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IFH 588: How I Got My Film Directing Off The Ground with Sean Mullin

Sean Mullin is an award-winning filmmaker.  His critically-acclaimed feature film debut as a writer/director — Amira & Sam — won the top prize at numerous festivals and was distributed theatrically by Drafthouse Films. He’s the co-writer/co-producer of the film, Semper Fi – alongside Oscar-nominated director Henry-Alex Rubin (Murderball) and Oscar-nominated producer David Lancaster (Whiplash).  Lionsgate released the film theatrically in 2019. He’s the writer/director of a feature-length documentary – Kings of Beer – about the world’s most intense brewmaster competition, which was released theatrically in 2019.  He’s the writer/director of It Ain’t Over – a feature-length documentary about baseball legend, Yogi Berra – which will be released in 2022.

Prior to his filmmaking career, Sean served in the military. He was stationed in Germany as an army officer, but finished his time as a Captain in the New York Army National Guard – where he was a first responder on September 11th, 2001. For several months, he spent his days working as the Officer in Charge of the soldiers stationed at Ground Zero – and his nights performing stand-up comedy.

Sean holds an MFA from Columbia University and a B.S. from The United States Military Academy at West Point. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), as well as the Producers Guild of America (PGA).  Sean is represented by UTA. He resides in Los Angeles, where he runs Five By Eight Productions and is a guest lecturer at USC, AFI and West Point.

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra is one of baseball’s greatest. He amassed ten World Series rings, 3 MVP awards and 18 All-Star Game appearances. He caught the only perfect game in World Series history. Yet for many his deserved stature was overshadowed by his simply being himself and being more recognized more for his unique personality, TV commercial appearances and unforgettable “Yogi-isms,” initially head-scratching philosophical nuggets that make a lot more sense the more you think about them. In telling the whole story, It Ain’t Over gives Berra his due in following the life of a savvy, commanding, bad-ball hitting catcher with a squat frame but also a D-Day veteran, loving husband and father and, yes, product endorser and originator (mostly) of his own brand of proverbs now ingrained into everyday life.

Granddaughter Lindsay Berra tells his story along with his sons, former Yankee teammates, players he managed, writers, broadcasters, and admirers (such as Billy Crystal), plus photos and footage on and off the diamond. Berra famously said,

“I’d be pretty dumb if I started being something I’m not,”

and It Ain’t Over lovingly makes clear he stayed who he was for the benefit of baseball and everyone else.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Sean Mullin 0:00
You know onset as a director, you have to, you have to really listen to what your actors are doing, see what they're doing if they're doing great stay out of their way, if something's rubbing you the wrong way you got to investigate.

Alex Ferrari 0:07
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Sean Mullin 1:35
Great! How are you Alex?

Alex Ferrari 1:36
I'm good, man. I'm good, man. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Brother. You we're gonna talk about your new film. Eight ain't over. Which is of the late great Yogi Berra. And, and I learned so much about you, you watching it. And when when your pitch came across my desk, I was like, Well, I gotta gotta I don't want to wait until it's mainstream. I got to see it now. And I fell in love with it. Because as I'm sure you know, you probably fell in love with it, making it make you fell in love with the okie just making?

Sean Mullin 2:09
Absolutely no, it's definitely a surrogate grandfather for the pandemic for me, and a lot of a lot of folks involved. So absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 2:15
So before we get before we get down to the your latest project wanted to go back back into the archives. So why God's green earth? Did you want to get into this business?

Sean Mullin 2:27
Um, you know, I don't think I wanted to I think anybody who wants to? I don't know, I'm a little skeptical of maybe. Yeah, I don't, you know, it's, I just was more of a I mean, it just came out of me. You know, I just felt like it was something as a kid, I was always writing short stories, I was always the one kind of getting people together and telling jokes in the corner class, I got in trouble a lot, obviously, for that. And yeah, I just was always a storyteller. And I got a kit when I was at, you know, going to West Point for College. And you know, about a video camera, and I recorded on my buddy's telling stories and all that stuff. And so and, you know, I just always wrote and always, you know, that just kind of, I don't know, came came out pretty organically. So I just feel like it's who I am, really is, instead of like, who I wanted to be

Alex Ferrari 3:14
Fair enough, because I agree with you. If somebody wants to be in this business, you got to look at them a little outside, especially now that if you've got some, especially if you got some shrapnel on you, you know it literally like you know, battle hardened through through business, it's you look you like, do you really do you want to go down to like, my son wants to be in the business, I don't run away. Is there anything else you can do? If there is and you love it?

Sean Mullin 3:41
I do that I've been teaching on and off for the past decade. And that's one of the first lectures I give is like, Listen, if you can live with yourself doing anything else do that. But if you can't, if it's a calling of it's something inside you, well, then you're screwed. And just, you know, good luck, you know, go go after but, but but be passionate, don't give up and work hard and you know, collaborate and all the things you need to do to create great work.

Alex Ferrari 4:05
I call it the beautiful illness because it's it's a thing you stuck with it. You can't get rid of it. It's with you for life. No, no vaccine is gonna get rid of it. And it could, it could go dormant for decades. But oh, wait. I have 60 year olds coming on like I was a doctor but I really want to do is direct.

Sean Mullin 4:26
Grab a camera, grab it.

Alex Ferrari 4:28
Grab a camera doc, and you can finance your project.

Sean Mullin 4:31
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 4:33
Now, I have to ask you, you had a very interesting start to your, you know, your career, if you will, outside of the film industry where you were in the military. And then you were also one of the 911 first responders. Is that correct?

Sean Mullin 4:48
I guess I was in Manhattan. I was the plans officer for the New York National Guard on the morning of September 11. So before before the attacks, we didn't need too many plans and then we needed a lot obviously that De and so I ended up ended up spending the first two weeks full time and then I was kind of part time for a couple of months. And then in January of oh two it would have been they, they gave me a new title and promoted me to captain and put me in charge of the soldiers at Ground Zero from from like, January until August about to and I was I was in charge of the bridges and tunnels in Manhattan and Ground Zero, just making sure you know, Everything was running smoothly. So and at the same time, though, I was, I had, I had moved to New York City, I'd left active duty and moved New York City a couple years prior and become a stand up comedian. And there was a new theater had just opened Upright Citizens Brigade UCB Theater opened in 99. So I started doing improv theater, and I was, so it was kind of a weird double life of working at Ground Zero and doing comedy at night. Kind of. Yeah, well, it was it was.

Alex Ferrari 5:48
It doesn't even say a joke back then. I remember like, yeah, that Saturday Night Live episode, like, Absolutely. Can we be funny?

Sean Mullin 5:55
Can we be funny now? Absolutely. Yeah. Giuliani wonder whatever happened to him? i But yeah, I mean, I don't think I did comedy for until probably at least October, November, you know, it definitely took about a month or so off. And then it was hard. It was hard. Time was a crazy time in the city, but very formative time for me. And while I was at Ground Zero, I applied I said, screw, you know, again, this is what I this is what I'm going to do with my life. I'm going to be a storyteller. So I applied to grad school. And I got accepted spring about two into Columbia's MFA program for film directing. And that's why I left the military summer Oh, two and right. I mean, I was in my uniform one day, as last day I shaved actually was August 15 2002. And I and I went to Columbia the next day for grad school.

Alex Ferrari 6:37
I imagine that the work that you did at Ground Zero and also in the military prepared you to be a director, in many ways, because of just organizing large groups of people making sure things get done.

Sean Mullin 6:50
Absolutely. No, no, it's interesting. The first thing some people will hear, you know, or some people say to me, when I tell them I've gone to West Point and all that they'll be like, well, how are you? How are you a filmmaker, this is a completely different worlds. And I you know, I jokingly I was interviewed by West Point Magazine did a little piece on me after my first film, and I was kind of tongue in cheek said, West point's the best film school in the country. I mean, I obviously, you know, a little bit of a joke there. But, um, leadership is really what it's all about, and being able to command your unit and you when you have a film set, it's the same thing creating this environment where everybody where you're inspiring people, you're not, you're not just telling people what to do, you're actually inspiring them, inspiring them. And yeah, I mean, I think there's so many parallels to being a good leader in the military and, and a director who can get the vision across, while also, you know, navigating all the obstacles that arise during production.

Alex Ferrari 7:40
Now, I was going back into your IMDB and I went all the way back to the bottom. Where you get that first pa gig? Yeah, sure. What was that with? I'm sure I'm sure.

Sean Mullin 7:56
I do. Yeah, the best thief in the world was the name of the film. And I was a PA, they found out I had come from ground zero. And so they put me in charge of all walkie talkies, they put me in charge of anything. even remotely all logistics. I mean, I was running all the truck. I was doing everything I but it was great experience. You know, it was? Yeah, it was the summer that would have been summer oh three, my first real onset gig.

Alex Ferrari 8:17
And I'm assuming, of course, you were paid very well. Very handsomely, handsomely.

Sean Mullin 8:22
Still living off it actually still living off the interest?

Alex Ferrari 8:26
No, but so what was the biggest lesson you learned? On those days, those first days on set, because I remember when I was I was a PA. I was just absorbing everything. Like I just absorbed what the director was doing, what the production was doing. I worked in the office I worked on set. I was just absorbing as much what was that lesson? That was the thing that you learned that first those first few weeks?

Sean Mullin 8:48
I think the biggest lesson for me was I had just finished my first year of grad school. So I'm on a real set. And I interned for the production company that produced the movie in the spring. And so I was had been involved and read the script and got to meet the director and everything. And I I think for me, the biggest thing I learned is that I can do this, like I pictured myself in the director's chair, and I felt competent. I mean, yes, I was a PA, you know, but I felt it didn't feel like such a far stretch and demystify the process a lot. And it actually got me really excited that I knew, you know, once I had the funds and the ability to make a first feature, I would be able to I felt confident I'd be able to pull it off.

Alex Ferrari 9:28
Isn't it funny that most pas are sitting there going I could do better

Sean Mullin 9:35
I could, you know, but I just it didn't. I didn't feel like it was beyond the reach of my capabilities. I felt like I felt good. It felt like vindication. Like okay, I see what he's doing. I see he's got a shot list. I see he's gonna stop and I can talk to actors. I know that world to a bit. So yeah, it was really it was really kind of an exciting time, to be honest.

Alex Ferrari 9:56
And as well as when you're standing because I've worked with a ton of stand Throughout my career, and it is a it is a, such an art form. And it's so hard to do good stand up like it's one of the hardest things in the planet to do, honestly. And knowing that you are stand up as well that you got up in front of that mic and everything. What did you bring from that to your directing? Because there, there are some skills that overlap, but what was it that but it wasn't anything you brought up,

Sean Mullin 10:25
I think the biggest thing was just being in the moment because even you know, being in the moment as a director is the most important thing, you know, I mean, in all this years and years of headache and, and sweat and tears and blood that go into like getting a script in the right place, and getting everything attached and getting the money, all that matters is what's between action and cut, right. And you've got to really, really to be locked in. And I'm extremely focused right there in the moment. And that that's always will stand up to you had to be it but you also have to react, right you have to react to the audience and you have to you know, and stand up and then you know, onset as a director, you have to you have to really listen to what your actors are doing, see what they're doing, if they're doing great stay out of their way, if something's rubbed you the wrong way, you got to investigate. And so I think that's probably the biggest thing I got was just the ability to really be in the moment and, and receptive to shifts in tone, or, you know, anything else that might throw off the story.

Alex Ferrari 11:18
I mean, to be fair, I mean, directing is compromise. I mean, the whole thing was constantly compromised. I always love I always love coming to set with this obscene lips shot list. And I gave it to the first ad in the first day. He's like, you know, we're not gonna make it. There. It's there just in case. I have to have 50 shots before lunch. I know. I got it. I got lunch. I know we'll get the five case.

Sean Mullin 11:42
I did a lot in grad school because again, the military, you know, I'm a six foot five military guy, you know, so they everybody's like, Oh, he can tell people what to do without being a jerk. And so So I did a lot of a dealing. And that really helped that helped inform my directing as well. I'm, I'm very selective with my shot. I'm much more I'd rather have less setups and more takes is kind of my approach. So

Alex Ferrari 12:01
Yeah, exactly. Now, how did you get your first film Amira and Sam off the ground?

Sean Mullin 12:09
Oh, my goodness. Yeah, that's definitely a long story. But it was just, you know, it had been about set it took me seven years from the time I got my MFA and Oh, six till that time we shot we shot summer of 13. And it was just a real struggle. I had written some other scripts. I had worked as a screenwriter I, I got hired, right. I got hired to write two scripts pretty quickly out of grad school, one for Britney Spears, which was pretty insane working with her for a year to say the least. And then another one and another script that couldn't be more different. A military drama for an Oscar nominated documentarian, Henry Alex Rubin, who had did Murderball that documentary Murderball, I wrote a I wrote a I wrote a screenplay for him. I actually got hired write that screenplay when I was in grad school, and oh five, and the film actually got made 14 years later it came out. But two years ago, it's called Semper Fi. And so that that script, so I was working as a screenwriter, I was doing other things. My creative partner from Columbia, Mike Connors is my best friend and we have a crush coming out here in LA, he, he made a feature that I produced, called allegiance in 2012. And so producing his feature, I really started to understand, you know, what it takes that really, if you're going to make an independent film, you you've got to especially don't come from any means, you know, you've got to you gotta figure you know, figure it out, you know, last thing my parents ever bought me was a one way plane ticket to West Point, you know, so I, you know, I've been I've been out here hustling, trying to scrape together scrape together money to get things made. And so yeah, we just, I was able to kind of get I got, I landed with a great production company. I got very fortunate, we introduced a burst company, Matt Miller and Eric Lochner at the time, have a company called vanishing angle and they actually fast forward that they are they vanishing angle? Is the production company on it ain't over as well. So it's just a good a good lesson in keeping up relationships, but at the time, it was it was Matt and Eric Now it's run by Matt and Natalie Miller, Natalie Metzker. But, um, but yeah, so we I got, you know, we got the script, I got the script to them, we, we got some money together, we thought we were gonna make it for 600k We went out made offers, we got Martin star attached, which was incredible, was really exciting. He had never been the lead in a, in a in a feature film before, let alone or romantically, let alone a special forces. You know, Greenbrae. So it was really something different for him a real departure, but he, he was really drawn in with a script, and I think I was able to sell him over over lunch, and we got him attached. And then and then we got Deena Shahabi, which was like this incredible, incredible actress. She was still in grad school at the time getting her MFA at NYU and acting she's since blown up she's doing a million things and she was just on this archive at one which was a big Netflix thing but she did Jack rock Jack Ryan and all this other stuff. She's an incredible actress, but this was her first film as well. So lead role and yeah, so it didn't we killed ourselves, you know, and then and then half the budget, you know, half the money. felt, you know, we had, we thought we had 600 we have kind of verbal commitments for 600. And then by the time we're shooting, we had 300. So I had to cut another week. So instead of a four week shoot or three weeks shoot, and it was just a mess was we shot 97 pages and 16 and a half days, which was a real, real, I mean, a real difficult difficult thing. But, you know, through all the through all that through all that trial and tribulation, we ended up having a really wonderful premiere and we ended up winning, winning awards, you know, over 10 film festivals and we got, you know, picked up by Alamo Drafthouse, Tim League, saw the film, watched it, bought it, and put it out in Alamo Drafthouse theaters, which was really exciting. And I got signed it, an agency and all that stuff. So it kind of it served this purpose of what I needed to do. And I also just, obviously, love the film, so means a lot.

Alex Ferrari 15:46
It's fascinating that, you know, I'd love to hear this kind of stories of like we had 600, then we really only had 300 that you kept going is a testament to your ability and everything, your team's ability to just make it happen because it happens so often. And so many filmmakers coming up, they don't understand, like, when the money drops that the concept of the money dropping until it's in the bank until it's an escrow that you can pull, pull a check. It's nothing.

Sean Mullin 16:14
It's nothing. No, no. And when I said we had 600, I think we have 10 grand in the bank. I mean, we have 600 And then that money in I mean, Meg Jarrett, I mean, she's the real angel to that project. She was she was she wrote the first check. And then actually, Peter Sobel off, who was who ended up producing, being one of the lead producers, Peter, and Mike's, who were big producers on the yogi doc, they actually, you know, came in as well and brought some money. And so it was just nervous. We were raising money all the way up through prep, and it was a nightmare. still finding locations, it was a real mess. But at that point in my life, also the film, the film was anything that I would, you know, I think it's too much. I think I cram too much into it. I just I was like, this is like, this is my shot. This is it. This is the only film I'm you know, this is, this is the only film I'm ever gonna get to make. It's been seven years since grad school. And it was really tough, was married, had a young daughter, you know, I was like, what, um, you know, this is it, this was my shot. And if it and so I just, there was no way I was backing down. And if it didn't, if it didn't succeed, I, you know, I don't know for sure what I would have done.

Alex Ferrari 17:13
As they say, you went up to the plate, sir. And you and you and you took you took a swing. And that's, I mean, I've been there. But I've been there that, you know, you're like, This is my shot. I got this has to go the train is left, this is leaving the station on this day. It's over. Regardless of what happens. We're making something

Sean Mullin 17:31
If I'm following if I'm following Martin and Deena around with a camera, you know, for a few weeks, we're gonna get something but everything fell in place. I just had an incredible, incredible support. And Terry Leonard was a producer, who, who really came on board and really helped out with that. And my cinematographer Danny Vecchione, he, Danny, also cinematographer on worked with him on multiple projects since he shot the yogi doc. So again, a lot of lot of my key creative relationships were started with that film.

Alex Ferrari 17:57
Now, as you know, many times when we're on set as a director, there's that day, that moment, Dad, you're losing the son. Camera breaks, the actor can't get to set. How was that moment for you on that film? And how did you overcome it?

Sean Mullin 18:16
I mean, there were there were about 13 of those. But no, I mean, there's one in particular, Dena still brings up uniques I'm still really close. I mean, Dina, and Martin and I, we get together for dinners all the time, and we're really still close. And we really bonded during that, you know, again, that's another kind of similarity to the military, but you bond through the stress. Right? Um, and, and so there was one so we, you know, the film, you know, there, there are different days, you know, we were averaging over seven pages a day. So that was pretty tricky. But there was one day where we had a ton, there's a long scene that takes place in a in a bed, which is like a 10 page scene. So that was night, we got like 14, like we got like 12 or 13 pages that day, which is huge. So but we had an Action Day where we had all of our boat scenes and all of our motorcycle scenes, which were it was just our kind of most logistically challenging day and we had the weather had to be right and everything had to just be perfect, like we had didn't have a minute to spare. And we couldn't, when we got on the boat to shoot the boat scenes, we we didn't have enough people as myself DP producer sound, and then the actors that's all we could fit on the boat. And on one of the take we you know, on one of the takes, we it was a perfect take, I loved everything. But Deena had left on her jean jacket because she was cold. And so the continuity it wouldn't cut it all and it was a big Medius part of the scene and and I I just I almost broke I mean that was the closest I came to breaking because we I didn't know if we could do it again. So we had to circle back around something has to match and then the weather and then I've got this motorcycles waiting for us which we've got to get to them in time to get the sunset motorcycle shots and I'm on the boat and it's just so that that was probably the closest I came to, to kind of breaking. I mean, there's a lot of emotional moments. I mean, the the most emotional moment making it though was when you know when we told all the agents and everything I knew there was a six $7,000 movie. That's what went out to Martin and everything like that. And for Martin Starr is like, Oh, that's not a lot of money. I can't believe it and, and about two thirds of the way through the shoot, we were shooting the scene at this mock police station, and Martin pulled me aside. And we had been through a lot at this point. And he, and he said, You know, I don't know how I go, Sean, I just need to tell you, I don't know how you guys are pulling this off for 600,000. And I just, I just started, I just started crying. I just started crying. Tears came out of my eyes. And he's like, what's he's like, what's up, and he gave me a hug. And I said, God, we only have 300. And, and he hugged me back, and he started crying. And we're just there hugging and crying each other outside this, you know, made up police station, that we shot somewhere. So anyways, it's moments like that. It's a lot, you know, it's a lot.

Alex Ferrari 20:50
Now, is there something that you wish somebody would have told you at the beginning of your career? A piece of advice or something?

Sean Mullin 20:57
Oh, man, I don't know. You know, I'm not a, you know, I'm not a big like, regret guy. I have looked back. I don't you know, I just I've never been good at that. So no, I mean, you know, I'm sure, yeah, I mean, it could have taught me a lot of things. I feel like,

Alex Ferrari 21:09
Hey, you're not gonna get you're gonna get through

Sean Mullin 21:12
Your 300. I mean, you know, just how, you know, I mean, I think I was ready. I think I was prepared for how hard it was. I mean, I, you know, it's just been, it's been very difficult been very difficult on even personal relationships and stuff. And, you know, it's just been hard. It's been a hard, hard road.

Alex Ferrari 21:28
It's and that's the thing that so many young filmmakers coming up, don't understand that this is not an easy path. This is the art the artists path is not an easy path. But the filmmaker path is even more complex, because we cost so much for us. And we have to convince other people to come along with us. It's very difficult to do it all by yourself, if not impossible. So it's, it's it's I always like bringing these kinds of stories up. So filmmakers listening, especially young filmmakers understand what's ahead of them, not to scare them off, but just to understand the rules of the game. Mm

Sean Mullin 22:02
Hmm. Yeah, you almost have to just be possessed, you know. Yeah. Which is, you know, for better for worse, but, but you need a lot of collaborators, you need a lot of support, you need people to vouch for you. That's why I now, you know, vouch for younger filmmakers of whenever I can, and help out. I've had interns over the years. I've got another one this summer. Giselle does Nia, she's really great. So I'm looking out for her, trying to, you know, trying to pass along any advice I can. And actually, I teach a class I teach. I teach two classes over at AFI, AFI the MFA program and directing and I teach in the fall. It's like a directing 101 is a four semester program I teach. In the fall, I teach a, like a direct one on one class shot, shot selection, shot progression, you know, kind of basic directing class, Intro to directing. And then the fourth semester, I teach a class called the first feature where we go through and we do case studies of dozens of first features and you know, what works, what doesn't so I'm doing my best to pass along any knowledge I've gotten over the years to make things a little bit easier, but it's never gonna be easy for anyone.

Alex Ferrari 23:04
I mean, you could you could tell somebody don't put your hand in the fire because it's gonna it's hard until you get into that fire baby. You don't you really don't really don't know. That's true. That's so true to hear all these stories by us old timers sitting around talking about it, but until you're in the interior, as they say, you're in the shit. You really won't know what's what's going on. Now. I when I was looking at through your your filmography, I'm like, okay, so he did this amazingly wonderful romantic comedy. How does he go from I mean, a romantic comedy to Semper Fi which is complete one ad you know obviously much bigger budget you know, a bigger cast and action and different tone How did you get like as a as a as a creative and as a director?

Sean Mullin 24:27
Yeah, I mean, I don't really when I'm looking at stories, I don't look at the genre. Or, you know, even even you know, I don't really necessarily pay attention to format you know, I'm doing more docs now. But I it's really about to me, it's about character and story and for, for me that the stories that have resonated the most are stories where there's some sort of tension between perception and reality. So for Amir and Samos, the perception and reality of a veteran returning from war and an Iraqi refugee, it's this kind of star crossed lover thing where Are there there's a tension there. And with Yogi I mean with yogi, the perception of Yogi versus the reality of Yogi. So I, for me, that's what I'm really keyed into is every story I've gotten involved with has some sort of tension between perception and reality. And so I don't really, you know, whether it's a comedy or drama or dark or scripted, I don't think any of that matters it to me, it's about kind of, you know, the story and the characters. And if I can, undercover, some sort of tension that is compelling.

Alex Ferrari 25:27
How did you approach the action? Because you hadn't at that point, have you shot any action at that point?

Sean Mullin 25:33
Or are you top up for Semper Fi? Yeah. So actually, so I did not direct Semper Fi. So I, you wrote, you wrote down? No, no, no, I'm sorry. Yeah. So Henry, Alex Rubin, who did a Murderball Oh, he ended up No, no, he directed it. So I was just a, I was a co writer, I co wrote the script with him. And then I was a co producer on as well, because I was involved. I mean, I mean, this is 155 drafts over 14 years and not one dime until I until until, until, you know, the first day of shooting really so.

Alex Ferrari 26:01
So at that point, you should like yeah, I'm going to be involved a little bit.

Sean Mullin 26:05
Well, I tried. Yeah, I tried to be as involved as they'd let me

Alex Ferrari 26:09
Now when I saw Beer Fest. And it was really interesting because I love the way you shoot docks. It's very interesting, very cinematic. It's, you know, there's some term documentarian, so shoot it like a documentarian. But you seem to shoot it like a documentarian with a cinematic eye. And

Sean Mullin 26:28
Kingsbury, you're talking about? Things were different. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 26:32
I just had I just had Jay on the show. I'm sorry.

Sean Mullin 26:34
Oh, did you know Jay was amazing. No, no, that was fun. Those little those. Yeah, that was my first my first documentary was called kings of beer. And yeah, I tried to bring again, I brought my DP who's a really incredible cinematographer Danny Vecchione, and he, he's got a real cinematic eye. And so we, you know, we visually try it, we tried to visually design it, you know, as kind of, you know, to make it look kind of, I don't know, as cinematic as possible. And yeah, I'm glad I'm really proud of it was my first doc. And, you know, it's also it got a little bit a little bit of a stink on it, I think for some people after the release, because it was financed by Budweiser. So a lot of people were like, Oh, this is propaganda. This is stuff, but I was like, Listen, you know, I did get paid. First time in my life, I got paid really well. I was like, Oh, this is what directors get paid. Or this is like, this is this is I could do this, like every Yeah, exactly. I got I mean, and so I understood, I understood that end of it. So yeah, Budweiser, did finance it. But they weren't involved. You know, they weren't super involved with the editor or any of the stuff. It was really up to me. And I was really, again, went after care and went after perception versus reality. When I touch again, this is a perfect thing is probably one of my best examples where if I tell you who are the top five Brewmasters at Budweiser, you probably will firstly you didn't know they had multiple Budweiser as theirs, but you probably like oh, they're heavyset, white, bearded white dudes from the Midwest, like just pressing a button. Homer Simpson taken a nap right? But no, I mean, it was. It was the five top brewmaster there 65 breweries around the world that brew button the top five that I followed for a year, where African American female African American male, a Chinese man from Wuhan went to Wuhan, actually, which was crazy shot there right before everything happened. didn't speak any English. And then another woman from Canada who brews in New Hampshire, and then and then the white dude, who was an Army combat vet, which was like really fascinating story. So you know, it again, flipping flipping people's perceptions of what a brewmaster might be. And I'm really proud of the film and it taught me how when I was finishing up post with that is when I got the call from Peter microblogs, saying, Hey, we know the bears, we've got an incident would you be interested in directing a documentary about yogi? And I was like, I actually my initial reaction was like, Well, let me give me a B because Yogi seems to perfect like what's the drama? What's the tension? Right? What? And then I started reading I read some books and I went online, I watched some videos and I was like, oh, no, there's there's something here. There's there's a real tension between who he was and who people thought he was. So I dove in.

Alex Ferrari 29:02
Yeah, so So let's talk about anything over because Yogi agreed with you like I when I watched the film, I knew Yogi is a pitchman. I mean, I knew him as a baseball player, obviously. But I really didn't understand the impact that he had had on the Yankees. And not only on Yankees on the baseball on baseball itself, and how he was not respected as or putting the light that he should have been in because he was as good, if not better than any of those guys on those teams that he wants championships there.

