master where needed. An outside props person may be assigned to purchase props, and an inside props person may be assigned to oversee the use and maintenance of props. They report to the prop master.

Food Stylists

A food stylist is a person who prepares food for photography, video, film and even lives events. The best promotional pictures and videos of a dish can be achieved with the help of a food stylist who has an artistic and technical background.

Animal Wranglers

The animal wrangler ensures that animals or other hazardous animals don’t interfere with filming. He or she may handle and train animals for on-screen roles in movies or television shows.

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer

Costume designers design and create the wardrobe, both in terms of style and functionality, which gives the actors the outfits they wear on screen. 

The main responsibility of a costume designer is to create the look of a character, whether it is a superhero, an action hero or a villain, a princess, a pirate, a cowboy, a police officer or a nurse.

He or she can dress a character in any color, and they can be of any ethnicity. The designer’s goal is to create a look that reflects the character’s role and personality. Sometimes the costume designer must work in conjunction with the make-up designer to help create a seamless character design.

Assistant Costume Designer

The assistant costume designers help the costume designers with looks for actors. They plan, create, organize, and help maintain clothing.

Key Costumers

The costume designer’s artistic vision is maintained by the key costumer, who is responsible for managing personnel and on-set activities. He or she should be aware of each scene’s needs and the costumes’ evolution.

Set Costumers

Set costumers keep track of the costumes so they don’t get damaged or dirty when unloaded. After each use for dirt, tears, and other problems, they establish guidelines for actors to check their costumes and where to put them.

Wardrobe Supervisor

The wardrobe supervisor is responsible for all the costumes. In consultation with the production manager, costume designer, and sometimes the director, the wardrobe supervisor can help coordinate and assign dressers to specific performers.


In addition to supporting the filmmaker’s vision through their work, seamstresses, tailors, stitchers, and sewers help actors move around comfortably in their clothes. Alterations to outfits are one of their responsibilities.

Agers and Dyers

These technicians are responsible for taking freshly made costumes and adjusting them, through distressing and painting, to look (lived in).  Sometimes this work is very subtle (a chip on a button, fray of a thread, a little wrinkling), and sometimes, it can be extreme (massive dirt and sweat, tearing, and heavy fraying).


If show demands do not require a separate buyer, the duties are to do basic shopping, buying, and returns, assist with research and phoning, can do costume breakdown and aging, can do laundry, ironing, sewing skills, and costume maintenance may assist with fittings and alterations.

Hair and Makeup

Hair Department Head

A hair department head designs all of the hairstyles for the show and manages a team of hairdressers that help implement and maintain the design vision for the principal cast, background actors, stunt performers, photo doubles, and any other hairstyles that will appear on camera.

The hair designer works with the director to discuss the story and the characters’ needs. The hair designer is also responsible for sourcing or creating all of the wigs that appear in the show, and their design is closely tied to the hairstyles that are being worn.

This can be seen in the fact that it takes the longest amount of time for a hairstyle to be designed and that the hairstyles are very detailed and unique to each character.

Makeup Department Head

The head of the makeup department is NOT to be confused with the key makeup artist, who is, in fact, the makeup department’s second in command. The Department Head oversees the makeup design for the entire production and ensures continuity throughout filming.

They will often apply makeup to lead and other principal actors for special or hard-to-produce looks.

Special Makeup Effects

Special makeup effects artists use makeup and prosthetics to recreate wounds, defects, and supernatural features. Basic film makeup can be combined with knowledge of advanced makeup techniques for more dramatic effects.

The makeup effects artist usually works in conjunction with the hair stylist, standard makeup artist, special effects coordinator, and/or costume designer. Makeup Effects artists are also responsible for proper skin care before and after the removal of special cosmetic products and prosthetics.


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Stunt Coordinator

Stunt coordinators are responsible for making sure that actors perform their stunts safely and without injury. They work closely with the stunt team and the director to ensure that the stunt work looks good on screen.

The more stunts an actor has to do, the more likely it is for something to go wrong. Because of this, stunt coordinators must have excellent communication skills and knowledge of how to handle actors who get injured on set.

Stunts are often dangerous and require careful planning. They can be as simple as a person jumping from a moving car or as complicated as a person being shot by an arrow or bullet.

It’s important for stunt coordinators to know what their actors can and cannot do and how to safely work with them in order to keep the production going smoothly.