Sean Mullin 29:35
There's one stat that's and this is just the baseball people out there. But there's one stat that we didn't, we couldn't share in the movie, you know, you have 90 minutes to tell this guy's incredible, you know, 9090 year journey and so we couldn't fit everything in. But there are only two players in the history of baseball to finish in the top four of MVP voting for seven straight years. And that's really tough to do because it's really about consistency and finish that high and MVP voting. I mean, you'll give one three of them but he finished the top four set Been years in a row. The only other player to do it was Mike Trout. So, you know, he's not talked about though, in the same same kind of levels of some of these guys. And so that was definitely something we were we were going after it. He's also an again, just from the Yankees legacy. I mean, he's the only I mean, if you look at his life, we kind of we cover this on the dock, but like, you know, he came up as a rookie and met Babe Ruth and shook hands with Dave and got to know him a little before they passed. And then and then he was mentored by DiMaggio and and he was a, you know, he was a, you know, teammate of mantle. And then, you know, he's a coach. He's a coach. Yeah, and Maris Of course, and Whitey and that whole crew and then and then fast forward to he's a, he's a coach for you know, Guidry and Willie Randolph and reds. And then And then he's the manager for Mattingly. And then he mentors, you know, Jeter and Gerardi and that whole crew too. So there's no Yankee, there's nobody who's done that front from shaking hands with Babe Ruth to mentoring Derek Jeter. There's, you know, he really is the connective tissue. Absolutely. The backbone of the Yankees.

Alex Ferrari 31:03
Yeah, it was and then you know, that whole 14 year bit with him and George Steinbrenner. Yeah, I mean, that that was insane. Do you know that I when I was down in Florida watching spring training, I got George Steinbrenner to sign my baseball.

Sean Mullin 31:16
Well, there you go.

Alex Ferrari 31:18
He was citing Baseball said I made it onto ESPN. Like even some kids were looking for George Steinbrenner.

Sean Mullin 31:25
Yeah, I mean, he was an interesting guy. I mean, you know, I think Bob Costas put it well, in the in the documentary and he was a polarizing figure. But but you know, he did love the Yankees. And he did love Yogi they had, they had obviously a bit of a falling out. But we were able to interview Georgia somehow. And he was he couldn't have been more kind and just really wonderful about things he had to say about yogi. So it was really nice to be able to talk to so many wonderful people. I mean, you saw the interviews, we got some great ones. So

Alex Ferrari 31:50
Oh, no, some amazing ones. But I have to ask you, so when I've had other people on the show, we've tackled large, you know, you know, just kind of like big shadows of people, massive personalities. How do you approach someone's legacy like this? Because I know you were doing it with the help of the family. So that actually helps, obviously, that you're not doing it against the wishes of the family and everything. But how do you even approach telling that story? I mean, the pressure on you, like people are going to look at this documentary, this is going to be what people look, go back and look at about yo, because there really isn't a definitive documentary. God.

Sean Mullin 32:26
Not I mean, not. Yeah. I mean, there is no, there is June 11. Yeah, there will be. No, we were really proud of it. And know, the family was incredible. Like, the biggest concern from day one was to not make it some sort of like hagiography, some sort of puff piece, some sort of AI that's documentaries that just put their subjects on a pedestal. And then I call these things and this is very, I was very upfront with my producers on day one. I said, I don't want to do a Wikipedia doc, a wiki doc, where it's just like, they were born. They did this they did that there's a difference between emotion, right, which is what I'm after, and information, which is what you can google right. And so I I'm really, really had to play emotionally. I think it does play. I don't know, I let you leave if you agreed, had agreed.

Alex Ferrari 33:11
I teared up a few times. Yeah.

Sean Mullin 33:13
Yeah. So in if it doesn't have those emotional, that emotional component to it, I'm not interested in directing it. So I was very upfront with that from day one. So it was like how are we going to tell the story in a way that is going to really get to the heart of audiences and so but at the same time without, you know, without it being, you know, just too much of a like it's like a puff piece.

Alex Ferrari 33:37
Yeah, absolutely right. Because some documentaries are just very informative. Just a second Wikipedia style erotic that we can dock with the concept.

Sean Mullin 33:45
Yeah, I just I'm working on two docks right now two other docks and and yeah, that's just my that's my number one thing is what can what can we offer people that is actually truly cinematic that is actually going to engage them in a way emotionally, you know, in lives right here instead of living up here, you know?

Alex Ferrari 34:00
Yeah. And then the whole new Yogi Berra knew that whole backstory, but I didn't know how deep it went. Why he was called yogi. I always wondered why he was called like, that's obviously not his Italian name. Right, right. Yeah. There was no there was one piece in the in the documentary that blew my mind. I just could not believe that to happen. Because he's, I think he was the first he caught the first no hitter in the

Sean Mullin 34:26
game. He got the Yeah, he got Yeah, he called he called all 97 pitches. So like, you know, so Larson was just like, locked in like, tell me Yogi what to do.

Alex Ferrari 34:35
And he never he never called me never didn't check them off.

Sean Mullin 34:38
They didn't check them off once in 97 pitches.

Alex Ferrari 34:40
So he got so then and then. Yeah, later, decades later, he makes up it's Yogi Berra day.

Sean Mullin 34:48
Well, you can't Yeah. You can't. Well, it's that, you know, it's the type thing in a documentary too. I'm always looking at where if I were to script it, it would the producers would throw it out. They said is ridiculous. And that's when you know, I think you've got a doc that really works is when there's a moment that is so unbelievable that you couldn't have scripted it. And that definitely that moment, you know, had that, you know, and it's also a great example of that information has been out there forever. Like, you could have read that on Wikipedia, and you can read it and but it's in books, it's a fact that he was part of these two, you know, these two perfect games. But but until you see it until you are involved in two, you're experiencing it through everything he had gone through, that's the difference between again, you know, kind of, you know, a cinema treatment and just a, you know, just a little wiki doc thing.

Alex Ferrari 35:35
Now, on a business standpoint, when you know, because I've studied docs for you know, most of my career, I'm a big fan of docs. But on a business standpoint, it's I always find it so interesting when filmmakers work on Docs to have a built in audience. So especially when it's a larger than life figure like yogi, how hard was it to get the financing to put this whole thing together all that because people think, Oh, you're making a Yogi Berra Doc, I mean, the money must have just been rolling it.

Sean Mullin 36:09
Listen, that's a whole nother. I mean, you know, I was extremely, extremely fortunate that from day one, Peter and Mike Sobel off, who were the first to, they're the ones who put the whole kind of project together at the very beginning and called me and asked me to direct they went out and raise the budget themselves. I mean, the two of them, you know, they and I mean, I couldn't have been more fortunate to work with, you know, to more supportive, you know, you know, just bold, you know, producers and the first thing that they did, they went out and, you know, they were out while they were out raising the money, I went and I turned right back to vanishing angle, Matt Miller and Natalie Mesker. Again, who produced my my first feature mirror and Sam, you know, years ago, and I said, Hey, would you guys want to team up with the cellblocks has to be a good team, they can kind of go out, raise the money and leave that front. You guys can handle the production side of it. And then I got my old editor, Julian Robinson, from Amira and Sam has incredible editor. The film is very well edited. And all the archival he had to he had to dig through and all this stuff. So I got Danny, my old cinematographer who kind of put the band back together and made it happen. But as far as raising the money, fortunately, you know, Peter has really good ties to a lot of folks who are huge Yankee fans, and he's a big finance guy in New York. So he was able to, you know, him and Mike were able to to make it happen somehow.

Alex Ferrari 37:27
Right. Exactly. Because I mean, yeah, if you tap into there's a certain pool in New York.

Sean Mullin 37:32
Yeah, absolutely. No, it was nice. Well, the craziest thing, the craziest thing is over the course, over the course of making this documentary, Peter and Mike have gotten involved in are now minority owners in the Yankees, actually. So they actually own a piece of the Yankees two, which is, which is totally totally aside from the doc just happened. So. So that's pretty cool. Yeah, they're great. They're a great team.

Alex Ferrari 37:53
Yeah. So and then you've gotten to Tribeca, obviously. So what was it like getting that call, man?

Sean Mullin 37:59
It was wonderful. It felt like the right place. You know, it just felt like this is where we this is, this is where we wanted to premiere the film. So we knew it. We knew it. We were hoping, and they called us right away. And they called us super early back in like November, like I think November, you know, way, way early. And wow, that's really I mean, yeah, before they even closed, you know, before they even close submissions, and they're like, hey, we want this we want this and we got excited. And then we were able to get an incredible incredible you know, if you know the indie film business, you know, you need a great sales agent. And so we you know, we started at the top and we took a stab at John sloths at Cinetic. And, and and he you know, he flipped for it. He's been so caught him and the whole team is Cinetic have been really incredible. So they're selling it so that's great. So yeah, just started putting all the all the all the pieces together.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
Man, I really hope it gets out there. Because, you know, for for any baseball fan out there. I mean, Yo, he's just, I mean, even if you're not a baseball fan, if you're a certain age, you know, Yogi is purely because he did 1000s of commercials. Versus man, it was like even the doc he's like, I don't know, I'm doing some it was Aflac or something like that.

Sean Mullin 39:08
Amtrak Aflac. Didn't know which one it was like, it's one of those. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 39:13
I'm getting a check. It's fine. Yeah, but you seem like such a sweet guy, man. And such an authentic guy. Like it was one of those people that you just, they don't make souls like that anymore. Like, they truly don't.

Sean Mullin 39:23
He just, I mean, this is what I tell people about the film is, it was a real, real honor and pleasure to tell a story about someone who just always did the right thing. He just always did the right thing. He just that was that he just had every turn, whether it was you know, you know, breaking the color barrier and help, you know, help him you know, befriending you know, Jackie Robinson and Larry, Adobe, and all these guys who are coming into the league who, you know, whatever, just a return. It's really the film is really about a life well lift. And it's a broader, you know, we you know, one of the kinds of templated films we looked at when we were looking at these docks was the the Mr. Rogers stuff luck, you know, had come out. One of the things that and that was one of the films that's that actually sparked the Sobel off to call me today because actually I got the call from them in July of 18. So it was the summer that moved. So this this projects been going on for years. You know, and I got the call in July of 18. And they had just seen that dock and they were like, we need to do something kind of in that vein for yogi. And so, yeah, just a real. I mean, I was extremely honored. And, you know, and just the fact that, you know, Lindsey is happy with the great granddaughter, she's incredible. She narrates the film, and, and I'm just excited for the rest of the bear the biggest audience to have seen the film so far has four people. And we're premiering in 1000 seat theater next Saturday, so it's gonna be it's gonna be something

Alex Ferrari 40:41
Now, really important question is, though, did was Jackie safe?

Sean Mullin 40:47
You know, what's the craziest thing? I mean? You can you know? Yeah. Did you like that little piece in the film that back and forth

Alex Ferrari 40:53
Oh, fun. It was, as I'm talking about Jackie Robinson, there's a very famous play at a play at home plate where Yogi thinks he got him. But Jackie was ruled safe. Jackie, great Jackie Robinson and to his grave.

Sean Mullin 41:08
Oh, is he right?

Alex Ferrari 41:10
You know, he was. Even when you sell frame by frame, I was watching it. I'm like, What do you think I first saw it. When I first saw it. I'm like, Nah, he's he got him out. There was like that one sequence from the other angle. And I'm like,

Sean Mullin 41:25
That's what's really great about it. So from the front angle, he looks out and then but from the reverse angle, he definitely looks safe. So but he I mean, it's the safe route. It's great. I mean, what it's what's great about baseball too, right? Is that, yeah, that was game one of the 55 series. And it was a really big deal. And, you know, he was at his height. And Jackie was, you know, these were these were characters who were larger than life, you know, and to have that massive play at home plate, but in the steal of home and who steals home anymore. So it was just, it was a real, it was yeah, it was really great. But now if you look at that's the great thing about if you look at it from one angle, he looks clear, clearly out and another angle, you know, he looks safe. So what's great,

Alex Ferrari 42:01
Now I'm gonna ask you a couple questions. Ask all my guests are sure. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

Sean Mullin 42:10
What advice, um, you know, that's, you know, start making films, no matter how big or small just start start shooting, start learning learning, learn the craft, understand what a shot means, understand. When you're subjective, it means something when you're objective, it means something, learn how to compress, learn how to elaborate, learn how, learn the fundamentals, you know, just through, you can shoot, you know, one of the one of the classes I teach at AFI and I taught at USC for for a few years before as well. They've got a great program there. And, you know, I, I just would run my students through these, like very basic exercises, like character a wants something from character B, and, you know, create a story, you know, dialogue, and just how do you articulate beats? So just like learning the basics of like, how do shots add up to, you know, an emotional impact, you know, with with an audience and so I would, I would just say, start shooting, you know, on a video game on your phone on whatever, start telling stories, start writing, you know, if you can write, you got a leg up as a director, I'll tell you that if you can write you really do because nobody's, you know, nobody's gonna just give a director a great script. You know, the great scripts are few and far between, as we all know, and so nobody's going to give one to you if you're starting out. So if you can write that's great. If you can't write find a writer, team up with a writer, co write with a writer, you know, adapt a short story, it's amazing how many first features are adaptations of short stories or something that exists. So don't be afraid to grab a piece of material from somewhere else. Tchaikovsky's you know, childhood is one of the great all time great first features and it was an adaptation. So yeah, anyway, it's just that'd be my advice is just to go out and learn. Hone the craft. It's the same thing with acting. And some actors, oh, I want to act like do some theater. Like get learn how to act like learn the craft. And you know, before, you know, you try to make it big, you know? So that that'd be my advice.

Alex Ferrari 44:05
No, and what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn, whether in the film industry or in life?

Sean Mullin 44:11
Well, I'm still I mean, I don't know, man, I'm still learning just from the lessons take me the longest to learn. Gosh, I'd say you know, how important relationships really are relationships and collaborations. I think, you know, I knew it, I knew it, it kind of instinctually but looking back at the past 15 years, you starting to see, you know, people pop up again, again on my projects and just knowing that like it's really building this kind of, again, to use a middle you know, military term, you know, unit you know, this, this this kind of, you know, brigade or whatever you want to call it, of supporters and cultivating support from other filmmakers, but also just, you know, financiers and just champ you know, understanding that it takes a lot of people to believe in you in order to To make it through this and being very respectful of that, anytime anybody does believe in you, I'm really honored that to be grateful for it. And yeah, I think that's, that's the biggest lesson that I've, I've taken away. And three of your favorite films of all time, a Russian film from 1959 called Ballad of a soldier, which I think is probably one of the all time great, great films I recommend. It's also a film a lot a lot of people have seen, so I highly recommend checking that one down if for anyone out there I love the 55 movie. Marty Petrowski is Marty is really high up on my list as well. And then good as I mean, I'm a big welcome to your fans of reprise his first feature. This is one of my favorites, too. So I don't know. I mean, geez, I could I could name I probably about 50 favorite films, you know, but those are three that just popped off my head.

Alex Ferrari 45:49
Sean man, I appreciate you coming on the show. Brother. Congratulations on a great a great film. And I look forward to seeing more stuff from you in the future brother and thank you for bringing Yogi out of the shadows and showing showing who Yogi really is in your film brother, so I appreciate you man. Thanks again.

Sean Mullin 46:04
Yeah, no, thank you for the time. I really appreciate it. Yeah.

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IFH 587: Adventures in Directing My 1st Indie Film with Kyra Sedgwick

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

In 2018, Sedgwick received a DGA nomination for her directorial debut with the feature STORY OF A GIRL. She then helmed the short film GIRLS WEEKEND, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. She has directed episodes of “Grace & Frankie,” “City on a Hill”, “Ray Donovan,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (on which she also had a recurring role) and many others.

Her film roles include THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, THE POSSESSION, THE GAME PLAN, SECONDHAND LIONS, WHAT’S COOKING, PHENOMENON, HEART AND SOULS, SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY and SINGLES.

Planets and lives collide in this Kyra Sedgwick-directed feature. Alex (Kyle Allen) longs to travel to outer space and finally gets the opportunity to do so thanks to a privately-funded Mars colonization program. In the midst of his rigorous preparation, he meets Daisy (Alexandra Shipp), the new girl in town who’s trying to start over. The two wayward souls connect in unexpected ways, both of them harboring secrets that they’re desperately trying to overcome. However, when questions about the legitimacy of the program and the future of his parents’ flower farm begin to crop up, Alex finds himself questioning whether it’s easier to confront his past or fly away into the stars.

In a time where nihilism about the Earth’s future is rampant, it can be difficult to find optimism about what comes next. However, Space Oddity is a heartwarming film that encourages living life to the fullest with those you love the most

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Kyra Sedgwick 0:00
The difference between a director who has really prepared and really has a point of view and really has a vision, and also can communicate it. That's an awful lot to ask.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma Elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading lots vintage analog textures like BH s, and CRT images, smoke fog, textures, DaVinci Resolve presets, and much more. After working as an editor colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10. To get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's enigmaelements.com. Well guys, today we are starting our coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival and our first guest is amazing. We have the legendary Kyra Sedgwick, who you might know from the television show The closer and starring in phenomenon with John Travolta and many, many, many other films and television shows over the years. Now in this episode, we sit down and talk about how Kyra was able to jump from from front of the camera to behind the camera as a producer, director, and we talk about her adventures trying to make her new independent film Space Oddity. So let's dive in. I'd like to welcome to the show Kyra Sedgwick how you doing Kyra?

Kyra Sedgwick 1:43
I'm great. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:47
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I've been a fan of yours since my days of the video store where I was where I was moving pirates around.

Kyra Sedgwick 1:58
Yes, pirates was amazing.

Alex Ferrari 2:05
So you've had an amazing career, and you've worked with some remarkable people. But before we get into all of that, and especially your new film, which I got a chance to see which I loved Space Odyssey up Space Oddity. How did you get started? And why did you want to get started in this insane business?

Kyra Sedgwick 2:23
Oh, as an actor? Yes. Yeah, you know what I fell in love at 12. I did a play in eighth grade. Fiddler on the Roof. And I played sidle, and matchmaker much less. I mean, forget it. I was that was it. I mean, truly, like, I was not a happy kid, I had a very challenging childhood and home life. And that was like, swish. I mean, that was it. Like I knew this was where I felt I didn't even have the words for it at the time. But I remember saying, I feel like my soul has left my body and it's dancing around the stage. And then like, to this day, I feel like that is such a great, that's such a great explanation of the way that I description of the way that I felt and how it's so interesting to think that as it as I kept acting, you know, forever, and it became a vocation, and it became something I have to be good at. And then after success, and I was supposed to be good. And then I was supposed to be better. And then and then that it sort of lost that initial, like love story that brought me in it in the beginning. And then subsequently, like, falling in love with directing in that same way. It's like, oh my god, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Like, this is what I've been supposed to be, you know, I've been training for since I was 16, you know, because I started working professionally when I was 16. So I knew I wanted to be an actor. 12 I worked really hard up until 16. And then I, you know, got my first gig and that was really it.

Alex Ferrari 4:02
Now what was it like your first day walking on the set of your first professional? I'm gonna get paid to act day.

Kyra Sedgwick 4:09
Oh, on the day that I was gonna get paid to act. I'm good God, you know, I had like, that stupid beginner's like, ego about it. Like, I mean, I knew, I knew, like, it's very clear that being an actor, because I was trained well is a service position. Because it really is, you know, I mean, it may later become something else when you become more powerful and have actually people actually care about what you think. But initially, like you're there to serve, you know, you're there, serve the writer most of all, and then serve the director. And so I think I felt incredibly stoked, but I also felt like, of course, I'm doing this this is what I this is what I'm supposed to be doing. And I really didn't know that at 12. I mean, like, I wasn't going to take no for an answer. Although I guess I think I thought If I if I try this for six years try to get a job for six years and it doesn't pan out. I'm gonna have to do something else, but I was gonna give it a good six years,

Alex Ferrari 5:08
Six years that's not a bad amount of time. Some people get the Hollywood I'm gonna give it a good year. I'm like, man, yeah, no, no, no. It's gonna take a little longer than that. Now was one of my favorite films of yours. You have so many that I've loved of yours from singles and so many others. But phenomenon. Absolutely. I mean, when you were on that set, and you were working with John Travolta and there's a magic about that movie, and you're in your performance opposite of John was so riveting you balanced his performance as a character. So well. What did what was it like on set when you when you were when you when you read that story for the first time?

Kyra Sedgwick 5:48
Yeah, I really liked the story. It was funny. I remember I really liked the story. And I also got offered simultaneously like a big horror movie. I can't tell you what it was. So I don't remember. But I remember John turtle Taub you know, being like, but I want you to be in my movie. And, and, you know, and I mean, I love the movie, and I loved the part. You know, the other one was sort of my movie, albeit it was a horror movie. But you know, of course, I was going to do phenomenon. You know, I knew it was something special. When I when I went to meet with John Travolta for the first time and he's just heart is just so big, like, his heart is so big. I know, you know, maybe you don't know him or people don't know that about him. But it's like, he's so and he's so porous. And he's so vulnerable. And like, his strength isn't his vulnerability, I there was just something and he was so in love with this story. And so, so attached, so committed to making it, you know, real and, and having it you know, have so much integrity has so much integrity and and it's about this sort of fantastical thing that happens. But he was so committed to making it, making it grounded. Also, John turtle Tao is like the one of the funniest people on the planet. And he also has a big heart and loves really big. And so I just thought I felt like I'd really be taken care of. And I also felt the story would be taken care of. And I loved it. I absolutely loved working on that piece. And my daughter was two at the time. And my Kevin had Travis and I had sosi. And she would come to the satellite, John Travolta was so in love with her. I don't know, it was just like a very loving place and a family. Yeah, it really was. And that doesn't always happen. Especially not with a monumental star like that. I mean, that was insane. But also, we all really were committed. We knew we had something special and we wanted to like, you know, we wanted to make it great. And he did. They did we did.

Alex Ferrari 7:55
There was a phenomenal No pun intended. Wonderful, really, really fun movie now after working on on set for so many years and during your career. What made you say, you know, I think I think I want to get behind the camera. I want to get behind the lens.

Kyra Sedgwick 8:14
Yeah. Well, you know, it's funny, I, I, I've always, I always have an opinion. So I think that you know, it really it was my husband's my beloved husband, who was like, you know, honey, you really should think about directing, you really should think about directing. And I was always like, you know, I was terrified of the concept because I thought I wouldn't be you know, I'd work with great, great directors, and then I'd work with not great directors who will never be great, you know what I mean? And it's very clear, you know, the vast cavernous, you know, difference between the two, two things, you know, and, and so I was afraid I was going to be, you know, the ladder and and I didn't want that crushing blow to my ego, frankly, and, and I so I and I also I didn't see it a lot, you know, I mean, here's the truth of it, right is like as a woman started in, you know, acting professionally 1984 81 1981 Like, I didn't see a lot of women, right? People with a vagina directing, you know, and it was like, when you don't see it, you don't know that you can dream it or be it right. So, but having said that, it was my husband who was like, you know, kind of boosting me along and then you know, I had I had been producing since I was 27. I did my first movie, you know, in 2010 when I was 27, but I produced and we got Helen Mirren and I was in it and Sandra Bullock was in an in Marisa toma It was amazing. And it was Oh no, that was Loverboy that was my second thing. My first thing was losing chase with Helen. And in any case, so I had like balls around that like I had chutzpah about, you know I'm going to produce because I know this is a good script, and I know actors are gonna like it. And I think I'll get a good director. But, you know, a directing just seems so terrifying to me and so much responsibility. But then I had this book that I had bought in 2007, called story of a girl. And we had hired a female writer director to write the script. And we tried to get it made for like, 10 years. And you know, to quote Glenn Close, I wonder why it didn't get made. Maybe it be, because it has girl in the title. But you know, it took a really long time to get it Raven was finally time to get it made, I actually walked into lifetime to talk to them about something else. And you know, they said, you have a passion project. And I was like, Yeah, I have a passion project called story of a girl and I want to direct it. And then I was like, Who says?

I mean, literally, I was like, say, what did that just come out of my mouth. And then they read it. And like, the next day, we're like, we absolutely love this, and we'll make it for a little bit of money, not a lot of money. And I was like, I'm up for that. So, you know, it was beyond my wildest dreams. You know, I I, like I said, I felt like I was in my element. I didn't know until the first day of directing have actually being on set that I was in my element prep was terrifying for me, even though I had been in my head really prepping for this movie for 10 years. I was terrified, rightly so I think, like, Can I do it? You know, I got my husband, they're going, of course, you can do it. I got these actors were looking at me like, of course, I think you can do it, can you but I you know. And then literally the first take of the first rehearsal of the first scene, the first blocking the first thing and I was like, I got this, you know, and it was this very, like, you know, not, you know, just this ease. And this flow, I felt very in the flow, it felt very easy. You know, subsequently, I think it's become harder as again, like that sort of that little girl who's like, My soul is, you know, dancing around. It's like, after a while your ego does come in and start going, like, I don't really know what you're doing. And I know I'm doing and starts to doubt you and compare and despair and all that stuff. But like in that, that that show, I was like, I've got this. And then we were like, I mean, I can remember one day we showed up on set. There was one day that we had all outside stuff on location, and it couldn't rain. And of course, it was Vancouver, and it was pouring. And I remember everyone was freaking out. And I was like, it's going to be fine. It's going to be fine. I don't know where I got that kind of, like trust and confidence and faith that like no matter what we're gonna figure something out. It was amazing. It was an amazing day, we did figure a lot of stuff out. But but the thing is, is that being so much having, you know, I mean, I've spent so many times on set so much time on set, I know what it's like when it feels like a director has the reins and when they don't, and how awful and scary it feels like when you they don't have the reins and they don't have control. And so that was something that I wanted to emulate, but it came pretty easily for me. And also, I had been prepping this movie in my head for 10 years and had been prepping it on location for you know, six weeks. So anyway, I don't know if I even don't know

Alex Ferrari 13:21
You answered you answered the question. And I love the imposter syndrome that came in because of course every every everybody has it. And I always like bringing that up on the show because a lot of young filmmakers and young screenwriters, even young actors are listening. They think that you know, you're you've made it a certain point, you don't have that anymore. Henry Fonda was throwing up right before he went on stage every night. Yeah. And he said he was Henry Fonda. So you said you said that you've worked with great directors and you know what great directors are and you've worked with not so great directors and and you know, what is the difference from an actor's perspective?

Kyra Sedgwick 13:53
Oh, boy, that that's really hard. Because because the director can come over and give you a good note and still like, the it doesn't come together? Well, it doesn't cut together.

Alex Ferrari 14:03
Well, you know, because there could be there could be a performance director who doesn't understand the craft of telling a visual story, or visuals was all visuals. And you're just movable props at that point.

Kyra Sedgwick 14:15
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don't I think it's really, but But I can tell you the difference between a director who has really prepared and really has a point of view and really has a vision, and also can communicate it that's an awful lot to ask and one, but it feels so good, then we're all like making the same movie. And we're all you know, again in the flow and in the you know, serving the peace as a whole that has a very strong idea and a very strong vision. Like to me that's a good director.

Alex Ferrari 14:50
Now, what is some of the biggest lessons you took away from working with some of the legendary directors have you worked with over the years?

Kyra Sedgwick 14:57
Oh, you know, is that everybody does it Finally, it's very, it's really interesting, you know, on, some people are, you know, super, super hyper focused on detail. And some people are like, just do it again, just do it again. And you know, like Kelly Fremont, Craig on edge of 17 just to pick someone really recent and some a female, like, was very specific, very, very, very specific. Whereas, like, Oliver Stone was like, do it again, or James ivory, you know, it was like, it was already painted the painting, the movie was painted. You were just the brushstrokes, and he was the hand doing the brushstrokes. So it's like, if you had no, it was so interesting, because he you know, he had it so much in his head that like, no matter what you brought to the table, he would always direct you back into that, that version that he had in his head, you know, it's so it was so and I remember looking at at Richard, what God death rate actor, I'm forgetting his name. It wasn't. It wasn't Paul Newman, obviously. And just going like, is it just me or is he already painted the picture? And the guys already painted the picture? Robert, Sean Leonard, he's already painted the picture. And I was like, So what are we even doing here? He's amazing.

Alex Ferrari 16:16
You know, it's really interesting, because I understand what you mean by that, because his movies are so crafted. And they were like, move, they were literally moving works of art. Like, it looks like you could hang a frame every frame, you could hang somewhere in a museum. But I never, I was always wondering about how he worked with actors. Because, you know, some actors like I've had Oliver on the show. And he's an Oliver's. He's Oliver. He's Oliver. And I, and he seems to like just do it again, kind of like any flows with it. But when you when you have a director that flows with it like that, there's such confidence, and they just understand the craft so much, that they're not afraid of what you might bring, that might be different. And I'm not saying that James is like that, but James just had, it seemed that he just had such a clear idea that anything that varied out of that box, he just like, No, this is what I'm doing. And you're just a paintbrush. It's fascinating to me as an actor, that must have been extremely frustrating, because you'd like to bring obviously, you bring something to the table, right?

Kyra Sedgwick 17:18
It wasn't that I saw the movie, and it was so fucking amazing that I know nothing, but that he cast really well. Like he knew he I mean, you know, and I was just listening to Paul, Thomas Anderson talking about casting really well, you know, and it's like, you cast really well, you really have to trust your actors to bring to bring something special. And, you know, and I don't know, you know, I can, I can really see it from both sides. Again, being an actor, I can totally see it from both sides. Because it's like, on the one hand, you know, he cast the perfect people. But he also like, kept them in a in a very strange, very like, like, tight little box. But then someone like Paul Thomas Anderson, like cast really well. And then just goes like, do it again, and try it again and try something different. It really, I think it also it's so much depends upon how much time you have. It's like, you can go like, let's do it again. I don't think I have it yet. But like, let's do it again, I won't get any direction. But if you only have like, four takes that, you know, until you have to move on. Like you have to know people more, you know, and it might make people feel more uptight. But the truth is like, then you hope the director has a plan of like, I know, I got this piece and this scene, this piece, you know, this piece in this beginning of the scene, I just need the middle and now I got the end, let's just do that little, you know,

Alex Ferrari 18:40
Or you could or you could do the Kubrick and just shoot. But he but he also a lot of people don't understand that Kubrick shot with like, you know, 13 crew members. So he had days and days, weeks and months and Eyes Wide Shut. How long do you have like almost a year? That's the longest, longest shooting movie in history? I think it was a quarter because he just locked up Tom Cruise and the cocaine and

Kyra Sedgwick 19:07
I know, it's so funny. It's like I was thinking, you know, I made my movie in 21 days. And, and, you know, I and I heard Paul Thomas Anderson, who I think like made one of the greatest moves. I mean, he's beyond, you know, buddy, but and I was so in love with licorice Risa, and he was like, I have 65 days to shoot and I was like, 65 Anyone can make a good movie and 60 I actually heard myself saying that. I can't believe I said it. But no. Anyway, but it's true. It's like I think it's more fun to the actress when you have more time you can be more Lucy. I think it is more fun for the actors.

Alex Ferrari 19:45
Know how do you approach directing actors as being one for so long?

Kyra Sedgwick 19:49
Yeah. Hmm. How do I you know, everyone's different. I think first of all, you know, making actors are holding a space that feels safe. for them is so key like, and that starts from, like, the first conversation you have with them of like, you know, what do you need, like, what can I do, but also just just making a safe place because actors there's, we are so vulnerable, it is so terrifying, you know, having a giant piece of machinery looking at you. I mean, I don't know, I just think that every actor is, you know, ripping themselves open and like, you know, leaving a piece of their soul on the on the floor for you. So like, you better honor what that is. And I feel like I know that intrinsically. That's not something I had to learn. That's something that I, you know, really, really deeply understand. So I think that's, like, first and foremost, super important because people, I think that they'll feel more people give you better if they feel safe. And and, and I think that, you know, I, I've worked with a lot of green actors in my time. And I think that it's about specificity. And, you know, using all the tools in your toolbox as director, and you know, and trying not to, you know, to give on actionable notes, you know, like, just be faster, just be funnier, you know, that kind of shit is like not I mean, I, I really try not to do that, unless an actor's just like, You mean faster, right? And I'm like, yeah, actually,

Alex Ferrari 21:28
That's what I meant faster, more intense.

Kyra Sedgwick 21:30
Do like pace or whatever. But like, people need different things. Some people like, you know, we're gonna nail it on the first or second take, like Kevin's gonna nail on the first or second take, it's not going to be a warm up, we better be ready, you know, whereas some of the younger actors, it's like, they need you to warm up. And some of them needed a warm up in the beginning of the movie, but not towards the end of the movie. Towards the end of the shoot, like I've been in a great I've been, I've had like a front row seat to see actors grow within a movie. Like it's incredible. You know, and then, so everyone needs something different. Some people and sometimes, you know, you need to be pushed and pushed, just do it again, do it again. And then they start like questioning themselves to death. And it's like, no more questions, you've got to trust me, like, go again, just do it again. You just started watching yourself, because a lot of time the actors are watching themselves. And it's like, I'm watching you. Try not to watch yourself, like, keep going.

Alex Ferrari 22:23
So when actors are in the scene, I when I've worked with actors before, sometimes they get into their own head. And then once they're in their own head, they're out of the moment, and they're thinking about their acting. And then now that's a bad performance. You're not, you're not reacting, you're not in the moment. What do you do to knock them out of that? Because it happens all the times,

Kyra Sedgwick 22:42
I slapped them really hard across the face.

Alex Ferrari 22:44
No, not so much. In these days, seven days, you might have gotten away with that not so much now,

Kyra Sedgwick 22:48
Honestly, you know, I, you know, I think honestly, sometimes you take them aside and like, hey, you know, what do you need or and be like that loving, like mama bear. And sometimes it's like, stop doing that, you know, and you've got to trust me Stop it. Like, you know, I think one of Alex's, you know, one of Kyle's greatest performances was when he was feeling the most self loathing and like, I could see it in him, you know, because I know that feeling like, I suck so bad. And it's like, you know, I just made him do it again, and again, and again. And it's like, it's some of the stuff that we use the most in the movie. And it's, it's the most vulnerable and, and, you know, I just, I just tried to, like, not give him time to be in his head, because we didn't have the time. So in a way, that was a gift, right? Like, I can't, we all can't indulge this, like, I'm not going to let you indulge it because I don't think it's good for you. But we all can't indulge this. So let's just keep going. And again, again, again, and I don't, he never, he never told me he hated me for it. But really, truly, it's the it's the stuff that's like interstitially in the movie. It's the stuff when he's looking in the mirror, and we use it over and over and over again, in the movie, because because it helped it did something for us that we didn't even know we needed. Moments where we were just quiet and landing with Alex and seeing him make a decision to do something different. But for those of us who haven't seen the movie won't mean anything but but but the point being that, you know, when he was at least trusting, and I think that's also the thing that I can speak to as an actor and tell actors, sometimes when it feels the worst, it's the best. And we don't know as actors, we think we know. It wasn't good. I always know but we really don't. We really don't. And I can reflect that back to them. You know, it was good for you doesn't mean it was good for the audience. Just because you really cried doesn't mean that you made the audience cry.

Alex Ferrari 25:15
It's interesting because when you start listening to stories of like David Fincher or Stanley Kubrick where he just they do 70 80 90

Kyra Sedgwick 25:22
Yeah, not that I don't think I'll ever be that person even if it had time.

Alex Ferrari 25:26
Right, exactly. But I understand I kind of understand the mentality behind it, because you're breaking down the actors mind to the point where they can't think anymore because they've done it so much. And they just, that's where the magic happens in their, their process. Yeah. But I believe if you hire good actor, they should get there faster.

Kyra Sedgwick 25:44
Exactly. You know, so funny, because I worked with Cameron Crowe, obviously, yeah, like him. And dude, that guy did like 45 tapes of everything. And every single actor at one point, you know, looked at themselves and went, I must be the worst actor on the planet. And it was so funny, because we all felt like, I talked to Bridget Fonda. And I was like, I know, he probably doesn't do it to you. But he makes me do like 40 takes, like, Are you kidding? He always makes you do 40 takes, but she didn't have that, like, self loathing that I was born with. So, you know, so she didn't take it so personally. But you know, it's so funny because he would come the next day. I remember this vividly. I don't know if you remember the movie, but there's her first scene. I think it's the beginning of the movie. And she's doing the garage door clicker. And he has a little like for like a couple of paragraphs. And then she clicks the garage. He honestly 38 takes and the other thing is that as I'm doing more and more takes, I can feel Cameron spiraling too and being scared that it's terrible, you know, so like, I didn't think it wasn't just me making that up. Like he actually and then he would come back the next day and go dude, do had it on like, the third day.

Alex Ferrari 26:59
But that was like a second movie. That was like a second off.

Kyra Sedgwick 27:01
But then the next day, I'd be like, okay, cool. So he's not gonna make us do so many tastes. Same thing. And then he'd be like, dude, dude, or thick, Jack and Jake. Oh, it's just like, oh, and then it never changed. So I just think that's him, you know, but and he's a great, amazing director. His movies are incredible.

Alex Ferrari 27:19
And that was during the film where that cost every single time it wasn't hard.

Kyra Sedgwick 27:26
Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

Alex Ferrari 27:28
Yeah, I mean, I mean, I remember that very, because again, that's the the, the time of my video store days, like 87 to 90 to 93 hours in the video working, administer. So singles, save, say anything pirates. All that time was during those I'm deadly interested in Trivial Pursuit in that time period.

Kyra Sedgwick 27:51
Awesome.

Alex Ferrari 27:54
So I wanted to ask you to as an actor, what is the biggest misconception that people have about the process because actors from from the outside, you know, especially young directors, it looks like a, an alien. You know, like how you work on the process. And every actor is different, every method and all that stuff. But generally speaking, what do you think is the biggest misconception that directors or just people in general have about the process of being an actor?

Kyra Sedgwick 28:18
And so that's a really good question. I mean, off the top of my head, that it's easy, that people think it's easy.

Alex Ferrari 28:26
Just do it. This is he moved the light. Why can't you just hit the mark and do it?

Kyra Sedgwick 28:30
Yeah, I mean, my, my brother in law's is an eye surgeon. And he's like, what you do is so hard. Are you freaking kidding me and bless his heart. Like he does, you know, big work, and it's amazing. And it's incredible. If I stuck a camera in front of him, he would be like, he would understand very quickly how hard it is, you know, so I think that it's hard is is a misconception. I think that a lot of people and also understandably, it's like, you know, you know, actors are sort of treated like gods sometimes eventually. And that's like really, you're not curing cancer. And it's really hard. You know, so I think that that's one of the things and again, I just keep coming back to this concept of like, it's really vulnerable. It's really it is so vulnerable, it's like most of us walk around with like, we've got a shield on all the time. I mean, you know, one way or the other, it's like there's a front there's a there's there's something going on that like makes me safe in the world. And and you're taught you're really stripping that away. Ultimately, I think when you're in front of a camera for me or in front of an audience,

Alex Ferrari 29:41
But if you only feel comfortable, because if you don't feel comfortable from what I from my experience when you're when you're an actor and you don't feel comfortable, you'll protect yourself and that's when problems occur. On on set. So that's what happens. So when you that's why safe space is so so important for our director to come to come in and out as as I see He's an actor like yourself, you can pretty much smell it on day one. How long does it take you before? You know? Oh, God, this this character has no idea what they're doing. What did I sign up for? I'm gonna have to I'm gonna have to carry this myself. Okay.

Kyra Sedgwick 30:13
Yeah. Oh, yeah, I think you know, really early on Yeah, for sure, especially at this age,

Alex Ferrari 30:20
I mean, God, you know, they want to go.

Kyra Sedgwick 30:23
Yeah. But I also give people a lot of room, you know, I mean, you know, I'm like, okay, you know, this is a new set, like, everyone's getting their sea legs, especially on a movie, like on a TV show, it's a little bit different, because three quarters of the people already hired and we're doing all the work all over the, you know, at the same time, but like, a movie or the beginning of a series or something like that everyone is figuring it out and figuring out the flow. And crews are on unmerged. And, you know, and so I think that, you know, that is, uh, you know, I definitely try to give people the benefit of the doubt for a while, you know, I may have a spidey sense, you know, quickly and go like, Oh, that's a little red flag, but that's okay, I can tuck that into the back of my head for, you know, a minute a minute, you know, and then and then if days go by, and it's just like, it's just a clusterfuck, then it's just a clusterfuck. And, you know, and you're like, Okay, I just have to protect me, you know, in my performance as much as possible.

Alex Ferrari 31:24
Yeah. And I've seen that happen with and you can kind of see when when you see a movie and you see a performances come out, and you're like, wow, she's always good, so good and bad, or he's always so good. What happened here? And then you hear the stories of behind the scenes, you're like, oh, they were just protecting themselves. They were just trying to survive the shoot as such.

Kyra Sedgwick 31:41
Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 31:43
Now, is there something that you wish someone would have told you at the beginning of your career about like, hey, you know, can I offer this or? This is not the way it is?

Kyra Sedgwick 31:54
I don't know. You know, I was born and raised in New York. So I had a lot of streets.

Alex Ferrari 31:58
I could tell, I could tell.

Kyra Sedgwick 32:01
You know, I had two older brothers, so I wasn't going to take a whole lot of shit. Like, I'd take some you know, but like, I remember, you were prepped, ya know, like, I remember auditioning for Adrian Lyon, for line for Flashdance, believe it or not, yeah. And I and I had to, you know, I go in there, and I started the scene, and the phone rang, and he went to go pick it up. And I was like, You're not going to pick that up, are you? And I literally was, like, you know, a baby actor, you know, I was like, I don't know, 17 or something like that. And I was like, You're not gonna pick that up? And he looked at me like, wow, like he couldn't believe, you know, that I have, you know, just like, I think that, um, I think that, I think that you have value, I think telling, you know, telling an actor, you know, it's interesting, because I think that on the one hand, you want to say to young actors, like you have value, your opinion matters. But I also think it's so important that our actors know, and I somehow knew this intrinsically, that you are there to be of service, you know, you really are there, you know, I studied with, with teachers who were like, the plays the thing, you know, they mean, like, you're not the thing, the play is the thing. So I think that that's important for actors to know, and you have value, right? Like both of those things at the same time.

Alex Ferrari 33:23
It's so interesting, because you seem, we're, as we're talking, you've obviously had a fantastic career thus far. You haven't it doesn't seem from the outside, that you fall into any of these traps, these ego traps that you actually mentioned, like, oh, this or that, or you become or people think you're a god, and how did you avoid that? Is it just your upbringing in your being a New Yorker, because I'm an east coaster, as well. So I feel you, we could smell our own. So what is it about that, that, that you didn't fall into those traps? And also, your husband to Kevin didn't seem to fall into him either.

Kyra Sedgwick 33:58
You know, I think that, um, you know, I think in some ways, we have always been and always, you know, valued being a workhorse actor, and not like a star. You know, what I mean? I think that we, you know, I think that there's part of me that wished it had been easier for me, I know that one would look at me on the outside and go, God, you've had such a great career, but like, it's been hard, like many times hard and like many years, you know, not working, sometimes between jobs, like two years, three years. So like, I think that while I would have liked a softer, easier way, in a way I feel like because it's been challenging, it has made me respect and value. You know, being a workhorse actor, that's like somebody who never had it too easy. I also will say that like I feel like I'm For whatever reason, I'm like a good citizen. And I feel like it's important to be a good citizen in the world and to be a good citizen on a set and to like, treat people well and treat people the way you want to be treated. And like that kind of diva mentality or thinking that you're better than anybody else. Anybody, including the freakin, you know, crafty man, if you think you're better than them than like your, I just, I just think that that'll end up biting you in the ass, you know, and I and it's certainly not fun to be around. And it also there's humility to being an actor, you have to be willing and open to learning about human beings. And I think that if you think you're somehow better than any human being, then you're not going to be you don't you don't have that humility to observe and to, and to become that person and to represent that person on screen. Does that make sense?

Alex Ferrari 35:57
It makes it makes all the sense in the world. And your what you're saying is the what everyone should strive for. Not everyone gets there, but everyone should strive for that, just that I'm here, I'm here for the for the work. I'm here. I'm glad to be working. I had the pleasure of working with Robert forester years ago. And and not to drop a name. But the reason I'm bringing my friend, the reason. The reason I'm the reason I'm bringing it up is that when I spoke to him after we work together, he said, actors need to remember that there's this many actors in this many jobs, right? And you should be lucky, if you're working to get up and be appreciative and grateful that you get to do what you love to do. And that's what a lot of actors don't understand. And I was like, wow, it was just such a, he was like a sage. And when I when I worked with him was like a sage working. Talking to me about acting, I was just like, ah, and also by the way, when he walked on set, he was prepared in a way that he was so prepared in a way that I wasn't used to work because actors I've worked with the good actors and everything but such an I was like, Oh, my God, he's he's walking in like, I'm putting Tarantino This is amazing. So it's so wonderful when you get to work with really great actors, because then you understand what really great actor can do and bring to your project. Where like you're saying green actors. They haven't gotten there yet. It takes them a little bit of time to get there. Yeah. Now tell me about space audit. oddity. How did that come to life? By the way, I watched it, I loved it. I thought it was wonderful. What an amazing cast by the way.

Kyra Sedgwick 37:39
Thank you so much. Yeah, yeah, we really, we really got lucky. So Space Oddity is a script that was given to me, I think it was 2017 Maybe even. And I loved it. And, and my company, my company, big swing, we, Valerie Sadler, and I worked with the writer for about a year about a year and a half. And, um, and then, you know, the, the little pandemic happened and so we had to push a year. But we, you know, I love the movie, I thought I had something to say I thought it's everything that I love, you know, it's about this family and, and it's romantic. And it's funny, and it's sad. And it also has like some climate stuff in it, you know, which I think is so critical right now and important for us as artists and storytellers to to talk about. And, you know, we got the money together literally, like we were in prep when the last money came in. I mean, it was not easy. There was nothing easy about this, you know, we had someone cast as Alex he fell out like three weeks before we were sparked start supposed to start prep, and then the great gift of Kyle Allen who's like, going to be a huge star, you know, came into our lives. And we had Madeline Brewer really early on the year before in like 2018 I guess we had her 19 I'm getting my I'm not good with dates. But and a lot of people cast and then, you know, lots of people came in at the last minute. And, um, you know, I was one of those things where, you know, I was bound and we were bound and determined, like you were like, not taking no for an answer. I'm making this movie, like, I will do everything I can to and I become the engine of everything that I do, I find and that's like a gift and a power of mine. But also it's like sort of the only way I know how to do it. Like literally, in the middle of pandemic I was doing a sitcom I was starring in a sitcom that only went one season called Call your mother. And by the way, call your mother. Call your mother always call your mother And, and I was like, I felt so hopeless like helpless like I couldn't like I wasn't doing I was in LA you know, I couldn't do anything here and this was what before we even had our money you know, this was the summer before we ended up shooting it. But I was like, I knew I wanted to shoot in Rhode Island because right before March 5 2019 We went on to scout in Rhode Island, I knew they had a 30% tax incentive and I went on a scout with my producing partner with Valerie and we were like, This is the place I found the town I knew with for Rhode Island was gonna be where I wanted to shoot the town and Tallinn is an important part in character in the movie. And then I was like I have to find a flower farm. We didn't find one on that scout and of course the world shut down. So I was in LA and I started looking up you know, farm flower farms on the computer. Didn't realize that it was the day before Valentine's Day cold called you know, robbing Hollow Farm, which was this, you know, I looked I found their website, I looked at their plate, it looked beautiful. So I cold called them and said Hi my name is Kyra Sedgwick. I'm gonna make a movie in Rhode Island this summer didn't have the money didn't have the all the cat. You know, I was like, but you know, saying all this stuff and, and I really loved the look of your flower farm and any chance you might want to let us shoot on it. She goes and the wife who picks up the phone who on the flower farm with her husband, Mike said, Well, you are calling a flower farm the day before Valentine's Day and then I was like, oh my god, I'm so sorry. Hey, Valentine's Day, I always thought it was like stupid holiday and then they start going to this like thing about Valentine's Day. I was sweating. I was so scared to call but but it was it was like magical. It was so magical. Because literally the next day Mike Hutchinson who owns Robin Harlow got on the phone with me and my production designer, Michael. Michael, we got I'm forgetting his last name, but I'll remember it. And we called him and he was like, I did a show for I did a gardening show with Martha Stewart. And so I know filmmaking we were like, we couldn't believe how lucky we were. And he sent us a whole bunch of pictures of what the place looks like, you know, when it's in full bloom and we were like, oh my god, I can't believe it. And this sucker actually, I mean, this really nice guy wants to let us shoot there. And you know, and you know, we turned we ended up shooting there. So it was like, you know, it was it was amazing. A lot of luck. A lot of perseverance and you know, great people supporting us. I mean, you know, it takes a village it takes more than a village it takes like God it takes a takes a planet

Alex Ferrari 42:37
Miracle it takes a miracle.

Kyra Sedgwick 42:39
It really takes a miracle the the idea that anything ever gets to me. We got turned down by so many financiers Do you have no Michael Michael Fitzgerald I'm so sorry. I had to look that up. Oh, my God, the brilliant the brilliant microfiche show but there was a lot on that far from that is that flower farm I mean, you could spend millions of dollars trying to get that look and there was like when a camera and there was me there was a lot of work that Michael did a lot of work but it was a beautiful place to shoot.

Alex Ferrari 43:08
Now what you've directed a ton of television a ton of television over the years what lessons did you bring from television to your and this is your first feature your direct if I'm not mistaken Correct? Is the what were those lessons because television is a whole different beast. A narrative a feature so what lessons did you bring onto your Indie film?

Kyra Sedgwick 43:30
Well, I mean, I think that you learned so much doing television and different kinds of TV shows like going from like Grayson, Frankie to Ray Donovan and sitting on a hill and then you know, in the dark and I mean, you know, I got to play in everyone else's playground and use everybody else's toys. And you know, I know it's only the beginning and and I have so much more to learn but I knew so much more than I did when I did my first movie. So a lot about how to shoot things about equipment a better coverage right exactly or not coverage on or no I'm kind of fast and loose with the coverage we'll take a talk about that another time. But you know, trusting that you know when you've got it you're moving on like that is something that really came so easily from to me from the beginning but I think it's because of my acting background and knowing like especially all those years on a closure like we have this scene we have this this side anyway or you know, and so that I think is such a huge and also being under the gun timelines is super important being responsible for Budget Day all that stuff? You know, I know that some people never had that problem, you know, but frankly, I love that problem. You know, I mean, I'd love to have more days don't get me wrong universe like many more days and all that but like there's something to momentum on us on a chronic crew, and on a day that serves everybody, you know, a serves cast, it serves crew and it serves, you know, producer, I mean, it just serves the piece. So, so learning how to know when I got it. Also being spending a lot of time, on all the shows I did, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time on location blocking. And being an actor, it's great because I can do all the parts, but also I could bring in pas, and you know, other people to come in and be those actors for me, so I could set shots and stuff like that, like, all that stuff. And also like being open to ideas and knowing when to go like, Okay, no more ideas. Like now it's me in my head. And the other thing I've really learned about myself as director, which I've learned through time, is that I have to hear my own voice first, without hearing other people's input first. So that's why I like to go on the on the onset on location onset. Early on, I did it on everything from the first TV show I did. And usually they'll let you like walk the sets and stuff like that, and, and going on to the set and thinking, okay, oh, this is how the scene should be. This is why it should be, you know, it comes at this time in the show or the or the movie, it should be this kind of thing. I'm cutting from this to this. So I want you know, I want to make sure that that works and spending a lot of time with my own voice so that I can hear the input of other people because it feels good for other people to feel seen and heard. That's also really important. And the other thing I know as an actor, specially on my show, the closer people like to hear you say, thank you so much for moving up, like really appreciate your hustle, you know, when you fix that sound thing for us. Thanks. You know, all that stuff is like so it's so key to you know, just give people their due man and they'll and they will kill and die for you. Am I right? crew that you appreciate them and accurately you appreciate them. They're like, that's it. I'll do anything for you now.

Alex Ferrari 47:08
I mean, because that is feeding them well, and that are feeding them well,

Kyra Sedgwick 47:13
Eating them well. craft service is not above you know,

Alex Ferrari 47:19
No crafty is the craft that could kill you. You put a bunch of sugary, buttery sugary stuff on that table. And it's an 18 hour day about 12 hours in everyone's like sugar high fights breakout. I've seen it happen.

Kyra Sedgwick 47:33
It's, it's

Alex Ferrari 47:35
Now as a director, we all go through that, you know, we all understand that the battle of making your day making, you know, cat making sure your film gets done. Project gets finished on time. But there's always that one day, there's that thing. Camera breaks actor, car car broke down. I'm losing the light. What was that day for you? What was the worst day? And how did you overcome that obstacle as a director?

Kyra Sedgwick 48:03
Shit. I know that we had a bunch of days where we were supposed to shoot something and the lightning would start. Everything would stop for 30 minutes. And we'd had to come back. You know. And I think that I think that the thing to do is to Oh, I remember oh, this was a this was a really good day to talk about because me and the actors weren't gelling. It was like they were mad at me which which foreign actor director is like, what do you mean you don't like reorder? Drive? I mean, seriously, it's so and I remember at first with with an actor and I wish I could say his name. But I'm not going to ungraceful, Frankie, because all the actors were like, We love you care. We love you. And I was like, they all love me because, you know, I'm an actor. And of course they love me. And this one actor was like, I don't love you. I don't love you at all. In fact, I think you're annoying. That was just like, say what broke my heart. And I but you know, I was telling him to do something you didn't want to do or whatever, you know. But that day, not only did that happen, where I felt like I was asking for something. I can be very exacting, like a very exacting director like I because I feel like I really know what I want and if I'm not getting it, and I'm losing the light, I'm sure I know I can get you know, I think I'm covering but I'm not that good an actor sometimes. Hard to believe I know. I'm only kidding. But anyway, so this day, it wasn't a good day anyway, we had so much to do and it was this big emotional is that big emotional scene in the fire for the fireflies where he's like talking about brother and it's like it's such a huge scene. It was such an important scene and it was such a beautiful location and I and I was so it just nothing was happening right you losing light before we could ever make this day. It was an insane day. We never could have made it anyway. But then thank God the heavens opened up and the lightning came and the rain we had to shut down. And I remember going, You know what, every time we hit those moments, it always ended up being a gift in the end. And so I had to start learning to just trust that, even though that was so hard for me, because I really do I like to stick to a plan, you know, but of course, you know, you have to let go of that plan. But, but and also there is, I mean, you always think like, there's no way we're going to be ever be able to come back to this location, and then something happens, you are labeled able to go back like, you know, again, it's like about right sizing things like, you know, it's I know, it feels like a movie, but it is just the movie, like you're gonna figure it out, like, you know, and no one needs to get hit by lightning and like, your knowing needs my bad attitude on that day, or like my forcing a solution when like, there's no solution to be had, the person is just not in the mood to take my direction today. You know what I mean? So it ended up being a blessing.

Alex Ferrari 50:53
But it was hard to go there during it because I mean, as a director, directing this compromise, every day, every every moment, it's it's just compromised constantly.

Kyra Sedgwick 51:03
For David Fincher. I really feel like that never open when you hear him talk, because like, I would never do that. I'm just an asshole. And I know it. Like I'm just really Tony's II so open about it. It's like amazing, and I've never worked them. And we'd love to know, I just said, no, no compromises.

Alex Ferrari 51:23
No, I think it was it was No, I agree with you. 100%. I think David compromises at all. I don't think Nolan compromises. But they're playing in such different sandboxes. I mean, you're talking to me, Kubrick never compromised.

Kyra Sedgwick 51:37
By the way, just three men just want to mention, but anyway, go on.

Alex Ferrari 51:39
Right, right. But they don't generally compromise because they are who they are. And that's the way they but they've built that thing about them that they can do things like that. I promise you that. David did compromise on alien three, his first feature, which he had taken away by by his studio, and then after, oh, yeah, there's a whole long story. I mean, I could go on and on about oh, yeah, he was he was he never wanted to direct it. He wanted to say, I'm not gonna go to features anymore. I'm just gonna go back to commercials. And then seven came around. And then he said, if you're gonna, I'm gonna do it my way. And, and then after that, then he start writing his ticket. Same thing for Nolan. And Kubrick, Kubrick wrote a ticket that nobody's ever written before. It's remarkable. Now I had to I do have to ask you, because this is this is, this is a story I heard that you told. And I think the audience would get a big kick out of because I couldn't stop laughing. It's your Tom Cruise story. Please tell the audience that Tom Cruise. It's absolutely.