Stunt Performer

A stuntman performs stunts to be used in a film or television show. Car crashes, falling from a great height, dragging behind a horse, and explosions are some stunts in films and television.

Stunt performers are often referred to as stuntmen or stuntwomen, although the gender-neutral term stunt performer may be used.

Stunt Rigger

The ropes and pulleys that allow stunt doubles and actors to fly off cliffs or under speeding cars without actually falling or getting run over are designed and implemented by stunt riggers. They set up hoists, scaffolding, lifts, and booms needed on film and television sets.

Visual Effects

Visual Effects Supervisor

Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisors supervise all visual effects shots on a film project. All of the VFX artists that work in the process are managed by the VFX Supervisor. They make a decision on what is needed for every shot of the film.

The visual effects supervisors and the visual effects artists sometimes create previsualization materials to help plan everything from specific VFX shots to digital elements like digitally rendered creatures or full backgrounds.

Afterward, they discuss the details of each shot and present the final VFX materials to the director, producer, and other members of the filmmaking team. In a movie scene, VFX supervisors have the ability to tell the VFX artists what kind of effects to use for any given shot.

VFX Coordinator

The VFX Coordinator organizes all the VFX for the show. This includes: Working on all aspects of the visual effects in the post-production process – Being able to understand the workflows for the visual effects – Managing schedules and resources – Scheduling and managing shots – Coordinating visual effects – Assisting with the post-production workflow of the film.

Special Effects (Practical Effects)

Special Effects Coordinator

The Director wants explosions, natural disasters, or general destruction on a movie or television show set, and that’s where the Special Effects coordinators come in. Special effects can include everything from a gas explosion in a movie to a car crash in a movie.

These are one form of practical effect. However, these days it is more and more common to include special makeup effects under the header of the term “practical effects.”

The special effects coordinator is responsible for coordinating the work of several other departments, which may include make-up, stunts, costume, and art departments, to create the desired result.

This includes everything from hiring the right people to get the job done to ensure the equipment and materials is in place when needed.

Special Effects Foreman

The Special Effects Foreman (aka SFX Forman) is the supervisor of the mechanical effects used to create non-digital optical illusions. He or she is responsible for overseeing the creation and execution of special effects on films.

The SFX Foreman is in charge of all special effects created in the visual effects industry. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that all aspects of the effects are well executed and delivered on time.

Special Effects Technicians

Special effects technicians assist the SFX supervisor and foreman in executing all necessary wind, rain, explosions, fire, and other special effects.


The armorers’ responsibility is to transport, store, and safely use of all weaponry and firearms on film sets. Unless a licensed armorer is present, it is not permissible to use firearms on set.
The weapons master, also known as the armorer, weapons specialist, weapons handler, weapons wrangler, or weapons coordinator, is a film crew specialist that works with the property master, director, actors, stunt coordinators, and script supervisor.
If you are looking for a a safe and realistic alternative to blank-firing movie guns, we recommend airsoft guns or digital VFX.


This is a specific branch of Special Effects. A Pyrotechnician is responsible for designing and orchestrating all the explosions in the movies. The work that goes into setting off explosions that end up on the big screen is much more methodical than the explosions themselves.

The explosion of fireworks is a delicate process, requiring precision, skill, and a lot of practice. And while there are plenty of ways to create explosions, there are very few ways to create the explosions that you see on the big screen.

Catering and Food Services

Production Caterer

The production caterer is responsible for providing the crew with healthy foods in order to keep them happy and satisfied so they can do their job without interruption. Otherwise, if the production crew has to work very long hours, they will not be able to eat or have to leave the set to go to restaurants or to get food brought to the set.

In order to deliver the right food for the shoot, the production caterer needs to have a deep understanding of the shooting schedule and a good working knowledge of the production budget.

The production caterer should be knowledgeable about the film’s script, production team, production schedule, and other logistical details that are critical to the success of the shoot.

Key Craft Services

Craft services (aka: Crafty) is a film production position tasked with providing snacks and drinks to all crew members of a film set. Craft service typically provides a spread of coffee, water, and prepackaged snacks at a designated food and drink area.
The best thing about craft service is that it provides an outlet for film crews to eat, rest, and refresh throughout the duration of a long day of filming.

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Set Medic

A set medic is someone who provides emergency medical assistance to people on TV or in film productions. You work as a set medic on set. You have responsibilities for waiting on medical issues during shooting.