Kyra Sedgwick 52:43
So you know, Tom and I did Born on the Fourth of July together. So we kind of knew each other. And then Kevin did a few good men with him. And I was seven months pregnant on a few good men. And, um, and back then they didn't have nice looking maternity clothes. This has nothing to do with the story, but just just as a vision of what I look like. And so we got in, we would keep getting invited to like events with like Tom and Nicole, who he was with at the time, and Demi Moore was in the movie. And so Bruce came, and then like, and then Kevin, remind me, What's his last name? Kevin Pollak, thank you. And then like, you know, throwing for a good measure, like Billy Crystal would come and then Rob Reiner, you know, and it was like, We got invited to cool things we got invited over to to Tom Cruise's house for dinner. It was a lovely meal. After dinner, we all retired to the library, where the men smoked cigars, and the women chatted, and I do what

Alex Ferrari 53:44
It's like Titanic.

Kyra Sedgwick 53:47
Well, what I tend to do is and I couldn't drink, I couldn't smoke, you know, because I was pregnant. So I was like, looking at stuff. You know, I looked at like, a, like a photo album of Tom and Nicole skydiving and I was like, Wow, that's amazing. And then like looking at the mantelpiece, there was like a little, you know, a fireplace and I was looking at the mantelpiece. The pictures. Then underneath the mantelpiece, weirdly, like oddly placed was this little button. And I was like, I wonder what that is. And, you know, maybe if I pressed it, like the door, like the thing would shift and like, we'd go into some secret place. And so I just pressed the button, and nothing happened. And I thought, huh, that's a little unsettling that nothing happened to me. You know, I'm just going to mention it to time. So I tapped on, on Tom on the shoulder. He was like mid story, you know, on something and he turns around, and I go, I just press that button under there. And he goes, you press that button? And I said, Oh, yeah, I did. I press up on he goes, that's the panic button. And I was like, Oh my God, and he goes, Why did you press that button? Now? I was like, I don't know. It was there. It was just there, you know, and the cops came, like 12 cop cars came, we were supposed to watch the Godfather one and two, we had to postpone the screening. Because at first he just told his assistants to tell them he was fine. They wouldn't leave, understandably until they saw Tom Cruise, like in one piece. So it's like, oh, yeah, sorry, I have to go upstairs because someone press the cops are upstairs, they won't leave. So we got to hold on the movie. I mean, it was mortifying, and we didn't get invited back.

Alex Ferrari 55:35
What? And finally, what did Kevin do during this time?

Kyra Sedgwick 55:39
Like, what did you do? Why would you do? I don't know. And he was like, it's just I can't believe you did that. What were you thinking? You know, he was just completely like, on one hand mortified and shocked. But on the other hand, like that's so you, you just do that kind of shit. Like, just, there's a button. I'm just gonna press it. You know?

Alex Ferrari 56:00
I think you're a victim of your industry, which is the movie industry. And you've seen way too many movies. And when you hit that button, cool stuff happens in movies, right? Of course, there's just not a panic button that something opens you go into secret passage, you find the Ark of the Covenant. There's things that happen, so I'm waiting.

Kyra Sedgwick 56:19
I'm waiting. I am completely with you.

Alex Ferrari 56:22
I probably, I'm not sure if I would have touched the button. But boy, whatever got close. Like curious. People. I just want you right now. But imagine if you hit the button and a door open and you'd be like, oh, hell, what would you have done? You're like, Tom, Tom. The dungeon is visible for everybody. Where are you? Oh my god. But Kira, where can people uh, when is this coming out? I know you're at Tribeca right now.

And what? What was it like? What was it like getting that call?

Kyra Sedgwick 56:56
It was great. It was so so so great. Actually, it was kind of a kind of anticlimactic because I call Jean because I hadn't heard and I know Jane Rosenthal. And, you know, I was like, This isn't right. You shouldn't call her and I was like, You know what, no stone unturned, like, you got to do it. And I just want to just tell her how passionate I was about, you know, my hometown of New York and what I felt about the Tribeca Film Festival, just the way I feel like it's a it's like a you know, I mean, it was it was conceived as like New York coming back from 911. And I kind of feel like I'm reinventing myself. And like, I don't know, I just like I had this whole spiel to give her you know, and then I was like, hi, Jean. Thank you so much for taking my call. You know, I just wanted to just one more, you know, just once again, tell you how pass it's just like, Oh, sweetie, you know, you just such a great job. We absolutely want to have you I'm so sorry. It's taken us so long. And I was like, Yeah, but I got a spiel, I got a hold about the phoenix rising from the ashes. But anyway, no, I mean, I'm so grateful. Because the truth is, like, I think this can play in the theater, I think it should play in the theater. And it probably won't, or may not do to, like the world that we live in. It'll, you know, I mean, I would love to have a window of theatrical anyway, no matter what. So, but I think that people seeing it in an audience, it's a joyful, meaningful movie about love and loss at a time and fighting for like, what's here at a time when I feel like we're all feeling loss and wanting to fight for something, you know, better and different. And, and, and within our means and within our grasp to fight for. So I think that I think it's an important movie, it feels like and it's fun, and it's entertaining. And it's, and it's romantic. And it's about love and like fighting the good fight, and you know, and grief. And I just think that who can't relate to that.

Alex Ferrari 58:50
Absolutely. Well, I am. I am so happy that you made the film. It's a fantastic film. I hope everyone goes out there and sees it. Kyra, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. So it's so entertaining. It's so much fun. Thank you and best of luck, continued success and go out there and tell some more great stories. So I appreciate you.

Kyra Sedgwick 59:08
Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

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IFH 586: Inside the Blumhouse Filmmaking Machine with Marcus Dunstan

Marcus Dunstan’s screenwriting with his partner, Patrick Melton, include such horror films as FEAST 1-3, SAW IV-V-VI& SAW 3D THE FINAL CHAPTER, PIRANHA , GOD OF WAR, FINAL DESTINATION 6, and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. Marcus Dunstan’s directing credits include THE COLLECTOR, THE COLLECTION, THE NEIGHBOUR, BLUMHOUSE’S PILGRIM and this summer’s BLUMHOUSE PRESENTS: UNHUMAN.

Dunstan is a producer of THE CANDIDATE, and executive producer of 2022’s horror-thriller TAKE BACK THE NIGHT. Currently Dunstan and Melton are collaborating once again with Blumhouse and Disney + on a soon to be announced suspense thriller series, as well as the horror film ESCAPE: HALLOWEEN with Live Nation and Insomniac.

The dead will have this club for breakfast. Blumhouse Television and EPIX bring you the story of a high school field trip gone bloody awry. Seven misfit students must band together against a growing gang of unhuman savages. The group’s trust in each other is tested to the limit in a brutal, horrifying fight to survive and they must take down the murderous zombie-creatures… before they kill each other first.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Marcus Dunstan 0:00
You know, every day has its challenges. But really, it's in the survival of those challenges and the way to assess that and and outsmart it. You don't have to overpower any of this stuff. But you do have to, you do have to outsmart things because ultimately, an image has to exist. That conveys some information. There's several ways that can be done, you can do it the expensive way you can do it the in many more modest ways.

Alex Ferrari 0:25
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading lots vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog textures, DaVinci Resolve presets and much more. After working as an editor colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out and enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10. To get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's enigmaelements.com. Today's guest has a special place in my heart because he got his start in the film business the way I want it to back in the early 2000s. He was on the show Project Greenlight where he was the writer of the film feast. Now he used that and parlayed it into writing assignments to create and write multiple soft films. He used that to make his own film The collector series of films actually, and his new film on human four Blumhouse. Now we not only talk about his journey through the filmmaking world, as a screenwriter, and director, but also what it's like working inside the filmmaking machine that is Blumhouse so let's dive in. I'd like to welcome the show Marcus Dunstan how you doin' Marcus?

Marcus Dunstan 1:59
I am grateful. How are you sir? Thank you for having me.

Alex Ferrari 2:02
Oh, thank you for coming on the show man. I had a friend of mine work. He was a visual effects artist on one of your first movies, the collector went on. And I knew him. He and he told me all store all sorts of creatives, like was first big VFX job now he's working for Marvel and bond. And all this stuff. But his first thing was big, big thing that he did was the collector. So that's our connection, sir.

Marcus Dunstan 2:28
Oh, right. Oh, well, hey, special thanks. What is this person's name?

Alex Ferrari 2:32
His name is Dan Cregan. He's been on the show a bunch of times as if he's one of my best friends.

Marcus Dunstan 2:37
I owe my gratitude to Dan Cregan and because that Thank you. Thank you, Dan.

Alex Ferrari 2:44
So far, so first question, sir, how did you get into this insanity that is the film industry?

Marcus Dunstan 2:50
Well, it was an absolute. It was a it was a it was a desire, a joy I don't know it was a conversation in the dark of adolescence where I had horrible acne. Didn't want to go outside. I was embarrassed of how I looked and everything. And then I start recognizing the work of this really talented artists named Tom Savini. And oh, man, he could change the way he looked and we rang cover up my face too. And what oh, he does special effects. Well, then there's this movie, oh, this Friday the 13th. That's pretty cool. And it was a springboard all the way up until when he directed and none of the Living Dead 9090 and his episode of Tales from the dark side or episodes, I believe he did a couple and I just he was the reason he was a gateway because what I loved was this ability where the the fake traumas of life might be able to be a gateway to a little bit of healing, understanding. And maybe if you show the world everything scary through this lens that is not actually going to harm you, then maybe you can approach the next day of your life not being afraid of anything. And if you make that audience jump, maybe they're gonna jump closer together. And we'll all we'll all face the dark as as the best we can and will become light.

Alex Ferrari 4:12
That is the the most beautiful description of horror I've ever heard in my entire life. It's wonderful. Thank you very much. First, it was a very spiritual aspect to the horror genre. I've never heard it put so eloquently before. So that's awesome. Thank you.

Marcus Dunstan 4:28
Thank you very much.

Alex Ferrari 4:29
Now another connection we have, sir, is you got your start on a little show called Project Greenlight. The day Yes, well, sir. I was for five or six seconds in Project Greenlight Season Two. Okay, I made it to the top 20 of season two so I almost I almost made it onto the show. And I've had Chris Moore and I've had Chris Moore on the show and I first words out of my mouth like Dude, why don't I get into project

Marcus Dunstan 4:58
Right on okay.

Alex Ferrari 5:00
So you got your start on Season Three if I'm not mistaken with the feast, right?

Marcus Dunstan 5:04
Yes. And I was working at a blockbuster home video in a Kenyan restocking seasons one and and then to the screening the hey come see this movie screening passes we were asked to hand them out they're going to do a sneak screening of the Battle of Shaker Heights and in a theater out there and then on the radio Patrick mountains wife even heard that there was going to be a three and they'd be widening the net into potentially you know, something more genre could be you know, the at the time the the the gross out teen comedy they could do drama, suspense thriller or maybe a horror movie.

Alex Ferrari 5:47
Yeah, and it worked out that you got to it's so funny to so I did my time in a mom and pop video store for five years in high school.

Marcus Dunstan 5:56
Okay, now what have you and what

Alex Ferrari 5:59
You and I are similarly vintage, sir.

Marcus Dunstan 6:00
So we got your nametag, though.

Alex Ferrari 6:02
No, I actually was a mom and pop I didn't even have names. I didn't name text.

Marcus Dunstan 6:07
Let's not even my name. That's how this this blockbuster was struggling so I was Jamie with like a philosophy rafter scratch through. That's awesome. That's what happened to Jamie.

Alex Ferrari 6:17
That is some street cred right there, sir. That is, that's a major street cred for all the kids. For all the kids listening Google what a video store was. Yeah. Now. Now when you work with on that show? I know you were on it for a little bit. And you wrote the script helped write the script for you. Did you write it by yourself? Or did you write it with them?

Marcus Dunstan 6:35
With Patrick Mountain and it was we were adapting a draft written by Pulseaudio

Alex Ferrari 6:40
Okay, so what was your biggest lesson you learned? Which is essentially the first experience in the business? What was the biggest lesson you learned working on that?

Marcus Dunstan 6:50
Oh, wait, are you talking about feast or on human? I'm sorry. Oh, sorry. No, feast was an original creation of ours. unhuman was based on a story about Okay. Wow, it's been oppressed de la hmm. And then this is the one Okay, got it. You know, feast was entirely a reaction episode where we, you know, we took the bait of what do you want to see? And I asked, like, why don't I keep wanting to rewatch Evil Dead two. And then why? Well, because it had this endless fountain of creativity, no matter what were, the budget didn't I didn't think of what the budget was, I just knew I was entertained. And it just didn't waste a molecule without finding the most creative way to bring it. And I thought it had it was ferocious in its ability to protect the attention span to galvanize the, the eyes, the brain and rope you into it's it's wonderful narrative. I just thought, This is great. This is this is all the this is all the inspiration and hope and that, you know, to really get us going. So then we felt like okay, well we know that kind of make things in the realm of a million bucks, we know. And we actually tried to enter it in Project Greenlight Season Two against the whole advice. And at that point, you do it there, we kind of do a digital submission, we'll somehow we got the whole submission wrong. And it turned into you know, 2000 pages of triangles and squares or something. Who knows? We it is the early internet, it was early, that wild frontier. And so then by the time this came around, we thought I mean, we were certain this draft that we had worked and worked and worked on could be made for $1 million and the budget came back at 20 Oh do a little more work

Alex Ferrari 8:51
So it's still when you were working on on with on the feast Did you did you I mean I gotta imagine was kind of a culture shock for you just to kind of like a shock to the system working even with the Chris Moore and you've been watching them on the on the show for a couple of seasons and all that kind of stuff.

Marcus Dunstan 9:09
Yes, well in fact it but yet at the same time, there's a lot of small world stuff and that is I lived in Melton and I lived in the same building on tamarind in it ran around Hollywood. So there's the like the Scientology celebrity center birds lapu Bell, and then there's Tamron. And we lived there for a while. And so we had a shared computer he had this one but it would overheat because we could type faster than I could process so it would overheat. We have to turn it off every 20 minutes and we'd run it up and down the stairs depending on who could have enough time to write that night. And so then there's this Willy Wonka moment and you know your life could change if the day is of West Craven, Chris Moore, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Nick Phillips, etc. Would would dare anoint you and invite you to that side of the room. But the location of that conversation was like 16 walks away. It was just, it was just in a hotel. We didn't know anybody and couldn't get into and couldn't afford to stay there anyway. So it's kind of like, you know, an absurd way. It's like, so we're going across the street were like, really, it's been here the whole time. That's, that's, that's awesome. And then the, and then like, oh, my gosh, there's this, the attention and there's cameras and whatnot. It's, it was a lot. And I would say thank goodness, we were, we kept our Midwest in there. Like, this was a wonderful area right before the instinct would be to be to want more camera than and lose sight of the opportunity at hand. No, we were there to make him. We were there to exist and help. And the fact that the cameras were there, you know, he learned later in life that those cameras were to keep probably a lot of the other people in line that had been in that industry a while and protect the innocence of it. So I really I that was a an absolute, it was a Willy Wonka moment, it was a miracle and for a first time experience to have it documented. I mean, at some point, I'll go back and watch that show with the memories of being on the other side of that. And that I mean, how that's just whimsy, man, that's great.

Alex Ferrari 11:13
Yeah, no, I mean, I've gotten close. I got close to many times to mention on both that and like on the lot if you remember that show.

Marcus Dunstan 11:21
Absolutely I remember

Alex Ferrari 11:24
I was flown up. I was flown up to to me, I was like right there about to get in? Oh, yeah. So I've always fascinated about the whole cup project green light and the whole on the lot, that whole reality stuff. But there was really, you know, to be honest, it wasn't a lot of people that came out of those shows that had like built a career. You're one of the few that really have you made it out?

Marcus Dunstan 11:46
Well, it was you know, and we were very fortunate I really got to think not not only luck but also thank being prepared for luck because before feast came out the show when it was when it was depicting us well, that was then attractive for you know, agents etc to want to take a meeting and we had a we had a we had an agents agents at this one of the big agencies, and they dropped us when the when the cameras were off, and we were unrepresented. It was July before feast had ever come out before anything had happened. And Patrick and his wife were expecting his little boy. And if they as a couple agree that if they don't figure out a way to stay solvent in the entertainment industry, he was he was going to he was gonna just have to change. Do something, do something, you gotta you got a family now. So over the July 4 weekend, he had this idea and he wrote the first draft of what would be the neighbor. Then we have this, this premiere in Vegas. For feast we're now feast is finally coming out after 18 months of us not knowing and the separation of Disney and dimension and Weinstein and whatnot. But they took us along then now the cameras are back on then, you know all of a sudden there's attention and all of a sudden like hey, and this wonderful agent by the name of David boxer bomb.

Alex Ferrari 13:11
Dave has been on the show.

Marcus Dunstan 13:12
Oh, he's awesome. Yep, David Cheryl Debbie Doble. All of a sudden, we've got this marvelous team that you know elected to to roll the dice on us knowing that way. There's potential here you guys will actually work for this. Like you're not just being you know, needed to be handed to you know what worked for it, like, let's go. And sure enough, at that premiere party, I stepped into the back of it to do a verbal rewrite on the ending of the neighbor. So then dimension buys it. Melton breathes a sigh of relief because he's now a writer supporting his family. And then there's this movie that comes out and within a week we set up the Midnight Man, which would then become the collector and whatnot. And David, Cheryl and Debbie, it's like Thank you. Thanks for Thanks for catching us in freefall. We weren't gonna give up on ourselves and it was great to have them as team to do so that's a long way to long winded answer. But you know, it's there. There is some humanity in the in the realm that can sometimes be like our movies title on humans.

Alex Ferrari 14:13
Yeah, absolutely. Now you also got a gig, writing a sequel to one of the most successful horror franchises of all time saw? Yes. How did you how did you get that? Because you were still fairly young writer at that point?

Marcus Dunstan 14:26
Absolutely. Very. So that all happened within eight weeks of the fuse premiere. Now, we had a little bit of street cred the movie was getting, you know, favorable reviews, word of mouth, whatnot. And we and due to the sale of the neighbor, that takes a little time before the WGA makes it official. So the sophomore deal. They did not want to go with the union writers just yet. They wanted to hire three different writers with the task of writing a script called sophomore and And each of these writers or teams would be given a set of rules to follow because three hadn't come out yet. For some reason, we didn't get the thing of the rules. But it didn't stop us and wouldn't you know, we end up accidentally writing something that we got yelled at, because the budget was going to be too big. And then it then they went with it. And that was pretty cool. And then, you know, and we were able to make a deal with them to to keep working on that. I mean, my goodness. So in the span of a year, it was because they would make this movie so quickly. And you know, so efficiently. I mean, like, my gosh, we had oh my gosh, we're gonna we just got dumped dropped by our agents. This whole thing might be overweight or movies coming out. I was playing twice. And midnight. Did it say it really just gross? Like $5? Like, what is that? Wait, we got to X rating? Oh, we gotta cut Oh, we Oh, man. Oh, and then oh, and then the next year? It's my parents, my hit my world history teachers to on recommend at about a big ol premiere for a horror movie that folks have heard of. And that's it's another like, how did we get here? It was just awesome. But you know, we did. It's we've worked really hard.

Alex Ferrari 16:14
That's the thing. That's fascinating, because a lot of people listen and be like, Oh, these guys are just lucky. They just fell into it. I'm like, That's so much. No, you work hard. But the point is that you were ready for when the opportunity presented itself. Like if you would have just been sitting there like, oh, I have no other script, I don't have the neighbor, I don't have anything else I have ideas you actually will prepare for when these opportunities present. And then serendipity just happens. And after doing so many interviews on the show and talking to so many, you know, amazing writers and directors like yourself. I just realized that luck has such a big part to do with sustaining a career in this business. But every single one of them work hard. It's not like just sitting around in the middle of Ohio somewhere and an agent knocks on your door. Hey, I hear you have some ideas. Can I help you now that doesn't work that way?

Marcus Dunstan 17:06
Absolutely. No, you got to it's not it's like and you know, continues to this day, you still have to go for it. You still have to I this this experience with unhuman reminded me a lot of feast and that I wanted to bring some of the zeal and and creativity that John Gallagher did and try to say like, well, what if we were taking some of the expectations tropes stereotypes of the high school genre and flip them kind of like John was able to do with feast and what we were doing with the Creature Feature? And in doing so, can we sneak in a theme about bullying and and, and try to punch above our weight in that regard, but just can we stick this landing so this the narrative will have competent adrenalized attention span friendly stimulus, but nail that if we get that right amount of sugar, we can put in something of substance that could really keep us around for a while and bestow a lesson as some of the great horror movies had done to us.

Alex Ferrari 18:11
Yeah, and I think that's one of the big mistakes that screenwriters make with with horror movies is they don't put in that deeper underlining thing, they just do Gore or they just do the scares. But if when you're able to enter one intertwine or weave in these kinds of deeper themes and ideas, that's that's when those things become classics. And they just keep going and going and going. Yes,

Marcus Dunstan 18:35
I hope so. I mean, that's, you know, I mean, you sound like you don't have a goal to really set up we're gonna make a classic today but originally if you stick to this, this this goal of I want to get this message through no matter what can every performance synthetic in the production design, bolster it can the score enhance excellent and then oh, hey, if it's if it's lucky to earn that moniker All right, we did it right.

Alex Ferrari 19:00
Now how how did you get the collector off the ground because it you know, you guys are just at this point, just writers. So you got to direct the movie and it was a fairly decent budget and it was you know, it was by Studio and and so on. So how did you get that off the ground

Marcus Dunstan 19:17
That required outsmarting the system once again and the way it was I pre directed some stuff and I came up with a marketing and and so it was back in the day if I had a smartphone man I think would have been done in a second. But no this is when you needed to get cameras favors etc. And thank goodness it was the Gulag or family and it was after feast and fortress so this be Brett Forbes and Pat Rezai help provide a budget of about 7000 bucks to execute a scene that would show Oh, this guy can write a few words but he's he's good with actors and are like can can can accomplish the goal of the scene and And then it becomes a trailer. So then I wanted to get to jumpscares and set up the plotline. And then I wanted to earn a tagline at the end. And give it a whole sense of like if make it feel like a growing threshold event to lead up to someone that is introduced as a bad guy meeting a worst guy, and then bloodied in a rainstorm run out caressing a kid that's not his own, just with only breathing as a soundtrack. You know, just because he's like, not tonight, you know, he's he's reached a point in his criminal career where he finds something so awful. He'll stop.

Alex Ferrari 20:33
That's, that's awesome. That's a great story, because so many screenwriters want to direct. And they just, you know, you have to figure out how to get noticed. And that's a great way you shot that little demo. And they gave you they gave you the budget to do it. It's, it's so interesting, because we all have to come out when the collector came out, what were you what year was that?

Marcus Dunstan 20:54
That came out in 2009. But it was also similar to feast and that it took a while to get out there.

Alex Ferrari 21:00
So I remember when my buddy worked on it, he told me what can I use this on my demo reel? I can't use this on my tomato.

Marcus Dunstan 21:08
So like it was amortized with the production of two sequels to Paul's two sequels to feast. And then we were the last one. At this point, I felt like, Oh, this is awesome. I'm the last one, you know, everything's gonna be great. Well, learn the hard way that went into the last movie in an amortized situation. That means all the overages from those movies come out of yours. So whatever budget was supposed to be there wasn't quite there. Whatever schedule was supposed to be there was kind of cut in half. And then by the end, I had a lot of middle of a movie, I had some ending, but I took every penny I made from writing the Saw movies then and funded two weeks of shooting on my own. And now we had at the beginning, now we had a middle and we had the ends. And with that it was it was done. Because I felt like you know, I didn't come out here just to do half of a first movie. I got to you know, do the whole thing. And a wind that was exciting, like the whole cast and crew coming along for that meant a lot. So then dimension, we got a call from Bob Weinstein saying, hey, and I got my money tied up and Inglorious Basterds and you know, if you want to put the movie out yourself, I dig it. You can, you can, oh, I can self release this movie. Great. That sounds like a deal. And so thank goodness, we had the wherewithal to be like, well, what would you sell it for? If we found a buyer? Oh, let me go away, all of a sudden the budget more than doubled. You know, all of a sudden, I couldn't get a copy of the budget that I knew we had. Now I know that I'm sorry, we can't give it. And thank goodness, we had two weeks to find a buyer. And on one of the last days of that possibility, Mickey Liddell came in, watched it left the the editing room, walked around the block and said, Okay, how much and that's what led to LD hiring freestyle to release a movie that was called The Midnight Man now is called the collector courtesy of Bob is now an LD movie. It and then so then it came out in the summer of 2009. After they you know, Mickey put in even more bucks for some more spit and polish. That was awesome. And like, the songs you hope to get. I mean, here's what I just so loved and appreciate it is. He understood that when you put an attempt song, you don't want to find another song, as in these things to this song. And they and even if you can't quite understand the why it does something, they all hold hands, you can kind of tell when something has been replaced at the last second because it's like, well, it's okay, I guess you know, it's up tempo, but you know, we have relationships with all forms of art and these things. And he got it and let it be so so now then we come out. And unfortunately, he would like to do another one and that led to then the collection and so on. So yeah, it was a an absolute for, you know, fortuitous time. But again, it was I thinking about it now. It's insane. Giving Yeah, I you know, whatever little nugget I had was just instantly vanquished in the hopes that something and then oh, yeah, I you know, guess what, you get to make a movie where you get to make half of it. And if you can finish it, you can release it yourself, if you can afford it. And if you can't find someone who paid double that, and to release it on their own, and maybe you'll get a sequel or maybe you know what, I'll hear from you again, who cares I love you know what it is?

Alex Ferrari 24:32
You know, I'm so glad that people are are listening to this story because you put your money where your mouth is, and that's so many filmmakers don't do that so many people don't take the risk to do that. And in this scenario, if I was consulting you back then it was the mind that I have today. I would say absolutely do this because this doesn't happen. You don't get this scenario. It was a very fortuitous It's also very kind of lottery ticket scenario where all of these things lined up. So, so beautifully.

Marcus Dunstan 25:07
They it was it prepared for serendipity?

Alex Ferrari 25:12
Exactly. Now, it what was on that shoot, what was the you know, as directors, we always go through that the worst, there's always a day that we remember, if not every day, but there's always a day that we're losing the sun, camera breaks, the actor can't come out. The car accident happened somewhere and we lost the camera in the truck. I've seen it all. What was that day for you? And how did you overcome it and make your day?

Marcus Dunstan 25:40
Thank you for that question. Because I think, you know, every day has its challenges. But really, it's in the survival of those challenges. And the way to assess that and and outsmart it, you don't have to overpower any of this stuff. But you do have to, you do have to add smart things because ultimately, an image has to exist, that conveys some information. There's several ways that can be done, you can do the expensive way you can do it the in many more modest ways. So one night, I'm in it. Josh Stewart is masked up. It's going to be the stocking casing of the house. He's assessing it, you know, Brandon Cox, beautifully lighting these things and we're getting all this awesome imagery. And then it's about you know, we still have another little sequence to do. And I remember one point, it's just quiet turn around and where is everybody? Everybody had quit because the strike had ended. And so why stick around for the the pennies of the indie budget when the commercial jobs are now flying everybody Yeah. So if the folks that stayed you've got Brandon Cox so a wonderful camera crew. But a most of our crew just up and watch.

Alex Ferrari 27:31
Walk in the middle of the day or walk like the next day or something.

Marcus Dunstan 27:34
No like that night we didn't I just we moved some lights and shot some stuff ourselves just to like do something with the time. I was like hmm, so now how did I overcome this? I couldn't overcome this. This was this was a moment where Courtney Ballack or Keith border the producers came through and Vince Palomino, who was our line who's you know, everybody that stuck around there essentially, as you know, lifelong friends, these are the metaphor. And so, what could have been an absolute cavity crushing events is turned completely around with the arrival of one person who had become a rider die. And that is BJ McDonald's, a a who has showed up as a Steadicam operator in his cut off camo shorts and is converse and his Danzig wristband and his faux hawk Mohawk what is that hawk? He's like, I didn't worry about it, man. We're gonna get we're gonna get it we can do like this. Excellent. We the movie couldn't afford him. He wanted to get out of town for an adventure. And so I that's how I met he and his now wife, Adrienne, who was in makeup. And all of a sudden, this is a transformative event. And it was BJ who talked me out of the shakes and the shivers of like, I don't know, it's like I thought Why did I have this whole thing? storyboarded I can't do it. Like hey, it's like hey, don't worry about let's have a beer and go bowling. And you know what you don't worry about it. You go have a beer and you go bowling. Because in that action, you the mind gets to settle and you get to realize no no, you're still creating just yes those storyboards whatever whatever you put in wherever that plan is, that is on the wayside, but that doesn't mean you still don't know what you need to execute now in the moment to challenge yourself to find a way to do so. And that that has been the most rewarding lesson of all is IT professional studio big yeah that you get more toys but the lessons they get you through even those moments were learned when you had nothing but that desire and and hope to to convey a story convey an image and get it drag it into that lens however possible. And you do it again and again. So you find success what you like what you're comfortable with and and hopefully people are there with you for the ride. And it's so exciting because BJ is is now the director and that he his last film studio 16 Six. Right? So how cool is that to see him, you know, from from converse to the universe, he's out there.

Alex Ferrari 30:07
That's amazing. That's a great story. And you said something really interesting. And I think something is so important for filmmakers to listen to, is please let them know, every single moment of every single day as a director on set, the biggest thing that we have to do is compromise. Because you said I had this long storyboard list or a shot list, and all of it's out the window. Just days of working on it. You had the Kubrick, you had the Kubrick shot, you had the Sam Raimi shot, you had the oh, you know, all of that stuff. Yeah. And Gone. Gone. Can you tell it to you tell? How can you explain to people that process internally as a director, because that's what I think that's really what makes a great director, one of the elements is to be able to compromise on the fly with what is given to him or her on the day, and just flow with what you have on the day and not be so rigid that you're like, No, if I can't get my shot, I don't want to shoot it and Bolton, you're not going to work?

Marcus Dunstan 31:10
Well, absolutely. Well, this happened with this happened with unhuman. And in the way, like, we had to deal with weather, we had to deal with lightning, that could shut us down. And then our entire ending had to be reconfigured. Because the entire ending was built around a certain ability, I like a certain location, a certain aspect of the location. That was cool to look at Vintage Gray, talking about an old school amazing elevator. Well, of course that breaks. And anything that came along with it is instantly out the window. But thank goodness for 10 years of experience because you like it's not about an elevator, it's about falling distance, if it's not about the what. And then I by that point, courtesy of those Paulito are one of our producers on this on the site there who leaned in and said like, this elevator was built in the 30s it's being repaired, you might want to have a plan B at the ready just case. Now if I was a naive person that knew no, it has to be this I must stand my ground. But now it's your I asked to be an elevator, there would be no ending there would be nothing but instead courtesy of Paul and also courtesy of enough experience to listen to someone who's giving you good advice. We were ready and it and the solution wouldn't you know Eureka, it's a heck of a lot better. And we ended up getting more motion more movie more. There is it just it just it works. And everybody was on the same page because I think people get excited by talk of solutions. There's nothing more wasteful and disparaging. And that talk of just the problems like okay, well everything's got a problem. But what if we try this? Can we do this and then instantly you get everyone's back in the creative mode of of willingness thing into being and that was nice that that that allowed a lot everybody to shine.

Alex Ferrari 33:18
Now, is there anything you wish somebody would have told you at the beginning of this whole journey? That little nugget of man, this is going to do this, this and this man, you really should look out for this.

Marcus Dunstan 33:31
There are a handful of things. I'm gonna keep the two big ones to myself.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
You all could suffer?

Marcus Dunstan 33:41
No, no, no, no, no. In that sense, it was like no, you know, what if I want to find the positive not the beware but the positive and that is regard your inner voice, you know and lead in and when the when the inner voice when the little voice says something? What is holding it back from entering volume? Is it fear that maybe the collaborator won't hear it? Is it hesitation because you're not sure is it? Well, why don't we try saying and see what happens? And wouldn't you know or if you're thinking like you know, second guessing can be okay, but why are you second guessing what doesn't feel right? Do you feel you did not get that shot? Do you feel that? The the just wasn't quite there and like okay, then then respect that respect your own? I mean, no matter how overwhelmed you could elect to be no matter what happens if the little voice is just saying no, no, this is fight for this. No, no, protect that. And just have the patients and yourself to understand why explain why and you're going to find that the right team will will always understand you and give you a shot. You know, and I thought that that was good because the last thing you want to do It is have someone in editorial go. Well, I kind of wish we had that shot. I know I knew it. I know. Once you say anything, you're right,

Alex Ferrari 35:14
Oh god as an editor, I used to do it to my directors. And that is when I worked with editors they used to do to me, I'm like, I should have gotten that. It would have taken me another five minutes to get that shot. Why did I have to move on? Yeah, you know, it's sometimes when you're on set, you've got to fight, fight for the vision fight for those that coverage. You're like, I need the closeup of the spoon. If I don't get the closeup of the spoon, I'm not going to be able to cut away and I'm going to be stuck on this performance. I need this cut away. And everyone on the side and on the sets look like you're insane. It's just a spoon shot like No. If I don't get the spoon shot, it's not going to work. And that's only experienced over years of being in an edit room. Understanding like I need I need some safety. I need some escape hatches, just in case. My brilliance doesn't show up on screen.

Marcus Dunstan 36:02
Yeah, yes, absolutely. Great, Scott. I mean, you know, we and that's the that's the fun of it, too. It's really always touching that third rail.

Alex Ferrari 36:13
Yeah, no, no question. No question. Now I have to ask you, you know, when you're on set, even at the beginning, on the collector when you were first onset, or later now with your new film on human? Do you ever get impostor syndrome? Do you ever get that thing that you deal with? Like, oh my god, security is gonna come in at any moment. And go, what are you doing here? You don't belong here get out. kind of vibe. But I know a lot of artists deal with that.

Marcus Dunstan 36:38
No, no, this one it was entirely someone's gonna tap you on the shoulder and say you have COVID And then you're

Alex Ferrari 36:45
That's even scarier than imposter syndrome

Marcus Dunstan 36:49
Because imposter syndrome. I'd be like, I'm already confidently trying to, like, do an impersonation of all the great filmmakers before, like, I all admit that I want to, I want to impersonate their success and convey the story. They want their ability to scare, convey, share, you know, get get these things done. But no, I mean, on the first I would say on the first one I was I was just kind of terrified because I thought I had a really good plan. And then the plan had to be abandoned. I didn't. And that was a crash course and plan B. And ever since then, I was you know what, but I want to say like, I want to say when it comes to what's a good why, like, Why Why am I feeling I don't say yes, it is probably because of the writing part. Whereas if I was not already imagining the story, but I was putting myself onto another story, then the the footing isn't quite there. Like I don't know, I'm doing and I'm doing an impression already of what I think the writer minutes. But I know exactly what I meant, when I would be writing on this. And so then all I had to do was have a quick meeting with my own brain, it'd be like, alright, you know how to pull this off, if not rewrite it. And then and get it to that point. So that that was neat. The the writing the rewriting really of this because it was a real rewrite from scratch allowed me to almost be off book with the screenplay, and and constantly be living in it. So it wasn't I didn't feel anything other than trying to be a bit of a tour guide or an audio book for anybody just to constantly keep them informed of something that was moving at such a clip and attempting to you know, wrestle wrestle a kind of a bigger a bigger hitting movie over the line in a record amount of time.

Alex Ferrari 38:40
Now how did you get involved with Unhuman

Marcus Dunstan 38:44
I was it was a phone call out of the blue from I think Alex crooner began as a producer and seeing if, if I if I you know, be available up for coming aboard. And you know, is it was definitely a gap me at hello moment because the first time I ever felt that there were more resources than I could know what to do with there was enough time to do everything I possibly wanted. And enough support to to constantly, you know, hang the sun and the moon every day was on the Blumhouse production of Pilgrim which if you look at the budget, it was it was a very modest budget, but simply taking the advice and having a crew with a second second hand way of communicating as super passionate, experienced producers. It was an education in that. Yeah, you know, if you don't need more, you've got plenty. And in that case, we did not need any more than we had a great script from Noah Feinberg. We had it just we just had everything we needed and could actually add things along the way and they would inspiration was encouraged. So then with this, it was like wait, I get to go back and play with you guys. And there's even there's a bigger boat If there's a little more time, and there's gonna be some familiar faces, yeah, I mean, let's go.

Alex Ferrari 40:05
Simple as that. So, can you tell everybody what the movie is about?

Marcus Dunstan 40:09
Yes. unhuman the first title card says a Blum house after school special and yes, this one is going to Sledgehammer your eyes like no other as the characters who probably were intending to be in the genre of the teen comedy find themselves on a fateful field trip, designed to bring them closer together and understand each other and maybe get over the bumps and bruises of combustible adolescence. Instead, run smack dab into the rules of a horror movie that shows up in the form of a possible zombie plague invasion with a twist. Will these this breakfast clubs survive? Or will they be devoured by the on human?

Alex Ferrari 40:45
First time you've done that, right? You've never you haven't? First time, right, I was.

Marcus Dunstan 40:50
Stammering I should have been a little more polish.

Alex Ferrari 40:54
That is amazing. That is amazing. Now, what was it like, again, working inside the Blumhouse? Machine, because I've had Jason on the show. And I've talked to Jason. I don't I love Jason. It was interesting human being on the planet. He's just so much fun to talk to. And I'm just always fascinated with his model, his model of how he does it. And everyone thinks he's crazy. And he doesn't get the respect in town that he deserves to be honest. Because he's just pumping out stuff, left and right. And the way he does it is it's so I asked him straight up like, Were you afraid that once you let everybody know what you were doing that everyone was going to copy you? He goes, yes. But no one has, like, you know, the basic rules are all out there for everybody to do. But no one does it because no one has the balls to do it like he does. So what was it like going in that machine and working on the creative side?

Marcus Dunstan 41:48
It was wonderful. Because how about this, I would say in terms of the respect for him, looking at the cast that shows up looking at the crew that's dedicated to it. There is a lot of respect for this guy. Because that moniker of Blumhouse means people show up. And they they know they're getting into into business with somebody who is great at the business. And that I mean, the ripple effects of that name alone. It was just wonderful people, the recognition of it, and all it it's man, it's yes, there's a lot of steps up to the plate with with the company. And that's also marvelous, like they're the loudest voice, I watched that series three times, I never would have guessed it was a Blumhouse joint. But it is because I think there was always an evolution happening. There's always a push into different spectrums. And I also love that what started it with an even more modest kind of budget paradigm is getting bigger in certain regards, is it has figured out a way to work within COVID has has grown and blossomed. And it's awesome to give opportunity, as well. There, there's a lot of it's resulting in art, you can't instantly put a pin in it. No, no, it's they're gonna do something that surprises you all the time. And how about that? The black phone's gonna come and ring in this summer. And eventually, it's gonna be a wonderful new pillar in a palace that is Blumhouse are?

Alex Ferrari 43:20
Yeah, no question. And I mean, and a lot of people don't even know that he's been nominated three times for an Oscar. Yeah. As a producer, you know, and it's fascinating. He's such an interesting, interesting character and what he does, and I love his his technique of just like, giving opportunity to directors, just play, and he really let you play and let you go out and just have fun. And you could see it in the films.

Marcus Dunstan 43:51
Absolutely. No question. Now, that opportunity is just priceless.

Alex Ferrari 43:53
Now, you know, as a writer, you've written obviously, a lot of horror. I mean, this is this is this is your, your sweet spot? What, in your opinion, are the key elements in writing a good horror movie?

Marcus Dunstan 44:06
Well, in this case, I mean, my goodness, it what are the what are probably the three lines that have always been there? You know, and, you know, there's some there's some fairly obvious answers to go to, like, Well, you gotta give a care about the characters, you have to you have to you have to have a threat. That's a legit intimidating presence of some sort. And, and if you put as much care into the scares as you do in the creation of those characters, then maybe you've got something that will resonate and really pop. Well, then what I do like, is this this other element that sometimes comes and goes, and that is embracing a theme, what is the movie, actually suddenly teaching? What is what is it saying? And so for us, for example, is like yes, we're going to take some three familiar elements. Teens, Woods zombies. Oh, okay. Now how is that going to be any different any spent anything special to really earn the attention span? Well, one, my guy when you see Bran and you understand these characters and what they're trying to reach for and be an identifiable reflection of the high school experience in a way that hasn't quite been depicted before. Great, then next, well, what can we do with the, you know, go into the woods? Well, it's not a traditional woods in the sense that it's sort of a bridging zone between two genres the bubblegum teen comedy getting invaded by the horror movie. And then the last thing is, what are we doing with the zombies like, well, once you see once you see this sucker California is his alacrity. His wickedness, his cunning is something else this this thing seems to be working out some rage issues, and wants this to happen with some sort of other engine other design in play. And this thing is smart. Why how why does it know more about us? What that that gives us that little hook that little step into into another place, which leads to the final thing, which is, what is our theme that well, it was it was a chance to talk about bullying, and peel the layers back and not not just for a singular character, not just the typical victim number one that asks for it loud gets it nasty, and is out of the movie by you know, the first act break, but to go in and really find the hero, the victim the bully, throughout. And so by keeping that conversation, maybe, you know, maybe someone sees this and feels a little better that they can, you know, stand up over above a bullying episode that may have happened, like, I still harbor mine, I remember. And I just needed to figure out how to turn that wound into a weapon. And this this, this opportunity allowed me to really get it out, go back to high school, leave some damage there and bring some hope out that there was a I do

Alex Ferrari 47:19
It sounds like I mean, I always find that some of the best horror movies and movies in general but the best horror movies are when they slam together genres that generally have not been slapped together before so like the first thing that comes to mind is army of dark an army of darkness but well army of darkness. Darkness is definitely one of them. Army of the Dead the new one by Zack Snyder. A heist movie with a zombie movie you're just like, why hasn't anyone done that before?

Marcus Dunstan 47:48
It's fun I really enjoyed that but I also I mean I what a what a gift. Just that trailer I'll watch that trailer man the time to listen to it with its use of the gambler and this is tastic and I really love how you know now that I want to say that his his arrangement with Netflix has even given him more freedom to really make the the beautiful covers of heavy metal magazine comes to life. Yeah, there's nothing other about them that is that is cool. And yet you know, they they're they are only as impactful as the heart He's protecting as well.

Alex Ferrari 48:30
Right exactly. And I and I forgot which one it was it was either Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead. But the social commentary the one in the mall

Marcus Dunstan 48:36
Gone yeah, that was his interpretation of Don was what

Alex Ferrari 48:40
Was x was and then but the original as well but Zach's was Yeah. Oh my God, it was amazing.

Marcus Dunstan 48:46
Well, I quote was it a Stephen King and I want to say Roger Ebert both were like Hey, check this out. Whereas both were in a position Roger Ebert gave you know the original four stars and I was like this thing is amazing. You know, Stephen King Of course, your friends and collaborators with George Romero. But the but his but Zack Snyder's reinterpretation was I thought was so smart because it took the same situation and a location but did make a different movie. If you could see I would pay homage here and there with a glimpse of the chopper the reprisal of some of the actors from the original and in different notes and then if if George Romero was was was the commentary of consumerism and this was more of the commentary of of almost terrorism like at some point something's just gonna come out yet. What what do we do you know, and I man and that Screenplay by James Gunn was friggin awesome. I mean, it's that was smart. That was that was a that was just loved it that was a Droid and

Alex Ferrari 49:54
So in the in the pantheon of zombie films, because I do I do like a good zombie film and I I loved many of the seasons of Walking Dead what do you what do you think is on the top three of the zombie on the Mount Rushmore of zombie films?

Marcus Dunstan 50:12
Okay, well I mean I this is where I get super familiar by Dawn of the Dead the originals the one I keep going back to like it's opening 20 minutes I love listening to it I love the just the sense of building chaos and collapse and I also like how you know typical of the Romero verse It was bold and it's casting and lead decisions and how I think it was Miss Ross who plays our lead how she makes kind of a an utterance or not quite a scream at the beginning more of a gasp but just didn't want this this character to scream and this character would become a pilot in this yet we there's there's just respect in there amongst all that I you just love it I mean and I man the Dan Krauss Romero book The final one you know the the living dead is is just phenomenal it's it's man we've been trying to get enough people together to try to get that thing made for so long and it's just it that would I think be the ultimate because it's his voice it's him you know go on to the end. That would just be manna from heaven so come on Netflix I know you can do zombie bank heist can you do one from the from the godfather of the whole genre? Can you do that? That'd be great. So then that leaves open some other ones I want to be let's see if I can be somewhat what is the best way to do this movies okay, it may be easy to say night and then day I think but okay night and day are pretty I find does someone count dead alive? Because I just loved it yeah did alive. It's vicious dedication to you know, gruesome shocking or criminality and momentum I think that was a lot of fun. And then I would like to say ash and I want to make sure I get this one right because this is a this is a this is a very precious top three and as maybe because I recently kind of watched it and and really appreciated what it was doing but I liked WARM BODIES I thought it was such an unexpected take and in kind of how it it had something to say about romance and whatnot. So the now the more like verbose answer is like Well ideally just go anything Romero that's that's the cream so have that cream of the crop down in the desert one that still resonates with me dead alive for like, Hey, you don't have to be boxed into any corner just because it says zombie. You can have a giant mom beasts and chainsaw, you know, fights and whatnot. And to that regard I'd even say like, I think neither the creeps had a wonderful take. Well, who doesn't like thrill me and then warm bodies? Because who then what expect such an affectionate moment, you know, and something that had a genuine? Gave a genuine and literal metaphorical heartbeat to the

Alex Ferrari 53:12
No, no pun intended, sir. Yeah. Have a fun time now. Now where can people watch Unhuman

Marcus Dunstan 53:23
Unhuman begins on Paramount June 3. And then I think we'll be coming out swinging again in August. So we want to scare the kids who are graduating and then scam again when they're going back to school. June 3 is when is when we come out to roar courtesy of paramount. Thank you so much.

Alex Ferrari 53:41
Now I'm going to ask you a couple questions as well. My guess? What advice would you give a filmmaker or screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Marcus Dunstan 53:50
Oh, goodness. Well, okay, in terms of a practical bit of advice, if you can answer that question, what do I want to see? Like what type of movie do I want to see? And like really be specific about that? Like, I want to, you know, and then all right, then challenge that. I mean, let's just say what I want to try to pivot into is because the theater stratosphere and the streaming stratosphere seems to exist. And there's like the Marvel Universe where it can be $200 million, or whatnot. And then there's other tiers that are depending on their budget or their need, or if it's Star driven or something all the way down to a budget that can give them a greater chance for existence because the idea while not expensive, is big an implication IE, sci fi horror, in some cases, groundbreaking action like the raid, and can you come up with something that fits in that that you haven't quite seen before that acknowledges what is kind of popular that that is something you really want to seek Chances are if you write something that you really want to see with respect to kind of a budget that is making up a larger percentage of things that actually get produced, because it's a safer bet. And you know that the imagery in there if you can then watch the trailer to that in your head and say, like, would you still see that movie? Is it about someone, you know, stuck in a bland room with, you know, interfaith? I was like, No, you're not, that's not going anywhere. Right. But I every movie that inspired people to get from A to B probably came from a point of someone just saying, I know what my resources are. And I'm still going to out create out imagine and out deliver the potential of of that, you know, Evil Dead to, like, come on, like, what do we have, we've got a similar task, we've got the same location, we've even got kind of the same plot. But we got cameras, and we got imagination. And we got to go for broke aesthetic, we're gonna do it. You know, fine. I there. It's inspiring. So Gosh, I wonder if that's be enduring if that's helpful. If that's whatnot.

Alex Ferrari 56:02
No, it is helpful and the director of evil that you did, okay. He's done okay. for himself.

Marcus Dunstan 56:07
All right, you know, yeah, the kid panda.

Alex Ferrari 56:09
The kid the kid, the kid made it, sir. The kid made it. And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life, the one

Marcus Dunstan 56:19
I got right right away, was that was on the set of feast. And this would be the last one of my last conversations with my grandmother, who procured my first issues of Fangoria walked me into dirty comics and said, this kid reads anything from that same magazine, gifted me body parts and put a camera in my hands when I was a kid. Last conversations was, Hey, there, they're making one of our movies. You know, it's it's this monster one. And boy, it's, it's, you really love it. It's just absolutely disgusting and offensive. She was, Oh, I'm so tickled. So then, you know, this is now we're on a set. And I was I went up a staircase, which the staircase didn't go anywhere, as movie set staircases kind of go and I went around the corner, I shut my eyes. And I thought, I'm going to take a soul photo right now. And that means I'm going to create a time machine right here. And I'm going to remember how it smells, how it feels. And what I see. And I will always be able to come back to this moment, if I ever need to recalibrate, my hopes, my dreams and whatnot, because right now, everything just came through. And how absurd is that? So that's been helpful along the way, was the one that took me a while to figure out I mean, that's just many like, hey, you know, maybe make it make some make a little more time to have, you know, go on more adventures in between these things. Like, you know, travel more. Yeah, it's it's pretty, pretty ordinary. And,

Alex Ferrari 57:59
But I gotta tell you about that answer. I've had, I've had six 700 800 shows at this point. That's one of the best answers to that question I've ever heard. Oh, thank you. It is so it's so beautiful. The soul photo, it is such a beautiful thing because we as filmmakers forget when we're on set, we're the luckiest people on the planet. That we as directors as filmmakers have all these other people around us, helping our vision our dream come true in front of our eyes is a very rare place to be as an artist and as a human being with massive amounts of money. I mean, even if it's half a million dollars a million that's a lot of money you know that's a lot of money for a lot of people so to take the you have the insight to go man i I've hit where I was going for it. Let me get up I love the soul photo that you can go back now now I'm sure as you were saying you were back there. As you're saying you smelled it yourself. And I have images like that in my head of like the first time I was on set the first time I got to do this the first time I'm meeting this big actor this big situation I'm in this big meeting or something like that, that you're like, oh my god, I'm I'm sitting here talking to what legend or something along those lines. But to actually have the insight to stop for a second, close your eyes and go take this Take this with you. is fascinating. I think we all need to stop for a sec because we're always hunting for the the next thing we can't stop in the moment and enjoy the insanity of where you were at at that moment, which was on Project Greenlight, getting your film made on a set and you were in you were literally you know, moving those seasons on the video store shelf a year earlier. Like that's insane.

Marcus Dunstan 59:55
It's there's a number of stops along the way where like so hoped for any of this would have been in Audacity on parallel. So if you're lucky enough for some of it to happen regard,

Alex Ferrari 1:00:09
Marcus it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you my friend. Thank you so much. Thank you for so much for coming on the show man continued success, my friend you're, you're a hell of a guy and I wish you nothing but the best. And by the way, everybody who's not watching this, Marcus has arguably one of the coolest rooms I have ever seen. Oh, my life has so many geek things around everything. I'm seeing the Django the Django is guys the action figures. I see rock guessing GI Joe. I see a Yoda see original Star Wars, some et I mean, all sorts. It's like the 80s exploded in your room. Thank you for that, sir. It was a joy just because I was talking to you. I was glancing over and like, is that what I think? Senator Rocky? Holy cow. That's a rocky action figure.

Marcus Dunstan 1:00:59
Yes, it is. Absolutely. And that one with the right here. This is a Place Beyond the Pines action figure by Erik Moreno. That same artists made action figures of the cast of unhuman for the movie,

Alex Ferrari 1:01:15
You see you see this is this is what it's all about, sir. I appreciate you coming on the show brother. Thanks again man.

Marcus Dunstan 1:01:21
Absolutely. Bless you have a great one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Want to watch more short films by legendary filmmakers?

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

 

IFH 585: What is the Controversial Indie Film NFT Franchising Method? with Cameron Van Hoy

Cameron Van Hoy is a veteran in the entertainment industry. After a stint acting, he wrote and produced films such as Treasure of the Black Jaguar, Tooken, and Sharkproof. He really came into his own producing the hit horror comedy Tragedy Girls, which hit theaters around the world and has gone on to become a cult classic.

His debut directorial feature, Flinch, was released early this year to great acclaim and theatrical distribution before finding a digital home with the tech giants of Amazon, Apple, and Google. The film continues to accumulate a loyal following and Van Hoy has an affinity for gritty stories documenting love, family and crime in an epic and timeless way.

Cameron created the indie film called Flinch that was are released and franchised via NFTs. It’s a controversial method, but we are aiming to be trailblazers of the industry and help mitigate the controversy surrounding NFTs by releasing it with a solid foundation.

It stars Daniel Zovatto, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Cathy Moriarty, Tom Segura, Buddy Duress, David Proval, Steven Bauer, Michael Drayer and more. It is a crime thriller that tells the story of a young hitman who lives with his mother and a girl who witnesses them commit a murder.

The backbone of any film growing a supporting audience is the community behind it. NFTs survive and thrive off of their communities. We are creating 9,999 original art pieces that are representative of characters in the universe. Community members will have the opportunity to purchase these for a set amount each. The funds from these NFTs will go into making the sequel to Flinch. Upon selling all of the NFTs, the film immediately goes into preproduction.

A dedicated audience of nearly 10,000 have an interest in ensuring the film succeeds. Those who hold these NFTs can be verified and are rewarded for doing so. After parties with the cast and crew, special Q&As with the director, early access to the script, visits to set during shooting, and red carpet premiers.

They gain exclusivity. Additionally, as a reward, 50% of the income generated from the movie will go into a shared community wallet. The NFT holders can vote on how to use these funds. They can use it to market and promote the film, create additional IP (comic books, TV shows, etc.), or whatever else they want to do with it! It gives holders “skin in the game” of the art and movies they love.

Joe Doyle (Daniel Zovatto) is a young hitman following in his father’s footsteps. Quiet and reserved, he is observant and careful, making him very good at what he does. While studying his new target, city council member Ed Terzian (Tom Segura), Doyle develops a distant crush on the councilman’s assistant, Mia (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). After she walks in on her boss’s assassination, Mia is caught by Doyle who must decide whether to let her go or to dispose of her for good.

As Doyle aims the gun at her head, Mia doesn’t flinch, bringing him to a crossroads. Unsure of what to do, Doyle brings Mia to his home where he lives with his overbearing mother Gloria (Academy Award Nominee Cathy Moriarty), and holds her hostage until he can gain some clarity.

Doyle’s boss, Lee (David Proval) and his son, James (Buddy Duress), start questioning Doyle about the missing girl, and slowly he comes to find that Mia might not be entirely who he thinks she is. This brings Doyle to make the ultimate decision: does he kill the girl who didn’t flinch?

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Cameron Van Hoy 0:00
When I came in, I quickly realized I'm not going after anyone that's in web two. I'm really going after people on web three.

Alex Ferrari 0:07
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading lots vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog, textures, DaVinci Resolve presets, and much more. After working as an editor, colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years, I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10. To get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's Enigma enigmaelements.com. I'd like to welcome the show Cameron Van Hoy. How you doing Cameron?

Cameron Van Hoy 1:00
Good, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 1:01
I'm good brother. I'm good. Man. Thank you so much for coming on the show you guys reached out to me about what you guys are doing in the NFT space in the indie film space. And apparently, I have now become the podcast to go to for this stuff. Because I have been doing a lot of these NFT episodes lately. And it's just interesting, man. There's some really cool stuff that filmmakers are finally cracking the code and the technology and everyone's trying new ways of doing things and figuring things out. I mean, it's very, it's it's internet. It's the internet circa 2001. I think with the space.

Cameron Van Hoy 1:35
Yeah, I certainly is. And it's I think it's I think it's the most exciting thing to happen to independent film in a long time.

Alex Ferrari 1:44
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we need some help. That's for damn sure. Drop out there. It's rough out there for the independent filmmaker. So before we get started, man, how did you and why did you want to get into this insanity? That is the film industry?

Cameron Van Hoy 1:57
Well, movies, you know, I love the movies I I always loved storytelling and filmmaking and films and drama from I was very young. I started off as an actor at a very young age, like, you know, I grew up, I was one of those kids in theater and doing all that stuff. And then I this was in San Diego. And then I got an agent and I was on a show called Hey Arnold. And I did some movies. I was I was in this movie when I was 14, where I rob a bank and Burt Reynolds is the police negotiator and Nisha

Alex Ferrari 2:35
Cop and a half?