Advising the production team on safety issues is one of the other duties. When working as a set medic, you travel a lot. They work in water, at heights, in studios, or anywhere a production takes place.

Intimacy Coordinator

The well-being of actors who participate in sex scenes or other intimate scenes in theater, film, and television production is ensured by an Intimacy Coordinator. When nudity/hyper-exposed work, simulating sex acts, and intimate physical contact are needed on set, the Intimacy Coordinator acts as a liaison between the actors or performers and the production.

Covid Compliance Officer (CCO)

A Covid Compliance Officer works directly with the production to ensure the protocols and guidelines are followed. A CCO is either a stand-alone position or supported by a covid compliance supervisor on longer productions of 1-2 weeks when more planning is needed.

These individuals serve enforcement of Covid Compliance. The Health and Safety Department usually supports CCOs on longer shoots. Covid Compliance Officers (CCOs) will work with Production/Production Management (PM), Production Assistant (PA), and Production Supervisor (PS) to ensure that the cast and crew follow COVID-19 protocols.

CCOs will be in constant contact with Production during the shoot to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are being followed and enforced; if you want to learn more about filming during COVID, check out our webinar: How to Shoot a Feature Film in a COVID World.

Honey Wagon Operator

The Honey Wagon Operator is in charge of the “honey wagon.” The honey wagon is a trailer that has a number of staircases leading off of it. There will be staircases to restrooms that the cast and crew use. They will usually will not be clearly labeled “men and women” restrooms. This is probably to discourage non-production crew from using them.

Some of the staircases lead to small dressing rooms for the actors. One of the staircases may lead to a room that PAs and ADs operate out of.


How to Get Professional & Safe Looking Prop Guns for Your Film

When my team and I were making my first short film, BROKENwe really wanted to have functional and professional-looking guns for the project. Obviously, we weren’t going to use real guns, and getting our hands on working prop guns was too cost-prohibited. We also wanted to ensure that everyone on set was safe, which was our main priority.

We knew we could create some badass muzzle flashes in visual effects, but I wanted to have some realistic-looking guns on-set that had blowback to enhance the VFX and ultimately make the gunfights look real.

After doing a ton of research, we discovered Airsoft Guns or “Air Guns”(our prop guns). These are basically jacked-up BB guns. They range in price from $12-$50 for good-looking plastic replica pistols (excellent for wide shots) and $20-$95 for metal replica pistols with realistic blowback (great for close-ups).

You can also get some remarkable-looking replica rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and even a grenade launcher. Crazy!

These Airsoft guns added so much realism to the film. The combination of practical blowback with high-end visual effects was a great combo.

Safety First

When using Airsoft guns or any firearm prop on set, you MUST assign someone to be responsible for all the weaponry. These guns might not be real, but they can hurt people. By law, if you use professional prop guns, you need an armorer on set at all times. Everyone on a film crew must act professionally, even if you are using Airsoft weapons on a low-budget independent film.

The late actor Brandon Lee was infamously killed on the set of The Crow by a misfiring prop gun. (Brandon Lee Death)

More recently, a terrible incident on a professional film set in New Mexico occurred where actor Alec Baldwin accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza with a misfiring prop gun. Prop guns, even Airsoft BB guns, are no joke and NEED to be respected as if they were real.

Also, please check your local state and city laws in regard to owning or using Airsoft guns. Always be careful, responsible, and above all, safe. Getting some cool shots in an indie film is not worth getting people hurt or worse.


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Where to Find the Guns?

This is the way to go if you want to have real-looking guns in your film. We purchased most of our guns through a local Airsoft or Air Gun reseller, Amazon.com.

We even asked the local reseller if he had any broken Airsoft guns in the back. He gave most of them to us for FREE and charged $5-$10 for $100 pistols. They didn’t work, but they look great on camera.

Click on any of the links below to get some examples of Airsoft weapons.

Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols Metal Pistols (with Blow Back):

Airsoft Green Gas (Fuel for Blow Back)

Airsoft Prop Gun – Pistols (Non-Blow Back):
Good for background and nonfiring shots

Airsoft Prop Gun – Shotguns:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Rifles:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Grenade Launcher:

Airsoft Prop Gun – Sniper Rifle:

BONUS: Realistic Prop Knives & Prop Weapons

If I may quote one of my favorite Christmas films:

“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.” – A Christmas Story

It may be funny, but it’s true. Have fun and be very careful.  Good luck and happy filming.

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