Cameron Van Hoy 2:37
No movie called Pups.

Alex Ferrari 2:39
Okay, okay!

Cameron Van Hoy 2:40
Movie called pups. And so like I had an introduction to Hollywood then. And then of course, I always had a video camera. I was one of those kids that grew up with a video camera. And then I moved to New York, went to the High School for Performing Arts, continued studying drama theater, really fell in love with movies. They're like World Cinema. Up until then, you know, I was in love with Rambo or Indiana Jones, or just all the great movies that we grew up with. Sure, sure, and Disney movies and all of that. And then in New York, it was at the Brooklyn Library that I started renting like all the great movies and I was going to the theater school, I'm surrounded by the culture of New York City and really dove into like World Cinema and just fell in love with the movies and was making little films with my video camera. And then I decided I was going to move to LA to make movies and so I moved to LA and I've been out here making films ever since.

Alex Ferrari 3:39
Very cool, man. Now what what made you decide to go into the NFT space with the new film Flinch? What are you doing that's unique in this in this space with NFT's?

Cameron Van Hoy 3:53
Yeah, so I guess Okay, so I made flinch pre pandemic, right, I was making it leading up to the pandemic. And then we were doing post production through the pandemic. And you know, the world really changed during that time. And then I also even before I knew anything about NFT's I knew that I wanted to own my movies. You know, I had done a film previous to this movie called tragedy girls, which did really well was in the festivals that had a great cast Josh Hutcherson Zenit Craig Robinson Zenit Alexandra Shipp, to horror comedy was received incredibly well. It's on Hulu now, you know, have a deal with Hulu. But I you know, before that I did a film that I sold to Netflix or licensed to Netflix and like it just I saw the business get tougher and tougher for independent filmmakers and the streaming deals worse and worse. And then you have these like other companies that come in licensing movies for like 10 to 15 years. It's just not the deal. Suck and so When I knew I wanted to own my films, and I just was like, There's got to be a better way. And I was familiar with filmmakers like Jim Cummings and other people who were owning their films, putting them on iTunes themselves, putting them on Amazon themselves, which seemed really great the idea and spirit of ownership, and like distributing yourself and you know, the technologies here, now we can get our films out there, you know, on our own, we don't have to sell them. But But still, the economics of that is very tough. Those streaming services, those tech platforms don't give you any data whatsoever, right. Their fees are egregious, or just I think, maybe egregious is too strong of a word, but it's not great. And then I learned about and I've been in crypto for many years, just buying Bitcoin and Aetherium and tons of other coins for many, many years. So I've always a believer in blockchain. And from early on and was very excited about I always kept my ear to the ground. And I heard about NFT's and this guy named vol. Ravi Kahn, I like to listen to his podcast sometimes. And he was talking about how the technology of NFT's is really about communities, owning projects, and through that community ownership and involvement, the value that can be created and what that really means for the future and how the future will look more like a world where projects are owned by communities developed by communities, the values are turned back to those communities. And that this is a real paradigm shift. And that was my aha moment. And I said, Wow, you can replace a movie studio with an NFT community. Right? Because when I first heard about NFT's, of course, I'm thinking through the framework as a filmmaker. But you know, my first gut reaction was like, well, the movie can be an NF T. That doesn't work, right? Yeah. Yeah. Yet, yet. Sure. Yeah. But I was more excited about the idea of community. And so I looked at flinch. And I said, Okay, well, I'm releasing this film. And I want to do it as a franchise to crime film, and I wanted to do it as a three part crime franchise. So I said, You know what, I'm gonna release it to an NFT community, I will take the film, I will release it to an NFT community. And then when the mentors complete, we go and make part two, and then hopefully repeat. And that was the initial like thought, it's like, okay, I could build a franchise with a community via NFT's. And then when I started really getting into it, and learning about the space and seeing what was happening in the film, NFT space and just the empty space in general, it started really taking shape. And it's incredibly well.

Alex Ferrari 7:33
So our it's so explicit. So if anybody and by the way, anyone listening who doesn't understand what blockchain or an NFT's are, there's multiple episodes on the show that you can go back to and just do a search. Because I don't want to just every episode explain what it is, in every episode explain blockchain, which is difficult to understand for, for a lot of people. So it's, you got to wrap your head around it. You know, I've, I've done a tremendous amount of research on in blockchain and NFT's I've, I've sold a few of my own ft. NFT's. And it's really an interesting space. But again, it's just very much like circa 2001. Internet, like people are just like, what's a web page? How is the web page working? Like, how can I get how can I get paid to do this? There's so many different technologies that are just starting to try to get ironed out. And there there is literal. I mean, we're in we're in dialogue. Right now, in the scope of technology, like we're in dialogue, we're at a really fast mode, and but we're still not a DSLR a DSL or, or cable or ether, you know, like none of that. So what our internet is our versus the internet analogy versus where we are with NFT's and blockchain, there's still like, really, there is a block in the technology to get it to where we all know it's going to go in 10 years, but it's getting there. It's even in the last three years. It's, I mean, NBC just did a five part series on blockchain and crypto, you know, so it's, it's becoming a more, it's becoming much more in the zeitgeist. So you decided to build a community around a movie? How did you find as the original movie?

Cameron Van Hoy 9:14
I find is that the way that I financed any of my other films with private equity? And some yeah, I've done things that tax credits foreign sales, this particular one I did with private equity investors that I'd worked with on my previous films.

Alex Ferrari 9:28
And then And then while you were in post is when you decided, hey, I'm gonna, I think we're going to try to do this NFT thing. So are you are you, how you distributing this film?

Cameron Van Hoy 9:37
So part one exists as like a utility for this project and for the community. So I've put it on iTunes, I've put it on Amazon. I've also built my own decentralized cinema for this project, which works on Polygon even though the NFT's will be on the Etherium network. So anyone who is in the web three ecosystem and has a smart wall All of our crypto wallet, they can connect to our site, send over to Matic tokens and have access to watch the film there. And also by doing that you are on our whitelist in order to mint or NFT's. So I have like a web three way to watch the film. And then I've put it out domestically via web two platforms like Amazon, iTunes and places like this.

Alex Ferrari 10:21
So what so everybody understands what web three is. Web three is basically the NFT crypto blockchain space. Right? Yeah, I say that. I'm just saying, Yeah, because people I get you, I understand where you're at, but like a lot of people listen to like, what are they? Are they talking another language? Because if we, if we just start going straight geek, we can go hard, and then everyone's gonna just turn off because they're not gonna understand what the hell's going on.

Cameron Van Hoy 10:46
There are it's very interesting. So what I'm finding in the spaces, yeah, there is a whole culture and economy and community in web three, right? There are people with smart wallets, crypto wallets, and Aetherium and blockchains and NFT's and they are operating and they're buying NFT's. They're getting involved in projects, the ecosystem really exists around Twitter and discord, your people are finding out about product projects on Twitter. And then they are joining those projects discords getting on whitelist, which is access to buy the NFT's early on oftentimes for a cheaper price. It's like that, you know, going public moment for a project. And they're, they're, you know, changing their profile pictures, they're building together, they're participating in games together. One thing that we've been able to do, since we have Part One complete as we do movie nights for other NFT communities, because this ecosystem, we're talking about this economy, whatever you want to call it, it's very, like you said, it's closed off, it's hard to get into, you have to take the time to understand the wallet, set up the wallet the right way, get some eath in your wallet and start buying and trading. And then you start realizing the community aspect and how these communities rally together build value by hyping up other projects, so their own projects, and then in turn, you know, their price of their NFT's are rising, and people are playing that game by buying multiple energy, right? So there's a lot of people in that world already. I shouldn't say a lot. It's probably a drop in the bucket. But it's a thing. It's a world. And so, you know, people are building games and Metaverse is in film franchises like what we're doing and clothing brands. And there's insane amounts of value being built around these things. Of course, I think the larger goal is that these things that communities build, eventually are utilized, explored, understood or purchased by the general public, right? But but within this community they're building and so when I came in, I quickly realized I'm not going after anyone that's in web two, I'm really going after people in web three, you know, so it's like, I'm going to a bunch of NFT de gens or tech forward thinking people and saying, Hey, let's build a franchise together. You know, and this is part one, you can watch it. And if you like it, you can be a part of building out this larger franchise. So yeah, that's how I've kind of approached it.

Alex Ferrari 13:07
Do they have part ownership if they buy the NFT?

Cameron Van Hoy 13:10
So the way that it works is they get governance access and value, right? So obviously, anyone who has the NFT owns their NFT. Right? That NFT's on by that are NFT's are generative characters that exist in part one, two and three of the franchise, right that generative. They're criminals, crooked cops, Femme Fatale, we are crime franchises. And so if you hold if you own those entities, you own the IP rights to that character. What we're doing is the franchise the larger ecosystem is allowed to use any of these characters at any time within the films that we're making the games and then any other ancillary that we derive from it. But you as the holder of the NFT also have the IP rights over that character. So you can go make a spin off about that character if you want. Oh, really? Yeah, you can make a YouTube podcast channel where you're interviewing people in Avatar of that character, you can make your own Instagram account around that character and speak and post in the voice of that character. You can do anything you want. The only thing we ask for is like Movie Studio is a first right of refusal with a first look deal with anyone models and NFT. So if you've developed your specific character to a point where you feel there's an audience and a story and lore, you want to go develop it, you come to us first and see if the community wants to use its community funds within the wallet to finance whatever project you're doing with your character. So that's kind of the ecosystem around the NFT's and then there's the central franchise that the project makes. So we already have Part One complete we're going to go into part two we do that with the community. They're involved in the creative process they have access to control the creative meetings, these things are token games you have to hold an NFT in order to get in right so witness watch partake in the discord like I'm there all the time communicating with everyone and there was a real team, it's building and people are coming up with lore and ideas and all sorts of stuff happening. We have like location channels where people drop Location images and ideas and car images and soundtrack, concepts inspirations. So it's really like creating communal creativity. And then a percentage of whatever comes back from these films, the value from their exploitation goes back to a community wallet, that the community governance, so it's the return of value back to the community. And the community can decide if they want to save by the floor price of the NFTs, which is subsequently just boosting their profits like returning it right to themselves almost like a buyback in a way. Or they can put it towards more marketing to get the word out there about the project in a larger way. Let's say we've made part two and we watch an early cut of it and decide that we want more action, well, we can decide to go back in and do some pickup days with that community wall. Right. So that's, that's how the ecosystem works. And then the goal is to make a native token, so that within this franchise ecosystem, we're just you know, X movie, we license Part One and Two to Netflix, say, in a year, Netflix wants to get on the web three thing, they license these two films from us put them on the front page, and it's just throwing numbers out, it's a million dollar deal. They're excited about web three. Well, a percentage of that million will just come right back into the ecosystem going wallets and if we have a native token can just be exchanged for that token and air dropped into everyone's wallets. Same with what three exploitation, right? Like if the film continues playing, or we are able to build out like a play to earn game and there's, there's some form of cash flow from that those native tokens can just automatically no one has to do anything, because of smart contracts in the blockchain, just drop into everyone's wallets. So the goal is that you create this ecosystem and like a real, real value, ultimately, so that's

Alex Ferrari 16:50
So then, so then, if I if I can translate, you're building a community of like minded people who are interested in this franchise, they're, they're buying the NFT's by buying the NFT's, they are not part of this community, that's their entry point to the community. There are smart contracts that state everything, you just said that, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all that stuff. So then if, let's say, you get a million dollars from Netflix, great. A percentage of that, I think, is I think I read somewhere 50 50%. Like goes. So if it's $500,000 goes straight into the community wallet for everybody to kind of govern. And then 500 goes to the you guys that set this whole thing up, which is fine. actually convert more than fair. So then, let's say there's a video game spin off, that video games spin off as bought by by Blizzard for $20 million, 10 million goes to you 10 million goes into the community wallet. And then we start building out what and then everything else other ancillaries other exploitations of the movie, whatever they might be, when that money comes in. It goes in splits 5050 goes into the into the community, and then you start building from there. So you it is in the best interest of the community hold the token holder or the excuse me, the NFT holder to promote the living hell out of this to try to get the word out because the more people buy, they have more control of what's happening with the project. But they don't get a percentage. They're not part owners of it. They're part owners of the community. In other words, is that that's that's the that's how you guys putting it together? Yes. It's a very interesting concept. How many? How many NFT's do you have for this film franchise?

Cameron Van Hoy 18:36
Doing 9999 Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 18:41
Okay. Are they all mented already?

Cameron Van Hoy 18:44
No, we haven't done anything.

Alex Ferrari 18:46
Oh, you haven't ment that anything? Yeah. So you're slowly going to be

Cameron Van Hoy 18:48
You just been building our community. So like, obviously, in this space, it's very important to build your community first, it's very hard to just drop something and have it mapped out because you don't have any awareness at first. And the other incredible thing that I've learned about the space is that you're able to build communities of people that want to get in on these whitelists, as they call them, we call ours a hit list, because it's about a hitman, obviously. And so there's real value in getting in early. And so you start getting all of these people that are doing exactly what you're saying. And they don't even hold the NF T's yet. But they're building and passionate about building and supporting and promoting and marketing because having that early access means you're gonna get a lower mid price, right, you're gonna be one of the early adopters. And so we've been able to build out a really large, powerful community like we are one of the leading films in the NFT film space at this point. And, and I think that's because of you know, I don't know what it's because exactly, I think we're doing things right. I think we're using the technology in the right way.

Alex Ferrari 19:49
Well, I think it's also I think, from seeing what I saw of your of your work I mean, it's solid, it's a it's a well, it's Welsh as well directed well shot has a good cast has it's a great genre. So there's, you know, it's not like a period drama piece. Like, you know, it really hits within the niche of people who would be tech savvy, would be interested in a crime franchise. You know, they wouldn't be interested in the dog says, dog sakes that saves Christmas movie. Like that's not probably the NFT ideal. So it is genre based and everything else you I mean you got time so Gordon and your movie, right? I am like the biggest fan of Tom segura. frickin love Tom.

Cameron Van Hoy 20:29
Right! He's amazing. Yeah, he's amazing. We've got Academy Award nominee, Cathy Moriarty, who's got Danny's avato, who's an incredible young actor tilde Kevin Urvi. Putting duress is in the movie. I mean, it's a wonderful cast. It helps us a lot like being able to enter the NFT space and drop the movie and show them say, Hey, this is this is what you're signing up for. This is the team that's surrounding this project that's going to help to spearhead this in the right way. Yeah, it's been really helpful for us, I think we're the first that's done something like that,

Alex Ferrari 21:03
Would you would it eventually, in I'm just gonna like pie in the sky here. Eventually, when the technology gets to where we want it to get to in the in the blockchain and NFT space, would it be simple, it wouldn't be this would be a workflow, let me know I want to just throw it this workflow at you and see if it works. You would create a community based around an IP, whatever that IP is, and you can have images sizzle reel, whatever it is to sell and finance the film through NFT's and smart contracts and get funding that way, make the movie, then release it on the blockchain, where then anybody who buys or rents or accesses it, when they pay all the money automatically gets split among all of the investors and yourselves as a creators, all automatically. And then as new revenue comes in. The smart contracts handle all the distribution, and there is no funny business. There's no Hollywood accounting, there's none of that while and there's no middleman

Cameron Van Hoy 22:08
Is that that's where we're going. And it's all all the systems are in place. The only one that is probably just not profitable yet is the distribution side of it simply because that smart wallet most people don't have smart wallet yet. And they're not operating in this web three world. But what is perfectly in place at this point is communities minting providing the liquidity to the project and then supporting and building together. That's there right now. That's happening. I think over time, as more and more people become native to this yes, then that distribution will we'll probably see a flip at a certain point where more people are connecting wallets to watch things than they are using the username and password to get in to watch stuff. And when that happens. Yeah, it'll be it's going to be awesome.

Alex Ferrari 22:57
But it'll be it's we're still a little while away, because we just need mass adopt adopt, you know, adopting of this technology.

Cameron Van Hoy 23:06
So, and for us, it's important, like, Look, our goal would be to get, you know, like 500 screen release in AMCs for the next year. You know what I mean? Like, and I'd love to see the community like tweeting the hell out of them saying, Hey, we got party ready, let's, let's roll them out name. See, that's a very tech forward thing, you know, with these communities, I imagine a lot of these big corporations and companies are going to want to have a pulse on what's happening with three more and more. So as this continues to grow, and and I want that I want the film to play in theaters. I wanted to play with a major stream where I want it to be accessible to everyone. And I think the community wants that as well. Right? Because that provides more awareness for our project more value back to the community. So we're not trying to say you can only watch it in web three. But yes, but I do believe over time, more and more people will watch within Web three, and then that what you're talking about transparency will become the norm.

Alex Ferrari 24:00
Yeah, it'll become the norm. It's something that's so I think the studio's will be pretty terrified by it. And distributors will be terrified by it, because it kills the basically, you can start I mean, when you imagine if the Rock who could finance a film if he wants to does this and goes down the road all the way and does everything we just said and he pulls in a couple 100 million himself. That's a better deal than he's getting from studios. It's gonna get to that place, I think, I think eventually will

Cameron Van Hoy 24:34
Not only will it get to that place, but there's something new happening here, which I think a lot of people don't recognize, which is NFT's themselves are a new art form. As it's entered here, there are stories being told to these entities, there's games being played for these entities, just the process of purchasing NFT's, making them waken an avatar representation of who you are giving them life giving them names and backstories. And then like purchasing multiple types of NFT's based off of their rarity within collections, and then the groups that are formed around those specific NFT's. And then serums. Many times like with the port apes, as an example, like ours, our version of a serum is gonna be a burner phone, because in the film, the central character uses a burner phone to get their jobs, there will be a burner phone that has a variety of jobs smuggled across the border, take care of this person, be the getaway driver for this job. And you'll be able to mint one of those burner phones, then if you want to advance your character and have tea, you will have to burn the burner phone, which is getting rid of that NFT sucking it off of the market. But then you advance your character. And this sounds crazy to people who are not in web three. But there's a lot of fun in it for people, it's important to new form of entertainment, and game and investing that we haven't seen before. And I think it's a whole other market outside of just the movies, just what's happening with characters and serums and playing them against each other. And where that can go is a new thing. And then there's this secondary royalty that comes into the project from that in and of itself. So you start looking at a franchise, it's something that has multiple verticals, there's the movies, but there's also just the NFT's are a thing. They're more than just a way to provide liquidity to make the films

Alex Ferrari 26:42
Right. You know, no, it's really interesting, because it's it's the equivalent of where we were, you know, again, I'll go back to like, when people were afraid to put their credit cards on the internet, you know, that they were like, that was the technology like now everybody just literally opens up an app and buys whatever they want, and it's at your doorstep. But I'm old enough to remember where there was no internet. That's how old I am. But But during that, yeah, exactly. So but you look fantastic. So so no, but the but I still remember, like people were like I can't, there was like full full news sections. And like, don't put your credit card on the internet. This is what happened. So that was a complication. I think I think that as we move forward, and if these are pretty complicated right now, everything's a little clunky, the technology is a little clunky, you really need to have your tech in order in order to even buy. I mean, Coinbase has helped a little bit if you want to buy Kryptos, it's become a little easier to buy crypto with with your credit card, which that that's only within the last couple, what, two, three years that hasn't been like that way always. So it's becoming a little bit easier. From what you're saying in regards to the investment and you know, getting residual back and all that kind of stuff and gaming within the NFT space. It's kind of like, you know, you're playing fortnight or Roblox or something like that. But the money that you're buying or selling and making is real money, it's crypto. And you can actually use that in real world purchases while you're playing in the web three space. Is that is that a decent analogy?

Cameron Van Hoy 28:23
That's, that's that is the whole premise of web three is ownership. Right? Web two was reading, right? Right, what one they say was just read, you can just kind of dial up and read things when two is username and password to get into a centralized organization that held and owned everything and you can comment like and share posting videos is a two way street, web three is connect your wallet and own.

Alex Ferrari 28:49
So in, in theory, what we're talking about is that a movie project could be for lack of a better word, a stock, a company that you're investing in. And in the, in the grand scheme of things, let's say I'm investing and I want to get a piece of a piece of you know, there's a piece of the residual payments back kind of like dividends. So I let's say I put in $100 is that, you know, let's say this NFT, there's a lot of shares. So it can go around millions of people to purchase it, let's say, then, as you invest, the movie goes out, it's your best interest to promote it because it's your stock, you're part owner of this. So you're gonna put it out so then the marketing costs start to go way down, because now you're putting it all out there. So it's kind of like creating a word of mouth on a project, but you're getting paid for the word of mouth marketing, and then you can invest in that and then as the movie just continues, it's it's it's pace from now until whenever the world ends, and the computer stopped working. There's a residual payment that is set up through the through the smart contracts that automatically win money. He's made, it goes right into your account. And you could start investing into any kind of projects you want. So if you wanted to invest, quote, unquote, into a Marvel movie, let's say the next Avengers comes out and you can invest $100 In the next Avengers, you might be able to pull $100 back out eventually, or vice versa. But it's an a part ownership of the project as opposed to the norm. The normal way of doing things is that there's a studio that owns everything gets all the gets all the benefits of it, and barely even plays the the creators like they pay them upfront, but they generally don't get paid afterwards because of Hollywood accounting, and so on. So is that a setup?

Cameron Van Hoy 30:41
It's democratized venture capital is democratize, investing and ownership is democratizing filmmaking. And like, it's just democratizing these things that used to be so you know, there's no way into them. They were operating these giant centralized organizations, whether it's a music label, or a movie studio or right, you're a clothing brand. I mean, you see a lot of these projects now that are building clothing brands, and people are going to wear those clothing, because the more again, that they're promoting that as they're walking around, that's, it's it's a direct connection to the value that NFT that you hold, which has a marketplace that you can sell it at any time and see what the market is valuing that at. So yes, communities work together and provide value back to themselves immediately. That's the paradigm shift of it all, you know?

Alex Ferrari 31:31
Yeah. It's it's pretty, it's pretty exciting. I mean, it's a pretty exciting idea. Again, some of the things that we're talking about are available now. But not everything we're talking about, because the technology is not there yet. But this is where everything is going. There's no doubt in my mind that this will happen within the next 10 years, if not faster.

Cameron Van Hoy 31:51
No, I think it'd be faster. I mean, we saw all the streaming. I mean, all the Yes, streaming companies, tech companies, social media platforms just destroy all media or bookstores like old retail, it's somewhat what how long did that take? 10 20 years, right? I think this will move quicker. I think web three will rattle those cages, because again, this is about ownership. So if you don't provide that to people, you have a very hard time iterating. And then also your point about communities and the power that they have for marketing? Well, it's it's almost similar what happened again, with the social media phase of web two, where the people who had the followings who got the likes and got the comments. And they were they became very valuable, right? They were the marketing juggernaut now, so much so that most companies want to spend more on that than they are in traditional ads. Right? That's going to be the other shift that happens where people are going to value communities and projects and brands that hold communities. That's going to be the next wave, right? Because once you start realizing like that you can directly receive value from the things that you're supporting and liking. I mean, that's, that's a skin in the game as a drug that's going to be hard to take away from people once they have it.

Alex Ferrari 33:03
Right! And it's kind of like we're crowdfunding was when it started. But crowdfunding doesn't give you any ownership.

Cameron Van Hoy 33:10
Crowdfunding is patronage, you know, crowdfunding is this is completely different than that.

Alex Ferrari 33:15
Completely. Exactly, exactly. It's more like equity crowdfunding, which is like you're getting a piece of the pie by donor, putting money into the piece. And there's a, but this is done, not by contracts, but by smart contracts, which are interesting.

Cameron Van Hoy 33:31
Anyone, you didn't have to trust the company to make sure that the funds go here. It's, there's no, it's trustless it just happens.

Alex Ferrari 33:39
And I think that is how that's going to how the governments of this world are going to allow this to continue is fascinating to me, because they're literally starting to, I mean, once you decentralize money, which is the power of a government essentially used to control their money. Yeah, you know, it's, it's pretty interesting.

Cameron Van Hoy 34:01
I was buying Bitcoin at a very low price. And I was afraid of this every step of the way. I was always I was a big believer in Bitcoin and blockchain but I was every step of the way, just going, they're gonna they're not going to allow this right for that exact reason, right dominance over the dollar. And it's so interesting how all these combos ultimately become like an economic even political conversation certain point because it's such a thing. But you know, they haven't stopped it yet. It's very hard to stop. And I hope they don't because, you know, America has always been strong because we've been able to innovate. And I mean, look what um, tax it right, they gotta get the they gotta get their tax dollars, let them tax it, but hopefully, they let the innovators just, you know, play within the rules, but but, you know, continue to grow and develop,

Alex Ferrari 34:46
I think, I mean, yeah, just El Salvador just made Bitcoin their national currency. So that's pretty insane.

Cameron Van Hoy 34:54
Yeah, yeah, it is. It is for sure. I mean, I think America's stance has been pretty cool with it also. Far scary games there seems to be pro Bitcoin and watching. We'll see how it shakes out. I think it's I think the cats out of the bag.

Alex Ferrari 35:09
Oh, no, you can't you can't put you can't put the genie back in the bottle with this. But now Now we got we got institutional investments into Bitcoin and into crypto coming in I mean, we're talking about like, you know, there's there's funds, there's crypto funds by major, major financial institutions, so they're all gonna get into it. So in we're talking about crypto a little bit guys, because that's kind of like the blockchain is the base, but in order for money to be made, you can't send dollar bills back and forth.

Cameron Van Hoy 35:39
Yeah, through swift systems or through these old systems with middlemen, right, like it's just it sucks value out of it. It's, it's it's friction.

Alex Ferrari 35:50
Exactly. I mean, where you can have a where you can have a crypto wallet that's earning you five to 10%. In Me, I mean, I have I have crypto right now that's earning 5%. That's better than any bank just sitting there. Now mind you, the crypto is a little bit volatile. So that's that's just a little, just a little on the points.

Cameron Van Hoy 36:11
But you know, there's another cool thing to speak about as well that's happening. It's also a paradigm shifts and a revolution outside of blockchain, which I think is two things happening in conjunction with each other as enabled. What's going on here to be so strong, which is Twitter spaces, Discord, right? It's again, it's the communication, it's the ability to communicate. But within Twitter, there's these things called Twitter spaces, which is so much of the in the NFT world called Alpha sounds like such a general I'm a film guy just talking at a theaters now. But you know, people get together in these Twitter spaces, it's like clubhouse, and they're talking. And they're just communicating, sharing ideas. And that ability for us to share ideas so quickly. Just communicate and like work together and pick up on trends and execute on those trends. Is fire right? It's really amazing. And then these these platforms like discord that allow communities to be whole and work together and organized with channels and like execute on things as groups, but from around the world. I mean, Twitch at this point has a team of filmmakers, Blockchain developers, collaborators and marketing people, devs, moderators, mods, I mean, just so many people from all over the world, and we are every single day like it just doesn't end it becomes like hive mind, where there we're using the discord as the centralized operating space. We did a table read for someone else's screenplay and a lot of directors writers people send me their scripts to look at and now my go to is always just jump in the discord get involved. So we've always called filmmakers that are jumping in there. One of them wanted me to read the script. I said, let's just do a table read with the community. We can talk and get it from the community right. And so they they jump in, we cast out of the community with one of the actors from flinch and amazing actor Michael Dreyer has been everything he came out, read the lead role in it. And then like the rest of the community was like, filled out the other roles. And we read this person's screenplay and gave them some feedback. And for them to hear it. We did it just like we're doing right. So it's like, we're working together to build and support each other. And that communication, that connectivity, coupled with like live value, whatever you call it, like the NF T's being able to, in live let the market determine the value of what it is that you guys are doing as a group. It's just wild.

Alex Ferrari 38:37
Yeah, it's pretty insane. Now, I also saw that you guys are doing practical, or real world products, like VHS and a couple other things. First of all, where do you get your VHS? And how are you getting done? And secondly, how is that connected to the NFT space?

Cameron Van Hoy 38:56
It's just merch. Yeah. Collectibles. So yeah, we made a VHS. We made a VHS. We've made VHS. VHS. We made a tape cassette. Yeah. And it because it has like a digital download. So you can also get the soundtrack digitally our soundtracks done by Miami knights 1984 One of my favorite synth wave groups, awesome. Fire. We've got CDs, posters, shirts, like and the community just bombed them and loves them and is wrapping them. So yeah, it's just it's merch like anything else.

Alex Ferrari 39:37
You know, it's connected but it's connected to NFT's as well. You have to buy NFT to get it or how's that work? No, no, just normal normal just normal merch. Merch is just accessible. So where do you get your Where did you get your VHS is paid. I have to ask.

Cameron Van Hoy 39:49
There's like one VHS manufacturer left in America. I think they're in America. Again. You want to remember off the top my head. But we dealt with that. Oh, we did a vinyl Press two we have vinyls of the sound. Yeah. Right. It's also tough to get like a good vinyl press. There's not a lot of companies that

Alex Ferrari 40:07
For independence, but like as I see vinyl everywhere now,

Cameron Van Hoy 40:11
Maybe for independence, I don't know. For us it was there was back halt, you know, and everyone was back halted, when might it be a COVID thing as well.

Alex Ferrari 40:18
But that's really that's so and it goes along with the kind of film you're doing. So VHS makes

Cameron Van Hoy 40:24
The movie, the movie flinch has a very 90s vibe to it. Right? It's like, it's got that vibe, and like a crime film from the 90s, you know, an era and a genre that I personally love. And so all of this plays into the aesthetic of the movie.

Alex Ferrari 40:39
Yeah, that's, that's awesome, man. Now, at the end of the day, what's the goal with the NFT's and the community, you just want to build out two more films. And then let's say let's say you get the other two films done. And you've got a three part you know, trilogy, what next? What do you do with this? One that's all played out? What do you do with this community?

Cameron Van Hoy 40:58
Now the goal is to do a full year, and then let the community just run wild with it.

Alex Ferrari 41:04
It's not just about Flint, you're building a community based around projects that you want to continue to build out and build out as a community.

Cameron Van Hoy 41:12
So I want to see flinch, go on and become this kind of epic crime web three franchise that was birthed of the metaverse, but enjoyed by the world, that the community is constantly adding to I think very soon the future is going to be like imagine a writer who wants to write for film and television now and they're not they're not in the film business, what do they have to do move to LA New York, write spec scripts, try to get an agent try to get them in front of people making these TV shows and movies and then get hired on to be a staff writer get their thing picked up to be turned to have. So I think the future is going to be binding 50 to a film franchise get in right lower for that franchise, get involved in the creative process of the franchise, get hired to write part eight of the franchise, and then maybe direct part nine, you know what I mean? Like you're gonna work your way up within these communities that you're actively involved in that you understand the lore and the characters of we're already seeing it and flinch. All sorts of creative people are coming in, that are actors and writers and directors aspiring or working and going, Hey, like, Let's build this together. And yeah, I'll read a role here. And can I put myself on tape for that? You know, and I'd like to write some lore for this character, I have an idea for part two. So I think it'll, I think it'll continue, I think that's the plan is that it becomes, it takes on a life of its own so much to the point where I can step away and go do whatever it is that I want to do next. Outside of the flinch thing, although my focus now is executing this successfully. But yeah, that's that's the vision for it. And that's why you give people IP ownership, so that they can spin off. Imagine a world where the way that like Blumhouse wants to go to a Halloween movie, they have to negotiate the rights for Halloween. Well imagine a future where they could just buy several NFT's from these characters and make films around those characters within the universe of free lunch. Right? If a studio wants to build a mini major, like, who knows, maybe it'll get there to that point where this IP has such value that people are, you know, you want to make your first film as a first time filmmaker, make it with in a franchise that already exists that you own an NFT and, you know, like it's it's kind of a different way to think about it. But I think you can get there.

Alex Ferrari 43:23
No, I agree. It's like, well, it's kind of like what Stephen King does with his his short films he gives you you can license his short films for $1 and make a short film out of it. I didn't know that. Oh, yeah. See if it's he's been doing it short stories, any of his short stories that are not already licensed, or you know, sold. You can license it for $1. And all he asks is that you send him a copy of it when it's done. So then you can so you can you can direct a Stephen King short film to get your stuff go. So it's a franchise, which is Stephen King's cool. And he's been doing that for, I don't know, 30 years. I mean, Frank Darabont did one when he was starting out that's how old this this Oh, yeah, that's how we got started with with Steven was Frank Darabont did the one short film for and Steven loved it and then he came up in the business and he called up Steven again. It's like, Hey, can I can I look at that Shawshank Redemption thing.

Cameron Van Hoy 44:20
Well, that's, that's awesome. And the man's a genius clearly, and that's what this tech is enabling. I think that's where these call them NFT franchises are gonna go. I think creative people, aspiring filmmakers and working filmmakers. I mean, imagine when a really cool filmmaker with a track record comes in and does Part Four on the franchise for us. The community hires someone dope to come in and take over the you know, it's like, and they take their crack at it. Like I think that's where this can all go. I hope it's work goes That's certainly what I'm gunning for.

Alex Ferrari 44:52
Yeah, it's really it's a fascinating placement. It's a fascinating it's a fascinating thing that's happening for independent film and I agree with you at this point. Probably the most exciting thing to happen independent film. This is worth it since I don't I mean, cat since the 90s. Essentially.

Cameron Van Hoy 45:10
I always say this, like the revolution isn't in digital technology. Everyone's like, oh, anyone can get a camera and make a movie. Now we've had that for 30 years. Yeah, I mean, like anywhere people are cameras are accessible. The revolution is going to be in this distribution and financing. We can make these things outside of the centralized systems, and hopefully, wonderful originality comes out of it, you know.

Alex Ferrari 45:32
Right, because you don't have

Cameron Van Hoy 45:34
Studios or they're afraid of originality. You know, they're afraid of everything.

Alex Ferrari 45:37
They're afraid of everything. And nowadays, you can't say anything, you can do anything. And you can be as outlandish as you want. You can go as far off off the reservation as you want on on these projects, because it's the only person you're beholden to is the community.

Cameron Van Hoy 45:53
By the way, that's what's working in this space right now. Anyways, okay, we're not seeing the Looney Tunes NFT's popping off, right? It's doodles, it's board apes, it's ZooKeys. It's like, you know, kaiju kings, it's original things, because they're able to provide ownership to people, it's when you provide that ownership, that you rally communities around them. And so we're already seeing the birth of originality. So I think it's going to be really exciting. As more and more films and filmmakers come into the space and use this tech in this way. The originality is going to be off the charts against the like the 90s. Again, we're just we're going to be come out with bangers left and right. That was dope, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:34
Back back in the day was with me back in the day in the 90s. I mean, it was like every month, there was a new there was there was there was Robert and there was Tarantino and there was burns, it was Spike Lee and, and the list just goes on and on the list goes on the course, like every month. So it's like Aronofsky and like,

Cameron Van Hoy 46:55
Just like everybody weird little franchises like spawn and like the way of the god and like just

Alex Ferrari 47:03
Yeah, it was the wild wild west. Yeah, it was, and they could do and they could do whatever they wanted. Because it was kinda like what happened in the 70s when they when they let Spielberg and Lucas and Coppola and all those guys. They're like, we don't know what the kids want. You guys go all out, we'll give you the money. And that's basically how that all that cool originality. And now we're gonna get to that place as well. I have to ask you. So let's say a filmmaker wants to start this process. I got a project what do I do? How do I start this whole process like what you did?

Cameron Van Hoy 47:35
Well, you got to learn you got to you got to take the time to learn went through. Right. That's the thing is you have to and there's a lot of people that hate it's okay, I see vitriol in people's posts, even celebrities post about it. Like our artists who did our art is a very popular artist online. She's got a big following. For a long time. She's incredible talents, fetish Avena kindred are NFT designs. And she when she posts about it, like there's so many little NFT we're gonna hate you, you know, like just vitriol. And so I would just encourage anyone to like can't try to look past that look past the hype. There's a lot of crazy hype, we hear these stories about apes JPEGs, selling for millions and millions of dollars. And it's just like, what, and explore what the technology is, that's the first step is exploring, getting involved getting jumping to our Discord, just meet the people in their talk, you know, like try to take the time to learn it. It's probably one of the best investments that you can make in the world today

Alex Ferrari 48:34
Understanding the web, the web through space, but also then to just getting a general understanding of blockchain getting a general understanding of crypto if you don't want to read there's a ton of documentaries really great Doc's about this

Cameron Van Hoy 48:47
YouTube videos of the best authors. It's our matrix that's like plug in the back of your head and just like get like, just everything has culminated for us to just like have this leap this quantum leap as a society between blockchain communication those YouTube videos, I've learned so much from YouTube videos, if you can just like Be your own algorithm and like kind of search what you need and put the keywords and fine and then you get all the info that you need. I that's that's how I did a lot of my education in space was YouTube videos.

Alex Ferrari 49:18
Yeah, and there's and there's documentaries on YouTube about these spaces as well that just kind of like feed you're gonna give like a 30 minute doc on blockchain real produced because I watched all of them. I literally watch almost everything. I literally went and like for like three weeks I just went and just got I went down the rabbit hole on crypto and down the rabbit hole on blockchain and really tried to and I read books about it. And I really tried to understand what was going on with it because it just seems so exciting. And then it's like, okay, we're not there yet. But again, it's just like the internet circa 1990s. Man, it's just it's worth it. We'll get there. We see it. It'll get there much faster than the internet. It'll get there much faster than that. Stream ended,

Cameron Van Hoy 50:01
I think when you see what people are building in the space and the amount of value that's being created around projects, right? I think the creation phase is here. And I think it's just the early adopters are going to have a leg up because they're in a building. Right? So I think there are certain brands, many that are being established in the space that are going nowhere. They're going to be here for the for a long time. So yeah, I you know, I think it's happening.

Alex Ferrari 50:29
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests, sir. What What? What advice? Would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business?

Cameron Van Hoy 50:36
You have to put all of yourself into it. You can't, you can't dip your talent. Really want to do it? You have to go on.

Alex Ferrari 50:51
What what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Cameron Van Hoy 50:55
Make sure you have a really solid second act.

Alex Ferrari 51:01
This is as you get older, you you start thinking about the second act. You mean, like in life, or in or the actual project? And three of your favorite films of all time.

Cameron Van Hoy 51:15
Godfather one, Godfather two,

Alex Ferrari 51:18
That counts as one.

Cameron Van Hoy 51:20
I agree. I don't know. Apocalypse Now is coming to mind. So Coppola stuff. And then also third, it's impossible to say I guess, easy, right? It was very informative, for it was like a big part of my life, even though I wouldn't call it a favorite film. But it's one of those.

Alex Ferrari 51:39
It's one of those movies that when you watch it, it hits you. Especially if

Cameron Van Hoy 51:43
Yeah, that's the independent spirit. You know, like that charged me as a young man.

Alex Ferrari 51:48
That was the movie that scared the hell out of the studios with that came out and that was like a three or $4,000 movie or something like that, at the time, and it was going to completely independently it made millions and the studios were like, making Heaven's Gate. You know, like making bottling complete bombs, like wait a minute, we got to let these kids these kids know what they're doing. Let them go off. So and where can people find out more about your NFTs and what you guys are doing with Flinch?

Cameron Van Hoy 52:18
flinchthemovie.com is probably the best source for our Twitter Flinch NFT.

Alex Ferrari 52:24
Cameron has been a pleasure talking to NFT's in crypto and blockchain and all sorts of geekiness with you today, brother. Thank you again, man. I appreciate you coming on the show and helping you know hopefully inspire some other filmmakers to go down this space because it is an exciting space and that's why keep keep doing episodes about different aspects in different ways people are using it because there's not just one way there's multiple ways you can use this technology to to make your movie so I appreciate you my friend.

Cameron Van Hoy 52:53
I appreciate you and all that you do. I love I love the hustle and really glad to be here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features:

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

Right-click here to download the MP3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Riley 41:10
Yeah. delicious chicken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IFH 583: Are Film Festivals Worth It Anymore? with Slamdance Co-Founder Dan Mirvish

Dan Mirvish is a director, screenwriter, producer and author. His new feature, 18½, a 70s Watergate thriller/dark comedy is already an award-winner on the festival circuit and will be coming out commercially Summer 2022. The film stars Willa Fitzgerald, John Magaro, Vondie Curtis Hall, Catherine Curtin, Richard Kind, Sullivan Jones and the voices of Ted Raimi, Jon Cryer and Bruce Campbell as Nixon.

Prior to that, Dan directed the award-winning, critically-acclaimed feature Bernard and Huey, scripted by Oscar/Pulitzer-winner Jules Feiffer, and starring Oscar-winner Jim Rash and David Koechner which screened in over 30 film festivals on 5 continents, had a nationwide US theatrical release, and sold to over 49 countries. Dan is the author of the bestselling non-fiction book The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking: From Preproduction to Festivals and Distribution from Focal Press/Routledge.

The fully updated, post-pandemic 2nd Edition starting selling on July 6, 2021 and hit #1 on Amazon’s New Releases chart. His film Between Us, an award-winning feature starring Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs, played in 23 festivals in 7 countries, and got a 50+ city theatrical release in the US, and sold to 144 countries, plus screening on Netflix, Showtime, Starz and all digital outlets.

Dan was mentored by Robert Altman on his first film, Omaha (the movie), which led him to co-found the upstart Slamdance Film Festival. His film Open House prompted the Academy Awards to controversially rewrite their rules on the Best Original Musical category. Mirvish also co-wrote his bestselling, critically-acclaimed novel I Am Martin Eisenstadt based on the fake McCain advisor who took credit for Sarah Palin not knowing Africa was a continent.

A former speechwriter for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, Dan has a master’s degree from USC film school, is a member of the Directors Guild of America, has guest lectured at more than 45 film schools and universities and was named as one of Variety’s Top 50 Creatives to Watch.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:09
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Dan Mirvish. How you doing, Dan?

Dan Mirvish 1:04
Good to see you, Alex. Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 1:07
Of course brother, of course. You know you've been on the show a couple times. I mean, we've you were in my last movie.

Dan Mirvish 1:12
Yes. My book was in your last movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:18
But it's maybe your book was in my last movie. You were my last movie. You gave me a great little blurb at the end the back of Rise of the film trip earner. And we've partied a bit over at Sundance back when we could do things like that you could back in the olden days, but I appreciate you coming on man. So for everybody who doesn't know who that Dan Mirvish is, can you give them a quick little rundown on your history and what you what you did and what you're doing?

Dan Mirvish 1:46
Sure. I like most people I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and, you know, went to but I majored in History and Political Science only did a little bit of film as an undergrad, like super a class and some summer classes at UCLA, then worked in DC for a couple years as a Senate speech writer, then went to USC film school, and got my master's degree there. And while I was there, instead of a short film for a thesis film, I did a feature film called Omaha that movie. And I think I was the first student to figure out the loopholes to do a feature film there. and was lucky enough to be mentored by Robert Altman on that film. And then of course, that film didn't get into Sundance. So I helped co found the slam dance Film Festival in January 95. And still stayed involved with that up till now. And and then meanwhile, I've just kept making indie films along the way and written a couple of books to read the couple editions of the cheerful subversives guide to independent filmmaking. Which, thanks to you, Alex, and your advice is now available also as an audiobook. So thank you for that. And but yeah, but mainly every, you know, three or four or five years, however long between movies I make independent film. So I've done a couple of musicals. I did a film called open house. There was a real estate musical, which was we helped change the rules of the Academy Awards, which is a whole other long story. I did a play adaptation called between us with Julius Stiles and Taye Diggs and David harbor and Melissa George. And the last film I did was called Bernard Huey, which was written by Jules Feiffer, and had David Cameron and Jim Rashon. And then this film 18 and a half, which is an original script I wrote with my friend Daniel Moya. And, you know, he wrote the screenplay, we came up the story together. And but it's upset around the time of Watergate, and it's about a young woman who gets a hold of the missing 18 and a half and a gap in the Nixon tapes and tries to leak it to a reporter and they run afoul of swingers hippies and nefarious forces out to get them

Alex Ferrari 3:56
Well, I'm sure back in the day, looking in hindsight that Sundance wishes that they accepted your film

Dan Mirvish 4:05
Well, eventually it played on the Sundance Channel and in their program notes it actually said and the film played at Sundance, so yeah, I guess they sort of retro actively. Go figure.

Alex Ferrari 4:19
So I wanted to talk to you a little bit about before we get into your do you film 18 and a half I wanted to talk to you about film festivals because you know you you started one of the larger film festivals in the in the country, arguably in the world and one of the easily the top 10 film festivals that actually mean something in the world today slam dance. What is the biggest mistake that you see filmmakers make with Film Festival submissions in general,

Dan Mirvish 4:43
I think just submitting blindly you know, onto film freeway or something or you know, or similar things without any kind of introduction or follow up or connection to the festival is I think that that is a big mistake, you know, or then not doing research on if it's even the right fit for your film. I think that's another kind of related mistake. I think that you know, and it doesn't mean that you have to know someone ahead of time, but you need to try to get to know someone, you know, and reach out to them personally, one way or another, not an intrusive way. But you know, and really say, you know, is this film, the right fit for your festival? Generally speaking, and but then really what that does is it gets the, it gets your name a little bit, you know, floating in their consciousness, like, oh, yeah, that was a person that emailed me or called me or ran into me at another festival. And, you know, and yeah, I'll take their film a little bit more seriously. So I think I think that's the thing is, I think just submitting blindly just doesn't, you know, to any festival is just lowers your odds tremendously. And yeah, so any kind of personal connection you can make to the festival director, the programming director, the artistic director, depending on what the title is, but then also just to help narrow down the number of festivals you're going to submit to because it can get expensive, is do the research, find films that were similar to your own film and genre and length and style? From like, a year or two before and see, where did they apply to? Where did they play? Where did they get in and either contacted the filmmakers or just look on their websites? Usually, you can kind of figure that out. And then, you know, and then at some point, find out, was it good for those filmmakers? Was it a good festival? Was it worthwhile? And in what ways was it worthwhile because, you know, not every festival is going to have a million distributors, you know, you know, hungry to take your film. But there's plenty of festivals that you're going to have great experiences that meet other filmmakers, you meet investors go on a vacation. You know, there's a lot of great reasons to go to a lot of different festivals, and they're not always the same reasons.

Alex Ferrari 7:00
Now, do you? Do you think that it's important for filmmakers? Because I've seen this mistake happen too many times in my films over the years have gotten I think, five or 600 film festivals, I think at this point in the game, back in the day since oh, five when I started submitting to festivals, 18 1805, obviously, even 1905. But But do you believe that it's helpful to have a nice presence on the web, have a trailer have like make your film look a little bit bigger than it truly might be purely through the web through just through your web presence, a nice poster, these kinds of things to make the festival look at it and go, oh, there's some there's something here. There's more value here than just another film from another filmmaker?

Dan Mirvish 7:49
Yeah, definitely. Because you know, every festival programmer at some point and maybe with, you know, when they're first looking at your film, or or when they're making their final decisions, they're going to Google you, you know, and make sure you're not weird, but and yeah, and then you know, they want and they'll all look at IMDb Pro and make, you know, see if you can get your film on there or Wikipedia or whatever it is. And and even if it's a short have a trailer for the short, you know, it doesn't matter, even if it's a one minute short, make a 10 second teaser. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, everybody should be doing things like that. Yeah, I think absolutely. Right. Yeah. Give it as much info as you can.

Alex Ferrari 8:33
No, I have to ask you the question. Because, you know, I've said this so many times on the show before, but I'd love to hear your opinion on it. It's there, you know, film festivals, like filmmakers still think that film festivals have the power that they did back in the 90s and early 2000s. Were back in the day in the 90s. When you got into Sundance, it truly meant, it still means something today, but it was like you were gonna get sold. Just because you got into Sundance or because you have a laurel on your poster, a distributor is going to have a better chance getting it out there, you're gonna make more money with it. But those days are kind of, in my opinion kind of gone to a certain extent. What value does the film festival even the top five or 10 have to the bottom line, not experiences. Because you and I both know Sundance and go to Park City is and slam dance. It is amazing. It's so much fun. You meet people. So there's a lot of other benefits. There's there's lectures, there's webinars, seminars, all this kind of stuff. I'm talking about the bottom line as far as an investment is concerned. Because filmmakers have that kind of delusion that like oh, if I win if I get into Sundance or Sundance or South by or something. It's an automatic where I know and you know, filmmakers who've won Sundance one slam dance one South by one all these and their films didn't get sold or put the needle so what's your opinion on that?

Dan Mirvish 9:54
Well, I think you know, I differ a little bit with you. I think it is still important. I mean, I remember in 95 for directly, you know, fall of 94, your distributors saying, oh, that's we love your film, we want to pick it up for distribution if it gets into Sundance, right, and if it doesn't, we don't. And they were very matter of fact about it cut to, you know, 2000 or one year we 2020 2020 2022. And I still have distributors have the exact same conversation with me, oh, we really love your film. But you know, if it really got if it had played in Sundance or South by or Cannes or Berlin, yeah, we would have picked it up for distribution. But if not, we're not going to now. But the reverse isn't true. I think that's what you're hitting on is that you can still get into Sundance, you can still get into South by and still not get distribution. It's not it, it's, and even in the 90s, that wasn't a guarantee at Sundance either. There were still films that weren't getting picked up. So it's a little bit of a myth in that regard. But if you don't get into those top festivals, it is very, very difficult. Now that said, I've never gotten my homes into Sundance, I have gotten my films into South by but back in 95, when South by was just in second year, so it didn't really mean as much then. But I think what I've been able to do with most of my films, really, pretty much all my films is that is to play at the kind of the next tear down the the a minus and the B plus festivals, and somehow managed to create enough buzz and momentum from a volume of festivals and accumulating awards, audience awards, jury awards, you know, critical reviews, blurbs. And eventually you can get some distributors, someone to pay attention to you in a way that that even just, you know, a failed film at Sundance may not even get that attention. And certainly that was the case with 18 and a half we started playing, you know, last fall. We premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival, which is great film festival, but it's it's not an ageless festival. But it's it's it's certainly respectable. And you know, but also it was partially by design and partially by luck. Yeah, there was this trough between the Delta variant and the and the Omicron variant. I remember that trough where you could have live festivals, you know, because for a year all festivals are virtual, and then they all thought they were going to be back live in 2021. And then delta happen and then it was like, whoo, hang on a second, you know, Toronto was was virtual then. But then, you know, there was about a two month gap there and we're like, you know what, we just finished the film. We're gonna go hard and heavy into festival circuits. We did like 10 festivals in two months. In the US, you know, we won the top prize at Tallgrass in Wichita, we which actually came with money, which was amazing. We played internationally, the International premiere was at Sao Paulo International Film Festival, went to Europe in Spain for the European premiere at the home Film Festival, which is like the third biggest festival in Spain, but around the US, Rome International in Rome, Georgia. And we won a prize, Anchorage, St. Louis, you know, a bunch of festivals, and, and it was based on on those wards and that presence and that kind of geographical spread that we had to prove that it wasn't just a US centric film, Whistler Canada that was there was a Canadian premiere, that based on that we literally that's what got us a distribution deal with a European London based sales agent, international sales agent called one on one film that also does direct VOD distribution in both North America and and and England and the UK and Ireland. And then once we got that, then we got a theatrical distributor, and an airline distributor and a DVD. Blu ray distributor as separate split.

Alex Ferrari 13:55
Do you split? You split up all your deal? Yeah, split up all your rights. Exactly, exactly. So I wanted to kind of point that out to people is that a lot of filmmakers think that you have to just give all your rights to the one distributor. That is not true. I mean, some of them asked for it. Right? But but if you can carve out like not everyone, no one's gonna do airline, if they're not specializing an airline, no one's going to do do theatrical now unless they specialize in that or have strength in it, or DVD, or you know, or or VRS VOD or a bot or T matar and there's 1000 rights that you can give away, you can carve up and then there's International and different countries and things like that. So that's a really great lesson for everyone listening is that you really should think about how you carve out those rights. But also going back to the festival circuit, I agree with you 100% That because I couldn't get into any of the big festivals when I was starting out at all. So what I did, I did the exact same thing on my first short was in 185. And I just stopped Yeah, just after like a year and a half or two years of it because I I submitted to different time periods 2005. But I just kept, and I didn't pay I refuse to pay after like, 40 of them. I was like, Yeah, I'm not paying, right. So I just kept going in there. So it was this volume. Then everyone just said, Jesus, it's gotten into like 100 film festivals, or it's gotten to so many that you lack of quality, you get a quantity. And it helps. So like when I was watching your trailer, I saw with 20 Film Festival laurels all at once, which was impressive. And I recognized in the time that a flash fires like Oh, there I know that festival, and then it was gone. But I knew and I was like, Oh, that's a really great technique on how to use film festivals. Because Film Festival, just other people one Laurel or two laurels. You just like Nah, man, we did 20 film festivals and boom, and so that

Dan Mirvish 15:52
In a global pandemic, you know? Yeah, yeah, cuz after that fall trough, we then did this spring trough tour, you know, between Omicron and world war three, there was a nice little trough of

Alex Ferrari 16:08
Yes, of course, we can't forget world war three, right? Forget or worth three as well. That's, uh, we're joking about it. But we're not really it's not a joke at all about what's going on but and God forbid, knows what the hell that's gonna end up being. But But yeah, so you're I agree with you. And I think we're both on the same page. Because that myth of like, Oh, you just get into Sundance. It's sold is false. But it's still in today's marketplace. Getting into Sundance is great. It's better than not, but the film has to be marketable.

Dan Mirvish 16:45
The film. Exactly. And, and the other thing too, is that, you know, I had a, I had a pretty good feeling, probably more than most people that Sundance wasn't gonna be live this year. You know, they only canceled it before. Claim dance, we canceled like, three weeks before, because we knew, but But even you know, when I was deciding to play Woodstock, I already had enough clues that I you know, this film wasn't going to get in, it wasn't either going to get into Sundance and if it dig in, and Sundance Sundance wasn't going to be live. And if it's not live, you know, I mean, at the end of the day, we're filmmakers we want to engage with an audience you know, for film is virtual, but nobody knows you played it virtually, did you really play it's like the Trojan horse. So I was I'm a big believer, like, go to where ever the audience is, however, you can do it to drive in, if it's a, if it's virtual, but you can engage with an audience great, go for it. But But yeah, I wasn't going to wait around for a virtual festival that I knew I probably wasn't gonna get into. Because also just keep in mind, in these days, 2020, most festivals are showing half as many films as they did before. And meanwhile, there's a backlog of twice as many films trying to get in. So you actually have a 25% of one quarter chance of getting into any given festival than you might have two years ago. So which means you have to apply to four times as many festivals to hope to get into anything. And you've got to be nimble, because festivals are changing. They're like, Oh, we're gonna be live. No, no, there's a new variant, we're gonna go virtual. You know, a festival may call you up a week before and go, Oh, we have a slot that just opened up, do you want to play here, and you've got to be nimble and flexible, and say, You know what, I can't go but my composer can go like he went to Brazil on my behalf or my cinematographer went to Wichita to, you know, represent the film and at Tallgrass, and we wound up winning, I should send her to everything, you know. So you just have to be nimble about all this stuff and just go wherever makes sense it at any given time, but if you wait around for that six months to get rejected from an alias festival, you're gonna be waiting around for another six months for the next day this festival to reject you. So you know, if you can, if you can get out there and somehow find an audience one way or another, do it.

Alex Ferrari 18:59
Now, how many submissions do you guys get and slam dance still? Do you do do you? Are you still like involved heavily or not?

Dan Mirvish 19:07
No, I especially when you know, because we're all filmmakers by unemployed filmmakers, for unemployed filmmakers isn't our motto. And so now when I've been working on my own films, I'm not involved with the programming at all, thankfully. Because it is so time consuming, but it's all done by alumni. So it's nice to get different people every year to be programmers. But we get like 1000 submissions. I mean, I think most of those are shorts, but But it's, it's it's a it's a lot. And you know, and at that level, you know, it's kind of a crapshoot, whether you get in or not, you know, that it's not about how good your film is, because there's a lot of other good films applying to, you know, same with Sundance, you know, at least with slam dance. It's it's, there's no politicking it's, it's there's no early invitations, we don't you know, it doesn't matter if you know, someone or don't know, someone, Sundance that, you know, honestly, their problem is that I think their problem now is that they have so many labs, that they're They wind up obligated to show all these lab films that take up half the slots, or more than half the slots, whether the rooms are good or bad, they kind of have to take them. And so there just aren't as many, you know, and then whatever politicking that goes on as well, you know, that could be a whole podcast, but there just aren't that many, like, openly available slots anymore. And you just have to know that going in and realize your chances are slim to next to none.

Alex Ferrari 20:24
And just so people understand that there is no politics at slam slam dance. I know you. Well, you were in my movie. And that movie did not get into slam dance. That's so. So I mean, the you know, oh, and I shot part of the movie at Slamdance. So no, sorry, does it so there's no politicking so I firsthand experience. There are no politics. It's all good. It's it's that the whole film was such a fun process to go. It's super fun. So can you can you touch a touch upon the economics of film festivals? I think a lot of filmmakers don't understand what it really takes to put on a festival, what the costs are where they make their money. Is it a break? Even Is it a for profit, like all these things, I think if at least from your point of view, doing this for so long?

Dan Mirvish 21:49
So yeah, I mean, and it is good for filmmakers to think about it, like from that perspective. So festivals, most festivals make their money or support their budget, and they don't, most of them are nonprofits or don't profits. But they make them money, their their income from either box office sales at the festival itself, sponsorship either from their local community or, or businesses, or some combination thereof. And submission fees, those those tend to be the the three big I think that's I think that's it and remind me if there's anything else, but merchandise Much, much yeah, and a little bit of merchandise and merch if they can sell, those tend to be the three big drivers of of their things. So if there's a, you know, if there's a global pandemic, or economic downfall or whatever, you know, that's going to impact festivals in different ways, depending on on what they are. I mean, if they're, if 70% of their income comes from Box Office, and there is no box office there, they're tanked. And a lot of festivals went under, you know, or went dormant during the pandemic because of that. But on the other hand, if there is, a higher percentage of their budget comes from submission fees, then then you can survive a little bit longer, just economically, but but the relevant thing to filmmakers is to think about well, all those festivals, especially the ones that are particularly reliant on sponsorship and box office, they need big name actors in their films, they need big name directors to show up and do Q and A's. Just as like, it took me like 20 years to figure this out, like, oh, what's the point of getting stars in your film, like name actors? It's not just to get distribution, it's to get into festivals, too. And there's a reason for it. They, you know, they're trying to get people in their doors and get people to give them money. So once you realize that, like, what then then it makes you realize, okay, what can I offer to that festival? Like, okay, if I have big names, great, you know, if I have, but even just to say it's a premiere, you know, even a short film, you know, to say, oh, it's the Carolina premiere, or the North Dakota premiere, whatever premiere it is, make something up, you know, because that's something that the festival can then use to, to generate some excitement about that film.

Alex Ferrari 24:04
You know, it's really interesting, too, because when I had my film, some of my films had some stars in it and, and people involved in it, and they, in fact, had festivals, like, will that person show up? Before I got accepted? Yeah. That will be the determining factor, essentially. And that's the politics of behind the scenes stuff. Like I've literally had phone calls like will that combat actor show up? And if he can, we have another one done? The next movie online has another actor of similar caliber? Yep. Yeah. And it's so it's not always about if the movie is good or not. Honestly,

Dan Mirvish 24:39
Or if you have a band, will the band play, you know, things like that.

Alex Ferrari 24:42
I remember I remember sitting down and 2000 506 and I had a shorts, shorts package at Sundance, and all of a sudden I see this horribly produced a horribly, horribly produced short film about Batman and Robin on a date Like bat, like Robins on a date and Batman kind of comes in and tries to steal is Robins date? That's basically the whole short, but and I'm like, this is horribly produced. It's bad. And then I'll go oh, well, it's Justin Long is Robin. And Sam Rockwell is Batman. Done.

Dan Mirvish 25:22
There you go. That's it.

Alex Ferrari 25:23
That was a perfect that was the that was the moment that I understood even back then I was like, Oh, these guys need asses and seats. Yep. They need star power as well. If it's not a if it's not actors, then it's a writer or it's a filmmaker, or it's someone of some sort of magnitude that they can bring on. And people other film festival people would love to see them talk or

Dan Mirvish 25:48
I mean, there's a reason. You know, Top Gun Maverick is playing a can. Right? Um, Cruise is there, you know, like,

Alex Ferrari 25:56
Oh, yeah, they called. Will Tom be there? Yeah. Okay. You can you can play. Yeah, you can play. It's George George Miller's new movie. Sure. Well, we'll play George. Right. It doesn't like it just George showing up. Sure. Like, yeah, absolutely. But that's the that's the thing that they don't tell filmmakers, you know, and so many filmmakers are so starry eyed about the process. And there's been so much myth over the years about film festivals, that I really want to kind of pull the curtain back a little bit like, Look, guys, look, this is the reality of what you're going to be dealing with. And now more than ever, things are changing so rapidly, like you were saying, Sunday's canceled. We had friends of mine, like, I booked hotels, I booked flights, I'm losing like it destroy me. Imagine remember South By. Right. And the pandemic blew and blew up?

Dan Mirvish 26:42
Yeah, we shooting 18 and a half at the time. We were like Southwest closed.

Alex Ferrari 26:46
Wow. Like that. After they sold tickets? Yeah. Yeah. I'm surprised that they did not. They were big enough of a festival, because the film festival is like this big, comparatively to exactly the rest of South, which is everything else. So they can handle it. But still, it was pretty. So in the world that we're living today it's not, you know, it's not what everything's always the same. It's changing so, so dramatically. Now, I have to ask you, because you've been around the block, you've been around the block a couple of times. A couple of times, you've you've worked with distributors in the past, I'm assuming that every distributor ever in your life has paid you promptly and has not, has not taken has not taken advantage of you in any way, shape, or form,

Dan Mirvish 27:30
I believe the phrase you're looking for is every distributor has gone bankrupt. So I think that was more.

Alex Ferrari 27:39
And then they reopened a week later under a new name, right? Yeah. And then they buy your and then they buy your your, your the catalog for pennies on the dollar under the new brand. And now they only 100% Things like that, right. So that's, that's another thing too is a lot of filmmakers go to film festivals hoping that the the almighty distributor will come down from Mount Hollywood and write them a big fat check. And they don't have to worry about anything. But in your experience, even in today's world, the fat check doesn't really exist. The ng is very difficult to get nowadays, unless you got major star power or a different level in film for an MG to make sense. You have big stars action, or are certain genres that kind of get those things. But what's your experience with that right now?

Dan Mirvish 28:23
Well, I, I, shockingly, I got a not a huge mg, but an MG is basically minimum guarantee or in advance. We did get one from one of our distributors. So the international sales company, God bless him. And honestly, that was a big reason we went with him because the reality is, you know, some people look at these contracts, and they're like, whoa, I'm getting a bigger percentage on the back end. And this one compared to this other one, I was like, Dude, you're never gonna see that. You know, like, if you're getting any money upfront, take it, cuz that's all you're gonna see. And, you know, and it's not just because distributors are going to actively screw you a lot of times they just passively Screw you. They're like, you know, they can be trying as hard as you are. But they're just not good at it. Or they just go bankrupt. You know, it's like, we tried sorry.

Alex Ferrari 29:10
I love that. I love the term passively. Screw you. That is brilliant.

Dan Mirvish 29:15
Yeah, I don't know

Alex Ferrari 29:17
It's not it's not every distributor is twisting nefarious. Yeah. Twisting their mustache by haha, but not all. Yeah, some and arguably many. But, but there are that just, they just, you're right. Don't know what they're doing. Couldn't figure it out. The market shifted their marketing plan or their bid, their release plan was like DVD and it's 2020.

Dan Mirvish 29:42
Or one of them dies. I mean, that's happened, you know, like, so.

Alex Ferrari 29:47
So again with the film so again, with the film festival aspect, the reason I'm bringing that up is because I want filmmakers to understand that film festivals, looking for a distributor to film festival. Yeah, it's great and it's nice, but if you can get an MGB get some money. But it's not the end all be all again, I love the way you're looking at it more. So we're like you're you're building quantity of film festivals for your movie, which, by the way, make sense? As a film festival style movie is an RD kind of film in that sense. You know what I mean? entertaining, and entertaining? No, but our rd was entertaining. But it plays at festivals where a horror movie doesn't really benefit maybe a little bit here and there, depending on the festival.

Dan Mirvish 30:30
Yeah, I mean, there's a whole there's a whole circuit of of genre festivals now that's becoming just as big or bigger. But the other thing, I think that's interesting that the pandemic is kind of accelerated is the kind of the fuzziness between festivals and art house theaters, which is to say, Now, there's a lot more festivals that are doing revenue sharing, I just got to check yesterday festival, I didn't even know what I was doing revenue share. And I was like, Wow, this I wasn't expecting, I mean, if it wasn't for a lot, but it was for something. And also a lot of festivals are doing year round programming. So even if you don't get into the festival, they may still program you six months later. So you have to be nice to everyone when they reject you. And then likewise, a lot of art house theaters are doing more with Q and A's and zoom Q and A's and, and bringing filmmakers in so there's it's getting a little fuzzy, but you know, there is some revenue you can make. I mean, we've made money on our festival circuit, I mean, bottom line, you know, between awards and revenue sharing that not a lot, but something.

Alex Ferrari 31:29
Yeah. And you know what, I think that is you're right, because it's there, everyone's just trying to survive. So they understand that like a week of film festivals, probably not going to, you know, pay the nut. So we're going to have to do things differently stand out,

Dan Mirvish 31:44
Or they buy theaters, and then they become urine programmers themselves.

Alex Ferrari 31:48
Right! Exactly. They could start making money and then they then there's a revenue sharing person now the filmmakers incentivized to work with them not only for exposure, because maybe it won't be the moment of all the press and attention on that week or two weeks that they're they're running their festival. But now it's a business deal. Okay, we'll run your movie. It's a rev share. Do you want to do it? In Omaha? Yes. Why wouldn't you

Dan Mirvish 32:13
No, I mean, five days ago, we had a screening in Annapolis that was run by the Annapolis Film Festival, which we for whatever reason, we I think I forgot to apply. But they do a year round programming. And that was a revenue share screening, you know, we did as a sneak preview for the film. So yeah, there's a lot of great opportunities out there now.

Alex Ferrari 32:33
Now, tell me about your film 18 and a half, because when I mean, you would you can talk about this for a while now. And if anyone who knows, Dan, if you are in his circle, you will know when he's making a movie, you will know everything about that movie, you will know when he's filmed crowdfunding for it, you will know what has been released. You know, so all the as he drinks from his 18 and a half cup.

Dan Mirvish 32:58
Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 32:59
So tell everybody what you think you already mentioned what the movie is about. But my one question I wanted to ask you about is how did you raise the money this time for a bunch of different ways?

Dan Mirvish 33:10
Yeah, so with most of my films, I start with crowdfunding. This one we did on seed and spark other films I've done on Kickstarter. And the goal is usually to raise about 10 or 15% of the budget that way, I mean, it's Kickstarter, not kick finisher seed and spark Not, not fire and seeds. Even fire. Yeah. So, um, and, you know, when you do, you know, like, like most people do, like a month long campaign, you know, for for that, and that's, you know, but really, the goal is not about the money. It's about building that community that 300 backers that you get, and you know, Dave, your old bass player, buddy from college may give you $40. But when he posts the video, on his Facebook page, and his brother in law, the Silicon Valley investor gives you $10,000 That's, that's the power of crowd funding. It's it's kind of the Trojan horse to then get you to slightly bigger levels. But the other thing that I do is I always work with a 501 C three as a fiscal sponsor. So the last couple of films has been the film collaborative, because they're one of the few ones that will work with narrative films, there's a lot more than two documentaries. And and I kind of use that as as almost more like a Patreon or only fans page where people can give money, you know, year round, or over the course of two or three years.

Alex Ferrari 34:25
So when you partner with when you partner with a 501 C, that means that they're nonprofits, so that that means it's tax deductible.

Dan Mirvish 34:32
Yeah, for the for the donor, because a lot of rich people, they just want a tax deduction right away, because you know, because I always tell them, Look, you're, you know, you and then the third thing is, is equity investment, like do you want to invest in the film? So I said, Well, look, you can invest in the film, but truthfully, you're not going to make your money back. So if you just want to get a tax write off now this year, then the other way to do it is you donate to the 501 C three, they keep 5% of it for administrative costs for their their kickback and then You get and then the filmmaker gets the rest of the money. And you never have to pay that money back. So it's kind of a win win for the donor, the fiscal sponsor and the filmmaker.

Alex Ferrari 35:09
What was the percent? What were the percentages of each year for the show?

Dan Mirvish 35:13
I think on this film, I think two thirds of the budget came did come from equity investors, from you know, investors. And then you know, that other third was kind of split between crowdfunding through seed and spark and, and and the fiscal sponsor, you know, for the most and yep, donations that came tax deductible donations. So it's, it's, it's winds up paying a fair percentage of it. And again, it can, just by giving people those options doesn't mean they're going to take them, but it shows that you're kind of honest and realistic about your expectations. Like, dude, I told you, you weren't gonna make money. If you want to roll the dice and invest. Great, I'll take it that way. But if you don't, I'll you know, and want to get the deduction this year, that's fine, too. And I think investors appreciate that, like, Okay, well, Dan gave me all the options and was realistic and told me all these distributors were gonna go bankrupt. And while they did, you know, so that's, you know, I put it right there in the business plan. And sure enough, that's what happens every time. So. But, you know, but they're all along for the ride. I mean, I still send them all the same updates and get the same, you know, they get same swag options. And, you know, and and they, you know, they all are part of that community that's building that film.

Alex Ferrari 36:29
That's, that's awesome. Now, casting, you have a pretty awesome cast for for this film. How do you I mean, I mean, obviously, people know who you are, you've done you have, you know, you have, you know, filmography now so it's not like you're starting from scratch. But do you just essentially cast the same way you cast any anybody would cast from you'd send out, call their agent up and go, Hey, or if you have a direct connection, you can try to go to a direct way, and then negotiate afterwards?

Dan Mirvish 36:57
Yeah, my, my kind of, and funny, you should say that there's a chapter in my book about how to get a list actors in a micro budget film, and the name of that books are in the name of the cheerful subversives guide to independent filmmaking. Now avail second edition, available and available on audiobook which I got, but a higher percentage of the print book. But yeah, the main thing I do that may be a little bit unique is I start with New York agents and New York agents, agencies and or the branches of Hollywood agencies in New York. And if you can get in with a junior agent, or an assistant that's about to hit agent, and ask them, they're like, don't come in with a pre existing list. Like, you may have one, but don't tell them about it. Say, look, I respect you, you went to Brown, you have accomplished degree, you know, you're paying back your finance, you know, your student debt. You must be smart, who do you think would be good? And all of a sudden, like, you're asking them their opinion and their advice, and, and then they come back in there pitching people to you, you're not begging people from them. And that just flips the dynamic. And that's exactly what happened on this film. It was a junior agent at one of the ATF paradigm, I think, who I'd worked with on the last film, so I knew him already. And and he had gotten me someone on the last film and on this film, he was like, Oh, you get Dan, you got you. You got to meet with Willa Fitzgerald. I was like Willa, who never heard of her, you know? And and he said, No, no, she's fantastic. Trust me, trust me. Trust me. I was like, Alright, fine. I was in New York. I met with her she was great. And and then I found that she'd been in a film that lucky McKee. It was an old friend of mine from the USC Rian Johnson days. He recommended her he said, Oh, yeah, she's great to work with and, and you know, and, you know, we went we thought considered other people along the way, but it kind of came back around to her, you know, week before shooting, and of course, you know, we shoot the film, she's great. She's wonderful to work with fantastic performance and then she winds up doing reacher afterwards and and just came out as that and shoots up to number two on the star meter like today, we never could have gotten there. But she's still great. You know, she's still wonderful, supportive actress. But I talked to a lot of other directors too. So I was thinking about John Magaro. And I reached out to Kelly Reichardt, who I know just a little bit but she, you know, she said, Oh, yeah, he was great. And first cow, you should cast him and I did you know? You know, someone like Jon Cryer, though, is someone that I met 30 years ago when he and Richard Shankman, were making indie films and they came up to me at a screening and said, Oh, how do you make Omaha the movie, you know, because they were making gone to Coney Island, you know, be back. And so I've kind of stayed in touch with him a little bit through Twitter, but we still had to go through his agency, even though I kind of knew him. You know, Bruce Campbell, who plays the voice of Nixon, you know, was someone that I had? We tried to get him on the last film and schedule didn't work out so I kind of same thing, but I knew his agent, and through his agent was able to get to him. And, you know, but also we made it easy for some of these guys for Bruce and for Ted Raimi and for Jon Cryer, we said, look, it's it's, it's a couple hours of work voiceover because it's there, the 18th, half and a gap. And it'll be sometime in post production, you don't even have to commit to a date at this point. And in the end, we wound up recording that during the pandemic, Jared, we had because we started shooting March 3 2020, what could possibly go wrong, we shot for 11 days had to shut down, we four days left to go. But in the process, we took a six month gap. And during that six months where nobody was doing anything, I was like, You know what, let's do the voice performance now. And let's do it over zoom. We don't have to worry about getting everyone in the same studio at the same time flying people in. It'll be cheaper, easier. They all had pretty decent mics by that point. And they were sitting around not doing anything.

Alex Ferrari 40:47
And it's on a tape that's supposed to be like it's supposed to be.

Dan Mirvish 40:50
Yeah, yeah. So it worked really well for us. But all of a sudden, like June of 2020, where no, no actors were doing anything like we were making part of our movie, you know, over zoom. But availability and schedule is a key thing. I mean, we were already a week into shooting the film. We didn't know who to have our actors were going to be because someone else had dropped out. And again, I called an agent who, who's the head of talent at gershenz guy, Alex Jarosz, who I knew because he was an assistant 20 years ago, and we used to hang out, make photocopies together, you know? And so having that those kinds of relationships, and I could say, Hey, dude, I need someone you know, in 36 hours. He's like, how about Bondi, Curtis all unlike me winter avanti. Cortisol? Yeah, you bet. You know, and sure enough, he shows up. And is amazing in the film, and a lovely absolute treat to work with. So I'm so developing these relationships with talent agents, as opposed to like lit agents. I haven't had my own agent in 15 or 20 years, you know, but having those kind of personal relationships with with agents and managers, you know, because they may have 20 clients. So even if the one person on your list can't do it, they may come back and suggest someone else. You know, that was, that's how I've gotten a lot of people over the years, including Julia Stiles, you know, for my movie between us is because she was in a play. The financing fell through two hours ago. She's completely distraught. And the agents like, do you want her in? Do you want me to send her the script? And I was like, yeah, 24 hours later, she says, Yes, two weeks later, she's in my kitchen rehearsing. Yeah. And so and that was something you know, we learned a little bit from Robert Altman was set that start date, tell everyone trains leaving the station and and see who shows up. You know,

Alex Ferrari 42:34
I have to ask you man, What was it like, you know, haven't haven't worked with Bob. Bob. Like, I know him. Robert, sir, if you will. What was it like having Trotman? You know, mentor you, man.

Dan Mirvish 42:46
Yeah. Well, it was, you know, it was a funny coincidence. I was, you know, I'm from Omaha. And when I went back to Omaha to shoot my film, and I said to the film commission, look, I know, actors here, but I need a local producer. And they say, well, there's this guy, Dana, who, you know, works construction during the day, but he's been producing commercials. He wants to get into, you know, features. So he doesn't have to pour some metal all the time. And they said, Oh, and by the way, his grandfather's Robert Altman, I said he's hired. And so And since then, Dana, and Dana has been Dana Altman still lives in Omaha, and actually lives on a farm outside of Omaha now, and it's still one of my producing partners. But we, you know, then Robert, and Bob, you know, came on board kind of as our mentor on that film, and then I got to know him a little bit after and spend a couple of days on the set of Kansas City watching him work, you know, and, yeah, I mean, it's it, you know, and there's still things that he did that I do, you know, miking every actor individually is a technique that he pioneered with mash and Nashville, and, and I 100% do it on every one of my films. And it's, it's more than just like miking individual actors, but it's also then encouraging them to Okay, now that you've got this mic, talk over each other, you know, like, do overlapping dialogue. And then all of a sudden, even though the script is pretty uncertainly on 80 and a half is a very well scripted script is not a lot of real improvisation, but it's but it's a much more naturalistic performances that you get out of actors by encouraging them to do that, and having the confidence in yourself that in editing, you can work with it, too. But it also means that you never have ADR so you never have those false ADR performances that you're falling back on, which most films do. So there was a lot of other the nuances that I learned from Altman more than just the technical technique, but the kind of the reasons why I mean, he said, point blank, he said, I don't want the lowest paid person on the crew, the boom operator to make the creative decisions about who I was going to listen to, and that's what it was like up until that and he's like, I'm the artist, I'm I want to do you know, I'm gonna be the one making that decision myself. So, I wish we really Blunt Talk, but it was it was true and then you know, and then he combined that With the kind of the wandering zoom lens, which, which I don't do as much of I use in 18, half, there's a lot of zooming. But it's kind of for slightly different, you know, creative purpose. But yeah, but just but also just his philosophy on just make film, make the film, make whatever, you know, I mean, it's amazing how many films he made that most of which most people have never heard of, but he just kept doing it over and over again, you know, and, and he and that feeling of, or that philosophy of set the start date, tell everyone that trains leaving the station. And the interesting thing is, the closer you get to that start date. And you've got to have, you know, iron colonias to pull it off, really, and you have to have backups in mind for cast. But, you know, very often and it's been true in my case, you get better higher level name actors, the closer you get, because actors are not just motivated by money. And agents are mostly motivated by money, but not entirely. They're also all motivated by insecurity and fear. So an agent doesn't want to have an actor calling them up. Why don't I have anything next week? Why don't I have anything next week? And eventually they'll say, alright, fine, fine, this is crappy little indie film, there's no money in it, but just just get out of my hair go to this thing. And and actors love to work, you know, they they hate a vacuum in their schedule, because they never know when they're going to be working next again. So you know, so that was something we really kind of embraced and learn from them.

Alex Ferrari 46:23
That's awesome. Man. That's awesome. I work with people watch your your new movie 18 and a half

Dan Mirvish 46:29
In theaters only. This is not a day and date situation. So you have to go to movie theaters. We are helping bring theaters back whether they want us to or not, and, and bring people back into theater. So on May 27. It is opening in Los Angeles at lumley's for a week long Oscar qualifying run because it's an honor just to be eligible. And, and playing in a few other Lemley theaters around LA and also in New York City, with big premiere may 27 in Brooklyn. And then June 1, we have a big premiere in Washington, DC. And then June 3, it opens coast to coast around the country, North America. And eventually it's going to be probably in about 50 theaters, nationwide, and for for about five weeks until it hits VOD.

Alex Ferrari 47:16
So again, this is through a theatrical distributor.

Dan Mirvish 47:19
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Adventure entertainment. That's awesome. The company Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:24
Dan, you are an inspiration, my friend to say the least. You You inspire me all the time, dude. Seriously, like I see you working and doing your thing, man. I'm just like, you hustle hard, bro. The Hustle recognizes us. Oh, man, there's no question about it. And you're still and like, man, were you still do it, dude, all these, like, you just like you're insane. You are the definition of an insane filmmaker, you are

Dan Mirvish 47:47
I'm doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Alex Ferrari 47:52
We all do. But you have a good time you have a good time doing?

Dan Mirvish 47:55
Yeah. And that's the key. And I think also, and this is something I remember when I first went to South buy in 95. There was this great panel discussion and it was you know, all the bigwigs of the indie film is Steven Soderbergh and Richard Linklater and, and Robert Rodriguez and and you know, all kinds of B Allison Anders maybe was there. And then Greg Rocky was there. And and I remember something Greg said, because he was there with Doom generation, but he'd made five tiny, tiny, little 60 millimeter weird films. To get to that point. He said, Look, all these other guys got to Sundance hit the ball out of the park got a big homerun their first step back. And, and I didn't do that, you know, he's Greg's, like, you know, I had to keep struggling making one film after another film after another film, but five films later, I'm literally on the same panel with these guys. I'm on the same Pantheon, and I'm making films at a similar budget level. And, and he said, you know, look, you can either hit the ball out of the park at bat, but you know, that we know that's 1% of filmmakers every year. Or you just build a body of work. You just keep at it, and keep making films, and eventually someone will recognize Oh, wow, this filmmakers made a bunch of films that there must be something there, you know, and that, to me is still like, you know, the inspiration just keep on making them because you never, you know, and it's not because you think anyone is going to hit the ball out of the park, you know, they may not, but eventually people are gonna go, oh, wow, this person's made some halfway decent films. You add them together. Maybe there's at least one decent film in there, you know?

Alex Ferrari 49:28
Exactly. Brother, man, thank you again, for coming on the show. You're welcome back anytime, as you know, I'm looking forward to what you do next. What insanity you're coming up with next. And

Dan Mirvish 49:40
Well, there's still plenty plenty of you know, I'm still beating this dead horse. You know, so 80 and a half the soundtrack is out this week on iTunes and, and, you know, Spotify, different things like that. There's talk of turning it into a play. There's some chatter of turning it into a TV series. It's mostly We meet chattering but still, there is chatter. And, you know, and I know it's gonna take a while to do the DVD and the blu ray. So this is going to keep me busy for a while. So yeah, get used to me. So, you know, talking about this for listening to hear. Yeah, exactly. And that's part of what you need to do. Like you can't give up. You know,

Alex Ferrari 50:18
It can't just be like, Oh, I'm done all the final cuts done. Whoosh. Okay, let me start working on my next movie. Now. You got about a year, two years on this one.

Dan Mirvish 50:26
Absolutely. And we're lucky because all of us, you know, had a good time on this one despite a pandemic, or maybe because of it, I don't know. And, and we're all excited to keep working on it together.

Alex Ferrari 50:37
Brother man, thanks again for coming on the show. Keep inspiring us all. My friend. I appreciate you.

Dan Mirvish 50:41
Thank you Alex.

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James Cameron’s Micro-Budget Short Film: Xenogenesis

Before James Cameron was breaking every box office record he was a struggling indie filmmaker. We all started somewhere and before The TerminatorAliens or hell even Pirana II: The Spawning, James Cameron had been inspired by George Lucas’, Star Wars.

Enough so that, in 1978, James Cameron raised the budget from a group of local dentists to fund his sci-fi short film, Xenogenesis. Shot in his living room and with majority self-taught film knowledge, Xenogenesis was a masterclass in indie filmmaking.

Xenogenesis Summary: A woman and an engineered man are sent in a gigantic sentient starship to search space for a place to start a new life cycle. Raj decides to take a look around the ship. He comes across a gigantic robotic cleaner. Combat ensues.

Download James Cameron’s Screenplay Collection in PDF

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What is Auteur Theory? – Definition and Examples

What is Auteur Theory and Why Is It Important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Origins of Auteur Theory

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


Auteur Theory in Hitchcock’s Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right-click here to download the MP3

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

Alex Ferrari 0:15
Today's show is sponsored by Enigma Elements. As filmmakers, we're always looking for ways to level up production value of our projects, and speed up our workflow. This is why I created Enigma Elements. Your one stop shop for film grains, color grading lots vintage analog textures like VHS and CRT images, smoke fog, textures, DaVinci Resolve presets, and much more. After working as an editor colorist post and VFX supervisor for almost 30 years I know what film creatives need to level up their projects, check out enigmaelements.com and use the coupon code IFH10. To get 10% off your order. I'll be adding new elements all the time. Again, that's Enigma enigmaelements.com. I like to welcome to the show, Courtney Lauren Penn. How you doin, Courtney?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtney Lauren Penn 6:04
No, no,

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

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

Alex Ferrari 7:17
OP OP,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 17:19
Exactly.

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

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

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

Alex Ferrari 17:43
Was he? Wow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtney Lauren Penn 19:27
Indie creators Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtney Lauren Penn 1:06:27
Kate Winslet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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